Now Presenting: ADHD

Identifying & Advocating for our Needs

July 27, 2023 Jaye Lin Season 1 Episode 13
Identifying & Advocating for our Needs
Now Presenting: ADHD
More Info
Now Presenting: ADHD
Identifying & Advocating for our Needs
Jul 27, 2023 Season 1 Episode 13
Jaye Lin

Is this something you resonate with? Not wanting to take or even ask for accommodations, because it doesn’t quite feel like a need? Living your life in fractions, because you’re convinced that asking for more is unreasonable? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and identifying and advocating for our needs.

If you have questions or would like to give suggestions for future episodes, send us an email at To listen to all episodes, view show notes and transcripts, or learn more about host Jaye Lin, visit our website at Follow us on Instagram @npadhdpodcast and @adhdjaye.

Show Notes Transcript

Is this something you resonate with? Not wanting to take or even ask for accommodations, because it doesn’t quite feel like a need? Living your life in fractions, because you’re convinced that asking for more is unreasonable? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and identifying and advocating for our needs.

If you have questions or would like to give suggestions for future episodes, send us an email at To listen to all episodes, view show notes and transcripts, or learn more about host Jaye Lin, visit our website at Follow us on Instagram @npadhdpodcast and @adhdjaye.

Hi. This is Now Presenting ADHD, where we look at common ways Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can present in individuals, explain what the root causes can be, and connect the experience to real humans. I’m your host, Jaye Lin. I’m an ADHD coach, instructor, and generally nice person.

If you’ve listened to the past episodes, you probably know that I have a tiny dog named Arlo. He’s a two year old Yorkshire Terrier, and for the past few months, he’s been functioning as my service dog. Telling people about Arlo being my service dog is still something that gives me anxiety, because of the mean things a lot of people say about fake service dogs, and the inconsiderate owners who have them.

In case anyone’s wondering, yes, he is trained to be my service dog. When he’s doing his service dog thing, he is in a sling, which sits him at my hip. When we’re in public and I’m starting to white knuckle it, he alerts me by jostling so I can snap out of it and get grounded. He periodically looks at me until I make eye contact with him, so I don’t descend into a quiet panic. He’s also trained to lay on my chest when I’m on my back, and the gentle pressure of this tiny, 5 pound dog is enough for my nervous system to start calming down, and for me to come back to a normal baseline. Sometimes, he even licks my face when I’m having a particularly awful spell. And he sleeps on my lap in bed, serving as the best weighted blanket ever, and the only true fix to my insomnia.

For a very long time, I resisted the idea of making Arlo my service dog. After all, I didn’t want to be someone with a fake service dog, and on the ground, he’s never been the best trained dog. He has a high prey drive, and is generally hard to train because he’s not food motivated. He loves to play, and is easily distracted on the ground. He also loves to pee on everything. None of this is his fault, of course. It’s because he has a very inconsistent owner, who has varying levels of energy and drive to train him. Nothing is ever his fault. He’s my little angel. In the sling, he is definitely an angel. He knows he’s working, and is calm, focused, and very different from when he’s off work. As a service dog, he is well trained.

Even still, this idea that someone could look at us with disdain, accusing me, internally or verbally, of being a fake service dog owner, was enough for me to dismiss the idea for a very long time. Moreso, I felt like if I made him my service dog, I would be cheating, because I didn’t NEED to have a service dog, did I? I may have been avoiding public places, like supermarkets and restaurants in the past few years, but prior to the pandemic, I used to regularly go to those places with no issue. I would even browse grocery store aisles as a winding down activity after getting off work. That means I don’t need a service dog to help me be in public.

But that’s not exactly true, because the pandemic did quite a number on me. In 2020, I went for long stretches of time without leaving my apartment, over 60 days at the longest, because I feared the xenophobia I would encounter in public as an Asian American woman. And after I moved to the Pacific Northwest, going anywhere in public was even more terrifying, because I didn’t have any spaces known to be safe, or ones that held good memories for me. I didn’t have close friends to lean on when going back out in the world. I talked myself out of social events, making friends, and even everyday activities, like grocery shopping and going for a walk. I ordered all of my groceries curbside, cooked all of my own food, and actively avoided friendships, all the while telling myself that this partial life of mine was just fine. I convinced myself that being able to feel safe leaving my house isn’t a need.

Is this something you resonate with? Not wanting to take or even ask for accommodations, because it doesn’t quite feel like a need? Living your life in fractions, because you’re convinced that asking for more is unreasonable? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and identifying and advocating for our needs.

