Deep Interests and ADHD

One thing that can be particularly challenging as an ADHD adult is the hyperfocus aspect of the condition. While the world may view ADHD as the inability to focus, the reality is that our minds are just looking for something that interests us, and not finding it. When we do find something intriguing, we tend to hyperfocus and lose ourselves in a topic.

During my entire life prior to being diagnosed with ADHD, I definitely noticed I had an incredible memory for details surrounding something I found interesting, and little memory for things that were boring to me. This was something I didn’t always share because people take it pretty personally if you say you forgot about their birthday party because you were bored when they were telling you about it. However, I could get lost for hours on the Internet researching some topic I found fascinating.

When I saw the list of symptoms of females with ADHD, hyperfocus was a dead giveaway that I had it. Oh come on, I thought, why didn’t any of my teachers pick up on that? I can remember getting perfect scores on some science tests when the subject was interesting, and F’s on others that I found tedious. I can remember finishing a semester’s worth of computer programs in a weekend. Once I got in the zone, I was unstoppable. These are all clear cut signs of ADHD, and they were all ignored. In my teachers’ defense, I’m sure with 30-35 kids per class, and seven classes each, they never noticed these things because they had so much else to worry about.

In a recent Tilt podcast the host interviewed her teenage son about his deep interests. I often listen to the podcast and feel a little jealous about his homeschooling simply because this kid really gets to dive deep into things he likes. I often wish that I had some of the same opportunities when I was in school, but c’est la vie. He had one line in particular, urging kids (and adults) with unusual interests to find their tribe in an online community and/or forum. He may be a young teenager, but this is incredibly wise advice. No need to go it alone.

This turned me back around onto the knowledge that my brain is very different than those of neurotypicals. It can be a huge effort to communicate to my thoughts. Recently, I was trying to explain something to colleagues that involved the STEM fields, and I was completely tripped up when one person asked me to clarify what I meant by STEM. That answer was so many years ago in my brain that I couldn’t access it, and I ended up listing out the letters and got the M wrong.

This is a funny quirk in my ADHD brain. While I can connect things in a different and sometimes better way, it can be hard to tell people what I’m thinking. I notice this with other people I know whom I suspect as also have ADHD. I can see how frustrated they get when people do not understand what they are saying, and I find it incredibly frustrating as well. Anyone would, but given our atypical brains, it is so hard to find a way to explain something we think about differently than most.

And this is the flip side of an autistic or ADHD brain: you have deep interests and deep knowledge about subjects, and nobody with whom you can truly discuss it. This is why teenager Asher, on his mother’s podcast, shared something incredibly important that is potentially super obvious to his generation but not mine: find your tribe. This is the way your deep interest becomes a deep connection to the outside world. And for those of us who want to keep learning about new subjects, going into an online forum can actually open you up to new aspects of the topic that you can learn more about, which will only deepen your knowledge on a topic.

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