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Impact ADHD Can Have on Life
Content reviewed and updated: 03/08/22

Living With ADHD – Effects on Your Body & Life

Life is a juggling act. On some days, the juggling act feels routine and manageable. On other days, however, attempting to balance everything going on can be exhausting, frustrating, or simply impossible.

For individuals living with ADHD, life’s challenges are compounded. Pursuing a career, managing relationships, raising a family, and running a household are all demanding activities. The skills required to succeed in these areas—including concentration, memory, and organizational capabilities and the ability to remain calm, cool, and collected—are the same ones that those living with ADHD struggle with.

The Impact of ADHD in Work Life

When dealing with symptoms of ADHD, life can be tough. Then add the challenges of professional life on top of that. According to the practitioners at Ahead, a modern mental healthcare service, patients with ADHD express similar work frustrations every day.

“I am always late to work.”

“I am distracted during meetings and zone out without even realizing it.”

“I have a hard time prioritizing tasks. I’ll have 10 tasks on my plate and instead of completing one, I’ll start another.”

“I can’t seem to make strides toward my goals.”

It is common for adults with ADHD to struggle with their careers. Some ADHD struggles related to work, like difficulty maintaining focus during meetings, trouble organizing and prioritizing projects, and adhering to deadlines, are due to differences in how the brain functions. ADHD is biological, so simply trying to increase your IQ or practice willpower will not fix these kinds of issues in a lasting way. Rather, certain ADHD characteristics can be harnessed and molded to enhance one’s work. Passion, creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and a constant flow of original ideas are common strengths associated with ADHD, and they are often considered assets by employers.

ADHD and Personal Life

To-do lists that never end, multiple schedules to accommodate, finances to manage, relationships to invest in emotionally—life at home can be just as challenging as life at work. What does ADHD affect in your personal life?

Consider social ties. Maintaining healthy relationships is one of the toughest jobs there is, and some ADHD symptoms such as mood swings, hypersensitivity, and low self-esteem can make it even trickier.

Spouses may feel burdened to organize and double-check on things, leaving the partner with ADHD feeling distrusted or inadequate.

In-laws may insinuate that ADHD is not real and that a person is just being lazy.

Friends may imply that people with ADHD are looking for an excuse for their actions.

New acquaintances may consider it rude when someone with ADHD interrupts a conversation, not realizing the underlying fear that thoughts may be forgotten if not expressed immediately.

Relationships also include those people have with themselves. People with ADHD may be disappointed and frustrated by their emotional outbursts or inability to be like everyone else. They may also feel guilty for not being who they want to be.

But just like ADHD characteristics can be used to better one’s work, they can also be used to build stronger relationships. An ADHD specialist can help people learn how.

How does ADHD affect the body?

ADHD can affect all areas of life, but what does ADHD affect in regards to our physical health? Or in other words, how does ADHD affect the body? ADHD is a complex condition that takes a toll on both our bodies and minds. It’s important for anyone living with ADHD to understand and manage the physical implications in order to live a fulfilling life with ADHD. From disrupting sleeping habits to causing hormone imbalances, there is a wide spectrum of ADHD struggles. 

Sleep is one of the most important areas of physical health in which ADHDers experience trouble. The relationship between sleep and ADHD is complex. While ADHD can cause sleep problems, a lack of sleep can also make ADHD symptoms worse. For example, ADHD symptoms like time blindness and hyperfocus can make it difficult to go to bed early. People with ADHD might spend hours hyper-focusing on a task and lose track of time, resulting in inadequate sleep time. 

When someone with ADHD lacks sleep, that sleep deprivation can worsen executive dysfunction and even decrease the effectiveness of ADHD medication. This dilemma sounds intimidating, but the key to managing sleep and ADHD is to create an ADHD-friendly nighttime routine that helps you avoid exhaustion. 

Another way that ADHD affects the body is that ADHD can cause different levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that plays an important role in experiencing happiness or pleasure. When we do things that are pleasurable or make us happy, like hanging out with friends or exercising, our dopamine levels increase and make us want to experience that feeling of happiness again. This chemical drives us to repeat behaviors that make us happy.

According to research, ADHD can lower the levels of dopamine in the brain. This means that there is an imbalance in hormones that are supposed to help our brains associate specific actions with positive outcomes. Because of this dopamine imbalance, it can be difficult for people living with ADHD to anticipate future rewards. It can also be more difficult to change their actions to achieve that reward. 

Research on the relationship between dopamine and ADHD is still ongoing, but the ADHD-dopamine link is an important factor in understanding how ADHD affects the body. This chemical imbalance in the brain is the reason why stimulant medications are effective in treating ADHD for some people. ADHD stimulant medications work by increasing dopamine levels and stimulating focus. However, stimulant medication is not the only treatment option for ADHD. There are also non-stimulant medications and holistic, alternative treatments for ADHD. The key is to find the right treatment path for your unique ADHD needs.

