3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks

2. ADHD Emotional Hyperarousal

What is emotional hyperarousal?

Most people expect ADHD to create visible hyperactivity. This only occurs in 25% of children and 5% of adults. The rest experience an internal feeling of hyperarousal. When I ask people with ADHD to elaborate on it, they say:

  • “I’m always tense. I can never relax.”
  • “I can’t just sit there and watch a TV program with the rest of the family.”
  • “I can’t turn my brain and body off to go to sleep at night.”

People with ADHD have passionate thoughts and emotions that are more intense than those of the average person. Their highs are higher and their lows are lower. This means you may experience both happiness and criticism more powerfully than your peers and loved ones do.

Children with ADHD know they are “different,” which is rarely experienced as a good thing. They may develop low self-esteem because they realize they fail to get engaged and finish what they start, and because children make no distinction between what you do and who you are. Shame can become a dominant emotion into adulthood as harsh internal dialogues, or criticism from others, becomes ingrained.

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