ADHD and Social Anxiety

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  marscay 4 weeks ago.

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  • #50445

    dmccallister
    Participant

    Along with anger and a variety of negative emotions, I deal with social anxiety. I saw an ADD/ADHD specialist for the first time last Friday. She claimed that I (her included) fit into a smaller subset where social anxiety is a coping mechanism for ADHD. She said it was 100% intertwined with ADHD. I have never heard of this, and always assumed it was a separate, co-morbid disorder. The interesting thing (besides being supposedly connected) is that we are both social and anti-social. I have always considered myself an ambivert. The problem though, is becoming worse with age. It seems like a lot of my symptoms are. It’s extremely painful, to the point of just wanting to disconnect from people at times.

    Do any of your suffer from this or have heard it described in the terms the doc stated?

  • #50446

    MrNeutron
    Participant

    I believe my experience is similar. It’s like you have a switch connected to your mood. It’s on for a while and you feel social, then it turns off and you’re not. There’s not much of a middle ground. For myself, I think there always was an underlying feeling that something is missing during a social period. Like I didn’t or couldn’t quite connect with those people. Or they didn’t respond to me in the way that I think they should have. Then the anti-social feelings kick in after a period of time.

  • #50458

    dmccallister
    Participant

    You are right about the anti-social feelings kicking in later. I struggle with this from time to time. Yesterday I had a similar problem. I believe it was due to very little sleep. I was talking with some people. One turned away from me to talk to someone else. He effectively created a sort of wall between me and the conversation. I just got disgusted and walked back to my desk. It’s always tough to gauge real intent and solid body language, with projected feelings and misunderstandings. I really messes with my great ability to read people at times.

  • #50462

    ADHDmomma
    Keymaster

    I have significant social anxiety, but do not have ADHD. All my life I have tried to avoid any social situation where I don’t know anyone. It’s quite different from what you’re describing, but has the same component of being very debilitating. I actually feel physically sick when meeting new people, and especially in a large group or crowd of people I don’t know. Mine revolves more around what people will think of me and if they’ll accept me.

    Now, my daughter has social anxiety that stems more from not being able to read people and a lack of those types of social skills. She’s graduating from high school next week and only has a couple of friends, and rarely hangs out with anyone outside of school. We’re both introverts, but, as you said, there’s a lot more to it than that.

    Here’s some further information on social anxiety and ADHD:

    You’re Not Shy or Stuck Up. You Have Social Anxiety Disorder.

    “I Feel Like I’m Losing My Grip.”

    Penny
    ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #50464

    dmccallister
    Participant

    I have never been formally diagnosed, but I would put money on social anxiety for me. I have the classic fear of judgement, over-anxiety in social encounters with people I don’t know, and will blank out and get visibly nervous if I have to speak in front of a people (sometimes smaller groups that I know somewhat). I’ve found Dr. Thomas A. Richards work on Social Anxiety to be top notch. Unfortunately, my ADHD has gotten in the way of being able to focus and practice the cognitive therapy all the way through.

  • #50469

    ADHDmomma
    Keymaster

    Thanks for sharing about Thomas Richard’s work. I looked him up and may actually try the program myself. 😉

    Penny
    ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #51635

    Alex
    Participant

    I was just diagnosed less than a week ago (29 years old currently). As a child, I was always socially awkward. Afraid to comment, shy, quiet in class, reserved and had few friends, the friends I did have I felt very comfortable with. I started working at 18, and what I find strange was as I got older, I became much more social. Talking to everyone, anyone, I guess I would say a state of hyper-social activity where I thoroughly enjoyed conversation with the right person. The past year or so the social anxiety crept back in. Big time. Particularly when I started feeling something was wrong with myself, I didn’t feel comfortable with people anymore, even close friends. It has turned work into a burden, friendships somewhat sour and been very difficult. Before my diagnosis I didn’t know what to attribute this social anxiety to. You are not alone.

