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ADHD or Normal Procrastination?

Last week, I wrote about the often frantic process of meeting a deadline when you have ADHD. It’s fair enough if you read that post and wondered, “but doesn’t everyone procrastinate sometimes?”

CalendarIn fact, that’s the thing about ADHD symptoms: if you look at one single behavior associated with ADHD, in isolation, in many cases it’s something that could happen to anyone. Where ADHD comes in is when multiple types of these behaviors occur over and over, causing serious problems for someone.

Yes, everyone procrastinates sometimes. But ADHD procrastination is different.

It’s different, first, because it’s more extreme. For people with ADHD, procrastination is often something that occurs over and over, causing real problems at work, at school, at home, or in personal relationships. And even if the person recognizes that procrastination is causing these problems, they tend to find that actually breaking the pattern is out of their control.

Many ADHDers find that they need the pressure of doing things at the last minute. When they try to start earlier, the ability to sustain attention or self-motivate is simply lacking.

The other way ADHD procrastination is different is in its wider context. People with ADHD have other symptoms, such as trouble sustaining concentration or sitting still for extended periods of time, missing out on critical information or making “careless” mistakes due to inattention, a lack of impulse control and a focus on short-term rewards in other areas of their life, and so on. Procrastination by itself doesn’t have to suggest ADHD, but in combination with other ADHD-related behaviors it does raise questions.

To be clear, this post isn’t supposed to provide any guidelines for self-diagnosis. The only way you can really know whether your own procrastination is part of something bigger (like ADHD) is to talk to a mental health professional.

My point is simply that, yes, people with ADHD procrastinate and people without ADHD procrastinate – but for people with ADHD, that procrastination is more regular, more extreme, harder to control, more damaging, and paired with other symptoms.

Image: Flickr/Dafne Cholet

ADHD or Normal Procrastination?

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2019). ADHD or Normal Procrastination?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Mar 2019
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