2 Painfully Honest Reasons Friendship Is Hard For People With ADHD

An ADHD expert shares the most effective ways for people to rise above these challenges and build deep, life-long friendships.

Friends on a hammock Michael Tucker | Unsplash

For many individuals with ADHD, maintaining healthy friendships can prove a significant struggle. How does one balance the many demands that life puts upon us while keeping our vital connections to those people we truly value?

Many individuals with ADHD attract tons of friends due to their zany sense of humor, high energy, and creative, fun, loving nature. However, maintaining good friendships over a sustained period is quite a different story for a plethora of reasons, which include: boredom, poor time management, problems with memory, and behaviors that are sometimes interpreted as being selfish or unresponsive to other’s needs.


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2 key ways friendships are a challenge when you have ADHD & how to overcome them 

1. The inability to acknowledge and appreciate their friends consistently

People with ADHD often feel so besieged by all they have to do adding one more thing to a long list may feel overwhelming. This is why they might not send a birthday card, thank you notes, or call to let their friends know they're thinking of them.

This may lead to others feeling unacknowledged or devalued in the friendship — even resulting in others questioning whether or not the friendship is worth hanging onto. We're all so busy in our lives that if we don't nurture friendships, we often grow apart. So, you must make a conscious effort to show up for your friends by acknowledging them.


How to fix this:

One thing you may find helpful is to mark your friend’s birthdays or special dates on your calendar. (With social media date reminders, this isn't much to ask.) Not to mention there are many other electronic calendar reminders (ahem, your phone) to help you remember special occasions. Find a method for you and make sure to use it.

And lastly, sometimes you need to physically show up and be there! What exactly does that mean? Being physically present for your friends. I recently pinned a great quote by Blake Mycoskie to Pinterest, "No matter how convenient it is for us to reach out to people remotely, sometimes the most important task is to show up in person." Simply put, sometimes there's no substitute for just being there.



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2. The struggle to really and truly listen

How often have you been speaking to a friend and noticed your mind wandering off? Or, perhaps you were listening and waiting impatiently for them to finish their sentence so that you could change the subject and discuss something of interest to you? Sounds familiar, right?

Well, that's because these are two listening problems that are common among those with ADHD. Aside from not being able to respond to your friend's needs at that moment, you make them feel like you're disinterested or don't care. Because your mind may be wandering, you might not remember important points that were made. This leaves others with the impression you're disinterested or self-absorbed.

How to fix this:

You must learn the art of being mindful and notice when your thoughts are drifting off. Staying present in our life experiences, in every moment, is about developing present awareness. Meditation helps develop this awareness, which teaches us to practice being mindful.


Try practicing mindful listening skills with a partner. Notice when your mind drifts off and brings it back to the conversation. Always maintain eye contact when listening to someone and ask for clarification if you're feeling lost in the conversation. Try mirroring back and paraphrasing what you've heard. If you're unsure that you understand the meaning of their words, ask for clarification.



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How to ask for clarification: 

  • "So, if I understand you correctly, you were angry with your mother for asking you to go to the store. Is that correct?"
  • "Yes, because she always does this when I am running late."
  • "Oh, so your mother asks you to run errands when you feel pressured for time?"
  • "Yes"

Learning to be mindful and develop empathic listening skills will enhance your relationships and help resolve misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts. In addition, it will make people feel valued and heard, which leads to maintaining healthy, lifelong friendships.

But remember, having ADHD is an explanation, not an excuse. So, don’t use your ADHD as an excuse for not stepping up to the plate since being able to maintain friendships is a vital part of feeling valued while providing us with a sense of contentedness in the world. For these reasons alone, mastering these skills may be one of the most important lessons for anyone to learn.

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Leslie Rouder, LCSW, is a holistic therapist who has been working with women in individual and group counseling sessions for more than two decades. She specializes in working with individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder to help her counseling clients solve their immediate problems and build their inner resources for finding greater meaning and fulfillment.