ADHD in adults: inattentive or hyperactive?

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“My thoughts are like an endless movie, sometimes I jump from scene to scene without following the plot.”

Adam has difficulty expressing himself precisely. Although he’s heard of ADHD before, it hasn’t been a big issue for him until now. His wife has pointed out to him that he starts a lot of things, but doesn’t really finish anything. She urges him to be more disciplined and not to procrastinate. A psychotherapist or coach could help him. In response, he emphasizes that he has no problem at all with finishing things that he really enjoys.


Passion for books

As an example, he cites a book by the bestselling author Harari that recently caught his eye. In doing so, he emphasizes his passion for books. When I ask him what he particularly likes about this book, he starts to tell me, but briefly loses the thread. He praises the author for his ability to present complex issues in an exciting and entertaining way. When he wants to get back to the actual topic, he seems a bit impatient and seems slightly disappointed that he can’t go any further.


Wishes for everyday life

When asked how ADHD shows up in his everyday life, he mentions his desire to spend more time with his family, as he often misses it. He would also like to see improved interaction with his colleagues in the media and video industry.



Text – ADHD in adults: inattentive or hyperactive

  1. ADHD: Analysis Text
  2. ADHD: Goals and Practical Tools
  3. Psychology: ADHD and Organizational Skills
  4. ADHD or ADD?
  5. ADHD in children and adults
  6. ADHD self-test
  7. Evaluation
  8. ADHD: why tips and tricks fall short
  9. Conclusion: ADHD and Life Coaching


1. ADHD in adults: analysis text


Conversational Behavior ADHD

Adam has many of the classic traits of someone with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). His impulsive behavior is evident in his rapid switching between topics and his difficulty in accurately describing his concerns. He tends to mix main stories with side stories, which leads to a changeable course of conversation.


Enthusiasm for trivialities.

The forgetfulness he shows in trying to get back to the original subject is also a characteristic feature of ADHD, as is Adam’s passionate enthusiasm for trivialities.


Time management:


Overall, these behaviors suggest that ADHD plays a role in his conversational style, thoughts, and time management, which can make it difficult for him to have clear and structured conversations and find a balanced allocation of time between family and other activities.


2. ADHD: Goals and Practical Tools


Together with Adam, we developed three goals to help him overcome the challenges that come with his ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

These goals are designed to help him better organize his life and improve his communication skills. We also used DSM test questions to better understand and address Adam’s needs and goals . The results showed a mixed type of ADHD.


Goal 1: Time management


Fixed routines

Adam wants to use his time more effectively and find a balance between family, hobbies and other obligations. His son, who not only has ADHD but also high sensitivity , plays an important role in this. Together, they have established a fixed table tennis routine that enriches their time on a weekly basis.


Time for family and hobbies.


By setting fixed times for specific activities, Adam not only creates a structured routine, but also ensures sufficient time for family and hobbies. Not only does this foster a strong bond between father and son, but it also helps Adam’s son receive recognition and support despite his shy nature.


Goal 2: Mindfulness in communication

Improved interaction with colleagues

Adam wants to communicate more mindfully and empathetically with his colleagues at the video production company to find out if they are listening to him attentively or showing disinterest. This is relevant for ADHD because the disorder can affect the ability to concentrate in conversations.



To avoid overstimulation, Adam plans to go for a walk with a colleague during breaks to get some fresh air and keep clear thoughts. This will help him better deal with the challenges of his ADHD in the work environment .


Goal 3: Maintain the common thread


Improved structure in activities

Adam appreciates keeping a common thread in conversations and projects, much like his favorite author Yuval Noah Harari does in his books. This endeavor is especially important for people with ADHD, as the disorder often leads to fragmented attention and difficulty following clear lines in thoughts and activities.

Improved communication

Adam uses active rhetoric exercises and quick-witted argumentation strategies to effectively communicate his ideas. In addition, he uses mind maps to visually organize his thoughts and follow the common thread in his projects more precisely.



In our life coaching sessions, Adam has not only found ways to better deal with the challenges of ADHD, but has also brought about positive changes in other areas of life. His commitment shows not only the desire for symptom management, but also the will for holistic further development.


