Helping Family and Friends Understand ADHD
Relationships are often difficult when you live with ADHD. It may sometimes feel like your friends and family don’t really understand what it’s like to be you. It might feel like they blame you for your ADHD symptoms, and don’t understand how, exactly, ADHD affects you.
ADHD is a difficult subject to talk about with loved ones. Here are 5 communication tips that can help you talk to your friends and family about what it’s like to live with ADHD.
Tell Them the Facts About ADHD
First, it’s important that you explain to your friends and family, to the best of your ability, the facts about ADHD. ADHD is still such a misunderstood condition, and adults with ADHD are often told, “But you don’t seem like you have ADHD.” If your friends and family are dubious of your ADHD diagnosis, this is a sign that they don’t truly understand what ADHD really is.
Explain to them that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that causes a deficit in executive function. You can lay out examples of how this affects you. If the science behind ADHD feels too complex for you to explain, guide your loved ones toward online resources like YouTube videos that accurately explain ADHD.
Explain in Small Info-Bytes
ADHD is a complex disorder with many different symptoms. While it’s important to explain the facts behind ADHD, trying to get your friends and family to understand everything about the disorder in one sitting is bound to lead to frustration for both sides.
Instead of trying to give a comprehensive lecture on everything there is to know about ADHD, you may find it more helpful to explain one facet of ADHD at a time. For example, maybe you can talk about hyperfocus one day, and impulsivity on another.
Invite Them to an Appointment
If you feel comfortable, invite your friend or family member to your next appointment with your psychiatrist, physician, or therapist. Often, medical professionals are able to explain things better than we can. And, for whatever reason, loved ones may be more willing to accept what your providers say as the truth.
Inviting your loved one to a medical appointment doesn’t mean that your provider will share everything you’ve ever talked about. You have a legal right to privacy. If you’re worried about this, talk to your provider. If there’s something specific that you don’t want them to share, let them know.
Point Out When ADHD Is Affecting You
Explaining the science of ADHD is one thing. But it may also be helpful for your loved ones to see how ADHD affects you in real-time. If ADHD starts affecting you while you’re with the person, point it out so that they’re able to witness an example.
For instance, you might lose your keys or your phone while you’re out with friends. Use this as an opportunity to explain how ADHD makes you forgetful. Remind them of the science of ADHD, like executive function deficit, and point out to them that this is what the science looks like in real life.
Don’t Blame Bad Behaviors on ADHD
If you consistently blame bad behaviors on your ADHD, then your friends and family may become less likely to try to understand and empathize with your condition. Instead of only talking about ADHD when something bad has happened, talk about it during a more neutral time.
Schedule a time to sit down with them and talk to your loved ones about ADHD. This shouldn’t be done as part of an apology, but simply to educate. When your loved ones aren’t feeling hurt by your actions, they may be more likely to listen.
Try to Be Patient
Understand that, for people who don’t live with ADHD, this disorder is very confusing and complex. For example, loved ones may not understand why you have such a hard time concentrating on certain tasks (like schoolwork) but not on others (like games).
Try to be patient with them. This doesn’t mean that you need to excuse offensive things that they intentionally say or do about ADHD, but if they’re making an effort to learn and understand your condition, try to keep this in mind..
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