There are a number of factors at play when it comes to ADHD and compliments, but one of the most important is self-esteem. Discover the reasons why compliments are tough when you have ADHD and learn more about how treatment can help.

The Trouble with Compliments

When you give someone a compliment, you typically expect some kind of positive reaction. The praise might bring a smile to their face, and they may express their gratitude for your words. Some people play down the compliment in an effort to show their humility, but they usually seemed pleased by the sentiment nonetheless.

But for people with ADHD, the reaction might not be the same. They may find it hard to accept compliments at all, and they may feel uncomfortable or unsettled by the suggestion that something they did is worthy of praise.

Unfortunately, the reason for this reaction is tied to self-esteem. People with ADHD often grow up getting negative feedback for the ways they behave. This may be even more true for someone who wasn't diagnosed until adulthood, which usually means that they struggled for many years with their symptoms without knowing the cause, oftentimes blaming themselves for their perceived failures.

ADHD and Self-Esteem

So how exactly does low self-esteem develop in someone with ADHD? We know that an ADHD brain is wired differently. But before someone is diagnosed, the symptoms of their ADHD may be attributed to personal failings, like a lack of discipline. Even after receiving a diagnosis, if someone doesn't know you have ADHD, they might criticize your work ethic or impulsive tendencies without realizing that it's a symptom of the disorder.  

Over time, this can wear down someone's self-esteem. As people in their lives criticize them for the way they act, they absorb that negativity and feel as though they are disappointing or upsetting those around them, even though they may have little control over the symptoms they're displaying.

This has ripple effects that can last a lifetime, especially without treatments like medication or therapy. A person with ADHD who often feels judged for their symptoms might be hesitant to try new things or aspire to achieve certain accomplishments they assume they'll fail. They might isolate themselves to reduce their exposure to criticism, or spend an excessive amount of energy trying to please others.

By understanding this frame of mind, it's easier to see why compliments can be difficult to accept when you have ADHD. If you're used to being reprimanded for your actions, you might see a compliment as suspicious. You may wonder if the person doling out the compliment is insincere or even mocking you. While compliments can be difficult for people with ADHD to accept, it is not unique to ADHD.  

Serious self-esteem issues can also lead to anxiety, substance abuse, or other problems down the line. That's why it's important to be proactive in battling against it. This type of negative thinking is something that can be addressed in cognitive behavioral therapy. It also helps to manage your symptoms with medication.

Accentuate the Positive

Ironically, praise can be a great way to support someone with ADHD. It can help to improve their sense of self-worth. But if you're looking to give out compliments, it's important to think carefully about the best way to express them.

If you're talking to someone with ADHD who seems to feel wary of compliments, start with small compliments. Try to acknowledge their personal efforts rather than just praising a specific outcome. 

For example, people with ADHD are often disappointed by comparisons to neurotypical peers. Saying "You got an A on your test, I'm so proud!" can indicate to someone who is sensitive to criticism that your pride is dependent on measuring up to certain standards. Instead, you might just say "That's so exciting, congratulations! I know you worked hard for it." This type of praise celebrates their progress on a personal level rather than in comparison to neurotypical standards.

Learning to Accept Compliments

If you're someone with ADHD who struggles with self-esteem, it may take some work to learn to accept praise from others. It's not easy overcoming the negative thinking that can develop when you have this disorder. But it's important to make an effort. If you continually shut down any compliments you receive, you can damage your relationships with others while also causing your self-esteem levels to drop even lower.

Done is here to help if you're struggling with ADHD management. Getting on an individualized and effective treatment plan can make a huge impact on reducing your symptoms and boosting your self-esteem. Our licensed clinicians are available to advise you on all aspects of your treatment. In addition to prescribing helpful ADHD medications, they can provide important information about other treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy.

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