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MS And ADHD ‒ 3 Common Realities

Written by: Lucie Petrelis, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Multiple Sclerosis and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are hosted in the brain of millions of individuals all over the world. Both conditions have a long list of challenging traits and symptoms which have the power to significantly affect in many ways the daily lives of the individuals concerned.

People at the shop.

I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 22 and with ADHD at 42. My personal experience granted me the opportunity to learn a lot about both conditions. I have distinguished many common significant challenges. Today I present three of them to you, intending to bring awareness on the topics of MS and ADHD and increase compassion towards ourselves and each other, no matter our truth.

Here are 3 main common realities for both MS and ADHD:

1. Misconception and stereotypical image

MS: A person sitting in a wheelchair with reduced mobility.

ADHD: A young boy running around the room uncontrollably.

Regarding MS, unfortunately, there are still individuals that during the progress of the disease lose their ability to walk or naturally use their arms and body the way they used to. But this is less often today compared to the previous decades. New treatments and research, more knowledge and awareness ‒ also through the internet and social media, lifestyle and priority changes, a variety of available support, and all kinds of non-medical options have significantly improved the physical, mental, and emotional state of the person, preventing in many cases a radical disability. This means that many people living with MS will never use a wheelchair permanently despite still having a disability and many challenges in other aspects.

Regarding ADHD, there is still a lot of research to be done and statistics to be updated, as most of the studies so far have been focusing on young boys. This target group is not representative of reality, and thousands of people remain unaware, undiagnosed, unmedicated, unsupported, and unhappy. In my environment, there are currently many women and AFAB (assigned female at birth) individuals that are in the process of being diagnosed with ADHD or – thanks to the general awareness that has finally evolve ‒ suspecting they have ADHD (often after the ADHD diagnosis of their child). Most of them are over 35 years old, realizing only now the main reasons they have struggled all their lives.

2. Invisible conditions

MS: But you don't look sick.

ADHD: But you seem so calm.

Thanks to the evolution of treatments and knowledge, MS can be invisible. This invisibility doesn't diminish the daily challenges, physical pain, cognitive and mental symptoms, and emotional rollercoasters that a patient with MS faces every day without anyone necessarily seeing it or knowing about it. Many MS patients experience symptoms and discomfort that the eye cannot see, such as fatigue, burning sensations, numbness, confusion, poor memory, brain fog, and many more. But the fact that we don't see it doesn't mean it is not there.

Due to the misleading image of ADHD, we often get confused, especially with traits such as hyperactivity (this is just an example). The first assumption about hyperactive people is that they constantly move while restless. Especially for adults who are physically calmer by nature or have learned to mask their needs for (not socially accepted) movement, the main hyperactivity happens in their brains. They can either have constant thoughts about one topic or a non-ending wheel of fortune of thoughts passing through their brain. And all this thinking can make a person feel completely exhausted just by sitting there and doing visibly nothing. This overthinking is often not controllable or manageable without proper medication, and you cannot see it unless you are in the person's head.

3. Unpredictability

MS: But you were fine yesterday.

ADHD: But you advanced so well on your tasks yesterday.

Let's emphasize "yesterday," which means "not today"!

Living with MS is the biggest teacher of living in the moment. A person can have incredible energy, a positive mood, and no physical pain one day and be the complete opposite one day later or 12, 6, or even 1 hour later. This tricky reality is a very challenging feature of MS. It's a crucial aspect that must be considered and worked on to bring many alternative solutions and flexible daily planning, especially when more people are involved. Dedicated time and energy for conversations with others are highly recommended to explain in advance the possibility that plans could be canceled and postponed at any moment. So, for this aspect, communication is the key.

ADHD strongly impacts focus, concentration, memory, and performance on the things that must be done in the daily life of a human. An individual living with ADHD might have prepared a clear to-do list, be super proud of their well-organized bullet points, finally slept well last night after so long, and now they are ready to tackle the day. So, nothing could go wrong, right? Well… that is wrong. No matter the effort put in the preparation, no matter the perfect planning, the brain can unpredictably decide not to work on that day or at the level the individual was hoping for. Unfortunately, it's not a matter of willpower or of trying harder. If the brain decides to go offline, then it can stay like that for a very long time. Since no instruction manual comes along with an ADHD diagnosis, the individuals don't know how to "hack" the brain and make it perform. Not always being able to stick to their to-dos can cause many individuals to have low self-esteem feeling inadequate. In cases like that, asking for support can make a real difference.

MS and ADHD are different, but these three common truths can teach us all a lot about such conditions but also in a more general sense. The main thoughts that I wish to communicate with you are that due to old misleading and old-fashioned conceptions, and the invisible and unpredictable aspects of both conditions, people are seriously suffering and struggling every single day. And these people could be us or anyone else around us. The thought of others suffering in silence or ourselves suffering in silence should be a wake-up call to increase our compassion towards ourselves and others. Imagine how many people with challenging realities are suffering around us, and we have no idea about it. And this could impact their behavior, performance, words, actions, mood, and every aspect of who they are.

Let's open our hearts and be compassionate towards ourselves and others because often, what we think, see, and believe is not all there is. There is so much more to each one's truth.

It's up to us to create safe spaces for all of us to open up about our struggles and strengths so we can transform our society into a place where we can all be ourselves and live our life the best possible way together.

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Lucie Petrelis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lucie Petrelis is a certified life coach supporting individuals with ADHD and MS to redesign their life in a way that makes sense to them, and that is based on their needs. At 22, she temporarily lost her ability to walk and was suddenly diagnosed with MS, forcing her to rethink her life’s perspective and priorities. Twenty years later, her diagnosis of ADHD gave her the gift of finally understanding the root of so many of her challenges. Using the power of her stamina, positivity, and proven methodologies, she inspires and drives others to take their life into their own hands, re-structure it, re-prioritize it, add a lot of joy in it, and above all be proud of who they are. Her motto: Your challenges are valid.



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