ADHD Pacing

ADHD & Pacing: Can You Please Stay Still?

Pacing, or the act of walking at a steady speed, usually back and forth, may be used to relieve some symptoms of hyperactivity. However, it can also have consequences. Here’s what you need to know about ADHD and Pacing. 

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Reviewed by


The mini Adhd coach
In this Article
Could it be ADHD? The Self-Assessment Workbook by The Mini ADHD Coach.
Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

Visualize and assess 25 ADHD traits and understand how they affect your life.

Learn more

Why Do Some People with ADHD Pace a Lot?

When others learn that someone is diagnosed with ADHD, their initial assumption about that person might be about their never-ending supply of energy and enthusiasm ⚡. After all, one of the stereotypes of having an ADHD diagnosis is about how hyperactivity manifests in the form of difficulty "sitting still."

Physical hyperactivity might be the more common symptom for some people with ADHD as the characteristics and traits can be more visible than inattentive ADHD symptoms 🔍. Higher rates of ADHD cases are classified with the Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation probably because they are easier to spot and therefore may have a more accurate diagnosis. Some hyperactive-impulsive ADHD traits that a person can experience are fidgeting, squirming when seated for too long, having problems controlling impulse control, or even experiencing restlessness.

But why do some people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) seem to have an endless source of energy? Do they even get tired of pacing around? ❓

What is Pacing?

Pacing, according to its definition, is an act when you constantly walk at a certain or consistent speed, usually back and forth 🚶, probably to relieve the tension and anxiety that you are experiencing. Though pacing behavior isn't one of the main criteria included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V) for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD affects our behavior to do such 👌.

But how does pacing relieve us from our ADHD symptoms?

The Need to Pace from an ADHD Brain's Perspective

I was diagnosed with Combined ADHD Type when I was 29 years old. I wasn't sure what to feel regarding my ADHD diagnosis back then. But while I learned much about what others may see as an "invisible disability," I started to accept myself little by little 🤗. I may have experienced a lot of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity but now I know that these ADHD symptoms are a part of me that I need to accept and manage. And somehow, pacing worked for me as a strategy to handle some of my ADHD symptoms 🚶.

ADHD & Pacing: Many People with Physical Hyperativity like to pace around

Pacing Because of Trouble Waiting

Some people with ADHD get easily distracted and often cannot wait patiently. One of the outlets we tend to do is to pace around so that we can spend more time focusing on going to and from our initial location 🤔. We often choose this path rather than be irritated and frustrated because of reasons, like our friends being late to our meeting or our class not starting yet 💢.

ADHD & Pacing: Pacing can feel like a need

Pacing gives us the sense that we are in control of our environment while we wait for something or someone to arrive. It can also help us ground ourselves and focus our thoughts on what is happening around us, rather than feeling anxious because our surroundings are sometimes chaotic.

Pacing Because of Intense Emotions

Instead of letting our impulsive behaviors take the best of us during overwhelming confrontations and feelings, a person with ADHD may rather walk around and calm themselves 🚶. This is one of the strategies that we use so that we don't give in to (sometimes) rude behaviors, such as blurting out inappropriate comments or talking in a raised voice.

ADHD & Pacing: To regulate emotions

It's not that pacing stops us from feeling stress and intense emotions, but it can make us focus more on the situations at hand, think through everything, and let our brain process every input 🧠. This benefit of pacing can help us avoid conflicts and relationship problems since we don't want to act out inappropriately.

Pacing to Regulate Energy Bursts

Someone with ADHD may experience being affected by an unlimited supply of energy ⚡. There are moments when impulsivity and hyperactivity are at their high, and we have to do something to contain them. When these sudden energy bursts occur, we turn to impulsive activities, and pacing gives our brain the stimulation it needs, causing less trouble to people around us.

ADHD & Pacing: To manage sudden burst of energy

Instead of impulsive buying or trying out new hobbies and tasks, pacing becomes much more practical when the severity of our ADHD hyperactivity becomes intense. After all, it's much more convenient to walk back and forth than to spend on an ADHD tax that we'll probably never use once our interest goes down 😅.

Pacing to Improve Focus

Did you know that pacing can improve the focus of an ADHD brain? Research shows that parents and teachers notice an increase in concentration in children with ADHD when they are continuously moving and not contained in a specific area. Some may even say that these little movements may be an effective “treatment” for some of the most common symptoms of ADHD.

ADHD & Pacing: To be able to focus better

When people frequently pace through a specific path, they'll most likely remember everything related to that area. This can be a great memory aid for some people with ADHD who need to retain information more often than others. It can likewise help them stay focused on tasks that require intense concentration.