3. Psychology: ADHD and Organizational Skills

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. People with ADHD don’t generally have problems with attention, but find it hard to control. This manifests itself in distractibility, impulsive behavior, and sometimes in really intense focusing on certain things, also called “hyperfocus.”

A review conducted by the scientists Morena and Gerhard Lauth examines the influence of motivation on the ability to regulate attention (executive functions) in people with ADHD.

It shows that people with ADHD are able to focus very well on interesting things when they are motivated to do so.


ADHD in Adults: Planning and Organizing

Executive functions are mental skills that help us plan and organize tasks, filter information, set priorities, and control impulses. A simple task, such as writing a shopping list, can illustrate the differences between a person with and without ADHD:


For someone without ADHD (5 steps):

  1. You remember that you need to shop for groceries.
  2. You get a pen and paper.
  3. You write down the food you need on the paper.
  4. They check the list to make sure nothing has been forgotten.
  5. They go shopping.


For someone with ADHD (10 steps):

  1. You think that you have to shop for groceries while you are thinking about something else.
  2. You sit down to write a shopping list, but notice that your pen is missing, so you look for a pen.
  3. While you’re looking for a stylus, it occurs to you that you’ll also need batteries for the remote control. You make a mental note.
  4. After you find a pen, you write down some foods on the list, but interrupt yourself to check your emails that suddenly seem important.
  5. After you’ve checked your email, remember the shopping list again and write down a few more groceries.
  6. You consider if you’ve misplaced the list and start searching your home to find it.
  7. You eventually find the list, but wonder if you’ve really written down all the foods you need.
  8. You decide to revise the list to make sure nothing is missing and add more items.
  9. Finally, you’ll have a revised list that you put on your bag before you leave the house.
  10. On the way to the store, you remember something you forgot, but it’s too late to put it on the list. This example shows how people with ADHD often struggle to focus their attention on a simple task because their minds are constantly wandering and they are prone to distractions. The ability to organize and execute tasks effectively can be challenging.


4. ADHD or ADD?

Previously, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) were considered two separate disorders and they were listed as separate diagnoses under the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) from 1980 to the DSM-IV of 1994.


ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Children and adults with ADHD are seen as impulsive, hyperactive, and restless. The symptoms are easier to recognize because they involve conspicuous behavior and excessive physical exercise and impulsivity in social situations.


Constant search mode
The ADHD brain can feel like an always-on search mode. It looks for the next interesting or exciting stimulus to focus attention.


ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

In contrast, fewer overt or “silent” symptoms of inattention were considered in ADD. Individuals with ADD show difficulty in maintaining attention and concentration, but they are not prone to conspicuous hyperactivity or impulsivity.

Silent Thinking in the Fog (ADS)
Your thoughts are sometimes in a fog, elusive and difficult to focus.


ADHD Development

Since the publication of the DSM-IV in 1994, however, the concept of ADHD and ADD has been revised. It was recognized that these two disorders are actually based on a common continuum of attention problems, with symptoms occurring on a broad spectrum.



5. ADHD in children and adults

ADHD can manifest differently in children and adults. Neurobiological factors, especially the role of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, play an important role in this.

ADHD in adults is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, as symptoms can be more subtle in adulthood.


ADHD in children:


  1. Impulsiveness: Children with ADHD may act impulsively, such as responding without thinking or interrupting things. For example, a child with ADHD might keep interrupting class at school to say something.
  2. Difficulty paying attention: Children with ADHD often have difficulty concentrating on a task. For example, they might be constantly distracted while doing homework and have difficulty focusing their thoughts.
  3. Hyperactivity: Many children with ADHD are hyperactive and cannot sit still. They might be constantly running around, jumping, or fidgeting, even in inappropriate situations, such as in class.
  4. Difficulty building friendships: Children with ADHD may have difficulty making friends, as they often find it difficult to listen quietly and participate in group activities. This can lead to bullying and affect self-esteem .
  5. School difficulties: Children with ADHD might have trouble with assignments and homework at school because they have difficulty concentrating and controlling their impulses.


