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How to talk with your friends about your ADHD.

Two teen boys walking and talking.

When you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like ADHD, it can be tough to know how to explain it to your friends. Your parents and teachers might know enough, or be able to learn enough, to understand what your diagnosis means, but other people might have some strange ideas about what it means to have ADHD.

The good news is that people are becoming more aware of ADD, ADHD, and the impact that these conditions can have on your life. According to recent estimates, at least one in 20 people have ADD or ADHD, and many of these cases are spotted by teachers. If you walked into any classroom in the US today and asked the teacher to tell you about ADHD, there’s a very good chance that you would get an accurate description of the symptoms and the latest treatments. Learning about conditions like ADHD is part of the process of becoming a teacher, and most schools will be well prepared for students who have ADHD.

However, there are still plenty of people out there who know next to nothing about what it is really like to have ADHD. You might well have been one of these people until you were diagnosed, and you might also face problems talking about your own ADHD because of the way it affects your relationships with other people, or simply because you don’t know how to go about it.

Getting Started

Telling the first person that you have been diagnosed with ADHD can be difficult. The first step is often the hardest on any journey. Once you have made it, you might be surprised by how easy it actually is to open up, particularly if you start with a sympathetic friend who is a good listener. People are often far more willing to accept us, with all of our quirks and flaws than we give them credit for. You might find that a lot of the people you tell about your ADHD already know something about the condition, or even have another friend or relative who has been diagnosed. You might even get a few people commenting that they always thought you might have ADHD since some people turn out to be great at diagnosing everyone else in hindsight.

Explaining ADHD

The key to feeling confident about beginning the conversation is to have some good facts ready to share. Take all the time you need to talk to your doctor or look up your condition online before you talk to your friends, so that you know what you want to say. Being able to explain ADHD in a sentence or two could be useful, so try to come up with your own definition based on what you have learned from your research. It can also help if you are able to anticipate some of the questions that people are likely to have. For example, one common area of confusion is the difference between ADD and ADHD. This is actually pretty easy to explain, since the H stands for hyperactivity and ADD is essentially ADHD without this component. The tricky part is that ADHD with hyperactivity tends to be more familiar to most people, so if you have ADD, it might come as a surprise.

Dealing with Negative Reactions

Another good way to prepare to talk about your ADHD is to be ready for those few mean-spirited people who might react badly. Being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD can be difficult enough without having to worry about people who don’t understand that these are real illnesses based in brain chemistry, or who feel that the support you receive in school is putting them at a disadvantage rather than just creating a level playing field. Learning about your condition can help you to show these people that they are wrong, but there will always be some people who don’t want to learn.

Try not to let these people ruin your day, however hard it may be to ignore them. Anyone who is so prejudiced against difference that they can’t accept people with ADHD is probably not worth your time or worry. Remember that having ADHD does not make you worth any less and it doesn’t make you lazy or stupid. After all, it was no barrier to success for people like entrepreneurs David Neeleman and Paul Orfalea, or for the historic figures and artists like Benjamin Franklin, Salvador Dali and Mozart, who are all suspected to have had ADHD.

Understanding ADHD Together

Telling your friends about your ADHD may only be the first of many conversations about this subject. Having ADD or ADHD can have a big impact on your life, particularly while you are in school, so you may want to talk again about your treatment and how you are feeling. It can also help if you and your friends are aware of how ADD and ADHD might affect your relationship. Being able to attribute issues to your ADHD, like not listening attentively to every story your friends tell or forgetting that you were supposed to meet up, can help to avoid some unnecessary arguments. Once you and your friends understand that you are not being intentionally hurtful or inconsiderate, you might be able to find better ways of handling these types of issues. Now that you’ve been diagnosed, your treatment should help to reduce your symptoms, but you might still need to work on being better organized and more attentive, and your friends can help you to do this in your social life.