After you have been diagnosed with ADHD, you might be anxious to share the news. Your diagnosis might be a relief, finally you understand what has caused your forgetfulness, your inability to follow a conversation, your chronic tardiness. You are excited and want to let your friends know. But before launching into a discussion about ADHD, think about what you want to accomplish, for example:
- Why do you feel the need to share this information?
- How are you expecting your friends to react?
- What do you want from your friends once they know you have ADHD?
For most people, the simple answer to all of these questions is that you are looking for understanding and acceptance. You might want to let your friends know there is an explanation for your behaviors. You might want them to know you really aren't lazy or stupid, that there is a reason for your lifelong struggle with organization and time management. You might want them to understand why you can't sit still or interrupt them when they are talking. You might have other reasons for sharing your diagnosis. To stay focused during your conversation, understand your motivation before you begin.
Most of your friends will react in one of three ways:
They may already understand ADHD and not be surprised. In fact, some may say, "I thought so." For these friends, no further explanation is necessary.
They may not know much about ADHD but may be willing to learn. For these friends, offer information, such as pamphlets, books or websites where they can learn more about the diagnosis and what it means.
They may not believe ADHD is a real diagnosis or they may see you using ADHD as an excuse for bad manners or poor behavior. In these cases, you can choose to educate, to explain that you understand, based on their experience and what they have heard in the media, that they believe ADHD is not real, however, you can provide factual information, letting them know about the newest research showing ADHD to be a neurobiological disorder, with specific differences in brain activity. You can answer their questions and let them know about how you have struggled with symptoms of ADHD.
When deciding to tell your friends about your ADHD diagnosis, remember, there is no right or wrong way to start the discussion. You can choose to tell certain friends and not others, you can choose not to tell anyone. You can choose what you want to say and how much you want to share. This is your diagnosis and your life. The choice is yours.
If you do choose to talk with your friends, talk about not only about the symptoms of ADHD but how it is a lifetime disorder. Explain what treatments are available and what you plan to do to help manage your symptoms. You might also want to talk about what your friends can do to help you. Some things your friends can do:
- Make sure you have eye contact when talking to you. If not, gently ask you to look at them when they talk to minimize becoming distracted.
- Call to remind you about a lunch date. Instead of getting angry or hurt because you don't remember that you set up a time to meet weeks ago, ask them to call/text/email you the day before and even the morning of your lunch date with a gentle reminder.
- Explain things in a multi-sensory way. Along with talking, your friends can use visual cues to help you remember important dates or conversations.
I am sure you can think of additional ways your friends can help you better manage your life and your symptoms of ADHD.
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