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Blog:  The Inside Track

“I Feel So ADD”: When Casual Language Means More Than We Think

The Inside Track blog post by Rae Jacobson
Feb 13, 2015

Woman ordering coffee from a barista looking like she’s having difficulty remembering what to order

“Ugh, I’m having such an ADD moment!”

ADD, a subtype of ADHD, is often used as shorthand for being spaced out or forgetful. You hear and see this everywhere—in pop songs and on T-shirts. You hear it thrown around in casual conversation.

I have ADHD. And although I know people don’t usually say it to be malicious, this kind of language can hurt.

When people use your difference as a generalization, it can make it feel less legitimate. It’s as if ADHD is something you should just learn to get over—a fleeting, unimportant thing.

“I have ADD moments all the time!” a boss once told me. “Everyone does.”

Virtually everyone I know who has ADHD has heard similar things.

One of the struggles people with the condition face is the myth that “everyone has ADHD.” This suggests the brain-based difference that has a daily impact on our lives is insignificant, overblown or—in the worst case—not real at all.

It’s true that most people get a little distracted at times. Or they might not feel as organized as they’d like. But let’s be clear: Those aren’t “ADD moments.”

When you truly do have ADHD, it can’t be reduced to momentary lapses of memory or attention. It’s part of who you are, for better and for worse.

Having ADHD means that I might forget my keys, lose important things (which reminds me, where is my wallet?), or struggle with time management. But, there are positives, too. Some experts think ADHD can bring positive traits, like energy, passion and curiosity. Moreover, there’s speculation that many of our greatest thinkers and artists had the condition.

Years ago, I was out at a diner with some friends who also have ADHD. Our waiter kept forgetting things, getting our orders wrong and just generally messing up. Finally, by way of apology he said, “Sorry, guys. I’m just having such an ADHD moment.”

Everyone was silent for a second. Then I spoke up.

“We get it,” I told him. “We’re having ADHD lives.”

I’m proud of my ADHD. Without it, I wouldn’t be me. Speaking consciously and compassionately is important no matter what the topic. If people are going to use our neurocognitive difference as shorthand for their own experiences, it’s time to include the positives. Speaking out about the upsides of learning differently may help others understand that feeling “ADD” isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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About the Blogger

Portrait of Rae Jacobson
Rae Jacobson More Posts by the Blogger

Rae Jacobson is a writer who focuses on ADHD and learning disabilities in women and girls.

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