ADHD Adults: Ways to Talk to Yourself but Not Be Committed

May 11, 2010 Douglas Cootey

I knew a guy who studied in college by reading a book in front of himself while he walked around a track. Hearing him tell me of this technique was the first time I ever understood that my ADHD may be a strange li'l beastie, but it was one that could be tamed if I was creative enough for the task. That guy understood something about himself: he needed to be in motion in order to dampen the noise and chaos in his mind so that he could learn and remember.

That technique didn't work for me, but years later I discovered I didn't need to go for a walk with my nose in a book to study. My technique was to listen to white noise or dance music, especially vocal trance. Assuming I've heard the tune before and there aren't complicated lyrics to distract me, the thumping beat is just enough sensory input to occupy my mind and actually heighten focus so that I can read, write, and study. So strange, but true.

Talking to Yourself to Cope with ADHD

I've also adopted another strange behavior to help me cope: I talk to myself. As the ADHD mind becomes overwhelmed with emotion, new ideas, and commotion, sometimes it can feel like it's being pummeled by cannon fire. All you want to do is think one thought and think it long enough to do something with it. Instead, you are paralyzed as your mind races from thought to thought, like eyes trying to watch tennis balls bouncing across a minefield. When decisions need to be made, this lack of control over the impulse center in your mind is a considerable obstacle.

When I need to mentally organize my chaotic life in order to make an important decision, I have found that talking to myself out loud helps me immensely. Like that guy from college, I need to move while I do it. Thankfully, I have a wife that will listen to me and who is patient with me as I pace back and forth while I summarize and resummarize until I've come to a decision. Sometimes, however, she isn't available. That's when I began to find alternatives.

Talking to Yourself When You're By Yourself

Unfortunately, walking around talking to yourself makes people think you're crazy. However, if you are like me and you simply must vocalize your thoughts in order to sort them out, here are three ways to pull it off without drawing undue attention to yourself.

  1. Pace in a room and talk to yourself when nobody's home. You can be as loud as you like, discuss any subject, and nobody will be the wiser.
  2. Go for a drive while talking to yourself. This works great on the highway if the traffic is light. Driving around town while dealing with traffic will only frustrate you because you can't do both tasks at the same time—not if you don't want to be a menace on the road. If the thought of spending gas to find peace of mind bothers you, this is also effective on a bicycle. Just keep the same cautions in mind. If anyone notices you, they'll just think you are talking on a cellphone.
  3. Go for a walk very early in the morning, or late in the evening. Best when dark. This is my favorite solution. I walk to the park, perambulate around the park any number of times, then head home with a clear head and a decision. Nobody hears me. Nobody sees me.

Walking and talking engages my mind and helps it focus. You may have seen me use this technique on each of the adult ADHD videos I've posted. This technique may not work for you, however, so experiment on your own and please share the results here. None of us are made the same, but if we have ADHD in common, we all have a need to find a clear head, even if we have to risk looking a little silly.

Image: Yokuts Park near Kern River by Illusive Photography

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, May 11). ADHD Adults: Ways to Talk to Yourself but Not Be Committed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

May, 11 2010 at 4:08 pm

Of course, these days everyone walks around with their Bluetooth earpieces on, chattering away. I think you could talk to yourself just about anywhere, as long as you have one on. Course, I wonder if anyone would notice whether or not the little light is on?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Douglas Cootey
June, 10 2010 at 10:43 pm

That's a fantastic suggestion! I could make a killing selling dummy BT earpieces with blinking blue lights allowing thousands of ADHD adults to cannily talk to themselves in busy social situations. Thanks for the tip! ;)

May, 19 2010 at 5:21 am

This is the first time I have read what goes on in my mind- perfectly. Tennis balls! Other ways I see my mind- stuck in high gear and I can't downshift.... a normal mind is an office with papers stacked and organized neatly vs my ADD brain- an office with a giant fan that keeps the papers swirling in the air and I can't turn the fan off to sort the papers!
I love hiking. I guess what you are saying here is my reason, too. I'm out in the mountains, away from all the noise and distraction. And I'm moving and pushing myself, until my mind goes quiet and I reach that "ahhhh" point. The sweet relief of a quiet mind.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Douglas Cootey
June, 10 2010 at 10:44 pm

I'd have to say that I love hiking and bike riding for the very same reasons. Unfortunately, staying up very late at night also provides me the same quiet mind, but with obvious downsides.

June, 23 2010 at 9:02 am

And to think... I thought I was the only one that did this to hush my mind. There is always a conversation or two going on in my mind. What makes me feel even more so crazy than we already do, is that I have both sides of the conversation going on. :) It does really help me make decisions or to handle an outcome. Otherwise, outcomes are a mess b/c you know we can't process. :) It calms all the other clutter in my mind so that I am able to focus a bit more. It is almost a hyperfocus sense when I am in this mode. Not much could distract me during the "mind conversations" as I call them. I love to be there- it is nice and quiet! Of course, there are those days where you are a bit more racy than others and you can't get to that silence to have just let one thought take over for a few minutes. I am not sure what one would call those days when we, w/ ADHD, are really extreme. I would say it is a lot like mania is for those with Bipolar. The only thing I can trace these days to are when I have some down time and slow down. It makes my ADHD so much worse! So, I just stay busy! :)

Douglas Cootey
June, 27 2010 at 9:03 pm

Well put, DD. We do so need that time to sort things out and tame the chaos.

July, 17 2020 at 4:32 pm

Walk to a park after dark and talk to yourself.... One of the many times I wish I was a man. As a woman, taking this advice would most likely get me killed.

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