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The Goal of Coping With ADHD

All conversations about ADHD lead, at some point, to the topic of coping.

Case in point is this blog. As an ADHD blogger, I talk about ADHD a lot, and I wouldn’t want to have to count how many times I’ve used the word “coping” in my past five years of posts.

Given how much we talk about coping, there’s one question we ask surprisingly little: what exactly are we trying to accomplish with all our coping strategies? What’s the goal?

GoalsI’ll start with the vaguest possible answer: the goal depends on the particular coping strategy.

For example, some coping strategies are intended to solve a problem. Reminders and to-do lists solve problems with forgetting about tasks that need to be done; deadlines, alarms and scheduling techniques solve various time management problems.

Other coping strategies are more about changing your environment, making it more in tune with how your ADHD brain works. Listening to music might provide your brain with stimulation that allows you to focus better on boring or cognitively demanding tasks. On a larger scale, switching jobs might let you find a work environment that’s more accommodating of your ADHD symptoms.

Notice the goal of coping strategies is not necessarily to reduce your ADHD symptoms. That’s what makes “coping” different than “treatment.”

With treatment, the question is generally “what can be done to make ADHD symptoms less severe?” With coping, the question is often more along the lines of “given these symptoms, what can be done to minimize their negative impact on my life?”

Since there’s no perfect treatment for ADHD, and since none of us have the superhuman ability to will away our ADHD symptoms, looking for coping strategies is an essential part of living with ADHD. Because coping is about figuring out how to structure our lives to best fit with and accommodate our ADHD brains, it’s a process that tends to be tied up with more general goals like finding a work-life balance, deciding how to spend our time, knowing what makes us happy, and so on.

In that context, it’s worth keeping in mind one more thing that isn’t the goal of coping: achieving perfection. Finding effective coping strategies doesn’t mean ADHD won’t cause any more problems in your life or that you won’t still have moments of frustration with your symptoms.

If anything, it means accepting those symptoms and frustrations, and then figuring out, given that those things are part of your life, what you can change to make your everyday life less stressful and more rewarding.

Image: Flickr/Giulia Forsythe

The Goal of Coping 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). The Goal of Coping With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Jun 2020
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