How do you cope with excessive thinki... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

CHADD's Adult ADHD Support

13,984 members3,634 posts

How do you cope with excessive thinking? - From an ADHD-er

LifeplusNature profile image

If anyone has ADHD and is reading this, how do you cope? How do you get by each day and not get overwhelmed by life? Do you have methods of coping with excessive thinking, that doesn't require medication?

Would love to know and hear your thoughts, especially from other ADHD-ers using this platform!

Thanks :)

28 Replies

A breakthrough I recently had in therapy regarding this is making a distinction between intrusive thoughts (reactions and generally unpleasant) and deep set beliefs about myself (part of me and my identity and needs to be processed if there are falsehoods).

Things like anxious thoughts tend to be intrusive thoughts and just noting that they are such gives me the power and permission to ignore them. Things like "I miss my ex so badly I might die of it" and "I will never finish my work and I will flunk out of school" and "I'm a huge disappointment to everyone around me."

Deep set beliefs such as "I'm an evil wretched person" is also technically intrusive but I've been operating from it so long (due to trauma) that separating that falsehood from myself is a process and absolutely just as necessary as saying F off to intrusive thoughts.

I do take Prozac, but not for these symptoms. To be fair, it does make it easier for me to 'win' at this 'game'.

wtfadhd profile image
wtfadhd in reply to kowalinpey

whats u described is CBT- cognitive behavioral therapy! Its an excellent therapeutic technique that works for anything from weight loss to managing ADHD!! For me personally, my brain will not slow down enough for me to use CBT Techniques unless i am first medicated. So i use both. Using CBT, i realized that part of my deep set beliefs are “ meds r crutches” and “ fuck everyone- they need to take meds to speed up vs me having to take them to slow down” and “its not fair that i have to put pills in my body to be more acceptable to your boring ass” etc etc...

But as i have posted a million times- i often do just not take my meds n take a “ break”. At that point, i also stop using my CBT and we all know the result of that! Lol

kowalinpey profile image
kowalinpey in reply to wtfadhd

I don't use CBT therapy. I tried it for years and it was largely unsuccessful. I'm actually referring to techniques I discovered in ACT therapy. Which is entirely different and way more helpful for me and my brain.

wtfadhd profile image
wtfadhd in reply to kowalinpey

Yea, i can see why you perceive CBT n ACT as completely different. CBT identifies n challenges negative beliefs that cause you to feel negative n act negative- ACT is more new age and is basically accepting life on lifes terms n not feeling negative about it. ACT is like a spin off DBT’s principle of “ radical acceptance”..... so yea, CBT n ACT can be viewed as different But they fall into the same “ family of therapy” - CBT, ACT, DBT, all great- all useful, as a counselor myself- i use all 3. Patients with trauma and who are younger seem to respond well to ACT. Not saying its hard fact- just an observation. ACT is the new wave of therapy that was born out of premise that younger generations simply roll different than older generations. Thats all .

Glad u found something that is useful for you!!! As for me, no talk therapy technique works for me unless i am medicated first. That actually was my whole point.

I've only ever been introduced to CBT therapy. I used to take medication at the very start and it ended up in me feeling so depressed and so shy around people and that was when I was less than 12 years old. When I was off the medication I'd be loud and bouncing off the walls. I feel like I was quite a burden to my family sometimes. And still do. I have two younger twin siblings and sometimes wonder how I impacted their lives with my condition. I must have been a really demanding child. I'm 19 now and just starting Uni. I really want a fresh start and have already spent the past year chucking out half of my belongings as I want to try and 'grow up' even though I still feel like a child at heart. I do not feel like 19 at all! I find that to be scary and worrying. Still feeling like a child etc. But no matter! (I need to stop rambling lol - I do that too often haha)

I might try out ACT as it sounds like it might help me.

Thanks for explaining all the different types of therapies to me. I should check them all out and see which ones help me.

You have been of great help! Thanks :)

Yea, i hear ya, that adhd guilt is a real bitch😢 i can tell you are SUPER hard on yourself. Im not going to BS n tell you all about self love n self care n blah blah blah.... you know all that. What your head knows n what your heart is feeling are really disconnected right now which is way common when your going thru a major life transition( going to college). Surround yourself with great people who love you with all your quirky flaws n all! If you dont have those people yet, find them!!! Also- there are great books about how ADHD effects families n marriages n sib relationships etc. Knowledge is power. Keep posting cuz it helps everyone!!! Some people just read n never post but by you/ us putting our stuff out there helps us n others equally. ❤️

I don't quite get what you meant by " What your head knows and what your heart is feeling are really disconnected right now " Can you explain what you mean by that?

