If a friend or loved one was recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you might initially feel overwhelmed. That’s not just OK…it’s pretty normal. Not only is there a ton of information to learn about this challenging mental health condition, but it’s understandably hard to see someone you care about suffering, whether it’s your friend, loved one, your child, or if you’re dating someone with ADHD.
Remember too, though, that taking care of yourself is essential if you want to help someone else — there’s a reason we’re told to put on our oxygen masks first in case of an emergency when we fly. If we don’t take care of our own needs, we won’t be much good at caring for anyone else either, regardless of how much we may want to. This metaphor applies to all aspects of life, including knowing how to support someone with ADHD.
“The best way to help someone with ADHD is to be patient and supportive. Many people with ADHD are trying to calm themselves down and focus on the task at hand. A few tips include: Be encouraging — one way to hinder progress for someone with ADHD is to be discouraging Be patient Focus on strengths, not challenges Prioritize effective communication Address specific problems and offer solutions Listen Encourage seeking help from a professional.”Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Read on for more great ideas on how to help someone with ADHD in a positive, effective manner that can really make a difference in their life.
1. Educate Yourself
The most important part of understanding someone with ADHD is educating yourself about what the condition means. It’s often so much more than just a lack of focus or hyperactivity. With 3 different types of ADHD, it’s essential to learn more about the ADHD symptoms a friend or loved one may experience.
Educating yourself can initially mean going to a loved one’s doctor’s appointment and asking questions.
There are also fantastic online resources that can help you learn how to help someone with ADHD. For example:
- ADDitude- Inside the ADHD Mind
- ADDitude – ADHD Support Group for Parents
- ADHD Resource Center
- CHADD – Understanding ADHD
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Teens: What You Need to Know
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
2. Help Them Find Treatment
One of the hardest things about a new ADHD diagnosis is not knowing where or how to find help. Unfortunately, some people with ADHD get overwhelmed when they receive a lot of information without a clear path forward. So, knowing how to help someone with ADHD find a course or resource for treatment can be invaluable.
Often, a combination of therapy and medication is used to treat ADHD. A psychiatrist or medical doctor can diagnose ADHD and prescribe stimulant medication. Therapists and psychologists can help your loved one cope, set routines, discover and implement strategies, and learn social skills.
Top tips for finding treatment: If you want to know how to support someone with ADHD, one of the first things you can do is help them find a:
- ADHD Coach
- Support group
- Another source who can help
3. Listen to Your Loved One
When you’re wondering how to support someone with ADHD, it’s critical to understand how important simply listening and communicating is. It may sound too easy, but it’s an incredibly effective way to lend support.
For example, your friend or spouse may tell you that they’re too overwhelmed to clean the kitchen or put laundry away. They also might not put this into words, but rather
, just avoid the task or take a very long time to complete it.
While their words or behavior might just seem like an excuse, ADHD can be so debilitating for some people that seemingly simple tasks feel daunting. Understanding this ADHD symptom can change how you react. Instead of frustration, anger, or resentment, you can come from a place of compassion and understanding.
Top tips for listening: Part of knowing how to talk to someone with ADHD includes listening without judgment. While that can be difficult at first, it’s necessary. Ways you can do this include:
- Show acceptance, be genuine and empathetic
- Use words or verbal cues to show that you’re listening
- Have positive body language
- Stay calm
- Don’t interrupt
4. Communicate with Your Loved One
While it’s important to listen to your loved ones about their concerns, it’s equally crucial to be comfortable learning to talk to them about your concerns, too. It’s best to address issues as they happen (or soon after), so your list of grievances doesn’t become unmanageable, causing anger or resentment.
