Adult ADHD: Discover The Unique Symptoms And Surprising Strengths

Have you recently been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)?

Are you wondering about the symptoms of adult ADHD?

Curious about the strengths an ADHDer brings to the table?

Then you’re in luck.

This week on the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, we are taking a deep dive into the world of ADHD.

We talk about the labels of ADD vs. ADHD.

We explore the main symptoms of the ADHD brain.

And we talk about the incredible strengths the ADHDer has to offer.

Plus, I created a comprehensive ebook called Top Ten Ways to Work With Your ADHD Brain, which takes this information even further.

So if you’re ready to learn more about ADHD in adults, let’s get started.

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

Then be sure to grab my free ebook here.

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • The Symptoms of Adult ADHD
  • The Strengths of the ADHD brain
  • Resources and suggestions of where to go next on your ADHD journey

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #84: Adult ADHD: Symptoms And Strengths (Transcript)

Hey, everybody! Welcome to episode 84 of the podcast. Thanks for tuning in today. I’ve got to tell you, I am especially excited about this episode, because we’re exploring a subject that is incredibly important to me, which is the topic of ADHD specifically.

ADHD Productivity Tools

Of course, I’ve talked about ADHD on the podcast before, especially when a strategy or tool is particularly important for the ADHD brain, but we haven’t done a deep dive into the topic itself. And over the last five or six months, I have been getting a lot of questions from listeners about this topic. 

Many of you have identified with what I’ve talked about in passing in regard to the unique challenges that many of us ADHDers face. Some of you have had questions about what it even means to have ADHD. Some of you have friends or family members with ADHD. And some of you have ADHD yourselves, and you simply wanted to connect and talk further. And I love that. I love that there is so much interest and curiosity around it.

And since I have received so many questions, I thought I would take this week to talk a little bit more in-depth about what ADHD is. How it shows up in our lives. Some of the incredible strengths we bring to the table with our ADHD brains, and what we can do to manage ADHD for ourselves or help those we know with ADHD succeed in this very distraction-filled world.

You Probably Know Someone with ADHD

Now, if you are listening to this and thinking, “Whaaaat? This doesn’t pertain to me at all. No sweat. You can totally skip this one and catch us back here next week for another awesome episode where we’re checking in on our goals for the year thus far and talking about strategies to recommit and keep those goals front and center of mind as we continue into March. So stay tuned for that. 

But, I do want to mention as well that there’s a lot of value in broadening our understanding and our awareness of ADHD. Research shows that about 5% of the world’s population has been diagnosed with ADHD. And some experts suggest that the number is perhaps even higher due to underdiagnosis, especially in women.

Of course, I am not a medical doctor. I am not giving any medical advice. I am simply sharing what I have learned through my own ADHD journey and my own research. But I can tell you that 5% of the population is a pretty big number. That means if you’re in a room of 20 people – odds are that at least 1 person has ADHD. So chances are pretty good that you know someone with ADHD. 

And speaking from my own experience, I know that taking time to learn about another person’s experience or situation can help me not only understand them better but also broaden my perspective overall, which is a very powerful thing.

What is ADHD?

So with that, let’s dive into the episode.

So what is ADHD? ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and according to the DSM V, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, ADHD is a brain-based biological disorder. In fact, if you look at brain imaging studies, you will see that there are actual physiological differences in the brains of people with ADHD vs. people without. I won’t get into all of the differences here. But I think it is a very important thing to stress. There is a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter in the brain called norepinephrine.

So this isn’t a situation where someone just needs to try harder. ADHDers don’t just need to focus more or put in a little more effort. ADHD brains are literally wired differently. And what this also means is that ADHD is not caused by careless parents, or watching too much TV or video games. It has nothing to do with IQ and how smart you are. Rather, an ADHD brain simply works differently and brings with it either high levels of inattention, hyperactivity, or a combination of the two.

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

And in fact, that brings me to a question that I get pretty often, which is “what is the difference between ADD and ADHD?” Frankly, not a whole lot. In fact, in 1987, ADHD became the official term for anybody who has what was once diagnosed as either ADD or ADHD.

Now there are three different categories that fall under the ADHD diagnosis. There is ADHD predominantly inattentive type, ADHD predominantly hyperactive and impulsive type. And ADHD combined type.

