Living with ADHD: what it is, and what it is not...

Written by: Shelley Frost

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If you asked me a few years ago to explain ADHD, I would have probably given the stereotypical example of a naughty schoolboy in a classroom being disruptive, throwing things and talking back. That wasn’t me, I was (mostly) quiet, (kind of) well-mannered, and (somewhat overly) sensitive. 

Growing up, I would always struggle with being on time, I would often change topics halfway through a sentence, and I’d start a million hobbies before quickly giving up on them. At university, I would leave work until the night before, procrastinate, and struggle to start or finish any tasks. In the workplace, I would unintentionally interrupt people, jump from one task to another and react emotionally to situations out of my control. These are just a few of the examples, with the main recurring one being I could not hold onto a thought.


To me, a thought is like a shooting star, it is there one moment and then gone in a flash. 


Throughout life I would always feel like I was fighting to be ‘normal’ and often become exhausted and could only explain it like feeling as if ‘I am just so tired of trying’. I wouldn’t even know myself what it meant, however, now it is so obvious to me. I would feel defeated, get depressed and then after some time get my fight back and feel determined to do better until the cycle repeated itself over and over again. 

It wasn’t until early 2021 that someone said to me ‘have you ever thought you might have ADHD?’ and suddenly I hyper focused on ADHD and learnt that maybe I had more in common with that school boy than I previously thought.


I learnt that there was a lot more to ADHD than I had ever realised. 


After my diagnosis, my eyes were opened to how many of my struggles were linked. Where previously I would struggle with an area of my life, then move on to the next struggle without conscious thought, it was an emotional blow when I suddenly saw all the issues I was experiencing in their entirety. It was overwhelming, but it also made me aware of the areas that I could seek help with and where I could improve. 


So, what is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It affects both children and adults, and its impact extends beyond academic or professional settings, influencing various aspects of daily life.


What ADHD is not:

1. A character flaw: ADHD is not a personal failing or a reflection of someone's character. It is a neurobiological condition that affects brain functioning and behavior.

2. Intentional misbehaviour: Individuals with ADHD do not purposely engage in behaviours associated with the disorder. They may struggle with impulse control, inattention, or hyperactivity, but these actions are not deliberate or malicious.

3. Limited to children: While ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, it can persist into adulthood. It is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing management and support.

4. Only about hyperactivity: Although hyperactivity is one of the core symptoms of ADHD, the disorder encompasses more than just excessive physical energy. Inattentiveness, difficulty focusing, impulsivity, and executive functioning challenges are also key components.

5. Cured by willpower alone: While individuals with ADHD can develop coping strategies and utilise various interventions to manage symptoms, ADHD cannot be overcome through sheer willpower or determination. It is a neurodevelopmental condition that requires a comprehensive approach to treatment and support.

6. A one-size-fits-all experience: ADHD manifests differently in different individuals. Symptoms, challenges, and strengths can vary significantly from person to person. Each individual's experience with ADHD is unique, and treatment plans should be tailored to their specific needs.

7. A label for incompetence: Having ADHD does not mean someone is incapable or incompetent. Many individuals with ADHD have unique strengths, such as creativity, hyperfocus, and problem-solving abilities. With appropriate support and accommodations, individuals with ADHD can excel in various domains of life.

It is important to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about ADHD to promote a more accurate and compassionate understanding of the condition. By dispelling what ADHD is not, we can foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals affected by ADHD.


Join the ADHD Peer Support Group!

 If you have an ADHD diagnosis, have been referred for an assessment, or would like to investigate getting a diagnosis, then you are welcome to join the ADHD Support Group. 

The group meets every Wednesday at 6pm in the Students' Union (in the Hive) and serves as a valuable resource for individuals seeking information, support, and a sense of community. Group members can share personal experiences, coping strategies, and helpful resources. It provides a platform to discuss challenges, celebrate successes, and exchange practical advice for managing ADHD in various aspects of life, such as education, career, relationships, and self-care.

The group encourages open dialogue, education, and destigmatisation of ADHD. By debunking popular myths and fostering understanding, it promotes empathy and acceptance for individuals with ADHD, helping to create a more inclusive and supportive society.

Students do not have to disclose whether they have a diagnosis and are not obliged to attend every week: students are welcome to come when they want (and when they remember). They don’t even have to be on time! It is a safe space for students to not feel the need to mask or compensate. 


Upcoming ADHD Peer Support Group sessions: 


If you would like more information about the ADHD group, please feel free to contact me at Please note that this group is not run by the University of Plymouth.

If you have an ADHD diagnosis or have been referred for an ADHD assessment, make sure to speak with Student Services about disability support. To contact Student Services, you can call 01752 587676, email or visit them in the Student Hub in the library.


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