Randall Duthler and the Emotional Components of ADHD



From the emotion he felt when he first started treatment to the emotional regulation that comes with ADHD, ADHD Online co-founder Randall Duthler shares his story with us.

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:02):

Welcome to Refocused, Together. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and this is a special ADHD awareness month series of my podcast Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel.


If you’re a regular listener, you know that the Refocused Podcast is where we change the narrative around ADHD and share the tips and tools we need to refocus and live our best lives.


If you’re new here and found us because of ADHD Awareness Month, welcome. We are so glad to have you.


Now, there are parts of this ADHD journey that some of us have figured out, and there are parts that we all still need help cracking. So for ADHD Awareness Month, I’m collaborating as always with my partner, ADHD Online to interview 31 people. That’s one interview for every day of the month about their own ADHD experience.


We’ll hear from people who were diagnosed as kids and those diagnosed well into adulthood. We’ll talk about hyper-focus and distraction, stigma and shame, grief and acceptance, and so much more. And we’ll see that ADHD can affect anyone, all genders, orientations, backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. And while there are differences in how we live this truth, there are also so many similarities that bring us together in community. This special project is very near and dear to my heart.


Although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story, and I am forever changed by these conversations. And of course, I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel so that you don’t miss a single story this month. And with that, let’s get on to today’s episode.


After struggling for years with disorganization, Dr. Randall Duthler was diagnosed with ADHD while studying pre-med at Michigan State.


It wasn’t something the co-founder and now Chief Innovation Officer for ADHD Online had ever considered. From a young age, the ADHD label carried a stigma, but thankfully, Dr. Duthler was able to find someone who put the pieces together for him and recommended an assessment. And as he learned to let go of the negative feelings that came with his diagnosis, Randy started to see the many gifts ADHD brought into his life. Always able to see things from a different angle, he regularly offered solutions that others might not have considered. And years later, he’s learned to balance his busy mind by slowing down and trying to be more purposeful when communicating with others or trying to complete tasks that require sustained attention. Being open and honest about his self-described deficiencies has strengthened his relationships, especially with his wife, a former project manager who helps him prioritize tasks and maintain a healthy work life balance. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Randall Duthler, Chief Innovation Officer and co-founder of ADHD Online.


Dr. Duthler, I’m so excited to sit down and yeah, hear a little bit more about your own ADHD journey, and I’m hoping that we might be able to go back to when you were diagnosed.

Randy Duthler (03:52):

I was diagnosed during a pre-med program at Michigan State University, and I had always struggled in high school. Elementary school was easy, got a little more difficult through middle school and then high school I struggled and it was tough. College, the pre-med program was difficult. And so my doctor suggested that I get tested. Now, this is in the mid nineties, so even then ADHD was not really a thing. No, but I was definitely positive, I’ll put it like that. I was definitely positive.

Lindsay Guentzel (04:26):

I did very well on my exam as well.

Randy Duthler (04:27):

Right. It’s not a competition, but I was definitely positive. And this whole thing with this whole grieving your past, I felt that quite a bit. But I remember the day I took the medication the first day and I had a microbiology class I had to go to, and I took my medication and I rode my bike to class and I sat down and it was, it’s almost a little emotional because I remember looking at the professor and the distractions melted away and this clarity of thought came upon me and my notes were immaculate and I remembered everything and I left the class just awestruck.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:08):

Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I know it’s hard. And I felt it too. Mine was not as monumental in the fact that you were in a microbiology class in a pre-med program. I was in a TJ Maxx parking lot and I had my realization, but it is, it’s really nice to know that it happens for a lot of people and medication isn’t for everyone. So that’s a very important part of it. But I’m curious that diagnosis and that moment of clarity for you, can you look back and see that that is a major point in your life, in your career?

Randy Duthler (05:42):

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I don’t think I would’ve made it through the pre-med program without it, because for a lot of people it isn’t just school. There are other responsibilities. I had to work. I had to work study time into that. So studying had to be productive. It was extremely important to make it through that. And I had to take very challenging classes and I don’t think I would’ve been successful.


And it’s nice to know that you’re not broken. You see all these other people succeeding around you. And with ADHD, it’s easy to feel paralyzed by these tasks and to realize that you do have the same potential because this is the thing we have to really drive home to people that ADHD that is not a diagnosis of low intelligence, is actually quite the contrary. People with ADHD oftentimes have high intelligence. I just saw a very young kid yesterday, I think he was six, scored very high in his IQ, but is really, really struggling socially and stuff in school. And that’s the problem. And now parents are aware of this, they’re ahead of it now, and he’s not going to deal with all the things that I had to deal with in the past. But very easily, this extremely brilliant young man could have built this narrative for himself that he was unintelligent. And that’s a shame.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:55):

It is.

Randy Duthler (06:55):

That’s a shame.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:56):

It is. And I think it’s something that a lot of people deal with, regardless of what your mental health diagnosis is. So I’m curious, when you look at how ADHD has affected your life, what are some of the negative things that stand out? And you talk about high school was difficult. Is it the organizational side of things? Is it staying focused?

Randy Duthler (07:13):

Yeah. Yes and yes. So there are some negativities there, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and honest with people around you so they can support you better. So I was fortunate enough, my wife was a project manager, and so…

Lindsay Guentzel (07:28):

Good partnership.

Randy Duthler (07:30):

Oh my word. Yes. So and very good with money too. And so she supports me, she writes lists for me. We talk about my deficiencies pretty openly, and I have a great executive administrator that helps with scheduling. So that’s the biggest thing. Time management is huge with ADHD, and I still struggle with that because in our minds, our minds go so much faster. And so if I plan out my day and say, “Okay, I’ve got these four or five things I have to get done.” In my mind, I’m going to bang those out really fast. But in reality, it takes longer. And we don’t account for things like travel time or those things. So we’re chronically running behind. We’re chronically feeling stressed out because of the scheduling issues. So that’s one deficiency. And the other one is prioritizing tasks. Because as ADHD-er, we prioritize tasks, not necessarily based on urgency, but how much that stimulates us during the day. So maybe this project needs to be done, but I really like this project.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:28):


Randy Duthler (08:28):

So I’m going to do that one instead.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:30):

The shiny object.

Randy Duthler (08:31):

The shiny object.

Speaker 2 (08:32):

The thing is, we say the shiny object and we joke about it but it’s really the dopamine.

Randy Duthler (08:37):

It is. Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it absolutely is. And then getting distracted. So you may be in the middle of a task and that task generates a new task, and now you’re off doing that. So once you recognize the deficiencies, you can start to mitigate them. But you have to be honest with yourself that they exist. And I think people who are newly diagnosed maybe seeing this or hearing us, they may not realize that those deficiencies exist until now. They may be sitting there saying, “Oh my word, this is me. This is what I do. This is ADHD. I never knew that.” Yes.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:08):

And I will tell you, for ADHD Awareness Month and Refocused, Together, which, 31 episodes, 31 stories in 31 days, every person I talked to mentioned something new where I was like, “Oh!”

Randy Duthler (09:21):

Those light bulb moments.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:21):

Light bulb moments. I mean, time blindness, Yes. I always knew I ran late, but why was I running late? Because my five minute trip into Target is never five minutes. It is never. But it’s interesting, the self-awareness that comes from being open about things.

Randy Duthler (09:38):

And the other thing with people with ADHD is deadlines play a huge role. And so many times if you say, “You have 30 days to get this project done”, we’re going to sit on that project until the very last minute. And it’s almost, I don’t know if it’s stimulating or something, but having that timer up against…

Lindsay Guentzel (09:56):

It’s the urgency.

Randy Duthler (09:57):

It’s the urgency. And so it’s…

Lindsay Guentzel (09:59):

The adrenaline rush. We kind of live for it.

Randy Duthler (10:00):

Right. And people without a ADHD say, “Why do you wait to do it?” There’s kind of a running joke with my wife and I tell her, If you go and do something and you say, Have the house ready, I’ll be home at five. Don’t show up at 4:45 because it’s not going to be done.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:16):

Could you tell my mother that? Cause I feel this.

