ADHD-flasherI can distinctly remember the first time I told someone about my ADHD diagnosis.

For the past month I’d discussed the Pros and Cons of the situation with counselor, my parents, my sister and two psychologists, weighing up my options.

Do I open the proverbial kimono and expose myself to understanding, but potentially judgement? Or do I instead keep my lips sealed and hope that they all notice an improvement?

I decided to deal with it head-on. Fortune favors the bold, and sometimes you have to go head first.

Since my diagnosis I’ve lived and learned the following 5 truths of revealing ADHD. Each lesson has been learned many times over, and recognizing them has made the process a non issue.

1. People See Your ADHD Exactly As You Present It

When talking with other people, I treat my ADHD as casually as I treat the color of my hair or what I ate for breakfast that morning. It might be interesting and relevant in some situations, but it should never be given the same weight or emotion as breaking your leg.

When you present your ADHD to other people as simply being part of yourself, instead of a life consuming monster, two things happen: you start owning it (instead of being owned by it) and they don’t see it as a big deal.

2. Surprisingly, Most People Really Don’t Care

When I was growing up, ADHD was a big deal. Parents were wary of their children hanging out with the ADHD kid, ADHD kids were constantly getting themselves into trouble, and they were presented as being incredibly challenged in the class room.

This changes over time. ADHD no longer has the stigma it once had in social circles — especially if you don’t care about it either. (See 1.)

3. People Will Respect You For Your Honesty

With the friends I’ve got and the people I meet, I don’t keep my ADHD secret. As a result, the people I share this with appreciate that I’m not trying to hide anything from them.

When you comfortably and openly share yourself with people from a position of ownership, you will gain their respect.

4. It’s Nowhere Near As Scary As You Think It Is

Sure, the first time I told someone about my ADHD you could hear the coins jingling in my pocket as my leg shook. But that was the first time, and it hasn’t happened since.

Owning your ADHD, taking the steps necessary to keep it from getting in my way, and choosing to share your ADHD in an upfront and direct way makes life easier. In fact, it becomes a non-event.

After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll tell someone you’ve got ADHD and they’ll show themselves to be a jerk. Excellent — you’ve just saved 6 months of wasted effort on a relationship that wasn’t any good for you anyway!

5. People Don’t Judge You By ADHD. They Judge You By Your Actions

When people comment on your distractibility, lack of focus or inability to finish a task, they aren’t rubbing salt into an ADHD wound.

They’re just saying you aren’t getting shit done!

If you find yourself baring the brunt of an ADHD Accusation, take a step back and look at the actual results you’re getting. Outcome is more important than input, and ADHD is just a label that’s been thrown about.

Revealing The Truth: Should You Tell People You Have ADHD?

This is a question that every ADHDer will have to confront when dealing with friends, new and old. No matter where it is or when it is, they still have to face it head on and make the call.

You see, in the end it is invariably simple. When you don’t want to share your ADHD, it’s often because you haven’t found an effective way of accepting and dealing with it yet. And I’ve learned that’s okay too.

What have you learned about revealing your ADHD?


About Rob Hanly

Rob Hanly runs, where he writes candidly about cutting the sh*t and getting awesome with ADHD. He was diagnosed with ADHD a year before finishing school, and has been using The S.E.E.D. Approach To Drug Free ADHD since 2008.


  1. This is an interesting topic. Rob I noticed that you spoke mostly about revealing your ADHD to friends and your description of the worst that can happen is they show themselves to be a jerk and you save yourself from wasting effort on a relationship that wasn’t worth it would apply but what about work colleagues, bosses etc That’s a whole different story where the consequences could have a greater impact on your life and well being.

    I have been open about my ADD with some friends but not others and I definitely haven’t told a boss or anyone I work with who wasn’t also a good friend who could be trusted not to share the information with others.

    Reactions are sometimes mixed. I was taken by surprise when I told someone I’d met in a social situation and they asked me if I’d ‘managed’ to finish school. “Ah yes… Along with undergrad degrees in arts and law and a masters” was my reply. Defensive? Who me?

    On the other end of the spectrum was the counsellor I saw for some coaching type assistance who I guess because I didn’t fit whatever picture she had of what someone with ADD looks or acts like, starting questioning my diagnosis. Again, it’s hard not to react defensively.

    Actually, something I find quite difficult explaining to other people who have not experienced ADD are the challenges and how I know I have it. I think it’s because the things we (at least I) struggle with are things that everyone struggles with. The difference is the degree or intensity and the impact on your life. And people don’t understand why you can’t just sort of snap out of it or use a bit will power the way maybe they can.

  2. Hi Jodie,

    I hear you on the idea challenges just being greater for ADHDers. ADHD is more of a force multiplier than a completely different way of living.

    As for revealing your ADHD professionally – YMMV. Before you do or don’t, consider the strategic and personal benefits that will come from revealing it. I shared my situation openly, but in a non-chalant way after showing I could already achieve certain results.

    This is an area where Jen might be able throw in some more weight and insight, as I can be a little more ‘Guns Blazing’ in my approach to life.

    Otherwise, feel free to email me via my site.

    – Rob

  3. Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

    First off, I just have to say that this is my favorite post by Rob so far!

    And, yes, I’d say that the general consensus among the experts is not to disclose at work unless you have a reason to. An example would be if you’re having trouble getting the accommodations you need, or if you think you might be in danger of losing your job.

  4. I love the force multiplier metaphore.

    Personally, I don’t believe there would be any strategic or personal benefit to me disclosing my ADD at work. I’m very fortunate that I don’t need any accommodations that are not already available to all employees such as flexible hours, working from home, purchasing extra annual leave etc and (hopefully) I am not in any danger of losing my job.

    Everyone’s different so I appreciate the desire to be completely authentic in your personal and professional life Rob, but for me, the potential for negative consequences means I see a very unfavourable risk benefit profile to professional disclosure. I wasn’t considering it personally, just interested in the thoughts or experiences of others.


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