ADHD & Personal Hygiene - What’s The Link?
For those of us with ADHD, keeping up with self-care can be a real uphill battle. This can result in a lot of self-judgment and shame. But here's the thing: many of us with ADHD face the same challenges and wrestle with these routines. The good news is that there's a scientific explanation for why this can happen and that there are so many things we can explore to make things better.
Remembering to jump in the shower every morning, brush your teeth before bed, or remember to take medication relies on routines. But for an ADHD brain, sticking to this isn't always a walk in the park, especially when they involve multiple steps and shifting focus.
When we talk about this stuff on Instagram, we get a lot of people messaging us asking, "Why is everything related to ADHD? A neurotypical person can struggle with these things, too."
You're absolutely right that struggles with self-care related tasks aren't exclusive to individuals with ADHD. However, we understand that these challenges often stem from the unique wiring of our ADHD brains compared to neurotypical individuals. This can affect our executive functioning and how our brains regulate motivation. Additionally, when considering the various other ADHD symptoms we navigate daily, along with any comorbid conditions, it's no wonder that staying consistent with routine tasks like personal hygiene can sometimes feel overwhelming. 🤯
Given the pervasive stigma surrounding what society deems as ‘poor hygiene’, our struggles with self-care routines can also lead to shame and isolation. However, it's essential to understand that you are not alone in struggling with these routines.
For example, when I posted on my Instagram story asking my followers to share which daily tasks they struggle with the most, many of you said maintaining your hygiene impacts you the most in terms of daily routine. You talked about things like executive functioning, procrastination, and washing hair regularly, but other experiences included forgetting to use body wash, wash hands or put deodorant on.
How ADHD Symptoms Can Impact Personal Hygiene
Neuroscience tells us that ADHD and routines are connected. But how does this explain why we might struggle? The answer lies in understanding our ADHD symptoms and behaviors.
A common experience for someone with ADHD is losing track of time. You might tell yourself that you must leave the house at a specific time, knowing you will need time to shower, brush your teeth, and get changed. But when you struggle with time blindness, one of the most common ADHD symptoms, personal hygiene can take a back seat if you suddenly realize you've got five minutes to pack your bag and leave the house.
And you're still in your pajamas. 😱
A neurodiverse brain 🧠 can experience executive functioning issues, including difficulties in planning, organizing, and prioritizing tasks. For many of us, even starting a task is a huge hurdle because we struggle to find the motivation to figure out where to begin and what needs doing first. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, emotional dysregulation or sensitivity, and even a full-blown meltdown. 🤯
For example, on days when we have a million other things on our minds, we often end up putting off taking a shower because it feels less urgent at that specific moment. Picture this: it's already lunchtime and we're still in our comfy pajamas but… we smell bad. The next task at hand is to shower, brush teeth and get dressed. But wait, there's a looming deadline, and we have to power through until it's done - even though we know that having a nice, refreshing shower will feel pretty good and help us meet that deadline. But which is more important? 😕
Dealing with executive functioning challenges can really over complicate so many things, such as simple decisions like these. As a result, being able to prioritize certain tasks can feel impossible and our head becomes clouded with thoughts.
Less Attention to Detail
Have you ever ventured outside only to return home and realize that your shirt was inside out or that there was a prominent stain on it? Sometimes, when we struggle with home organization or chores, the clothes we have already worn (mysteriously) find their way back into the clean pile of washing we didn't get a chance to put away yet. 😬
Once, I was super busy doing important things at home when I suddenly realized I was really hungry. With a rumbling stomach, I gave into my impulsive side and headed to the grocery store. While standing in line at the checkout, I ran into a friend who immediately noticed a small stain about the size of a coin on my shirt. 😳 At that moment, I was a bit embarrassed by her comments - but I shrugged it off and continued with what I was doing, laughing it off.
I tried to rack my brain and figure out where that stain came from. Did I mess up the laundry, or did it appear from another mysterious source? As far as I can remember, I didn't notice that stain when I changed my clothes and ran out of the house. 😄
I am particular when it comes to brands and hygiene products. Before I try something new, I like to dig deeper and research a specific brand before giving it a shot. I might even reach out to others for help, asking about the nitty-gritty details, like how it smells or tastes. Some of my friends might find it strange, but it truly matters to me.