Top tips for communicating: Learning to communicate can be challenging under the best of circumstances. It can be even more difficult when you add ADHD to the mix. Smart communicating tactics include:
- Setting a time to talk about your concerns
- Don’t attack a loved one by saying things like: I hate it when you…
Instead, try rephrasing your concerns by saying something like: It makes me feel like…when you…
- Changing how you express yourself can help others understand the specific behaviors that are bothering you, but in a less antagonistic way
- Communicate possible and attainable solutions to issues
- While it’s OK to ask someone to do things, or to remind them of essential tasks, doing it with consideration and kindness will always go a long way
5. Focus on Strengths to Build Self-Confidence
Most people with ADHD are acutely aware of their weaknesses because teachers, friends, and family members have shared their frustrations about them for years. Constantly hearing about their faults can be one of the reasons many people with ADHD suffer from low self-esteem. Focusing on strengths is essential in helping build up, not beat down, self-confidence.
One of the best ways you can learn how to talk to someone with ADHD is by noting their strengths and complimenting them. There’s something to be said about catching people doing something right.
Tips for focusing on strengths: If you know someone with ADHD who’s artistic, take note of their creativity and hard work. Or, if they put away their clothes or finish a task, you can let them know you appreciate them (without being condescending). Simple, even minor, compliments and praise can add up and help your loved one gain self-confidence.
6. Help Them with a Routine
People with ADHD can really thrive with a routine (and suffer without one!). It’s also common for them to struggle with sudden changes. While real life isn’t always set in stone, and unforeseen changes will happen from time to time, developing a general pattern can help relieve some of their anxiety about the unknown.
Tips for building routines: There are several ways you can help someone with ADHD create functional, usable, and helpful routines.
- Daily routines (that will change and you create every day): Create a rough schedule with the most critical chores or tasks first, when it’s more likely they’ll be able to maintain focus for longer. List smaller, quicker, more manageable tasks later in the day, when energy levels are usually at their lowest.
- Weekly routines (that will largely stay the same from day to day): It’s easy for someone with ADHD to get sidetracked or distracted throughout their day. Create boilerplate, consistent routines for daily schedules so they know what to do, when, every day. Having a schedule written down and visible at all times, for example, on a dry-erase board at their desk, can be very helpful.
7. Take Care of Yourself
As any caregiver will tell you, you can’t take care of anyone else if you aren’t taking good care of yourself. Living with a loved one, or maintaining a relationship with someone who has ADHD, can be highly stressful, even after starting a treatment plan, including ADHD medication or therapy. It’s completely human and normal to be stressed and overwhelmed.
Tips for taking care of yourself: Self care can mean many things, including:
- Exercise, either in a group setting or individual
- A night out with friends
- Art, dance, or cooking classes
- Talking to others in an ADHD caregiver support group
- Taking a vacation
ADHD Treatment with Talkspace
What form of ADHD treatment will be most successful can vary widely from person to person. It’s common for treatment plans to include a combination of medication and therapy.
There are 2 main groups of medications for ADHD — stimulants and non-stimulants. Sometimes antidepressants are prescribed to help manage symptoms of depression that can be common in those living with ADHD. Depending on the ADHD type and the severity of symptoms, a doctor will prescribe the medication that best suits someone’s individual needs.
While medicine isn’t always a necessary treatment for ADHD, for some, it can successfully treat severe symptoms and help people live a more productive life.
Therapy is a fantastic addition to medication for the treatment of ADHD for both an adult and a young person.
Adults: Therapy for ADHD can take many forms, but some of the best types to treat ADHD usually include behavioral or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both options offer a safe place to talk about symptoms. Talk therapy helps people learn coping skills and identify triggers so they can change negative behaviors.
Children: In addition to CBT therapy, play, art, and music therapy can all be very successful in helping children and teens learn to manage an ADHD diagnosis.
In addition to coping skills, therapy helps adults and children alike develop routines and enhance the social skills ADHD might make them struggle with.
Looking for ADHD therapy? Talkspace is an online therapy platform that’s helped so many people with ADHD get the help they need. Our trained, experienced mental health care professionals know how to help people effectively cope and manage ADHD, so they can live healthy, productive lives.
Talkspace makes getting therapy convenient and affordable, removing some of the major barriers people experience with more traditional therapy. Learn more about how Talkspace can help your loved one live and cope with ADHD.