ADHD Inattentive Type

ADHD inattentive type is – just like it sounds – primarily characterized by inattention. And this is the label that people had when they were strictly diagnosed with ADD instead of ADHD. This is the category under which I fall. And some of the most common challenges include problems focusing, completing tasks, easily distracted, struggling to remember things, can be disorganized, and may get lost in their thoughts. 

ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive

On the other side of the coin, we have ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive type. This is the person who often struggles to sit still in their chair, speaks out of turn or interrupts others. Maybe they often fidget or squirm around. And when the person was in school, they would generally grab the teacher’s attention much quicker than the ADHD-Inattentive type.

ADHD Combined Type

And then the ADHD combined type is basically someone who demonstrates six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

ADHD in Women and Men

And what’s so interesting to me is that – although it’s not a hard and fast rule – ADHD inattentive type is more frequently found in females than males. And many believe this could be one of the reasons why ADHD symptoms in girls might get overlooked more easily. Because they are often the quiet ones in the classroom who are lost in their thoughts. And as I mentioned, this behavior often draws much less attention than the hyperactive-impulsive type.

Additionally, the inattentive type might be misdiagnosed when it makes itself known. And this is especially true if ADHD has been overlooked as a child because they were able to “get by” by simply working a bit harder and inadvertently creating strategies to work with their ADHD. 

My Diagnosis

For example, if you went undiagnosed with ADHD as a child, but then start having challenges when you have more added to your plate as an adult – which is what often happens to people with an adult diagnosis – people aren’t thinking about ADHD being a cause as an adult. 

And this is what happened to me. I was diagnosed to have both depression and anxiety when I first went to my doctor. I had done fine throughout grade school and college. But then I hit graduate school and that is when I reached my limit. That is when my strategies of “just working harder” weren’t enough. And I found myself getting incredibly overwhelmed. I couldn’t stay on top of my work. And I had a really hard time moving forward. So when I went to the doctor to get help, I was initially diagnosed with both anxiety and depression.

And then — ironically enough – I was in a training for accessibility services. I was learning about new ways to teach all different learning styles, and one of the sessions spoke about ADHD. And I found myself identifying with most of the different symptoms. And it was this very eye-opening experience. So I went and got tested, I got diagnosed, and I was finally treated for the right thing.

So again, many people tend to just think of ADHD as a diagnosis for young children who can’t sit still in their chairs. But the reality is that ADHD is a disorder that affects both children and adults alike. And because ADHD affects every single person differently, it can be overlooked or misdiagnosed.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

So what are these symptoms? What are the tendencies of an ADHD brain? 

Well, there’s a saying that floats around, which is: you meet one ADHD brain…you’ve met one ADHD brain. In other words, no two ADHDers are the same. That being said, there are some general characteristics. I’ll share some of the common traits that I experience, and I’ll also add in some further examples from the website ADDitude mag, which is a fantastic ADHD resource out there. I’ll be sure to link to them in the show notes.

ADHD Inattentive Type Symptoms

So the inattentive type is often the person who is lost in their thoughts. They often struggle to maintain focus. Maybe you have the tendency to make mistakes or typos in emails or reports. Perhaps you have sent something off in the past only to realize there were several mistakes in it. This happened to me just a few weeks ago, in fact. I sent a message out to my email list, with a mistake in the body of the message. It was supposed to be addressed to the reader – for example, if your name is Katie, it should have said something like, “What do you think, Katie?” And instead it said Paula to everyone. Whether your name is Paula or not. Sometimes this just happens.  

Alternatively, if you might have perfectionism woven in the mix as well – this is also me, by the way, despite the aforementioned typos. So in this case, you might spend an inordinate amount of time proofreading, checking, and slowing down to make sure you get everything right. Or, you just avoid it altogether so you don’t have to experience the embarrassment of “doing something wrong”. 

Oftentimes your brain is just thinking about the next project or the next thing or the next task on the list. I can remember my dad telling me that I would drive him crazy when we were little. Because we would be halfway into a project and I’d already be asking him what we are going to do next.

