The ADHD Diagnosis Paradox

When you get a diagnosis for ADHD, it can provide a sense of relief. Suddenly, there's a clear reason for the struggles you've faced, and there are effective treatments you can seek out to start making things better.

At the same time, however, you might experience some sadness about how your ADHD has permeated your life and affected your experiences. The symptoms you experienced all those years when you were undiagnosed suddenly make sense, but you realize that the judgment you faced because of them has probably affected your self-worth.

People with ADHD are more prone to certain types of challenges in their life, including peer rejection, interpersonal issues, and career obstacles. Another challenge that's closely tied to ADHD is lowered self-esteem.

Think back to the times you've felt like you were a disappointment or inadequate. Remember the times you weren't able to live up to expectations or perform the way you wanted to. Many of those tough moments may be tied to your ADHD, even if you didn't know it at the time. If you’ve been criticized or judged for your ADHD symptoms, it's bound to eat away at your self-esteem — even if those behaviors were largely beyond your control.

This can be even more pronounced in someone who wasn't diagnosed as a child. For example, women who aren't diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood have a higher risk for low self-esteem as well as a number of serious comorbid issues, like anxiety, depressive symptoms, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and substance use.

So while an ADHD can lead you on a path to better things, it also comes with a reckoning of the toll that ADHD has taken on your self-confidence and self-worth.

Is Low Self-Esteem Holding You Back?

A poor image of yourself isn't just something that only affects you internally. It can ripple out, altering the choices you make and the quality of your relationships.

For example, you might become averse to taking risks if you don't have confidence in yourself. You may assume that you'll fail, so you don't apply for that dream job, approach someone who you'd like to be friends with, or try out a new hobby.

If you wallow in your feelings of shame or self-hate, your mental health is sure to suffer. As your self-esteem drops even lower, you could develop unhealthy habits, like social isolation, smoking, or drinking too much. This can further prevent you from feeling fulfilled and happy. So even though low self-esteem might not seem too dangerous at first, it has the potential to disrupt your life in a major way.

How to Build Confidence in Yourself

A healthy sense of self-worth is important in just about every aspect of life. It can positively influence your mental health, your relationships, your career, and your overall happiness. So if you feel like your ADHD has worn down your confidence, try these strategies to build it back up.

Avoid thinking in black and white

ADHD brains tend to think in extremes, and it can make it harder to see the gray areas in life. That all-or-nothing approach isn't good for your self-esteem because it makes tiny mistakes feel like total failures. Your ADHD is bound to create some obstacles, but that shouldn't stop you from going after what you want. Try to remember that even if you don't do something perfectly, it doesn't mean you can't do it at all. And make an effort to remember that even if you do make some mistakes, it's important to acknowledge the things you're doing well, too.

Don't make comparisons

When you start comparing yourself to other people, it's never good for your self-esteem. That's especially true when you have ADHD. It may seem like some of your friends have things so easy when it comes to relationships or academics, for example. That's tough, but it also doesn't help to compare yourself to other people. While your ADHD may create some extra challenges for you, it's important to remember that everyone has challenges in one way or another. While they may be doing well in one area, you never know what they might be struggling with inside. If you make fewer comparisons, it's likely that you'll see improvements in your self-esteem.

Use positive affirmations

It may seem corny to some, but positive affirmations can really work. This self-help strategy can help you overcome self-doubt and build up more confidence in yourself. It's best to use realistic affirmations that don't sugarcoat things or ignore your challenges. Instead, you can remind yourself "I'm strong enough to handle this" or "I deserve to be loved." Come up with one or two positive affirmations that you can repeat to yourself every morning. It’s not a quick fix for low self-esteem, but it can put you on the right path to starting each day with a positive mindset.

Surround yourself with support

Developing a solid support system is one of the best ways to improve your self-confidence. Think about the people who you include in your life. Are they constantly criticizing you for your ADHD behaviors? Do they diminish the effects of the disorder by attributing it to laziness or a lack of self-control? Or do they accept you as you are and make an effort to understand your experiences? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about whether someone is a supportive person in your life. Find a strong social network that includes people who help you feel better about yourself, not worse. This can include friends, family members, coworkers, or even an ADHD support group.

Be kind to yourself

It's easy to be harder on yourself than anyone else in your life. But unless you exercise some self-compassion, your self-esteem will continue to suffer. Be gentle with yourself in moments where you feel especially frustrated. We all make mistakes, and beating yourself up isn't going to help. Instead, think of the way you might talk to a friend or family member during their tough moments. You wouldn't berate them or make them feel ashamed. You'd show your support with loving words and try to help them find a solution to the things they're struggling with.

Find the right treatment plan

ADHD symptoms can be incredibly frustrating. They can also serve as reminders of the criticism and judgment that has tarnished your self-image over the years. By getting your symptoms under control with an effective treatment plan, you can make ADHD less of an issue in your day-to-day life. Experiencing fewer symptoms means you can do the things you want to do without ADHD getting in the way, allowing you to experience more moments of success, fulfillment, and happiness.

Done is here to help you find an ADHD treatment plan that works for you. Whether you think you have ADHD but haven't been officially diagnosed, you're seeking treatment for the first time, or your current treatment plan isn't giving you the results you want, our licensed clinicians are here to help. Our personalized and holistic approach means that you'll get assistance not only with finding the ADHD medication that works, but also receive advice on complementary treatment strategies, like cognitive behavioral therapy. To get started, simply take our one-minute assessment online.