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ADHD School Stress Dreams

I’m thankful to no longer be in school anymore, but my brain apparently didn’t get the memo. It has a bad habit of conjuring up recurring school-related dreams every so often, and I had another one last night.

In the dreams, I’m usually back in high school. There’s some big test or assignment that I’m woefully unprepared for due to procrastination. Most commonly, it’s the day of the final exam and I realize I haven’t done any of the reading or homework for the entire semester.

ClassroomThe feelings that accompany this scenario are always the same: how did I let things get to this point? Guilt, frustration with myself, the shame that soon it’s going to be obvious just how little of the required work for the class I’ve done. You know, feelings that tend to be familiar to ADHDers.

These dreams are a pretty literal representation of what my “study habits” were like in high school and college, except they’re an exaggeration in the sense that I wouldn’t literally go until the day of the final exam without doing a single thing for a class.

The feelings of guilt, of not understanding how I let things get so out of hand, and of knowing that I could do so much better, are also a fairly accurate depiction of my time in school.

One thing I sometimes wonder is: why do I still have these dreams now?

Maybe it’s because school, as somewhere where you spend a lot of time when you’re young and that’s not a great fit to ADHD, can leave a psychological mark after you graduate.

It could also be that, even though I’m done with school, these general themes are still relevant to my life. I mean, sure, I have better coping skills and a more ADHD-friendly environment than when I was in school. But I still procrastinate, I still mismanage time in seemingly inexplicable ways, and I still feel frustrated about it at times.

Really, these back-in-time-to-school dreams don’t bother me too much. Mostly I’m super stressed while they’re happening, and then when I wake up I’m grateful for the life I have now. But they’re a reminder that even if you can move on from experiences you had with undiagnosed ADHD, those experiences have still been a part of shaping who you are.

Do you have any recurring dreams that you suspect are ADHD-related? I’d be interested to hear!

Image: Flickr/Emory Maiden

ADHD School Stress Dreams

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). ADHD School Stress Dreams. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Feb 2020
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