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For ADHD sufferers, friendships and relationships with other people are usually just as important as they are for people with neurotypical development. However, the often-described otherness and the often social non-conformities and abnormalities of those affected are often associated with problems that make lasting relationships difficult. Friendships of ADHD sufferers are therefore often short-lived, both in childhood and adulthood, as well as in adulthood.  Decisive for the relationship competence is in particular with increasing ageless, whether and how deviant the person concerned in his behavior in general; Rather, it plays a role among adolescents and adults, whether and how annoying or immature the behavior of others is perceived. In particular, severe symptoms (all symptoms from the cluster are affected) and concomitant comorbidities, such as depression or personality disorders can significantly affect social skills and lead to loneliness, including those affected.

ADHD sufferers are often loners and shun groups because they cannot handle group dynamics well, or because the increased levels of irritation in group situations overwhelmed them and quickly overloaded and exhausted. Unless already announced as a result of the acute overload disinterest or a need to retreat from the social situation, then threatened at the latest to lead the socially uncontrolled behavior that the person concerned is shunned by others.

Patients who are more often than neurotypical are victims of exclusion from the group and bullying in kindergarten, at school, at university or at work.

However, if people find a connection with people who can accept them with their idiosyncrasies, the surrounding social environment has a stabilizing effect, and those affected are not predominantly and permanently overburdened or decompensated, they can certainly prove to be true, loyal and interesting friends and partners. Against this background, there seems to be a direct correlation between the symptomatic severity and the quality and quantity of social life. See also: ADHD and strengths.

The relevance of friendships for those affected

ADHD sufferers long for a stable social environment that largely accepts them as they are. If the patients feel accepted and accepted, it can be observed that ADHD symptoms, as well as secondary disorders, also improve beyond the respective social context, which again highlights the role of the psychosocial influencing factor in etiology.


Especially with adult patients who have few resources in their own family, extra-family relationships play an important role alongside the partner. However, this is not the case only for people with ADHD, but for almost all people.

Problems with adolescents and adults

Depending on how pronounced the individual's symptoms are, the cluster of symptoms may consist of lack of concentration (low attention and attention span, lack of stimulation, rapid overloading), impulsivity (emotional overreact ability, impatience, aggression, emotional instability) and possibly hyperactivity (strong motor urge to move), Agitation) with social problems. This is becoming more and more burdensome for those affected because of the increasing pressure to conform as they grow older, as they are increasingly required to adapt socially and, if necessary, to suppress their own needs and characteristics so as not to attract attention.

For the person concerned their own behavior is natural and according to their natural need to express themselves emotionally. In social situations, this may lead to misunderstandings and create a high level of suffering on the affected side. This becomes clear in the following examples, which are broken down by way of example from the symptoms of the symptom cluster:

Lack of attention, weak working memory

  • If a person concerned cannot follow conversations for long, the impression is created that he has no interest in the person to be interviewed, work colleagues, etc.
  • If the person concerned is overloaded and withdraws from the social situation, the impression can arise that he does not like the interaction partner or has no interest
  • If the person concerned fails to meet the needs of the other person or the group because he has failed to comply verbally or non-verbally, the impression that he has a bad character is selfish or ignorant
  • Delays due to a lack of sense of time give the impression of low esteem
  • Only incompletely or incorrectly perceived verbal or nonverbal content of other people's statements lead to misunderstandings and, especially in combination with impulsive reactions of the person concerned, have a high potential for conflict
  • Incomplete or selective memories of conversation content (including, for example, chat content) have the potential for conflict
  • Memory gaps, which should be bridged by compensatory confabulations, make those affected seem less trustworthy so that outsiders turn away.

Impulsivity and emotional over-reactivity

  • Impersonally and aggressively perceived behavior of the person concerned by outsiders need not be so meant by this but may be understood as an elevated temperament. The resulting misunderstandings can easily lead to a buildup of conflict.
  • Affected individuals often tend to divulge information divergently and provide non-contextual answers
  • Impulsive reactions, which can include hostility, personal insults or even physical assaults, can also break long-term friendships in a short time or, if necessary, lead early to the avoidance of acquaintances or peers
  • Outsiders respond to distance-free behavior, which is not regulated by those affected by non-verbal or verbal references, with aversion or clear demarcation, which violates those affected
  • Those affected will encounter incomprehension and resentment of the environment if, in certain situations, they cannot withhold inappropriate/inappropriate expressions
  • If those affected feel that they have been treated unfairly, they tend to be self-righteous and, where appropriate, to power struggles that are not relevant in terms of content.

