5 Ways You Can Support Your Friend Who Has ADHD
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is more common than you may think.
ADDitude Magazine defines ADHD as "a neurological disorder that impacts the parts of the brain that help us plan, focus on, and execute tasks." The American Psychiatric Association reports that "an estimated 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD." You might already have friends who have ADHD, and if not, there's a strong possibility that you will befriend someone with ADHD.
The symptoms of their disorder, such as forgetfulness or the inability to focus, can be difficult to overcome, which is why is why supportive friends are so important. Here are five ways you can support your friend who has ADHD.
Don't Blame Them for Symptoms
Dr. Mary Rooney, a Clinical Psychologists and chief of the Child and Adolescent Psychosocial Interventions Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, recently talked on NIHM about managing ADHD. She said that ADHD "symptoms get in the way of functioning on a daily basis and interfere with the important development of skills over time." She listed examples like the person may overlook details, appear like they are not listening during a conversation, lose items, forget to attend events or appointments or appear restless. It's essential to understand that if your friend looks like they're not paying attention when you're talking to them or forget to call you back, it's not their fault. It would help if you reacted with patience. They are trying their best and they're facing more challenges than people who don't have ADHD.
Don't Downplay Their Struggles
ADDitude asked people who have ADHD to write in and explain what they wished people knew about ADHD. One person said, "You can't judge if someone is 'really' ADHD based only on visible ADHD symptoms." Some people may be better at masking their symptoms, while others have more visible behaviors. You don't know the severity of the problem just by looking at the person. If someone with ADHD tells you that they are struggling or feel overwhelmed, it's not helpful to say, "It seems like you're doing fine" or "We all feel overwhelmed at times." It's more beneficial to empathize with them and ask how you can provide support. Also, eliminate the term ADHD as an adjective. People sometimes say, "I'm so ADHD," when they mean distracted or disorganized. Although the intention is not to offend, this language can still be harmful. It minimizes the struggles people with ADHD face.
Understand How It Affects Their Self-Esteem
People with ADHD often struggle with low self-esteem. Larry Silver, M.D., wrote for ADDitude that "poor self-esteem is a big problem for children with ADHD—and an even bigger problem for the 50 percent or so of children with ADHD who also have learning difficulties." People with ADHD often face more criticism for making mistakes due to their disorder. They internalize the negative comments instead of focusing on their strengths and learning how to work with their disorder. You can help boost your friend's self-esteem by offering positive feedback and celebrating their wins. Low self-esteem is difficult to challenge, but your consistent positive reassurance will help your friend combat their negative self-image.
Be an Accountability Partner
Isabelle O'Carrol is a writer who has ADHD. She wrote an article for Self called "I Have ADHD. Here are 9 Productivity Tips That Really Help Me," where she interviewed Edward Hallowell, M.D., psychiatrist and ADHD expert. One of Isabelle's tips is to find an accountability partner who will help keep you on track. In the article, Dr. Hallowell explained that, "You really need to work with a team, you have to get encouragement, don't isolate yourself." Isabelle wrote that she will tell her friend a deadline for a project and send her progress reports, so she stays on track. This is a fantastic way to support your friend. If your friend is struggling to study, you can ask them if they want to study with you or want you to text and check in on their progress.
Just Be There for Them
The best way to support a friend who has ADHD is by listening to them. ADHD can be an extremely frustrating disorder to deal with, and at times, it can feel like nobody understands what you are going through. Even if you don't experience the same struggles, you can always empathize. Russell Barkely, Ph.D., and Expert in ADHD and Psychiatry, wrote for ADDitude that he noticed a person with ADHD does better when they have someone who "never abandoned them in times of trouble, and listened to them when they needed to talk about their problems." Let your friend know that they can talk to you if they need to vent or want help. It always feels good to know that you have someone you can turn to if you need to talk and feel safe knowing that they will listen without judgment.
If you are looking for more resources on ADHD, you can check out this resource list by Very Well Mind.
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