How To Describe ADHD To Someone Who Doesn't Have It

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Pink haired woman distracts herself by balancing pencil on upper lip

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is what some people call a "silent" disorder, meaning it is a condition "with no symptoms that are obvious to you, the person with the condition, and/or to others."

And because it's still so poorly understood, it's one that often makes people feel inadequate, if for no reason other than taking longer to concentrate on tasks or becoming easily frustrated.

Losing focus is can be one frustrating aspect of living with ADHD.

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If you really want to know what it's like having ADHD, or if you want to explain what ADHD feels like to someone, it can be helpful to learn there are some experiences only people with ADHD understand.

How to Describe ADHD to Someone Who Doesn't Have It

1. Try to explain what ADHD is without getting technical.

According to the CDC, 9.4% of children ages 2 to 17 years old in the US have been diagnosed with a form of ADD/ADHD. The person sitting next to you could have it and you'd have no idea.

And yet, many people don't even have a clue what ADHD is or stands for. So, it’s our job to try explain it and hope they get it. (Spoiler alert: they probably won't.)

2. Tell them about the rage you feel when someone gets a higher test grade than you and they barely studied.

This is a kicker. Some people are naturally good test-takers. However, many people with ADHD would rather watch 10 straight hours of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" than take an exam.

After a two-night study session, you're sure you've got this test 100% in the bag. Until you get the results and see the person who was begging everyone for answers walks away with a 100%, and you're stuck with an 85%. Where is the justice? Talk about getting heated!

3. Help them understand forgetting things is part of your charm... or at least, you'd like to think so.

All those unanswered texts, unread emails, and unreturned phone calls are a result of one of the most infuriating aspect of ADHD: Forgetfulness. We don't mean to ignore you; we literally forgot.

Most of the time, our reason for forgetting is because something else at the time seemed much more important. When that happens, the task we forget often ends up being the more important one.

Damned if we do, damned if we don't. We hate it, you hate it, we get it — because it's part of the experience only people with ADHD understand.

4. Explain how organizing anything results in internal chaos.

We love when things like our desks and homes are clean, but when the forgetfulness of ADHD arises, you'd almost wish you left everything a mess.

Your house could be spotless, but the moment you notice your keys are missing — boom! We tear the place apart because retracing our steps is, most of the time, impossible.

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5. Describe the torture of reading out loud in class, or anywhere else.

What if you lose your place? Or slip up on the pronunciation of a word? All of these scenarios where we make a mistake makes us just want to disappear right where we sit. We’ve become masters of avoiding in-class readings when it's not mandatory. No reason to bring unnecessary attention to ourselves now.

6. Do they know reading to yourself can be even worse.

If reading in front of others isn't bad enough, reading in silence with a brain going 100 MPH is even harder. Every little sound that's made throws us off, and whatever sentence we're on has to be re-read, sometimes multiple times, before we can continue.

We were never known to be fast readers — and that's perfectly OK.

7. Help them understand how standing up for others is instinctual.

When your friends make fun of someone else for not being "smart enough" you are not going to let that stand. Our nurturing instincts automatically kick in when we see someone experiencing unfairness the same way we do.

We don't know them, but we have an undeniable urge to protect them and tell them it's not their fault when they have a hard time articulating themselves.

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8. Tell them about the way everyone wonders why you're taken out of the classroom during a test.

I always found this to be the hardest thing to cover up during my years in the public school system. Children with learning disabilities have the option to be taken to a separate location for testing to avoid noise and to allow extra time for the exam.

It really helped me, but when I got back to the classroom all my friends wanted to know where I went (and how they could sign up for the same thing). My response was always, “You can't sign up to be awesome; you're just born that way" with a hair flip.

9. They must know that spacing out is habitual.

It happens at school, at the office, even hanging out with friends; spacing out happens at the most inopportune times and it's inevitable.

Is your teacher having a final review session? Is your boss sending you out on a new project? Boom, have a daydream.

It's a challenge to power through, and when you finally do, you’re left with a billion questions that could've been answered if you'd just paid attention. Ugh.

10. Reassure them we always try our hardest, even if we have trouble juggling multiple tasks at once.

ADHD is a trip, but it doesn't put a cap on what we can achieve. We're as capable of high degree of success as anyone else.

When we do successfully complete things, we're pretty bada$$.

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Victoria Priola is a respected writer with a wide range of experience in journalism, photography, videography and social media management.