Are You Socially Astute?

50-60 % of children with ADHD have problems with peer relationships. Many of these children grow up to be adults who have poor social skills. Over 25% of Americans experience chronic loneliness. It is not difficult to imagine that there would be even greater challenges for the ADHD adult in this area.

50-60% of ADHD children also experience rejection by their peers, making it difficult for them to learn the skills they need to be more acceptable in social relationships. This is much less true for non-ADHD children. They experience peer rejection in about 13-16% of the cases. (Terry & Cole, 1991). “Many ADHD children are disliked within minutes of the initial social interaction (Pelham & Bender, 1982), and then denied further opportunities to practice social skills. This leads to further rejection. Social naivety exists in 20% of children and adolescents with ADHD.

Inattention, Impulsivity, Hyperactivity

Inattention in both ADHD children and adults comes from difficulty focusing on conversations, making it harder to really hear what others are saying. They are easily distracted from the interaction in front of them. Their minds frequently take their attention somewhere else. Impulsivity causes them to interrupt and blurt things out that may be inappropriate in social situations. Hyperactivity impedes them staying still long enough to have a meaningful interaction. “For some people the hyperactive/impulsive side of the condition shows them as being impatient, temperamental, and easily irritated.”(From Succeed

”Aggressive and oppositional behaviors, and their negative effects on social development” also have an impact. ADD kids are often considered bossy, inflexible, argumentative and controlling. These are unfortunate byproducts of the way their ADHD brains work. These attributes make it difficult for them to form many lasting friendships.

Social Skills: The Impact of other Factors and Treatment

ADHD children and adults have difficulty noticing facial expressions and body language. They may also not be paying attention to non-verbal cues because their minds are distracted and focused on other things. For example, another challenge is talking too much. “Adults with ADHD sometimes talk on and on and on. This can be because they feel an internal pressure to keep speaking. They may also be enthusiastically chatting about a topic, and miss the non-verbal signs that the other people aren’t that interested and would like them to move on to something else.”

The outcome of all of this is lower self-esteem.  Lower self-esteem leads to more isolation, and so it becomes a vicious cycle. In adulthood, these social skills challenges can lead to pain and suffering that can result in mood disorders and/or anxiety.

One form of treatment that can happen in childhood is to enroll the child in a social skills group. This gives the child an opportunity to roleplay with the new skills they are learning, and helps them to feel less isolated.

In adulthood, a similar experience can exist through a therapy group where individuals are able to test themselves out in a safe environment.  These are often conducted by a trained professional. Another vehicle for learning the appropriate skills is through some kind of Communication Skills training class. These are also usually conducted by knowledgeable therapists.

An excellent resource on this topic is The Social Skills Guidebook by Chris MacLeod which can be found at

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