Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD — and one of the least talked about.
A User’s Guide: ADHD is a mental health advice column you won’t forget, thanks to advice from comedian and mental health advocate Reed Brice. He has a lifetime of experience with ADHD, and as such, he has the skinny on what to do when the whole world feels like a china shop… and you’re a bull in roller skates.
So, I cried at work again the other day.
Not this job! The fine folks at Healthline are a delight. My other job. Well, one of my other jobs, and I won’t say which one since I’d like to keep them all so I can pay my rent.
This is all to say: Sis is feeling burnt out! How are you holding up, sugar?
We often forget fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), since a lot of attention is placed on the restless, frenetic, and impulsive side of the condition. All that extra takes its toll, though, and if you feel like your batteries are constantly running on empty, you’re not the only one!
ADHD symptoms can render you a walking tornado at times, and that can leave you feeling a little haggard. Take it from someone who knows.
So why exactly are you exhausted? Here are some potential reasons for your ADHD-induced fatigue:
- Hyperactivity. As much as my general disposition — and schedule — would suggest otherwise, I’m not actually capable of being a perpetual motion machine. This meat suit we call the human body can only take so much tomfoolery at once.
- Hyperfocus. It rules to get so engrossed in a project, but I often forget to eat proper meals or take breaks for my sanity. I love melting down only to realize that the culprit is the need for a sandwich.
- Sleep issues. Everything from insomnia to sleep apnea can co-occur with ADHD. I’ve had insomnia since I was a little boy, and I’d very much love to know how you monsters known as “morning people” look me in the bloodshot eye without feeling guilty. How do you sleep at night?! No, really… Are you using a mask? White noise?
- Anxiety. You know, the human equivalent of a car overheating? Very fun, very attractive, and a great way to deplete one’s joie de vivre.
- Medications. Any meds we take to treat the aforementioned things can wear us down. Even the most effective, kickass drugs have their own side effects. If you want to look and feel like the Crypt Keeper, may I suggest going through withdrawal of a drug you probably shouldn’t have been on in the first place?
- Overworking. Our growing gig economy is damaging for everyone involved, and it can be especially toxic for those of us with ADHD. Burning the candle at both ends to make ends meet can be downright devastating to our health, and since we’re hyperactive and hyperfocused by nature, we’re especially vulnerable to its effects.
So what to do? Everyone’s needs will be different, so check in with medical professionals to strategize around what habits will be most effective for you. But here are some general ones to get you started:
- Chill the hell out, in whatever way works. Work that stress out of your body with exercise, find some quiet with meditation, or get into a form of treatment that targets fatigue and sleep deprivation, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Energy levels are
highly dependenton the ability to stabilize anxietyin conditions like ADHD.
- Cut back on the caffeine. I know, I know! I’m almost more Diet Coke than man at this point, so nobody laments this unfortunately sound advice more than I. It’s a fact, though. According to esteemed nerds like the ones at Harvard, more than a couple of cups of coffee a day can trigger and increase the severity of anxiety symptoms in some people.
- Figure out a sleep routine that works. Cut the lights and electronics, calibrate that thermostat, and get into bed at roughly the same time every night. I’m an easily overheated, internet-obsessed comedian who gets booked on midnight shows all the time, so I think I am going to knock this one out of the park!
If we’re going to tackle the other parts of ADHD in this series, we need our wits about us, reader! Do me a favor, and try to make sure you’re getting the most out of your rest and relaxation. Feel free to DM me and tell me your game plan.
As for me? I’ve started riding my bike more often, and I’ve stopped saying yes to things I don’t actually want to do — or do so with less frequency, anyway. This should cut down on the lunch break breakdowns quite a bit, and I already feel cuter.
Go forth and be your best, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed self! You deserve nothing less.
Reed Brice is a writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. Brice is an alum of UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts and was the first transgender person to ever be cast in a professional revue with The Second City. When not talking the tea of mental illness, Brice also pens our love & sex column, “U Up?”