Who am I? How ADHD Affects Personality

Who am I? This question is one of the hardest for me to answer. I am not good at talking about myself, I have no clue how to describe the way or person I am. I might be introvert but mostly behave extrovert. I might seem very organized in what I do but inside the chaos not often disappears. I feel like I am a contradiction, the way I am around other people is not the way I am when I’m alone and even when I’m alone I am not completely sure what I want. I am unable to talk about my own personality and this implies that something is wrong with this part of me.

The difficulties I encounter with talking about myself or my personality must have a connection with my decades long fight against my ADHD, my inability to accept myself in the way I am. I know that ADHD symptoms must have an impact on the way I am but the fight against it might even more. I am starting to realize that my personality might be a byproduct of my struggles with my ADHD symptoms or a result of the failures I have encountered due to my devil.

Personality as a way to cope

CHADD wrote an article about how personality might be affected by ADHD. In this article, dr. Surman, an ADHD researcher, explains how a person with ADHD who seems rigid might be using scheduling and routine to manage symptoms related to inattention and difficulty judging time. Someone who seems to be very organized might be forcing herself into organization because she knows from experience that if she isn’t, possessions get lost and deadlines go unmet because of the difficulties due to her ADHD symptoms. The fight against ADHD symptoms can cause a person to develop a new kind of personality.

“People may be working hard to keep their lives together. They need to be rigid and intense about how they do things or else it will go badly.”

Dr. Surman

Dr. Surman describes how ADHD symptoms can affect social skills as well. Difficulties with social skills and reading other people’s social queues are related to ADHD symptoms that can result in a returning pain caused by social failures. With too many failures, a person with ADHD can start to create a defense mechanism and this might turn an extrovert person into an introvert and lonely one. The introvert personality of a person with an ADHD brain might be a result from too much bad social experiences in the past, a protective and self-taught personality.

Avoid and change

An 2016 study on personality profiles in adults with ADHD presents how people with the inattentive ADHD type (the type of brain I own) clearly show more harm-avoidance and less self-directedness than other ADHD types as well as neurotypical brains. What does this mean?  A high tendency to avoid harm means being pessimistic and anxious versus optimistic and risk-taking, which results in being easily worried, fearful, shy, socially reserved, and easily tired. Self-directedness reflects the individual’s ability for autonomy, reliability and maturity, how responsible, purposeful and resourceful he or she is and thus how this individual is able to achieve personal goals and to be autonomous. Low scores on self-directedness have been shown to predict personality disorders and in particular borderline personality disorder.

What this means in my own words is that my ADHD makes me loose myself, my low amount of self-directedness makes me vulnerable to socially desired changes to myself. I don’t have the strength to fight for myself but instead try to fit in even if this means giving up on myself. The strong feeling to avoid harm makes this even worse, I want to stay out of conflicts, I want to protect myself from failing and feeling pain and this results in a tendency to change myself even more.

Becoming a shield

When ADHD goes untreated, a persons personality might become a product of an attempt to reduce the failures or struggles he or she encounters because of ADHD. I am, for example, extremely chaotic, but because I learned how chaos is not appreciated, how I am able to ruin and loose things more often than is accepted by others, I started planning everything in my life, until I became the most structured person I have ever met but does this mean I am organized? In a way the urge to organize everything is a fight against what I truly am.

The same happened with my social life. I truly enjoy spending time with people around me, but I have experienced too often that once I start to open up to someone else, this person disappears from my life because of how I am. This mostly happened when I was a kid but the result is that the older I got, the more superficial my relationships became. I pretend I am a loner, I pretend I don’t want to spend too much time with another person, because this way I don’t have to feel the pain that comes from the rejection I’m too familiar with. When someone gets close to me, I push him or her away, protecting myself from the pain I expect to receive from every person that will get too close.

What this means is that my personality is made up out of my fear for failing. I am who I am because I’m continuously choosing the path I expect to bring the least harm. I am not real or true, but instead a product of avoidance and cooping. I am unable to talk about myself because I’m far from who I actually am and this is not just me, but instead a common problem in ADHD brains.

You deserve to be revealed

To come back to Dr. Surman, good ADHD treatment is needed to reveal your true personality. You are not supposed to be a product of your ADHD symptoms, nor should your personality derive from your fight against these symptoms. By treating the symptoms of ADHD in a proper way, your own, unaffected, personality can shine through. You should be able to be yourself, and this counts for everyone, no matter what type of brain is hiding inside!

Once again I discovered how my fight against my ADHD devil has been a wrong approach. Love and acceptance is what the devil needs and deserves. Although I’m starting to connect to the real me more often, I haven’t spend enough time with her yet to know what kind of person she is. The defense mechanisms that have created my personality have been around too long for me to see through them right now and I notice how I’m stuck in doubt when it comes to thinking about who I really am. Time, practice and professional help are needed until I will finally be able to talk about myself, to answer this most difficult question of who I am.

Compliment every day

As a start, my psychologist gave me one assignment yesterday I think might be good for everyone. Everyday you look at yourself in the mirror and give a true and honest complement to the person you see, every day a new one, and important is to notice how this complement makes you feel. Today I choose to complement myself on my beautiful big green eyes, as an easy start since this is the one part of myself I truly believe is beautiful. How did this made me feel? It’s hard to complement me on my eyes when I see so many things I’m not happy with but I do start smiling. My eyes are beautiful and they do make me special. For a second I feel love and compassion for the person in my mirror, the beautiful person I fail to see too often, the person I know that deserves much better from me. I’m sorry, but we will reunite soon.

2 thoughts on “Who am I? How ADHD Affects Personality

  1. Thanks for your comment! It was amazing to read again this post that now seems so long ago, the beginning of a change for me, that luckily is now close to completion. I can today say I’m chaotic and I do truly love my green eyes, I learned to love myself, with my ADHD and learned that loving it makes it so much smaller than it is in fear. I wish you all the best with your journey!


  2. Thank you Anna this was lovely. I felt so heard and understood. Didn’t even know other people were dealing with these same very specific feelings and confusion about their identity from having ADHD. I hope you truly find yourself or maybe already have. What you said in this article has already impacted me and i know this is the start of something big for me– Asher

    Liked by 1 person

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