Let’s talk a little bit about the H in ADHD. That double-edged sword that is hyperactivity. It can work for you or against you.

I know that little ‘H’ in the name ADHD can throw people off about what ADHD is. It doesn’t quite sit right with everyone, seemingly throwing off the name of the disorder. This kind of shines a light on the preconceived notions and assumptions that we all have about what hyperactivity is.

I know my first thought when I hear the word ‘hyperactive’ is a ton of physical energy. Whether it’s running around, fidgeting, jumping, or just not being able to sit still, the physical component of hyperactive definitely comes to mind first for me because it’s something you can see and measure easily in someone else. It’s like that old adage of seeing is believing. But hyperactivity can present itself as more than just an abundance of physical energy that needs to be expressed, you can have mental hyperactivity while still being physically calm. Like looking out at the ocean, the water can seem calm, but there is a frenzy of activity just below the surface.

So what does mental hyperactivity look like?

It can present itself a few different ways. Does it feel like your brain has a thousand tabs open at once, and you can’t shut off all the thought noise? That’s mental hyperactivity. Those thoughts that you just can’t shut off or obsess over that keep you up at night? Hyperactivity. Does it feel like your brain is going a mile a minute? You get it.

It’s also responsible for the hyper-focus some people with ADHD experience. When you are so hyper-focused on a task or project that you forget to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom- that’s a form of hyperactivity.

There’s also verbal hyperactivity. Being super chatty, monologuing, or not being able to hold back sharing a thought could be considered a hyperactive activity. It’s like that expression ‘running your mouth’, you may not be physically running, but you have this verbal energy that’s got to be expressed.  

Then there’s audio hyperactivity- when you are just overwhelmed by everything that you’re hearing. Crowd noise, too many people talking at once, different volumes, or even when you do that thing where you turn the music down or off while you’re driving to focus extra hard looking for a parking spot. Or it could be the antithesis, the quiet is too much.

In a nutshell, hyperactivity can be responsible for a lot of general feelings of overwhelm from internal or external stimuli. Look at the word itself, it’s composed of two words: hyper and activity. It’s like a vague Mad Lib for a more specific sensation. Hyper _______.

To me, that H in the ADHD is where a lot of the superpowers that ADHD gives you can be found. You just have to learn how to wield it. Master it. Control it. That mental hyperactivity can be responsible for some amazingly creative ideas and outside the box thinking that helps solve problems. The verbal hyperactivity can help with making friends, networking, and public speaking- all fantastic things. Audio hyperactivity can be why you remember what people say easier or hear/notice things other people don’t. And personally, as someone who is chronically fatigued from fibromyalgia, I wish I had a bit more energy to run around and exercise and play.

Like I said before, the hyperactivity is a double-edged sword. It can be responsible for some wonderful traits but can also contribute to problematic symptoms that aren’t working for an individual.

You know yourself better than anyone. How does hyperactivity impact you? What are the good things your hyperactivity brings? What are some challenges it presents? What tools would help with those challenges? How can you harness your hyperactivity superpowers?

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