Motor hyperactivity

  • The permanent urge to move is perceived by outsiders as disturbing and irritating
  • A pronounced need for communication (logorrhea) is perceived as disturbing, egocentric or pompous and leads to social exclusion

Not all of the above features occur in all ADHD sufferers, moreover, the examples are not limited to ADHD. However, the combination of the specific symptom complex is more common in ADHD sufferers than in the general population. The opinion as to whether the exemplarily named behaviors are distracting is subjectively and dimensionally dependent on their frequency and severity.

Secondary comorbidities significantly broaden the problem spectrum in the social context. Especially depressions with negative self-concepts, personality disorders (histrionic, dissocial, self-uncertain, dependent, narcissistic, emotionally unstable, etc.)  As well as addiction disorders have a strong reducing effect on the social competence of the person affected and also exacerbate the overall problem and symptoms,

Problems with children

The above-mentioned problems in adolescents and adults are similar to ADHD-related social difficulties in children. These can be qualitatively transferred to the childlike context. Behavioral adjustment is often more difficult in therapy or training, as children are even less reflective than adults and the cause/effect ratio of their behavior cannot yet assess well.

Children and younger adolescents with ADHD are also at risk of stigma if their peers, such as other children in kindergarten or classmates, know about the diagnosis. Children and adolescents with ADHD diagnosis are clearly at risk of being excluded from the group due to the stigma-afflicted label that establishes the ADHD diagnosis. See also: stigma and ADHD.

Social isolation

People with ADHD develop to compensate for their dysfunctional basic assumptions and Behavioral patterns often early pronounced procrastination or avoidance behavior, which often refers to social situations. While the tendency toward social avoidance in kindergarten and school-age is the refusal to go to school or school, adults retire to the home and avoid situations in which their social skills could be tested. In general, situations are avoided in which there is the possibility (also already a small one) to be unsuccessful, to be embarrassed or to feel unwell. This dysfunctional compensatory complex leads to a mutually reinforcing problem conglomerate: on the one hand, those affected become lonesome, on the other hand, the negative social experiences increase due to the negative basic assumptions and expectations and increase the social anxiety, up to the pathological social phobia.

Developing friendships of people with ADHD

The social interaction patterns of ADHD sufferers are basically as heterogeneous as those of the general population. In some areas, however, there are peculiarities that can be observed more frequently in practice in people with ADHD. Thus, there are those who are particularly quick to get excited about new people and expire idealizations if they get the impression that they shared a particularly high degree of similarity with the new acquaintance. Outsiders feel overtaxed and delineated, which makes them insecure or injured and possibly leads them to an impulsive confrontation. So germinated relationships, which actually had good potential, can break off just as quickly. Clearly demarcate here are attribution patterns of people with a narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic personality parts: While the initial idealism of narcissistic personalities usually converts to a diametrical devaluation, this differs in those with pure ADHD in the long term rather a disappointment, injury, and guilt.

On the other hand, those affected can meet new acquaintances with particular distrust or pessimism, especially if they have already had numerous negative experiences of social exclusion or bullying. Because they often fail to appreciate how others relate to them, they already wish to have debates that go beyond the usual non-verbal and verbal signals in the early stages of friendly relations. This too often overstrains the other person, leaves a strange impression and creates the need for differentiation in others.

Those affected appreciate it very much and notice clearly when they are not chalked up about a "behavioral slip-up" or outburst of emotion - even if they often criticize the behavior of others themselves. Tolerance of behavioral errors is a behavior that those affected are not used to from others - it is all the more surprising for them if they are not scolded for it, marginalized or punished.

