Getting Beyond the Shame

Do you feel like you’re constantly falling behind in all the things you have been planning to do in your life? Do you feel behind the 8-ball all the time? Does it seem like so many people around you have their acts together so much better than you? Does it feel like you’re constantly apologizing for being late, or missing an appointment altogether?

The constant questioning of themselves that people with ADHD seem to do, often result in feelings of shame and disappointment. They rarely live up to their own expectations. And these feelings of shame and self-doubt can have their negative impact on the ADHD relationship.

Defining Shame

“Shame is characterized by a constant sense of inadequacy and agonizing feelings of embarrassment and humiliation,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell in an online article for ADDitude Magazine. He goes on to say that shame can be the most painful symptom of ADHD.

Contemporary scholar Gershon Kaufman says, “Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within.”

What Shame Can Lead to

The result of feeling this sense of shame can be depression, and lead to defensiveness and anger in relationship.  I hear about this from non-ADHD partners. They complain about their ADHD partner’s frequent defensiveness when they bring up issues that are causing problems in the relationship.

The depression often arises from feelings of inadequacy.That  they never get it right. The defensiveness and anger are the response to “being attacked” even when that is not what their non-ADHD partner had in mind. The ADHD partner is often on guard for any criticism that may come their way.

Moving Beyond the Shame

For the ADHD partner, it is important to acknowledge the shame, and to work to get beyond it. A way to do this is to remember that the ADHD is a neurobiological condition, and it is real, and not something to feel ashamed about. It’s important to keep in mind the strengths and talents of the ADHD partner. They can be very bright, extremely creative, persistent, and usually forgive easily.

It would behoove the ADHD partner to do the best they can to not use their ADHD as an excuse for inappropriate behavior, but to instead be working on self-improvement all the time.

And for the non-ADHD partner, it is valuable to recognize that shame is often present, so developing patience and a willingness to observe your partner’s good points is a very valuable endeavor. Constant critique just reinforces the shame.

It’s very important  to always keep in mind that both partners are always doing the best they can with what they know in the moment. You are just very different people with very different brains. Patience, and the willingness to try to understand, can go a very long way towards acceptance of oneself and the other.

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