<brief theme music>

As with other wellness terminology, the word “needs” is used quite often, but isn’t always defined in a way that is useful, in my opinion. It’s regularly used as a shorthand for someone trying to convey that someone should give them something, often without exploration. Even in sessions with my clients, they will share something they are demanding from a partner, boss, friend, or family member, typically followed by a complaint that the person isn’t giving it to them. I often ask what makes it a need, and the response is often a slack jawed, wide-eyed paralysis, because it’s not something they’ve considered before.

The opposite also happens, when a client will complain about how awful another person is to them, and I ask them what they would need from this other person for them to not feel that way about them. In that scenario, the same response is common.

I’m not asking these questions to invalidate their experience or show them that they’re wrong. Quite the reverse, really. Often, if we want to advocate for our needs, we need to understand what makes it a need, so when we communicate this to others, we are more likely to receive those needs, because they understand the effects that the changed behavior has on us, and how they can succeed in giving us what we need. That exploration process also brings clarity to what the actual need is, and it’s common for my clients to realize that the thing they’re demanding is not the actual need, but a bandaid for what their actual needs are. It’s also common for another solution to exist that would give them their needs with less of a sacrifice from the other person. Clarity of our needs is a wonderful thing.

So how do we get there? To figure out what our needs are, it helps to define what a need can be. We can start with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a very famous way of defining and describing needs. You’ve probably seen the pyramid diagram that’s used to describe this hierarchy of needs.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who theorized that there are five stages of needs. The first four stages can be classified as deficiency needs, or D-needs. Those go in order from physiological needs, to safety and security, to love and belonging, to self esteem. 

Physiological Needs include having access to breathable air, food, water, shelter, clothing, and sleep. They are the most basic needs a human has to have in order to live. Then we have Safety and Security, which include health, employment, property, family, and social ability. These are needs that ensure physical needs can continue to be met. Then we have Love and Belonging, which are needs involving connection with others, like friendship, family, and intimacy. The last of the deficiency needs is Self-Esteem, which describes confidence, achievement, respect, and individualism.

It becomes harder to work on the stages above if the needs below aren’t being met, and every time we are lacking in one need, we fall greater into deficiency, which makes yearning for the need stronger. For example, it can be hard to take care of our health and find employment, two things in the Safety and Security second stage, if we do not have consistent access to food, water, shelter, clean air, etc. from the Physiological Needs stage, and the longer someone starves without food or water, the greater their motivation and energy go toward procuring that food and/or water. Once we feel secure in our lower level needs, they disappear from our motivation, and we start tackling the needs on a higher level. Basically, the more we’re deficient in lower stage needs, the less attention we can and want to give to attaining higher level needs.

The last level is Self Actualization, as it’s the sole stage in the bucket of growth or being needs, or B-needs. Usually, when someone works on needs at this stage, they are pretty secure in their D-needs, and can then strive for morality, creativity, purpose, and inner potential.

All of this is really important when it comes to advocating for our needs, because everyone is at a different point in tackling their needs, maybe even in completely different stages. Let’s say my friend is upset that her husband is complaining about her to his coworkers. Her need for respect from others is not being met, which is in the Self-Esteem stage. Undoubtedly, someone will tell her that she is being unreasonable for being upset, because they’ve been trying to find a partner for years, and she should be happy that she has a husband who loves her so much. What’s happening is that the need for love and intimacy that one person is deficient in is dominating their motivation, and they’re not even looking at respect from their husband, because their need to have a partner is something they feel so strongly deficient in. They can’t even consider the needs of someone at a higher need stage.

This kind of reactionary feedback can be really frustrating to hear, and completely isolating. It can make us feel like we don’t have the right to feel deficient in our needs, because others tell us it’s not reasonable for us to want to fulfill those needs. For those of us with ADHD and emotional dysregulation, especially those of us with Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, or RSD, the effects can be devastating. It’s common for us to file asking for or talking about our needs as something that will lead to rejection and isolation, or to feel lots of shame, and the result can often be talking ourselves out of those needs, or never communicating them. Both actions have very destructive outcomes. When we talk ourselves out of our needs, it doesn’t mean that the needs go away. We just feel a sense of unfulfillment, and because we’ve assured ourselves it isn’t reasonable to feel this way because of “those things”, it can feel like there is no end in sight to our dissatisfaction with life. In some cases, this can lead to us seeking more novel things, making impulsive actions, or generally trying to shake things up, because we can’t figure out why we feel this empty, given everything in our lives. And the result from those actions can even sometimes throw our previously secure stages of needs back into deficiency. Have you ever quit your job because you felt unfulfilled and dissatisfied, only to discover later on that your bank account is getting low, and you might not be able to pay your rent? Maybe I’m inserting a little too much of my current life into these examples.

