There are many things about ADHD that many people like. Creativity and entrepreneurial spirit among them. However, there are many more unfortunate aspects that range from irritating, to the ADHD brain and others, to inconvenient, to downright embarrassing.
Now I’m not saying that shaming people for something outside of their control is good or acceptable, but it is something that happens. We even shame ourselves for these things. There are even a few items on this list that are actually positive things that other people judge, because they don’t understand it or it bothers them.
Here are a few more embarrassing ADHD traits I’ve experienced or witnessed, along with some suggestions on how to mitigate the embarrassment for the future. You can find the first 5 here.
1. Not enough money to pay
I hate that awful sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach I’ve gotten when my card is declined or I reach into my wallet and find out I don’t have enough cash. Stammering an apology to the cashier or server and/or any friends and family, we try and figure out how to get out of this mess. Borrowing money can be another embarrassment that results from this. What can make it even worse is if we have tried extremely hard to stay on top of our finances or keep cash on hand, but those efforts have fallen short.
There is no simple solution to this situation because it can have so many causes. Poor memory, avoidance of dealing with money matters, impulsive spending, chronic overspending, lack of awareness of routine expenditures, or even in rare cases being the target of fraud or identity theft.
Since there are so many possible causes, the first step is to take a calm and hard look at what the circumstances of our finances are. The bottom line is that when what we spend is greater than what we are earning, problems will arise. Even taking this look might be beyond our ability. If strong emotions are preventing us from being fully aware of our financial position, it is vital to enlist professional help to work through these blockages.
In a case where common ADHD symptoms like memory problems or lack of awareness are at play, an ADHD coach can be key to changing our habits. When it comes to a problem of the finances being too complex for us to easily manage, a financial adviser can be instrumental in building systems that give us what we need and do not allow us access to things that will cause issues.
The common denominator in all three of these suggestions is to get somebody else, somebody whose job it is to know about certain areas, to shore up areas where we ourselves are weak. Nobody said we had to slog through life on our own, or if they did, well, they were wrong, and probably lonely.
2. Untidy spaces
Clutter and disorder are enormous and chronic ADHD problems. They can also be intensely embarrassing. When you have people over to visit and there are no clean dishes or pick someone up in your car and have to move piles of stuff to allow them a place to sit. We find ourselves asking how other people manage this insurmountable task.
One of the biggest obstacles of overcoming disorder is very few people find cleaning and decluttering fun. With ADHD ‘if it’s not fun, it won’t get done’, unless of course we bully ourselves into doing it. So the first step is to figure out how to make it fun. Doing as much as possible in 15 minutes is one strategy, with bonus points for music and dancing. Having a non-judgemental and supportive body-double over to assist you, even passively, can lighten the mood.
In terms of the workplace, limiting what you bring with you in the morning, and ensuring you then take it all home again in the afternoon, can be a good first step. Try having two lists, one at home, and one at work, and when you leave, reference the list to make sure you are bringing everything with you.
When it comes to paper clutter and work, we run into added dimensions of time management. If the works was completed, it would be somewhere else, right? Research ADHD-friendly ways to improve time management, such as this, to assist you.
It may be that, similar to the previous point, hiring a professional organizer may be required. In this instance I would strongly advise also considering the following question: how am I going to maintain the order, once this person has done their job and left? Answering that question may be aided by a coach.
3. Breaking things
It’s a fact that those of us with ADHD tend to be just plain clumsier than others. We trip over things, knock objects over and onto the ground, and bump into everything. When we break our own possessions it’s frustrating enough, but when we break something belonging to others, it can be mortifying.
Mindfulness can be incredibly powerful for ADHD management as a whole, and can bring us better awareness of our bodies. Intentionally choosing to buy objects that are harder to break can be another strategy. Plastic or wooden everything to do with food and wooden instead of marble or tile counters and floors.
Also, investing in protective cases and screen shields for all devices as soon as you purchase them. There are waterproof cases for many makes of phone. Often people dislike this option because the cases are ugly, bulky, and sometimes costly. However, unless it’s made of gold or unicorn hair, a case is less expensive than a new phone. I’ve used Otterbox for years and recommend them highly. (They also have very flexible warranties, making them an even smarter investment!)
4. Emotional reactivity
We can sometimes get secondhand embarrassment if we see a child cry or scream at their parent in a public place. What about when we are acting childish, even if it isn’t in a public place? Snapping at loved ones, being curt to service people, and generally treating our fellow human beings with less consideration than we would ideally wish sucks not only for them, but for us.
All of these unfortunate circumstances are caused by a tendency in ADHD to have greater emotional reactivity than others. Our emotions are intense, overwhelming, and can come upon us more suddenly than our control. It is far easier than we might think to say something we never intended.
Regaining emotional control takes more than just willpower, but willpower is an important factor. Many Dialectical Behavioural Therapy strategies can help in this area. Awareness and intention are the first steps. In some cases a therapist or counsellor may be needed to teach the skills we ourselves find baffling.
5. Confessing to missed deadlines
That dread phrase “I’m not angry, just disappointed” can be among the most embarrassing for ADHD. Having to admit to someone (boss, spouse, professor) that once again, we promised something and failed to deliver on time, can be horrible. Even if we try to lighten the mood with a self-deprecating joke, the negative emotions are still there.
This problem again runs into the area of time management. It also has to do with over-committing ourselves. Many people with ADHD are people pleasers and one of the ways this backfires on us is when we find too many things on our plate and must let something fall off.
Being realistic and aware of how much time we have and about how long things will actually take us can make saying “no” easier. It’s like if someone asked you “Can I borrow like... $300,000?” Unless you genuinely had $300,000 in your pocket, and didn’t need it, you’d have no problem, or at least less problem, saying “no” because you genuinely had no ability to respond in any other way to that request. If someone asks you to fit something new into your schedule, and you know for a fact you do not have time for it, that “no” has more weight and it can be easier to defend it.
What embarrassing things does your brain do and what do you do to counter them?