ADHD Breakups

How to Deal With Intense Feelings of Loss After an ADHD Breakup

For some people with ADHD, dealing with complicated situations can be too overwhelming. What if they need to end a romantic relationship? How will they bounce back from it? Here’s what you need to know about ADHD & Breakups. 

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Reviewed by

Lisa Batten

PhD in Psychology
In this Article
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How Do People with ADHD Handle Breakups?

Recently, I've been struggling with too many intense emotions. My closest friend asked for some advice on how to deal with breakups. She's been with her long-time relationship partner for quite some time, and I witnessed how they managed difficult times together. But, I guess we sometimes have to accept that not every relationship is meant to be 💔. So I comforted her with kind words and told her everything would be alright.

ADHD Breakups: Particularly hard on people with ADHD

As soon as she started lamenting all her grievances while still hoping they would get back together again, I suddenly zoned out, and memories began to flash through my mind. I remember when I was going through the same scenario my friend is going through right now. As she continued talking about how she wished they could fix things, all I could think about was my experience before I was not yet diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 🙋.

I could not imagine how I managed to survive all the challenges that I experienced in the past. For a few months, I have felt that I am in a deep hole that keeps getting deeper and deeper. I didn't know how to deal with it, and I had no idea that some of my experiences were already part of my adult ADHD symptoms. I didn't realize until my ADHD diagnosis that the emotional dysregulation I was experiencing was a symptom of ADHD.

The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says: “In ADHD, the connection between the emotional center of your brain (the amygdala) and the part of your brain that analyzes these emotions (the cerebral context) is impaired. As a result, it’s common for adults with ADHD to experience emotions in a dramatic and unfiltered way. Challenges with emotional regulation can be especially hard during break-ups and may lead to intense feelings and impulsive behaviors aimed to reduce inner turmoil.”

Accepting Rejections and Failed Relationships

One of the ADHD traits that can often be associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is the difficulty in accepting rejections and failed relationships. As our ADHD brain works differently 🧠, we often catastrophize situations, which may worsen things. We tend to overthink different stuff and punish ourselves with irrational thoughts on why we deserve to be rejected or why our partner left us. We beat ourselves up and continuously look for the answers to where we went wrong.

ADHD Breakups: Emotional Dysregulation

Non-ADHD adults may also experience difficulty in accepting failed relationships. After all, it’s not easy for anyone to invest time and look forward to spending the rest of their lives with someone truly dear to them, only for the relationship to end 😭. But, for some people with ADHD, ending a relationship can be extra challenging due to the symptoms of ADHD. Based on my own experience, there are a lot more things to deal with when it comes to break ups.

While going through my breakup, my friends often reminded me not to take the entire blame for everything that went wrong. But as someone with ADHD, it is hard to let go of certain thoughts and emotions. It is common toobsess over the details and look for evidence about who is at fault. I, for one, tend to blame myself for causing a failed relationship, even when it's not my fault. I might act irrationally as intense emotions start to take over, which only worsens things 😢.

Adult ADHD and Struggling with Emotions

According to research, emotional regulation can be defined as our ability to exert control over our emotions through a wide range of strategies. When you have ADHD, it’s possible that you might not be able to regulate your emotions well. 

As soon as my previous partner called it off and decided not to continue with our relationship, mixed emotions started gushing inside my brain. Anger, sadness, and rejection were just some to name a few. I was not only confused, but I was also frustrated with myself 💢. There were also times that my behavior became socially unacceptable because I didn't know how to deal with the stress and the struggles of facing the world alone.

ADHD symptoms can strain relationships making it prone to Breakups

I always found myself tearing up while I was still in the process of moving on. Even if it's already a few months after, whenever I attended any marriage ceremony 💒, party, or family gathering, I often had intrusive thoughts about our relationship. Controlling my thoughts and emotions was hard, and I often lashed out at people even if they did nothing wrong to me. It took me a while to understand that even though I had gone through a rough relationship, I am still responsible for my happiness.

Is There Something Wrong with Me?

A few months after, I tried to put myself in the open as I felt ready for another relationship - I want to try dating once again. But apparently, ADHD & Dating (again) can be challenging. I often ask myself, is there something wrong with me? 🤔 Why can't I seem to find the right person? I think that sometimes, it is my ADHD symptoms that often drive people away.

ADHD Breakups: Other mental health conditions that can make dealing with a Breakup even more complicated

When diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, adults might have issues with impulse control, hyperactivity, rejection sensitivity or inattention. All these challenges can be destructive in a relationship if not managed well. In my own experience, I often get tangled up with difficulties in waiting, the impulsivity of bursting out comments that can hurt my partner, and, of course, the struggles of paying attention. These ADHD symptoms sometimes make me feel unlovable and hard to deal with 😞.

Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can have a lot of complications when it comes to relationships. Maintaining a healthy connection between an ADHD partner and a neurotypical partner can be challenging. That's why it is essential to have someone who understands all the challenges that adult ADHD can bring ❤️.

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Losing Self-Esteem and Doubting One's Self

As many people with ADHD experience more and more challenges not limited to dating or relationships, we tend to lose our confidence because we often doubt ourselves. When we commit many mistakes, we often think it is because we are not good enough. We might think that we are unlovable, or that people will never understand or accept us just because we are different from them.

