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From overthinking to burnout: The hidden impact of ADHD in adults

Have you ever seen a duck swimming on a lake? It looks so peaceful and effortless, right? Just gliding a long, making progress, getting to where it needs to be. But what we can't see is the duck's legs are paddling furiously under the surface to keep it moving. That's gotta be burning up some fuel, but it certainly doesn't look like. Well, that's kind of what it's like for adults with ADHD. But imagine that only some of the ducks need to paddle, and most of them don't. They may look the same, but the experience of the paddlers would be vastly different from the experience of the non-paddling glidey ducks.

Moral of the story? Or maybe not the moral, but a point: Even if you're successful and seem to have everything under control, ADHD can still be affecting you. You might have developed all sorts of systems to help you stay organised, like colour-coding, making endless to-do lists, or buying planners like they're hot lunches. Or maybe you've figured out how to harness hyperfocus for the things that interest you and benefit you at the same time. But all of that effort can leave you feeling burnt out.

ADHD can make it hard to do a lot of things that seemingly come easy for neurotypicals - such as planning, organising, prioritising and holding many things front of mine. You might also struggle with time management and miss important deadlines. On top of that, it can be tough to control your emotions or impulses, and social situations might be extra challenging.

And here's another thing: a lot of adults with ADHD are perfectionists. Maybe because of the constant struggle, you grew up feeling like you had to be perfect to be good enough. That kind of pressure can lead to overworking, low-self esteem, imposter syndrome, and even more burnout.

But burnout doesn't have to be the inevitable end. Getting a formal diagnosis can be a game-changer. First of all, it can help you understand why you've been struggling all these years - which can lead to a sense of validation and acceptance, which can not be underestimated. This is the most common feeling expressed in our feedback sessions.

But the best part? A diagnosis can give you access to support and resources that can make a huge difference. For example, you might be eligible for accommodations at work or school, like extra time on tests or a quieter workspace. A diagnosis could lead to consultation with a psychiatrist and exploration of medication, which can also help a lot of people with ADHD.

So, if you suspect you may have ADHD and you're feeling burnt out, consider getting evaluated for ADHD. It might just be the key to unlocking your full potential.

Article author:

Clinical Psychologist

B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clin), MAPS

Elizabeth Talbot is a Clinical Psychologist and the Principal Psychologist at Clinical Therapy. Whilst Elizabeth enjoys her clinical work, she is also a lover of behavioural science and has a keen research interest in the psychology of decision making, moral reasoning, cognitive biases, magical thinking, and conspiratorial beliefs.

Content note: Unless otherwise labelled, all blog posts are intended as discussion pieces, and are not academic texts. Articles pertaining to research or making an academic argument will be labelled as such and include supporting evidence/references. All examples (including client names) are fictitious, to illustrate a point, and are not based on actual clients.


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