Home » ADHD » Blogs » ADHD Millennial » ADHD and Vicious Cycles

ADHD and Vicious Cycles

In my last post, I talked about what it means for ADHD to be not just something you have but something you live with.

Something I didn’t mention but could have is that when you live with ADHD, you don’t only have to deal with the symptoms that affect you in a given moment. You also have to deal with how the effects of symptoms accumulate over time.

SpiralA clear example of this is when ADHD symptoms conspire to create vicious cycles: your ADHD symptoms contribute to some problem in your life, and that problem in turn makes it harder to cope with your symptoms, which leads to additional problems, and so on.

This dynamic can play out in ADHDers’ struggles with time management. Procrastinating on tasks creates an overwhelming buildup of tasks that need to be done, which then makes time management even more difficult.

A similar pattern can play out over the long-term in the lives of people with ADHD.

Case in point: school and work. For people with ADHD, finding a job that accommodates ADHD symptoms is one of the most effective ways of coping with ADHD. But ADHD often interferes with people’s education, which in turn restricts the jobs that are available to them, including their access to jobs with high levels of autonomy that might make it easier to cope with ADHD.

Along similar lines, if ADHD symptoms contribute to people switching jobs frequently, the resulting fragmented resume can have the same effect: making it harder for the ADHDer to find a job that’s a good fit, in turn exacerbating the problems caused by ADHD symptoms if the ADHDer ends up in an ADHD-unfriendly line of work.

The point isn’t that these vicious cycles are impossible to escape from. There are plenty of stories, for example, of ADHDers who go back to school and do end up with more accommodating careers. Being diagnosed and experimenting to find coping strategies that work can be real steps toward breaking out of these cycles.

Rather, the point is to recognize that they exist and that part of managing ADHD symptoms is getting into the complex task of extracting one’s self from consequences of symptoms that accumulate over time and set up self-reinforcing circles.

Image: Flickr/Richard

ADHD and Vicious Cycles

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

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2020). ADHD and Vicious Cycles. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.