ADHD Challenges with Social Skills

There are three types of ADHD symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. In each of these areas, there are certain behaviors which can create difficulties when it comes to socializing and developing relationships.

Inattention: When someone has trouble maintaining their attention, it can make others feel ignored. A person with ADHD might become distracted during conversations, which is upsetting to the person they’re talking to. Inattention can also cause disorganization, forgetfulness, and time management problems, so they might forget about plans with friends or show up late to events and activities.

Impulsivity: The impulsive behaviors of someone with ADHD may be interpreted as a lack of regard for others. Impulsivity can cause someone to interrupt others or share unfiltered thoughts. It’s also associated with emotional dysregulation, which can lead to anger management issues and emotional outbursts.

Hyperactivity: It can be hard for an individual with ADHD to sit still for long periods of time. They may struggle to engage in quiet activities with others. During long conversations with friends, they may struggle to avoid excessive talking and fidgeting.

In addition to the challenges described above, people with ADHD sometimes struggle due to social exclusion. Some individuals may experience rejection or bullying due to their ADHD, which makes it more difficult to establish social connections. As a result, folks with ADHD might have low self-esteem that makes them less likely to try to connect with others socially.

ADHD’s Social Benefits

It’s clear that ADHD can make it harder to connect socially in some ways. But that’s not the whole story. It’s just as important to recognize the unique ways in which ADHD can actually help to cultivate relationships and encourage social engagement. The following are some of the social benefits of ADHD:

  • Curiosity: Individuals with ADHD tend to be curious people who are interested in learning new things. These qualities also make someone more interesting to be around, which many others appreciate.
  • Enthusiasm: Those with ADHD often exhibit a lot of passion for their hobbies. This can help them to connect with other people who have similar interests.
  • Energy: Someone may be very energetic due to the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD. Physical activities give them additional opportunities to engage with others.
  • Spontaneity: Having a spontaneous and adventurous nature is a great quality that attracts other people who are open to last-minute plans and new experiences.

Tips for Better Communication with ADHD

If you want to strengthen your relationships and develop better social skills, there are a number of strategies you can try. The following are a few ways to improve your social life when you have ADHD.

Prioritize your treatment

The symptoms of ADHD are easier to manage when you have a good treatment plan in place. If you want to avoid having ADHD behaviors affect your social life or damage your relationships with friends and family, you’ll need to prioritize your treatment. Get an ADHD medication that works for you, keeping in mind that it sometimes takes a few tries to find the best fit. In addition, you can try therapy for ADHD to work on social skills and develop positive thought patterns to overcome low self-esteem.

Use helpful tools for ADHD

If you struggle in certain areas of your social life, find helpful tools which can address those issues. For example, if you tend to lose focus during conversations, use a fidget toy to help maintain your attention. If you regularly forget about scheduled events and activities, use reminders on your phone to keep track of your social calendar.

Acknowledge your ADHD

If you’re comfortable, it can help to let others know about your ADHD diagnosis. Letting friends and family know you have ADHD can help to bring you closer, and it helps to avoid situations where they misinterpret your behaviors as personal slights. This isn’t to explain away any social mistakes you might make, of course, but it does provide others with context for some of the things you do. For example, if you have trouble focusing during an intimate conversation with a loved one, they can recognize that it’s a symptom of your ADHD and not a sign that you don’t care about what they have to say.

Accept and act on criticism

There may be times when even the most understanding friend gets frustrated with your ADHD behavior. If someone tells you they’re upset that you’re always running late and keeping them waiting, for instance, take responsibility for those actions and apologize. You can explain that you have time management issues, but in addition, you should discuss what steps you’ll take to try to fix the problem.