Better ways of supporting the people in our lives with ADHD

Better ways of supporting the people in our lives with ADHD

If someone in your life lives with a mental health condition such as ADHD, it can mean a lot to them if you make an effort to understand and support them. In fact, for many people with mental health conditions, friends and family members can even play a very important role in the treatment process.

We’ve noticed that many of the friends and family members of people with ADHD who use’s tele-psychiatry service are eager to help, but aren’t sure how. If you’d like to better support someone you know who has ADHD, the fact that you’re reading this in the first place is a good sign – you’re demonstrating a commitment to learn about ADHD and about how you can be more supportive. This means a lot!

Here are some practical tips for other things you can do if you’d like to go beyond reading about the condition and would like to further support someone with ADHD.

  • Remember to also take care of yourself. You can do this by prioritising regular exercise, good sleep habits, healthy eating habits, and self-compassion. You can also make sure that you’re getting medical attention for any conditions that you have.
  • At the same time, instead of assuming that you know what the person in your life with ADHD is going through just because you’ve educated yourself about the condition, remember that every person with ADHD has a unique experience. Be ready to listen to and learn from the person if and when they want to share their experiences with it.
  • Don’t assume that you already know or can predict the best ways to support a loved one with ADHD. For example, you might tidy up their room for them, without realising that this could be stressful for them or could make it harder for them to find things. Check in with your loved one about how they’d like you to support them.
  • Instead of nodding along or agreeing with “neurotypical” people who have inaccurate perceptions of ADHD, help to educate those people about it.
  • Instead of using negative labels for behaviours associated with ADHD, use non-judgemental descriptive terms.
  • Never refer to the manifestation of someone’s ADHD symptoms as that person being “lazy” or “dumb” – those descriptors are inaccurate and harmful. Remember that the distraction and impulsivity experienced by people with ADHD is a very different experience to what it feels like for a neurotypical person to get distracted or to feel an impulse.
  • Don’t assume that people “grow out of it.” Instead, recognise that it is a neurodevelopmental disorder and is often life-long.
  • Instead of talking about medications casually or using slang terminology, check with the person whether they want to talk about medication before talking about it. Don’t mention it to other people unless you know the person is happy for you to do so. Finally, please use respectful, accurate terms when you talk about it.
  • Do not assume that “ADHD is always a superpower,” because that can actually be harmful, as it minimises the challenges that ADHD can present to people who live with it. Instead, recognise that ADHD is a disability. People can still thrive with it with appropriate treatment and supports in place, but the challenges associated with ADHD should not be underestimated.
  • At the same time, don’t go to the other extreme of only focusing on the problems that ADHD causes. Remember that people with ADHD can lead rich, fulfilling lives, especially if they have appropriate supports in place. And remember that your support can be an important part of this.

There’s a lot of advice in this piece, but you don’t have to do it all at once! Every bit helps, and we think it’s important to celebrate the wins you have along the way. As Kristen Carder, who has ADHD herself, says: “Thank you so much for…taking the time and effort to deepen your understanding of ADHD and the person that you love who has ADHD.”

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