However, there are moments when pacing can be considered a bad habit since it can distract the people around us 😢. Others may find the continuous movement disturbing and annoying. That's when masking symptoms of ADHD may begin to take over our pacing behavior.

ADHD & Pacing: Fear of disturbing people around or look "weird"
Visualize your ADHD traits!

Take our fun online quiz to visualize your ADHD traits and learn more about your brain!


Masking ADHD Hyperactive Movements

ADHD Masking, or suppressing symptoms and behaviors related to ADHD, tends to be a form of defense mechanism to keep ourselves from being noticed (usually, negatively) by others 😥. For example, if a person with ADHD is asked to stay still in an area and can't help but move around, they will try their best not to be seen pacing back and forth so that they won't draw attention toward themselves.

However, can you imagine the difficulty we experience when we are sometimes forced not to do things that can be innate to us?

Some people with ADHD may stop pacing because they are worried about being judged by the people around them. The need to fit in and be accepted is so strong that sometimes, we start masking our behaviors for the sake of being "normal." 🎭 We don’t want others to see us as "weird" because we do tasks that aren't conventional for them. However, some affected adults need to have these activities as our “therapy and coping mechanism” for Attention Deficit Disorder. It is essential to let other people know what may possibly happen to us when we don't have any other outlet to manage our hyperactivity 👌.

When we stop doing activities that can benefit us from relieving tensions and struggles caused by ADHD, we tend to become more vulnerable to the symptoms of our condition. Occurrences of frequent mood swings, intense irritability, or even lack of focus may be hard to manage because of masking ADHD traits. It may even come to a point where co-morbid mental health conditions start to occur, such as depression, anxiety, or even signs of bipolar disorder.

Tips for People with ADHD who Pace a Lot

Understanding everything about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, its signs, and symptoms is one of the best ways to overcome every struggle we experience 🙆. It is equally important to make the most out of your traits rather than treating them as a disability that limits your actions. Here are some of the tips that you can follow to make the most out of your ADHD-related pacing:

  • If this course of action (pacing) makes you more comfortable, remember that it is entirely acceptable to pace all around. Just remember to make sure that no one is around 🚶. Find a comfortable and secluded area to pace. This can be an empty room in your house, the garden, or even outdoors while walking.
  • If pacing is not an option, you can do other activities that can help you relieve the intense emotions, like fidgeting, reading a book, or even writing down your thoughts ✏️. You can try to solve a Rubik's cube or a crossword puzzle to stimulate your mind and distract it from your symptoms.
  • As much as you can, enclose pacing traits with outdoor activities. This way, you can embrace the need for physical exertion and your inner peace. For example, you can go on hikes or run around a park while thinking about things that bother you 🏃. It can dramatically improve your mental health while spending energy with nature.
  • When you think that your ability to manage your energy isn't working anymore, it's more appropriate to approach your mental health doctor 🧑‍⚕️ and ask for possible interventions for your struggles. ADHD medication, like Ritalin, can be an example of the interventions you can take to cope with your mental health. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be offered to help you manage hyperactivity well. Aside from these two strategies helping you get through Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, other ADHD treatment courses can be tried depending on your preference.
ADHD & Pacing: My Tips

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder, isn't a disability that won't permit us to maximize our potential. Sometimes, we must think of ways to cope with this mental health disorder and make the most out of it. As much as we can, understanding how the condition works and creating strategies to manage our pacing can help us live a peaceful and meaningful life 💗.

If someone close to you just got an ADHD diagnosis or has the chance of experiencing this chronic illness, having a supportive and understanding environment is essential 🧑‍🤝‍🧑. Showing your loved ones that you are willing to help them through this condition can help them manage their pacing better.

ADHD and Pacing: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is Pacing, and is it a symptom of ADHD?

Pacing is defined as walking at a steady speed, usually back and forth, and can be used to relieve symptoms of worry or anxiety. It is NOT an official ADHD symptom, but many people with this neurodivergent condition resorts to pacing. 

Why do many people with ADHD pace?

In most cases, people with ADHD pace because they want to get a hold of their hyperactivity symptoms. For instance, when a thousand thoughts run in their mind, they might want to pace so that they can think more clearly. 

Are there advantages and disadvantages when a person with ADHD paces?

Yes, there are. Anecdotal reports say pacing truly helps them manage their hyperactivity symptoms. However, since it involves repetitive walking, it may distract the people around us. 

Share this article on Social Media

Help us raise awareness around ADHD, let's spread ADHD love and support to all that need it.

If you liked this article you are going to like these ones:

Check out more content about similar topics: