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She rose to fame in the 2017 series of Love Island and became renowned for her outbursts and feisty attitude. But Olivia Attwood – who came third on the show with now ex-boyfriend Chris Hughes – admits her unpredictable moments were often due to her battle with ADHD.
The 29-year-old was first diagnosed with the condition as a child and later received a second diagnosis as an adult in her early twenties. She only spoke out about the condition for the first time last year and admits she feels there’s still a big stigma around it. “I want to raise more awareness about the condition. It’s not something to be embarrassed about,” she says.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults can be impulsiveness, disorganisation, problem prioritising and multitasking, poor time management skills and problems focusing on a task. It’s thought that around 1.5 million adults in the UK have ADHD but only 120,000 are formally diagnosed.
Here, Olivia opens up about accepting her diagnosis, learning to avoid her triggers and finding unconditional support from her fiancé Bradley Dack…
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When were you first diagnosed with ADHD?
When I was a child. I’m not sure of my exact age, but I remember I always had a short attention span and would get in trouble at school for doing impulsive things and not knowing why I’d done them. Someone at the school suggested to my mum that I got a test. After my diagnosis, I was never medicated – I didn’t feel it was discussed much after that.
You were diagnosed again later in life…
Yes, around four or five years ago. I was going through a real bad patch with my anxiety and I was quite depressed. A whole cocktail of things were going on. I went to the doctors and during an assessment, she asked if I’d ever had an ADHD diagnosis as a child. She explained to me that they are two different diagnoses, as symptoms present themselves differently in children than they do in adults. But she said it’s not uncommon for the condition to follow you into later life.
How did you feel when you got diagnosed?
It explained a lot. Once I learned more about my behaviours, the triggers and also coping mechanisms, I felt so different. It was a positive step.
What are the biggest symptoms for you?
Not being able to switch off or feeling like my brain is a computer with too many tabs open. My mind runs on a hamster wheel and a lack of concentration. Some days are worse than others. I can feel really overwhelmed if I’m not careful.
What are your coping strategies?
I’ve worked out the best thing for me is trying to put pen to paper. Writing to-do lists that can help me organise my day or a project I’m working on. It helps when I see structure written down on paper. I try to avoid triggers like alcohol, which may seem surprising to people who think of me as a party girl! But I really try not to drink at home. I also find exercise is great at calming my mind when it’s overactive. I really like structure and routine so I try and bring that into my life when I can.
How did your experience on Love Island affect your ADHD?
It’s a high pressure environment and the way my ADHD presented itself on Love Island was when I was being very impulsive. Saying I liked one person one day and another person the next. I looked erratic and I was. If I’d stepped back and had more of a think of what I was going to say rather than just blurting stuff out, it might have been better.
Do you feel you were quite misunderstood?
I think I was a bit misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t go through your life making excuses for yourself and sometimes it’s just bad judgement. The stressful thing about Love Island is someone else is planning your day out for you. You don’t even know the time. I had a great experience on the show and felt looked after but there were definitely parts of the show that triggered me.
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How does Bradley support you?
He’s great at reminding me when I’m overworking myself. He’ll force me to stop if he realises I’m doing too much or getting too overwhelmed with something. I need someone like him because he’s so calm and relaxed. I couldn’t be with someone with a similar personality to me, it wouldn’t work.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions surrounding the condition?
When you say “ADHD”, I think people think of hyper children, especially boys. Doctors have told me that, as girls socialise at a quicker rate, they can control their behaviour a bit better and that can often mean it goes undiagnosed. When I wrote on my Instagram Story about ADHD, I got so many messages from mums whose daughters received the diagnosis and felt ashamed. That makes me sad, so I want to raise awareness about the condition. It’s not something to be embarrassed about and now I know my triggers, I know how to live with it.
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