Negative Thinking and ADHD

Studies have found that ADHD is generally associated with a more negative outlook. Many adults with ADHD have been found to hold a pessimistic worldview. They may feel less in control over their lives and be less assertive in their interactions with others. This general disposition is associated with a number of other adult ADHD personality traits, including:

  • Passive
  • Withdrawn
  • Introverted
  • Avoidant
  • Self-centered
  • Rebellious

Of course, not all adults with ADHD have a personality that perfectly fits this profile. However, the common findings across multiple studies suggest that a pessimistic outlook is common in this group.

The reasons for this glass half empty view of life are complex. Many people with ADHD face a significant amount of judgment and criticism, especially during childhood. Their symptoms may be misunderstood as laziness or disinterest, and they may struggle to perform at the same level as their peers in certain areas. This can cultivate a fear of failure, an avoidance of others, and a negative perception of oneself.

A pessimistic outlook can also develop due to the challenges of living with ADHD. Symptoms can be unpredictable and difficult to manage, which can cause a significant amount of stress. People with ADHD also have higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to neurotypical folks.

Why Positivity Is Important

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with having a pessimistic attitude. But dwelling on negative thoughts over and over can take a toll. Pessimism has been linked to higher stress levels, poorer coping skills, and lower life satisfaction. It can lower one’s self-esteem and increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Plus, a negative attitude can make it harder to develop strong relationships with others. 

It’s not just your mental health that can suffer, however. Negative thinking is tough on your physical health as well. On the flip side, there are a number of health benefits of positive thinking, such as:

  • Improved physical well-being
  • Higher resistance to illness
  • Increased lifespan
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower pain levels
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Reduced risk of death from cancer, infections, and respiratory conditions

Tips for Looking on the Bright Side

Developing a more positive attitude with ADHD takes some effort, but it’s well worth it for the impact it can have on your relationships with others, your mental health, and your physical health. If you struggle with negative thinking, try using these strategies to tip your mindset in a more positive direction.

Recognize your unique gifts and abilities

Are you aware of your ADHD superpowers? People with the condition often have special strengths in certain areas due to the unique way that ADHD brains work. For example, individuals with ADHD tend to be highly creative thinkers and very resilient. They also have the gift of spontaneity, which makes them adventurous and bold, and their abundance of energy offers the ability to enjoy lots of physical activities. Hyperfocus is another ADHD superpower that enables periods of intense focus. Try to cultivate these abilities and appreciate how they enrich your life and provide advantages unique to those with ADHD.

Improve your mood with exercise

Being active is great for your physical health. However, it can also support your mental well-being. Studies have found that those who exercise regularly exhibit lower rates of anger, stress, and depression compared to those who exercise infrequently or not at all. Exercise releases endorphins which naturally boost your mood, and that mind/body connection can be helpful for creating a more positive mindset. Keep in mind that you don’t need vigorous exercise to reap these benefits. Even low-impact activities like walking outside and doing yoga or gentle stretching can help to release tension and improve your mood.

Try cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a specific type of psychotherapy often recommended for adults with ADHD. One of the most impactful parts of CBT is the potential to break out of negative thought patterns. This type of therapy is usually a shorter-term treatment focused on getting results quickly. A cognitive behavioral therapist helps clients identify their tendency to react to situations with negative thoughts. Then, they work on training the client to shift their thinking to overcome negative thoughts and react in a more realistic and positive way.