  • #51656

    SBarrett
    Participant

    Nothing worse at times than to hear about an opportunity to meet somebody I respect only to come up with a zillion excuses as to why I should back out since I’ve stopped driving due to ADHD a decade ago and do not get out and around like I used to during my days as a reporter. For some reason I’ve bought into even a partial acceptance of the notion that if you look like you can work and you’re in otherwise good physical condition, you’re not working because of laziness or something even deeper and I can’t help wondering if people are suspecting this about me even after a decade of being on SSDI for ADHD and Bipolar Depression among other comorbid conditions. So lately, I have taken to more or less becoming a hermit and hoping to sell my woodcrafts over the internet. My other self-imposed disabling condition is the fact I have to use dentures which can be a royal pain, too. I’ll never forget the embarrassing moments when they wouldn’t stay in position when I first obtained them, thus further increasing my desire for “staying put.” If anybody reading this has a loved one in pretty much the same boat, I’d love to hear from you and gain some insight. I wouldn’t wish this habit on anybody, especially since I used to be much more socially active. One thing that ADHDers have a tendency to do when they’re feeling excitement and enjoyment from meeting new friends, old pals, etc.. is that they sometimes don’t know when to keep their mouths shut and not give out too much info which after some reflection later on, will send them into additional moments of depression. I hate this cycle, and hell, I’m 65, college-educated and trained in several fields all of which require some degree of college-level training. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

  • #51930

    wolfung
    Participant

    I feel that it is clear that ADHD and social anxiety are related. Even if not clinically related, all the social fallout from having ADHD would make almost anyone want to avoid contact at times. I liked what the person above said about being an ambivert. I think that describes me perfectly. I need social contact regularly but I really need to get away, especially after social engagements and recharge. It’s almost like I need to protect myself for a while. And when I am in social situations, I often feel that I did not connect enough or appropriately.
    I also feel that my ADHD is either getting worse or getting harder to cope with as I get older. The shame I feel for not being further along in my career grows with time. I feel less social than before. I am creating a project that could become something big on the web, but with each step I feel like I will drop the ball just like every other time. And since this project requires a lot of solitary work, it increases my isolation which, in turn, makes me more anxious about engaging. The part that really stinks about that is that I am currently looking for work and feel that my conversation and eye-contact are both really bad right now.

  • #51931

    jammie
    Participant

    wow this is me. I always thought i was shy but couldn’t understand why sometimes i loved/needed to be around other people. And then sometimes i would feel bad about myself after certain social interactions. and sometimes totally dread running into people i know (or don’t) on the street and have to engage in chit chat. And then other times i’m totally outgoing and love any kind of interaction. I can never reconcile these feelings but it sounds consistent with what you have talked about above.

  • #52109

    MrNeutron
    Participant

    What about low self-esteem?

    If you look back at some of your life experiences, do you recall feeling like you were not as good as others or that there was something wrong with you? Or maybe you lacked confidence in achieving things. That you were undeserving of something, or were unlovable?

    Couldn’t low self-esteem be at the root of many, if not all of your social anxieties and fear?

