There is an aspect of ADHD that many people over look which it is extremely common in both children and Adults with ADHD and severely detrimental to the person’s wellbeing and that is a deep sense of shame.
Parents, school teacher, sports coaches and even employers use shame as a method of behaviour modification to try and assert control and discipline. Whether the shaming is obvious or subtle it can be extremely demoralizing for the individual receiving the shame, placing them with a negative self-image as well as feelings of inadequacy, despair and powerlessness. This often leads the shamed person to behave with increased destructive actions or attitudes and in regards to ADHD increases compulsive, impulsive, irresponsible and even addictive behaviours which the individual believes to be alleviating the feeling of shame.
Its common knowledge that parents and teachers find a large majority of children with ADHD harder to manage and due to this the children with ADHD are more likely to be on the receiving end of shaming. “Bad girl!”, “Act your age” “how many times do you have to be told to be quiet”, “tell the class what I have just said, you don’t know, that is because you were not listening”, “Why do you have to act so stupid.”, “if I have to tell you one more time, you will be sorry”. Back in the day physical shaming was commonly used, I remember on many occasions a teacher lifting me clean off my school chair by both ears and feeling so ashamed and embarrassed. There is also the non-verbal shaming such as angry looks or ignoring the individual. These are all examples of techniques authority figures such as teachers, parents and many others use without fully understanding the impact that the shaming may be having on the individual.
I write in a previous blog about the connection between Oppositional Defiance Disorder and ADHD, or as I called it “Piss Off You Won’t Tell Me What To Do Syndrome”and perhaps shaming is one of the primary causes of defiance. If you constantly publicly shame someone through an abuse of authority you will often see the person on the receiving end acting out in defiance of the mistreatment. If the child grows up experiancing those in charge criticizing and shaming than there will be a feeling of anger, and mistrust of all those in positions of authority. Many people affected by ADHD will understand exactly what I mean.
A life time of constant shaming because of the ADHD or should I say lack of understanding from others about ADHD often results in the individual experiencing extreme mood swings, low self-esteem, higher rates of self-harm, destructive behaviours and eventually the person will withdraw from society and experience deep depressive episodes. Studys have shown that people with ADHD are at higher risk of suicide and due to the stigma and lack of understanding regarding ADHD I personally can see why this is happening. In my experience only in desperation do we find the courage to share our deep feelings of shame. Shame is a debilitating emotion however it can be alleviated by talking through your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust or a professional therapist.
I will reiterate what I have said in previous blog posts. Society needs to recognise that both children and adults with ADHD have greater difficulty focusing, regulating their emotions and actions, filtering out or ignoring distractions, delaying gratification as well as organizing and prioritizing their work, to the frustration of many parents, teachers, employers etc. This is due to an Imbalance of chemical messengers in the brain These individuals need open minded support, positive reinforcement and not to be shamed or humiliated as a means to assert control. There are fantastic ADHD support services in many areas willing to support parents, educational providers and employers to help them understand ADHD and as a result this will help the individual thrive, to feel valued within their community and reach their full potential.
I want to end this Blog with a special thank you to Rory O Donnell from my own County Fermanagh who is going to run the Dublin Marathon on behalf of Adult ADHD NI a support service here in Ireland that my partner Emma and I founded. Thank you and good Luck Rory!!
If you wish to sponsor Rory a few quid please follow the link below.
Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype. If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com