If I'm ever somewhere where I can't use my favorite products, I'll usually rush through things like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. It just doesn't feel quite right. 🙁 Finding the perfect soap, toothpaste or mouth wash for people with ADHD boils down to personal preference - and from my personal experience, I'm pretty fussy. But why is this?
Usually, it's because we are experiencing an ADHD symptom called sensory sensitivity, which is part of sensory processing disorder. For many of us, being unable to tolerate certain textures or smells actually comes down to neuroscience. 🧠 Neurodiverse people (such as folks with ADHD or autism) can struggle with various external stimuli in our environment that overwhelm our senses, causing anxiety, irritability, and sometimes, even pain. Our brains latch on to it and can't let it go.
Some people can’t handle the feeling of cold water on their skin; others might not be able to bear the sensation of wet hair.
For example, if a particular toothpaste brand is too sweet or spicy, I’ll rush through brushing my teeth because I can't handle the taste in my mouth. I also have issues with slimy stuff. When I slather on lotions 🧴 that feel too sticky or gooey, it makes my skin feel strange and itchy. The same goes for thick shampoo that leaves a residue in my hair. These sensations don’t make me feel comfortable, so I steer clear of those products. Instead, I go for natural or organic options that don't have strong scents or a bunch of chemicals in them.
The point is, knowing which things trigger my sensory sensitivity and makes me struggle with the task I’m trying to complete makes my life a lot easier.
In the past week, I've lost count of how many times I've taken a shower 🚿. It's strange, but there are moments when I completely forget that I've already washed. Sometimes I'm just lounging in bed, binge-watching Netflix, not breaking a sweat or moving around much. In those instances, I lose track of whether I've showered or not. It's only when my hair starts feeling oily or my skin gets itchy that I realize it's time for a shower.
The same goes for brushing my teeth. Sometimes, I find myself staring at the sink and trying to remember whether I've already brushed my teeth or not. 👀 Forgetfulness is one of the most common ADHD symptoms, and with an extra dose of distractibility, it's no surprise that I have moments where I forget things I've already done.
The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says:
‘It is normal to forget things now and then, but forgetfulness is more common when you have ADHD. Impaired executive functions can lead to poor memory recall.’
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ADHD Personal Hygiene: Strategies
Maintaining ADHD and hygiene can be a real challenge in so many ways. Within our ADHD community, plenty of adults go through this daily struggle. It's especially true for folks who work from home or parents who have kids to care for. When there are so many competing priorities, remembering to take care of ourselves can slip down the to-do list very quickly.
It's common to feel down and ashamed about how tough it is to juggle ADHD and hygiene. But let me tell you - that doesn't make us any less than or inferior to our neurotypical friends. We're wired a little differently, and you know what? That's okay - we just need to find strategies and a routine that works best for us.
Let's get on top of it together.
Here are some tips and strategies that you can try to increase motivation and maintain your self-care. 💪🏽
Join an ADHD Community That Understands You
Some people feel vulnerable when sharing personal stuff with others. And having this kind of feeling may not be understood well by people unfamiliar with our struggle, and it can be a reason for their negative comments or judgment. 💏
Find Rewarding Ways To Increase Good Habits
ADHD brains perform best when they get regular hits of dopamine 🎉. Dopamine is a crucial neurotransmitter in developing sustainable, long-term routines. Did you ever have a reward chart as a child? Sometimes, a similar approach works during adulthood, too. Many resources and apps have been designed with this science in mind that help adults develop regular routines, no matter how big or small.
Making showering, brushing teeth, and bathing feels more rewarding can also be done by investing in products that smell and feel great or by incorporating them into a relaxing night-time routine that helps clear your head for a moment and switch off before bed. This could be anything from a luxurious hair mask to a bath bomb that helps you drift off to sleep. Anything that boosts the rewarding aspects of self-care can really benefit you and increase the chance of it becoming a regular habit. To keep this going, try to always keep your bathroom stocked with products that you know give you a dopamine boost.
