Tips For Managing Friendships When You Have ADHD

Making and maintaining friendships is tough for anyone, especially as an adult. Any healthy relationship takes hard work, and it's not always easy. But when you have an added component of something like ADHD, it can make relationships even harder. Despite ADHD being more accepted nowadays, it's still not fully understood, especially when you're on the other end of someone with ADHD. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) does not make you a bad person or make you incapable of having strong bonds with people. But it does cause different symptoms that can add a strain on friendships or other close connections.

If you have ADHD, you know that sometimes it can feel like a losing battle between your brain and your personal life. For instance, a lot of people with ADHD also experience Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD), which is a "way of describing" how someone with ADHD can become overwhelmed with feelings of rejection when they perceive someone to have criticized or dismissed them, even if that's not the reality of the situation. That's because people with ADHD perceive life differently, from words to social situations. So between RSD to general ADHD symptoms getting in the way of relationships, how can you manage friendships when you have ADHD? It's not easy, but it's doable with understanding friends and accountability on your part.

Accept all the ways that ADHD impacts you

The whole "it's not you, it's me" line is entirely played out and sounds like an excuse. However, that is the case regarding ADHD and how it impacts your life. If you have ADHD, you know you can try as hard as possible to be on time or be available (mentally), but sometimes you fall short because your brain is different. This, of course, can strain your relationships but acknowledging and accepting your brain for what it is a great first step. 

As WebMD writes, there are a lot of ADHD symptoms that present themselves negatively when it comes to relationships. There's impulsiveness, indifference, social crutches, and more. Obviously two of the most prominent symptoms are forgetfulness and distraction, and they don't bode well when you're trying to make plans or be present while hanging out with friends. Looking on from your friends' perspectives, it can be hard not to take things personally when a friend forgets details you just told them or constantly switches topics when chatting, seeming unengaged with you. Once you know how ADHD impacts your friendships, you can communicate that with them and be more aware of it yourself. Knowing all your quirks and symptoms of ADHD can help you try to quell or compensate for any mistakes you might make because of them.

Plan things out and set reminders

Time blindness and forgetfulness are prominent symptoms of ADHD and can cause significant relationship issues. Purposeful or not, someone will still be hurt if their ADHD friend forgets an important date or double-books themselves. However, there are ways to get better at following through on plans and remembering they're planned in the first place.

It is critical to put things in your calendar or planner as soon as they're finalized. Use a calendar system you know you'll often check and stick to it. Maybe you're a physical planner person and need everything written down. Perhaps you love iCal or Google Calendar because of the alerts they send you. Whichever keeps your plans visible, constant, and written is an excellent way to keep your commitments. Setting reminders via your phone or sticky notes can also make a huge difference, even if it's for the simplest things like remembering to eat. Planning and being extra conscious of your time can make a huge difference in being there for your friends.

If you know, you're often late because you think you underestimate how long it takes you to get ready or do tasks before you leave, set your departure time for sooner than you need to. Plus, scheduling in "time to walk the dog" or "time to make dinner" and sticking to those slotted activities gives you a set schedule to help you accomplish tasks and get where you need to be on time. 

Know that your brain interprets things differently

Again it's probably obvious, but people with ADHD think differently. Their brains are wired so differently than neurotypical people's, and it can be immensely draining. ADHD can make it hard to interpret tone via text, making you think someone's upset with you when they're not. There's also the concept of masking or keeping up with neurotypical work output rates. All these things, and more, are why many people with ADHD also have anxiety disorders or are burnt out, according to ADDitude Magazine. In friendship, though, having a different thought process or way of looking at life isn't an excuse to leave your friends in the dust. But it is an excellent way to visualize how your actions or words could impact them negatively and how to change that.

As WebMD suggests, "listen beyond words" and communicate with your friends to maintain a strong bond. Again, people with ADHD often have difficulty with social cues or knowing how their own socializing is coming off. Know body language and remember that veering off-topic or interrupting because you're so excited about a subject isn't a good way to conduct convos. If you're the friend of an ADHD person, it's also important to remind yourself that they don't do these things to be rude. They're excited to talk to you and want to be as sociable as possible. They just do it differently.

