How To Write a character with ADHD

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, doesn’t mean the loud kid in the classroom that never listens and constantly paces around the room. It’s more common in boys than girls and is often linked with autism, bipolar, OCD, depression, and anxiety. The signs are different in children than adults and in this post, I will talk you through every symptom with examples from books and movies.

Concentration

e20b83d2d4e5c1b19561ad534d537d3b

People with ADHD, both kids and adults, have difficulty concentrating on tasks that don’t interest them. They can sit for hours and hours researching their favorite subject or something they’re seriously worried about, but struggle to colour in for 5 minutes because they don’t find it interesting. With adults, it’s more the mind-numbing tasks they have difficulty with, like watching a long movie, and they have to keep their mind and body busy by multi-tasking. Also, soda, sugar, and coffee don’t make them more hyperactive, it makes them calmer, and people with ADHD often self-medicate with them.

For example, Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf. He can’t pay attention in class because he’s always doing something else, fidgeting or talking, but that doesn’t mean he’s not smart, he just can’t get things done. And he’s benched in lacrosse all the time because he struggles to pay attention to the game.

Distraction

deadpool_a-G-13764820-13198931

All ages are easily distracted by sights, sounds, or other activities, and can hop from one topic to the next, often losing the other person in the conversation. People with ADHD also tend to interrupt their own thoughts, so this bit is helpful for anyone writing from an ADHD first person, but it’s less like ‘Horses!’ and more like ‘So what could I – remember to do that English homework – like, I need to put this – I should tell James about that new movie – Perhaps I should…’ and so on.

An example of that trait would be Deadpool, whose constantly jumping from one idea to another and often leaves other characters behind. After one of his regenerations in the comics, he spends several pages admiring his penis while he’s supposed to be doing something important.

Fidgeting

di_rickriordan_character_annabethchase5_NFK_cropped_1500

This is more a trait of the hyperactive type and of both age groups, but in adults it’s more excessive fidgeting than constant, as it is in children. They may prefer to stand than sit if they have to option, or fiddling with something like Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series fidgets with her necklace.

Leading on from that, impatience is another trait that both adults and children have. For example, standing in a long line might be difficult and the character may be constantly moving about and checking whether the line is actually moving.

Talking

People with ADHD tend to interrupt other when they speak, which can lead to disruptive classrooms with children, or other people thinking they’re rude. They can also seem like they’re not listening when someone speaks because their mind is hopping from topic to topic inside their head, that can be shown as gradually zoning out of the conversation and staring into space.

download

Other traits that are more common to the hyperactive type are speaking out of turn, often in settings where everyone has to take turns like a class introduction or a group therapy appointment, saying whatever’s on their mind regardless of the consequence, and blurting out the answers or replies before the other person finishes what they’re saying.

An example of this would be Dory from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. She’s a chatterbox, constantly getting distracted from her mission to talk to someone (some sea creature?). She has a lot of energy and is always talking, or swimming in circles, or talking to herself.

Forgetfulness and Disorganisation

They often find organisation difficult, both of the physical space around them and their minds, which often leads to a messy room or desk. It’s also caused by being easily distracted from cleaning if it doesn’t interest them enough. Adults find it harder to manage their time and that can lead to struggling to hold down a job.

They can be very forgetful, their minds are either completely there or not at all, which can mean they lose things easily or forget their car keys at home. This can be shown through being picked last for a group project because they’re known for their disorganisation and forgetfulness. They’re also prone to small careless mistakes.

Impulsivity

alice-and-flying-cards-jpg

This is found in both ages, but is more dangerous as an adult. With children, it’s more like eating an entire chocolate cake or not thinking before they say something a bit too honest to someone. Whereas in adults, it’s linked to criminal offences and risk-taking. They also have frequent mood swings and short tempers.

An example of that would be Alice from Alice in Wonderland. She’s impulsive in that she doesn’t think her actions through, eating strange substances, jumping through a rabbit hole, which she only found by being distracted by a rabbit.


If you’re writing in the first person, there are some more inner feelings people with ADHD are more prone to than others. They experience more boredom and frustration than people without, and they worry more about specific things. They sometimes lose motivation, have low self-esteem, and feel hopeless.

Treatment wise, ADHD can’t be cured, but children are more likely to be given talking therapies, stress management, and educational support to help deal with it than medications, but you can always create some sort of magic potion as a cure instead. CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, is a common therapy that involves noticing the patterns in the ways we think and how they make us respond, then working to change it. For adults though, medication is the default.

I’ve talked a lot about the negative side of ADHD, but people with ADHD can be some of the nicest, kindest people you’ll ever know. Most of them are really empathetic and have a heart of gold.  They are often the most creative in their specific field and can see things from a different perspective than everyone else.

Thanks for reading this blog post, I write a new post every week so if you want to keep up to date, plop your email into the bar below to get an email every time a new post is up. If you’ve got any additions to this post, or just want to say hi, you can comment down below and I’ll reply as soon as possible. Good luck with writing, toodles.

2 thoughts on “How To Write a character with ADHD”

    1. Hey, I’m glad I got it right because I don’t have ADHD and it’s important to me that someone with ADHD can relate. Understood.org has a lot of really great resources on the topic of mental health, I wish more people knew about them. Good luck with your novel!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s