Leaving cupboard doors open might be a quirky habit — or it could be a coping strategy for those with ADHD.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or maybe even know someone who has it. And while this neurodevelopmental condition is typically diagnosed in childhood, it doesn’t mean adults are immune to experiencing its effects.
Symptoms can persist long into later years, with around 60% of diagnosed children continuing to demonstrate ADHD behaviors as adults. Meanwhile, some individuals do not receive a diagnosis until well into adulthood.
Either way, you may wonder if your behaviors, or a loved one’s behaviors, are symptoms of ADHD or just quirky habits we all display.
We’ve all likely been known to rush around the house in a hurry and leave drawers or cupboard doors open in our wake. But there’s a difference between general messiness and the untidiness associated with ADHD.
“Those with ADHD tend to have structural differences in their frontal cortex [compared to] those without it,” explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind.
“This can cause poor memory, making it difficult to recall small details, such as where you left your car keys or phone.”
She also adds that folks with ADHD tend to have a shortage of dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals within the brain that are important in regulating focus.
As a result of these neurobiological differences, “people with ADHD work very visually in order to remember things,” Hafeez says, “which can mean leaving something out in the open to remember to grab them later.”
So while you might recall leaving an important letter in a particular drawer, an individual with ADHD may have to leave the drawer open as a prompt.
Those with ADHD also have to work harder to maintain concentration on a task, so they may often forget to tidy as they endeavor to complete it. “They tend to hyperfocus on the vital parts of their tasks,” states Hafeez. “For example, if they want a cup of water, they’re focused on filling up the cup and therefore tend to leave the cabinet open.”
If you have a loved one with ADHD, try to remember they’re not leaving the kitchen drawers open to annoy you. If anything, it’s their way of staying organized and productive.
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Alongside leaving drawers and cupboard doors open, there are several notable signs, which can include:
- difficulty focusing
- restlessness or feeling like you can’t sit still
- messiness or disorganization
- abrupt changes in mood and having trouble managing emotions
- difficulty with planning
- impulsiveness with actions and decisions
- interrupting during conversations
- a pattern of running late for meetings or dates
Experiencing ADHD symptoms can be confusing and frustrating. For some people, obtaining a diagnosis can provide feelings of understanding and even comfort.
There’s no straightforward test for ADHD. The first step toward obtaining a diagnosis can likely be discussing your history and symptoms with a qualified professional, such as a primary care doctor or mental health professional like a psychologist.
Then, if needed, they can refer you to other mental health professionals, depending on your needs, such as a neuropsychologist or a psychiatrist, who specializes in performing in-depth evaluations. This evaluation should involve discussing your childhood history, educational background, and symptoms in childhood and adulthood, as well as cognitive testing.
ADHD doesn’t have to take over your daily activities. If you receive a diagnosis, several treatment options are available. For example, medication can be beneficial in reducing the severity of ADHD symptoms and associated behavioral outcomes, while cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also help.
Messiness and disorganization — including leaving drawers and cupboards open — are behaviors that are typically observed in people who have ADHD. However, it’s important to remember that exhibiting these behaviors doesn’t automatically mean that someone with ADHD is lazy.
Simple tasks that may typically be taken for granted can be more challenging for people with ADHD, who generally have difficulty focusing. Some people with ADHD may find leaving visual clues, like open drawers, helps remind them to complete tasks.
Other common traits of undiagnosed ADHD among adults can include restlessness, abrupt changes in mood, difficulty focusing, and difficulty managing time.
If these behaviors sound familiar, you may want to talk with a doctor or psychologist about your challenges to see if you might benefit from getting a thorough evaluation to determine whether you might have ADHD.
If you receive a diagnosis, treatment is available and can make it easier to manage your ADHD symptoms.