If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing burnout. People with ADHD can be more prone to developing burnout. This is due to a number of factors, but one of the most common is the fact that they already expend a significant amount of energy dealing with their ADHD symptoms.
The good news is that there are effective ways to help prevent and cope with burnout and ADHD. Learn more about how to recognize burnout, why it happens, and what you can do to overcome it.
What Is Burnout?
You might have heard someone (or yourself) say: "I'm just feeling really burnt out right now." It's a colloquial way of communicating that you feel completely spent.
But there's a difference between being tired at the end of a long day and experiencing true burnout, which is an actual mental health issue. According to Psychology Today, burnout is "a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress."
There's a difference between normal stress and burnout. When you're experiencing typical levels of stress, you may feel a sense of urgency and have a number of physical effects. Burnout may include some physical effects as well, but it's largely an emotional and mental condition marked by a sense of hopelessness and disengagement.
While the symptoms of burnout can vary, some of the most common include:
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Tension headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite or sleep habits
- Anger and irritability
- Self-doubt and guilt
- Loss of motivation
- Feelings of cynicism and apathy
- Depression and detachment
Causes of Burnout for People with ADHD
Many people associate burnout with work. If you feel undervalued and overworked at your job, you're more likely to be worn down by the grind day in and day out. For example, some people who work from home experience burnout because it feels like they can never really turn "off" at the end of the workday.
But work is only one possible cause of burnout. Some people experience burnout from other responsibilities, like child care, elder care, or pet care. Others may be struggling in school or in their personal relationships. All of these are potential factors which can contribute to burnout over time, especially if the issues are unrelenting.
For people with ADHD, work and school are two of the most common causes of burnout. These environments can already be taxing for people with ADHD because they require strict management of symptoms in order to succeed. The process of ADHD masking, or trying to hide your symptoms, can be a major source of fatigue for people with this condition.
Constantly trying to monitor your symptoms and work to prevent and deal with them throughout the day at work or at school can be exhausting. When you add in typical work and school responsibilities on top of that, it's no wonder that ADHD and burnout can go hand in hand. In fact, a number of studies have found that to be the case. According to one study conducted in 2016, people with ADHD are more susceptible to ADHD. In addition, certain ADHD symptoms — like impulsivity and disorganization — can exacerbate the effects of burnout.
Tips for Avoiding ADHD Burnout
Burnout is no joke. It can seriously derail your personal life and your professional life, which is why it's important to find ways to prevent it.
It may seem simple, but one of the best ways to avoid ADHD burnout is to give yourself permission to rest. This can be especially hard for people with ADHD, many of whom feel like they need to overcompensate for the stereotype of laziness that sometimes accompanies the condition. There are also those who are hyperactive or always multitasking, which may mean they equate resting with missing out. However, rest is critical for not only avoiding burnout, but also managing your ADHD symptoms. In fact, lack of sleep can trigger your ADHD symptoms, which is just one more reason to prioritize rest as part of your routine.
Next, work on setting boundaries. Based on childhood experiences with feeling like they don't live up to expectations, many people with ADHD go on to become people-pleasers as adults. You may need to practice saying "no" to certain requests to make sure you don't overcommit yourself.
Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help when you feel like you're at risk of burning out. That might include delegating tasks to other people so you can free up your time and energy. You can also reach out to loved ones for support when you're experiencing chronic stress. And if it feels like your ADHD symptoms are contributing to your burnout, you can set up a virtual appointment with a licensed clinician at Done to find better treatment solutions without the hassle of in-person appointments.