Are You a High Intensive?

by barbaraluther on June 30, 2013

I’ve been having a conversation with my coaching students and colleagues about the intensity ADDers experience and the spectrum of that intensity from individual to individual.  I’ve long said that ADDers experience life more intensely than the general population, but I’m still just realizing the extent of the variability of intensity from person to person.  This has come up for me due to recent interactions with several ADDers who seem to be even more strongly impacted by intensity than the average ADDer.

Temple Grandin’s new book gave me a new term, “Intense World Syndrome,” to describe the impact of intensity.  It truly characterizes how life feels for many of us.

What I have noticed is that a High Intensive experiences life right at the very edge of tolerance and ability to function.  It takes a huge amount of energy and effort to deal with how they experience daily life.  So, when life throws High Intensives an extra challenge or crisis, that will tip them over the edge into instant and dramatic fight, flight, or collapse.  Of course, the High Intensive doesn’t know he or she is any different from others.  The High Intensive figures that others are experiencing life just as intensely but are just better able to handle it.

As we have discussed this, we’ve also broken these High Intensives into two quite distinct types:

*  Hyperactive/Extrovert High Intensives

*  Inattentive/Introvert High Intensives

These two types of High Intensives really show up quite uniquely.  If a High Intensive is hyperactive, the person will often act out as he handles the stress of his intensity.  You will see dramatic behavior and statements; the intensity is outwardly expressed.  Many others are impacted by the hyperactive High Intensive yet the High Intensive himself may be totally unaware of his actions and their impact.  Those around the hyperactive High Intensive often feel tension and intensity emanating from them, and they may feel the need for strong boundaries to just be with the hyperactive High Intensive.  This type may be intriguing and entertaining to others up to a point; but when the hyperactive High Intensive has tipped over, people often duck for cover and dash away to protect themselves.

On the other hand, the inattentive High Intensive experiences the intensity inwardly and may not even realize it until she is tipped over her limit and collapses.  I’m not sure whether I’m a High Intensive or not, but I do know that my friends have told me that I’ll be protesting over and over ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine’ then suddenly collapse.  Others are often better at discerning how close to the line an inattentive High Intensive is getting than the person herself.

Intensity, whether it is sensory, environmental, energetic, or emotional, causes stress.  It may feel physically painful; it can show up as anxiety, worry, frustration, or depression.  This huge amount of stress costs a lot of self-regulation bandwidth, and that’s why High Intensives are so quickly tipped over into fight, flight, or collapse.  If they are already using most of their self regulation to deal with day-to-day intensity, then there’s little left when the out of the ordinary event occurs.

Do you recognize yourself or an ADDer in your life as a High Intensive?  Does this description ring true?  I welcome additional insights around this distinct group of ADDers.

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