ADHD & self-esteem

ADHD & self-esteem


Children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD may hear negative or naïve comments from classmates, teachers, friends, and even family.

Children growing up with ADHD may have lower self-esteem if they see themselves as “different”. Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD mean that the child needs extra time to take tests or finish tasks, which can draw attention in school. However, with the appropriate tools, he or she can manage these feelings about themselves. A guidance counsellor, social worker, or therapist can help. There may already be one on your child’s ADHD team. Encourage children with ADHD to be open and honest with their feelings and to talk with someone they are comfortable with if they are feeling sad or frustrated.

As an adult, it can be daunting to deal with self-esteem issues on top of your ADHD symptoms. You may be overwhelmed making the extra effort to stay focused at work or in social settings, and feel as if you are the only one going through it. You are already doing so much to manage ADHD, and it is important to give yourself credit. Be sure to have a mental healthcare professional on your team.

Effects of low self-Esteem

As a person living with or close to someone with ADHD, you may pick up on the following signs of low self-esteem:

  • Difficulty receiving and appreciating encouragement. The person may interpret everything he or she hears, even a greeting, as criticism
  • Loss of confidence in skills and little interest in trying to do something out of fear of failure or criticism
  • A poor attitude that results in moodiness and depression

Self-esteem can produce many other problems that get in the way of living the best life possible. Low self-esteem may seem like a case of the “blues”, but it can be much bigger than that. Here are some of the different ways that low self-esteem can manifest itself:3

  • Psychologically: Extreme sadness, hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness. The person may have difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. Additionally, the person may experience trouble falling asleep, may feel restless and irritable, and may have a lot of fear and anxiety.
  • Cognitively: Difficulty understanding facts in daily life, difficulty communicating, self-devaluation, inability to confront anyone, and repetitive memories or thoughts that the person often cannot move past.
  • Physically: Anorexia, loss of appetite, vomiting, tension in the neck muscles, gastrointestinal disturbances, changes in the frequency of heart rate, dizziness, and nausea are all possible side effects of poor self-esteem.
  • Behaviourally: Neglect of obligations and personal hygiene, poor performance at work, and tendency to use harmful substances, such as drugs or alcohol.

Helping your child improve his or her self-esteem

  • Emphasise the positive and congratulate your child. Show that you recognise when your child does the right thing instead of criticising what he or she does wrong.
  • Allow your child to take responsibility. Give simple tasks and establish a reward system when he or she completes them. Give your child more responsibility as time goes on and he or she proves the ability to handle it.
  • Build on strengths. Encourage your child to pursue interests, whether academic, athletic, or creative, and celebrate his or her achievements.
  • Have faith in your child’s abilities. Remind your child that you believe in and support him or her no matter what.
  • Stay calm and keep it in perspective if your child makes a mistake. Help your child understand that everyone makes mistakes and that we all learn from them. Keep in mind, however, that it is common for children with ADHD to make the same mistake a few times. Try to use it as a teaching moment and calmly talk with him or her about it.
  • Focus on the process, rather than the outcome. Try not to focus on the end result; instead, take note of all the things your child is doing right to help him or her achieve his or her goal.

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