Part I: Navigating ADHD: The Power and Pain of Connecting

Written by Juliana Snow, ADHD-CCSP – Q

Longitudinal studies show, time and time again, that having a thriving social network is associated with higher life satisfaction, stronger immune system function, and a longer life expectancy (Harris-Lane et al., 2021). In fact, people who report feeling socially connected show lower levels of anxiety and depression (Harris-Lane et al., 2021). Having a strong sense of social connection also tends to manifest in higher self-esteem and higher empathy for others. Such are two factors that feed into this feedback-loop of connection that help to further advance current or future relationships. But, what do we take from all of this as predominantly Neurodivergent readers? The answer to that question is not simple, and we will discuss a bit about why that is.

What is ADHD and what does it have to do with social connectedness?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition present from birth that influences the development of many brain regions and imbalances in neurochemicals, resulting in impairment in executive functioning skills (Blake, 2020). ADHD involves lifelong differences in regulating attention and age-inappropriate levels of hyperactivity-impulsivity. It is present in 2-7% of the population. Contrary to common belief, the first recognition of this medical condition dates back to 1775, which is to say that this neuro-difference is nothing but new.  Relevant diagnostic criteria (in past editions of the DSM) indicate that ADHDers experience an impairing level of difficulty focusing on conversations, not interrupting others, knowing how much is too much to share, “having a filter,” and exercising self-awareness in various situations. These can make interacting with others a challenging ordeal and expend tremendous amounts of their capacity to self-regulate across other tasks in their day-to-day life. This begs the question of how ADHDers can find fulfilling connections that endure the test of time. It also seems to complicate the journey of how to find and keep meaningful connections in their life despite the hurdles that their biological differences place in the way.

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Most people recognize that meaningful connection is founded on mutual respect, active listening, empathy, truth and trust. What evade conversation is how to find and keep relationships that endorse those values, especially as neurodivergent who naturally communicate with a different approach. Interestingly, ADHD individuals have more challenges with interpreting the facial expressions of others and tend to over-emote with their own facial expressions, often exaggerating what they communicate. Sources such as reading materials, therapy, and medication are helpful options when it comes to conversational nuances and social norms that can quickly get confusing.

When you begin to investigate many aspects of ADHD, it becomes understandable why someone with this neuro-difference may have difficulties with making and keeping friendships alive. This difficulty with social relationships can be traced back to many sources that impact ADHDers. Among these are the proneness for low self-esteem, a tendency to boredom, and the repercussions of adverse experiences. Consequently, many ADHDers may wind up tolerating less than they deserve and enduring undue abuse at work, at home or at school. For some, these consequences look like many failed marriages or affairs. Contrary to the aforementioned “loop of connection” these factors cultivate a cycle of exacerbated low self-esteem and create fruitful grounds for less than nurturing future social connections. But yet again, how can ADHDers find respite from this cycle and make room for the myriad benefits that strong social connections can bring into their lives? Please see our separate blog post on the topic for specific tips on how to find, keep and nurture friendships when you have ADHD.


Harris-Lane L, Hesson J, Fowler K, and Harris N. (2021). Positive mental health in youth with ADHD: Exploring the role of social support. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 40, 35-51.

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