How My Internal Monologue Affects My Attention Deficit Disorder

My name is Ryan Langdon and I accidently blew the minds of over 10 million people this week. It has been a wild experience. I have received thousands of messages from all types of people. I have received interview invites, messages from celebrities, and even had a little filipino man photoshop himself into pictures with me. I have heard input from a lot of you, however I feel like you guys do not know where I stand on this situation. It appears to me that having an internal monologue is a spectrum. There are some people that do not have it, which I have decided to call “hyponeurovocalism.” In contrast, there are people who have a strong internal monologue, aka “hyperneurovocalism.”

I was diagnosed and treated for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in 2009. After this whole post blew up I realized that my inability to focus in school was caused by the inability to control my inner monologue. I could be sitting in class, trying my best to focus on what the teacher is saying, but my monologue just drifts off and I lose focus on what is being lectured. After speaking with a few people who are hyponeurovocal, I realized that they report that they do not daydream often (I know it is a small sample size). Therefore, I believe that the cause of ADD is directly related to the internal monologue. 

When it comes to ADD, no one ever talks about what goes on in their head. It is a common stereotype that individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder are distracted by shiny things, but that’s not the case at all. It’s a much more subtle thing in my experience. People only talk about what medications they are on, rather than how the disorder actually manifests inside their head. Most conversations go a little something like this:

“I have ADD”

“Me too.”

“Adderall or Vyvanse?”

“Concerta.”

“I heard Concerta sucks”

“It works for me.”

No one ever explains that no matter how hard you try to focus on something, that internal monologue will take you into a different world. There are many physicians who still do not believe that ADD is a real medical diagnosis. However, as someone that has spoken with many people on this subject and has studied medicine, I would have to respectfully disagree. 

ADD is not correlated with IQ level, rather, it is a problem with controlling that inner voice. I can drift off into another world in the blink of an eye, until I snap back to reality by the sound of my entire class typing notes. “Oh shit, I must have missed something important,” is something I have said inside of my mind many times before. If I do not take my medication, I can not read more than two sentences without my internal monologue shifting gears and talking about something unrelated. If I am reading a book, my internal monologue could be vocalizing the words, but then it can slowly transition into an entirely different topic. Although my eyes are scanning the page still, I will absorb absolutely nothing and have to restart from the point I lost focus. It is exhausting and frustrating, because as much as I want to remain attentive to the words on the page, I can not keep my thoughts anchored to a particular subject. 

My entire life, most of my learning came from outside the classroom. It takes a lot more work than people realize to teach yourself everything. I hardly absorb any information in class, therefore studying requires much more time for me. People are jealous that I have adderall, but all it does is even the playing field. I’m sure it gives hyponeurovocal people a strong advantage, however all it does is allow me to focus for more than 7 seconds without daydreaming about different scenarios in which I am saving my entire class from a masked gunman. 

I am not sure if this is how everyone else with ADD operates, however I have a strong suspicion that their experience is very similar to mine. If that is the case, then this whole inner monologue news may be a helpful screening tool in diagnosing Attention Deficit Disorder. It is a wildly misdiagnosed/undiagnosed condition. So understanding exactly what is going on inside of people’s heads could lead to a more accurate way to treat the individuals with this problem while simultaneously avoiding overdiagnosing and over treating patients who do not fit the criteria. I would like to hear how other people with ADD relate to my experience.

@RyanLangdon_

12 thoughts on “How My Internal Monologue Affects My Attention Deficit Disorder

  1. I was wondering how people who do not have an inner monologue dream? Do they just see words or pictures? Are they vivid? Or are their dreams like everyone elses?

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  2. Your experience is pretty spot on! I too take Adderall. Reading can be very difficult, and i honestly don’t enjoy it much. It can feel like a chore, having to reread the same sentence sometimes 2-3 times, trying so hard to focus on the words on the page vs. the words in my head. Likewise, i often have to rewind podcasts and tv shows—i eventually drift into my own thoughts, and this is pretty annoying for anyone who’s trying to watch/listen with me. Adderal definitely has helped me at work. I’d probably have been fired a decade ago without it, despite working very hard. With the meds, i’m not just spinning my wheels. Very interesting topics!

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    • Is it just me or is reading mostly about the interest in the topic being read.

      For example I can’t really read most things for the sake of studying alone. But if I find out something super interesting, I can drown myself on Wikipedia for hours and hours or read a novel in a couple of hours. Then the next day there’s an article in class and it looks like ancient runes instead of text.

      I also find literally drowning my internal monologue with high energy and no lyrics to keep myself doing only 2 tasks in my head instead of hundreds of overlapping ones. That makes class etc very difficult to read in because most lecturers don’t appreciate putting headphones on in the middle of the class.

