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A Twitter thread on ADHD is breaking misconceptions about the disorder

The man behind towel meme educates Twitter on ADHD.

Feb 26, 2019, 10:26 am



Samira Sadeque

Journalist Yashar Ali, who also inspired the towel meme, has gone viral again, this time for sharing a 26-part Twitter thread about ADHD and urging many others to share their own struggles. 

“What people need to understand about those of us who have ADHD is we are not homogeneous,” he wrote.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health  as “a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors.” While many of the symptoms are classified as the tendency “overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes,” failure to follow instructions, or having difficulty paying attention or listening, Ali explained in the thread it’s not that simple and shouldn’t be generalized.

Mostly, he used the opportunity to clarify misunderstandings that people have about ADHD. “It makes it seem like it’s is just an issue of distraction. Wrong! For example, I read 2-3 books a week! I don’t know many people with ADHD can do that. But for me taking clothes out of the dryer & folding them, that’s like climbing Mt. Everest,” he wrote.

He explained the nuances of ADHD, like having “difficulty starting things.” “The simplest things can be exhausting and feel impossible to begin/finish,” he said. “It’s stuff that doesn’t make sense to people without ADHD.”

He even gave examples of how it affects everyday life, like paying bills.

He also made a crucial point about gender disparity and diagnosis. A little over six percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. in 2016. But as Ali writes in the thread, ADHD tends to be diagnosed less among adults and women.

“We know that if someone isn’t diagnosed… [as a] child, they’re less likely to be diagnosed as an adult. Many people see ADHD (because of the hyperactivity component…which not all people with ADHD have) as a boy/man’s disorder…which leads many women to not be diagnosed.”

Another educational moment in the thread shows how a request for quick chat, though seemingly harmless, can completely tip those with ADHD off their balance. “In the past (before I learned what systems I needed in place) I would see an email come in from a friend or colleague asking to chat,” he wrote. “I would tell them I was focused on work and they would often say, ‘it’ll just take a minute!’ They didn’t get if I gave them that minute…That there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to get back to my work. People would get annoyed and think I was being difficult.”

He even went back to his towel meme and used it to explain an aspect of his ADHD.

His thread soon spiraled into many others sharing their own experiences and finding comfort in being able to speak out.

And for those who have at some point joked about and/or commented on ADHD in an ignorant way, here are a couple of notes of repentance to ponder:

Some pointed out the humor in a 26-tweet thread about an attention issue. But even that received a carefully crafted response about the uniqueness of ADHD.

At 20,000 likes and counting, it seems Ali is getting through.

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*First Published: Feb 26, 2019, 10:26 am