ADHD Shame

Confronting and Overcoming Shame in Adults with ADHD

Shame is a profound emotional challenge for many adults with ADHD, often stemming from a history of negative experiences and internalized stigma related to their symptoms. This shame can manifest as feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Tackling these feelings involves recognizing their roots in past experiences and societal misconceptions about ADHD. Strategies like therapy, support groups, and learning more about ADHD can help in developing a more positive self-view. Overcoming shame is essential for building self-confidence and embracing one's identity with ADHD.

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 form our expert

Let's Talk About ADHD & Shame

Whatever, you’re feeling as you read this article, remember that this is your safe space. 😘 Your thoughts and emotions are valid, and you have the right to feel precisely the way you’re feeling right now. You may not understand everything most of the time and may not know the extent of your neurodivergent condition, but please do know you are not alone. 🥰 Other people struggle with the same experiences like you, and I am here to help you understand what you cannot fully express yet.

Why am I saying these things? Often, the reassurance you need should come from the people who know you deeply and understand what you are going through. But, should you need more, an ADHD coach, like me, can be of help. After all, I have ADHD, too. 🙋‍♀️

ADHD Shame: External Shame

Many people with ADHD have a lot on their plate, and this doesn't only include the symptoms that persist in our daily lives, the relationships we need to think of every time we do something or the perception of people on our actions. Realistically, the internal struggle that makes us feel bad affects us the most. The emotions we encounter, especially shame, can be overwhelming. 🥺 

I know that feeling ashamed most of the time can contribute to traumatizing experiences and missed opportunities for many people with ADHD. Although shame is a “typical experience,” its intensity still varies from person to person. Case in point: some people with ADHD might have more struggles when it comes to feeling shame. 

Shame doesn't just prohibit us from maximizing experiences and enjoying what should have been joyful moments. It can also rob us of success, give us trouble connecting with other people, and prevent us from achieving more. 😭

ADHD Shame: Internal Shame

Chronic Shame: To Feel Shame and Anxious All The Time

Do you not feel shame the way other people do? If you have ADHD and notice this, don’t be surprised. 

ADHD & Shame can be linked in numerous ways. Emotional dysregulation, for instance, can be a contributing factor. Defined as having poorly-regulated emotional responses, emotional dysregulation is a common occurrence among many people with ADHD. 

According to APA or the American Psychological Association, shame is a highly unpleasant feeling stemming from the belief that one’s experiences or behaviors are dishonorable, immodest, or indecorous. 😔  Most of the time, shame limits us from interacting with people because we are worried and afraid of what they think about us.

people with ADHD tend to feel ashamed a lot.

When people know that someone is struggling with ADHD, they tend to assume that this person is disorganized, makes careless mistakes, and causes trouble to some extent. These negative judgments and hasty generalizations regarding ADHD can affect how we think. Some adults with ADHD develop feelings of shame and become their own "inner critic" to stop themselves from being a nuisance to other people. This mindset of feeling fundamentally flawed and shameful can result in loneliness and inadequacy. 😭

Aside from becoming ashamed of asking for help from the people around us, the embarrassment can make us more anxious. It can make us think of past failures frequently and constantly play them back in our minds to avoid creating the same mistakes. 😵

The thing is, the less you ask for support from others, the more intense the feelings of shame become. 

Visualize your ADHD traits!

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


The Reasons Why We Feel Ashamed

Have you ever wondered why we almost always feel ashamed? What are the possible causes of these unpleasant feelings, and how do we acquire the fear of connecting with people? Below are the possible reasons:

shame can also hide behind other emotions...

Negative Experiences

A neurotypical person experiences feelings of shame due to previous experiences of failures and unmet expectations. Just like them, this can be one of the reasons why people with ADHD feel shame. Every ADHD experience that has piled up can be a source of shame 🥺 that cannot be easily forgotten.

