Mild ADHD and Imposter Syndrome - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Mild ADHD and Imposter Syndrome

MidLifeDiscovery profile image

I’m told I have mild adhd because I’m high functioning. I’ve spent much of my life trying to find systems, rules, and tricks to get by. But I feel really shitty when I’m watching people describe what it’s like for them or looking at some memes. At first it seemed like I finally had an explanation for so many of my life’s struggles but now I’m starting to feel like I don’t fit in here either. I’m “too smart” or “too successful” and I don’t even like writing that because of the struggles I see so many people go through. I think “oh they’re the real adhds”

Anyone else feel like this?

9 Replies

Just because one has adhd doesn’t mean one is stupid or unsuccessful. The ones that post on here probably are the ones that are struggling the most at this point in their lives but it doesn’t mean it will always be like that for them.

Rodster is 100% correct!

I feel you are using words and are disconnected with their meanings... "High-functioning" is used more for spectrums of Autism and NOT ADHD.

You've mentioned being "too smart" and "too successful" and yet your title to your post states "Imposter Syndrome"... that's an oxymoron. Those with imposter syndrome view themselves small and feel others around them are big. They don't follow their dreams, passions, or desires because they feel they will fail and they think everyone around them is smarter, brighter, and will be more successful so they decide to not even try. So you can't be "too successful" and suffer from "imposter syndrome".

"Success" or "successful" is a state of mind! Some could/would say that maintaining a job is a "success" for them and others could/would say working for the same company for 10-years is being "successful".

Lastly, ADHD isn't a competition on whose life is more "shittier" than those that surround them. Everyone that has or suffers from ADHD can have good days or moments and on other days their ADHD infliction can blow up in their face!

Don't ever feel that your ADHD related issues or problems are too small to post here or any other related platforms. ADHD affects us all and on different wavelengths. We all have good days, bad days, and shitty days... it doesn't mean you can't write, respond, or post your thoughts or inquiries if you feel the need to do so. This is a safe place and likeminded people are here to help, relate, and/or just listen (read) your thoughts and ideas 🧡.

I think you don’t fully understand the depth of imposter syndrome. I used quotes to convey not my real “success” or intelligence and more to reflect how smart and successful I am at convincing the world that Im smart and doing a good job at work and with ease.

Besides that even someone like Michael Phelps can still have imposter syndrome. It’s a feeling one has and it can go entirely against reason. You can reason through why you deserve to be where you are and have earned it and still feel like a fraud.

Not to mention that my adhd itself is actually what my imposter syndrome is about. Because it doesn’t outwardly affect my career (too much; it definitely has fucked up my career a few times and I work for a very forgiving company) when I read the struggles other people have I definitely feel like I have no place. I feel like I’m at a forum for African refugees, except I won the lottery on my way out of the war torn country.

Alas. You are right. My struggles are just as valid. Thank you

Yes, plenty of people who have imposter syndrome are in fact successful, they may just feel like they don't deserve their success. And yes as MidLifeDiscovery mentions it's the ADHD they feel an imposter about, not their success.

I went through this same feeling before I had the courage to get a diagnosis. I thought, I’ve managed to do well school wise, I have good relationships with my friends, I have a good job and I can focus on stuff for hours. Until I realized any exam I’ve had to take, I’ve failed, but the majority of my classes were project based which is why I did well. I also realized all my friends had ADHD or other disabilities too. A lot of my friends are hyperactive types, and because I’m inattentive, it made it even harder to compare myself to them because they were more outward. Also the “focus” I thought I had was really just unhealthy hyperfocus moments of getting distracted but having to stay on task until 6am because I procrastinated something. It wasn’t until I started therapy, thinking I was gonna be treated for my depression, where I was like shit, I never even noticed the causes were mostly from ADHD symptoms! I actually just made a post on this forum a few days ago about “Empathy Sunburns,” so I can imagine the guilt you are feeling is also a symptom of ADHD.

If I’m being honest the more I’m learning about ADHD though, it kind of feels like mine is getting worse. I think it is because initially I thought “Well, I’m just late to a few appointments…” but no. I’m having to learn exactly how disorganized and sad my life is because of ADHD lol. So that’s what I imagine a lot of other people go through because it’s scary to look at your life thinking why did I not figure this out earlier? But I imagine it’s one of those “it gets worse before it gets better” situations and you just gotta be patient because it is a long process.

One other thing I was listening to a podcast about ADHD and they were discussing how so many people question themselves at first, but in the end, so what if you don’t have ADHD or it’s not extreme. What’s the worst that can happen if you try to get help for it? You won’t be taking it away from anyone else who needs it and a lot of the help that comes along with ADHD management can be helpful for neurotypical people too, so it’s really not harming anyone.

