ADHD and Stress


Within my practice, I have noticed that many individuals with ADHD either tend to be more stressed in general or experience higher levels of stress within distinct circumstances due to associated ADHD abilities or processes.  These include:

  • time management difficulties (i.e. planning efficiency, completing long term projects or tasks with various steps, etc.)
  • feeling persistent time pressure
  • becoming overwhelmed by having various expectations or activities
  • managing expectations within a short amount of time
  • difficulty remembering all tasks or expectations
  • becoming emotionally overwhelmed by social, family, or interpersonal stressors

Depending on the individual, stress due to any of the above issues is displayed in different ways.  If the individual also has difficulty with emotional inhibition, stress is often displayed in a BIG way that tends to be disruptive.  Other individuals may tend to internalize stress and feel increased pressure internally.  However, it may still reveal itself externally as frustration, anxiety, irritability, or being overwhelmed.

Ideas for managing stress with your child or adolescent with ADHD include:

  1. Maintain a consistent management of academic work expectations through daily checking, planning, and finishing tasks in shorter doses as opposed to waiting until the amount that has to be completed is overwhelming for the individual.  Individuals with ADHD are often not skilled at determining how to do this.
  2. Maintain a weekly and monthly calendar that is reviewed often and that keeps track of school expectations, extracurricular activities, and family obligations. Review frequently.
  3. Maintain a regulated schedule that provides for a balance of social, family, work and physical activity.
  4. Recognize and label procrastination thinking (i.e. rationalizing how something can be done at a later time/date). Realize that it will increase stress.
  5. Maintain stress reduction practices such as regular physical exercise and a consistent sleep routine.
  6. Check in with your child or adolescent about what may be bothering them or asking them about feelings of stress. Some children and adolescents may not be immediately insightful about their feelings or may rebuff your query, but at least providing the dialogue and awareness is an important first step.