How Shame Distorts the Mind

Why would you do it like that?

Are you stupid?

What is wrong with you?

These phrases are all-too-familiar to the ADHD brain. Most have been hearing variations their entire life.

The truth is, people with ADHD handle situations in unique and often unusual ways. It can sometimes appear offensive or disrespectful, though this is rarely intended.

Even when a solution or resolution is found, it often isn't fast enough or "in the same way" as a neurotypical brain. This results in a perceived failure of this non-ADHD standard.

And out come those familiar phrases.

For many people with ADHD, shame arises from the repeated failure to meet expectations from parents, teachers, friends, bosses, and the world.

— William Dodson, M.D.

People with ADHD carry an unbearable weight of shame, built from a lifetime of missed expectations. Apologies for mistakes you didn't know you were making.

If you have ADHD—especially if you were diagnosed late in your life—these endless apologies and self-blame may have added up to a crippling sense of shame.

— Edward Hallowell, M.D.

This causes some to become so terrified of being wrong about "common sense" that they stop engaging entirely. Others default to sarcasm and humor as a defense mechanism, knowing they are at a disadvantage.

Healing From Shame

Here are some suggestions for how to heal from the weight of ADHD-induced shame:

  • Accept that you have a condition that makes life more difficult
  • Educate yourself on ADHD
  • Hear stories from others with ADHD so you don't feel alone
  • See a mental health professional
  • Don't give up