ADHD Perfectionism

Navigating the Complexities of ADHD and Perfectionism

Perfectionism in individuals with ADHD often manifests as an intense desire to complete tasks flawlessly, contrasting with typical ADHD traits like impulsivity and disorganization. This can lead to excessive stress, procrastination, and frustration when high standards are not met. Finding balance involves acknowledging these perfectionist tendencies, setting realistic goals, and practicing self-compassion. It's also helpful to break tasks into manageable parts and prioritize effectively. Understanding and managing this aspect of ADHD can reduce the stress associated with perfectionism, leading to a more harmonious and productive approach to tasks.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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ADHD Perfectionism: Continuous Effort to be Perfect

Many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnosis are sometimes associated with cluttered spaces, being clumsy, and committing frequent errors. These traits are usually related to high impulsivity-hyperactivity, difficulties in organization and time management skills, and problems sustaining focus and concentration - all of which are common symptoms of ADHD. 

The thing is, when a person with ADHD is perceived as “clumsy” or “messy,” it can trigger mixed feelings and emotions that might result in negative thoughts, leading to a more defined ADHD struggle🥺.

When you have ADHD, feelings of shame and guilt, receiving negative criticism, and thinking about always falling short, can make specific tasks impossible to achieve. And when we are judged often by the people around us due to our ADHD, the urge to prove them wrong becomes an inspiration for us to do more. At first, we may be discouraged from doing our best, but eventually, we strive to be perfect in everything we do💪. 

This can be a scenario between parents and kids. When a parent tells their child that they are not meeting their expectation, the child will be initially upset. But instead of giving up, the child with ADHD often strives to do better to please their parents and prove them wrong.

ADHD and perfectionism can be tricky if seen from other people's perspectives. The possibility that these two will occur together may sometimes be debatable, but some people have been able to possess both. Some people may want to achieve perfectionism to mask their ADHD symptoms; others may have gone through a lot of judgment and continuously exert effort to prove themselves. Of course, some may experience comorbidities with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or anxiety that results in perfectionism😔. 

Whichever the case is, being a perfectionist doesn't invalidate your ADHD. Things like these happen, and when they do, it's best to continuously remind yourself that you're not alone in your journey.

When Do We Start To Do Things?

When demands from our environment pour in, we sometimes think there's something wrong in us and that we need to change whatever it is. We start by modifying our routine or doing things a little differently, even though these activities are polar opposites to who we are. Trying to catch up to society's standards might work for some, but can be self-defeating for many people with ADHD.

The pursuit of perfectionism can start when we try to conform to the high standards set by people around us. Perfectionism can also be triggered when we feel too pressured because of our ADHD challenges. 

While being a perfectionist sounds like a great characteristic, please keep in mind that it can actually become detrimental sometimes🤔. The need to do things spotlessly can take a toll on our mental health. Moreover, other challenges may arise from wanting things to be perfect. 

ADHD Perfectionism: Focusing on one task

It’s likewise crucial to note when the urge to do things perfectly usually occurs. So, when does the urge to be perfect commonly “attack?”  

The answer? It’s typically when we overcome procrastination. You see, one of the struggles of having adult ADHD is having the tendency to procrastinate. Even though we want to continue making progress, if we procrastinate, we might find ourselves stuck. This can be very frustrating - we know that we can make things perfect, but another trait related to our neurodivergent disorder gets in the way.

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Adult ADHD - Key to Achieving Perfectionism

Even if we don’t overcome procrastination, when we are given no choice but to do things accordingly because of deadlines, our perfectionism may still shine through. When we’re in the “hyperfocus” mode, we tend to spend all our energy and attention on the tasks we are working on. This ability to stay extremely focused can sometimes be helpful for our goal. 

ADHD Perfectionism: Try even harder next time.

