Receiving a formal diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood may cause a flood of a whole array of emotions- for me it felt like being stuck on a rollercoaster, and I couldn’t make it stop!
After a considerable amount of research (including asking questions of others who’d received adult ADHD diagnoses, plus my own experiences), I’ve written this blog entry to share what sort of emotions you may experience after a diagnosis, the potential reasons why we experience these feelings, and some ideas on how to begin to process these thoughts and feelings.
Here’s a list of some commonly reported emotions:
After a recent diagnosis of ADHD, I’d expect you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of these new thoughts and emotions.
Attempt to take as much space and time as you need to process everything (where it’s possible to do so).
A common aspect of ADHD is masking, which is caused by feelings of shame surrounding behaviours that come naturally to you (for example, stimming, talking loudly, interrupting, being “too enthusiastic”, etc.) Other people may have made negative comments about these behaviours, or you’ve felt judged and excluded, so you hide these parts of yourself from others.
Once you learn about masking and are able to begin to identify which aspects of yourself you’ve hidden away, this could inevitably lead to questioning who you are behind the mask.
If you’ve been hiding these aspects of yourself for so long, there’s a possibility that masking has become a way to protect yourself unconsciously- where do you even begin to unmask? Additionally, will it be safe to do so?
New Identity- Questioning Introjected Values
How many times have people told you that you were weird, funny, odd, or shy? After a while, we believe that these labels truly are aspects of our personality. These labels are also known as “introjected values”.
This is when we begin to question these introjected values. Are we really any of these things? If not, who are we?
Here is a list of examples:
It’s common for feelings of grief to arise in those moments when you look back and think, “How could they have missed my ADHD when I frequently did/said X, Y, or Z”, or when you start to imagine the life that you could’ve experienced if only you’d been diagnosed sooner- the “What ifs”:
It can feel painful, frustrating, and infuriating to focus on all of those snapshots in time. However, your brain is attempting to make sense of a lot of new information, and it’s normal to go through the “What ifs”. When these feelings are able to be processed in a supportive and gentle way, they will eventually lead towards acceptance.
Taking Steps Towards Processing These Emotions
Be Patient With Yourself
For most with ADHD, patience is notoriously difficult.
Not to mention that for many, self-compassion can feel like an alien concept after years of battling with themselves for reasons such as not being able to keep up at work, struggling to keep on top of the cleaning, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia.
I felt a great wave of anger towards my childhood GP after my diagnosis, as my parents had taken me to him over and over for my hyperactivity, to which he replied that this would be something I would grow out of as I got older.
Eventually, I managed to put this anger to bed by rationalising that it was during the 80s, and little girls rarely received a diagnosis for ADHD- many GPs didn’t have the knowledge and research to identify it as well in little girls.
Rationalising and challenging my thoughts certainly helped me to take the next step toward acceptance.
Look into as much information about ADHD as you can- deep dive into books, podcasts, articles, forums, blogs, and groups to discover different coping mechanisms, types of therapy, and medication options.
Knowledge is power, and researching “all things ADHD” is wonderful way to start to take control.
There are ADHD coaches available to teach you practical coping mechanisms to deal with common day-to-day struggles, and there are also counsellors who specialise in ADHD who can work alongside you to explore your emotions surrounding ADHD and your diagnosis.
It’s a process a majority of us experience after a diagnosis (especially after a later in life diagnosis), but eventually the rollercoaster of emotions begins to slow down- those twists and turns become smoother, and eventually, you’ll be able to relax into the ride.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve found it useful. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
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Other Links on the Topic:
What’s Next After Being Diagnosed With ADHD (Very Well Mind)
This Post Has 2 Comments
This is so beautifully written, a really fab first post! Looking forward to reading future posts from you!! ❤️❤️
Thanks so much Lisa! I appreciate your kind words so much!