As promised, I am writing a blog today about what it means to be ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. When seeking a diagnosis, I suspected that I might be ADHD or autistic, but I had never really considered that I might have both. Even though I knew that many people had both diagnoses.
Part of my thought process about getting a diagnosis was that if I have behaviors or issues that are due to ADHD the treatment approach might be slightly different based on the reason or cause of the behavior or issue. I knew there was some cross-over in symptoms, but what was interesting to me was the amount of cross-over between the two diagnoses.
To help you understand this, I want to use the same graphic that my psychologist provided me when explaining my diagnosis. This graphic comes from the Neurogivergent Insights website which has even more great resources and descriptions available.
The terms, symptoms, and behaviors you see on the left are unique to ADHD, while the ones on the right are unique to autism. The Venn diagram with terms in the middle darker section is the terms, symptoms, and behaviors that are in common between the two diagnoses.
When I try to relate these different traits to myself and express how I experience ADHD I still have a lot to learn about myself. But to maybe provide an example for you of a real-life scenario I face almost daily; eating lunch.
I interpret my inability to recognize that I am hungry for interception issues that stem from autism. But when I do realize I am hungry, I often go to the refrigerator to find food, and become distracted or overwhelmed looking in the fridge to find food to eat. I interpret this as difficulty regulating attention and focus due to ADHD.
While it is not always this black and white for me, the different problems in this scenario have different solutions. For example, to work on the interception, I am working with an OT to help me identify and interpret the body sensations to understand when I am hungry. But for the coping mechanism when I do realize I am hungry, I need a different solution. While many have been suggested, I still don't have a magic wand for this in my own life. I can say that meal prepping and putting things in the fridge that are visible, easy to grab, and don't require advanced executive functioning seem to work better for me. But then meal prepping introduced its own set of issues for me.
I think the other observation I have had since learning more about the two diagnoses is that my symptoms and behaviors have a tendency to be situational. In other words, the sensory input, environment, time of day, and lots of other factors can make a certain behavior swing one way or the other. For example, I tell people "I am nothing if not a creature of habit"--which aligns really well with the strict adherence to routines on the autism side of the diagram. But then other times, I am seeking novelty and new experiences, I am likely doing this to provide me sensory input that I am missing in my regular routine, which is likely more related to the ADHD side of the diagram.
So, I hope this is helped you to understand the differences between ADHD and autism. If you think you might be ADHD or even if you are not and you struggle with some of the day-to-day aspects of your life I would encourage you to check out a YouTube channel called How to ADHD which I have found to be a great resource of videos with lots of practical advice that frankly most adults could use at one point or another in their life.
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