The less exposed symptoms of ADHD: The truth about ADHD fatigueOct 19, 2021
ADHD symptoms we do not talk about enough
You know that feeling when you're just not in the mood to do something? You feel tired, unmotivated, and do not want to move. It's a common symptom shared by many people on a regular basis. For those living with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), this is a daily occurrence-and for good reason! ADHD is usually characterised by common traits associated with higher levels of energy. With some of the ADHD symptoms (impulsivity and hyperactivity) usually associated with high amounts energy, would you believe me if I said that being tired or weary can be a sign of ADHD? It makes sense that people who experience this fatigue as part of ADHD, would not have received a diagnosis. Initially, they might think that feeling fatigued was part of another condition, such as chronic fatigue syndrome. It may also be hard to accept that fatigue is part of your experience.
Chronic fatigue syndrome
People who have ADHD are often misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. These two diagnoses are frequently mistakenly given to people since they both suffer from fatigue.
The difference between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD and chronic fatigue symptoms
However, when you compare the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and ADHD, you can see that they are very different. People with chronic fatigue syndrome often have a period of good health followed by a period where they don't have any energy during the day. In contrast, those with ADHD usually have constant exhaustion throughout the day. Also, chronic fatigue syndrome is diagnosed as a physiological medical condition, whereas ADHD is diagnosed as a psychological condition.
In order for someone to be diagnosed with ADHD, they must have at least six of 18 symptoms from one or more categories of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity on a regular basis for more than six months. Fatigue is not usually within the standard criteria of diagnosis, whereas other symptoms are.
The difference between ADHD fatigue and regular exhaustion
Part of how ADHD affects your body is linked to feeling fatigued and exhausted. This isn't to say that ADHD fatigue is the same as regular fatigue, but having ADHD can result in feeling constantly tired or sleepy.
People with regular fatigue may feel fatigued due to over exertion, and/or lack of sleep. However, for many people diagnosed with ADHD, they may have felt tired and restless for a long time, it becomes a 'normal' way of living. They may not have known that ADHD can be the cause of their exhaustion, or they may believe that fatigue is just part of poor health.
The causes of ADHD fatigue
People with ADHD often feel tired throughout the day due to the focused and constant attention required to try and cope with ADHD symptoms. Due to this focus and effort, people with ADHD often push themselves harder than most other individuals and this can make them tire easily or become exhausted.
Many people who have ADHD continue to exhibit signs of fatigue into adulthood. Part of the reason is due to problems with the function of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine and norepinephrine are responsible for responding to feeling alert, motivation and goal directed behaviors. Peer reviewed studies found that those with ADHD lack energy due to an imbalance of these neurotransmitters (Arnsten, 2009).
Some medical disorders can contribute to fatigue and ADHD. Hyperthyroidism is one such medical condition which can cause ADHD like experiences, depression and also fatigue. It may present itself as hyperactivity and impulsivity along with feeling tired every day. Hyperthyroidism is due to an overactive thyroid gland, which affects the body's metabolism. It can affect mental function, weight loss or gain and fatigue.
Other signs of tiredness are related to health symptoms such as chronic headaches or other pain. Also, low blood pressure can be a cause of feeling tired, lacking motivation and struggling with mental clarity (Mansukhani et al., 2019).
Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea can also contribute to fatigue and exhaustion. Sleep apnoea is where you stop breathing during your sleep due to excess tissue in the throat blocking airways.
A study found that typically those with ADHD sleep for slightly less than 8 hours a night; however, their naps usually last only 15 minutes (Hvolby, 2015). This contributes even further to fatigue because during these short periods of rest the person is not recharging their batteries. Instead it feels like they are running on empty all day. Having ADHD can contribute to difficulties with sleeping; however, sleep difficulties can also cause ADHD type symptoms. If you aren't getting enough sleep every night, then fatigue and difficulty concentrating may be lasting throughout the day (Hyun Um, et al., 2017).
Social causes of fatigue in adult ADHD
The reason that social interaction is exhausting for adults with ADHD is due to the mental and social effort involved. This means that it is hard for those with ADHD to switch off from their focus and concentration levels to other tasks such as: paying attention to what someone else is saying, listening to the conversation, making small talk and thinking of what to say next. This can result in difficulty forming new friendships or relationships, and may even result in social anxiety for adults with ADHD.