Friendly treatment of ADHD victims

Friendships with people with ADHD can be enriching, interesting and have an unusual friendly character. Shared experiences with those affected can be unpredictable and unconventional, and joint activities often take paths that were previously unclear. This sometimes leads to experiences that are not necessarily desired from the outset - for example, the risk of accidents in ADHD sufferers has been shown to be significantly higher. In retrospect, however, not infrequently there are anecdotes, which are unparalleled and can provide a topic of conversation years later.

Nevertheless, friendly relationships with those affected are not always easy to handle. People who do not or insufficiently know about ADHD and their typical symptoms can experience the syndrome-typical behavior of the friendly people as irritating or unpleasant. In a friendly context, therefore, there are some aspects that can be clarifying for friends of those affected (see also: Psych education). Here is a selection of exemplary hints that can be helpful in individual situations:

  • Incomprehensible behaviors, as well as inappropriate reactions or answers, are often unaware of those affected. Hook (if possible not reproachful), if you cannot understand the behavior (see also: divergent thinking)
  • Do not value behavior that seems cross-border to you as disrespect, but as an expression of the disorder. In a one-on-one talk to the person concerned about his or her behavior and tell them (ideally with the help of non-judgmental self-messages) how to experience his behavior and how you feel about it
  • In general, you should try to personalize inappropriate behavior as little as possible. Many behaviors that are hardly comprehensible to outsiders or initially appear superfluous are often part of an (often unconscious) coping scheme, which may have an important compensatory function for the person concerned
  • If the ADHD-affected friend reacts impulsively or aggressively, try to keep calm if possible so as not to further fuel the situation. If appropriate, give the person concerned the opportunity to calm down or retire if necessary
  • Impulsive is often not synonymous with aggressive in ADHD: Observe, for example, in a situation in which the person is upset, whether it is only a superficial Echauffieren, or indeed an aggressive and emotionally charged expression
  • Do not engage in power struggles and try to avoid punishing those affected by ignorance or disrespect. Affected persons find it particularly considerate and appreciative when their counterpart for their part strives for restraint since this is a regulation achievement, which costs them themselves much strength and overcoming
  • Do not personally take spontaneous withdrawals of the person concerned from your presence. People with ADHD are quickly overwrought, especially in group situations, and the sudden withdrawal also constitutes a coping mechanism to compensate for the current over-stimulation
  • If you are aware that your affected friend is struggling with few stimulatory or quiet activities and activities, try to plan accordingly with compromise
  • Try to understand that your friend prefers to do things with you alone, rather than with your or your mutual friends and acquaintances. Group situations make many sufferers uncomfortable and confrontational. Nevertheless, you can always offer joint ventures with others, since the social threat and overwhelming feeling of the person affected can be subject to daily fluctuations.
  • If you feel that your friend seems to make fun of yourself at your expense, and find it disturbing or distracted, try to ignore it if possible or approach the behavior in private. Tell your friend clearly that it bothers you. Avoid "countering with the same coin", because sufferers are often hypersensitive and react accordingly impulsively so that the original teasing can suddenly develop into an exchange of deep injuries.

The above cautions do not imply the premise that you should or must tolerate any misconduct limitlessly. Rather, friends and relatives are required to maintain their own health, to set personal boundaries in a necessary and appropriate framework and to make clear and to demand their respect. Also, ADHD cannot be an immunization against any behavioral criticism or a universal excuse for any wrongdoing. Rather, they are exemplary examples that in many situations can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts with those affected. When outsiders understand that many of the subjects' behavioral aspects are part of the spectrum of symptoms or a disorderly coping strategy that should not be seen as expressing personal aversions or disrespect, it is usually less difficult to stay in the right situations without conflict or further escalation to continue the agenda.


Decreased behavioral inhibition on emotional signals

Various studies have shown that both children and adolescents, as well as adults with ADHD diagnosis, are less sensitive to emotional irritation of other people - for example, teachers or caregivers. This means that people with ADHD do not respond adequately to others' negative responses, such as continuing unwanted or disruptive behavior until an emotional "super-stimulus" is sent - for example, a screaming teacher or partner (in ), who is desperate fury is looking for space (and slamming the door behind her). Once it's done, people will know that they have not behaved adequately or as expected - but they do not know when the exact time was when the other person perceived the behavior as cross-border. It is therefore very important for those affected that they are verbally communicated very clearly if they do not agree with their behavior.

