ADHD Struggle To Relax

ADHD Struggle To Relax

For many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), relaxing and 'switching off' can be a real challenge. While difficulty relaxing may seem just a byproduct of ADHD symptoms, it can have long-term, harmful consequences to our mental health, relationships, and overall happiness. Here's an overview of how ADHD and problems with relaxation tend to interconnect - and how for those of us with ADHD, relaxation often appears differently. 

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Struggling To Relax: One Of The Subtle Symptoms of Adult ADHD

Do you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and find it difficult to relax? While not officially recognized as an ADHD symptom, many folks with adult ADHD face difficulties in unwinding and finding that much-needed rest. In this article, we'll explore why relaxation can be challenging for individuals with ADHD.

We'll discuss the possible symptoms behind why it can be tricky to switch off with adult ADHD, its connection to experiences such as anxiety, and the consequences of how this can impact our lives. Finally, we’ll discuss some practical tips and strategies to help you find those moments of peace when navigating adult ADHD. 👍

Why Many Adults With ADHD Have Trouble Relaxing

Brain Differences

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a vital role in executive functions, including organizing, planning, and inhibiting responses to distractions to achieve goals.🧠

According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, ADHD often arises from neurological dysfunction in the PFC. In neurotypical brains, PFC activity increases when concentration is required. However, in the ADHD brain, there is a decrease in PFC activity, resulting in symptoms like poor listening skills, a short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, hyperactivity, and struggles with impulse control, completing tasks and controlling emotions.. These factors contribute to problems in slowing down our brains and thoughts enough to stay calm and relax fully. 🤯

Hyperactivity Symptoms

Having excess energy can be a major roadblock when it comes to relaxation. The hyperactive symptoms of ADHD can make it incredibly hard to unwind and find peace in daily life. 😭

For example, poor listening skills can lead to difficulties in engaging in calming activities or simply being present in the moment. 🧘This can lead to a strain on our interpersonal connections, causing relationship problems and marriage problems. We may have trouble starting important tasks or leaving them unfinished, adding to the burden of unaccomplished responsibilities and making unwinding even more of a challenge.

Hyperactivity symptoms can spill over into other aspects of life. For example, reckless driving and impulsive behavior such as taking phone calls whilst driving may put individuals with ADHD at risk of traffic accidents, further contributing to stress and anxiety.

Finally, existing problems may be exacerbated by the inability to relax. The constant restlessness and racing thoughts can lead to frustration and prevent us from being able to enjoy the things we usually love doing.


Living with adult ADHD comes with its challenges, and anxiety is one of them. Let's take a closer look at why many adults with ADHD feel anxious, and how it can affect their downtime. 👇


One common symptom of adult ADHD is overthinking, which can take us on an endless spiral of panic. Even minor things that might not be a big deal to others can trigger our anxious feelings, resulting in us spending countless hours ruminating on minor problems. 😭

Our minds seem able to conjure up random thoughts that may or may not happen in real life, which can drive us crazy. It’s important to consider that while anxiety shares many similar symptoms with ADHD, if you experience any new symptoms relating to panic and anxiety alongside your ADHD, you should consult a professional. 🩺


Restlessness often acts as a gateway to 'panic mode' ⏰ for us. When that restless feeling kicks in, it can set off a chain reaction, leading to insomnia, muscle tension, and even headaches. It's like a rollercoaster of emotions and physical sensations, all intertwined with anxiety. Sometimes, a phone call or notification alert can trigger a whole day of anxious thoughts, dragging us down and causing unnecessary distress. When trying to stick to regular routines, we may become bored and listless or struggle to stick to one task at a time.


Do you ever find yourself constantly distracted by things around you when trying to focus on a task? For individuals with adult ADHD or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), distractions are a common challenge that can hinder both concentration and relaxation at the same time. 🧨

Having adult ADHD can mean we struggle with either overstimulation or understimulation, causing our brains to be in a constant state of activity - or looking for more of it. This can lead to difficulty paying attention and staying focused on the task. 😵‍

However, distractions don't just leave us with poor listening skills and make it more difficult to pay attention; they also play a vital role in our ability to relax. Even when we plan to unwind and take a breather, an environment full of distractions like in noisy or busy offices can make finding the calm and peace we need almost impossible. The inability to relax and enjoy what we are doing can frustrate and overwhelm us. 🤦

Masking of Symptoms

The need to constantly perform and meet neurotypical standards can be a significant barrier to relaxation. This phenomenon is 'masking,' where people with ADHD try to conceal their symptoms and adapt to societal norms. The pressure to fit in and appear as if everything is in perfect order can create a constant sense of unease. 

The struggle to maintain this can make us feel like tasks are never complete and our to-do lists are endless. The relentless pursuit of keeping up with societal expectations can leave us feeling drained and unable to find moments of true relaxation. 😴

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The Consequences Of Not Being Able To Relax

Living with adult ADHD and struggling to find moments of relaxation can have various consequences that affect our overall well-being. Let's take a closer look at how the inability to relax impacts adults with ADHD. 👇

Increased Stress Levels

The constant restlessness and inability to unwind can lead to heightened stress levels. Accumulating stress can negatively impact our mental and physical health, leaving us overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Impact on Mental Health

The lack of relaxation can increase the risk of mental illness and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, depression or substance abuse, which are already common among adults with ADHD. The persistent inability to find peace may contribute to sadness, hopelessness, and emotional instability.

