When you think about your ADHD related challenges, you likely think first of time of management, organization, communication, impulse control, etc.
True, these are pieces of the puzzle, called managing your ADHD. And important pieces.
But how often do you ponder how your thinking impacts your ability to be successful?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our thoughts create our reality. And that led me to think more about how our automatic thoughts can exacerbate the challenges of ADHD.
Effects of ADHD
If you are like many adults, your ADHD was not diagnosed or treated until adulthood.
Growing up and into adulthood we received feedback from parents, teachers, siblings and friends:
- Can’t you pay attention!
- You are moving too much.Slow down!
- Let someone else have a turn. Stop talking!
Often these messages were not balanced with positive feedback. So, the negative messages won out!
Over time, we internalized these messages, resulting in negative and distorted beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs generated automatic thoughts, like:
- I can’t succeed
- I’ll never be able to do anything right.
- I’m always screwing up.
We know that this can lead to anxiety and depression.
We are less likely to point to procrastination as a result of these thoughts.
Sue does not feel like she is particularly successful in her career. Now in her fifth month at her current job, Sue’s boss tells her that he wants her to make changes to her report. She thinks:
He never likes anything I do. I can never please him. I am going to fail, again!
She becomes frustrated and upset. Wanting to escape this feeling, she puts off working on the report, even though it is due tomorrow morning. After all, she believes she can’t do anything right. So, why try?
This is a common response for many adults with ADHD.
Many of these beliefs come from our past experiences. But we bring them with us to our current situations.
In the case of Sue, she brought all her perceived past job failures with her into this encounter with her boss. So, she interpreted his comment as a judgment on her work.
What are your common automatic negative thoughts? Do you want to stop them from getting in your way?
Combating the Thoughts
The first step involves being aware of your automatic thoughts and be willing to challenge them as being true.
Once Sue is aware of her these thoughts, she can begin to reframe them:
He has an opinion and wants to make sure it is in the report. He seems to really like me. I think I’ll ask him for feedback about my reports and see what he thinks. After all I can’t read his mind!
The next step is to get a track record of success. As Marc, a former client, notes below, once he had a track record of success, he thought differently about himself.
After living with ADD for many years I started believing that I was lazy, stupid, and crazy. Marla was able to convince me that I was none of these by helping me solve small issues and get a track record of success. Once those things were accomplished, many of the pieces sort of fell in to place. ~Marc D.
And his negative automatic thoughts decreased.
I have to warn you. They don’t go away.
But once we can name them, we can send them on a long trip. I’m thinking Tahiti! When they come back, just put them on the next flight out. The Bahamas are nice, too.