Avoiding stigmata

ADHD is often accompanied by stigmata, which are sometimes characterized by socially very negative attributions and implications. While physical disabilities and societal restrictions are still expected to lead to greater understanding and social support, mental health problems are often perceived as "home-made", less burdensome, or even non-existent, as in ADHD. Generalized as a "lame excuse". There are also implications such as criminality, "bad children", "dream owners" or "solo entertainers." These stigmata often have a lifelong impact on children from childhood onwards, implying identity conflicts and making the issue of ADHD a sore point as a friend or relative Therefore, while some people with ADHD diagnosis label the label neutral, or even exceedingly positive (see also: Self-esteem Distortions) and experience positive reinforcing, others avoid one Self-labeling and would rather be seen as people with individual strengths and weaknesses, as an "ADHD".

Ultimately, in connection with the label ADHD, there is also a risk of abuse which should not be underestimated, even in a friendly context, for example with regard to one-sided finger-pointing. Irrespective of the individual character profile, there is a risk of incorrect and unjust attributions, such as "contentiousness" and similar attributions, which are often referred to as stereotyping in the context of ADHD, especially in cases of conflict Remarks such as "you may not have your ADHD under control!" or "you are so angry again - have you not taken your pills again?" would be exemplary of abusive and stigmatizing use of ADHD diagnosis in the event of conflict, in which the person affected is abused as a projection screen In connection with the drug intake are projection surfaces, which reduce the self-efficacy expectations of those affected and nourish negative beliefs, for example, that those without medication have no chance to be a "sweet child" or a loving, considerate partner.

Even seemingly innocuous remarks, such as "our little ADHD monster makes for trouble again", "Zappelphilippe has again his five minutes" or "that's just typical of our little dreamy" are able, even children and adolescents if necessary, to invalidate emotionally, to stigmatize and to permanently negatively disturb the development of identity.

How ADHD sufferers can make friends

It is important for those affected to learn (through self-observation and therapy) to become aware of their syndrome-related difficulties and to be able to regulate them accordingly. You must understand that most other people are likely to perceive differently than they do and try to interpret the meanings of verbal and nonverbal signs correctly. An important factor with regard to impulsivity is the expectation of the relationship and the problem of the lack of the ability to postpone one's need relationships take time to develop. Personal similarities can provide a good foundation for a friendship, but rather are a prerequisite for such as that they can say something about the already existing solidity of the relationship. This develops only after some time in the course of shared experiences, experiences and discussions. Equally significant is the development of a realistic self-assessment and perception and perception of others.

Closing up new friendships is very difficult or even impossible for those affected, especially with strong symptom severity and concomitant disorders, since personal resources are (currently) lacking. The focus should be on the treatment in order to improve the symptoms on location, so that, for example, in the context of cognitive-behavioral therapy or training (egg impulse control training) can be gradually worked on the social skills. Specialized coaching can also help to optimize certain patterns of behavior and reframe perception styles. Medication cannot improve individual behavioral deficiencies, also the social competence medication alone cannot be improved. As a therapeutic component, however, a flanking of the drug may be a supportive and, in particularly severe cases, a precondition for the successful treatment of the affected areas, especially if there is a high degree of symptom severity.

Furthermore, the focus in multimodal therapy is on communicating meaningful patterns of confusion:  The habitual avoidance behavior is intended to give way to positive self-attributions and self-efficacy expectations by enabling positive experiences that enable cognitive restructuring. It should be conveyed to those affected that openness for new friendships and a differentiated view of the good in other people are meaningful and enriching.

Finally, those affected should weigh well when is the right time to make new acquaintances about their own peculiarities and the sometimes associated difficulties, and whether this is necessary at all. With the explanation about the own concern misunderstandings and conflict situations can be prevented. In addition, the knowledge of the specific characteristics of the person concerned can make an important contribution to stabilizing the friendly relationship, so that it is also possible for people with ADHD to close and maintain valuable, long-lasting friendships.


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