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5 Strategies for ADHD Burnout

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the ability to focus, organise tasks, and regulate impulses. While ADHD presents unique strengths and challenges, one common experience among individuals with ADHD is burnout. ADHD burnout is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that can result from chronic stress, over-stimulation, and the demands of managing ADHD symptoms. Having awareness of the signs, causes, and coping strategies for ADHD burnout is important for improving wellbeing and resilience in individuals with ADHD.

Signs of ADHD Burnout

ADHD burnout can manifest in various ways and may vary from person to person. Some common signs of ADHD burnout include:

  • Feeling persistently tired, even after getting an adequate amount of sleep
  • Struggling to find the energy to engage in daily activities and tasks
  • Difficulty concentrating, staying on task, and completing responsibilities
  • Experiencing a decline in productivity and performance across various aspects of life
  • Not being able to enjoy hobbies or activities they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from opportunities or meetings with friends because of overwhelm
  • Heightened emotional sensitivity, mood swings, irritability and emotional overwhelm
  • Difficulty managing emotions and self-regulating
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension and aches, stomach aches and sleep disturbances can manifest

Causes of ADHD Burnout

ADHD burnout can be triggered by a combination of factors related to the nature of ADHD and the person’s environment. Some common causes and triggers of ADHD burnout include:

  • Executive Function Challenges: Difficulties with executive functions, such as planning, organisation, time management, and prioritisation, can contribute to chronic stress and overwhelm for individuals with ADHD. Individuals may miss deadlines, forget things, struggle to initiate tasks and be inundated with  a sense of shame for not being able to keep up with their neurotypical peers.
  • Sensory Overstimulation: Sensory sensitivities and difficulties regulating sensory input can lead to sensory overload and exhaustion. Environments with high levels of noise, lights, or distractions can be particularly draining for individuals with ADHD.
  • Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD): RSD is the fear of rejection and the resultant horrible feelings that come with it. RSD can cause individuals to over analyse and scrutinise conversations and interactions with others. Over a long period of time this perceived criticism or rejection can be exhausting.
  • Hyperfocus: Individuals with ADHD can often hyperfocus on an activity for hours on end, forgetting to eat, sleep or take breaks. While hyper-focusing on something can bring joy it can also bring about burnout if not kept in check. 
  • Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome: Perfectionism and feelings of inadequacy can contribute to burnout. The pressure to meet high expectations, both internally and externally, can be overwhelming.
  • ADHD Masking: Masking is when we pretend to change aspects of ourselves to try and fit in. Masking happens in many ways and sometimes it is essential for certain social situations (i.e.: formalities at a workplace or interview). However, constantly masking your identity and values can be very exhausting and eventually lead to burnout. 

Five Strategies for ADHD Burnout Recovery

While ADHD burnout can be challenging to navigate, there are strategies and interventions that can help individuals manage burnout and prevent its recurrence. Here are some coping strategies for ADHD burnout:

  1. Self-Care Practices: Prioritising self-care activities, such as exercise, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and adequate sleep, can support overall well-being and resilience in individuals with ADHD.
  2. Structured Routines: Establishing structured routines, schedules, and systems for organising tasks can help individuals with ADHD manage their time effectively and reduce feelings of overwhelm.
  3. Setting Realistic Expectations and Healthy Boundaries: Adjusting expectations, setting achievable goals, and practicing self-compassion can alleviate the pressure to perform perfectly and reduce feelings of inadequacy. Learn to say “No” more often and manage the feelings of guilt that may come after.
  4. Seeking Support: Connecting with a therapist, coach, support group, or trusted individuals can provide emotional support, guidance, and coping strategies for managing ADHD burnout.
  5. Accommodations: Identify accommodations and Reasonable Adjustments that support individual needs and preferences, such as more breaks, sensory-friendly environments and assistive technology. Asking for more time on a task or to reduce the amount of unnecessary meetings are other examples of reasonable adjustments that individuals can ask their employers for. 

ADHD burnout is a significant challenge that many individuals with ADHD may face due to the demands of managing executive dysfunction and navigating neurotypical life. By recognising the signs, understanding the causes, and implementing coping strategies, people with ADHD can better manage burnout and improve their wellbeing.

NeuroDirect
Author: NeuroDirect