Many different personality types are misdiagnosed with personality disorders, for instance, INTPs are often misdiagnosed with ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome. In a sample of 110 children diagnosed with ADHD, ESFP was the most preferred type with INFPs, ISFJs, ISFPs, and ESFJs being overrepresented in the sample as well.
INFPs are often misdiagnosed with ADD and ADHD (often more ADD as INFPs aren’t as hyperactive since ADHD includes hyperactivity). Of course, I don’t want this post to diminish real world problems, as ADD and ADHD are real disorders that people suffer with. However, it doesn’t help that many doctors and psychologists have mistaken personality traits for psychological issues. It’s one thing to suffer with neurological disorders, and it’s another thing to possess traits similar to neurological traits. So, very often, INFPs are misdiagnosed with ADD and ADHD.
(Of course, this topic brings about an interesting question: What comes first, personality or neurology? An ADD-diagnosed person may be more likely to have INFP traits, but INFPs might be more likely to have ADD. But this topic will be saved for another time.)
To backtrack a little, I’ll say how I got to this topic. This YouTuber isn’t professional or a psychologist, and I was just watching the video for fun (Here’s the video if you’re curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GBMS7WPFSs). This YouTuber was talking about how he was diagnosed with ADHD, and he started talking about everyday things he has to deal with since he has ADHD. After watching, I realized I could relate with every single example he made, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I have a similar personality, similar neurology (maybe I have ADD or ADHD too), or I’m just a normal human being and everyone has those same problems. Because I know that INFPs are often misdiagnosed with ADD and ADHD, that made me curious to see if by knowing about ADD and ADHD symptoms we can learn more about INFPs (and other types often misdiagnosed with ADD and ADHD).
Using the DSM-IV (or Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition) and many other helpful sites, I will cover several of the common symptoms of ADDs and ADHDs that correlate to INFP personality traits:
Concerning Inattention as a symptom for diagnosis, I often have trouble paying attention to everyday things because of several reasons. I often have a million thoughts buzzing in my head at a given second in a day, and so my thoughts distract me a lot from simple things like causing me to forget what I walked into a room for. Another reason for inattention is the fact that INFPs constantly need to be stimulated by new and novel things, thus, everyday matters are very boring. This can lead to inattention, which can either lead to the constant thoughts or just the common, stereotypical INFP daydreams (I daydream a lot).
Now, here a few of the specific symptoms of Inattention:
- often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
Concerning INFP, I would attribute this trait to the INFP’s Intuition. Like all Intuitives, INFPs care more about the big picture than tiny, minor details. If we’re doing a school assignment or reading a textbook, we ask “What’s the point?”. We don’t like pointless details. Sure, no one does, but INFPs cut to the chase immediately and try to find the meaning in everything. INFPs need to see the big picture, especially in school assignments. And if there is a point to the assignment, that’s great, but if INFPs have trouble seeing the big picture, they lose focus immediately and also struggle to see and notice the minor details in front of them.
- often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
- often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
- is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
Many of these Inattention symptoms can be attributed to INFPs’ “dreaminess” and their constant retreat to their inner worlds. I get distracted very easily, either by something I’m thinking about or by something new and novel in front of me. Usually, the only time I can maintain a ridiculous amount of focus is when I pour myself in a project I’m very passionate about (and it usually so happens that I’m focused so much that I forget to eat or drink anything. You guys know what I’m talking about).
- often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
INFPs are Perceivers, not Judgers. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re terrible at organizing things or don’t want to. They just don’t like sticking to strict schedules as they need room for their own personal style and tastes, and INFPs don’t like being forced to do mundane things frequently.
- often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
This can be attributed to many INFP traits. For one, if the task isn’t eye-catching or fascinating, the INFP will be bored with the task and reluctant to do it. Most of the time in schools, some subjects like math especially need to be reviewed over and over so that some students can catch up. It could just be that the INFP, though a curious person who likes to learn, is bored with old material (this is especially often the case with INTP students).
