Adult ADHD: Negative By-Products That You May Not Be Aware Of
When you’re fully aware of what things in your life might be impacted by having ADHD, you suddenly get this sense of empowerment and motivation to deal with it.
In Part 1 of this Adult ADHD series of posts, I talked about ADHD in general and how to know if you have it. In Part 2, I addressed getting diagnosed with ADHD, as well as common ADHD traits and symptoms, while in Part 3 we looked at a few non-medical treatments for adult ADHD.
In this Part 4 I’m looking at the by-products of adult ADHD, the things that might be showing up in your life or the life of someone you love who has ADHD and isn’t aware of it or isn’t treating it.
The point of this post is to bring awareness, but it’s also to bring a sense of motivation to handle your stuff.
When you see the long list of things that ADHD can impact in one’s life and when you gain that awareness, which I’m trying to help you do with this whole series, suddenly you have this sense of motivation to deal with it, but also a sense of empowerment.
You realize that some of these negative byproducts of ADHD, these things that have shown up in your life:
Maybe you thought it was all about you, maybe you thought that it was something wrong with you, that you weren’t very smart because you weren’t getting good grades, or you were just someone who never had good self-esteem or always felt anxious…
You didn’t really realize that these might actually be byproducts of this little superpower called ADHD.
You may have never thought: I have ADHD and, if I handle ADHD, all these other byproducts will go away.
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So let’s go through some of these negative by-products of adult ADHD.
ADHD Negative By-product #1: Anxiety
The first negative byproduct of ADHD is anxiety.
This can be confusing because some people who have ADHD are totally chill and look like they don’t care about anything.
Others have a lot of anxiety and often end up actually following through on things and being fairly reliable.
In one of the books I read on ADHD, the author makes this distinction that when you have a higher level of anxiety, you tend to ultimately get things done because you have that worry.
But some people with ADHD just don’t get things done. They’re really relaxed and don’t really care and that’s a bigger issue – to really dissect all that.
But ultimately, when people have ADHD, there’s a higher chance that they’re forgetting things or maybe not the most organized. Us with adult ADHD can also often be avoidant so we don’t handle issues that we should handle.
And guess what?
All that does is creates anxiety.
If there are phone calls you were supposed to make three months ago or if there’s someone you meant to apologize to two years ago for missing the wedding where you were supposed to marry them – that stuff adds up.
What makes it worse is when we have ADHD, we have racecar brains.
So we’re thinking about things in many cases a lot faster than other people and bouncing around.
If we do have all these unfinished things, they tend to keep popping back into our mind over and over again and creating anxiety.
Anxiety and overthinking can drain us of our energy levels.
Our brain uses something like 24% of the energy of our whole body. So if we’re always thinking through things, if we’re always worried, we’re always feeling anxious and going through all these loose ends, through thoughts like:
Oh, I should have done this. I should have done that.
That’s going to drain you and you’re going to have a lot less energy.
I know that when I clear up loose ends, and when I allow myself to have less anxiety and less overthinking, I end up having a lot more energy to put towards other things.
ADHD Negative By-product #2: Mood Swings and Frustration
The next byproduct of adult ADHD can be mood swings, frustration or impatience.
If you tend to snap at people or maybe have more mood swings than what you might consider normal, this can be a by-product of adult ADHD.
Keep in mind the cool thing and I do mean the cool thing about this being a byproduct is that when you deal with the ADHD, the negative byproducts go away.
These are not part of who you are. This is not a deeper personality trait. It’s a byproduct of ADHD.
ADHD Negative By-product #3: Low Self-esteem
Having lower self-esteem or low self-confidence can be very much related to ADHD.
Think about it:
If your whole life people have been getting mad at you for not being organized or not being able to sit still or you haven’t been able to fit in in this rigid environment we call school (that sucks in most countries!), then yeah, you’re probably going to have lower self-esteem.
