ADHD & Pacing

ADHD & Pacing

ADHD is often referred to as an invisible disability, which means that many people don’t know what’s happening inside our brain when we experience symptoms such as impulsivity, difficulty with time management, or being easily distracted. That’s why our friends, family, or teachers might exhibit frustration or impatience with us when we begin to pace around to reduce the severity of these symptoms. This habit of walking back and forth is often an essential way to control our inner thoughts and thinking process - and for many of us, there’s a huge benefit to being able to do so.   

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word from our expert

Pacing Through Life: The ADHD Connection You Might Not Know About

Do you ever find yourself walking in circles, back and forth, or taking extra laps around your living room while mulling over a problem? 🚶For some of us with ADHD, pacing is a pretty common occurrence. 

But what exactly is behind this restless ritual? Is it unique to ADHD, or is it a universal act? In this article, I'll walk you through some of the key reasons why some of us with ADHD might pace, with the intention that in understanding, we can find ways to remind ourselves that our unique traits are entirely valid. 👍

Is Pacing an ADHD Trait?

Although the act of pacing definitely seems to be related to ADHD, it isn't confined to it. Many people, regardless of medical or mental health conditions, resort to pacing to process thoughts or emotions. However, it's hard to overlook the frequency with which pacing appears among those with ADHD.

When it comes to formal research linking pacing and ADHD in adults, the evidence is still relatively scarce. 🤔 But in the world of anecdotal accounts and self-reports, pacing comes up time and time again as a typical behavior among people with ADHD. It's important to note that conditions like bipolar disorder and general mood swings can also lead to pacing. Still, the triggers and underlying reasons might vary.

Why Might People with ADHD Pace?

While the reasons for pacing can vary from person to person, those of us with ADHD often find ourselves engaged in this repetitive motion for surprisingly similar reasons. The common point seems to be a subconscious attempt to manage - and even mask - some of the more challenging symptoms of ADHD. From emotional regulation to dealing with hyperactivity, let's dive into why pacing becomes a go-to behavior for many folks with ADHD. ⬇️

To Manage Intense Emotions

For those of us with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotional regulation can be a daily struggle. 😬 Common symptoms like frequent mood swings and impulsive behaviors indicate that ADHD affects more than our ability to focus; it impacts our mental health. 

This is where pacing comes into play. Pacing can be a valuable coping mechanism to manage these intense emotions. It's almost like our feet are talking to our overloaded minds, 🧠 offering us a way to work through feelings without having to verbally articulate them.

To Manage Impatience

In a world that demands patience, waiting can be agonizing for people with ADHD. 🥱 Whether standing in a queue or waiting for a web page to load, our brains always seek stimulation

This constant need for mental engagement can make periods of inactivity unbearable. Pacing is a physical outlet for this restless energy, allowing us to discharge some tension and distract ourselves. For example, it's not unusual to find someone with ADHD walking around in loops while on hold with customer service or waiting for an appointment. 📱

To Regulate Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is one of the hallmark traits of ADHD. But what often goes unnoticed is how this hyperactivity interacts with our lives beyond just making us fidgety in class or talkative in meetings. 🤯

Pacing provides a controlled physical outlet for this hyperactivity. It's a way to self-regulate and channel excess energy into a repetitive but (mostly!) non-disruptive activity. 🏃This example is relevant for both adults and children, as signs of hyperactivity can occur at any age. 

To Improve Focus

Contrary to the stigma that paints ADHD as solely a disorder of inattention, many of us find that certain types of movement, like pacing, can enhance our focus. Whether we're preparing for a presentation or trying to solve a complex problem, pacing can facilitate a more focused state of mind. 🤓 It's not about aimlessly wandering; it's about actively engaging with our environment to improve concentration.

Pacing as Stimming

While the term 'stimming' is often more closely associated with conditions like autism, it's important to note that self-stimulatory behaviors are not exclusive to any one diagnosis. Pacing can serve as a form of stimming for those with ADHD, especially when experiencing anxiety. 