Randy Duthler (10:18):

It’s how it is.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:18):

It’s the worst.

Randy Duthler (10:19):

It is. I mean, I have all day to do the task, but if you tell me you’re going to be here at five and you need these things done, don’t show up early because they won’t be done. Or at least don’t be mad if you show up early.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:27):

Right. I’m like getting dressed, whatever dinner and the dog is barking. I’m like, Mom, 30 minutes early. Come on.

Randy Duthler (10:33):

You know what’s really telling? I love, love to talk about how people clean their house with ADHD. I don’t know if you’ve seen this in yourself, but you watch someone without ADHD and they’ll clean one room and they’ll organize it all and they’ll find things that go in other rooms, they’ll put them in piles and then they’ll take them up. But people with ADHD will start in the kitchen and we find the phone charge and then we bring it up to our room. And now I’m cleaning the room and now I find the cup and I’m back in the kitchen. And this is how people with ADHD function, and we get it all done, but it’s the distractability is, you really have to be cognizant of it to be effective.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:08):

The smirk on my face is, “Yes, of course. I totally know what that’s like. Because that is exactly how, not only I clean my house, but I go through the day.”

Randy Duthler (11:14):


Lindsay Guentzel (11:15):

So I would love to know, from your perspective as a healthcare provider, how instrumental has it been being able to share your own experience, or at least give people who come in to talk about ADHD? You can empathize. You can offer actual solutions that work because you’ve either tried them or you’ve looked into them. It’s such a complex diagnosis and I think people get really overwhelmed by it.

Randy Duthler (11:44):

I think it depends on the age, the impact that we’re having. So for younger patients, we talk about emotional regulation, we talk about this concept of rejection dysphoria, we talk about impulsivity and how that impacts interpersonal relationships with other students. And even parents. I’ve had parents say, “I love my child, but this draw of attention is so much that the house almost revolves around this person.”


And I don’t want to use the word resentment, but it’s a struggle. And when the child’s away at a play date or something, whole house can breathe. So making people aware of that and helping them navigate that is really, really helpful. And in the adult world, helping them understand that this early phase of distractability can be harnessed into this world of brilliance and ideas, because we only talk about the negativity of ADHD. But that’s why many CEOs and entrepreneurs and people who are very creative have an ADHD call it maybe even a background, but diagnosis because we see angles that other people don’t see. We think outside of the box. And again, many people that HD have very high IQs, they’re very intelligent. And so if you can harness that and mitigate some of the more problematic issues, people with ADHD can be very successful. And I think if you polled people with high level positions, CEOs and innovators, I think you’d be surprised at the number that actually have ADHD.

Lindsay Guentzel (13:14):

Well, and I think it’s just going to continue to rise. The pandemic really opened up the conversation about what was going on for all of us and where our struggles were. And I was diagnosed right before turning 35. People I’ve talked to for the podcast, diagnosed in their fifties. And the common denominator is when the structure or the coping mechanisms or the support like a spouse are gone, that’s when your real brain, so to speak, kind of comes into action.

Randy Duthler (13:51):

And that’s true. And it will rear its head in different situations. So you’ll have somebody who’s been compensating for say, 10 years, then they get a promotion or a new job that requires training and some other heavy lifting from a concentration standpoint, and then it rears its head again. And so I have patients that they take medication for a short period of time studying for a professional exam, or they have a promotion. And so we want to support them in those different phases of their lives. I have one patient who’s like, he works in construction and Friday mornings are his paperwork day. So he takes one immediate release pill in the morning on Friday mornings, he does his payroll, all his receipts, and then when he is out working, he doesn’t need it.


And so in the adult world, really understanding what is the impact in each situation and then how can we mitigate that without medication and where does medication play a role in supporting that person? It’s not just a rubber stamp diagnosis and it’s not a one size fits all medication regimen. You really have to consider all of the factors and build a plan that works for each patient.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:57):

And it’s other things like sleep and exercise and food.