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  3. I was thinking yesterday and talking to some other people about this discussion then the thought occurred to me what additional problems are there or how do different people react to these different ways of thinking. So when you mention ADD I can see I am not the 1st one to think about this. I self diagnosed myself years ago with adult attention deficit disorder. I can control it I can truly concentrate if I want to but I can easily be distracted if I’m lazy. The entire discussion is still interesting to me and the way people might use their minds to solve problems Or see number sequences or words or problems. Anyway very interesting and I’ll keep following.

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  4. This is an interesting thing to read and as someone with ADHD I relate to the ways in which you talk about your school and learning experience. However I don’t think I experience internal monologue. I think in words when my thoughts are more of imagined conversations however most of the time it’s just concepts of ideas that have no words or sentences backing them. I relate to how you describe getting distracted but for me it’s not an issue of my internal monologue but instead I picture it like following a map where each road is a topic and my brain just takes wild turns wherever it wants and jumps from topic to topic. It has nothing to do with an internal monologue but rather associations I have with a concept that will then spawn a whole different topic that I get distracted by thinking about. Hopefully that makes sense. I would find it unfortunate for internal monologues to become a diagnostic criteria for ADHD as I feel that might leave out a whole group of people like myself.

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  5. Interesting, TIL about ADD. I think this phenomena has casual nature (can be caused intentionally) – at least this has happened to me. Bit more context:

    In my childhood (five years old) I once have seen a korean anime. The beauty of main actress stroke me then (I could say I felt in love as five year old kid can). What a surprise it was when the same night I had a dream like I have seen a continuation of this cartoon with all the colors, characters, their personality “spectrums”, I was on my mission with them and was travelling through Universe.
    And all of the sudden I woke up. Silence around, it is dark, moon is shining from the window, parents are sleeping. And it feels so exciting (as a mix of extreme happiness – like when as a kid haven’t seen your parents for a long while and saw them coming, great joy – like when getting to play with the best toy of your childhood and feeling rewarded – like when accomplished something hard and wholehartedly beleive it is right action).
    (on my scale of emotions up to now I guess it’s on the second place after seeing birth of my daughter).
    Sorry for detour, I purposedly try to explain the feelings of mine to enable others to relate to it.

    So, when I realized that I’m awake and all this exitement is real, I _made really hard effort_ to continue watching this dream. And the effor was in a form of speaking in my head “please, let me see it again!” many-many times. Guess what? I fell asleep and dream continued.

    This is how, I guess, I first time got an ability to speak inside my head. Later, during school time, I unintentionally was training my focus by listening to Scooter (German electronic music band) on a cassette player while doing my homework. I was actually able to move my feet and fingers on the other hand while writing down solutions of mathematical equations given as homework. I think pretty many people, especially fellow programmers, have this ability. I enjoyed reading fiction books visualizing main characters, playing their voices in my head.

    Now, most important one – on how I did gain ADD. I was 25 when I have left first company I worked in (it was really great experience), and got between a hammer and the anvil – got to a team of really strongly focused, super experienced (as I thought back then) developers, while I was still Rookie Software Engineer with only couple of years of experience. The feeling of always being behind, being slow, having to work 14 hour days for quite a while was really devastating. And I was really afraid of being fired. So much that as soon as I have heard my name (or somebody simply talking by our team area), I was so scared that I forced my attention to switch off from what I was doing and begin to listen. And that was the beginning of a nightmare – I wasn’t able to concentrate on anything (burnout) plus I wasn’t able even to listen to others (my mind was drifting away), different voices had arguments in my head because of which I was not able to fall asleep, etc…

    After ~10 years the problem faded away (and God bless inventors of noise cancelling headphones), but is still present to a certain extent (when I fall asleep I, if make relatively simple effort, can hear some voices speaking nonsense – sentences which don’t have much sense (“I escaped greed walking room in the middle of the forest and dissolved into an asphalt green and slimy” – something like that is more constructive, sometimes there is just steam of words non-congruent to one another). What is interesting, those sentences always have emotional context – usually negatively/aggressively colored. Although it’s easy to switch focus onto visualizing something and quickly fall asleep.

    Few years ago I realized I’m not listening to those who gave me any negative emotions (I think that could have been subconcious protection of sorts). And it took quite an effort (again mental effort) to keep listening and try to relate to the person.

    And I have exactly the same problem while reading texts – if my brain is busy with something, only way to keep it focused is either begin visualizing (with an effort). Or stop reading at all.

    Another approach I tried not that long ago (around a year) is to medidate (calm the mind down). Only visual medidation helps really – staring at a black dot half an inch in diameter painted on A4 sheet.

    Hope it helps.