Stimming provides sensory input and can be a way to self-soothe during emotional or sensory overload. 🥰 These triggers often intersect with the challenges presented by ADHD symptoms, highlighting the complex relationship between our mental health and behavior patterns.

Visualize your ADHD traits!

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


Things to Remember with Pacing and ADHD

Understanding the ins and outs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), including its signs and symptoms, is crucial to incorporating our unique traits into our lives. Embracing these traits, rather than seeing them as limitations or symptoms of a chronic illness, can enrich your life. 👩‍❤️‍👩

Here are some pointers 👇on managing and benefiting from pacing and a few things to remember throughout your journey.

Don't Pathologize It - It's Okay to Pace

If you find comfort and control through walking back and forth, let's be clear: it's perfectly fine to do so. Where possible, choose a secluded area to avoid distractions or misunderstandings from others. Whether it's an empty room in your home, a tranquil garden, or a quiet outdoor space, the point is to find an area where you can freely manage your energy and symptoms without judgment or any obstacles that might cause you an injury. 😉

Find Alternatives When Pacing Isn't Possible

There will be times when walking back and forth just isn't an option, especially in certain social situations or environments. But don't fret; there are other effective treatments and coping strategies. Consider engaging in activities that also serve to channel your energy and emotions. Fidget tools, writing down your thoughts, ✍️ or even solving puzzles like a Rubik's cube can all be excellent outlets. These activities can also help with ADHD symptoms like easily getting distracted or impulsive behaviors.

Combine It with Outdoor Activities 

Maximize the benefits of needing to wander around by incorporating it into outdoor activities; for example, hiking or running through a park. This approach fulfills your need for physical movement and allows you to commune with nature. This exposure can benefit your mental health, offering a natural setting to reflect and de-stress.

When to Seek Treatment

If your usual coping mechanisms are no longer effective in terms of your ability to manage symptoms, it might be time to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and potential adjustments in your ADHD treatment plan. 💊 Medications like Ritalin or therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are available treatment options that can help manage signs of hyperactivity and other ADHD symptoms. 

It’s also important to rule out any mental disorders that may be contributing towards these behaviors, such as bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety. Additionally, some medications frequently used to treat conditions such as ADHD or bipolar disorder can also trigger a symptom called akathisia to occur. If you think you may be affected by this, contact a medical doctor as soon as possible. ⚠️


Pacing shouldn't be viewed as a negative symptom to be suppressed but rather as a natural coping mechanism many of us with ADHD use to manage excess energy or focus. While some might find it distracting, the key is finding a balance that respects others' needs without stifling our own. The fact that we may pace is not something to be ashamed of; it's a part of how our unique brains operate. 👍

That being said, it's important to be mindful of how our behaviors affect those around us, especially in shared spaces or intimate relationships. Communication can go a long way here; discussing why we pace can help others understand that it's not a sign of disinterest but a method we use to better engage with our environment. 💙

Let's give ourselves the permission to show up authentically - ADHD traits and all. 😉 Living unapologetically doesn't mean we disregard others' feelings or needs; it means we find a way to coexist, honoring our needs and those of those around us. After all, that's the secret to living a fulfilling life while managing the unique challenges and gifts of neurodiversity.

Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

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

Learn more

ADHD and Pacing: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is pacing back and forth ADHD?

Pacing is often observed in people with ADHD but isn't exclusively a sign of the disorder. It helps manage excess energy and focus. For an accurate diagnosis, consult a medical professional, as pacing is also related to other conditions.

Why do people with ADHD pace?

Pacing helps those with this neurodiverse condition manage impulsivity and difficulty focusing on tasks. It's a way to expend energy and can aid concentration. However, it's essential to consider its impact on family and friends, especially in shared spaces like school.

What is stimming in ADHD?

Stimming, often associated with autism, is also common in ADHD. It involves repetitive behaviors like tapping to help focus or self-soothe. Depending on the severity of symptoms, it's often used as an effective treatment method alongside therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

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: