Low Self-Esteem

Why might someone with ADHD have feelings of low self-esteem, embarrassment, guilt or blame?

  • Adults with ADHD can be misjudged by other people and experience criticism from others which can lead to low self-esteem. For example, if someone with ADHD was regularly hyperactive or impulsive in school when they were young, they might have been told off by their teacher or caregivers frequently. This can lead to them internalising the criticism and being very self-critical as an adult.
  • Adults with ADHD frequently show lower levels of self-esteem and belief in themselves. This can create a vicious cycle of self-blame when they make a mistake or they feel like an imposter who doesn’t deserve the success they’ve rightfully earned.
  • Facing a lifetime of challenges because of their ADHD, despite potential and ability to succeed, can create a mixture of confusion and shame, leading to an uncertain self-image.
  • These feelings can also make people doubt their ability to do something and may make them procrastinate because they are worried about making mistakes.
  • Rejection sensitive dysphoria is when a person experiences an overwhelming emotional sensation in response to actual or perceived rejection or criticism. It can result in low mood and self-esteem and is not the person being overly sensitive. There is currently very little research on rejection sensitive dysphoria. However, this video is a very helpful explanation of rejection sensitivity in ADHD and provides some tools and tips for managing it.

What can I do about it?

Learning about ADHD and how it can affect your life can provide a lot of comfort and validation, as you start to understand that some of your behaviours are because of ADHD. In doing so, you can start to learn how to manage them too.

Talk to a psychologist, therapist or counsellor for support. They can help you learn to understand these feelings and how to cope in a healthy way.

Look for a community who understands by trying support groups or online groups for adults with ADHD. Talking to other people with ADHD can help show how common these experiences are.