5 Countermeasures for When ADHD is Embarrassing

Sept. 4th, 2017

There are many things about ADHD that many people like. Creativity and entrepreneurial spirit among them. However, there are many more unfortunate aspects that range from irritating, to the ADHD brain and others, to inconvenient, to downright embarrassing.

Now I’m not saying that shaming people for something outside of their control is good or acceptable, but it is something that happens. We even shame ourselves for these things.

So here are a few embarrassing ADHD traits I’ve experienced or witnessed, along with some suggestions on how to mitigate that embarrassment for the future. You can find 5 more here.

1. Fees and fines

Whether caused by being slow (to return a library book) or being fast (above the speed limit), paying more because of our brain type is never fun.

I’ve heard many people say that hiring an accountant to do their taxes is beneficial both in terms of stress and money because they do not incur late fees. Using the fantastic app Libby, you will never again need to worry about books being lost or late back to the library!

I find when I accidentally speed in the car, it’s because I’m bored and having a harder time paying attention to driving. I listen to podcasts because these allow me to be entertained, but not so much that I lose focus on the road.

2. Stained clothing

I’m going to fess up here and admit that this one is directly from my experience. I felt guilty about buying myself more clothing because I was just going to stain it again! So now I do two things. First, I wear an apron whenever I’m cooking (and sometimes even when I eat). Second, I have specific clothes I don’t mind getting dirty/stained and clothes I want to keep nice.

Other people, without ADHD, probably A) don’t stain their clothes at all and B) use the different clothing types without thinking, but it took me a long time to figure it out.

3. Constant lateness

Punctuality seems synonymous with respect to a lot of people and we don’t want people to think we’re intending to be disrespectful, but being constantly late is a hallmark of ADHD. There are as many schedule management systems as there are brains in the world so it would be somewhat futile of me to suggest apps like Google Calendar.

In my experience, the things a schedule management system needs are: needs to be handy when needed, needs to be easy to access and use, and needs to be easily understood by the person using it. For a more detailed explanation of how I use technology to maintain punctuality, see this blog post.

One of the ways that some people avoid being late is to show up early. However, the boredom of waiting around for something to begin or for someone else to be ready can be so painful for that this is an actual reason why we are constantly late. It might be a bit embarrassing but at least we don’t have to deal with the boredom of waiting. For this reason, I always carry a knitting project with me and an e-book on my phone. I’ll never have to worry about being bored because I was early for an appointment.

Yet another thing that causes us to be late is time insensitivity. We think we can get across town in ten minutes when in reality it takes more like 20 minutes, and that doesn’t include finding a parking spot, walking into the building, and the painfully slow elevator. Then there are external factors like traffic, construction, and red lights. If buffer time is allowed for, because we actively begin to become more aware of time and how long things actually take, then these things can’t cause us as much of a problem.

4. Car crashes

Let me be clear that I don’t find injury, destruction of property, or death amusing and would never seek to trivialize it with the word “embarrassing”. In this context, I’m referring to more minor collisions, like fender benders.

Impulsivity, inattention, poor spatial awareness, poor short term memory, impatience, feeling rushed because we are late, and many other aspects of ADHD can all contribute to ADHD people having a higher risk of vehicular collision. Being more mindful behind the wheel, as in reminding ourselves of the safety risks every time we drive, has helped me, as well as the podcasts I mentioned earlier.

I also attended a driving course which I strongly recommend. In addition, I didn’t pursue my license until I was well into my twenties. Given the delayed maturity ADHD can be prone to, I feel this contributed to me being a safer driver. In addition, making sure your basic needs, and ADHD needs such as medication, are met also increases any given driver’s safety.

5. Forgetting important dates

My family loves to tell the story of how my Dad bought concert tickets for himself and my Mom for September 27th, my sister’s birthday. This is a similar thing as punctuality. Any measures that improve our memory (healthy sleep, nutrition, hydration, exercise) can help in this area. What about a service like Google's schedule send? Get an email from yourself however many days in advance of important dates.

What embarrassing things does your brain do and what do you do to counter them?