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Living with ADHD

Let’s look at what ADHD is and explore how to cope and thrive.

Teen in a classroom looking away from the teacher and towards colourful birds flying through the air

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder' and is a type of neurodiversity or neurodivergence (meaning the brain is wired a little differently from 'neurotypicals'). It’s actually one of the most common childhood disorders! But it looks very different from person to person – some people might only have mild symptoms, while others might experience severe symptoms.

ADHD is diagnosed based on repeating patterns of behaviour. There are three types of ADHD:

  • Inattention. For example, being easily distracted, forgetful, making careless mistakes in school work, losing things, trouble focusing, difficulty following instructions. (This used to be called ADD – ‘attention deficit disorder’.)
  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity. For example, fidgeting, excessive talking, trouble taking turn, interrupting others, finding it hard to sit still.
  • Combined. This is when a person has symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

In the past, some people thought that ADHD ‘wasn’t real’, or that kids with ADHD were just being ‘naughty’. These beliefs can be really damaging for people experiencing ADHD. Fortunately, we know a lot more about ADHD and the brain now. People who experience ADHD deserve to be treated with respect.

Why do people have ADHD?

ADHD is ‘neurodevelopmental disorder’, which means that the brains of people with ADHD are a little bit different compared to people who don’t have ADHD.

Some parts of the brains of people with ADHD are different sizes, have less blood flow, are over activated or under activated, or mature at a slower pace when compared to the brains of people who don’t have ADHD.

These differences might affect their ability to pay attention or manage their behaviour.

Some people find their symptoms reduce as they get older. This could be because a part of the brain called the ‘prefrontal cortex’ is developing and maturing through childhood and adolescence.

The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in being able to focus and moderate your behaviour.

Some people may continue to experience ADHD symptoms as an adult.


ADHD is treatable! It’s important to see a health professional like a GP, psychologist or psychiatrist, for diagnosis and support. They can help you figure out the right treatment options for you.

Here are some things that may be helpful:

Medication – as prescribed and monitored by a medical professional. 

Relaxation techniques – things like mindfulness, meditation and yoga may help manage ADHD symptoms.

Social skills training – this means learning how to interact with other people in different, appropriate ways. This can help improve interpersonal relationships with other people, such as peers and friends.

Behaviour therapy – this teaches you how to monitor your behaviours and change them to more appropriate behaviours. This usually includes planning strategies for how to respond in different situations (and these might vary from person to person).

Coping with school, study and work

Here are some things that have been found to help people with ADHD learn, concentrate and boost their memory:

  • Exercise. This is not just a great way to reduce stress and boost mood, but has also been shown to play an important role in learning.
  • Fidgeting. In the past, people saw fidgeting as a sign of distraction. But we now know that fidgeting can help you concentrate and can improve the memory in some people with ADHD. So, fidgeting with things like fidget spinners, therapy putty, etc., can be a great learning tool!
  • Rewards. Some research has shown that competition and rewards can boost memory and motivation in people with ADHD (more than in people without ADHD).
  • Self-care. Some people with ADHD have sleep difficulties, but lack of sleep can make ADHD worse – it’s hard to concentrate when you’re tired. And when it comes to food, eating regular, sit-down meals is important for people with ADHD. Looking after yourself is important!

Other useful stuff

Everyone with ADHD is different and having ADHD has both challenges and positives. We've compiled some of our fave ADHD social content - that you might find interesting or helpful.

You don’t have to cope on your own.

Telling someone and getting support can make a difference

You might be feeling scared or embarrassed to ask for help, but talking to someone about what you’re going through can really help.

There are a few different support options that can make a difference.  You can give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email today.

You can also get in touch with the ADHD Foundation for specialist information and support.

This content was last reviewed 10/07/2020

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