Our Community Weighs In: Metaphors to Explain ADHD

By Tara Drinks on Jul 19, 2018

Recently, Understood collaborated with YouTube influencer Jessica McCabe of How to ADHD on a video that gives her fans ideas on how to explain ADHD to others. We asked our Facebook community to tell us what metaphors they and their kids use to describe ADHD (also known as ADD). Here are some of the great examples they shared:

“Our 7-year-old calls it his Race Car Brain. It moves fast, is well engineered, and capable of more than your average vehicle. We talk about how people can’t just jump into a race car and drive it well and safely without practice. So, all the strategies and support and medication are helping him learn how to drive and stay in control of the race car.” —Colleen Hall Marxer

“A hamster wheel that you can’t ever get off.” —Diana DeVader Murray

“A pinball machine with the ball constantly hitting and bouncing between all the bumpers.” —Deborah Kratovil

“ADHD and deficits are like a battery on a cell phone. Depending on how many apps you use and leave open, the faster your battery drains. This happens at different rates just like a make or model or age of a cell phone.” —Renee Mink Ysais

“Fireworks of ideas exploding in her brain some brilliant and bright, some loud and occasionally a few duds.” —Jill Ellenson

“Trying to find the upside-down mirror in a mirror maze while playing musical chairs.” —Sharen Crouch Allen

“Having a computer with every window open and trying to read them all at once.” —Brittany Hattrem

“A squirrel carrying something shiny to put on a pile of shiny objects until the pile toppled over on him. An accurate description of getting my kids out the door for school when we all have ADHD.” —Jeanine Lebsack

“Imagine you have a monkey in your brain and he has turned on a light. Now he has left the room and started turning on all the lights and he won’t come back and turn the first one off.” —Lisa Rae Adcock

“…I describe it as putting together five jigsaw puzzles at the same time and the pieces are all mixed together. And the boxes have no pictures.” —Katharine Ellis Tapley

“A train without a conductor. Hard drive glitches. Speaks on full blast Indy race, with no finish line.” —Stephanie L. Sheets

“A Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. I read this in an article about ADHD and it really was an ‘aha’ moment in understanding my son.” —Sandra Wicks 

Watch the How to ADHD video to see animated versions of these and other engaging ADHD metaphors. Then add your own metaphors in the comments below.


Hear more from our Facebook community. Find out how Understood parents talk to their kids about ADHD. Learn about ADHD and the brain. You can also try a unique simulation to get a sense of what it’s like to have ADHD.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Tara Drinks is an associate editor at Understood.