Short Attention Span

The inattentive type often has a short attention span, though this is also true of the Hyperactive and Combined types as well. So this is the person who struggles to follow through all the way to the end. Maybe they get bored really easily. Perhaps they’ve started a lot of great projects but struggle to follow through with them. Maybe you start a project that you’re super excited about, but it fizzles out before it’s completed. As I was doing research for this episode, I came across a factoid that ADHDers may need to constantly be chewing gum or sipping coffee in order to maintain their attention. And these are two things that I’m doing constantly, though I just realized there was a connection there with ADHD – that one was new to me.

Information Retention

ADHDers also struggle to retain information through listening. They may have trouble remembering names, they might lose focus or attention halfway through a conversation or a lecture. Maybe they can’t sit through a movie without needing to do something else. I remember when my husband told me that he watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy extended edition with his buddies in college. I literally COULD NOT FATHOM that. Seriously, I can’t even sit for 90 minutes through a movie let alone hours and hours and hours.

ADHD and Disorganization

Other symptoms are disorganization. This might be organization in your home or office or car. Perhaps you misplace things or leave things in weird places. Maybe you’ve found your keys in the refrigerator or your phone in a cupboard. 

ADHD and Distraction

And of course, ADHDers also struggle with distraction. And as I alluded to before, this is not for lack of trying. It’s not for lack of interest or caring. And in fact, many people with ADHD get very frustrated themselves about their inability to pay attention consistently – especially when they desperately want to but their brain keeps wandering. 

ADHD and Forgetfulness

And then finally forgetfulness is another common component. Maybe you forget meetings, appointments, paying bills on time, birthdays. Maybe it’s facts or data or that lunch date you planned last week.

ADHD Hyperactive and Impulsive Symptoms

So what about the other side of the coin? What about ADHD hyperactive and impulsive? They deal with the same things I mentioned above, but rather than getting lost in their thoughts and daydreaming, they usually find themselves constantly fidgeting and more talkative. Maybe they are tapping their hands or their feet. They might be the person who is constantly bouncing their knee. Maybe they feel the need to pick up and play with a bunch of stuff. 

ADHD and Movement

If you’re an adult, maybe you feel the need to get up and walk around during meetings. Maybe you shuffle your papers a lot. It may actually feel physically uncomfortable to have to sit still. So the hyperactive-impulsive type often wants to be up and moving. They are often getting up and walking around their office. Maybe they walk around when they are on the phone. They like to get up and move.


Similarly, as I mentioned, the hyperactive-impulsive person with ADHD is often quite talkative. They always have something to share. They have lots of ideas. And connected to that, they are often the ones who might be blurting out their ideas or thoughts in the classroom. Maybe they finish another person’s sentences. Maybe they are disruptive. They pop into someone’s office just to check-in, make conversation, talk over others, Etc.

And then as I mentioned, the combined type is a person who has at least six of these characteristics daily in both categories.

ADHD Strengths

But here’s the deal. I don’t want to just focus on these perceived drawbacks or negative traits. Because the reality is that the ADHD brain is also incredible. It brings with it so much amazing ability. And I think it’s really important to recognize that as well.

Resilient, Creative, Problem Solvers 

Those of us with ADHD have a remarkable amount of resilience. We are go-getters. We are going to problem-solve and think outside the box to find the solution. Frankly, we might not even know there is a box. And we love to look at things from every angle to find a solution. We have incredible amounts of creativity and imagination – we. are. idea. people!

ADHD and Hyper-Focus

We also have this incredible ability to hyper-focus on specific areas in our life that we’re particularly passionate about. And we can focus for hours on end without a single distraction. I can remember when I was younger, I would get sucked in and hyper-focus on building websites way back in the late 90s early 2000s. 

I’m going to show my true colors here – but I created a Harry Potter School online. Seriously. I literally designed a website with four different houses that had passwords. I created assignments and had other random Harry Potter fanatics sign up as students at Hogwarts. This was, I think 8th grade or freshman year 98 – 99, 2000. I wish I could still find this website, but I don’t think it exists anymore. But it was the epitome of a 90s website.

Now here’s the deal, I knew nothing about building websites. I was probably 13 or 14 in the late 90s. But I just kept tinkering around and figuring it out because I was hyper-focused on it and I had the resilience to find a solution. I made it work.

