ADHD Waiting Mode

Do You Get Stuck In ADHD Waiting Mode?

Waiting can be tough, right? I hate waiting too long – the stress and anticipation can overwhelm me. 🤯

Of course, it's frustrating for most people when the thing or person they're waiting for doesn't show up on time. But if you have ADHD, this waiting game gets even more complicated. 😬Patience isn't exactly our strong suit; people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often find it hard to wait, especially when we have many other things on our minds.

So, let's dive into the world of ADHD and waiting. We'll explore why waiting can be so challenging, how it affects our emotions, and some practical tips to make waiting easier for those with ADHD. 👇

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Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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How ADHD Affects Our Ability To Cope With Delays

When we have to wait, our emotions can go wild. We might start thinking, 'Why am I just sitting here? I could be doing something productive right now!' 😠 When our brains are always on overdrive, waiting feels like a waste of time.

We can get easily frustrated, anxious, or even exhausted. The anticipation of waiting for something can be exciting at first, but as time goes on, it can quickly turn into disappointment and annoyance. For me, waiting can be a roller coaster of emotions. When the person I'm meeting arrives late, or my food order gets delayed, I can't help but feel frustrated. My excitement for the event or meal turns sour, making my ADHD brain cranky. 😰

Sometimes, I get unreasonably upset over delays. Even if there's a valid reason for the wait, I can still feel angry. But with a few deep breaths and some self-control, I try to get back on track and concentrate on the task ahead. 🧘

The thing is, it's not just the emotions that get to us; it's the uncertainty that comes with waiting. When there's no clear indication of when things will get back on track, it can drive us crazy. For example, when my flight got canceled, it was stressful, but the lack of specific details about when I could get on the plane made it worse. The waiting game can be physically and mentally exhausting and even more challenging when we can't control what's happening. 😞

We might end up pacing back and forth 🏃or constantly checking our watches or phones, just trying to distract ourselves from the restlessness and stress of waiting around for something.

But often, this frustration is because of how having to wait around can trigger our ADHD symptoms. 

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The ADHD Brain & Delays

The effects of waiting can take a toll on our symptoms in various ways:

Poorer Time Management

Delays and inconveniences can throw us off and frustrate us quickly. Our 'time blindness' can make it hard to gauge how long things will take, meaning waiting an hour for something can feel like two hours. 🕢

Difficulty Focusing

Idle waiting can lead our minds to wander more than usual. We might find ourselves lost in intense daydreaming or racing thoughts, which makes it harder to focus even if we try to do something productive during the wait. 😴


Anxiety is no stranger to us with ADHD, and waiting can be a prime trigger, especially when we don't know how long we'll have to wait or that we have to be ready to go at any moment. High stress levels can also affect other aspects of our ADHD symptoms. 😰

Emotional Dysregulation

Waiting can make our emotions go haywire. We can transition from feeling frustrated to downright angry in just a few minutes. This emotional roller coaster can be tough to handle, impacting our daily activities and productivity. 😵‍

Waiting Mode Activated: Coping with Uncertainty

When an ADHD brain gets stuck in 'waiting mode,' it's like being in a state of restless anticipation with little control over the situation until it is time for us to leave. In fact, there’s even a term for it - time paralysis, or ‘time agnosia’. 

 Let's delve into how delays can put many of us with ADHD into this space. 👇

Restless Impatience

For those with ADHD, being on the go is a constant part of life. This hyperactive characteristic makes it hard to sit still or remain calm when stuck in a waiting situation. The feeling of restlessness and excessive energy can intensify while waiting, making the experience even more frustrating. 🥴

Lack of Control

Individuals with ADHD often struggle with time management and executive functioning. They may lose control over their schedule when faced with an unexpected delay, such as a canceled flight or a late friend. This loss of control can lead to increased stress and impatience. ⌛

Checking Time Constantly

An ADHD brain in waiting mode may exhibit repetitive behaviors, such as frequently looking at a watch or checking the phone for the time. This behavior attempts to gain a sense of certainty or control over the waiting period, but it can further heighten stress.

In the upcoming sections, we will explore practical tips and techniques that we can employ to navigate waiting periods more smoothly and maintain control over our emotions and reactions. These strategies can empower us to embrace waiting as a part of life without letting it negatively impact us. 👇

How To Handle Waiting When You Have ADHD

Living with ADHD means recognizing how waiting can be particularly challenging for individuals with this condition. Restlessness, impatience, and emotional fluctuations during waiting times can impact their daily lives. However, with a deeper understanding of ADHD's impact on waiting and the right strategies, individuals can navigate these situations more effectively.

Here are some practical tips that might help: 👇

Find a Distraction

When waiting becomes challenging, finding a distraction can be helpful. Engage in activities that capture attention, like reading a book, listening to music, or talking to friends. You could even use this time to work through your to-do list, especially if there are tasks you can do remotely, such as sending emails. By diverting your focus, you can alleviate restlessness and anxiety.

Be Prepared

Anticipating that waiting times might be longer than expected can reduce frustration. Being mentally prepared for potential delays can help individuals manage their time and emotions better during the wait.


When anxiety sets in during waiting, relaxation techniques can be beneficial. Deep breathing exercises and simple stretches can calm the mind and body, easing feelings of restlessness and impatience.Practicing meditation is an effective way to calm an anxious mind. 

Meditation encourages individuals to sit with the present moment, becoming more aware of their thoughts and emotions. If you're waiting for a delayed flight, try finding a quiet airport area to do this. Many airports now have designated 'quiet spaces' for people with sensory needs, such as those with ADHD and autism. 


For individuals with ADHD, waiting can be a roller coaster of emotions, affecting their daily activities and well-being. By understanding this impact and adopting practical strategies, individuals can make waiting more manageable.

Remember, taking care of mental health is crucial, especially for those with ADHD. If waiting becomes overwhelming to the point where it’s unmanageable, seeking professional help can provide valuable support and guidance.

With the right tools and techniques, waiting doesn't have to be a daunting or frustrating experience. Embrace the journey of discovering what works best for you, and over time, waiting can become an opportunity for resilience and even relaxation or productivity. By building a toolbox of strategies, individuals with ADHD can easily navigate waiting periods. So, take a deep breath, stay patient, and remember that you can turn a once frustrating experience into a more positive one.

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ADHD and Waiting: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Is having difficulty waiting a symptom of ADHD?

Yes, having trouble waiting is an official ADHD symptom. Hence, while anyone can have trouble with waiting, people with ADHD might experience it more intensely. 

What can happen if a person with ADHD cannot handle their emotions well while waiting?

When a person with ADHD cannot handle their emotions well while waiting, their feelings might intensify and affect the people around them. For instance, frustration might turn into anger easily.

How can you better manage the way you handle waiting times?

One of the best ways to handle waiting times is to anticipate how long you’ll have to wait and prepare for it. You can bring items to distract yourself, like books, a set of songs, or a mobile game. 

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