Concerning forgetfulness, INFPs are often just forgetful because of their preoccupation of their thoughts, their daydreams, and their inner worlds. They are distracted with their thoughts, thus, they often forget to do things.
I can’t speak for all INFPs in this area of neurology, as it isn’t so much a personality trait as it is a behavioral one. Some of the Hyperactivity symptoms do include “blurting out answers before questions have been completed”, “has difficulty awaiting turn”, “often interrupts and intrudes others”, and “often talks excessively”. These could easily be traits of ESFPs and ESFJs, as these are Extraverted qualities and traits INFPs would most likely never portray.
Concerning Hyperactivity symptoms I do personally struggle with include “often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat”. I don’t know if all INFPs struggle with this, but I know I do. Personally, (and this part could be attributed to INFP traits) I need to be doing something all time. I have trouble sitting still. I need things to “catch my attention” 24/7. If I’m in the car or doing school, I’m listening to music. If I’m eating lunch, I’m probably watching a movie or YouTube video. If I’m trying to go to sleep, I’m often reading a book until I’m tired enough to the point that I’ll just drop instantly to sleep. If I’m listening to a professor during a lecture, I’ll most likely be taking notes constantly (whether or not I need them) or I’ll be tapping my fingers, shaking my leg, tapping my foot, ie., fidgeting.
I don’t know if all INFPs fidget a lot, but I do.
Help Guide says that many adults with ADHD get bored easily and crave excitement. Now, ESFPs,for example, are definitely impulsive and easily get bored in many aspects of their personality, but INFPs get bored easily too. However, unlike Extraverts, INFPs are stimulated very easily, so a few of the activities I mentioned above like reading, listening to music, or fidgeting often stimulate the INFP to a good extent.
From Help Guide, many ADHD adults struggle with “emotional difficulties” which include:
- Easily flustered and stressed out, irritability or mood swings.
- Short, often explosive, temper; doesn’t deal well with frustration.
- Low self-esteem and sense of insecurity; sense of underachievement.
- Trouble staying motivated and hypersensitivity to criticism.
If those aren’t INFP traits, I don’t know what are.
INFPs are very emotional. This isn’t to say they’re very sensitive (they can be of course); INFPs instead feel very deeply and follow their emotions to a great extent. And so, INFPs, especially as kids, “struggle” with dealing with stress and frustration. Emotions encapsulate the INFP and the INFP’s perspective on events going on around them. While many other types either “bury” their emotions or suppress them, INFPs embrace them. And so, when INFPs feel negative emotions or painful emotions like stress or frustration, they get easily flustered.
Concerning low self-esteem and sense of insecurity, I know I personally used to and still do sometimes struggle with both. I don’t know if I can attribute those feelings to INFP traits. However, I do know that I as an INFP am greatly concerned with my works and my achievements. I want to be a good writer with an engaging style, and if I believe that I have trouble writing, then I’ll feel less about myself and my abilities. If there is anything I’m passionate about doing that I feel I’m poor at, I do think less of myself. If any of you other INFPs feel the same, than perhaps it can be attributed to INFP traits.
Thus, when INFPs are criticized on their works, they are very hypersensitive about it. Those works are very much “their lives”. INFPs put a lot of emotion and passion into the projects they work on. When people criticize them on their works, the INFP can get very emotional about it.
Concerning having trouble staying motivated, one thing I’ve said a lot on this blog is that INFPs are easily drawn into new and engaging projects. However, once the idea of the project no longer feels novel and exciting, the INFP will have trouble staying motivated to continue the project.
And so, this concludes INFP traits and ADD/ADHD symptoms. While it’s somewhat possible you do have these disorders and possess INFP traits, it’s more likely that you’re INFP and you portray a few ADD/ADHD traits. Hopefully we INFPs can understand and empathize with those who do have ADD and ADHD because of how similar we think and see the world. Of course, possessing any of these traits isn’t a bad thing, it just means we’re different, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s hope that teachers and doctor can better diagnose kids and adults in the future instead of attribute good personality traits to mental dysfunctions.