Feeling Different

Aside from negative experiences that we encounter, being different from the rest sometimes makes us feel that there's inherently wrong with us. However, having an ADHD diagnosis doesn't equate to having inabilities. We are the same as them, and it's just that our brain is wired differently. We may have developed learning differences and struggles regarding attention and hyperactivity. But, likewise, we may have an untapped brilliance within us. 👌

Low Self-Esteem

Another possible reason for the frequent feelings of shame is how our brain works. We often feel bad about ourselves because of the inabilities we believe we have. On top of that, being our own critic can put more guilt on us. Some adults with ADHD tend to think poorly of themselves because their senses of confidence and esteem are affected. Also, ADHD can significantly lead to having Low Self-Esteem due to different factors.

Emotional Struggles

The emotions we struggle to handle 😵 can become one of the reasons why we are feeling greater shame more than ever. Imagine being angry with your friends over little things and having embarrassing experiences handling your anger because of ADHD. Afterward, you realize that what you did was too shallow. 😅  That is where the feeling of shame comes in, and not everyone can understand what we are going through.

Striving For Perfectionism

The intelligence that an ADHD adult can have may present itself in different forms. Some of us have creative minds where exceptional ideas and excellence may arise. The feeling of continuously chasing perfectionism is a good motivation where the reward is to feel satisfied with recognition and success. However, hindrances and obstacles may arise due to personal failures. The drive to bounce back from these failures usually depends on our ability to overcome shame.

There are dozens of factors that can affect and cause shame to a person with an ADHD brain. If not handled well, shame can affect relationships, and further failure may arise. The truth is, shame and guilt build walls around us, preventing us from reaching out to people who care most for us. 

Overcoming Shame and Breaking ADHD Stereotypes

What steps can we take to handle shame well and move on from this negative thought? Here are some tips and things that you may try to overcome shame: 😉

for things that affect others....

Accept that Mistakes are Bound to Happen

There's one quote about making failures I can't forget. "Failure, if not fatal, isn't final. So, Fail Forward."  This phrase reminds me that unsuccessful attempts on things are inevitable and are all part of our lives. We have to make the most out of them, learn from them, and then move on.

Remember that Communication is Key

Having open communication with your friends or parents regarding your situation is essential. Establishing a relationship 💏  built on trust and truth helps you lessen the feeling of self-doubt and being ashamed. Let them know about your feelings and fears of feeling alone when struggling.

we need to communicate.

Emotional Support

To cope with the struggle in handling your emotions, you can turn to your most trusted friend and talk to them about your hardships. If you have someone to air all your problems to, not only will you feel better, but you can also ask your friend to contribute to finding solutions to your challenges. 💪

Managing ADHD Symptoms

An ADHD diagnosis will help you understand your neurodivergent brain and open limitless possibilities of treatment and managing ADHD traits. You can try meditation and therapy sessions 🧘 to contain the anxiety brought by shame.

for things that don't affect others...

The Key To Better Mental Health: Self-Acceptance

The most important thing you need to practice is accepting yourself. Having an ADHD diagnosis 👩‍⚕️  doesn't put you at a disadvantage. Instead, it can present you with unlimited options. Accepting yourself for who you are helps you prevent the stereotypes regarding ADHD, and you will feel more at ease in letting go of your shame.

we need self acceptance
Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

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

Learn more

ADHD and Shame: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Do people with ADHD get embarrassed easily?

Yes, it’s possible. Each person experiences shame differently, but when you have ADHD, you tend to worry about making mistakes, being different from others, and striving to keep up with society.

What are the possible reasons why many people with ADHD experience shame more deeply?

Negative experiences related to ADHD can be a source of shame. On top of that, many people with ADHD have low self-esteem due to their symptoms. This further contributes to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

How do you deal with ADHD-related shame?

The first step, of course, is to get an ADHD diagnosis. Afterward, accepting yourself for who you are is a big, necessary step. You can also get support from a mental health expert or an ADHD coach for this.

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: