I have all the information about ADHD. You are an expert on ADHD. All of us know a lot about ADHD. Well, sort of. Let’s face it. Neuroscience still does not fully understand Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD). Therefore, what we ‘know’ about ADHD in adults may contain erroneous assumptions, outdated cliches, and a few gaps. There may be some significant gaps.
I was diagnosed more than a decade ago when I realized I had ADHD and was ‘overly sensitive.’ (Blush!)
Are you too sensitive? Okay. Fair enough. (Is the ‘Drama King’ actually a thing? If it is, I have enjoyed a long and prosperous reign on the throne. However, doctors and researchers also discussed physical sensibilities when we made our video on Emotional Sensitivity coaches. Physical Sensitivities. Your five senses. These are, in no particular order: Sight, Sound, and Touch. No, that’s Touch… Oh, right, taste. Because I eat so quickly, the taste is not a significant concern.
It was quite an eye-opener to discover that I could have ‘Dis-regulated Emotions,’ but ‘Sensory overload’ wasn’t on my radar. Ironically, the topic had been brought up in our documentary ADD & Loving It! It occupied a whole chapter of ADD Stole my Car Keys. Why didn’t I notice?
Distraction, Procrastination, and Overwhelm
Why wasn’t I aware that I was sensitive to material things? This is how I was meant to be born! This is how I am. It was my usual. There was another reason. I was distracted by my ADHD issues. Distraction, procrastination, and over-committing. Losing things and not finishing tasks. The task could be to write a 30-page television script or load the dishwasher.
However, the hot topics of Emotionality, Overwhelm, and Over-sensitivity are now in focus. The subject is explored in Dr. Thomas Brown’s Smart but Stuck and Terry Matlen’s Queens of Distraction. It seems that more experts are interested in discussing the issue. Surprisingly, I find a lot of their words to be very relatable.
ADHD brain vs. ‘Regular.’ Brain
It’s not because I’m strange. It’s just how I’m wired. These are four examples of how ‘Overly Sensitive To Physical Stimuli’ can manifest in everyday life.
1. I can hear the conversation at three tables behind me… but not the one at my table.
Many adults with ADHD believe they lose their hearing due to all the Black Sabbath concerts, but an audiologist tells them they have perfect hearing.
It turns out that your brain’s ability to filter out noises so you can listen to a conversation is not the problem. ADHD patients may have trouble hearing in noisy environments.
Terry Matlen, the author of Queens of Distraction, explained that when she tries talking with one person, “Even though there are two people in the room I cannot filter the noise from the other conversation.”
It cannot be evident to those around you. I can’t tune it out when someone plays music or has a TV on. The second one makes me angrier. Yet, I find it helpful to listen to music or choose a program that I enjoy, which helps me focus.
2. Someone says, “boo.” We hear BOOOOO!!
This is a classic example of hypersensitivity to emotions. Me? I wouldn’t say I like scary movies. It’s not a scary movie, I know. It was almost dead when I first saw it!
3. I loathe the beach!
It is an example of physical sensitivity. It is not about sand getting into sensitive places. Having wet sand on my feet and calf makes me feel like I’m covered with ants. (Tens of thousands!) Each one is coated in sandpaper.
When I go to the beach, I use a towel. You can also sit in a beach chair. You can also relax in a poolside chair. You can also read on the couch.
4. Tag, you’re IT! Yes, that Levis label is fabric.
I know that it isn’t a hot piece made of jagged aluminum. It feels almost like it to me. Others may prefer certain fabrics. High necklines. Neckties.
We buy ten pairs that make us feel good and don’t understand why. You can find reasons if you aren’t able to answer the question, “I only wear Flannel Pajamas because everything else drives me nuts.” According to a University of Memphis study, ADHD adults scored higher on creativity tests than their peers. When we are unable to explain the situation, we become creative.
Another aspect of ADHD is that we may not be in touch with our emotions or feelings. Life is too busy racing from one idea to the next, so there’s no time to pause and think about what’s happening. Mindful meditation can be so effective for adults with ADHD.
Knowledge Is King!
My method for dealing with these issues in the past was straightforward. I avoided situations that could cause problems, sometimes unconsciously. It is not unusual: Adults with ADHD can avoid situations that trigger them. “I don’t go to parties.” “I only wear cotton.” I work at home, where it’s quiet.
I would feel numb if someone suggested I go to the beach. Then, I would find reasons that made sense to others and me. “The beach is boring.” “I worry about skin carcinoma.” Both of these statements are true… to a certain extent. It sounds crazy to say that touching sand makes me insane—even me.
Some foods I avoided were chalkboard-like or like my fingernails. Or, in this instance, olives on the tip of my tongue. “Not really what my palate enjoys” was my way to say, “Yuck!” Yuck! Yuck!
It’s an issue I now know, and I’m seeing more of them. Although I understand that many guys don’t like neckties, I feel like I’m being choked. Tags on clothes? We found T-shirts without labels when we ordered ADHD T-shirts for women to use in our shop. Perfect! The moral of the story is? At least for me: If you don’t have ADHD and didn’t consider this area of the issue, you might think, “OMG! It is why I’m called a Drama Queen. It is why I wouldn’t say I like scary movies. A sad news story can ruin your week. But not my entire week. For a few moments, I am a mess. Then, I see a good news story, and I feel joy. I shout, “What a beautiful world!” And then I get ice cream.
The main takeaway? It’s essential to notice. You can then do something about it.
On that note… Ice cream!