As an adult with ADHD, you may have experienced feeling judged by the people in your life. From missed deadlines to the elusive keys that always seem to sprout legs, overcoming some of our struggles can feel like a neverending task. The shame we experience starts from our very earliest memories, and accumulates as we grow older. A boss’s frown for each minute late, or the sigh of a partner for the umpteenth time something gets misplaced. All of this negative reinforcement can weigh heavily on a person’s mental health, shaping their self-image into something far removed from their intrinsic worth. We deserve better! Keep reading for a few ADHD coping skills that can help to make you feel more like your priceless self again.
Accumulative Effects Of Negative Messaging
The magnitude of this issue is stark. Consider that by the age of 12, a child with ADHD is likely to have received 20,000 more negative messages than their neurotypical peers. The result? An adult whose familiarity with criticism towers over their experiences with praise. This relentless negativity contributes to even more troubling statistics: adults with ADHD experience depression at three times the rate of the general population, and are 6 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, and 8 times more likely to attempt to end their life. ADHD has even been correlated to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and the staggering number of negative messages is surely a factor.
ADHD Coping Skills to Overcome Negativity
Neurodivergents can work to balance the scales by incorporating positive reinforcement in their life and routines, and so can everyone else in their life. Leaders can uplift and energize their ADHD counterparts with it. Romantic partners can experience the joy of helping their partner heal and thrive through this practice. This approach does so much more than soften the stigma felt by those with ADHD. Let’s look at 3 simple ways to incorporate positive reinforcement in your life.
1. Embrace Novelty
Neurodivergents often feel a sense of renewed energy or tolerance for boring tasks when there is some novelty introduced. ADHD folks appreciate the chance to add a little fun and variety to their lives – from a completely new environment, to subtle changes in routines, tools, or tasks. This search for something fresh isn’t a sign of inconsistency; it’s a quest for stimulation, a way to keep the neural fires burning.
2. Praise (it ain’t just for Jaysus)
It’s not just about feeling good – although that’s a big part of it. Verbal praise generates a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that ADHD brains often find in short supply. This boost doesn’t just brighten the moment; it shores up behavior and bolsters a sense of self-worth that can shield against the slings and arrows of everyday critiques.
3. PRIZES! (aka a reward system)
Rewards, much like praise, serve as a dopamine delivery system. They come in many shapes and flavors. Whether it’s the anticipation of some free time to kick back, the draw of solving a puzzle or working on a passion project, the enjoyment gained from a quick jog in nature, or the sweet of a favorite treat, rewards light up the ADHD brain. They can turn otherwise arduous tasks into genuine play.
The Great NaPP
The ADHD mind runs rampant with light and potential that we don’t talk about enough. It’s a brain that can hyper-focus, that can generate out-of-the-box ideas at lightning speed, and can approach problems with unparalleled creativity. With a little positive reinforcement, these can become the primary traits society sees in us. So next time you’re feeling the world’s judgment, or you just can’t seem to get motivated, remember to get a NaPP. That is, get some Novelty, Praise, and Prizes!