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“Proving” That You’re Trying With ADHD

One of the most common ways ADHD gets interpreted is by people thinking that ADHDers “aren’t trying.” People think to themselves “oh, she would’ve paid more attention if she cared” or “he wouldn’t have missed that deadline if he were trying.”

An annoying consequence is that people with ADHD might find themselves in the position of having to prove to others that they are, in fact trying. They have to go out of the way to show that their symptoms aren’t indicative of not caring.

But I am trying!

There are different ways of doing so, some of which are better than others. I think one of the most effective ways of showing that you really are making an effort in environments like school or the workplace is through frequent communication.

I don’t necessarily mean communication about ADHD in particular. Whether to disclose your diagnosis depends on the specifics of your circumstance, and in many situations it might be better not to bring up ADHD at all.

What I mean is staying in communication about whatever projects you’re working on for school or work to show that you’re invested.

If you’re in college, for example, it helps to regularly meet with your professors and to make a point of asking questions in class. Being engaged in this way means that when you need your professor’s help to address any challenges you might have with their class, they’re less likely to assume that you just need to try harder.

In the workplace, the details will differ depending on the nature of your work. In general, though, if you’re working on collaborative projects, make a point of keeping in communication with all the people involved. Then if you reach a situation where you need to change up the way the work is being done in order to accommodate your symptoms, it’s again less probable that others will interpret your behavior as just “not trying.”

Part of the point here is that people have a lot of variability in how they perform in different environments. Eventually, you’ll probably run into a teacher whose style clashes with the way your ADHD brain learns best, or you’ll run into coworkers who collaborate in a way that causes problems given your ADHD symptoms.

In these situations, it’ll be easier to talk to the people involved and find an adjustment that works if you’ve already built up enough goodwill.

It’s unfortunate that people with ADHD find themselves in the position of having to “prove” that they’re trying, or that ADHD symptoms are ever misinterpreted as a simple lack of effort. But given that reality, making a habit of frequent communication will make the fact that you really do care clear to others, and will help later on with any additional asks you need to make in terms of accommodations.

Image: Flickr/Pat Joyce

“Proving” That You’re Trying With ADHD

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. (2019). “Proving” That You’re Trying With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Mar 2019
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