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ADHD & Novelty: New Things Always Excite Us
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodivergent condition marked by hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, and difficulty focusing on particular situations.
The condition is sometimes linked to the production of dopamine inside our brain. Neurotypical brains' dopamine production can be described as a smooth and continuous line that steadily produces the "happy hormone" as they need it. The ADHD brain is much more like a wave; we may have very high amounts of dopamine at times - but only for a short period, and then nothing. In other words, there are interruptions and we need to wait for our brains to produce more again.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders doesn’t mention novelty-seeking as one of official ADHD symptoms. However, some official symptoms are related to it, like “trouble holding attention to a task” and “being easily distracted.” So, it’s not surprising if some reports find a strong connection between novelty-seeking and ADHD. As a result, some mental health professionals also look for novelty-seeking as one of the symptoms used to diagnose ADHD.
It's easy to see how novelty-seeking could be a problem for some people: it can lead to risky behaviors. 😨 However, for others, it can simply mean that we're always on the lookout for new experiences and opportunities.
But, how is novelty-seeking actually related to ADHD? This might be a good explanation:
Like mentioned earlier, ADHD is associated with interrupted dopamine production. Hence, many ADHD adults have low dopamine levels. This leads to us seeking anything that can trigger the release of dopamine to make our emotions more stable. Now, did you know that doing exciting or pleasurable activities can release dopamine? Sometimes, even thinking about doing these things can also trigger dopamine production! That might be why we continue to seek new things that can excite us - because the novelty can help us produce more of the happy hormone.
Novelty, which can be described as “newness,” like going to a new place or meeting new people, is quite exciting and pleasurable. But, as many people say it, novelty tends to wear off. And when it does, the dopamine boost also ceases. So, here we might go again - seek another thing, activity, or hobby.
With ADHD, having novelty is a way of coping. It doesn't solve anything permanently or make us feel complete in the long run, but it does calm us down for a little while so we can focus on what's going on around us.
The Short-Lived Interest of an ADHD Brain
For some people with ADHD, having novelty and enjoying new stuff can be tricky at times. The inconsistent attention that we devote to a new thing, activity, or hobby, often makes it difficult to maintain long-term interests. We may have the tendency to feel more sense of satisfaction from the chase of a new interest than actually achieving it.
As for me, before my official ADHD diagnosis, I didn't understand my previous behavior towards having hobbies. I had difficulty sustaining what I was currently interested in. My interest and overly motivated attitude were inconsistent and sometimes only lasted for a few days. 😔 After the interest faded out, the difficulty to manage and finish all the tasks related to the activity caused me to be inattentive to anything else and/or procrastinate. Everything becomes tiresome, and I lose control of my attention again.
This one time, I saw an exciting Korean drama series that I found very interesting. 💻 As the interest was there, I watched it for hours on end - daily! However, when I found out that there were 50 episodes, and I haven't even reached half of it, I just chose to sleep and abandon watching the rest of the series. I said I would resume watching it, but that didn't happen. I ended up doing something else and forgot all about it.
Another example of having this ADHD symptom was when Candy Crush was released. The enjoyment and excitement that my ADHD brain produced were immense. It was something new and exciting at the time. I would play every day, thinking about it as soon as I close my eyes before sleeping or as soon as I open my eyes when I wake up. 👩💻 I could even play the game for an entire day as if finishing it is of utmost importance. My ADHD brain and hyperfocus supported the interest I had. But, after several levels, I got used to it and just kept playing the same stories repeatedly. The interest faded, so I looked for another game and played that instead.
But after my ADHD diagnosis, I understood my brain's stimulation and function. Luckily, my mental health professional 👩⚕️ explained everything to me: this ADHD symptom is happening in the majority of affected individuals. He even explained that the dopaminergic system in our brains is not functional in the way it's supposed to. That's what makes us unique.
Novelty Seeking Attitude Isn't Just For Hobbies Only
Some people with ADHD seek novelty and stimulation because they believe it's critical to encourage their brain's ability to learn and develop new skills. 💪
Hence, the novelty-seeking behavior of a person with ADHD can be more than just about finding new hobbies or activities. It may be a necessary strategy to help adults keep their brain working well and stay engaged in life.
So, ADHD-related novelty seeking isn’t limited to hobbies and exciting activities. Sometimes, it can be applied to the people we meet or the career we choose. The ADHD brain can get attracted to different, unusual, and exciting things, people, or scenarios. 😘 It could be something that we would like to pursue because of the enjoyment it brings or someone who somehow stimulates us.
Have you ever met a person and instantly engaged with them? 🙋♀️ These people can be considered “a stimulant to our ADHD brain.” They can be people who seem weird and have different opinions or someone that raises our interest and curiosity about them. They become stimulating enough for us to interact with them often. We may thrive on the stimulation they give us, even if it comes in a negative form, such as an argument or opposing ideas. These people excite our ADHD brain and motivate us to accept new ideas. But when the excitement is gone, the relationship becomes dull, and we will probably chase a new “stimulating person”.
New Career? That Sounds Like a Good Idea
The same thing can happen in the career you choose. Sometimes, career-hopping is due to what we are good at, but it can also be because of our interests. Some adults with ADHD often jump from job to job and quickly get bored, especially if their work doesn't match their interests or strengths. There are times I question myself, "What ADHD jobs are suited for me?"
Before my ADHD diagnosis, I didn't know how to motivate myself when it came to my job. The support given to me by most people easily faded and I didn’t exactly know what to do with them. There were many encouragements that went inside my head, but back then, I didn't really know what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I initially studied art in college and lacked motivation after a few months of studying. I tried to pursue a cooking career, but it got so technical that the struggle I felt overwhelmed me.