I don't really know anyone that I can be my full authentic self around. Some people I feel like I have to put a mask on and it feels really exhausting. Because of this, I hate interacting with others and I only ever really interact with my family. And that in itself is bad and unhealthy. I NEED to get out there in the world and find people that accept me for who I am and accept all of my quirky flaws!

I enjoy solitude, a lot. But sometimes I just crave a social life. But I don't have anyone that really gets me, ya know?

I do have friends. But not all of them know I have ADHD. (I've only told one or two) Which I find frustrates me. Because I feel like I'm hiding something from them.

I would love to be able to be more open about having ADHD to people that I'm close with. But I'm always scared they might turn their back on me and not want to be my friend because I have a problem that will last my entire life.

I'm not a fan of reading as it takes up so much energy to focus. I will read one page and my mind will suddenly go on daydream mode.

I have been trying to pick up reading again recently, and I'm starting easy and working my way up to the harder books.

I never engaged with books as a kid. Struggled a lot with them. Pronouncing words is a big weakness for me. I loved hearing stories though. There's just something about seeing hundreds of words on a page... with no images. It's very boring to me and doesn't keep me interested. I would love if I could focus more on reading books (and I am trying to improve on this, by reading at least 5 minutes a day. So far, so great!)

What i mean by your heart and your head being disconnected is : in your head, you logically know that true friends are not going to Stop liking you because you have ADHD. In your head you know you wouldnt even want the kind of friends that would require you to be a certain neuro type in order to be worthy of their friendship. In your head, u know all that. But in your heart, you feel a certain way that prevents you from putting yourself out there, showing up in the world, taking your place at the table, contributing your awesome talents. So that is what i meant by the disconnect in your head and heart. Make sense?

I love to read n so i just forget that not everyone does! Lol. How bout audiobooks, or pod casts, or ADHD videos, etc stuff you can listen to? Im the opposite- i mostly dislike that stuff cuz i wont like the persons accent, or tone, or they will talk too slow for my taste, etc...However you like to learn, find a forum that way. There are alot of resources out there for all learning styles.

When your feeling disconnected, unsure, shame, frustration, etc etc- its super difficult to meet people. The best strategy is to have your group of supports that know you n love you n so when u want to be alone, they understand n dont pressure you. But when u want to be social- they pick ya up in 30 min, lol!!!

Good luck!

Thanks for replying!

I'm still a little bit confused about the head and heart stuff lol

My understanding of what you're trying to say is - be more true to yourself and to others. Don't hold your true self back and don't put a mask on. Just be yourself.

So, if my true friends love me for the way I am, they won't mind knowing that I have ADHD if they were to find out.

So, try to be me more often? And take the mask off? (Hope I got it haha, you can correct me if I'm wrong lol) I'm probably way off from what you're trying to explain to me.

I'm a visual learner. That's why I prefer images to understand information, rather than words. I've watched tons of ADHD videos in the past. How to ADHD is good. But I LOVE Dr Russell Barkley's videos the most! He explains ADHD perfectly. He's the best haha. I am so glad he exists and does what he does.

I've never listened to audiobooks or podcasts. Might try them out.

Not gonna lie, I've been pretty disconnected for years upon years. Technology has ruined my life a bit. I used it all the time to escape reality (video gaming and whatnot) and now have many regrets because of it. I'd always turn to technology rather than to a friend for support or distraction. And it wasn't the best idea, as I've recently discovered.

My social skills aren't the best. (But that's an area for improvement!)

Bear in mind, I had a 5-month technology break this year. And oh. my. word. Life is so different from how I used to look at it. It's crazy what technology does to your brain. Especially from social media. I hate using my phone now. I only use it when I need to contact people. (At least I'm no longer addicted to my phone like I used to be.


I know phones are essential. But for once in my life, I wanted to see what life would be like if I didn't have one. And now I feel like my mental health has improved incredibly. Just because I stopped using my phone for several months.

It was quite a selfish thing for me to do. But I have no regrets! I wish I did it sooner!

I haven't had a break from technology in many years and that break was long overdue. It really was. I'd go mad if I didn't take that break. My mental health would still be all over the place and my frame of mind wouldn't be the best.

I feel like technology has robbed 7+ years of my life. It has really messed me up as a person. (Took me long enough to figure it all out haha)

After saying all that, I must admit, I do have a love-hate relationship with technology. My university degree is based around using technology. (So I do need to learn how to find a balance in how I use it, and learn to not use it as much as I used to). I definitely am more sociable now with my family, than I was before. So that's good!

My main area of support comes from my Mum, Granny and Dad. My dad has ADHD too! (So I got it from him lol) We get along really well and understand each other a lot. My granny understands me a lot too. She has struggled with depression for many years. So I can understand the pain that she goes through as I too suffer from depression. l go in and out of it, every now and then, depending on how my day goes.

