Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Struggling to Cope with the Demands of Life? Psychologist Says It Might Be a Sign of ADHD Burnout

Struggling to Cope with the Demands of Life? Psychologist Says It Might Be a Sign of ADHD Burnout

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An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but only 600,000 are formally diagnosed, according to the charity ADHD UK. 

ADHD is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. Common symptoms include difficulty paying attention, restlessness and impulsiveness. 

Most cases are diagnosed when children are under 12 years old, however, rates of adult diagnoses have jumped in recent years thanks to greater public awareness and better access to assessment facilities. 

Despite this progress, there are still millions of people living with undiagnosed ADHD, many of whom may feel overwhelmed with life but not know why. 

Research also shows that people with ADHD are more susceptible to mental health problems such as anxietydepression, and burnout

In a recent interview with BBC 5 Live, entrepreneur and founder of The Autistic Joyologist Nikki Butler explained how her autism and ADHD caused her to burn out without her even realising it. Other prominent figures, such as Matt Haig, author of The Midnight Library and The Humans, have also spoken out about the effects of ADHD burnout in a bid to create more awareness. 

So how can you spot the signs of ADHD burnout and what can you do to manage it? 

What is ADHD burnout? 

ADHD burnout is the result of having to navigate a neurotypical society and the additional demands it brings. 

Often, people with ADHD need to work harder to do the things that neurotypical people do without much effort. For example, if you have ADHD and experience a change in living situation or have extra demands placed on you at work, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed. This is particularly the case if you’re not receiving treatment or don’t have any strategies in place. 

ADHD-specific burnout triggers can include sensory overload, the pressure of having to pay attention for long periods, and projects or tasks which require enhanced organisation. 

Experiencing burnout can worsen a person’s ADHD symptoms, which means you might find it harder to complete tasks and regulate your emotions.   

What are the signs of ADHD burnout?  

For someone experiencing ADHD burnout, life can become overwhelming. You may have difficulty coping with the demands of work and your personal life and you may find yourself avoiding important responsibilities or shutting down completely. 

Other signs of ADHD burnout include: 

  • Difficulty making decisions or feeling paralysed  
  • Feelings of fatigue or constant exhaustion 
  • Lack of motivation and drive to complete tasks 
  • Increased feelings of imposter syndrome or increased people-pleasing tendencies 
  • Difficulty regulating your emotions (for example, feeling irritated all the time or lashing out more) 

How best to manage ADHD burnout

If you’re experiencing ADHD burnout, here are some suggestions for managing burnout. 

Start by thinking about the bigger picture. Are you feeling more irritable or starting to miss deadlines at work? It can be helpful to think about what’s going on in your wider life to see if there’s an indication that burnout could be on the way. This can help you implement coping strategies before burnout hits.  

Try to free up some mental space by delegating tasks so you can focus on the priorities at hand. Remember to have compassion for yourself; it’s OK if you’re finding things harder than usual or struggling with daily tasks.  

Sticking to a routine can be useful for helping you navigate feelings of burnout. Making time to rest and sleep is also important, especially if you tend to neglect your well-being.

Most importantly, make sure you have a support system in place. Whether that’s someone at work, an ADHD professional or even your GP, there are places to turn so you can ask for help on how to reduce stress and manage your priorities and capacity.

This can help identify strategies and adjustments that can deescalate feelings of burnout. Your support system could even prescribe medication if you need help with anxiety and depression to help support you emotionally. 

As awareness of ADHD continues to grow, we can broaden our understanding of how neurodiverse people are affected differently by burnout. While identifying the triggers of ADHD burnout can take time, by becoming aware of the tools and strategies to manage ADHD burnout, you can take proactive steps to improve your overall wellbeing and prevent long-term burnout. 

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