Because your whole life you’ve been told you’re not good at stuff and you can’t follow directions and you’re late, you’re going to have less self-confidence and that will carry into adult life, which will then affect the decisions you make, the risk you’re willing to take on, and the projects you’re willing to go for.
I bet there are a lot of people with ADHD who would love to, say, be entrepreneurs and go after something, but they don’t yet (and I say yet because this is something I can help with here) have the confidence to believe in themselves and take those risks because of the years of being made to feel a certain way due to having ADHD.
ADHD Negative By-product #4: Poor Health and Lifestyle
The last two here are bigger byproducts of ADHD that you might see looking at your life.
That can be poor health and a lower income or less financial or career success than you could otherwise have.
These are ultimately byproducts of not been able to be really disciplined, maybe making poor decisions, and not being organized.
These things come as a result of some of the negative traits that ADHD can bring with it and ultimately have a long-term impact.
It makes sense, right?
If a few times a week every week you maybe drink a few too many beers than you otherwise would, because – hey, we can be a little impulsive.
We can often self-medicate as well.
Sometimes if you really aren’t aware of your ADHD, you’ll find something like drugs or alcohol or even coffee can help in a way!
So many people can feel like:
Hey, this is actually when my mind feels calm, when I can feel presence, and when I can shut off that chatter that’s always going on.
So not only can we be a little more impulsive and maybe just jump into things, but also we might get a bit more benefit -or at least feel we do – from things like alcohol and that can lead to more and more of that same experience.
If you think about it, our days become our weeks. Our weeks become our months. Our months become our life.
So that’s ultimately going to have long-term health consequences and long-term financial consequences.
I didn’t see an ADHD specialist until I was an adult – and the first one that I can really remember the conversation with. I briefly saw someone when I was maybe 18, a very quick meeting, I don’t remember much of it and didn’t take a lot out of it.
But I saw a doctor later on, I think I was in my mid twenties.
One of the things he said to me really changed my view on treating ADHD and just thinking about it overall.
We were talking about medication (I’m going to cover medication in another post here).
I was asking about the side effects of ADHD medication.
The side effects of stimulant medication for the majority of people are mild.
They’re things like occasional trouble sleeping or headaches. It’s what you would expect from a stimulant, for example, if you had too much coffee perhaps.
And he said to me:
Yes, but what are the side effects of not treating it?
That really changed how I started to think about not just ADHD, but anything in life.
Ultimately, he framed the question in a way where I sort of thought:
Yeah, what is the side effect of not treating this? What ultimately can that lead to?
That’s why sometimes when we think about side effects of some kind of treatment, or maybe even the time to take 30 minutes every day and exercise – let’s say, and the side effect:
Oh, we lose that time!
But what is the side effect of not doing that?
Takeaways: Awareness and Empowerment
I’m hoping this post did two things for you.
Number one: Brought some awareness about aspects of your life or the life of someone you care about.
Maybe some of the things in your or their life are actually related to ADHD and have been treated in isolation, like:
Oh, you don’t have confidence, you must have confidence issues.
Oh, you have anxiety, you must have an anxiety disorder.
Not looking at the holistic picture and what could actually be the underlying cause, which in many cases can be ADHD.
The other thing is I hope it serves as a source of motivation.
Because everything I mentioned here, these negative byproducts of ADHD, these can go away when we get onto how to deal with adult ADHD.
And when they go away, the cool thing is, and I’ve said this in other posts of this series, is you keep all the upsides of ADHD:
The creativity, the spontaneity, our ability to think on our feet and tackle problems, and all that good stuff.
Many of those positive traits and strategies that you’ve developed in order to live with ADHD, you keep all those and you can just deal with some of these byproducts.
What I’m going to talk about in future posts is all the different ways of treating ADHD. Not just looking at medications, although we’ll discuss those too, but also looking at a wide range of lifestyle and diet choices.
You’d better believe I have not only studied this, but tried it myself and experimented with all this. 🙂
Let me know in the comments:
What byproduct of adult ADHD is the most prominent in your life and how has it impacted you so far?