ADHD Breakups: Low self-esteem

However, as a person who still tries my best to cope with adult ADHD and everything that comes with it, I firmly believe that having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder shouldn’t make me feel bad about myself. I am still the same person, with the same heart and soul. And I believe someone out there will love and accept me for who I am, ADHD and all 🤗.

Break Ups and Mental Health

ADHD Breakups may even be more complicated when other mental health conditions coexist with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. According to ADHD experts, roughly 80% of people with ADHD also have at least one additional diagnosis at some point in their lives. When experienced with ADHD, these other mental health conditions may make it even harder for some people to deal with breakups. In fact,most people with ADHD that I know often experience additional mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder.

Having neurodivergent disorders, like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can be quite a challenge to deal with in our daily lives. There are ADHD symptoms that can be hard to control and manage, which may lead us not to focus sufficiently on activities or contribute to us doing things that are considered inappropriate. What more if there are other mental health comorbidities that we experience on top of our ADHD? What if we have to deal with a stressful situation like a breakup? 

ADHD Breakups: Breakups are hard and it is ok to need time to heal

Imagine experiencing different feelings and emotions all at once, and you have no one to turn to. Sometimes, anxiety and depression might linger a bit and make coping much more difficult. And because of the struggles of living with ADHD and other mental health issues, some might start to doubt their self-worth and think they are not good enough.

Going Through Break Ups?

Relationships can start and continue to flourish into something long-lasting, maybe even for life 👰. It can also end in the long run or even abruptly, and things may not return to how they used to be 💔. That's how life goes. Whether you have ADHD traits or not, anyone can go through the experience of loving and losing someone. Lucky for those who do not experience having tough times dealing with relationship separation and going straight to marriage. But realistically, not everyone has a fairy tale story like that.

Let’s acknowledge that going through breakups is hard. From having a new beginning to building up yourself once again, that can be tough, especially if you are not used to being alone. You suddenly feel lost and confused. The changes you have to deal with, plus the challenging ADHD symptoms, can make life more complicated. However, as you try to cope with all these unfamiliar experiences, you must take your time and go through the healing process 🤗.

As time passes, you'll accept the truth that some relationships fail and you must let go of the past. No matter what happens, it would be best to never give up on yourself and always believe that you are good enough. You deserve to be happy and loved, just like anyone else. Just be patient, and don't be afraid to show the world how strong and unique you are. Having ADHD may create many more challenges but it also gives you many special qualities and strengths.

Ways to Cope with ADHD Breakups

Dealing with the immense stress and heartbreak caused by parting with a partner can be a great struggle to overcome. The ability to move on depends on many factors. Some may be able to let go quickly, and some may find it harder to move forward. Moving on can be complicated by other disorders, stressors, and challenges in your life. There are a lot of ways to cope with the struggles of breakups, but some might not work as effectively for people with ADHD. To help deal with the pain, here are some tips on how you can better cope with a break-up:

ADHD Breakups: It is ok to ask for HELP
  • Seek mental health professional advice👩‍⚕️. Going through the challenges of breakups is definitely worthy of an appointment with your mental health doctor. ADHD symptoms can make dealing with breakups worse, so it is better to get some help to ease your symptoms and help you better cope.
  • Take the time you need to heal ⏳. There is no timeline for grieving a lost relationship, it is perfectly ok if it takes you longer to heal than it takes someone else. Allow your mind and body time it needs to heal at its own pace.
  • Do stuff that makes you feel good 🎵. This is the most essential part of coping. Find an activity or a passion that can make you feel better during tough times like this. For example, listening to music, going out with friends, or writing can be a great way to help you feel better. You may even decide to join a group, or class or start a hobby you’ve always thought about getting into.
  • Talk to your friends and share your struggles 😀. Like my friend did, sharing your challenges and difficulties with the people you trust can help you release all the tensions and emotions you may have difficulties dealing with. It also feels great knowing you have someone to rely on and support you during tough times.
  • Always remember, it's okay to not be okay. Dealing with losses and breakups can be hard and draining. But, it is essential to remember that it is okay to be not okay sometimes. As long as you try your best to cope with the situation and eventually heal, that's all that matters.

ADHD and Breakups: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do people with ADHD have unstable relationships? Do they struggle with long-term relationships?

Many people with ADHD are able to have and maintain healthy romantic relationships, so it’s not right to say that ADHD adults will automatically have unstable relationships. They can also have long-term relations. However, due to their symptoms, they may experience relationship problems. 

Can ADHD cause a breakup?

While ADHD itself cannot directly cause a breakup, a lot of things related to this neurodivergent condition may result in difficulties in the relationship. For instance, the inability to pay attention and tendency to interrupt people may make someone feel like they are not important. 

How can you best deal with a breakup when you have ADHD?

Everyone deals with a breakup differently, but as the symptoms and possible comorbidities of ADHD can make dealing with a breakup worse, help from a mental health professional may be necessary. This is especially so if the effects of breakup are intense and encompassing to the point that it affects different areas of a person’s life. 

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