With hyperfocus😵, we can give attention to all aspects of the tasks - up to the small details. Hyperfocus in ADHD and perfectionism can be an excellent combination to finish unrealistic expectations because of our undivided attention. When we laser focus on one thing, it can be easier to achieve what needs to be done without any distractions. This can come in handy in school, work, or even chores

However, hyperfocus can also be a negative trait if not utilized well. For example, when we hyperfocus on things that do not contribute to our goals, we only lose time and energy without achieving something. Also, being in the hyperfocus mode can have negative effects on our basic needs. Come to think of it, when we’re in the bubble, we might forget to eat, bathe, or even tidy up our room😅! 

Exceeding Perfection, the ADHD Way

When we are forced to end things hurriedly, the rigid standards can sometimes be compromised. This can result in negative feelings, such as anxiety and stress. We might overthink the small stuff that shouldn't be given much attention and end up missing the bigger picture. And then, after long trouble of stressing out, we tell ourselves, "Let's try even harder next time."

ADHD Perfectionism: Feeling pressured.

But, really, one problem is that many people with ADHD tend to pressure themselves to achieve perfectionism and try to do things that are way beyond their capabilities. This is the vicious cycle we put ourselves into to keep up with others or to prove that we are not less of a person just because we have ADHD. 

Hence, we must remind ourselves that we are doing our best, and that is enough👌. Overthinking or trying too often to be perfect is not good for our mental health. 

Overcoming perfectionism mostly depends on how we understand ADHD and the way we handle the pressure that comes with it. Overcoming the criticism we receive and turning them into an inspiration to cope with our feelings can be a great start. What's essential about perfectionism and ADHD is knowing the boundaries and letting things flow naturally🥰.

ADHD and Perfectionism: Accepting What We Can Do

If we try to perfect tasks and activities because we love doing them, that's entirely on point. Perfectionism can also be inevitable in some people with ADHD and other comorbid disorders, such as anxiety or OCD.

But, if we become attached to the idea of being perfect because we tend to get pressured a lot, are trying to avoid failure, and don’t want to be tagged as someone who is not good enough, it might be time to reconsider how we look at things.

People with ADHD should learn to accept what they can do and remind themselves that they are doing their best. Overcoming the challenges of having ADHD in a society that wants us to be perfect all the time is not an easy task, but it is something that we should try to achieve. After all, nobody's perfect🙌.

ADHD Perfectionism: Waiting for the best condition.

I just remembered a line from a song by Howie Day, "Collide," which says, "Even the best falls down sometimes, even the wrong words seem to rhyme." And I guess that line makes sense of what we are trying to say. We all make big or small mistakes, we all have our flaws, and that's okay. What's important is that we learn to receive feedback constructively and strive to improve next time. Learning to manage all signs and symptoms of ADHD through perfectionism may work sometimes, but it’s difficult nonetheless. Furthermore, the stress and anxiety from trying to be perfect all the time are sometimes not worth it. So, let's try to be more understanding of ourselves and accept that we are only human😘.

People around us may have high standards and expectations on what we should do and how we should be. But, at the end of the day, it is us who will live with the consequences of our choices. So, we might as well do things our way. 

The practice of pleasing everyone can sometimes take a toll on our mental health. The sense of not being good enough and the fear of making mistakes can be overwhelming. So, it is vital to learn how to manage our expectations, accept ourselves, and be more understanding of our actions. After all, we are only human and deserve to be happy too❤️.

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ADHD and Perfectionism: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is it possible for people with ADHD to have perfectionism?‍

Yes, it is. While most people associate ADHD with being “clumsy” or “messy,” some actually experience the need to do things perfectly whenever they can. Hence, ADHD & Perfectionism can occur together.

What disorder is associated with perfectionism?

Besides ADHD, perfectionism can also happen with other mental health disorders, like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Will all people with ADHD feel the need to be perfect all the time?

Many people with ADHD may feel the need to do things perfectly whenever they can. This can be for various reasons, such as wanting to keep up with the standards of society or trying to prove that they are capable of great things. Of course, it’s also likely that comorbidity is triggering perfectionism.‍

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