This article will provide insight into the communication challenges faced by adults with ADHD and offer strategies to enhance understanding and bridge the communication gap.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests in childhood, around the time a child starts school.
For ADHD, many of these symptoms are typically noticeable before a child turns 12, and they are persistent no matter where someone is, whether they are at home, at work, or in school. These symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with or, at the very least, reduce daily activity quality and function.
A diagnosis of ADHD happens when individuals struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity for at least six months. There are nine symptoms within both categories, and an individual must have at least six of those nine symptoms to be diagnosed.
A Childhood Disorder
Because symptoms manifest early in childhood, there is a common myth or misconception that ADHD only affects children. However, ADHD remains a persistent problem as those same children become adults. It can lead to ADHD and communication difficulties in adults.
How ADHD symptoms can hinder effective communication
Do adults with ADHD have trouble communicating? Yes. ADHD and communication difficulties are quite common in adulthood, even if people don’t recognize them as symptoms of ADHD.
Distraction and inattention leading to missed cues
One of the symptom categories of ADHD is inattention, and this can take many forms. One of those forms is being distracted regularly by unrelated thoughts. This distraction and overall attention can lead to missing important cues, especially social cues.
Missing these important social cues can disrupt the flow of communication and social interactions and hinder not only communication but the development of relationships.
Impulsivity resulting in interrupting or talking over others
The second category of symptoms is related to hyperactivity and impulsivity. This can take several forms, like constantly moving around rather than staying seated, fidgeting because of physical restlessness, and staying still during a conversation.
However, several other symptoms include constantly interrupting or talking over people. It’s not uncommon for adults with ADHD and communication difficulties to interrupt people while they are speaking or intruding upon other activities or conversations.
Forgetfulness leading to misunderstandings or missed appointments
The symptoms of inattention associated with ADHD in adults can cause individuals to seem distracted and never actively listen when conversing with others. But this type of forgetfulness also means that individuals forget about appointments or forget to return phone calls.
This level of forgetfulness leads to misunderstandings in relationships and can cause people to miss appointments at work or school. These types of ADHD and communication problems can significantly disrupt achievement or social connection.
Struggling with listening actively
As mentioned, hyperactivity and impulsivity make it difficult for people to actively listen, and this represents another ADHD and communication challenge in adults.
Difficulty organizing thoughts or getting to the point
ADHD and communication difficulties in adults can take the form of disorganization. That disorganization can extend to physical disorganization, like always forgetting important papers or items for work or school. But it can also be mental, like disorganized thoughts or challenges getting to the point.
Misreading social cues or misinterpreting others’ emotions
Other common ADHD and communication difficulties in adults have to do with missing social cues or completely misinterpreting other people’s emotions. Sometimes, an individual who is jittery and restless because of ADHD might get up and move around a lot and use gestures when speaking, and this can cause them to miss an important social cue.
It can also cause them to misinterpret emotions because they might see a look or body cue and not realize it had something to do with a previous sentence in the conversation and instead assume it was about them.
Becoming easily frustrated or overwhelmed in conversations
Inattention can cause individuals with ADHD to always seem distracted and never really actively listen when they are in a conversation with others, but it also leads to individuals with ADHD and communication problems becoming easily frustrated and overwhelmed.
This frustration can stem from an inability to effectively communicate their thoughts, missing important social cues and feeling frustrated, or excessive restlessness.
Over-talking or dominating conversations
In the second category of symptoms, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, people might move around, especially in adulthood, rather than stay seated because of their physical restlessness. They might find it difficult to stay still, which can interfere with conversations or communication with others.
Similarly, they might talk excessively, interrupt other people during a conversation, or intrude upon other activities.
How can communication problems strain personal relationships?
There are strategies to bridge the communication gap:
You need to be aware of your ADHD and communication issues are causing strain in personal relationships. This self-awareness will help you identify when you might be, for example, getting up and moving around in the middle of a heartfelt conversation, which someone else takes to be rude.
Active listening techniques
Active listening techniques can be applied to any conversation to help you stay focused and overcome symptoms of inattention. This can include repeating important points during a discussion or summing up what you heard to ensure you heard correctly.
Using tools and reminders
To address the issue of disorganization, things like tools, apps, and calendar reminders can serve an important role. These reminders can be for work projects, appointments, or even a friendly nudge to call a friend back.
Patience is essential when it comes to communication problems that have strained personal relationships. This patience goes both ways.
If you are an individual struggling with ADHD, speak out about the issues with which you struggle most and explain to those closest to you when certain behaviors are the result of ADHD and not you trying to be rude or avoiding communication.
Seeking therapy or counseling
There may very well be times when adults struggling with ADHD and communication problems need professional help. Professional therapists, counselors, and support groups can provide vital and actionable information on addressing communication difficulties.
Therapists and counselors can work with you on an individual basis to review factors that may contribute to your personal struggles with communication, while a support group can offer social support and insight into techniques and tricks that have worked or not worked for them.
Do adults with ADHD have trouble communicating? Yes, but that needn’t always be the case. ADHD and communication difficulties in adults can be addressed with self-help techniques to bridge the communication gap.
However, if the challenges of ADHD and communication persist, adults can always reach out to a mental health professional to get assistance identifying and overcoming their communication challenges.