Empathy and Compassion

Those of us with ADHD often have a lot of empathy and practice compassion for others as well. Perhaps because we’ve had to work a bit harder or know the challenges of being different, we have the ability to see the other side. We understand where that person is coming from and we feel for them. Similarly, people with ADHD have a real sense of fairness and of treating people well.

So while there certainly are challenges that come with ADHD, there are plenty of incredible strengths that accompany it as well. And frankly, I could keep going with this list, but for the sake of time, I won’t.

So now what? What are you supposed to do if you have ADHD? How can you work with it? What are the next steps? And what can we do if we know someone struggling with ADHD? How can we offer support?

ADHD Resources

If this information is new to you and it’s resonating with you, or if you know somebody who has ADHD or if you work with students or clients who have ADHD and you want to learn more about it, I think one of the best things you can do – the best place to start – is to start educating yourself more about ADHD. There are so many incredible resources online. I will list some here, but I will also include everything in the show notes, so you don’t have to get everything down right now.

I mentioned the website. There is Chadd, which is children and adults with ADHD. and that’s spelled c h a d And there’s also adda –, which is the attention deficit disorder Association. And they have countless resources as well.

There are amazing books out there like Delivered from Distraction by Ned Hallowell, and he just came out with a new book that I got in the mail a few days ago called ADHD 2.0, which I’m very excited to read. I also recommend the book women with attention deficit disorder by Sari Solden, which dives further into the unique challenges of women with ADHD. 

So if this is the first time you’ve ever seriously thought about ADHD and this information connected with you, or if you’re looking to support someone you know who has ADHD, I really recommend starting with some research. Dive into any of those resources because getting this bigger perspective and additional knowledge is so incredibly valuable.

ADHD Treatment

But what else? If you want to go even further, what can you do? Again, I want to stress that I am not a physician. I am not a psychiatrist. I’m not prescribing or recommending any kind of treatment to work with your ADHD. I am just letting you know some of the resources out there.

So, there are different types of therapies, medications, and coaching that a person with ADHD can use in order to help work with their ADHD symptoms. There are different types of medication – both stimulant and non-stimulant medications. And they work for a pretty significant number of people, though they don’t work for everyone. This is something that you will talk about with your doctor should you decide to go through the diagnosis process.

There are some people who either prefer not to use medications or the medications don’t work with their brain, and they use other approaches to help treat their symptoms including supplements, diet, exercise, getting enough sleep. There are some rather compelling studies out there and opinions on the impact of different diets, the impact of exercise, and the way that these things can impact our ADHD.

And then there are also different types of therapies and coaching available that help you on the behavioral side of things. 

ADHD Coach

This is where you start working on your mindset, learning the skills, and strengthening your executive functioning. This is where you figure out how to work with your brain to find ways to get started on projects that are hard, follow through on the tasks that feel like they’re too much, or overwhelming. You learn how to manage strong emotions or mood swings. And you learn different ways to manage impulses – whether that’s finishing someone’s sentence, impulse shopping, or giving in to distractions of social media, texting, or Netflix when you have something else you want to instead. It’s working on your thoughts of shame and imposter syndrome and the beliefs that you’re not good enough or smart enough.

And for me personally, I have found that it is a combination of all of these different types of treatments and resources  – medication, working with my psychiatrist, and coaching – that allowed me to both understand and work with my ADHD to create consistency and success in my life. 

I also want to mention that literally everything I talk about on this podcast from episode one speaks to the ADHD brain because they’re all the tactics and strategies I personally use to move forward and get things done. Of course, the strategies will get awesome results for non-adhders, too, but for my ADHD listeners or those of you who especially struggle with focus and follow-through but haven’t gotten an official diagnosis, know that these are the exact tools that I use to work with my ADHD brain.

Free Ebook

So again, if you want to dive into any of this information further, I highly recommend that you check out the show notes. I also created a PDF download called Top 10 Strategies to Work With Your ADHD Brain, which you can grab below.

And of course, if you identify with these tendencies, if you want to talk about this further, if you want to learn more about how coaching comes into play with ADHD, I encourage you to head over to the website and sign up for a free consultation with me. 

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