Reply To: ADHD + Masking Anxiety


I have the same set of symptoms, as did almost everyone in my first ADHD group session. We did a lot of talking and theorizing after our sessions too. We were all mid- to late 20’s at the time. We were all struggling with school and our careers even though we were all very intelligent and highly creative. We were all extremely shy, withdrawn and reserved around new people. But once we felt comfortable we could jabber on for hours. The theory we put together was this: children that have ADHD (and especially those with above average intelligence) realize that they are different from others at a very early age. They are often criticized and teased. Those who are especially sensitive to this go to great lengths to control and repress their hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Eventually, this becomes second nature and manifests itself as social anxiety. We become overly-sensitive to non-verbal social cues and have a deep-seated fear of being rejected. In short, you are not trying to manage your social anxiety by masking or controlling the hyperactive symptoms you would normally exhibit. Your social anxiety is a defense mechanism that you use to manage and control those symptoms that you were constantly being criticized for as a young child. Your hyperactivity isn’t gone, it’s been internalized. Instead of releasing your excess energy into the world, you’ve turned it on yourself. While ADHD is a neurological issue, your social anxiety isn’t. It’s the result of years of mostly self-inflicted trauma. Maybe you can take drugs to mask it. Most of us are pretty successful at drinking it away. But it’s obviously better to deal with the root of the problem. You should talk with a therapist and especially other ADHDers about it. That changed a lot for me. I doubt that I’ll ever be completely free of the social anxiety, but I understand it now. I can actually remember how it developed (or rather, I developed it) over the years. Over the course of my first year or two of school I changed from an bright eyed enthusiastic little girl into a much more sullen, withdrawn version of myself. I really wanted to fit in and be liked. But in order to do so I more or less paralyzed myself socially. Too afraid to show anyone my real personality, I I eventually became more of an outsider than ever. Remembering this helps me identify my social anxiety for what it is and deal with it rationally whenever it clouds my judgement. I’m a lot better at accepting myself more and worrying less about what others think, but too some degree I’ll always be damaged. This is why it’s essential that ADHD children be raised with a lot of positive re-enforcement. They need to be understood and accepted and not criticized.

  • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by highlyadhd.