Randy Duthler (15:00):

It is, yes. And the art of medicine comes in knowing which drugs do multiple things. So for example, if I have a patient that has social anxieties, speaking in public, less of a hyperactive component and more of an inattentive component, I may use a drug like propranolol or Inderal, which helps with that. And then a very low dose stimulant. Someone who has some agitated depression alongside of their ADHD, more of an impulsivity issue. I may lean towards Wellbutrin in that patient.


And so this is where the expertise comes in saying to patients, Okay, we’re going to look at the whole picture of you, not just ADHD, all of your issues, and then find a regimen that makes it most successful. Taking the least amount of medication to be helped.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:45):

When you look at how ADHD shows up in your life, what do you see as the positives? What’s your superpower?

Randy Duthler (15:53):

Well, I think people with ADHD are fun. We’re fun people.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:58):

We are fun.

Randy Duthler (15:58):

We’re fun people to be around. And a lot of us are charismatic and public speakers. So I think that’s the fun part. As we age, and as Zach mentioned, I have a son with ADHD. We have a riot together because we have similar personalities. And I’m very honest with my son about it too, that I have it. He sees my deficiencies as an adult, then I help him to not step on those landmines when he gets older. But yeah, I think just being honest with yourself, comfortable with yourself, embracing those deficiencies and recognizing the gifts is the key to success with ADHD as an adult.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:40):

So one of the things that stood out to me with some of the people I talked to was like the positivity and the self-awareness.

Randy Duthler (16:45):

Yes, yes.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:47):

I want to end by asking, and I’m very curious because being a healthcare provider.

Randy Duthler (16:51):


Lindsay Guentzel (16:52):

When you look at ADHD and we’ve come so far, even just since ADHD Online was started, the pandemic really escalated our understanding because we had to figure it out. When you look at ADHD and what the general public knows about it, what do you wish you could change?

Randy Duthler (17:11):

Oh, that’s a great question. So many things. One is that it’s not a diagnosis of character. It’s brain chemistry is what it is. And so it’s really important that kids know they’re not broken, even adults, and it’s something that should be addressed. It’s something that when kids take medication, they have to understand it’s not making them smarter. It just helps them to focus a little bit more. So a lot of time on education. But the one thing I want people to know with ADHD is that it can be a superpower. The potential’s there. And in a population who sometimes sees a very dull future and underestimates their potential, the number one thing I want them to know is that this harness correctly can be a superpower that can make you very, very successful and you can be successful because of the ADHD, not in spite of the ADHD.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:02):

Well, Dr. Duthler. Thank you so much for sharing your story for ADHD Awareness Month.

Randy Duthler (18:06):

My pleasure.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:06):

I truly appreciate you coming here. Thank you.

Randy Duthler (18:08):

You bet.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:21):

There are so many people to thank for making Refocused, Together happen, the entire team at ADHD Online, Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy. My teammates, Keith Boswell, Suzanne Spruit, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pip, Sissy Yee, Trisha Merchant Dunny, Lauren Bradley, Corey Kearney, and Mason Nelly, and the team at Dexia, Hector and Kenneth, and the team at Snack Media, Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Galbard, Phil Roaderman, Jake Beaver, and Sarah Platonitis.


Our theme music was created by Lewis Ingles, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39.


To find out more about Refocused, Together or to share your story with me, head over to ADHD Online.com and check out the ADHD Awareness Month page, which highlights this project as well as each day’s episode after they’ve been released. You can also find out more by following along on social @LindsayGuentzel and @refocusedpod.

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Looking to take our Assessment? That’s available all day, every day, whenever and wherever is best for you!

ADHD Online will be closed on June 19th in observance of Juneteenth.

Live support will be unavailable while we’re closed but you can always submit a request or leave a voice message. We’ll get back to you when we return on Tuesday, June 20th.

Each of our clinicians sets their own holiday hours. Check with your doctor for availability.

Looking to take our Assessment? That’s available all day, every day, whenever and wherever is best for you!