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ADHD Adults

Insensitive jokes from friends-how do you react??

Being diagnosed as an adult after what seemed like forever of struggling and still struggling, I’ll admit I have some bitter feelings with my ADHD diagnosis. I never talk about it to anyone (except obvi my Dr), because I don’t like the (possible ) judgement.

I’m thankful I am finally succeeding in life for once alongside fully functional people! But with that, comes the jokes! oh everyone’s got jokes that when they suddenly have a random thought or can’t focus for like a mili-second, they blurt out “I’m SOO ADHD! haha!!! seriously I think I have it!!” These are from my co-workers who graduated college in 4 years with 3.9 gpa btw. I on the other hand struggled getting done w/college in 7 years with a 3.1 with the same degree.

I’ve known my co-workers/roommates for 2 months now, and they have all said this jokingly on a WEEKLY basis…why does it bother me soooo much?? Is it inappropriate to tell them it’s insensitive…people say these jokes all the time, and I usually ignore it, but honestly it’s getting so old. How does anyone else handle this situation?? Ideas?


It bothers you because of the bitterness with struggles. When you can simply laugh about it this will not matter and the bitterness will dry up and blow away.

Use Goggle to check out Totally ADD and Rick Green. He makes a living about making folks comfortable with their diagnosis.

And good for you in showing restraint with co workers. You’re right. It is insensitive; but they will not thank you for creating a drama around it.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Jul 31, 2014 at 12:49pm

I wasn’t dx’d until a few months before my 59th birthday although having symptoms lifelong.

And aging can impact symptoms as can other health related issues. There is a large gated community not far from me that started as a 55+ area and recently opened up to younger households. But still predominantly retirees. And there is a local joke for memory lapses in ‘having a village moment’. One woman recently overheard her 8 year old grandson saying that when he forgot something.

As some of my symptoms got worse with age related hormone shifts—bioidentical hormones have helped—but menopause threw me for a loop as I had almost no PMS lifelong. Was shocked at how much hormones affect mood, cognition and overall vitality. And I make jokes about my hair changing color from the red hair I started with to gradually going blond. Common with many redheads. Definitely not gray, now near platinum but with a red/gold hint. I can jest that my air head moments are not due to getting older but becoming a blond.

No, people don’t get it. I didn’t get how much PMS really did hit many women until I felt like my body turned on me within a few weeks. These people don’t mean to be insensitive but are laughing at their own lapses. Everyone has them. If you think of these comments as ways of people admitting to their own fallibility and laughing at themselves, it might make it easier to take. I prefer people who do admit to errors over people who defensively deny they ever forgot or erred.

Depending how large your workplace is, there is a fair chance that others DO have AD/HD. While most sources seem to state that about 5% of adults have it, I suspect that the child stats are closer as more info is coming in that people don’t outgrow it. Symptoms may improve with full brain maturity as some parts of the brain don’t finish maturing until early 20’s. And people learn to cope. Plus many with low/mid range symptoms are not dx’d.

Once you’ve been there long enough to know the people better, if it is still frustrating, you might ask them if they know anyone with AD/HD. And then ask them to imagine having these ‘moments’ as their norm with ‘moments of clarity’ as the rare events. To imagine their brain as a radio station not coming in clearly, lots of static yet needing to strain to catch the tornado warning. How tiring it is.

You succeeded in reaching the shore with a boat that had a leak, had to keep bailing it out and that energy to keep bailing as well as the water sloshing about the bottom, slowed you down. Do you think most of those with intact boats could have succeeded as well as you have if they also had a hole in their boats? Or simply sunk?

Be proud of yourself. You have already been tested with some life challenges and succeeded. I’ve run into far too many people who haven’t had a significant life challenge and are quite smug about how great they are doing. And when they do hit a speed bump, turn into whiny, woe is me, oh I don’t know what to do! dummies standing around waiting for someone to rescue them. No clue as to how to figure out how to cope. It is how we face and cope with life’s challenges that shows our true character. And those who have been through a challenge often become more compassionate, kinder, and adaptable than those who have had an easy journey.

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 01, 2014 at 3:20pm

It is not as real to them as it is to you. I would just joke back. If they are your friends it should not get to the point where they are hurting you. If it continues then I would just simply get some new friends

Posted by tomnardone on Aug 01, 2014 at 8:11pm

Thanks for your replies!

Although I have a good attitude about my ADHD with the few people who do know it’s an issue for me, it’s harder to joke along with others who are using the phrase lightly/inappropriately when they have no idea… it’s super frustrating b/c most (my) ADHD was/is not funny since it held me back from so much and lead to serious depression issues, but that’s just something I keep to myself obviously…

and naturally, most are unaware that ADHD is not just “spacing out” or “being random”, and you made a great point, Gadfly, about possibly mentioning down the road if my (only 4 btw) co-workers know anyone who is ADHD and that their “moments” are a round the clock struggle for someone who is ADHD. I’ve had my fair share of coping and it has made me a better person and I am thankful for that and proud for how far I have come smile thank you for recognizing that and reminding me, it’s easy to forget the hurdles you’ve jumped when you can’t see them anymore, that’s for sure. That’s probably the best analogy I’ve ever heard for this situation, about the boat! Loved it and thank you for that!

Although my friends obviously don’t intend to hurt anyone, I just see this situation as people complaining about “bad days” where they cannot seem to focus, and although I’m a super compassionate person most of the time, when people blame a temporary feeling on an actual disorder, I cannot have sympathy because they sound ignorant…if someone just said “gosh, I am just having an “off day” and cannot focus today”, I would give them all the sympathy I could because I totally know how that feels!! The same ignorance I attribute to people who use “gay” as a synonym for “stupid” (I realize these are totally different situations, but I feel the same emotional reaction even though I am straight). And I don’t perpetuate the use of the word used incorrectly either.

Thanks for the responses, I haven’t talked to many people lately with/about ADHD so it feels good to have some support! :D

Posted by laura510 on Aug 01, 2014 at 10:55pm

oh my, I have a friend whose son is severely autistic and has severe mental issues.  I’ve been around her when someone has used the word “retarded” and it’s awful.  One more, my best friend’s son committed suicide at 19 years old recently, and since my friend and I go to a recovery program together (many times the speaker has innocently said something like,  i wanted to kill myself or I tried to kill myself,.This is so painful each time to watch as I know she must have a terrible reminder of how her son might have survived if he got help.  a bit off topic but just wanted to add how people are insensitive with saying things like ” i must have ADD” or are you “retarted”?  on and on and on….....................t

Posted by freetobe on Aug 03, 2014 at 10:28pm

One more thing, I am sensitive as well, when people callously blame their forgetfulness on ADD.  It is such a struggle just to get through life sometimes, it’s almost an insult, but “THEY DON"T HAVE A CLUE”  smile

Posted by freetobe on Aug 03, 2014 at 10:29pm


very good points as well, I totally agree! not ok when people say things like that jokingly, it’s literally painful when I hear people joke about suicide-I usually, as nicely as I can, mention that that is NOT funny. I guess sometimes we all have to remember our struggle makes us stronger and more caring. being sensitive isn’t a bad thing

Posted by laura510 on Aug 03, 2014 at 11:18pm

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