Reduced Focus and Productivity

Our ability to concentrate and focus on tasks can suffer without adequate relaxation, leading to reduced productivity and challenges in managing responsibilities. It can also lead to things like traffic accidents and injuries.

Physical Symptoms

The perpetual state of heightened alertness and restlessness can lead to physical symptoms in people with ADHD, causing muscle tension, headaches, and other stress-related conditions.

Strained Relationships

The difficulty in unwinding can affect our interactions with others, leading to irritability, and impatience. The angry outbursts ADHD can cause often puts a strain on relationships,  leading to social isolation. If we cannot switch off long enough to spend time with our loved ones, it can lead to them doing fun activities without us.

Sleep Disturbances

The inability to relax can significantly impact our sleep quality, leading to insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns. Lack of restful sleep further compounds the challenges faced by adults with ADHD.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

To escape the constant restlessness, some individuals may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse or excessive use of alcohol, to find temporary relief.

My Own Experience In Being Unable To Relax

I lived with undiagnosed ADHD for many years. Even before receiving a diagnosis, I struggled to stop and take time for myself. Over time, I began to feel the effects of being unable to recharge; I was agitated, irritable, and constantly stressed out. 🤯

However, I realized what was behind this struggle once I got my diagnosis. Armed with my newfound knowledge, I tried various ways to unwind appropriately. After trying out a few different things, I realized how important it was to find something that met the unique needs of my ADHD brain and symptoms. 💪

For example, physical activity helps me decompress and ease the tension when I feel restless and agitated. However, when I am tired but cannot unwind due to high stress levels, I find things like massage and hot baths the best way forward.

What matters most is finding something that eases the restless ADHD brain and meets the specific needs we have at that moment.  🥰

How To Relax When You Have ADHD

Addressing the root cause behind our struggle to destress is essential when trying to develop techniques to fix it. As everybody with adult ADHD is different, this will take some experimentation and adjusting. 👌

However, here are a few tips that I've found helpful in my journey. 👇

Get Organized

Creating a to-do list and maintaining organization can be invaluable for people with ADHD. We can avoid feeling overwhelmed by planning ahead and breaking tasks into manageable steps. To-do lists also help prevent surprises that may trigger panic or anxiety and lead to things like missed appointments, workplace issues or career under performance.

Minimize Distractions and Stay Focused

Reducing distractions in our environment is crucial for enhancing focus. Seek out quiet places for work or study, and consider using noise-canceling headphones to keep adult ADHD symptoms at bay. Eliminating or minimizing distractions enables us to concentrate better on the task.

Take Regular Breaks and Engage in Suitable Activities

Recognize the importance of taking breaks when needed. Avoid overworking yourself and make sure you have enough time to pause what you're doing to be back refreshed and ready to continue. This is particularly true for activities that you find unrewarding, such as long business meetings or a major assignment. 

Seek Professional Help

It's crucial to seek professional advice when treating ADHD. An experienced professional can provide medical advice and ensure you receive appropriate guidance with your ADHD. Reaching out to a mental health professional is equally vital for mental health concerns. 

You could also try non-clinical approaches to relaxation, such as mindfulness yoga, or alternative therapies, such as reflexology. It's all about figuring out what works for you and your unique needs.

Build a Support System

Establishing a solid support system is invaluable. Family members, friends, and partners can be excellent resources for reminding us how and when to kick back and unwind. If your loved ones tell you you're overworking yourself, try to see it as a sign to slow down and try something different.


On the surface, being unable to relax is one of the more subtle symptoms of ADHD;  but it doesn't mean that relaxation and enjoyment are out of reach. Many adults struggle with being unable to unwind, and It's important to understand that peace can take various forms; what works for one person may differ for another, and the ‘usual’ methods are not always the only way.

Despite the challenges of controlling the energy and restlessness of our ADHD brain, we can still find moments of calm and joy. Engaging in activities that bring fulfillment and spending time with loved ones can create opportunities for relaxation and happiness. 🥰

By keeping track of what brings us contentment and minimizing distractions, we can gradually make relaxation more accessible and natural for ourselves. With patience and self-awareness, we can embrace a fulfilling and relaxed life, appreciating the uniqueness of our ADHD journey. 💜

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ADHD and Difficulties to Relax: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do people with ADHD find it hard to relax?

In some cases, yes. Restlessness is a common symptom of ADHD, affecting the ability to focus and stay attentive. This may lead to incomplete tasks, workplace issues, or emotional outbursts, triggering feelings of anxiety and an overall struggle to relax.

Can individuals with ADHD ever 'switch off'?

Absolutely! While it may initially pose a challenge, relaxation is within reach. By adopting helpful habits like creating to-do lists, minimizing distractions, and trying different ways to unwind, peace is possible for anyone.

How can I relax if I have ADHD?

Find an activity that meets the unique needs of your ADHD brain and symptoms. This might look like having one go-to activity for when you feel hyperactive and restless and another for when you feel drained and stressed. It's all about finding what works best for you; it doesn't have to be the stereotypical relaxation method.

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