Why ADHD Can Make You More Prone to Burnout
There are a number of reasons why people with ADHD experience burnout more often than tneurotypicals. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Attention regulation and motivation – One of the features of ADHD is a disruption in the brain’s ability to regulate attention and motivation. It has difficulty filtering out unimportant stimuli so that it can focus on the task at hand and manufacture its own motivation in the face of a task that isn’t emotionally charged or inherently interesting. With ADHD, you have to consciously and actively ignore distractions, keep yourself focused, and resist impulsive urges. All of that is going onin addition to the actual task at hand. Thus, each task is even more mentally draining than it really needs to be, putting you at risk of burnout even when you feel like you aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary.
- Over-committing – When you’ve dealt with the internal and external criticism about being lazy and lacking work ethic for so long, it’s easy to take on too much. Refusing a task or cutting back on your workload feels like admitting that you are, in fact, too lazy or unmotivated. So you keep saying yes and taking on more to prove that critical voice in your head is wrong. Soon, you’re doing far more than a normal workload, and still feeling just as guilty or ashamed about your “laziness” as ever because you feel like you’re struggling with it more than you should be. This can become a vicious cycle where the standard you set for yourself keeps getting more and more unrealistic. When you eventually hit the brick wall of a burnout episode, instead of acknowledging that this is probably a sign you’re doing too much, you take it as a sign that your critical voice was right all along.
- Getting lost in hyperfocus – While hyperfocus may seem like an ADHD superpower, the tradeoff is that during that intense, obsessive state of productivity, you often neglect your need to sleep, eat, or even take a bathroom break. By the time you come out of it or finally force yourself to take a break, all those neglected needs crash down on you at once and you might fall immediately into a burnout episode where you’re unable to get back to the project. The threat of that looming burnout can even become further motivation to avoid the rest your body needs, as you worry that if you don’t power through to finish it now, you might never get back into this hyperfocus zone again.
Symptoms of ADHD Burnout
Symptoms of ADHD burnout more broadly include:
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor performance and productivity
- Negativity, pessimism and cynicism
Each individual may have the own particular experience of burnout. Comorbidities that often accompany ADHD can exacerbate the situatino. At least 70% of adults with ADHD have another issue like anxiety or depression. These problems interfere with your ability to cope and fight burnout.
Also, if you have a medical condition, ADHD burnout can make you sicker. For example, if you have diabetes, your burnout and stress can affect your ability to control your blood sugar.
Recovering from ADHD Burnout
Recovering from ADHD burnout can be a slow and difficult process. Here are some recommendations from experts your on steps you can take to help alleviate symptoms and start feeling better.
- Outsource executive functioning tasks – Delegate tasks to free up mental and emotional energy, and allow yourself to focus on what is most important.
- Attend to sensory needs – Pay closer attention to how you feel, and take breaks when you start to feel overwhelmed. Engaging in restorative activies, like taking a walk outside, can help.
- Lower your defenses for awhile – Spending time with people who accept you as you are, without needing to “mask” or pretend, can re-energize you. Seek out those individuals who you can be your true self around and spend more time with them.
- Engage in activities that are enlivening – Engaging in activities that you are passionate about or that bring you joy can help to alleviate burnout. Whether it’s spending time in nature, engaging in physical activity, or simply taking time for yourself, finding activities that bring you joy can help restore your energy.
- Prioritize healthy sleep hygiene and routines – During burnout, your body be on a hormonal roller coaster. Support healthy rhythms by prioritizing healthy sleep hygiene, routines, and practices.
- Engage in activities that promote relaxation: Incorporating yoga and other activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system can be especially helpful for recovering from ADHD burnout. Other activities that can help include meditation, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature. Additionally, be sure to prioritize rest and relaxation, and avoid over-scheduling yourself.
Recovering from ADHD burnout requires patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to experiment with different strategies to discover what works best for you. And, when necessary, ask for help. With the right support and tools, you can regain your sense of balance and thrive.