ADHD and Aphantasia?


One of my friends is convinced that I have ADHD (they do) or some disorder similar. I’ve never thought so, because I’ve had descriptions of ADHD being similar to “my mind never shuts up.” On the other hand, my mind tends to be very quiet with usually only one stream of thought happening at a time. I’ve wondered if this is because of my aphantasia and not being able to express my thoughts in pictures or overlapping words and the like, but I feel as if someone with ADHD’s brain would still be more active? I’ve read the DSM-5 criteria for having ADHD, and I just barely hit the line for having it, but that clinical approach and my experience with many of the ADHD people I know seems so different. And I know ‘if you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD’ but the speed at which many of the ADHD people I know’s minds seems to be such a determining factor of their experience.

I’m by no means an expert in ADHD or aphantasia, so I’d love to hear someone else’s opinions or experiences.

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It sounds like you value this person’s opinion and maybe have some reason to wonder about ADHD yourself. Why not get tested? Talk to your primary care physician and/or licensed therapist about it. Don’t try to self-diagnose.

I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and would never have guessed. It’s been more than 5 years now and I am starting to see how it has affected my whole life! It’s been really helpful to learn more about how my brain works and how I might harness those powers instead of trying to force my brain to work in ways it isn’t suited for. One of my teenagers was recently diagnosed as neuro-divergent and it has been a huge boost to her confidence to allow herself to try things in the way that her brain prefers. Another thing I’ve learned is that, despite the differences in how ADHD manifests, it is pretty common for someone with ADHD to recognize it in others. 

I have not been tested for aphantasia but after comparing notes with my children and some other friends I am fairly sure that I have it. I’m also wondering how the aphantasia and the ADHD coincide. Right now all I can think about is how aphantasia and trauma may have affected each other. Maybe someone else will chime in.

And please, ask your doctor. It doesn’t hurt to find out more information about yourself!

I have ADHD (I was diagnosed with combined presentation if that’s relevant) and aphantasia. My brain doesn’t do the “my mind never shuts up” thing either, which I attribute to my aphantasia.

I remember I used to have rare weak visual imagery and some auditory imagery as a child and now I have total multi-sensory aphantasia. My brain doesn’t independently make thoughts anymore. It used to, when I was in class sometimes my brain would go from one thing vaguely related to what the teacher said to something vaguely related to that and so on like my mind was a 3D spiderweb of information that my attention pinballed around. Now my brain is more like a dark empty space, there’s nothing in it unless I manually put it there. I have to manually think thoughts rather than having any automatically.

My brain doesn’t go really fast like other people with ADHD sometimes describe. It takes me a long time to process anything and get thoughts together or do anything. I’m also autistic, which will probably also explain some of the differences.

Hi Amuah,

I also have ADHD. For me, the Aphantasia and ADHD are linked. I am a psychotherapist and work with several people who have ADHD. I find that some people with ADHD have it, but not the majority of ADHD peeps.

Thanks for bringing that up!


Hi. I was diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type at age 56. A couple of years later I discovered other people see images in their minds!! I would not describe my ADHD as my mind never shuts up. Nope. But my attention is very easily hijacked by every and any shiny thing I see. I hyperfocus a lot. Is my terrible working memory from ADHD or is it the effect of aphantasia? I am time blind. Like many ADHD people, for me there are two times- now and not now. I think many people with similar diagnoses spend a lot of time “day dreaming” but I do not see images at all in my mind, none in my dreams, none in my memories. I wonder if my “ADHD difficulty with motivation” is actually connected to being unable to “imagine” future events. I am definitely not neurotypical. I probably also have SDAM. Having said this, I have lived a “normal” life, did well in school, graduated from college, got married, raised kids, and never had the slightest clue that other people don’t think the way I do. I guess I do all the same things neurotypical people do, but in a different way. I’m okay identifying as a nonlinear divergent thinker. All these “diagnoses” are just labels. Most people never even think about “how” they think. When I ask questions folks usually look at me strangely and say I don’t know, I never thought about it. I think about it a lot now. Getting to know one’s own mind is the ultimate journey, says this Buddhist practitioner. So this is one person’s experience, for what it’s worth. 🤷🏻‍♀️

I was also wondering if there are any connections with being neurodivergent – I have ADHD but I also have ASD. ADHD can effect people in different ways, and some behaviors that seem like ADHD can also apply to other diagnosis so it can be difficult to self-asses. If you really want to know for sure, get assessed by a professional.

I’d love to see some research on this in the coming years.

Some fellow travellers!  Diagnosed at 45 with ADHD (Inattentive) first, and along a journey of learning hypnotherapy found myself frustrated with why I couldn’t visualise in the way everyone else claimed to be.  In searching I stumbled across this research that affirmed I was not misunderstanding what others saw.  However, the lack of pictures is not an impediment to a mind of constant streaming chatter, ideas bouncing around, the inner critic often louder – that the mind can remain chaotically busy doesn’t seem to need a film reel but rather constant thoughts, coherent but lacking any known Sense to give them body.  I would be very curious to understand whether this could be linked to neurodivergence, and whether it forms part of the delayed neurodevelopment that affects the prefrontal cortex or its communication with the other layers that mess up our executive function?