Coping with ADHD and Shame

Shame is one of those emotions that has a pretty big part to play in ADHDers’ lives. 

Sure, everyone will feel some shame at some point. However, those with ADHD tend to experience shame more often and for different reasons than neurotypicals may.

What Is Shame?

In her article on shame for the Very Well Mind website, Arlin Cuncic explains that “shame is a feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises from the perception of having done something dishonorable, immoral, or improper.” 

There are times when we feel as though we did something wrong, which will lead to us feeling ashamed, bad, or embarrassed. It is just our own perception. We may not have actually done anything wrong, but we may feel as though we did. 

When Shame Meets ADHD

With all the things that ADHDers go through and experience, it is no wonder that it can lead to an internal struggle and affect our emotions. It is also not much of a surprise that shame is one that affects ADHDers most of the time. This is not easy to go through.

As much as yes, shame is an emotion that the majority of people may feel at some point in their lives. Those with ADHD may experience a sense of shame more often and for not quite the same reasons.

Here are some of those reasons that may lead ADHDers to feeling ashamed.

  • Feeling Different. It is easy for those with ADHD to feel bad about themselves, because of our inabilities and our struggles. This tends to lead to feeling fundamentally flawed and different, as well as low self-esteem and self-confidence. 
  • Negative Experiences. It’s normal for anyone to feel shame over past failures or unmet expectations. These types of experiences related to ADHD can pile up overtime. As they do, it does lead to feeling ashamed. 
  • Being Misunderstood. When people in your life don’t quite understand your ADHD and the impact on your life, it’s a difficult situation to be in. This can lead to feeling alone, which can lead to negative self-beliefs, which can also lead to shame.
  • Stigma Surrounding ADHD. Although there is a lot of information about ADHD, there are still a lot of people with misconceptions. Some people don’t think of it as a bonafide condition, or that people with ADHD are just stupid and lazy, or it’s all due to bad parenting. This doesn’t help anyone with ADHD or has a child with it. Stigma causes a lot of harm. 
  • Where They Currently Are in Life. Many adults with ADHD may not feel good about the stage they are in life. They may not feel as though they haven’t reached the milestone they thought they would. As much as they know they’re smart and more than capable, adults with ADHD may feel as though they’re not living up to their potential. And this can lead to shame.

There are a lot of things that can contribute to individuals with ADHD to feel ashamed. It may vary from person to person, as no one is the same and ADHDers are affected differently by this condition. 

sad woman standing on coast of sea at sunset
Photo by Julia Volk on

Overcoming This Shame

For those with ADHD, who struggle with shame, know that you’re not alone, and that there are things you can do to overcome the constant feeling of shame. 

Here are some things that can help and be beneficial.

  • Educate Yourself. For those with ADHD, or know someone with ADHD, it can be really beneficial to learn and educate yourself about the condition. You can read a book, listen to a podcast, or look at blogs. The more you know, the better. 
  • Work with a Mental Health Professional. Being able to talk to a professional can be helpful to work through what you’re going through. They can help find ways to manage symptoms, how you’re feeling, and work through what you’re going through.
  • Acknowledge It for What It Is. Recognize that ADHD is a real neurological condition. What ADHDers struggle with is due to ADHD. It doesn’t make ADHDers less than, or flawed, or bad. ADHD makes us different. That’s it.
  • Accept that Mistakes Will Happen. Mistakes and failures do happen to everyone. It is normal to go through them. Work on becoming okay with making them. Think of them as a way to learn. They can become a learning experience. So when they happen, see if there’s anything you can learn or take away from the experience. 
  • Self-Acceptance & Self-Compassion. Being kind to yourself, accepting yourself as you are, and seeing the good in yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It can make a huge difference in your life. 

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