ADHD & Racing Thoughts

ADHD and the Rush of Racing Thoughts

Racing thoughts in ADHD are a common but challenging symptom, characterized by a rapid flow of ideas, worries, or images that can be overwhelming and disruptive. This mental hyperactivity makes it hard for individuals to concentrate, leading to difficulties in managing daily tasks and relaxation. Effective management strategies include mindfulness meditation, medication tailored to ADHD, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to slow down thought processes and improve focus.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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A word from our expert

Racing Thoughts and ADHD: The Effects of a Hyperactive ADHD Brain

People often have the misconception about the "hyperactivity" of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When someone timid says they are diagnosed with ADHD, some people often dismiss the idea that they have this neurodivergent disorder. For them, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder only manifests in physical or motor hyperactivity: constantly pacing around, jumping back and forth, or fidgeting 🏃.

However, we cannot blame them if they have this wrong notion about ADHD. The root cause of this assumption goes back a long way, even before ADHD was considered a mental health concern. Medical experts initially believed that children with ADHD only exhibit disruptive behavior or cannot control their urges to move or talk. It took quite a while when they considered the other side of the hyperactive symptoms that some people with ADHD often experience 👌.

Many people know that individuals with ADHD can be hyperactive

What will happen if we let these ADHD myths slide? For starters, many of those who are diagnosed with ADHD may feel invalidated. They might think that what they are experiencing is just a figment of their imagination or something that can be shrugged off easily 🙁. Secondly, these misconceptions may limit other people suspecting ADHD from seeking help. The best we can do is to spread awareness and remember that ADHD is not all about physical hyperactivity, but other possibilities of it exist.

Two Types of ADHD Hyperactivity

Many people with ADHD often experience hyperactive symptoms, whether it's physical or mental restlessness 👍. These two types of hyperactivity can exist with or without the other and can be experienced differently depending on the severity of the condition and the person itself. Sometimes, adults with ADHD experience only physical hyperactivity, but some have self-reported racing thoughts.

Fewer people know that hyperactivity can be both physical and mental

Physical Hyperactivity refers to motor restlessness that is often associated with ADHD. These physical signs of being overwhelmed urge people to move to maintain focus or calm their senses 😵‍💫. Some of the symptoms of physical hyperactivity may include:

  • Excessive talking
  • Constant fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty sitting still for more than a few minutes
  • Moving around excessively

Mental Hyperactivity, on the other hand, is usually experienced as racing thoughts 💭. This type of hyperactivity can be seen in adults and children with indefinite thought patterns that they cannot usually control. However, sometimes these streams of ideas flow freely to them, making their creativity flourish 🌈. But most of the time, some people with ADHD experience racing thoughts out of nowhere, making it hard to focus on something meaningful. Here are some adult ADHD symptoms related to mental hyperactivity:

  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having trouble organizing things
  • Unable to stay still mentally
  • Inability to think clearly and make decisions

These hyperactive ADHD symptoms, whether physical or mental, can cause challenges and worries to those who are experiencing them. That's why it is essential to be more aware of the condition and its effects on a person 💪.

Hyperactive ADHD Inside vs. Outside

When someone is physically hyperactive, we might be able to easily accept that they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder because their symptoms can be easily noticed 🔎. A mental health professional can quickly determine if someone has ADHD if they exhibit physical hyperactivity. However, a different scenario can go for those who often have racing thoughts due to ADHD. We cannot differentiate ADHD within people, primarily if the integral symptom occurs only inside our brains 🔬.

Having a hyperactive mind means that you can experience racing thoughts

The thing about mentally hyperactive ADHD is that you cannot sense who has it or not since it doesn't appear on the outside unless a person talks or presents them to you. A person who seems calm or able to focus on tasks might have racing thoughts on the inside. They may spend long periods of silence or solitude. However, we cannot quickly tell they are entirely okay, as certain thoughts may overwhelm them.

Mental hyperactivity is an intrinsic feature, so those around us might not easily understand what is happening. Our well-being might be affected when these assumptions and judgments lead to misunderstanding. That's why it is essential to be more inclusive and understanding of other people's conditions, such as ADHD.

What are ADHD Racing Thoughts?

When people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience fast-moving thoughts that may affect their well-being, we call them racing thoughts. These streams of thoughts and ideas are usually random and beyond control 🤯, making a person feel overwhelmed or anxious. Racing thoughts can also be interpreted as the mind wandering from one topic to another involuntarily in a short period.

Sometimes, racing thoughts can result in good ideas as we can be creative and think outside the box. Positive racing thoughts may lead to a great outcome as these streams of view can bring about innovation and open the door for opportunities. For example, if someone has an idea worth pursuing, they should take action and turn it into reality 💗.

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Adverse Effects of ADHD Racing Thoughts

However, when negative thought patterns continue, the struggles of living with ADHD can be overwhelming and immensely taxing. These negative thoughts racing through our mind can make our lives more challenging and affect our mental health in the long run.