Have An Accountability Buddy
Tell someone you trust that you find it difficult to juggle self-care with your ADHD diagnosis and need their help. Ask them to check on you now and then or be there whenever you need support and encouragement. If you'd rather do it independently, you could set alarms and reminders to help you remember. 💪 You might also find it useful to share this goal with your therapist if you have one.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Be mindful of your diet. Despite our best efforts to maintain cleanliness, there are occasions when we experience dry skin, breakouts or unpleasant odors. This can be influenced by the food we consume and the environment around us such as cold or hot weather. It's essential to pay attention to what we put into our bodies and strive for a healthy lifestyle.
Balancing ADHD and personal hygiene can be quite a challenge. Many of us with ADHD often find ourselves juggling numerous responsibilities, and our ADHD symptoms can make sticking to routines particularly difficult.
While struggles with self-care are not exclusive to people with ADHD, our unique neurodiversity does play a significant role in these challenges. Issues such as time blindness, executive functioning difficulties, less attention to detail, sensory sensitivity, and memory problems can make maintaining personal hygiene feel overwhelming at times.
However, the good news is that there is hope. There are strategies and solutions we can try to overcome these obstacles and improve our life.
One effective approach is to join a supportive ADHD community, where we can find understanding, share experiences, and learn from others facing similar struggles. Additionally, finding rewarding ways to develop routines can provide the necessary motivation and sense of accomplishment. This can be achieved through incorporating enjoyable products or creating a relaxing nighttime routine that caters to our sensory preferences.
Having an accountability buddy, whether it's a trusted friend or therapist, can also provide the support and encouragement we need on our journey.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being mindful of our overall well-being can positively impact our self-care. Taking care of our diet and paying attention to the environment around us can contribute to a healthier body and mind, which in turn can enhance our self-care routines.
So, let's allow ourselves some compassion as we navigate the challenges of ADHD and personal hygiene. By embracing understanding, seeking support, and approaching these challenges with perseverance, we can find sustainable and practical ways to manage our personal hygiene.
Remember, we're in this together, and with a little determination, we've got the power to overcome these obstacles. Let's embrace our unique neurodiversity and work with it, rather than against it. We've got this! 💪
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ADHD and Personal Hygiene: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Does ADHD affect self-care?
ADHD does not directly affect self-care, but its symptoms can. That's why many people with ADHD struggle to keep up with strict routines like brushing their teeth twice a day, taking daily medication, and applying sunscreen.
Which ADHD traits can make it hard to maintain personal hygiene?
Several ADHD traits can make it challenging to maintain personal hygiene. ADHD individuals may struggle with time blindness, losing track of time, and difficulty prioritizing tasks, which can result in neglecting personal hygiene routines. Struggling with tasks that rely on executive functioning such as planning, organizing, and initiating tasks can be challenging for individuals with ADHD. They may have difficulty paying attention to details, which can result in forgetting to use certain products, putting on clean clothes, or noticing stains or odors. Sensory sensitivity is also common among people with ADHD, and certain textures, smells, or sensations may be overwhelming, leading to avoidance of certain hygiene products or routines. Finally, forgetfulness is a common ADHD symptom, and people may forget whether they have already completed a task like showering or tooth brushing.
What are some helpful strategies that people with ADHD can use to improve self-care?
Joining an ADHD community can provide support, validation, and useful tips from others who understand the challenges. Building sustainable routines can be achieved by incorporating rewards or positive reinforcement, leveraging the dopamine boosts that ADHD brains thrive on. Utilizing resources, apps, and reward charts designed for adults can aid in establishing consistent routines. Having an accountability buddy who can check progress, offer support, and provide reminders is beneficial, as is setting alarms and reminders to remember tasks. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including mindful eating and overall well-being, contributes to better hygiene practices. Investing in appealing products or incorporating them into a calming bedtime routine that promotes sleep enhances the experience of personal hygiene tasks. By implementing these strategies, individuals with ADHD can improve their self-care and hygiene practices while embracing the support and understanding of the ADHD community.