It’s funny looking back when I didn’t think I had it because now I know I do. Just know you are valid! Also ADHD affects everyone different because we all have different genetics, backgrounds, support systems, privileges, etc. that can either worsen or “hide” our ADHD. But that doesn’t mean you are less worthy of the support and validation. Sorry for the long post but let me know if I can be of any help! :-).

Ugh, this is the VERY reason I normally do NOT engage in these forum posts. Everyone seems to want to see everyone else as a victim and their feelings valid.

Feelings are valid to each individual as they are their feelings and no one here has the right to tell you your feelings are invalid!

However, as I have learned recently and has become a hard pill to swallow is, although our feelings are valid to us does NOT mean there validity carries across to the neurotypical world we live in, i.e. the workplace. I, too am in a position some would see as "successful". I recently tried using my status at my employment to call out hypocritical miscommunication and unethical behavior of another employee who was making decisions for me and not allowing my buy-in (I own the process and the decisions were mine to make).

I brought this to two separate Branch Heads (second level supervisors) who both agreed that the "acts" of this other employee was unethical and unprofessional... albeit, my supervisor and some co-workers refused to see his behavior as it was and made me out as being overly dramatic, making things out to be worse than they were and that I should be elated on the outcome of the event.

So my point is although my feelings are valid to me does not always mean they are/will be seen valid to "others". That is the world we live in!

As far as my rebuttal of "imposter syndrome" earlier... there is another side to imposter syndrome and you two are correct in the "having success/being successful" and feeling like it wasn't earned or deserved. However, I am not sure if that is worse or equal to not believing in yourself enough to pursue dreams, passions, or desires because you obviously did and now are reaping the fruits of your labors. Whereas they never will.

I still haven't seen your explanation of "high-functioning" ADHD as this is something I haven't been exposed to.

I’m not a doctor. You are probably right about high functioning. It doesn’t really make any sense. I mean that my adhd is more mild than others and/or I have been lucky enough to have coping mechanisms and career choices that masked it well. I’ve also been lucky that my depression medicine was supplemented with Wellbutrin awhile ago cause I still had no motivation on my other meds (go figure now that I understand I also have adhd), which has off label use for adhd and may be why I can handle some things but not others. I don’t know. My journey is quite new to this

Mild adhd can be enough to upset someone and have them deeply disappointed in themselves.

From my short time here there don’t seem to be badges handed out for severe adhd or hostility towards minor issues shared here.

“All in the same boat” seems to be the vibe I get here.

Get in the boat with us.

A lot of spot-on observations. Some I disagree with. I'll caveat my remarks by saying I'm not a doctor, or a trained professional or even a someone who's figured this stuff out.

The value of posting to a forum like this is that it helps others struggling with the disorder. The risk is that you open yourself to criticism for choosing the words you use. As a newbie to the forum and to the disorder I am deeply grateful to anyone who invests the time and takes the risk to post here and share their experiences, observations, doubts, discoveries, etc. Thank you. I have benefitted greatly.

I've learned that the term "mild ADHD" is hugely misleading. It means that one is affected by only a few of the multitude of possible manifestations of this disorder and has been able to compensate to some degree. It doesn't mean that a few manifestations can't have a hugely disruptive impact on your life. They can. A few are enough to really effe-up your relationship, your career, etc. I was diagnosed as mild late in life. In my case that means Attentive and Emotional Dysregulation as primary disorders with a healthy dose of Rejection Sensitivity and Imposter Syndrome. In retrospect these were the root cause of some really shameful/stupid/selfish things done during the course of my life that I am so embarrassed about I have a hard time even thinking about them. Actions that destroyed relationships and tanked career paths and affect me to this day. Don't place much weight on the word mild.

Feelings are a bitch. It is often said that perception is reality. For many who struggle with this disorder (and specifically Emotional Dysregulation) perception often is not reality. It's a daily struggle to not knee-jerk-react to fight-or-flight feelings produced by what 20 minutes later turns out to be a non-threat. I've gotten into domestic fights over questions such as "how much is your bonus", or "did you book vacation time for when the kids visit?" Or over salt. Or sponges And this isn't even the shameful behavior I alluded to previously. Yes, feelings are valid but they are also a minefield. And because of that I try not to process my feelings the same way as I do someone else's. Now throw in accounting for the difference between feeling vs. thinking and believing. Yeah. Feelings are a bitch.

Agree that success is a matter of definition and perspective. Some folks I've met in online support groups have a hard time just holding a job, or making a list. Others didn't make VP or CEO. Anthony Bourdain was successful. Kurt Cobain was successful. Amy Winehouse was successful. This isn't to say they all suffered from this disorder or took their own lives because they viewed themselves as unsuccessful. The point is how you view yourself in your head is your reality and what you have to deal with. Everyone's struggle is valid and monumental even if it isn't relevant.

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