How to recharge
The best way to make your brain feel like it's taken a break is by taking some time away from the computer, phone, or any other screen. Making sure you spend time outdoors, or in nature is one of the most important health benefits in reducing fatigue.
Tips to stay on top of your energy levels with ADHD
A) Yoga and meditation:
Research has shown that people with ADHD benefit from decreasing stress. Yoga and meditation are great ways to do that. They can help calm the nervous system, which will help restore the body and mind.
B) Medications and drug treatment:
A doctor may prescribe meds to help increase the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. Certain stimulant pharmaceutical drugs can help with focusing on a point and staying on task for longer periods of time. Apart from seeing your doctor, there are a range of other natural therapies and treatment options available for overcoming fatigue.
C) Being more active:
The best way to overcome tiredness is to make sure you are active enough and getting enough exercise during the day. This can help oxygenate the body through movement can be an effective way of overcoming tiredness.
D) Changing your diet:
Again, this is an expensive option, but there are some foods that could help you out. It's the reason why people with ADHD sometimes act like children- they can be seen eating ice cream or drinking sodas. While these may give you temporary relief, it's best to eat something healthy instead.
E) Changing your sleep routine:
Getting between seven and nine hours of sleep is important. People with ADHD should try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day.
ADHD, Fatigue and your healthcare provider
If you believe that you or your loved one is suffering from fatigue and lack of sleep, then it's best to talk to a doctor. They can also test for different conditions such as sleep apnoea. If the exhaustion continues, the person may visit their GP who will look into other potential causes.
There are a range of other supports and resources you may meet criteria to access. Sometimes if fatigue is too debilitating it can be helpful to engage daily living supports such as a professional organizer, who will provide guidance and assistance with organizing your household space and life.
Fit what works for you and your ADHD
There are many different ways for people living with ADHD to help themselves feel less overwhelmed or exhausted- some more cost-effective than others. Remember: The person who lives with the condition might benefit from any number of these methods because they have trouble managing their energy levels at all times.
Where to from here
After reading the above article, it should be concluded that people with ADHD feel tired and overloaded because of how much work their brains need to do. The best way for them to recharge is by taking breaks away from screens and doing physical activities or spending time outdoors. Overall, this article has taught you something new about people who suffer from ADHD and how to better understand and help them! There are a range of offerings available to help those with ADHD to manage their fatigue, stay motivated and on track towards their goals.
ADHD Ambition: Master the habits and mindset you need for success
ADHD Ambition is a course designed for people who want improve their wellbeing, to reach their goals and create the life they have been dreaming of. Here are further details of the co-authors and founders of ADHD Ambition.
Shannon Bowman is the director of SJB Clinical Consulting Pty Ltd
And Director of Create Balance Psychotherapy & Counselling VIEW HERE.
Shannon has a clinical interest in treating trauma, PTSD and ADHD.
He has a lived experience of ADHD and is a passionate advocate for those affected by it.
He is accredited as a Mental Health Social Worker AMHSW,
psychotherapist and registered EMDR practitioner. Associations below.
Australian Association of Social Workers
EMDR Association of Australia.
Psychology Today Profile
Daniel Van der Pluym is a Psychotherapist Coach
Founder of Deeper Potential and Part Founder of ADHD Ambition Daniel specialises in Mindfulness as a way of regulating difficult emotions and working with impulsive behaviors.
He has a lived experience of anxiety and impulsive behaviors and is a passionate advocate for those affected by it.
He is an Associate Member of the Australian Psychological Society and Member of Meditation Australia
Arnsten, A., F. (2009). Catecholamine and Second Messenger Influences on Prefrontal Cortical Networks of “Representational Knowledge”: A Rational Bridge between Genetics and the Symptoms of Mental Illness. Cerebral Cortex.
Hvolby, A. (2015). Associations of sleep disturbance with ADHD: implications for treatment. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders.
Hyun Um, Y., Hong, S. C., & Jeong, J. H. (2017). Sleep Problems as Predictors in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Causal Mechanisms, Consequences and Treatment. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience.
Mansukhani, M. P., Covassin, N., & Somers, V. K. (2019). Neurological Sleep Disorders and Blood Pressure. Neurological Sleep Disorders and Blood Pressure.
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