ADHD & Watching Long Movies

ADHD & Watching Long Movies

For most people, curling up to watch a tv show or a movie is a great way to unwind, especially after a busy week. But when you experience symptoms such as distractibility and restlessness, you might struggle to sit still or get out of your head long enough to focus on what’s going on. In this article, I’ll share with you five things you might experience when you try to watch a movie or tv show with adult ADHD. With a little bit of humor and self-compassion, we can get to know our disorder a little better and embrace our unique differences - even if we end up missing the whole point of the story!

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Written by

Dr. Guia Canonizado - Custorio

Medical Doctor

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word form our expert

Five Things You Might Experience When Watching A Movie With ADHD

As Friday arrives and the work week winds down, weekends offer a chance to unwind and enjoy the things we love. For me, this means morning workouts and strolls, which help balance out my late-night movie sessions. But life has its surprises. 😂

It wasn't until I was diagnosed with adult ADHD that a few things clicked into place for me. Challenges with retaining information, restlessness, and struggling with conversations suddenly made sense. 💡

Annoyingly, one of the areas of my life that my symptoms affected was my long-awaited movie nights. Despite spending days looking forward to catching the latest movie, I'd find my attention drifting to games on my phone or scrolling social media. 🙄

Until I was formally diagnosed, this felt like a giant (frustrating) contradiction to me. 😡 But when I learned more about my condition, it all made sense.

In this article, we'll dive into the unique experiences that can come with watching a movie through the lens of adult ADHD. From shifting attention to staying engaged, each aspect offers a glimpse into our unique ADHD brain.

So, get ready to explore five elements of movie watching with ADHD symptoms - and see which ones resonate! ⬇️

Being Easily Distracted

Many folks with ADHD find themselves easily pulled away from movies by even the most superficial distractions. Take smartphones 📱, for example—when notifications pop up, it's hard to resist glancing at the screen instead of focusing on the film. I often catch my mind wandering to other things while watching a movie.

Truth be told, this struggle with distraction is one of the trickiest ADHD symptoms for me. Our interests can clash with the tasks and goals we're aiming for, making it a challenge to concentrate on what we want to do. Giving our passions the attention they deserve is tough when our ADHD symptoms keep butting in. 🥴

Beyond that, our difficulty in picking up on details can also damper our movie time. Have you ever found yourself lost in the middle of a film, losing interest as you go along? I've been there. When I miss those little but crucial plot elements, I often rewatch scenes, trying to catch what's happening - or asking my partner a million questions about what's happening. 🙊

If I'm still left in the dark and can't follow the story, my interest drops, and I might give up on the rest. That's when you'll catch me with my phone in hand, scrolling through social media once again. 😆

The Struggle To Sit Still & Not Talk

Watching movies on weekends (or even in the middle of the week when something catches my eye) can be incredibly exciting 🎞️, especially if one of my favorite actors is involved. I'll dive right in if I hear about a movie with an intriguing plot. And if there are characters that bring on the laughs 😆, I can't help but get all fired up. 

Sometimes, the excitement can even make me a bit fidgety, and I'll start shuffling around instead of staying put. You'll see me grabbing whatever's within arm's reach—my pillow, the remote control, or my cell phone. 

As the energy builds, I might start feeling restless and eager to do something beyond just watching. I might unconsciously nibble on my nails during those intense scenes or peel at my skin, only to realize I've hurt myself 😞.

The same sort of thing happens when boredom sets in. If the plot isn't holding my attention or things are moving too slowly, my mind begins to wander 💭. 

Restlessness creeps in, and I find myself shifting and squirming like I can't sit still anymore. That's when it's tough for me to stay seated for long stretches, and I'll start yearning for those little breaks in between. 🥱

I’ve also got a bad habit of talking during a film - much to the annoyance of my friends! 😬The problem is, when I’m watching something with a really exciting story, I want to talk about it. Was that a sign of trouble? Where did that child go? What happened there? Wait, are they related? To my ADHD brain, everything is interesting… until it’s not. 😂

Deciding What To Watch

Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder often means facing some of life's most challenging decisions. Making a choice can become a struggle of overthinking, presenting us with endless options. 

Take the simple decision of picking a movie or TV show to watch, for example. It might take us hours to settle on one title. And if it involves others, things can get even trickier—disagreements might bubble up, making the process a bit of a hassle. 🙄

This same dilemma can rear its head when we're watching a movie, and suddenly, our focus starts slipping 🎦. We find ourselves at a crossroads: push through despite the distraction or pause the movie for a short time?

If we opt for a break, there's a good chance we'll get sidetracked and veer off into a completely different activity, leaving the movie behind. On the other hand, if we soldier on, there's a real possibility of dozing off right in the middle of the movie or TV show 😴.

This predicament is something many adults with ADHD grapple with frequently. The phenomenon known as "analysis paralysis" can plague us, making us question every facet of our choices. 😭

Is this movie worth it, or should I have gone with the other one? Sure, the actors are great, but what if there's something more fulfilling out there? Do I dedicate my time to sitting through the second half of this movie, or should I stick to the task due by the end of the week? 🤔

For most of us with ADHD, our minds have a habit of wandering, making it tough to concentrate on any one thing. This is why seemingly straightforward decisions, like whether to watch a movie, can sometimes feel like navigating a maze - which defeats the whole purpose of watching it in the first place. 🙄

Sensory Overload

Staying attentive poses a significant challenge for many diagnosed with ADHD. Processing external information and translating it into something coherent is often a struggle. Our interests play their part, too. If something captivates us, there's a good chance we'll grasp it, but when the opposite is true, the issues start cropping up 😅.

