The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Tag: self-talk

What you need to know about ADHD, impulsivity, and self-harm

We’ve all made jokes about our ADHD. A little gallows humor can keep us from getting too down on ourselves.

But be careful. Impulsivity, time-blindness, and low self-esteem can create the perfect storm — and a potentially life-threatening situation.

ADHD suicide risk

ADHD has a dark side, and several studies suggest it increases suicide risk as much as five-fold.

Relentless emotional volatility and feelings of failure can lead to a lot of negative self-talk: “I’m such a screw-up,” “my family is embarrassed by me,” “I’m a burden,” “I’ll never accomplish anything meaningful,” “my hopes and dreams are worthless because I’ll never come close to any of it,” “everyone would be better off without me.”

For ADHD adults and teens, these thoughts feel like more than a blip, a dark mood that will lift tomorrow.

Time-blindness means we can’t (not just dont — often, we truly can’t) see outside the moment. This moment of weakness becomes all there is. The good times, or even the days when we can see and acknowledge our strengths in spite of it all, don’t feel real. Our perceptions of ourselves lock in on right now, and right now feels like past, present, and future all rolled into one.

It’s at this moment that ADHD-fueled impulsivity — the part of us that fails to consider the longl-term consequences of our actions — crosses from childish and annoying to tragic and potentially fatal.

What to do when it becomes too much

If you’re feeling out of control and frightened, ask for help. Reach out to a friend, go hang out in a public place, take a break. If all else fails, get yourself to the emergency room. As a teenager, I escorted a friend to our local ER’s crisis intervention center and learned firsthand what a lifesaver it can be — even in the middle of the night.

Whatever you do, don’t let yourself believe your problems aren’t real, that it’s “just ADHD,” not a “real” mental health issue. Comorbid disorders are common, and ADHD’s impulsivity and impaired perception of time and consequences can fuel risky behavior.

Unsurprisingly, women and girls with ADHD suffer from high rates of self-harming behavior. Many slip through the cracks and remain undiagnosed until their teens or even adulthood. Girls tend to internalize their struggles more than boys, and ADHD symptoms can manifest differently.

Parents beware: as children mature into their teens and early adulthood, hyperactive ADHD symptoms may fade, but don’t let that fool you. Just because you can’t see symptoms on the outside doesn’t mean your kids don’t need you. In fact, they may need you now more than ever.

Have your or your child had an experience with self-harming behavior? How did you cope, and what would you recommend for someone in a similar situation?


ADHD Parents: stop dissing yourself in front of your kids

How often do our kids parrot back words that make us cringe? While your two-year-old blurting out “I need coffee!” in the supermarket or using salty language with relatives may get laughs in the retelling, other phrases will break your heart.

Phrases like, “I’m stupid.”

“I’ll never be good at anything.”

Before you demand from your kid, “who told you that?” ask yourself this: have you said these words? I plead guilty to the above phrases — and worse.

You’re not alone. Negative self-talk and low self-esteem plague many ADHD adults. But when it comes to our behavior around our children, it has to stop.

Think about it this way: ADHD is a highly heritable disorder. If your child doesn’t already have a diagnosis, he very well may by adulthood. When you say “I’ll never reach my full potential,” or “I don’t know why I even try,” you’re giving your kid a big lesson about his outlook for the future.

Outlook is important. If your child does have ADHD, he’ll need to be confident and resilient in the face of life’s frustrations. Your child is watching — and learning — every time you berate yourself for screwing up. Eventually, she’ll learn to respond to setbacks by focusing on weaknesses rather than working from her strengths.

That’s not to say your feelings aren’t valid. But though you may feel like a terrible parent and irresponsible adult after a rough day, your kids aren’t harsh critics. They want to be just like Mommy or Daddy. When you insult yourself, you’re not only setting a terrible example for handling frustration, you’re questioning their judgement. You’re telling them they picked the wrong role model.

For better or worse, our kids idolize us. When we put ourselves down, we imply they’re poor judges of character. We teach them damaging, ineffective ways to recover from failures. We teach them that an individual’s flaws are more important than her innate talents and strengths, and our mistakes are more memorable than our successes.

We also teach them that having ADHD makes us less valuable human beings. Our neurochemistry will hold us back from making a significant contribution to the world. We’re doomed to disappoint the people we love the most, make bad first impressions, and lose our keys over and over again.

When we look at our brilliant, uniquely lovable children, this isn’t who we want them to become.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ll teach themselves resiliency and self-respect. They learn it from the most important role model they’ll ever have: you.

Next time you catch yourself about to express even the mildest self-loathing, ask yourself if you’d want to see your child treat himself — or his best friend — that way.

If the answer is no, it’s a habit you need to break.


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