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  • Writer's pictureValerie Currie

The Challenges of Making Friends with ADHD

In Making Friends With ADHD, we discuss the challenges related to friendships and ADHD - likely a topic we'll revisit in the future because it's so complex.

According to Psychology Today, “the Surgeon General of the United States released a report that found that loneliness and smoking are similarly dangerous for our health.” Which… makes sense.

Making friends is obviously important to our well-being; after all, we're social creatures. We can all relate to how hard it is to make friends in your 20s, but ADHD can often present even more challenges when trying to make long-lasting friendships.

So What Are the Challenges?

RSD (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria) and Emotional Dysregulation

We struggle to regulate our emotions with ADHD. Emotions can feel much stronger for us than a normal person, often being described as, "too loud to manage". Emotional dysregulation can cause us to be a little too much when it comes to friendships, often being clingy or weird or overwhelming or distant or... you get the message.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD), "is when a person feels intense emotional pain related to a rejection." Those with ADHD typically struggle with this, applying to many instances in our lives where we may find it difficult to control our reactions due to an overwhelming amount of negative emotions.

Object Permanence

If it is not in front of us, it does not exist. In our episode, Valerie mentions how it's easier to keep friends in a walkable city due to closeness and convenience. This is a good example of why people so easily make friends at their place of work, school, or any place where they consistently meet and interact with the same people over and over again. This is why making friends in our 20s poses such a challenge.

Social Anxiety

Don't you feel like a neurodivergent weirdo sometimes? Yeah, we do too.

Don't worry, it's not just you. Of course, some of us may be diagnosed with social anxiety on top of our ADHD (*cough* Valerie *cough*), but ADHD can give us a little boost in stress when certain social situations arise as well.


People with ADHD struggle with hyperactivity. It's all in the name. To put it bluntly, we're often impulsive and struggle to keep our mouths shut. This can present plenty of problems when forming friendships.

One example of this is found in a study published in the National Library of Medicine, discussing Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the Challenges of Close Friendship. This Article focuses on friendships in adolescents with ADHD - which the paper even admits is nearly nonexistent. According to the study, “The impulsivity of children with ADHD may result in displays of temper that are disliked by potential friends and may detract from their companions’ enjoyment of the time spent with them. They may attend insufficiently to the rules of games and to the wishes of their play partners regarding choice of activities.”

Executive Dysfunction

A part of friendship is organizing activities and events, focusing on conversation, and even just showing up on time... all struggles people with ADHD experience.

When studying this in adolescents, this study published in the National Library of Medicine found that, “executive functions are the processes that regulate an individual’s ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently, and make decisions. Cognitive flexibility is the hallmark of these processes… As friendship becomes increasingly dependent on cooperative behavior as it does in middle childhood, children with ADHD may encounter increasing difficulties in maintaining friendships [due to these cognitive issues]. This may also restrict them to making friends mainly with peers showing the same deficits.”

So... What do we do about it?

For an open dialogue on advice related to these challenges, listen to our episode on Making Friends With ADHD.

References and further reading:

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