But that’s a great point, too. Once we are secure in our needs and move up the next stage, we can also forget that our lower needs are still there, because it’s not something we have to be actively motivated to receive anymore. Sometimes, we can become fixated on the need we feel we are deficient in, and make a decision in an attempt to get that need that throws our lower level needs into jeopardy. A good example is having a partner who can pull their weight, financially, and is also loving, supportive, and emotionally available, and makes us feel good about ourselves. But maybe they’re boring, or you crave more intellectually stimulating conversation, or they don’t recycle. Creativity and morality, two of the B-needs, in the Self Actualization stage. We can be so fixated on fulfilling that missing need for excitement, creativity, and morally perfect actions that we break up with them in favor of someone who is interesting and more morally right, but maybe doesn’t treat us with respect, is emotionally stunted, and doesn’t have a job. I’ve been yelling at my TV a lot lately, can you tell?

With ADHD, this scenario is even more likely, because of what our brains crave. The needs in the Self Actualization B-needs stage, that people strive for once their other needs are met? Let me name a few of them. Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice. Sound familiar? Every ADHD person I know is constantly seeking those things, even those who are struggling to stay employed or have a place to live. I would argue that instead of being a B-need, Self Actualization qualities are actually D-needs for those of us with ADHD. Instead of it appearing at the top of the pyramid, self actualization is a sliver that runs along the edge of every stage of needs. This is probably why when we express our concern for our self actualization needs not being met, a common thing we are told is that we’re focused on the wrong things, especially by neurotypicals. Has that ever happened to you? Like you say that you’re trying to find a job that lets you be more creative, and someone tells you that you should focus on getting any job, because you’re unemployed, and having a job is more important than being creative? This might be why a lot of us ADHD individuals don’t trust our needs, or our instincts. Because for our whole lives, people have been telling us that we are thinking incorrectly. Eventually, we will listen to them, and conform to thinking that our needs and instincts are wrong. Not only are we told that, but usually in a way that is not gentle or compassionate, which can spark heavy feelings of rejection sensitivity dysphoria, or RSD. But our needs and instincts are not wrong, not to us, anyway, because the structure of our needs can be wildly different from our neurotypical peers.

Another way our needs get disqualified by others is when we are told we are using something as a “crutch”. I get a reaction anytime that word is used, because it completely misses the point of the word. When others accuse us of using something or someone as a crutch, they usually mean it in an ableist or derogatory way, like a crutch isn’t needed, and that if someone didn’t have that crutch, they would improve faster. But crutches are extremely useful and sometimes necessary. If you break your leg, crutches are employed to make sure weight is kept off your leg, so the bone can heal properly. Refusing to use crutches with a broken leg doesn’t mean that you’ll heal faster. It probably means you’ll heal much slower, or create more lasting damage. And crutches aren’t fun and easy to use. I don’t know anyone who would stay using their crutches when their broken leg is fully healed, because they’re cumbersome and uncomfortable to use without a need to. 

Similarly, it would be much easier for me to go to a grocery store or other public place without Arlo if my anxiety levels functioned the same with or without him, because having him at my hip drastically reduces my range of motion, my ability to carry things in my arms, or shop for hours on end without a doggy potty break. Not to mention trying on clothes. Training him to be calm and carry out his service dog duties was also not a walk in the park. But before I started training him to be my service dog, my high anxiety, near-panic shopping trips without him were not helping me get out there more. They were effectively reinforcing this notion that going out in public is a hugely unpleasant experience. When I started using Arlo as my service dog? Suddenly, the store didn’t feel so scary, and the people in it became less of a threat. And other than the fact that Arlo is so cute and everyone wants to stop me to talk about him, my social anxiety only saw huge improvements. My anxiety levels in stores have fallen off a cliff, and with each outing with him, I get closer and closer to feeling comfortable shopping without him. I think I’m very close to being able to go out in public without him now, which is something I didn’t see happening before I started service dog training.

This is another thing to consider, that with the right support, needs can change. This applies to everyone, even neurotypicals. As lower level needs are tackled, they disappear from what we are seeking, and another set of needs to fulfill takes its place. With ADHD, sometimes the needs that are consistently met will be thrown into jeopardy, especially with emotional dysregulation, RSD, and other factors that ADHD can bring. 

