ADHD Texting

How Does ADHD Affect Our Texting Behaviors

Has a friend or family called you out for not replying to their text message? Or had acquaintances said you should stop sending them long messages? ADHD can sometimes make it difficult for us to handle texting. What’s the connection between our ADHD symptoms and texting? Find out here.

Published on
5/1/2023
Updated on
7/2/2023
estimated reading time
minutes

Reviewed by

Dr. Guia Canonizado - Custorio

Mental Health Professional
In this Article
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ADHD Texting: Personal Struggles That I Experience

What problems do you experience in your ADHD journey🤔? I’d say there’s probably a lot: from the most complicated of tasks to the simplest of routines. Take me for instance: I often struggle with using my smartphone. Aside from the fact that I regularly forget where I put it and spend hours trying to find my mobile device, numerous problems occur regarding my cellular phone use.😅

Don't get me wrong. I understand that technology helps ease some of our daily challenges and provides us with automated processes that make life easier. There are countless ways technology helped me, from setting scheduled payments in my online banking account to preventing missing deadlines and due dates. Some apps are helpful in money management when my impulsive buying attitude kicks in. I couldn't be more thankful that alarm and calendar tools 📅 provide me with guidelines and schedules of what I should accomplish during the day.

These little, simple things matter to us. And so I infer based on my personal opinion, smartphones can be considered one of the best inventions for an adult with ADHD, especially when we have trouble organizing things. But there are things I have observed regarding my ADHD brain 🧠 and how I use these devices, especially when it comes to communicating. Remember that these are my experiences, which you may or may not relate to personally, but let's talk about them.

ADHD Forgetfulness and Ghosting Replies

One time, I received a text message from a friend. The message contained details about our trip which was supposed to happen in a few weeks. Fast forward a few hours before the trip, my friend called to confirm my attendance, and I was so embarrassed that I hadn't remembered the details.

It turned out that after I read the message, I chose to “reply later.” The thing was, I didn't just forget to respond - I also forgot the details of the trip!

when you realize you accidentally ghosted someone for weeks

My forgetfulness made it seem like I ghosted my friend! 😭 

Ghosting is a colloquial term referring to the act of suddenly stopping communicating with someone for no valid reason. Although what I did was not ghosting per se, as I intend to touch base with them eventually, my lack of response made it seem that way. 🥺

The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says: “According to Psychology, there are many reasons why people may “ghost” such as conflict avoidance, lack of social accountability and consequences, and sometimes just self-care.”

I always feel bad about this. Another friend sent me a message asking me how I was. I felt his concern about the way he constructed his thoughts. But then again, my ADHD brain forgot to reply and thank him for his message to keep the conversation going. I felt bad that my forgetfulness got the best of me.

The following week, he told me I was rude for not returning the text he sent me. To him, he felt ignored, and that his efforts were wasted. It seemed like I ghosted him, but in reality, I just forgot to reply probably because I was occupied the moment he sent me an SMS. I think I was too distracted 😵 doing other things, or have been engaged in something important.

I felt guilty for days, weeks even. I felt so bad that my actions unintentionally hurt him. That's when I realized that maybe, just maybe, this is one of the things some people with ADHD experience when it comes to texting or other forms of communication via phone.

The Urge to Check Notifications Immediately

I don't know about you, but once my phone notifies or alerts me about something, I immediately run towards it and check what it says so I do not completely forget that I have a notification to check. I tend to drop everything to know what the notification was about.

The same scenario goes with the messages that I receive. Whether I am busy with things like Home Organization or paperwork, if my smartphone notifies me that I have a message, I'll check it immediately so that I won't forget to look at it later. I know that this is not a healthy habit, but my ADHD brain can't help it sometimes.😔

when you reply to a text as soon as you get it because you're afraid to forget about it

I came across an article regarding the compulsive behavior of a person who frequently checks smartphone notifications. According to the study, the need to check your cellphone or reply immediately can be a form of anxiety and compulsiveness. Now, remember that other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, can coexist with ADHD.

The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says: “The published journal found in the link above talks about excessive smartphone usage in the setting of ADHD and found out that ADHD may be a significant risk factor for developing smartphone addiction.”

There was one time when I was with friends and we were having a conversation about something boring for me. I was trying my best to focus on what they were saying, but then my phone beeped, and it notified me of a new episode for a show I was watching 💻. Of course, my first instinct was to check it immediately. And because of that, I couldn't focus on my friends and our conversation.

when you feel rejected by a simple message

As a result, they gave me the cold shoulder as they felt that I wasn't interested in joining them. I had to explain that it was my ADHD that made me distracted and I was sorry for not being able to focus on what they were saying.

The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says: “This personal experience can be supported by scientific data. A study reiterates that those with ADHD reported difficulty focusing on a conversation, which can be misperceived as rude or inappropriate, ultimately hurting both personal and professional relationships.
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ADHD Conversations Through Smartphones

I have two types of personality when typing replies on my phone. When I am too interested in the topic, I tend to send a message that is composed of long strings of characters, detailed and full of enthusiasm 📜. I often do this when I seem to hyperfocus on something interesting to me.