ADHD in adults:


  1. Inner restlessness: Adults with ADHD might have an inner restlessness and feel like they need to be constantly on the move, even when sitting quietly.
  2. Scheduling issues: Adults with ADHD may struggle to keep appointments and organize their time efficiently.
  3. Impulsiveness in financial matters: You might be inclined to spend impulsively without adequate planning or saving.
  4. Problems in relationships: Relationships could be strained, as adults with ADHD have difficulty listening attentively and engaging in conversations.
  5. Professional challenges: In the professional environment, difficulties may arise in task organization, focus, and procrastination.


Dopamine Deficit

Neurobiologically, dopamine, a neurotransmitter, plays a key role in ADHD. In people with ADHD, the dopamine transporters in the brain are often less active. This can lead to lower availability of dopamine, which explains the concentration and impulse control problems.


6. ADHD in adults: self-test

This test will help you get clues about the three main types of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder): attention deficit disorder, hyperactive disorder, and mixed type.

Please note that this test is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis and is only for self-reflection.

After the test, you’ll get clues about the most likely type of ADHD based on your answers.


1. Do you have difficulty focusing your attention on a task or activity and maintaining it for an extended period of time?

a) Yes

b) Yes


2. Do you often feel restless and inwardly driven?

a) Yes

b) Yes


3. Do you suffer from thoughts that are constantly wandering back and forth and won’t let you focus on one thing?

a) Yes

b) Yes


4. Do you find it difficult to sit still and still when necessary?

a) Yes

b) Yes


5. Do you find it difficult to organize things and plan your daily routine?

a) Yes

b) Yes


6. Are you often on the move, or do you fidget with your hands or feet when you sit?

a) Yes

b) Yes


7. Do you find it difficult to work on tasks that don’t interest you for long periods of time?

a) Yes

b) Yes


8. Do you feel like you’re constantly pressed for time, or that you’re forgetting the time?

a) Yes

b) Yes


9. Do you find it difficult to focus on a single task and move from one to the next?

a) Yes

b) Yes


10. Do you often feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks you have to complete?

a) Yes

b) Yes


11. Are you often accused of being inattentive or fidgety?

a) Yes

b) Yes


12. Do you find it hard to control your impulses and tend to do things without much thought?

a) Yes

b) Yes


13. Do you have difficulty remembering appointments and commitments?

a) Yes

b) Yes


14. Are you struggling to keep your work or study space tidy?

a) Yes

b) Yes


15. Do you find it difficult to listen in conversation and do you have difficulty concentrating on what is being said?

a) Yes

b) Yes


16. Do you often feel the need to talk or express yourself verbally, even if it is not appropriate?

a) Yes

b) Yes


17. Do you often feel restless and restless, even when you should be relaxing?

a) Yes

b) Yes


18. Do you find it difficult to sit still and still when necessary?

a) Yes

b) Yes


7. ADHD in adults: evaluation


Please count the number of times you answered “yes” and “no” to get clues about the most likely type of ADHD:


Overwhelmingly “yes” to questions 1, 3, 7, 9, 13 and 15

indicates a possible attention deficit disorder.


Overwhelmingly “yes” to questions 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 17

indicate a possible hyperactive disorder.


A mixture of “yes” on various questions

indicates a mixed type.



8. ADHD in adults: why tips and tricks fall short


ADHD is a complex neurobiological disorder with varying symptoms. Tips and tricks are partially successful for some sufferers, but show limited effectiveness. The individual differences and neurobiological causes make it difficult to find a one-size-fits-all solution. There are at least 3 reasons for this:


1 Biological causes: ADHD has neurobiological causes based on imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain. Tips and tricks can be helpful, but they don’t address the underlying biological causes.


2 Individuality: Each person with ADHD experiences the disorder in different ways. What works for one person may not have the same effect for another. Some tips might work for Adam, while they might not work for another person with ADHD.


3. Complexity of the disorder: ADHD affects various aspects of daily life, including relationships, work, and personal goals. Tips and tricks can target specific areas, but they don’t provide a comprehensive solution to the complexities of ADHD.


9. Conclusion: ADHD and Life Coaching

Overall, life coaching goes beyond mere advice. It offers individual support and encourages people to help themselves.

In contrast to simple tips, coaching enables a more comprehensive development, takes personal differences into account and enables students to overcome challenges independently.


© Timo ten Barge 26.11.23

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