The Positives of Living with ADHD

There’s a common misconception that ADHD is “bad” or that ADHD causes people to be lazy or undisciplined. This sentiment, among other common myths about ADHD, can be harmful to those who have ADHD. In reality, this condition comes with both highs and lows. ADHD life is not just an uphill battle, it’s more like a rollercoaster of ups and downs. There are many wonderful and positive outcomes that come from life with ADHD.

ADHD can be summarized as a difference in the neurological wiring of the brain. Different wiring in the brain is not a negative thing to have. It’s a difference that makes people with ADHD unique, creative, and spontaneous. There seems to be many negative symptoms of ADHD because our society does not always accommodate the complexities of ADHD experiences. To fully understand what life with ADHD is like, we should also highlight the good realities of living with ADHD.

Some positive ADHD effects include being able to hyperfocus on tasks for long periods of time, having high energy at times, building resilience, and much more. Other ADHD effects on life can be both negative and positive. For example, a well-known symptom of ADHD is impulsiveness. While impulsiveness can be seen as a negative quality because it assumes that the person is making decisions hastily without much thought, impulsiveness can also be considered a desirable trait.

With impulsivity, quick reactions lead to action. People with ADHD impulsivity may thrive in positions that require quick thinking and decision-making. Taking time to think about doing something may be wise, but being able to balance timing and decision-making is a skill that could take years for someone to develop.

The bottom line is, ADHD struggles can turn into ADHD wins depending on how you manage your symptoms. Rather than dwelling on the question ‘what does ADHD do to you’, try thinking about what can ADHD do for you. How ADHD affects your life can depend on several factors, but the key to living positively with ADHD is finding a community that understands and embraces the nuances and complexities of ADHD experiences.

How to Cope with ADHD Effects in Everyday Life

Living with ADHD can cause various symptoms that can make life both challenging and interesting. The good news is that there are techniques available to help you become more aware of the effects and manage them better.

Since most ADHD symptoms relate to difficulties when trying to focus on or accomplish tasks, creating a structure that you can follow is absolutely essential when creating an environment that accommodates your ADHD tendencies.

Carefully consider how each part of your environment, schedule, and lifestyle impacts your productivity and mental health. Taking a moment to reflect on these elements will help you make specific changes that can result in better management of your symptoms.

Start using a daily planner calendar or an app to add more structure to your days. When you know about your appointments (and set reminders for their times), staying on top of your responsibilities will become much more manageable, which will make living with ADHD easier as well.

It can also be helpful to start creating lists and making them a central part of how you structure your thoughts before you get started on the day’s responsibilities. When you have lists of projects, tasks, appointments, and other important items, you have a much better chance of avoiding distractions. Plus, you’ll have a clear idea of what’s ahead and how to organize your responsibilities and actions accordingly.

It also helps to declutter your space and remove items that you don’t use or that aren’t necessary. This is especially important for your designated workspace. Create a minimalist space that makes it easier for you to focus on your to-do list without getting distracted by another activity.

Some people living with ADHD have discovered that clocks and timers can also be beneficial. You should develop a habit of keeping track of time, including how long different tasks can take. Then, do your best to estimate how to allocate your time in the future. You can combine using a clock with using various timers, such as those that utilize the Pomodoro technique or the Flowtime technique. When you set an allotted time for a specific task and eliminate distractions, you can get a lot done in dedicated sprints. 

Keep in mind, being productive while living with ADHD will require you to become more vigilant about what you allow yourself to take on. Whether it’s commitments, social engagements, or even goals, you should always consider whether adding more to your list of responsibilities will interfere with your ability to balance your ADHD tendencies.

Working with an ADHD Specialist

Healthy habits positively affect life at work and at home. Eating nutritious foods, getting adequate rest, and exercising regularly contribute to overall bodily health. When it comes to mental health, meditation and practicing mindfulness can help ease emotional chaos. Further, learning organizational skills and creating personalized routines can ultimately help people save time and avoid frustration. Providers with ADHD expertise can provide specialized guidance in these areas.

Many individuals with ADHD find working with a trained provider helpful. ADHD specialists understand the challenges associated with ADHD and can suggest actionable steps, prescribe appropriate medications, and recommend approaches that address a person’s unique concerns.

Getting Help for ADHD Does Not Need to be Difficult

If you feel stressed and discouraged by never-ending challenges at home, at work, or in your relationships, you are not alone.

If you are struggling with ADHD, or all signs in your life point to ADHD, getting help does not have to be difficult. Many practitioners are highly trained in diagnosing and providing ongoing treatment (both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic) for ADHD, as well as for related conditions such as anxiety and depression. Plus, telehealth appointments are becoming increasingly popular, allowing people to receive personalized, one-on-one care from the comfort of home.

At Ahead, our providers are experienced in helping thousands of patients navigate life with ADHD. We make it simple for people who are unsure about their ADHD symptoms to get the professional guidance they need. We’re here to be that pillar of support for all the ups and downs that come with living with ADHD or other mental health conditions. 

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