Like a Sore Thumb: Adult ADHD and (Not) Fitting In

Adults with ADHD often have a hard time with social situations. They may be poor listeners, don't communicate well, and appear careless and irresponsible to others. The good news is that by being aware of how your ADHD manifests in social situations -- and with appropriate treatment -- you can more easily fit in and have more satisfying relationships with coworkers, family, and friends.

 

Falling Short of Society's Expectations

Many of the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affect the way an individual interacts with others, and as a result, adults with ADHD often have a hard time fitting in. In addition, they often can't pinpoint why and don't understand which aspects of their behavior are pushing others away.
 
We're here to spell out some of the areas in which ADHD behavior and societal expectations clash. We'll also highlight how people with and without ADHD tend to view these typical behaviors.
 

ADHD and Conversations

Humans interact primarily by talking and listening. It's how we connect with each other, and it's a skill most people master early in life. However, people with ADHD often fall short in their conversational aptitude, often with negative consequences. Here are a few examples:
 
  • Your ADHD behavior: talking too much
  • How you see it: friendly chatter
  • How everybody else sees it: self-centered and oblivious verbal domination
 
  • Your ADHD behavior: not listening while others are speaking
  • How you see it: normal conversation (after all, doesn't everybody think about what they will say next when others are talking?)
  • How everybody else sees it: rude and inconsiderate dismissal of what others have to say
 
  • Your ADHD behavior: saying things that are inappropriate or hurtful
  • How you see it: honest, tell-it-like-it-is straight talk
  • How everybody else sees it: unacceptable verbal bullying
 
All these behaviors will stick out like a sore thumb, even if you think they aren't obvious. For instance, you may think others don't notice when you're not listening, but be assured, they do. They can spot that faraway look in your eye, and they'll certainly notice when you unknowingly cut them off before they've finished.
 
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