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Find out how to write about ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

How to Write About ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Remember that kid in class that could never sit still and was forever getting told off?

Some kids were forever in detention because they just wouldn’t do what they were told.

Some got off (seemingly lightly) because they’d been diagnosed with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

ADHD is often associated with children, but it’s a lifelong condition that manifests in childhood.

Even if a person isn’t diagnosed until adulthood, they will still have exhibited symptoms as a child.

While ADHD can be managed through medication, there is no cure.

Chances are, you’ve come across someone with ADHD at some point and dismissed them as flippant, arrogant, or annoying.

But when someone has ADHD, it’s not that simple…

ADHD in children and teenagers

ADHD can cause serious issues for children and teenagers at school.

ADHD can cause serious issues for children and teenagers at school. #writetip Click To Tweet

It can cause them to underperform, struggle to make friends, or disrupt classrooms.

And all of this by the time someone is six.

This is very much a condition you’re born with rather than one you develop.

Symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers

  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Careless mistakes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Difficulty listening or carrying out instructions
  • Interrupting others when they speak
  • Impatience
  • Difficulty organising things

Just because a child has ADHD that doesn’t mean that they’re the loudest, most disruptive member of the class—they’re just as likely to be quiet, shy, and uncomfortable.

Treatment for children and teenagers

It’s generally frowned upon to treat ADHD with medication (at least in the UK—I can’t speak for other countries).

Talking therapies, stress management and educational support are preferred.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is also thought to be effective.

If ADHD isn’t treated when someone is a child, it can cause issues into adulthood.

ADHD in adults

It is possible for someone to suffer from ADHD throughout their childhood and adolescence without being diagnosed.

While these cases are rare, they do happen.

It’s far more difficult to be diagnosed as an adult, however.

There must be proof that the person suffered from at least some of the above symptoms growing up.

To be diagnosed with #ADHD as an adult, there must be proof that they suffered growing up. Click To Tweet

There must also be evidence of the symptoms below.

Because ADHD in adults is so difficult to diagnose, it can take years to get a definite diagnosis.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults

  • Excessive fidgeting
  • Always needing to keep their hands (and minds) busy—when sat still they may need to do something such as knitting or drawing
  • Short attention span
  • Forgetfulness or losing things easily
  • Difficulty concentrating on mind-numbing tasks
  • Impatience
  • Interrupting others when they speak
  • Impulsiveness
  • Mood swings or a short temper
  • Risk taking
  • Criminal offences
  • Struggling to hold down a job
  • Poor time management
  • Being easily distracted

Treatment in adults

The default treatment for adults with ADHD is medication, but CBT and other talking therapies are also used.

Connections to other disorders

ADHD in can also have a side of bipolar disorder, OCD, depression, anxiety, and more.

Much like with any mental health disorder, it’s possible to suffer from several at once.

ADHD is also common in people with autism.

In recent years, ADHD and ADD have been combined, but for argument’s sake, ADD will be covered in a future blog post (stay tuned!).

Over to You

Have you ever written a character with ADHD? How did you approach it?

Do you have ADHD yourself? How do you feel about how it’s conveyed in literature/pop culture?

If you found this post useful…

I’ve also written guides on:

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Kristina Adams

Kristina Adams is an author of fiction and nonfiction, writing and productivity blogger, and occasional poet. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Derby and an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. When she's not writing she's reading, baking, or finding other ways to destroy the kitchen. She can be found under a pile of books with a vanilla latte.


  • […] How to Write About ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) […]

  • 6th November, 2018 at 18:18

    I’m a teenager with ADHA. One thing I notice people getting wrong is that there is a scale on how bad your ADHA really is. Like for some it hardly affects them and others it gets so bad it interferes with every day life. I have a rather mild ADHA but somedays its worse than others. Like one day I can sit perfectly fine in class and do my work, others I move every 2 seconds and every sound or bit of movement distracts me. Just thought people should be aware that it is different for everyone.

    One more thing, as with all people, those with ADHD are prone to sugar rushes. This is something I’ve noticed in myself and some of my friends with ADHD. If their not already hyper normally, then they most defiantly will be if you give them a little sugar. If their already hyper, like me, then sugar makes it ten times worse. My friends dread anytime I get so much as a single jelly bean as afterward I won’t stop talking until the sugar wears off. Just some things that I thought would be worth mentioning. 🙂

  • 1st December, 2018 at 06:54

    I have ADHD, and I think that the key to writing ADHD is to remember that people who deal with ADHD still experience rational emotions and justifiable thoughts. They are just amplified due to the ADHD. For example, with anger, someone with ADHD becomes angry appropriately, but may be angrier than is appropriate.



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