TMAC Medical Advisor says: Hyperfocus is a phenomenon related to one’s complete absorption in a task, to a point where a person appears to completely ignore or ‘tune out’ everything else. This term is most often mentioned in the context of mental health disorders such as ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, etc.
Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7851038/

Long, seemingly exaggerated walls of text might sometimes be annoying to some people. Though the message seems fine,  some people might find it tiring to read. Our thoughts are oozing out as we try expressing everything in a huge chunk of text. This might not be helpful for other people, especially when they are also busy doing something.

when you hyperfocus on a conversation and send the longest text

My other style of texting is when I send too many short, one-lined messages. I do this sometimes when I get way too excited to share something. In my excitement, I can send 20-30 short messages one after the other. “Talking fast” in an SMS thread might also be disturbing for other people because of the continuous notification they'll receive 📱. And there are also times when what we write on those messages are not a complete thought and might not even be related to the topic.

TMAC Medical Advisor says:This behavior (flooding messages) is linked to the problematic phone usage in ADHD, and how people with ADHD use smartphones as a tool to “socially connect”. Oftentimes coming out as “too much” due to excitement and tendency to practice “multicommunication”. A study done in 2015 revealed that those with ADHD symptoms were more likely to engage in problematic mobile phone use and frequent multicommunicating. The study further explains that multicommunicating is engaging in two or more overlapping synchronous conversations. The need for social reassurance was also a key factor in this behavior.
Reference: Always Connected or Always Distracted? ADHD Symptoms and Social Assurance Explain Problematic Use of Mobile Phone and Multicommunicating https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcc4.12140

When we’re too immersed in our text, we might forget that our message also has an impact on the receiver. Some friends tell me that I should ease up in sending messages. They often scold me for bombarding them with messages or making them read long-format texts. Either way, I just can't get a grasp of my feelings when it comes to conveying my thoughts. I hope that they don't get tired of understanding me whenever they have to deal with my ADHD symptoms😭.

ADHD Texting and the Emotions That Come With It

Relationships, especially romantic relationships, can be affected when communication is done via texting  📱. Many people with ADHD might find it hard to easily read and assess others' emotions when they are just looking at a piece of text on the screen. Likewise, many of us might not be aware that the tone of our message might come off as harsh. We might also space out and fail to reply for a long time, making the other person feel neglected.

TMAC Medical Advisor says: Many people with ADHD experience a related social skills challenge where they are unable to pick up on little communication nuances. People with ADHD frequently struggle to "read between the lines" or understand subtext. In this regard, communication via texting can cause misunderstandings as depicted in this section. Ways how to avoid any forms of misunderstanding can be made by adding extra effort such as reviewing the choice of words to better detect the subtext. For example “I’d love to do it” probably means Yes and if the sender says, “If you want to”, this means “probably not but I’ll do it”). Sending back a message asking for clarification on what the sender really meant  can also help in situations like these.

When we have ADHD, sometimes we tend to overthink things. A simple comment saying "K." might make us a bit worried about how the other person thinks. There are also times when these text messages hit us differently and we might misunderstand what the other person truly means. Conversations like the ones we made through texting might cause a relationship to fail if not handled well 😨.

or way too many small messages
TMAC Medical Advisor says: “Overthinking can also be manifested by patients with ADHD. According to available evidence, having worrisome thoughts is one of the aspects related to impaired disinhibition in ADHD. Most times it can be helped.”
Reference: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19570581/ 

As such, it’s important to take our time when sending and reading messages. Instead of giving in our emotions (excitement, interest, etc.), we have to truly understand the message and the text we’re sending as a reply. It may be hard, but with practice, we can do it! 😘

ADHD & Texting

ADHD and Texting: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Will a person with ADHD experience problems in texting?‍

A person with ADHD may experience problems in texting and other communication methods. The problems related to texting stems from some of the symptoms involved in ADHD, such as: Excessive phone usage which includes checking notifications more often than necessaryDo you have the urge to check notifications immediately? This is maybe due to impulsivity that is inherent when you have ADHD. Impulsivity is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as hasty acts that occur at the moment without thought; itis one of the known hallmarks of ADHD aside from inattention and hyperactivity. Symptoms of ADHD and frequent smartphone usage go hand in hand as supported by various sources. Forgetting to reply It is a known trait for individuals with symptoms of ADHD to engage in multiple activities and thisis because of our “restless” nature.

What ADHD symptoms contribute to our problems in texting? ‍

Some people with ADHD may forget to reply to the messages they received. Due to their inability to handle their emotions well, they might also send walls and walls of text or numerous short messages one after the other. Of course, there’s the difficulty in understanding the emotions and tones of the messages. ‍

How can we overcome our struggles in texting? 

Some of the ways to overcome struggles when it comes to texting in ADHD are as follows: Take your time: organize your thoughts, and digest the message very carefully so you won’t miss out on anything. Reply Later: if the right words don’t come to you, you can always check back later, just make sure you take notes! Ask Questions: when you’re not sure if you understood the message correctly, ask questions or clarifications from the sender.

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