  • #52160

    SBarrett
    Participant

    I have to be very careful not to get into the biographical mode because so much has happened during my lifetime before and after I learned I had ADHD “in spades” as one doc described it. You all know how sometimes we ADHDers can get when fired up in the act of doing something we love doing, in my case, either writing or woodworking. But as my father used to say when he wanted to goad me on and stay focused, I have to “stick with the program.” And hopefully, in using his phrase, I’ll be able to illustrate the importance of doing so can help everybody, not just people with ADHD or other learning and neurological disabilities.
    Some times he said it with a gazed look off into the window whenever I did something incredibly dumb, that both of us, including the one getting chewed out for, knew was dumb and I had to “punt” on points of pride. Don’t feel bad or that your pride and self-esteem has been damaged beyond repair when this happens. And don’t forget to tell your kids to avoid the “hang dog” look and guilt that comes with it. Learn from it, use it and determine to move forward with the knowledge you’ve gained as quickly as possible.
    The more we do this, the better it gets. Well, that’s nice, but what if you’re hanging in limbo after one slump, one flubbed opportunity, one screw up and embarrassment after another? And it doesn’t seem to end? Take a breather, but not for long. And remember this, no matter how painful it was to hear “get with the program,” or take a bad afternoon’s worth of cold shoulder and hot tongue therapy from your spouse and just plain avoidance from your kids and even the family dog(s) … it’s not permanent, or doesn’t have to be. And what I’ve just described for home applies at work, school or the ball field.
    If others who don’t know us, what we’re made of that makes us who we are, or doesn’t even care to learn more about us, and let’s face it, this covers most of society — could care less about our quirks and difficulties adjusting to life every day with ADHD, so what. Just say to yourself, “So what?” Don’t let others presume any rights to destroy your self-confidence, and with that, your right to choose your path in life. If you do, then be prepared for the consequences, some of which can be life-long and very detrimental to your self-confidence, self-esteem, whatever we want to call it. Don’t let others steal your life’s lunch right from under your nose. We can try to prevent back-stabbing and not always succeed, but by and large we can and must work to succeed in pushing back anybody else from stealing what’s inside you. They don’t have that right now or never had it unless they conned us through seductive praises only to be followed by humiliating verbal or written attacks. Be always on your guard for this and be prepared to push back immediately and with class. Always with class and don’t betray any foul thoughts or words. Always be the one in control of your circumstances as best you can and don’t let them control you. This kind of self mastery is gold. Pure gold. And this golden gift that God seeks all of us to possess just enough of to master our own emotions and cravings for … whatever, especially in excess … is far too priceless to ignore and let go to waste. This is how to guard your self esteem.

  • #52322

    quispiam
    Participant

    Please see this:

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/you-smell-sick-detecting-illness-by-scent/

    I, too, have noticed the “back showing” of others, even when with friends. My prime example was being slowly squeezed out when playing a game at a round table. I ended up playing as a satellite in my own orbit! I mentioned this to my flatmate the next day. She denied that this had happened, and that this could ever possibly happen. We were all decent, caring, friendly people after all …
    Further, and I can only admit this in my old age (when it’s totally useless?), I am quite a handsome man. Either something like the mechanism mentioned in the Scientific American article is occurring or a lot of short-sighted women are not wearing their glasses.
    And, of course, it’s possible that ADHD people lack the sickness smelling ability. Anxiety could well develop in such a world. Although that doesn’t explain my need to “run away, run away” (that’s a quote from a Monty Python film.) Unless I smell non-ADHDers as the sick ones!

