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Why Am I So Sensitive? Why ADHD Brains Can’t Just Ignore Unfairness |

Marcy Caldwell, Psy.D.

Do you become overwhelmed or enraged by life’s unfairness and attacks on social justice? You may be experiencing the impact of a little-known ADHD trait called justice sensitivity.


Does walking past a sidewalk panhandler make you want to weep? Does the guy cutting the mile-long line at airport security send you into a rage? Do you feel paralyzed by a barrage of negative news?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may have the largely overlooked but hugely impactful ADHD trait called justice sensitivity. Whether it’s triggered by societal injustice or small inequities, justice sensitivity causes you to perceive unfairness and wrongdoing in the world more frequently — and to feel it more acutely — than do neurotypical peers.

Several studies have found that ADHD brains (particularly inattentive type) are significantly more justice-sensitive than are neurotypical brains. Possible reasons for this include emotional lability, intensity, and dysregulation, which are common symptoms of ADHD. But researchers also theorize that ADHD brains tend to perceive information with a less positive view; this, along with cognitive rigidity and ADHD-impacted brain networks, can lead to intense rumination. And it doesn’t stop there. Researchers found that people who have ADHD feel such a strong need to restore justice that they will take action to do so even if they hurt themselves in the long run.


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