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ADHD and Stress

Stress. Stress. Doesn’t just hearing that word too many times in a row make your heart beat a little faster?

Stress is a part of life. And it’s definitely a part of life with ADHD.

Think about it this way: the antidote to stress is stress management. Like any kind of management, stress management takes planning, self-discipline and good organization. And of course, any time you hear words like “planning” and “organization” in the same sentence as “ADHD,” you know problems lie ahead.

First, there’s the problem of coping with stressful situations. ADHD has a way of taking normal, everyday stress and compounding it.

StressThat big work project? It becomes even more daunting when you lose faith in your ability to marshall your own forces of concentration or to get things done in a timely manner.

Major setbacks like getting fired from your job or breaking up from a long-term relationship? They’re all the more devastating when you’re struggling just to stay on top of household chores.

It doesn’t help that things most people take for granted become stressful for those with ADHD. For example, listening to what people are saying to you and keeping track of basic possessions (do you know where your keys are?) wouldn’t be on most people’s list of what keeps them awake at night – but then again, most people don’t have ADHD.

Then there’s the fact many tasks end up taking longer for people with ADHD. And as we all know, less time = more stress.

Still, despite all the ways ADHD can exacerbate or create stress, I’m going to end by suggesting that sometimes there’s an upside to being stressed out with ADHD.

You see, people with ADHD often seek out stimulation and excitement. In many cases, we’re at our worst when there’s not much interesting going on at all. The consequence of this is that occasionally we come into our element in stressful situations – for the ADHD brain, a little adrenaline-fueled wake-up call can be just what the psychiatrist ordered.

That’s part of the reason that even though no one wants to be stressed out, ADHDers sometimes act like they do. Procrastination is a good example. You’d think it wouldn’t be in our interests to do things as late as possible, but there are times when we need that last-minute panic to get our brains into gear, focus, and get stuff done.

So the goal of stress management with ADHD isn’t to eliminate stress from our lives altogether – that would be setting an impossible goal, which would in itself be stressful! Rather, the point is to learn how to recognize helpful and unhelpful stress. That we way can reduce the kind of stress that makes our lives worse and embrace the kind that works to our advantage!

Image: Flickr/Bernard Goldbach

ADHD and Stress

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). ADHD and Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 6, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Jun 2017
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