  • #52323

    SBarrett
    Participant

    Quisipiam brings up a good point, but I don’t think we should ponder too often or too much on perceived slights. I’m not denying what he said is true and there have been times when I felt shunned in public; especially at a former church where I’d returned now and then for funeral receptions afterwards. What upset me more was the casual rudeness towards anybody who was saying anything different than the denominational party line or wasn’t part of the original “in-circle” that all parishes are plagued with. All of ’em! And nothing is so upsetting than to start talking with somebody only for the other person to ignore that call on his or her cell. It can wait, especially during social occasions. A social occasion like a funeral, wedding or any other kind of gathering, formal or otherwise, should be respected for what they are, occasions where people can meet face-to-face and not be fearful of rude rejections or sly evasion tactics practiced by some of the most insecure people, with or without ADHD.
    On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt for us to take more control of the circumstances we find ourselves in or will some time in the future. First of all, take a quick inventory of socially clumsy moments, learn as much as you can from them, and decide to make sure you’ll do all you can to avoid repeating old mistakes or worse, taking the mistakes of others and inadvertently think what was good for the gander is good for them. Or “hitting back harder.” That might be fine in some political forums, but never public or even private gatherings. Given the fast-paced life we have to deal with, and it’s much faster than when I graduated from college some four decades ago, we should do all we can to preserve and protect as much face time we can have with others; even people we might initially find hard to deal with, like addicts to their cell phones who wind up becoming even unbeknownst to them, conversation and worse, friendship killers. Don’t afraid to give people second chances. We’re far from perfect, however “gifted” we’ve been told by some of our kindest supporters. Some of them are quick to find our good qualities, point them out and give us the encouragement we need to carry them further. But when it comes to understanding ADHDers and people with other LDs that are inexplicably preventing us from making the best use of to achieve more success. It never hurts to do what we can to help others understand what we have to work with and what a double-edged sword it can be at times.
    Back in college, a classmate of mine said after a biology quiz cram session, “Man, you’ve got a lot up there but you’re not too bright in putting it all together.” The compliment part was taken because I knew he meant no harm and said it in a joking manner. But I never grasped the full meaning of what he was getting at, and since nobody saw ADHD on the “social/medical radar screens” it was decades before most adults with ADHD not only began to notice somethings their kids weren’t able to master, when they looked at their own lives, that’s when guys like me started “putting it all together.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or neurologist to know kids get what their parents passed along, not the other way around. We get temporary insanity from our kids, like the late great columnist Erma Bombeck quipped about in one of her columns. But she was commenting on the kinds of ways our flesh and blood tend to get under our skin and inside our skulls. Big difference.
    If I gave a round-about reply, forgive me, it’s that added dimension to (our lives) that took flight. And this time I decided to “abandon control of the circumstances” and let the words fly. We need not worry about smells or somebody’s teeth getting loose as much as developing “reception name dementia” and a real social killer manifesting in the shaking predominant hand that holds the hot coffee, esp. in paper cups. My doctor said I don’t have any neurological illnesses to worry about and the shaking had to come from further back up my arm to worry about. Still, when somebody with ADHD is in a social situation where people know him and are aware of his condition, an additional display of nerves-in-action is as unavoidable in my case or others who have this twitch, and I guess one could compare it to the “smell test.”
    It’s temporary, not permanent. And it’s controllable to a large degree because we can learn deep breathing exercises and “chum up” with a friend or relative to help us navigate what might otherwise become a social minefield. But if we’re alone, we still have the ultimate choice of consciously deciding what comes out of our mouths, how we say these things and to whom. Nobody can take these away from us unless we allow them to. And while I’m not very eager to recommend leaving these situations (especially sensitive funeral receptions) and “taking the easy way out by walking out,” in this case we’re the ones who are in control of our emotions, reactions and relationship buiilding/maintaining skills, not the other way around. After all, why take a risk of overstaying our capacity to avoid tenseness and anxiety we don’t need when the risk of our anxieties could overwhelm our abilities to control them and allow us to leave without any sense of lingering embarrassment for something we wish we hadn’t said or at least said with more tact.

  • #101170

    Inak
    Participant

    Hi

    This is me all over, throughout my academic and work life (home based business) I have had minimal contact with people. I have zero social life and have a strong avoidant streak. I never realised it was coping mechanism for the ADHD itself. I also don’t want to interact with people at all, I’ve always been socially awkward l, I’ll at ease with people even now at the age of 40 I don’t make meaningful interactions with people. Can’t maintain friendships, everyday exchanges tend to be awkward and superficial (straight to the point). Especially with strangers I can never loosen up and have a laugh.
    Just as I am highly intuitive and able to read people, others can also see I’m not comfortable in social situations, I find my self being picked on which can provoke a hostile, angry reaction.
    I really clash with cunning, arrogant, abnoxious, condescending people. I just have a strong aversion to certain personalities.
    I would love to work a full time job and earn a decent salary but can’t because of my poor interaction with people, I could never be comfortable in an open plan office for example with lots of personalities. Which is why I am self employed and way behind my peers, I earn a pittance, is so frustrating, by the way I don’t have a diagnosis but I’m pretty sure his is what I have after years and years of going round in circles.

  • #101171

    Inak
    Participant

    I forgot to add I am over empathetic, have an inferiority complex too. This is pure hell

  • #101268

    strwbry
    Participant

    This is interesting. I never really thought about it like that. I still struggle with relationships as an adult. Men are usually easier to read, but women, I’m completely lost. I think I have okay social skills, but I inevitably do something awkward that puts someone off. I usually have no idea what it is. Sometimes, I think I didn’t do anything wrong. I can initiate conversations, but I have no idea where to go from there. I don’t know. I honestly have no idea how to deal with social situations.

    I used to have bad social anxiety. I would get sick if I had to meet new people, or get angry or have a panic attack before a big event. Now, I’ve kind of accepted my lack of skills. I appreciate the few people that come in and out of my life, and I’ve developed enough skills to survive meetings, weddings, birthdays. But, please God, don’t make me go to a baby shower. Lol! It’s torture.

