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Research has shown that children who have ADHD usually have problems with social interactions, which can follow them into adulthood. However, if you are an adult with ADHD and you are having problems with social skills, it's not too late for treatment. There are a number of verbal and nonverbal methods you can learn that will help to control your impulses, stay focused, and improve listening skills.


The Importance of Social Skills

We interact with people almost every day of our lives. Social skills are important in helping us successfully navigate those interactions. Although there isn't one exact way to define social skills, you can think of them as the verbal and nonverbal ways we interact and communicate with others.
Having effective social skills is important for several reasons. People with well-developed social skills are successful at establishing not only more friendships and other relationships, but more fulfilling friendships and relationships. Good social skills are also closely linked to success at school and work, better self-esteem, and overall happiness.

Social Skills Can Be a Challenge for People With ADHD

Normally, we begin learning social skills as childre, by observing those around us (such as our peers, parents, and teachers) and imitating what we see. Children practice the skills they observe through play and other childhood activities, and carry those skills into adulthood. As an adult, we continue to develop social skills through observation, practice, and trial and error. 
However, studies have shown that children with ADHD have problems with social interactions, and these problems can extend into adolescence. It makes sense that ADHD might interfere with social development. This disorder is associated with impulsive behavior, inattention, and hyperactivity. All of these symptoms can make social interactions more difficult.
For example, a person with ADHD may miss parts of conversations or important nonverbal clues because they are having a difficult time focusing. Or, their impulsivity may cause them to interrupt others or start conversations at inappropriate times. 
The difficulties don't stop there. People with ADHD also have problems processing social information and regulating their emotions. They may not pick up on social cues that other people use in social interactions or may have a hard time controlling their anger, for instance.
People with ADHD also often struggle with low self-esteem, which impacts their relationships and social interactions. Being uncomfortable or unsure in social situations can drive self-esteem even lower. Furthermore, problems with social interactions may lead to rejection or negative feedback by one's peers, which could cause the person with ADHD to socially isolate themselves, further perpetuating the cycle.
Although some children with ADHD outgrow their symptoms, for many, symptoms persist into adulthood. Most of the studies examining social skills in ADHD look specifically at the social skills of children. However, adults with the condition also struggle in social situations, not only because of their symptoms, but also because they didn't fully learn these important skills as a child.
If you're an adult with ADHD and you don't feel especially socially savvy, it may help you to know that you're not alone. Studies have shown that adults with this condition see themselves as less socially competent than other adults. Many people, whether they have ADHD or not, feel awkward or shy in social situations, especially when they're around people they don't know.
Here's the good news -- it's never too late to enhance your social skills and learn new ones. It won't necessarily be easy, and it might mean stepping out of your comfort zone at times, but the rewards will be worth the work you put in. Following are some tips to help you get started.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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