Self-Esteem Issues in Adults with ADHD

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Approximately four percent of adults over the age of 18 have ADHD. This lesson will review adult ADHD, describe how it impacts self-esteem, and provide some suggestions for improving self-esteem.

Why Do You Always Forget?

Sean is a 29-year-old married father who was diagnosed with ADHD during his first year of college. With the help of medication, he was able to graduate and find a job. He decided to wean off his medication about a year ago believing he could function just fine without it. However, Sean is struggling and he constantly forgets things. Last week he forgot to send a critical proposal to a client, which landed him in hot water. On top of that, he forgot his anniversary. He often loses his keys and is repetitive when talking to others. As a result his marriage is a little rocky, and his career seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Sean feels awful about himself and wonders if he should go back on his medication.

Adult ADHD

We often think of ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as being a disorder associated with children. However, as demonstrated by the example above, ADHD can persist into adulthood. ADHD is a mental disorder that begins in childhood. When symptoms are mild, however, it may not be diagnosed or treated until later in life. Four percent of adults in the United States have ADHD. Symptoms of adult ADHD include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty understanding or following instructions
  • Being easily distracted

As a result of having ADHD, individuals with ADHD often suffer from:

  • Irritability
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Addiction to drugs and/or alcohol
  • Poor personal relationships
  • Poor working relationships
  • Poor self-esteem

Self-Esteem and Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD often develop poor self-esteem as a result. Self-esteem is the way in which we view ourselves. Individuals who have high self-esteem appear confident and happy, whereas individuals with low self-esteem think poorly of themselves and are sad and sometimes depressed. In our earlier example, Sean's forgetfulness led to his development of low-self esteem. By being forgetful, Sean believes that he is letting down his employer and his wife and begins to view himself in a negative light.

The development of low self-esteem is common amongst adults who have ADHD. There are several ways in which individuals with ADHD can improve their self-esteem. The following are a few examples:

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