A few weeks ago, I encountered a devastating blow to my financial security after standing up to a lack of inclusion in ADHD organizations, and suddenly had the fear that I had put my career in jeopardy. If you’re curious about that, you can see the post I made on my Instagram account @adhdjaye. From that, I also experienced friends being flippant to my experience of feeling excluded as an Asian American, or being told that the problematic response someone gave me is justified or understandable, while my advocating for myself is not. This crushed my emotional stability for the last few weeks, as my needs in Love and Belonging and Safety and Security were now jeopardized and deficient. I had to abandon a lot of my productivity and goals for the last few weeks to recover from that blow and do what I needed to feel safe and secure in those stages, which is why this podcast episode came out so much later than intended. There will be moments in our lives where the meeting of our needs will shift, temporarily or indefinitely. This happens with everyone, but again, is more pronounced with how ADHD brains tend to work. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention to the shift, and turn our focus to repair and intention.

I just talked about a whole bunch of ways ADHD can affect our needs, and the challenges that creates. Now let’s talk about ways to manage that.

To get more clarity of our needs, it helps to talk things through. After all, ADHD folk tend to be verbal processors, and we can become a lot more clear on our thoughts when we say them out loud. We can do this with friends and family, but as I often say, this can lead to distortions, because our friends and family function to support us, and tend to agree with us and amplify our initial thoughts, even if they’re not productive. My top choice for this processing is with professionals, like a therapist or ADHD coach.

When we are seeking higher level needs when lower level needs are yet to be met, this clarity can give us great perspective. I’ve seen someone recognize that their priorities don’t serve them, and make the decision themselves that they want to focus on maintaining their lower level needs over reaching for a higher level need. This is very different from hearing from someone else that our priorities are wrong, because we are making that decision for ourselves, and that autonomy does wonders for our motivation and focus.

When others tell us that our priorities are wrong, or that we’re using something as a crutch, we can inform them that our needs structure might be different from theirs, and it’s important for us to make our own decisions. It’s ok for them not to agree with our needs structure, but we would like them to keep it to themselves, and we will ask them for their opinion if we want it. Enforce that boundary if it exists for you. If you have the energy for it, you can explain to them why this is an important need for you, and how it can differ from what they consider to be a need for themselves.

And as I said before, it can be helpful to periodically check back in with our needs, so we can determine whether or not our needs have changed, and to address it accordingly as it happens.

Our needs may be different from those of others, and can even be different from the needs of other ADHD folk, because where we are in the hierarchy of needs, and what our priorities are differ from person to person. By being clear on where we are with our needs, and why those are important needs for us, we can be more successful in communicating and meeting them. And fulfilling a need that we’ve been striving for can feel so wonderful. I thank Arlo everyday for giving that to me.

You’ve made it to the end of the episode on identifying and advocating for our needs. To recap, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says that there are four stages of needs that will make us feel deficient if we’re not meeting them, and that once lower level needs are met, the focus shifts to higher and higher level needs. It’s possible that by doing an action to meet a higher level need, we throw our lower level needs into jeopardy, especially if we’ve become unaware of those needs due to regularly having them met, so it’s important to get clarity on our full scope of needs before we take on appropriate actions.

The self actualization stage, which includes morality, creativity, and spontaneity, is typically something that humans seek only once all of their other needs are met. However, ADHD individuals can feel deficient if those self actualization needs aren’t being met, and can even feel like those needs are at a higher priority than lower level needs. This can cause RSD, shame, and distrust in both our instincts and needs when others tell us that our priorities are all wrong. Others can also accuse us of using something as a “crutch”, which completely overlooks the fact that crutches are useful tools that encourage progress and healing, and no one chooses to use crutches if there is no need for them. In both of these situations, it can be helpful to inform them that our need structures are different from theirs, and that if we want their opinion about our needs, we will ask them for it.

It’s possible for a need to be a temporary, beneficial crutch, and something that doesn’t need to be in place forever. Our needs can change regularly, either temporarily or indefinitely, so check in on them regularly. 

If you found this episode to be enjoyable or informative, please tell your friends and family members with ADHD, and/or give us a review wherever you get your podcasts. If you want to read transcripts or show notes, find out more about me, Jaye Lin, or give suggestions on future episodes, please go to our website, That’s the acronym for Now Presenting: ADHD, Or you can follow us on Instagram, @NPADHDpodcast. Thanks for listening, and we hope to see you again soon!