“Coming out” about ADHD

Do you ever hold back about sharing that you have ADHD?  You aren’t alone.  Some people’s parents tell them not to disclose it for fear their child will be discriminated against.  Some people hold back because they are ashamed of the impact ADHD has on their lives.  Still others can’t face another conversation explaining how ADHD is a real condition – not symptom of bad parenting, media hype or poor diet.  It can feel risky to reveal you have ADHD.

Sharing that you have ADHD with your friends, families and teachers is a very private and personal decision.  With ADHD Awareness Week just around the corner (September 13 – 17, 2010), we’d like to offer a few thoughts about the positive side of disclosing your ADHD and using it as an opportunity to educate others.

  1. Secrecy breeds shame: Keeping a secret that is never discussed has a dark side – it can leave you feeling like there is something wrong with you that you have to hide.
  2. Secrecy build barriers: When you decide to hold back about your ADHD, you build a little wall between you and that person.  The longer the wall is in place, the harder it will be to disclose the truth.  While the other person is oblivious, you can end up spending a lot of energy worrying about being discovered.
  3. Secrecy keeps YOU in the dark: You can’t educate yourself about ADHD very easily if you aren’t open about having it.  Asking questions of an expert, sharing experiences with other people who have ADHD and learning strategies to work with your strengths and weakness – all require that you are open about having ADHD.
  4. Secrecy can hurt you: If the people around you don’t understand that you have ADHD, they don’t have the same kind of compassion for your mistakes as they might otherwise have if you’d give them the opportunity.  Moreover, you need to be able to disclose your ADHD status if you want to receive accommodations in school.

Being Open About ADHD

We hope we’ve shown you some of the positive side of  “coming out” with your ADHD with your family and friends.  If you do, may we recommend you don’t just blurt it out there?  But that you take a three step, thoughtful approach to disclosing your ADHD status:

  1. Take the time to do it right. Tell people when you have time to talk about it and they can ask you questions.  There are a lot of misperceptions about ADHD out there and people often don’t have any idea what it means to have ADHD.
  2. Educate yourself. Be ready with information about what ADHD is and how it affects people. ADHD affects everyone differently and so understanding your own symptoms and need for support will empower you to advocate for yourself much more effectively. There are tons of resources on the web.  A particularly good one that addresses common concerns people may raise was written by ADHD Coach, Pete Quily http://www.addcoach4u.com/doesaddreallyexist.html.
  3. Ask for help. When you talk about your ADHD, don’t be afraid to ask people to help you out.  That can mean being understanding when you slip up by being late, interrupting or running in three different directions.  Married couples should definitely spend time working out the give and take of an ADHD relationship in managing home life.

Finally, if you do share, be sure to pat yourself on the back.  By being open, educating others and asking for help, you pave the way for other people with ADHD to share and learn – or even discover for the first time that they aren’t stupid, lazy or inconsiderate – they just have ADHD!

Do you disclose your ADHD or keep it to yourself?  Have you ever had a bad experience in sharing?  Tell us your story in the comments.

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3 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Fearless Blogger, The Fearless Blogger, Peggy Dolane, Stephanie Sarkis PhD, Laura Rolands and others. Laura Rolands said: Blog Post = Coming out about ADHD: Sharing that you have ADHD with your friends, fami.. http://bit.ly/cSvWIE = via @EdgeFdn […]

  2. Jeff Hamilton

    Yes, great minds do think alike! How ironic we both posted articles on the same topic. You’ve noted some great things here Peggy. Helpful content like this is sure to assist people out there who are struggling through this. You are welcome to offer up a guest blog post on my blog any time.

    – Jeff