After I was diagnosed with ADHD and understood most of it, I started to be kind to my brain. 🙌 From there I was able to find ways to keep my motivation steady.
Try to keep this in mind: sometimes, having an entirely new career can be tempting, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to bite that urge and respond to it immediately.
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The Need for Dopamine
Another thing that our brain's dopaminergic system is responsible for is physical activity that we engage in, 🧘 such as sports. The dopamine released with physical activity can make us feel good, and it might be something we’ll crave to do when we feel depressed, anxious, or stressed.
The interest-based nervous system activities make us feel engaged when playing sports. But since most of the time, we only want to do it as an escape from everything else, our ADHD brain can't properly learn and develop new skills or ways to improve ourselves during those activities. 😔
Hence, dopamine can be the culprit of this ADHD trait of exercising or playing different sports when we don’t feel good. Some people with ADHD treat the production of this chemical as "rewards" that can get us motivated. This is the reason why we often crave something that makes us feel good, even if it's only temporary.
This can also be why impulsive buying can sometimes make us happy, but afterward, make us guilty of our quick decision-making. We often let our guard down and don't let ourselves control our ADHD symptoms because we think that the dopamine rewards will somehow make us feel better. But in the long run, it can only make things worse and we might end up being more stressed.
The Problem of Being Attracted to Novelty
This novelty-seeking behavior may make people think that people with ADHD are fickle-minded. But, that’s not the case at all. What actually happens is that our brain is working overtime finding new things, and making us attracted to those that are new and seem exciting.
As adults with ADHD, we can use this to our advantage by being more open-minded to new experiences. But we should also be careful not to let this become a hindrance in our lives. When it comes to making decisions, we should learn to think things through and consider the pros and cons before jumping into anything. I know that hyperactivity and impulsivity are going through our brains, but it is important to think many times before making a decision. Ask a friend or a family member for their opinion and support, and try to sleep on it before finally deciding. 🙌
Researchers also find that some people with ADHD struggle with "addictive behaviors." This means that we might be more attracted to things that can quickly give us pleasure and think of them as treatment or medication. And because of this, we might be prone to developing addictions, whether it's to drugs such as stimulants, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, sex, or even shopping.
Most people with ADHD often use these things as a way to cope with their condition. The novelty that these new experiences bring might make us fall deeper into our “addiction” and make it harder for us to focus on other things in life because of the rewards they easily bring us.
But of course, we all know that addictive behavior only brings more problems and doesn't help us in any way. 😭 So before the symptoms get worse, know the importance of proper medication, treatment, and support to avoid circumstances where you'll be engaged negatively.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Guide to Novelty-Seeking
The ADHD brain works differently from that of a normal brain even as a person ages. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, making us have trouble doing things slowly and being consistent with them. Our control over our interests can be pretty strange and unusual to other people. Our ability to learn, think critically, complete tasks, and even function when doing something is much affected by it.
But in a sense, these ADHD symptoms can be used positively in our everyday lives. We can craft a new idea or approach toward our goals because of our sensitivity to stimuli and tendency to seek novel things. Since ADHD brains are prone to boredom, novelty can help us avoid it and learn different things at the same time.
And if you think about it, every person with ADHD has a specific interest that they love doing or learning more than anything else. These things can range from sports, arts, music, or even technology. The importance of knowing where you excel at is that it can help you understand yourself better. From there, your ADHD brain will be able to come up with a career path that is most suitable for it.
Here are some guidelines that you can try to find your passion, hobby, or interest:
- Brainstorm – Write down the activities you like doing and put them all in one list. After writing them down, eliminate items that are not beneficial to you by considering how long it takes you to do them. You may also think of them in terms of your ADHD traits.
- Mind Dump – List questions you want to ask yourself on a piece of paper. This can be things like "What do you love doing?", "What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?" and "When was the last time that something interested or excited you?" These are just some examples that can help you find your passion.
- Observe – This is what you need to do when you want to find out something or someone who interests you. For example, imagine that I'm currently interested in the automotive industry, such as racing and performance parts manufacturing. To start this interest, I can observe people by finding a documentary about them on TV or YouTube and describing their activities in my mind.
- Self-Reflect – To identify your interest, think about your daily activities, and enjoy the things you're doing. Remember how it makes you feel and why it's important to know what interests you have.
To make the most out of your ADHD abilities, know what you want to do in the future and start working on it right now. Try to avoid waiting because some people with ADHD tend to overestimate how much time they have before something happens. Knowing what you're good at will not only give you proper guidance for your career but will also help you create a list of goals that can keep your ADHD brain entertained and engaged.
Remember that the vast majority of people with ADHD tend to experience excitement about new things as well. Manage this ADHD symptom to your advantage by using it to find new and interesting things that can help you in your career or personal life. ADHD may be hard to manage, but when you respond to it well, it can be a source of power for you. ❤️
ADHD and Novelty: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is novelty-seeking behavior? Is it really common among people with ADHD?
Novelty-seeking behavior happens when a person jumps from one activity or hobby to another in just a short period. And yes, many people with ADHD exhibit this kind of behavior.
Why does novelty-seeking tend to happen in many people with ADHD?
There can be various connections between ADHD and novelty-seeking behavior. For one, it could be related to the symptoms, like inability to focus on one task or getting easily distracted. Likewise, some experts believe it’s due to the dopamine boost a novel activity gives.
How can you cope with novelty-seeking behavior?
One of the best ways to cope with novelty-seeking is through a consultation with a mental health professional. They can tell you more about your symptoms and ways you can manage them. Likewise, you can also try little things, like sleeping on a decision first or brainstorming.