Do a bit of practicing

On that note,, reading body language and understanding different ways you communicate might come off odd to neurotypical people, but it's also good to practice a bit. The National Resource on ADHD, aka CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), writes that social skills are just that: skills. And people with ADHD often can't pick up on those on their own or quickly; they have to learn. Using therapy or other ways to model social interactions is a good way to "plan out" how you will conduct yourself in a conversation. People who were diagnosed with ADHD as adults, especially women, often go through their whole life having to mask their ADHD symptoms and fit into neurotypical spaces. So a lot of times, as adults, people with ADHD kind of already have experience with social situations.

However, if you notice that your friends get annoyed when you ask them to repeat themselves too many times or that they've expressed they don't like when you interrupt them, some is improving you can do. No one should want you to change yourself if you have ADHD, especially when masking can be detrimental if done all the time. But, if you know you do things that might come off as rude, practicing not to do them as often or acknowledging when you do will go a long way with friends.

Talk to someone who gives good advice

Therapy was just mentioned, but it is an excellent resource for someone with ADHD. It can be an outlet to vent frustrations on ways ADHD might be impacting your friendships. And if you choose a therapist that is trained in ways to help people with ADHD, they'll also give you advice or exercises to help with whatever friendship issues you may be having.

WebMD writes that therapy often gives people the tools to maintain friendships and communicate better. They specifically note that "talk therapy" is a good route to "work through your frustrations and other emotions." Other methods, like cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you notice your negative habits and how to work to improve them. Therapists might also give a good insight into whether medication could help or if that's a path you want to take. You can also join groups online for people with ADHD or find friends that also deal with it and talk to them about ways ADHD might be messing with your relationships. There are ways to manage your ADHD, and you can definitely use it to help your friendships thrive.

Communicate with your friends

Anything can quickly become overwhelming for people with ADHD, especially when it comes to being conscious of how their ADHD is coming off to others. Again, that fear of rejection is a bit stronger for those with ADHD, and it can be hard to venture out to make friends sometimes because of it. Once you do have friends, issues that arise because of their social skills or ADHD symptoms can be disappointing or frustrating for everyone involved.

Making sure that you communicate with your friends about your ADHD symptoms and difficulties because of them is a big help in managing your friendships. Firstly, you want to have understanding friends who don't judge you for having ADHD. So if you bring the subject up and they're dismissive, don't believe you, or make fun of you, then that friendship might not be the best thing for you in the long run anyway. But with good people, talking about what you have a hard time with or letting them know that they can communicate with you if things get frustrating is integral to a good friendship. Anyone, ADHD or not, can annoy or frustrate a good friend. But it's about how you deal with your frustrations or how you come together to fix it that makes the difference. And putting your ADHD and challenges out in the open will only create stronger bonds.

Lean into what makes you a good friend

As The Mini ADHD Coach wrote, people with ADHD have a lot of great qualities that are positives in friendships. They note that people with ADHD are typically "straightforward" and "can talk face-to-face about our problems instead of beating around the bush." If you've ever been friends with someone with ADHD, you know that they won't play games when it comes to challenging situations or telling it like it is. They're not trying to be mean. But their aforementioned social skills (or lack thereof) often don't leave room for subtlety and tact. This is great, though, when you know your friend will never lie or sugarcoat things. Plus, the impulsive symptom mentioned before is great for fun nights out or coming up with great last-minute plans.

While all the good things about a person might sometimes pale in comparison to their faults, especially for someone with ADHD, it can be tough to maintain friendships. But having understanding friends who love you for who you are is more important anyway. When you compensate or communicate through skills you may lack or bad habits, you're being considerate to your friends. And as long as you're aware and try to do better, along with having understanding friends who know that you're not doing things on purpose and aren't a bad friend, you can keep solid friendships for years to come.