The Link Between ADHD and Low Self-Esteem


ADHD and Low Self-Esteem: What Causes Low Self-Worth in ADHD Children and Adults?

The Link Between ADHD and Low Self EsteemADHD runs the risk of having an impact on your self-esteem, especially if it is not addressed early.

Problems in school — like difficulty paying attention or frequently handing in homework late — and the subsequent negative feedback from teachers can lead to feelings of low self-worth and an inability to believe in your own capabilities. A similar negative environment at home or amongst peers exacerbates the problem.

Addressing feelings of low self-esteem is important, as those with a lower self-worth are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and possible substance abuse. Low self-esteem in children may lead to a lower academic performance and problems forming lasting relationships as they grow into adults.

What Are the Signs of Low Self-Esteem in People With ADHD?

Signs of low self-esteem in children include:

  • A reluctance to try new activities, possibly due to no longer feeling capable
  • Frequent negative comments being made about themselves, like, “I’m useless,” etc.
  • Socially withdrawing as they feel unable to interact with their peers, or may have received negative feedback
  • Diminishing opportunities or avoiding them, and being pessimistic about other options working out

Signs of low self-esteem in adults include:

  • Extreme sensitivity to any criticism you receive
  • Apologizing all the time — even when there’s nothing to be sorry for
  • Feeling as though your achievements are lucky, or due to external factors, while your failures or mistakes are all your fault
  • Defensiveness and hostility
  • Socially withdrawing

Eight Ways to Battle Low Self-Esteem

There are ways you can battle low self-esteem. The first, and potentially most important step, is accepting your own shortcomings. This is very hard to overcome but is vital in building a toolkit to battle low self-worth.

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Following on from this, you may find the below tips helpful:

  • Walk away — Choosing your battles will ensure that you can successfully meet the important demands in your life. It may feel as though you are failing or giving up, but being realistic about your activities will lead to greater success elsewhere.
  • Let go of the need to be perfect — It is always better to hand in a complete project on time missing a deadline because you were trying to achieve perfection. If you hold yourself to very high standards and always aim for the best, you may be prone to long periods of avoidance interspersed with short bursts of enthusiasm. This is not a productive way to work.
  • Be realistic — Make sure your expectations of yourself, and what you can achieve, are realistic. You may feel that people without ADHD have everything come easier to them, but this is not the case. Some tasks may run smoother for other people, but everyone struggles at some point. Don’t be disheartened by setbacks, use them as an excuse to try again in a different way.
  • Don’t procrastinate — With ADHD you may often find yourself distracted or forgetting things. Over time this may mean you achieve less of what you want to, and have an impact on your self-esteem. Avoid procrastination by creating reminders or address something straight away and you will soon see results.
  • Recognize your strengths — Knowing your weaknesses and accepting is important, but there’s a flipside to this coin. We all have different areas of strength, different aspects that we excel in, and it is important to recognize these. Knowing your strengths and working on them can help improve self-esteem.

Next page: more tips improving your self-esteem, and the importance of support with ADHD and low self-esteem problems. 

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