It seems that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a fairly common condition these days in both adults and in children so whether you struggle with this as a parent or you worry for your child, there are lots of great resources to help deal with having ADHD. Today, I am very happy to have Dr. Dawn Kamilah Brown, MD, author of The ADHD Lifestyle Series (affiliate link below) share with us all about ADHD self-esteem issues and how to cope with the symptoms of ADHD and improve low self-esteem.
Dr. Dawn was diagnosed with ADHD herself while completing her child fellowship program, during her early 30’s. As a result, she possesses a unique understanding of the frustrations surrounding treatment and the need for compassionate, ongoing support. Her advocacy for getting properly diagnosed with ADHD has garnered acclaim from across the nation. She is highly sought-after for her expertise and appears frequently in television interviews, podcasts, and online publications. Dr. Dawn reminds parents that ADHD is a hard experience, but that’s not their fault and there is help available.
Does ADHD Cause Low Self-Esteem?
By Dr. Dawn Brown Psych MD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a medical condition that affects around 11 percent of the American population. In spite of that staggering statistic, we’re just starting to understand how debilitating it can be to a person’s well-being. The inability to focus, hyperactivity, poor time management skills, and a low tolerance for frustration are just a few of the symptoms that may appear in ADHD cases.
One area of the condition that people often overlook is the effect ADHD can have on self-esteem. Because some of the symptoms may cause a number of challenges in daily life, it can make success in school or at work difficult to achieve. People may feel inadequate, or like they are unable to achieve consistent results.
How Does ADHD Cause Low Self-Esteem?
The symptoms of ADHD can be disruptive, even when it comes to planning or accomplishing what many consider simple tasks. If a person experiences the disconnect between what appears simple for others, while it is endlessly difficult for themselves, it can be frustrating.
Someone may be suffering from the symptoms of ADHD without being aware that they have the condition. Without a proper diagnosis, those disruptive symptoms, the difficulties they cause, and the feelings of inadequacy associated can lead to low self-esteem.
Even a diagnosis isn’t guaranteed to improve the situation. While it helps identify the why behind a person’s struggle with focus, organization, or responding to a stressful environment, it doesn’t alleviate the symptoms or the reaction to those symptoms. Once again, this can interfere with the development of a person’s confidence.
School and work are two prime examples of where the disruptive nature of ADHD can lead to low self-esteem. Even if an individual is particularly intelligent or capable, the lack of focus, the organizational skills, all of these things can interfere with grades or performance. Because people are prone to comparing themselves to their peers, a difference in grades or a difference in ability to perform whatever task can lead to low self-esteem.
Luckily, there are things that can be done to reduce some of the common self-esteem issues that stem from ADHD.
Let’s explore them below:
How to Improve Self-Esteem When Dealing with ADHD?
In spite of the trouble ADHD can sometimes cause, there are a number of effective methods for coping with the symptoms and improving your confidence in the process.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
If you’re dealing with ADHD, it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge your accomplishments. Chances are that you’ve got plenty going on day to day, and if you’re suffering from low self-esteem it’s easy to overlook the things you’ve done well. It’s also easy to fixate on things that have gone wrong, which is why it’s important to occasionally step back, really consider what you have managed to accomplish, and celebrate those steps.
Even if they’re relatively small points of progress or success, they can help alleviate some of the stress that comes from comparing yourself to others. If you follow certain metrics or set certain goals, it can be helpful to break those goals down into smaller achievements, and count your successes along the way.
Don’t Compare Your Milestones
As we’ve mentioned earlier, comparison can fuel anxiety and be damaging to your self-esteem. Now, it might be a common sentiment to either never compare or always compare or some other advice, but the reality is that it’s very difficult to avoid drawing comparisons. As humans, we look for patterns. Whether we want to fall in line with them or not is a different matter altogether.
The point here isn’t necessarily not to compare, or isolate yourself. It’s to remember that everyone is working on a different level. People excel in different areas, and comparing your milestones and goals to someone with a different condition, no condition, or any other set of experiences is going to be a difficult process. Referencing others is fine, but it’s important to set and accomplish your own goals, goals that make sense for you based on where you are in life.
It can be as big or small as you’d like in terms of those goals too! Struggling to write a paper? Aim to write a paragraph. Want to do better in class or at work overall? Focus more on your next project, paper, or assignment. Setting your own goals, rather than trying to accomplish someone else’s goals will make it easier to see and value your personal progress.
Develop Useful Habits
As a bit of an ongoing theme, developing useful habits can be an incredible way to help mitigate some of the stress that might come with ADHD. The specific habit will be an individual choice and process, but developing a system to regularly check yourself can offer a noticeable difference in your self-esteem.
One of the most effective habits to develop is finding time management systems that actually work for your individual needs and symptoms. Maybe you work best with a calendar that acts like a checklist, or maybe it’s setting a weekly alarm to remind you about some regular task. Not only will segmenting your experiences making it easier to manage, but it allows you to see measurable and regular success. It acts as a reminder, a chart for progress, and a goal plan all in one.
That’s just one example, of course. The first step is to identify how your symptoms impact your life, and tailor habits that address the specific impact or symptom. Even the process of self-reflection can be useful, as it can help you identify the source of your personal frustration or lack of confidence. In many cases, simply recognizing the reservation can be a massive step forward in overcoming the issue. So take some time to really consider what you struggle with and how to address it, but don’t stress yourself about it!
Basically, Break It Down
For most, they probably already know what the hang up is, so this step will be a bit easier. If it’s hard to focus or digest tons and tons of info, just take smaller bites! It’s okay to break things down into tasks and time frames that don’t seem as overwhelming. If all else fails, it never hurts to ask for help. Whether it’s looking for a professional ADHD coach or having those close to you help organize things in a way that makes sense, an outside perspective can be a great way to see your own accomplishments. Oftentimes what we fail to see in ourselves, others can identify with ease, and having that external vote of confidence can be huge.
I hope you found Dr. Dawn’s tips on how to cope ADHD and improve you self esteem helpful.
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