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Fighting Yourself With ADHD

Have you ever been called “self-destructive” or “self-sabotaging,” or you’ve just gotten the feeling that you spend a lot of time working against yourself?

If you have ADHD, there’s a good chance the answer is yes!

ADHD symptoms can feel like being sabotaged by yourself for no good reason. That’s especially true in the pre-diagnosis stages, when you don’t know there’s an underlying cause for your self-undermining behaviors!

MirrorIt can happen when, through poor planning, procrastination, bad time management, or inattentive oversights, you do things that get in the way of your goals. You fail at tasks you know how to do, you let opportunities slip, or you just put unnecessary obstacles in your own way.

It can also happen through impulsive decisions. Committing to things without thinking them through, taking spur-of-the-moment actions with negative consequences, dropping projects or personal connections in a moment of frustration.

The classic ADHD report card is that you didn’t “apply yourself” enough. Indeed, the self-fighting side of ADHD is that, theoretically, you know how to accomplish your goals, but in practice you’re inconsistent in being able to apply that knowledge. Instead, you often take counterproductive courses of action (or non-action) that get in your own way.

What comes with an ADHD diagnosis is the ability to start recognizing that these behaviors happen for a reason – they arise from symptoms of ADHD. The different ways ADHDers react to rewards, the motivation deficits, the trouble sustaining attention on tedious tasks… many aspects of ADHD can contribute to a sense that you are working against yourself.

Ultimately, these symptoms come down to an overarching issue: for people with ADHD, it’s harder to tell your brain what to do. That’s because ADHDers tend to have deficits in the self-management and self-regulation abilities that people use to call on the appropriate cognitive resources for whatever task needs to be done

So in a sense, when you have ADHD you are constantly fighting yourself. But not necessarily in the sense you might have originally thought. Rather, you’re always trying to get your brain into the appropriate state for what you know needs to be done, and your brain may or may not cooperate!

Image: Flickr/Philip Dean

Fighting Yourself With ADHD

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. (2020). Fighting Yourself With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jan 2020
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