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Self-Compassion and ADHD

February 28, 2021

ADHD is a disorder of self-management and self-regulation. People with ADHD often experience frustration related to their own behavior, sometimes feeling critical of themselves and this can lead to a default stance of learned helplessness. In order to emerge out of this state and into a more self-confident and constructive place from which to make positive changes in self-management, one must start from a place of self-compassion. 

Self-compassion promotes clarity and resilience in response to the symptoms of ADHD. Clarity and resilience ultimately lead to creativity and generativity. People with ADHD often have difficulty accessing self-compassion (Beaton et al, 2020). Mindfulness-based practices can help with this. UCLA has a great research center dedicated to this: UCLA MARC

Here is a great podcast episode describing mindfulness and self-regulation strategies for children with ADHD.

Three steps of self-compassion as described by Kristin Neff, PhD

  1. Mindfulness. Neutral observation and non-judgemental awareness of one’s experience in the present moment. Separating oneself from the feelings in the moment.

  2. Common human identity. Recognize that suffering is part of the human existence. It is an inevitable part of life. You are not alone.

  3. Self-kindness. Through repeated practice, developing a warm and understanding approach toward oneself. This often starts with shifting the type of attributions and self-talk through intentional practice. 

Example: You are late to a meeting, again.

  1. I am arriving late to this meeting. This is a pattern I observe in myself. I feel scattered and frantic and frustrated with myself. Then: grounding. Become aware of some physical aspect of your experience (e.g., your breath going in and out of your nose, your feet on the ground). Connect with this physical experience even just briefly. I feel frustrated right now but this experience does not define me.

  2. Lots of people arrive late to meetings. Lots of people struggle with planning ahead in order to arrive on time. I am not alone in this experience. This is one aspect of my human condition but it does not define me. I am not alone.

  3. I am doing the best I can do at this time. I am confident that if I want to change this tendency, I will be able to do it. I have valuable things to contribute at this meeting. I don’t want to show up late, but that’s my experience today and that is ok. This is where I’m at today. I will learn ways to be on time in the future. I accept myself for where I am today.