Although the interpersonal effects of ADHD are gaining more and more attention, it is still an underestimated problem for adults with ADHD. It is also ironic that social functioning has lagged behind in terms of recognized ADHD-related impairments compared to problems at work and school, as the set of self-regulatory skills that are compromised in adults with ADHD probably stem from the demands of the increased interdependence of the early human groups who were able to survive and thrive gradually by working together.
Self-regulation and sociality
The skills involved in sociality beyond kinship have allowed humans to learn from each other (including watching how others solve problems), to work together for mutually beneficial goals, to speed up communication and shared language, reciprocal altruism tit for tat and a general approach that it is better to “work and play well with others” than to go it alone.1 The social contexts and environmental demands faced by our human ancestors fostered and honed self-control skills – also known as executive functions – which spurred knowledge sharing and cultural evolution.
Executive functions can be analyzed into categories of organization and problem solving, time management, attention, flexibility and change between tasks, initiation, self-monitoring, impulse control, motivation. and emotional regulation. Managing emotions includes the social emotions of empathy, shame and guilt. In addition to its broader benefits, this skill suite is relevant for relationships as it helps you:
- Identify your needs versus the needs of others
- Recognize the need for compromise and cooperation in certain situations
- Track and follow through on promises made to others to ensure you are contributing fairly to a project or relationship
- Keep an eye out for commitments owed to you by others to catch those who might be biters
Unfortunately, these are some of the very issues that are difficult for many adults with ADHD.
Sociality and ADHD in adults
On the one hand, a good personality and interpersonal skills are “superpowers” for some people with ADHD that allow them to create dynamic and stable social networks. Such conviviality can compensate for various missteps and social slippages. In some cases, these skills help adults with ADHD cope through adaptive partnerships in the form of ‘buddy systems’, such as recruiting exercise or study buddies, or ‘body doubles’. where friends negotiate keeping on task – “You help me organize my closet and I’ll help you catch up on your yard work.” Such sympathy can build social capital with others to the extent that issues related to being scattered and inconsistent in a relationship (“Where are you? I’ve been waiting 30 minutes ?!”) friend with ADHD .
Unfortunately, executive function deficits and their effects on the use of social skills create problems for many adults with ADHD. These are difficulties with repeated oversights and delays for tasks and promises, poor organization and execution of plans and commitments, excessive emotional reactions (or non-reactions when requested), comments inappropriate and impulsive and a perception that one does not listen to this. over time erode relationships.
So, it’s no surprise that two of the social emotions – shame and guilt – are commonly reported by adults with ADHD. They are adaptive but dose-dependent emotions – in reasonable doses, they provide feedback and information to help manage relationship issues, such as staying in touch or fixing blunders; in higher doses, however, they can be toxic and add a heavy emotional layer to ADHD management and relationships, amplifying already difficult situations.
Humans also have the capacity for empathy and positive feelings associated with helping others, mutual altruism, and working with others. Our human factory settings, however, come with a negativity bias.2 and a tendency to feel bad on a greater magnitude than we do good, especially in relationship monitoring, which contributes to the negative opinions of many adults with ADHD that are magnified by relationship issues, not to mention the anger, corresponding shame, and / or guilt reactions. It is not surprising that such emotions contribute to the avoidant coping characteristic of ADHD in adults.3 it also creates relationship problems.
Social Health Vectors
One way to think about the effects of ADHD on one’s “social health” is the various vectors of sociality.4 The vertical dimension is a person’s reputation or status with others in a larger social community, such as school or work. In this area, it is awareness (a consistently low personality factor in adults with ADHD), reliability, organization, a sense of duty to others and being a reliable contributor and low maintenance in a team. There are various buffers in play, for example if someone has a unique skill set their difficult personality traits will be tolerated.
On the horizontal dimension is a feeling of belonging to groups. On this vector, it is a feeling of closeness and degrees of closeness, concentric “circles of trust”, the innermost circles being family, romantic partners and friendships and radiating outward at different levels of trust. knowledge and familiarity. There is often less conditional pressure in inner circles of this realm, as locals have gained or been granted truly unconditional positive consideration and acceptance, although there is at least some expectation of reciprocity and acceptance. taking part in relationships and even those bonds can be strained.
The unfortunate problem with ADHD in adults and social health is that it is the implementation difficulties that define ADHD that create the problems and not a lack of desire, intention or concern of the people in one’s life. . Nonetheless, the automatic reactions of those in the social networks of adults with ADHD often assume lack of attention, selfishness, or other less than desirable traits. Laboratory studies of tit-for-tat sharing interactions indicate that negative emotions and the corresponding effects on interactions are triggered when one is viewed as “not playing fair”, including activation of associated brain regions. to negative emotions.4
Management strategies for your social accounts
So what can be done about it? The interpersonal realm of managing ADHD in the social / interpersonal world involves managing one’s social capital and “accounts” with others. Our relationships can be thought of as a financial account shared with other people in our life. We each make deposits and withdrawals from these accounts in good faith. Extending the economic analogy, we also need to monitor the accounts for overdrafts and stick to an agreed budget.
In the broad sense, psychosocial treatment approaches for ADHD in adults focus on the relational domain by promoting the implementation of the adaptation strategies necessary to improve the functioning of the adult role. That is, most treatment goals involve a better adjustment to work or school, better tracking of housework and parenting, and other issues that have ripple effects on others. In fact, the reason for pursuing treatment for ADHD in the first instance may be due to problems in a marriage or other committed relationship, social isolation, or problems with bosses or co-workers.
For the most part, it is not necessarily a lack of knowledge about social behaviors, but bad timing, impulsiveness, or other difficulties with timely implementation. Pharmacotherapy can be helpful in improving these disturbing symptoms. In addition to promoting role fulfillment, psychosocial treatments can help identify high performing situations and prospectively develop coping regimes with externalized callbacks to promote their use at “point of performance”. Even recognizing and dealing with distractions in the environment can help someone harness their strengths (“Let me sit across the table because I’ll be distracted by the TV above the bar”) .
Keeping in touch with friends on the horizontal dimension of the social world can be managed proactively like any other follow-up “task”. Setting up times to reply or send texts or emails keeps you in touch. Have scheduled ‘check-in’ times with a spouse or romantic partner – face to face, in person with the phones tucked away – to coordinate all plans, take care of any relationship issues and perhaps as a stepping stone to an activity together is a good habit. Organizing positive time and activities with children is another goal of planning and organizational skills. Humans also have the capacity for empathy and positive feelings associated with helping others, mutual altruism, and working with others. Therefore, establishing a daily “act of kindness” to a loved one can be on a daily to-do list. There are other resources for social skills5 and modified relationship treatments for adults with ADHD.6
Sigmund Freud once said that the two main components of a fulfilling life are “love and work”. ADHD in adults affects both of these areas, but there are effective ways to improve these areas, especially your social health.