Adult ADHD: Overthinking and Intrusive Thoughts
Do you ever find yourself unable to focus on a task because your mind is flooded with unwanted thoughts? Do you spend hours analysing a situation, going over every detail repeatedly? These experiences could be symptoms of adult ADHD.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, it is estimated that around 2.8% of adults in the UK have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but only about 10% of those with ADHD have been diagnosed and go on to receive the appropriate treatment. This means that most adults with ADHD in the UK remain undiagnosed and untreated.
The increased media attention on intrusive thoughts has helped to raise public awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues but has also led to many people self-diagnosing. Self-diagnosing mental health conditions based on information found on the internet can be problematic, as it may contain inaccurate or subjective information.
Social media provides a wealth of information about mental health conditions, including symptoms, treatment options, and personal stories of those who have experienced them. However, it can also lead to potential misinterpretation of symptoms.
Take, for example, ADHD. While most people associate ADHD with hyperactivity and impulsivity, it can also manifest in more subtle ways, such as through intrusive thoughts and overthinking.
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted and repetitive thoughts that can be distressing or disturbing. They can take many forms, such as worries, doubts, or even violent or taboo images.
These symptoms are often associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
For individuals with ADHD, these thoughts can be particularly persistent and disruptive if left untreated or misdiagnosed.
Why are intrusive thoughts particularly persistent and disruptive in people with ADHD?
Intrusive thoughts can be persistent and disruptive in people with ADHD due to the underlying neurobiological differences in the brain. Individuals with ADHD often experience difficulty regulating their attention, leading to a constant stream of thoughts that are difficult to control.
Research suggests that individuals with ADHD may have an imbalance of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These imbalances can affect cognitive processes such as attention, impulsivity, and working memory.
In addition, individuals with ADHD may have a hyperactive default mode network (DMN), a brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thought. The hyperactivity in the DMN can lead to a constant stream of thoughts that are difficult to control.
Furthermore, individuals with ADHD often have co-occurring mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which can contribute to the experience of intrusive thoughts. For example, anxiety can lead to obsessive worrying and ruminating.
What are examples of intrusive thoughts in individuals with ADHD?
Three examples of intrusive thoughts related to ADHD:
- Racing thoughts: People with ADHD may experience a constant flow of thoughts, making it difficult to focus on any one thing. This can lead to racing thoughts that are hard to control and can interfere with daily life.
- Obsessive worrying: ADHD can cause individuals to become fixated on specific worries, going over them repeatedly in their minds. This can lead to anxiety and stress, making it difficult to complete tasks or make decisions.
- Negative self-talk: ADHD can cause individuals to be overly critical of themselves, leading to negative self-talk. This can damage self-esteem and cause individuals to avoid new challenges or opportunities.
What do intrusive thoughts mean?
Intrusive thoughts do not necessarily indicate that someone is at risk of acting on them. Many people experience intrusive thoughts at some point, which can be managed through therapy, medication, or other coping strategies.
However, less often do people consider that their unwanted thoughts might be associated with a neurodiverse condition. Because of this, some individuals who haven’t yet received a diagnosis delay assessment as they have come to terms with their symptoms relating to a mental health condition rather than considering it could be neurodevelopmental.
Traumatic experiences or elevated levels of stress can also contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts.
What to do if you experience persistent intrusive thoughts?
If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be worth seeking more information on how to get diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. Typically, a psychiatric assessment will involve a comprehensive evaluation of symptoms, medical development, and psychological testing. A formal diagnosis can help individuals understand the underlying causes of their thoughts and other symptoms affecting their day-to-day lives and lead to an appropriate treatment plan.
Treatment for ADHD may include medication, therapy, or a combination of both. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is recommended to help individuals develop coping strategies for managing symptoms. With the proper treatment, individuals with ADHD can lead successful and fulfilling lives.
Why is it essential to get a clinical ADHD diagnosis?
Many people with ADHD go undiagnosed for years, leading to unnecessary stress and personal and professional difficulties. Seeking a private assessment through Onebright as soon as possible can provide relief and improve the overall quality of life. A private ADHD assessment is the first step in helping to unravel negative thinking patterns and start dealing with complex emotions.
Where can you get a private ADHD assessment in the UK?
Onebright offers virtual ADHD assessments in the UK with a licensed clinician qualified to give a formal diagnosis. Please reach out for support if you think you are experiencing symptoms of ADHD and would like to explore treatment pathways.