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  6. Ah, forgot to mention – I can focus really easily when I’m alone. It always have been like that, it still is.
    So my ADD happens only if there are other people around. I don’t have any idea why it is like that)))

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  7. This whole thing has me reeling. How can people not have inner diolage? I dont get it at all. I too have ADD. . Literally in the last 5 minutes of trying to read this I have also : had a full conversation with my husband imagining his answers to if he has one.. went diving for gold with the dude on tv and told him what he is doing wrong…reposted this and thought about what my sisters will say… I mean, I COULD GO ON. A year or so ago my 19 year old son looked at me standing in the kitchen trying to remember what I was doing and asked..what’s going on in your head. After I told him everything I had thought in a literal 3 min time span his mouth was agape and he was completely mind blown..I really think you have hit the nail on the head here!!

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  8. I have not been diagnosed with ADD. Not yet.
    I do have PTSD, MDD, GAD, panic disorder and social anxiety. One would think that would be enough. I want to do the ADD testing but my therapist told me it’s like 2-3 hours long and I just don’t have the patience for that. Not yet.
    I guess you would say I am “hyperneuralvocal”. I never go a minute without this running conversation with myself in my head, even at night. Oh yea, did I mention I’ve had insomnia for 6 years now? In addition, I have imaginary confrontations with nearly everyone I see as I go through my day. Yes, confrontations, not just conversations, because they are usually quite aggressive. Oddly, to me this is not always a negative. But I’m generally a polite and friendly person when I speak out loud to others. At night, or whenever i happen to catch some zzzs, my dreams are vividly real. Sounds, sights, tastes, smells, touch. Again, usually aggressive. I have night terrors not just bad dreams. I can re-enter my dreams. I can meditate on a dreamscape, and fall into lucid dreams. I don’t often talk to myself out loud, but that inner voice just never shuts up.
    I worry if I’m schizophrenic, or maybe schizoid; yes there is a clinical difference. I guess between the therapist and the psych nurse, they don’t think I am, but then again I haven’t really explained my internal weirdness to them. Not yet.
    I even stop the inner monologue just to have a little chat with myself ABOUT the inner monologue I was just having with myself! 🤯
    People try to have a conversation with me, and by the end of their 2nd sentence, my mind has fallen off the listening rails. Whenever I attempt to to tell a story or explain something, I lose that thought train again, and have to apologize and ask them to repeat what I just said in an effort to jar my memory back to reality. They must think I’m stoned… Not yet. Lol.
    Most everything that’s been said by you folks before my comment has resonated so loudly with me. I do those things, hear those words, and feel my alter ego just as vividly a if you were another person in the room. That’s another thing, everything is just too damn loud. And the lights are too bright.
    Anyhow, Ryan, your posts on this subject, and all the comments have indeed blown my mind as well. All of that got me thinking about my best friend, who does have ADD, and whether she hears an inner monologue, dialogue, if there’s a whole party inside her head, or if she is a concept-thinker. She hates her meds, so she only takes them when she HAS to stay focused, like when she’s interviewing a prospective employee. I will have to talk with her and compare notes about this now. I thought everybody thought like me, in varying degrees. I never thought there was a different way to think.
    It has taken exactly 52 minutes to write this comment as of right now. That is how many times I’ve stopped to think, gotten distracted by doing 40-11 (pronounced forty-eleven, my little phrase meaning a LOT) other things around the house, also talked with my neighbor twice, my dog 5 or 6 times, and generally I’m getting tired because I feel like a jack-in-the-box, both mentally and physically.
    Maybe i should tell my therapist to read this… Not yet.

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  9. N=1
    I was diagnosed with ADHD in my early 40’s (I am late 50’s now) which manifests itself as inattentive, hyper focused, not hyperactive. Controlling my attention was nearly impossible until I started using Adderall. I have ALL OF THE ABOVE in terms of internal monologue, it really depends on what I’m thinking about, which “zone” I am in. In my mind general life things are very verbal for me (to do lists, what I coulda/shoulda/woulda said or done, ear worms), whereas science and arts are more image based, wordless thoughts (problem solving, visualizing, thinking musically). I have a PhD in a physical science field, do art and music for fun.

    N=2
    My mother was (undiagnosed except by me) ADHD hyperactive and after reading your piece I suspect she had very little internal dialog. She would impulsively say whatever was on her mind. Perhaps because she couldn’t think things through? She was very hyperactive, could not sit still and “relax”, chronic insomnia.

    Anyway, my point here is that whether or not presence or absence of internal monologue is directly related to ADHD, it seems very likely that it affects how ADHD symptoms present themselves in different individuals. So maybe a diagnostic tool?

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  10. Yes it is very hard for me to read a book and actually finish raeding it it seems to take super long time to do anything I wonder how do I see about getting tested

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