Overthinking and Falling Asleep

When racing thoughts creep into us, especially at night, we cannot help but overthink 🤔. This occurrence can be difficult to manage since we cannot control our thoughts and feelings. As a result, it might make it hard for us to fall asleep as we keep thinking about different things that may

affect our sleep cycles 😴.

Numerous and quick thoughts can prevent you from falling asleep at night

Difficulty falling asleep due to racing thoughts can contribute to the development of sleep disorders, like insomnia. Daytime sleepiness can likewise occur. It can also make us struggle to do our tasks or feel anxious or stressed out.

Lack of Focus and Distractibility

Racing thoughts due to adult ADHD can also make us lose focus in whatever we do 😵‍. There are moments when we find it hard to hear people around us just because we are too deep in thought. It can also make us easily distracted, where we cannot complete what is assigned or asked of us due to lack of concentration.

Racing thoughts can make it extremely challenging to focus on something

Whenever I read a book 📕 or research something that came out of the blue, I find it hard to focus because of the unusual thought patterns inside my mind. One moment I am reading about the Renaissance period, and the next I'm researching a book I want to read. Just because I suddenly experienced racing thoughts.

Zoning Out of Conversations

Have you ever offended some of your friends or colleagues because you zoned out of conversations?  I experienced that countless times. I didn't mean to make them feel that way. However, when I can't prevent racing thoughts from gushing in, even when I'm in an important discussion or conversation, my ADHD brain will wander out far 💭.

You can zone out during conversation

If symptoms of ADHD cannot be managed well, there may come a moment when we will encounter challenges regarding our racing thoughts. Some adults with ADHD may also find it hard to express themselves adequately, making them feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Other Comorbid Conditions that Can Cause Racing Thoughts

Many people with ADHD can be prone to experience other mental health disorders on top of their neurodivergent condition. There are moments when ADHD contributes to the development of these comorbidities, just like when a hyperactive ADHD brain can contribute to the development of sleep disorders like insomnia. There are also instances where other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, magnify these racing thoughts.

Anxious and intrusive thoughts can disrupt your everyday life

Racing Thoughts Due to Both ADHD and Anxiety

Like other comorbid mental health conditions, Anxiety can have overlapping symptoms that can amplify how our ADHD brain works. Some people with ADHD diagnosis experience racing thoughts due to anxiety as well. Recurring episodes of anxious thoughts may result in an influx of racing ideas that can be difficult to contain or control.

Racing thoughts due to ADHD compared to anxiety can be less limiting because our stream of ideas can still flow, albeit unfocused. However, if racing thoughts are due to Anxiety, it could be more paralyzing and overwhelming for us ADHD adults as the ideas become negative or pessimistic 😥. Imagine what the result is when these two combine.

Racing Thoughts Due to ADHD and Depression

In some cases, depression can also cause these racing thoughts. When depressive thoughts come in, it can be more challenging for us to focus our senses and concentrate on the task at hand. It will be as if we are spinning around in a whirlpool of thoughts with no end.

The combination of racing thoughts due to ADHD and depression can be challenging because they have different ways of affecting our minds. Most racing thoughts with depressive nature are more harmful or intrusive, so it can be difficult for us to break away from them.

Racing Thoughts Due to OCD and ADHD

Some adults with ADHD and OCD tendencies might find it hard to control the racing thoughts that come with both of these conditions. When our mind is fixated on a certain behavior or thought, it can be challenging to get out of that loop and focus on something else. In this case, we might find ourselves in a cycle 💫of obsessive and intrusive thoughts that can be pretty challenging for us to manage.

Many people with ADHD also have OCD.

Knowing how each mental health condition can contribute to racing thoughts, it's essential to consult a professional to improve our overall mental health and well-being. With proper treatment and management, adults with ADHD can manage their racing thoughts better.

Developing some coping skills can also help us with our racing thoughts. For instance, engaging in mindful practices like meditation and yoga can help provide a more peaceful environment that can improve our focus and concentration. Regular breaks throughout the day are also essential, as they allow us to relax and take a breather from all the thoughts running through our minds.

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ADHD & Racing Thoughts

How do racing thoughts affect individuals with ADHD?

Racing thoughts can make it difficult for individuals with ADHD to focus, lead to overthinking, especially at night, and contribute to sleep disturbances like insomnia. They can also cause distractibility, affecting the ability to complete tasks, and make it challenging to participate in conversations, often leading to zoning out.

What do racing thoughts feel like?

Racing thoughts feel like an overwhelming stream of ideas and emotions running through our head, causing us distress or anxiety.

Apart from ADHD, can other mental health conditions cause racing thoughts as well?

Yes, other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can also cause racing thoughts and may co-occur with ADHD. These comorbid conditions can amplify the symptoms and make them more challenging to manage.

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