I’m bored

Hard to explain the pain from boredom that ADHD brings

I get bored, very bored, painfully bored. Boredom arises at home, at parties, at work (thankfully not often in my present job), on holiday, in lectures, watching TV, I get bored anywhere and everywhere. Boredom is the greatest curse of my life and the worst symptom of my ADD/ADHD. When I suffered from depression, I described my condition as “bored with myself and bored with life”.

It’s impolite to be bored

I have been meaning to write about boredom for some time now, but have kept putting it off as it's simply not acceptable to be bored, or even to admit that you are bored. We admonish children for saying “I’m bored” and tell them to sort themselves out. An adult being bored is seen as a sign of moral failing.

Our friends and family find it disturbing too as it implies criticism of what they enjoy, if I go the theatre and say “it’s boring” then my companions are upset with me or think me uncultured. To be honest, there is a criticism, if I find something boring of course, I don’t “rate” it highly.

It’s a far worse crime to inflict boredom on others

The reality is that if something or someone bores me then I am highly critical. A teacher who fails to focus on their students’ interest and engagement is a terrible teacher and should be fired. A book that fails to hold my interest is poorly written. If I am kept waiting by slow, badly managed process I rightly become annoyed. An under-manned airport security queue or a crappy automated call centre system will needlessly subject me to pain. That’s not okay. Waiting even ten minutes in a queue is a very uncomfortable experience for me, so fix your systems!

ADHD matters

When I diagnosed my own ADHD, I had finally found the reason that I had struggled so profoundly with boredom all my life. In the predominantly genetic disorder of ADHD, there appears to be a dis-regulation of dopamine, responsible for our feelings of reward, interest, and stimulation.

ADHD = under-stimulated = bored

I pulled the short straw on this one, as even compared to the many clients I have coached since, my boredom discomfort levels are pretty high. I am under-activated, quiet headed and under-stimulated most of the time. If I could daydream I would. But I can’t fantasize, contemplate my past or dream about my future. Just doesn’t work for me. So I get stuck where I am, with nothing to think about and nothing to do – very painful indeed. My fix is to constantly read, play, talk, watch, and listen to keep my mind active. Left alone for even a few minutes on my own, I start crawling the walls.

Your boredom is not my boredom – same word not same problem

When we use a word to express an emotion it inevitably has a different meaning to each. Some people say depressed to mean “a little sad”, some to mean they are suicidal – it’s the same variance for “I’m bored”. To some boredom is a minor inconvenience to others it is pain to avoid at all costs!

There have been times in my life, watching plays or ballets (torture, not my lack of culture but a lack of interest), school performances, attending lectures, in waiting rooms and in queues where my boredom is a physical pain – on a par with having my teeth drilled. No really.

Such boredom is not easy to explain to others, especially when they seem to be having such a great time!

Antidotes to boredom

In my past, I used alcohol and cigarettes (and others) to help with boredom. Most drugs such as nicotine in cigarettes; caffeine in coffee, red bull and diet- coke; cocaine; cannabis; and of course ADHD medications like Ritalin; help boost levels of dopamine to increase our interest, reward and stimulation levels. Not surprisingly there are very high rates of addiction for those with ADHD (stats suggest very high proportion in addiction programs are ADHD).

I have always had a toolkit to help with my boredom: TV, video and phone games, books, fast driving, fast talking and of course my computer to help keep it at bay. I listen to talk radio always in the car. I used to read my books whilst walking to work. I reluctantly read celebrity magazines in waiting rooms and the back of toothpaste packet in the bathroom, until my mobile allowed me to read books, browse the web and play games to keep boredom at bay.

Many of my life choices have been driven by the avoidance of boring activities and the seeking of stimulating ones.

Boredom made me the person I am today

All adults with ADHD seek stimulation: new experiences, different holiday destinations, new foods, change careers, places to live, adventures and excitement. The lack of stimulation we experience is a major contributing factor to our creativity, invention, exploration and love of all things new. Some experience low stimulation as boredom, others as impulsivity and restlessness, but the cause is the same. My life would have been very different if I did not experience boredom so readily.

Boredom pervasively and comprehensively has influenced my life choices, my interests, the books I read (and can’t read), the subjects I studied, the jobs I chose (and left), the hobbies and leisure activities I enjoyed. Life with boredom is not easy but avoiding boredom leads to a life full of change, novelty, challenge, excitement, adventure, and re-invention.
ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over 15,000 hours and 18 years of experience in coaching over 500 ADHD executives, ADHD business professionals and ADHD creatives. Andrew ran a major ADHD support group and an ADHD diagnostic clinic for a while. He is an ADHD specialist backed with business expertise from a twenty years career in software, from roles in programming, through marketing, sales and to running a few software start-ups. His ADHD insight is personal, with decades understanding his own ADHD experience and in bringing up his ADHD daughter. He has published his writing primarily via this website, with interactive ADHD courses in development.

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