One of my close friends accepts me for all my quirks. I still struggle to be myself around her. (Maybe it's just my social awkwardness? Most likely). But I do enjoy her company a lot. She's a great friend!

It's better to have one friend that gets you than to have many that don't. I'm glad I have her as a friend :)

I have written way to much. And I don't even think half of it makes any sense. My thoughts are all over the place haha.

But anyways. I had to get this off my chest.

Thanks, once again, for your advice! It was very helpful! :)

You are super fortunate to have a father who understands n other family members as well. All of us ADHD’ers ramble, its just part of the deal so no worries!!!! Your on the right track LifeplusNature! Glad we got to chat today!

It was a good chat indeed! Thanks for all the help!

I am so connecting with your posts! Two things i want to mention before I get back to work (I'm totally off task right now). One is I also adore Dr. Russell Barkley. I cannot even explain how much he has helped me . . . his understanding and perspective . . . I listened to his "30 things parents of ADHD kids must know" twice and stopped it several times to think and cry. It truly felt like a hug sometimes.

Second I am SO PROUD OF YOU for taking the huge technology break. For real. It was not selfish. It was a brave, great and important thing for you to do. Without getting into my whole life story I'm learning a lot about how coping mechanisms can be negative and really mess with you when over used. Technology has stolen maybe two decades from my husband. The program he's getting help from is focused on other topics but it's basically and addiction. Or, I could say was and addiction. He took a 6 month break and by the grace of God and with the support of his program he's been doing really well for over a year. I don't say that to scare you but to confirm that this is a hard thing that you are dealing with and to be proud of yourself for the progress you've made. Well there I went with a chunk of my story, oh well. I really am proud of you.

Try audio books. I’ve also got dyslexia so I’ve found since the early 2000s I’ve been listening to books. It’s so freeing.

Also, re your friends... most people are aware the ADHD isn’t a shameful thing and you need to share that with them. Your mind processes things differently and you’ve got a lot of interests. Often times were forgetful and time management is always an issue so ask for their patients and understanding. Let them know you value their friendship but when you forget about something or someone it’s not because you don’t care. Also, ask them (but don’t rely solely on them) for their help to remind you sometimes. I’ve got a planner notebook and use an App which I set for appointments as well as setting it several times primer to the time when I should leave. Everyone needs help with something’s sometimes. Let them know your able to help them in an area where you have more strength if they ever need assistance.

Treat your ADD/HD as a gift. It is! It’s liberating. What we do with this gift and how to handle our gift is something we’re all learning together here. So don’t present yourself as having a problem present yourself as someone who excited to share some things about myself that you're friends may/may not know about you. Explain that you’ve learned some new things (and that you’ll continue to learn )and I’d like to share these things with you.

Remember how important it is to exercise to help us think clearly and slow down to constant bombardment of thoughts. Maybe you and your friends could walk a couple miles each morning or meet up for a hike, at the gym, or rent kayaks. Get outside and move with your friends!

I hope this is helpful.

Knowledge is power for sure!

When I was your age (19?) I asked a friend of mine who was having a birthday: "What does it feel like to be 50?" She replied: "The body goes, but the mind stays the same!" I've found that to be absolutely true--I am 75, but in my mind, I am still 30. (Well, maybe 40!) Don't give up the ship--you have a long, exciting life before you! 👍🤗

I don't know if CBT works with me or not. It's the only therapy I know how to do at the moment. Other than mindfulness and meditation. I am a novice at them haha! Still learning to master all the breathing techniques.

Autonohme profile image
Autonohme in reply to wtfadhd

Yes! I often wish colleagues were medicated instead of me! And faster at seeing the bigger picture. But what meds would work? New to this site and so happy to see your wtf attitude tempered by reality of what you need to do to survive. So many times I'm my own CBT therapist as i drive home after a tough day ay work.

I currently don't take medication at all because every medication I did try out in the past made me feel weird and look at life in a really pessimistic way. Which made me feel so confused and uncomfortable. I had to get counselling in 2016 to 'fix me' Felt really alienated during that time in my life.

It took me ages to find something that worked and I would say mindfulness and meditation have helped me so much, ever since I got introduced to them!

Thanks for all the advice btw! It means a lot! :)

I have found that keeping a notebook and writing every day helps. If I don't, all those thoughts build up and swirl around. I don't call this a journal - I don't even date entries. It's a dumping ground for thoughts & emotions rather than a log of daily events. I have likened it to taking a good s**t. Clears everything out. When I don't do it, I don't feel right. I also have a couple of magnetic pads on the fridge for stuff I want to remember to tell people and for a daily to-do list with stars on the "absolutely must be done today" items.

