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He Said / She Said: Examining the ADHD Life – Does ADHD Mean You’re Always Saying, “I’m Sorry”? Part I

He Said / She Said - Examining the ADHD Life with Zoë Kessler and Jeff Siegel If love means never having to say, “I’m sorry,” does ADHD mean ALWAYS having to say “I’m sorry”? Jeff and Zoë explore this question in this week’s He Said / She said series.

Without apology, we present, Part I:

10:38am  Jeff  Does having ADHD mean that you’ll always be saying you are sorry?

I mean…is there always something we screw up that puts us in the “I’m sorry” position?

For example, sometimes we’re extraordinarily late in finishing up a project and you find that you have to say…”I’m sorry.”

10:42am Zoë  I’m a Canadian; I ALREADY have to say I’m sorry all the time! Hee hee hee…sorry…  It’s like having to tease out symptoms in comorbid conditions.

10:42am Jeff  Americans don’t have that particular problem. And, yes, maybe the issue is not just the ADHD but the comorbid conditions which bring out the “best” in ADHD. hehehe

10:44am Zoë  I just meant I’m not sure if I’m always saying I’m sorry because my ADHD has caused me to screw up, or disappoint someone, or if I’m just in the habit of saying I’m sorry ’cause it’s a cultural thing. I’m SURE it’s a bit of both.

10:44am Jeff  There are certainly habits that have developed over time because of undiagnosed ADHD and those habits, like not completing a project by the deadline, or forgetting to do a household task, puts us in the position, more than non-ADHDers, of having to say we’re sorry.

10:46am Zoë  I agree with your assessment. I tend to think this constant apologizing reinforces our low-self esteem, and if it’s done within an ongoing relationship with a non-ADHDer, it shifts the power balance to one of “power over” to the other person, whether they want to be in that position or not. In other words, WE’RE the identified f*ck-up, and they start to look like the victim of our ADHD-ness. Make sense?

10:49am Jeff  Yes…definitely makes sense. If you are apologizing all the time, you are in the humbler position, the less powerful position. It becomes a self-perpetuating thing. Low self-esteem reduces confidence which exacerbates some traits, and those traits cause you to have to apologize which feeds the low self-esteem.

10:52am Zoë  It’s like the cycle of abuse, except in a way, it’s self-abuse. I think the way to stop it is to: 1) acknowledge your ADHD; 2) get “treatment,” whatever that is for you; 3) Refuse to be treated like the guilty party / have your “deficits” defined as a moral or character flaw ie., keep the fact that it’s about hard-wiring or brain chemistry or both, but not deliberate on your part in the foreground, and, finally, 4) Work together, or if you’re single like me, work on your own (with the help of friends, blog supporters, etc., etc.) to improve on whatever it was you were always saying “I’m sorry” about!

10:55am Jeff  I think you left out “Or…live like a hermit and don’t interact with other human beings.”

10:55am   Zoë  LOL!

10:56am Jeff  But you are correct…you have to figure out how to break the cycle. There is another issue here.

There are times when saying you are sorry is quite legitimate and not related to ADHD at all. You need to be able to differentiate that from the other times. Further, the non-ADHD person needs to realize this too.

10:58am Zoë  And I would add that, it’s important to still acknowledge when you’ve messed up, ADHD-style. I’ve often read that laughing over it, or saying something like, “Oops, there goes my ADHD again” can be a substitute for taking blame and apologizing. I’m not quite sold on the Oops comment, and am trying to come up with my own. But acknowledging that you’ve inconvenienced someone, or something, is still important.

As is reiterating that you’re still intent upon, and in fact ARE, working on making positive change. In other words, “cut me some slack here, I’m trying!”

11:00am Jeff I can hear the little non-ADHD voice saying “How much slack do you need? I’ve been living with X for years now? Do you need years to fix it too?”

Should ADHDers wear a t-shirt like, “Kiss me I’m Italian” except for us it would say, “Kick me I’m ADHD”

But seriously…how much time is enough time to rectify a problem? Maybe that’s not really answerable.

11:03am  Zoë  Of course it’s answerable!


He Said / She Said: Examining the ADHD Life – Does ADHD Mean You’re Always Saying, “I’m Sorry”? Part I

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2010). He Said / She Said: Examining the ADHD Life – Does ADHD Mean You’re Always Saying, “I’m Sorry”? Part I. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Sep 2010
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