    I still get nervous sometimes. My husband has ADHD, too. When possible, we take joy in breaking little unimportant social norms and acting dumb at social events. Not enough to cause a scene, just enough to have our own little side party. It’s like, by making fun of the norms we don’t fit into, we’re accepting our own uniqueness. Like, we suck at this and it’s okay. We’re still valuable people.

  • #101329

    SBarrett
    Participant

    Simple remedy for being overly anxious around crowds, gatherings, etc., especially local, focused gatherings and most especially the more formalized kinds of gatherings, i.e. weddings n’ wakes –get yourself out the door. Even going to the library, a club, belonging to a church class, book reading club, softball team — whatever it takes to get you interested enough to get out of your comfort prison (home) — don’t waste another moment. Grab your coat and flee for your life. Because in getting out and gaining more experience in dealing with exposure to other people who may share the same interests you have, will be your life saver. (I’m not writing about itches to scratch–gripes about how people with ADHD are treated in stores, whatever — but the kinds of things we’d all like to talk about, travel, sports, knitting, hiking — anything to get you out of that comfort prison and into life. I’ve been there, and being retired with no wheels that I can (legally operate since I willingly let my license expire — that part was dumb — because you still need a damn ID to buy your meds, right) — but just get out, out, out, out, and into as many groups or settings as you feel comfortable with as you go along. I used to be heavily involved with politics. Without a license to drive, it’s hard to get around even with a good bus system in my area. But there’s always the phone, a person to pick you up for the gathering and the internet. Just liberate yourself and you’ll be surprised at how much control you can get on your ADHD or whatever else in addition is holding you back. To borrow from a long past expression, Try it you’ll like it.

  • #101455

    panchester07
    Participant

    This is me too.

    I have social anxiety but I never had it growing up. I got it after living with my dad, he was very strict on me and believed that discipline would “fix me”, but it literally broke me. I have now an inferiority complex like it was mentioned above, am filled with shame, and get really nervous around people. But i love people, I love social life and hanging out. Also i stay quiet i dont know why. People ask me why i dont talk i just zone out in my thoughts. Im also an addict so drug consumption might be the cause for this or being heavily medicated for my OCD. Yeap yeap yeap Im in the process of moving to Canada to treat these conditions better hopefully I can get some free health care for some cognitive behavioural therapy for my social anxiety and ocd.

    • #103918

      marscay
      Participant

      Also have a father who was extremely hard on me verbally, who i realise now was also suffering from non diagnosed adhd.
      His negativity and aggression really shaped my adolescent life and made my shy personality even worse. Even now as a 46yr old when i am in his presence i feel about 12yrs old again. As i have only just been diagnosed at a fairly late age i am finding the cbt really tough and struggling with dependancy still.
      The medication is helping but it feels like all of the coping mechanisms i have built up over the years have really built a wall around me that is hard to break down so that i can think and react like a ‘normal’ person.
      FML has been a constant thought for me, ADHD is like a biological weapon for your mind.

  • #101511

    Heavenly Hal
    Participant

    I spent a lifetime believing I had Social Anxiety Disorder. This summer I stumbled upon the book Driven to Distraction, about adult adhd, and was blown away, feeling as if I was co writer, ha. After listening to the Audiobook i pursued a therapist and was diagnosed ADHD/anxiety subtype in August.

    I’ve been taking stimulant medication since mid August. The most surprising outcome of the medication has been the reduction of anxiety, both general and social. My therapist explained that the anxious thoughts and feelings were directly tied to heightened distraction/inattention as a result of ADHD. So when I was distracted from the conversation, meeting, movie, or whatever, my thoughts would turn inward in a critical way. My focus was on the thoughts of those around me, the impressions I was or wasn’t making, pretty much living in a fictional world where I spent my time trying to guess the thoughts of others. This has been greatly reduced through stimulant medication and awareness.

    So congratulations. I hope you feel a sense of relief and perhaps some optimism about your future. Your therapist sounds like a winner to me. Half the burden of ADHD is not understanding the impact it has on your life, it’s not just forgetting what you read. So the knowledge plus some stimulants might really help calm your mind. Also, exercise like a maniac if you can.

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