That's a good idea. I have written down things on paper in the past - on days when I just feel really overwhelmed and need to dump all my thoughts out. And it does help. Haven't had to do it for a while though. Should try it again sometime!

Thanks for answering! I appreciate it a lot! :)

All the best you you - hope it helps! The magnetic pads on the fridge are good because I can't lose them! I was constantly writing notes and forgetting where I put them.

Just curious: what do you mean by excessive thinking? Do you mean, ruminating about something negative (something that happened, something someone said, or anxiety about something that might happen)? Or like the pinball thinking where your thoughts are bouncing around from one thing to another? Or something else?

I've been getting into the joy of thinking lately, thinking outside the box, making connections between things that other people look at separately, deep thinking, reflecting on how things resonate with my own inner experience, ETC.... What tends to happen though, with my ADHD, is that when I get excited about a topic and start researching it, one article sends my brain off in 15 different directions, one answer opens up a dozen more questions, and I start to shut down because I can't pursue them all at once and my brain gets overwhelmed. And I start playing solitaire instead while my monkey mind bounces around at random.

So what I'm doing is just writing down the new questions, bookmarking all the links I want to explore, putting the books either in my shopping cart as "saved for later" or on a separate list. That helps me to set them aside while I get on with reading the first book. I guess, to put it technically: I have to externalize my working memory, by writing down all the other questions so I can focus on them one at a time.

Actually, I think that kind of helps with rumination and anxiety, too. Write it down. Once you write it down you can stop holding it in your mind. I feel like the working memory deficit is a cause of a whole lot of my own rumination and anxiety, and writing things down can take the burden off my brain. I've honored the incident, the pain or the fear or the anger or whatever, I've acknowledged it, it's somewhere concrete in words, so now I can let go and move on. You said somewhere that you process things visually, whereas I'm very verbal -- it might work better for you to draw a picture or something?

I can truly relate and it's not at all uncommon . So this is how I continue to deal w this everyday, I found that a hobby or something similar that you really enjoy doing and use it to your advantage as I do. I have a hobby that both challenges my mind and diverts my attention to something I have total control of and its building miniature structures in detail and in 1/12 scale,this includes grain mills,water mills ect which includes alot of moving parts and every thing is as it appears as it would be in real life. Long story short divert your mind to things you can actually impact in a good way.

I do have ADD but i never wanted to take medication i always try to focus on my own it is not always easy now I'll try yoga or meditation.

Ooo good question!

Me? I’ve collected a few helpful tips since 2009 and 180k in all sorts-a therapy stuffs.... like...

Journaling is a fav of mine also “word vomit” as I call it. Dude. Hated it at first so I just got out all my markers w blank paper started drawing out all my feels and now I journal almost daily.... took 4 yrs to get good I share that bc it’s cool to do whatever you need no rules. Etc..

I have also recruited SUPPORTIVE (later topic lmk if you want further words lol ) loved ones to call when I’m stuck...

-ruminating: official term for it per my therapist seshs...

-catastrophizing: where you go into worst case scenario thinking


There’s always been a root to my obsessive excessive thoughts I’ve noticed too... like... toxic people in my life or unnecessary stress from a job I hated... or not feeling like I was enough etc etc etc....

Lmk how it goes keep us posted on what works etc

I am a nearly-46 year old male who was diagnosed with ADHD ~1980. The most helpful practices that I have found:

- Avoid sugar

- Regular exercise (hot yoga is incredible for presence, self awareness, focus, overall fitness)

- Find a place that calms you, and go there often - for me that's the beach, the park, a drive, or a nice walk

- deep breathing (see "hot yoga" in second bullet)

- journaling as much as possible, preferably journaling with a specific positive goal in mind (improve life situation, relationship situation, work situation, self esteem)

- creative endeavors (for me it's poetry, singing, metaphysical creations)

- let yourself be YOU. find what works for you, and try to stay there. this of course does not include self destructive activities like excessive alcohol, drugs, criminal activities, or anything that hurts other people.

- find work where your mind is engaged and you experience emotional calm connected with the doing of the work

Some things off the top of my mind that are working for me.

Oh, and also, try to keep it simple. Your ADHD will do all the complicating for you when you're not looking anyway!


I am a little bit late to the show for this but a very helpful tool I found is very simple. Go to your room, set a 20min or 40min timer on your phone, put your phone away, and then just lie in bed and let yourself think. Think completely uninterrupted for 20 mins. No guilt. No restraints. Let your brain do that weird wander thing if it wants. If you find you need more time, restart the timer. As many times as you need. I do this often and found my productivity went up and my stress lessened. The timer is like a comfort blanket to know I won't get completely lost in my thoughts. Take care!!

You may also like...