It's got me thinking—why is it that I often can't quite catch the actors' lines in their scenes? I often find myself grappling to make sense of what's going on. That's when I will turn on the subtitles and read along with the dialogue. But guess what? Even those words on the screen manage to distract me, diverting my attention away from the movie itself 😭. 

The same goes for when the music or sound gets too loud. If things get super chaotic simultaneously (like during an intense action sequence), my brain goes into shutdown mode as if trying to tune out the overwhelming noise.

When the movie I'm watching manages to pull my focus away and leaves me clueless, I'll end up lounging on the couch while my ADHD brain does its wandering. 🛋️

I'll snap back to reality only to realize that I've been doing nothing while the movie's background noise has turned into a hypnotic white noise that lulls me into daydreaming elsewhere. 😴

Trouble Watching With Friends

Enjoying a captivating film or engaging TV show can be a great way to unwind and relax with friends. 🥰 Now, movie nights with my friends can be quite an adventure - but not without struggle. The first hurdle is picking out a movie that suits everyone's taste. There's a whole checklist of things to sort out. ✅ Will there be drinks? Alcohol? Which movies are on the menu? Oh, and I've already seen 50 First Dates - and that film, too. 

It could be tricky if our movie preferences don't align. Every time we plan a movie night, it's like a whirlwind of questions. And let's not forget the sudden rush to tidy up before they arrive 😨. The whole point of our movie marathon is to have fun, but it sometimes can present more problems 

Visualize your ADHD traits!

Take our fun online quiz to visualize your ADHD traits and learn more about your brain!


Tips For Watching Movies and TV Shows with ADHD

When it comes to balancing movies and TV shows with ADHD symptoms, there are several strategies that can enhance the experience despite the unique challenges. 

Here are some practical tips to consider. 👇

Embrace Subtitles

Utilize subtitles or closed captions while watching a TV show or movie where there’s a lot going on. This can help you recall related plot lines, follow dialogues and maintain focus on the story. 

Strategic Breaks

If you have trouble with sitting through an entire movie or TV show, plan intentional break times. Pausing movies at specific intervals can help if you have trouble learning and processing new information. These breaks can be a long or short time; it’s all about giving your brain a quick breather, allowing you to get back on course and focus on the film when you return.

Minimize Distractions

Create an environment conducive to focused watching. Clear away clutter, minimize noise, and dim unnecessary lights. Silencing notifications on devices can also reduce interruptions.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

When watching alone, consider using noise-canceling headphones. They can help filter out background noise, allowing you to immerse yourself in the content and notice the intricate details in each scene.

Many movie theaters also provide headphones for both adults and children diagnosed with autism and ADHD; these can be helpful if you struggle with symptoms like misophonia or noise sensitivity. 

Share Interests

Connect with friends or family who share your passion for movies and TV shows. Watching together and talking about the movie afterwards can help you burn off excess energy and keep things interesting

Ask For Support

Watching movies and TV shows can sometimes be a struggle for kids and adults diagnosed with ADHD, as their brain often gets easily distracted. However, with the support of parents, friends and family who understand their differences, they can still enjoy the film. Finding ways to minimize distractions and keep them in the present with things like noise-canceling headphones or choosing a quiet place to sit, can make the experience more enjoyable for everybody.


Picture the scene; the movie was over, and I found myself scratching my head. I got the part about the main character's issues and how she tackled them in the finale. But honestly, all the stuff in the middle? Total blur. 😳

Should I amp up my focus next time or consider switching to TV shows? Realistically, I might go with the flow and stretch a movie out over two days. 

The thing is, for those of us diagnosed with ADHD, it doesn't matter if we chop and change between a movie or TV show. Did you get bored or stop paying attention? That's okay - you'll watch the other half when you get to it. 👍

As long as our mental health or relationships with friends aren't affected by our movie-watching quirks, it's okay to spend a little longer choosing what to watch or when to watch it. 

If we explain to our family or friends why we might have trouble listening or staying interested, it's perfectly fine to embrace it as one of the quirks of our disorder - as long as we don't end up talking through half of the movie. 😂

Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

Visualize and assess 25 ADHD traits and understand how they affect your life.

Learn more

ADHD and Watching Long Movies: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can someone with adult ADHD watch a whole movie or TV show?

Absolutely, they can. However, the journey might have its challenges. Unlike those who breeze through a movie, some adults with ADHD might opt for intermittent breaks to manage their symptoms effectively. They may need to watch movies over longer periods, or stick to watching movies with a more engaging story that’s less of a ‘slow burner’.

Does ADHD make it hard to watch a long film?

Some aspects of ADHD can make watching a long film more challenging. Factors like being easily distracted can extend the time needed to complete a movie. Additionally, struggles with paying attention and focusing on details can also contribute to the difficulty.

Can movies help with ADHD?

Engaging in activities that alleviate stress and hold personal significance can be beneficial for individuals with ADHD, as well as those without. In this context, movies can serve as a helpful tool. They offer a means for adults with ADHD to unwind and potentially gain valuable insights.

Share this article on Social Media

Help us raise awareness around ADHD, let's spread ADHD love and support to all that need it.

If you liked this article you are going to like these ones:

Check out more content about similar topics: