December 9

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Things Not to Say to Someone with ADHD

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

December 9, 2022

adhd, advice, tips

Someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have difficulties concentrating or behaving in particular ways due to differences in their brain. These individuals may appear disorganized or absent-minded, but it’s not because they don’t care or don’t want to engage in tasks, such as learning or working, it’s because their brain chemistry makes it harder for them to do it.

Our team at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has compiled a list of some things not to say to someone with ADHD. We understand it may come from a place of not understanding or trying to show you care and want to support the individual, but it may not always come across to the other person that way.

Don’t Dismiss Their Condition

Parents and daughter learning together
Parents and daughter learning together by sofatutor is licensed with Unsplash License

One of the things you shouldn’t say to someone with ADHD is that it’s in their head, they’re lazy, or if they learn to focus that they can get their work done. By saying these things, you’re dismissing their condition and the challenges they deal with daily. You should also avoid minimizing the condition by suggesting everyone deals with ADHD in some capacity. While this may feel like you’re sympathizing with the person, you’re proposing everyone has it, so it shouldn’t be a big deal for them to learn how to cope. This can leave the individual feeling frustrated.

Instead, try learning about ADHD and how it can affect people. There are plenty of resources available to you online or at our facility if you talk to our experts.

Avoid Making Comparisons

If you don’t have a professional diagnosis for ADHD and speaking with someone who does, avoid making comparisons. It may feel like it’s coming from a good place and trying to relate to them, but they may find it unhelpful. It’s also a good idea to avoid comparing the person to statistics. For example, some suggest that girls who have ADHD have less severe symptoms than boys who have it. So, if you’re speaking with someone who identifies as a boy, avoid suggesting that their symptoms don’t align with what statistics say.

Individuals aren’t statistics, and if you suggest to a person who identifies as a woman that she doesn’t have struggles nearly as bad as the men do, it may lead to them feeling defeated and unsupported. Additionally, avoid making these comparisons in your mind, even if you don’t say them out loud. Even avoiding them in your own mind can help you learn how to best interact with those who have ADHD.

Don’t Suggest They’ll Outgrow It

People can have an ADHD diagnosis at any age. Some may get a diagnosis in their early childhood years, and some may not realize they may have this condition until they’re in college. It’s best to avoid telling someone they’ll outgrow the condition, especially for a young child. It’s likely not true an individual will outgrow their ADHD, so saying something like this may give them false hope rather than helping them work on ways to live with it. This can leave the person feeling disappointed and frustrated when that day likely never comes.

Instead, learn ways with your loved one about ways to cope with it. Adapt new routines that work for them and help them stay on track. This can help them feel supported and cared for rather than waiting for a day to come when they’ll wake up without ADHD. Furthermore, you may share with them that their condition may become easier to deal with over time because they’ve learned more about it and themselves, which gives them the proper tools to manage it.

Avoid Shaming Them

If a loved one confides in you that they think they have ADHD or the doctor diagnosed them with the condition, don’t shame them for it. Don’t tell the person not to share their condition with others because it’ll perpetuate the stigma that people shouldn’t talk about their mental health. It may also encourage the person to isolate and feel like an outsider because they might feel like something is wrong with them since they’re being told not to discuss it with others.

Additionally, if people don’t know someone has ADHD, the person may not get the proper support for their condition, which can leave everyone feeling frustrated. While a person isn’t required to share their condition with others if they don’t want to, it’s vital not to shame them if they want to tell others.

What Should I Say Instead?

There are many things you shouldn’t say to someone with ADHD, but there are also many comforting words you can give someone you love who may have this condition. Consider using some of the following phrases:

  • “I’m here to listen.”
  • “Your struggles are valid.”
  • “I know I’ve never experienced what you’re going through, but I understand your pain.”
  • “How can I support you?”

You may also ask them how they’re doing. This can allow them to share with you how they’re feeling. Even if you can’t offer actionable advice, being someone that listens to them might be all they’re looking for at the moment. Additionally, tell them how you like them and appreciate having them in your life. Someone with ADHD may feel like they’re a bother to others or wish they were different, so they didn’t have to live with the condition. Reassuring that you like how they are as is can be comforting to them.

Signs of ADHD

If you think you have ADHD or a loved one may have, consider the following signs:

  • Having difficulties paying attention or concentrating.
  • Requiring several reminders to complete a task.
  • Having trouble sitting still or being patient.
  • Being disorganized or losing things.
  • Feeling restless or bored.
  • Getting upset easily.

These signs aren’t a definitive way to diagnose yourself or others with ADHD. If these signs apply to you, making an appointment for testing may give you a concrete answer. Once you know if you have it, you can work with mental health professionals to create a treatment plan to help you cope with your ADHD. Contact us if you have any questions regarding your own condition or your concerns for a loved one.

Visit our mental health services and treatment facility in Arlington Heights, Illinois, to learn more about our ADHD testing. Our team of mental health professionals is happy to help you learn how to make ADHD manageable for you. We’re here to help everyone, so English, Spanish, Malayalam, Tamil, and Hindi speakers can find accessibility at our facility.

NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

About the author

For over 20 years, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has been offering neuropsychological and psychological assessments and treatments for people of all ages. These assessments and treatments address Behavioral, Emotional, & Social Issues, Neurocognitive Functions, and Neurodevelopmental Growth.