“I have a hard time making friends at school.”
“I feel like the kids don’t like me and they don’t want to talk to me.”
“Most people think I am dumb, and they don’t want to get to know me.”
“I’ve said some things out of impulse and now everyone is gossiping about me around school.”
I’ve heard statements like this repeatedly from kids and teens who have been diagnosed with ADHD. The sad truth is that many of these kids are not exaggerating when it comes to their struggles with social engagement. For those who struggle with ADHD, getting to know people and forming healthy relationships can be extremely hard to do.
Why does this happen, you may ask? To put it simply, ADHD affects human growth and development of the brain. This does not mean that ADHD individuals are lacking in intelligence due to that delayed development. This just means that they grow and develop mentally and emotionally at a slower rate than their Neurotypical counterparts. This slow growth affects how these individuals interact with other people socially and how they form relationships.
Now you may be wondering:
- But why is it so difficult for my friend or loved one with ADHD to understand what I’m saying?
- Why do they keep forgetting to do what I’ve asked them to do?
- Why do they say cruel things to me?
While a blog post may not explain the entirety of what goes on in an ADHD individual’s mind, it can help with clearing up some problems that many people tend to face socially when they have this disorder.
The first challenge that many people with ADHD face is understanding social graces. This is mainly because in social dynamics what is seen as acceptable is constantly changing. For the ADHD individual, they struggle with keeping up with unspoken rules in social situations and are often fumbling around with finding people who do not mind being around them as a person. Additionally, ADHD individuals may not always be able to read emotional or facial cues that another person may be sending due to their minds constantly being distracted by other things that they deem is equally important. This can lead to the individual being seen as aloof and uncaring when in reality they are trying to gather as much information about the situation as possible.
Secondly, impulsivity can also be a challenge socially. Many ADHD individuals often interrupt others in the middle of conversations or do things that are undesired because of their impulsivity (i.e., a kiddo getting up and leaving a conversation because the topic is not interesting, etc.). There is also the constant physical movement that can be very distracting for other people trying to interact with said individual. Finally, there is the emotional impulsivity that can make conversations or social interactions difficult in the sense that many people feel like they must “tiptoe around” their friend or their loved one to avoid a negative outburst (i.e., the individual who cries whenever their friends tell them something difficult).
Thirdly, there is the short-term memory deficiency that tends to make interacting with ADHD individuals difficult. Parents, teachers, and siblings who are neurotypical tend to have a tough time with this particular challenge because it tends to give off the impression that the individual who has this problem does not care enough about them to remember things that are important. This couldn’t be further from the truth. ADHD is a condition that affects the part of the brain that is responsible for executive functioning, one of them being working memory. Because ADHD is very much in overdrive, it makes forming and cementing short term memories difficult. This is why an ADHD individual tends to forget things very easily because their brains are trying to soak up as much information as possible and they aren’t focusing on the most important thing in that moment.
Finally, there is a strong black and white thinking pattern that tends to come up for individuals with ADHD. While an ADHD individual’s viewpoints and thinking may not be as rigid as someone with Autism, it can cause difficulty when relating to others because it does not allow room for other options or even taking in all sides of a situation. ADHD kids tend to struggle a lot with the concept of problem solving because they tend to get stuck on one or two options that they really want but may not work. When an individual is rigid in their thought patterns, it makes it difficult to relate to them because they are not willing to be flexible when it comes to solving problems or even when it comes to trying new things in the relationship.
While ADHD individuals may struggle with relationships, it does not mean that they can’t relate. We as family members, caregivers, and friends must be willing to try and understand the people with ADHD in our lives and try to challenge them in ways that help them grow and overcome these difficulties. But before we can challenge ourselves, we must be willing to accept the fact that this is a condition that never goes away, and it does come with its share of struggles. However, ADHD is only a part of that whole person, and it should not be our only focus. We must be willing to accept that individual as they are no matter what the difficulty may be.