If you know someone with true Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you might have experienced frustration with them at least once. The symptoms of ADHD make it difficult for the person to function easily in certain areas of life, resulting in teachers, parents, friends, siblings, co-workers or even partners to become exasperated.
Irritation builds over time and close friends, family and colleagues may find themselves taking out their emotions on their loved one. Hurtful comments that stem from frustration and also often love, can harm the person’s self-esteem and may also exacerbate the very symptoms that are causing the angst.
People living with ADHD know that they have a problem and that sometimes their symptoms cause difficulties for others. Many people with ADHD often feel guilty for their behavior and tend to have low self-esteem, which are fueled by comments such as those below. If you find yourself frustrated with a loved one’s ADHD symptoms, take a break and walk away but do not say the following to them:
Try harder. This is a phrase most parents and teachers will say to a child with ADHD if they are not seeing the academic results that they expect. The problem is not that the child is not trying or that the child is lazy. The reason they may be having trouble in school (or at work) is because the learning style that is expected of them is not possible given their diagnosis. Instead of saying this, try to find a creative way to teach the child. Work with the symptoms and not against them.
Just focus. If it were that simple, the person with ADHD would have done it years ago. Difficulty focusing is one of the main issues that people with ADHD have. Saying this is like telling a person with a fever to just cool down. Nothing can be done and the person is left feeling inadequate for being able to change something that they cannot control.
Can’t you sit still for 5 minutes? The answer is no. A person with ADHD has a brain that is working overtime and when an activity is not sufficiently engaging, the person will begin to fidget. Imagine yourself in the most boring setting that you can think of. Eventually you will begin to fidget as well because your mind is not being adequately stimulated. This is exactly what happens to people with ADHD, just far more often.
But “so and so” doesn’t do this. Never compare your children, spouse or any loved one to someone else. Truthfully, in their mind they have already made this comparison and realize that they come up short. By doing this, you are directly harming their self-esteem. They will feel undervalued and like your love or support is conditional to how they behave. Unfortunately, the behaviors you are complaining about are not always in their control so they assume that they must be damaged or unlovable.
It’s just a phase. ADHD is not a phase but a real and genetic mental health disorder. It is also marked by physiological changes in the brain. People with ADHD, even if they are young, know that something is different about them. Waving their behavior off as a phase feels invalidating to them and feels as if you are not paying attention or prioritizing their needs. This can damage their relationship with you and can also hurt their sense of self-worth.
Living or working with someone with ADHD can be a very trying experience and numerous families, couples and workplaces experience the stress that the symptoms cause. However, this stress taken out on the person living with ADHD because they are living with their own anxieties of having the disorder.
Understanding the causes of ADHD can help manage your frustration better and can help you understand that they are not trying to upset you on purpose. With the proper assessment and treatment, a person with ADHD can manage their symptoms successfully and thus remove some strain from their professional and personal relationships.
What else do you think you should never say to someone with ADHD? Please leave your comments below.