What is ADHD Burnout
ADHD is more than just feeling distracted, impulsive, or hyperactive. It involves negative feelings and anxious thoughts about your identity, self-worth, performance, and relationships. It can also create a cycle of overextending yourself due to feelings of guilt and underachievement. Having ADHD can also make it challenging to slow down. You might feel like your brain never turns off, there is always a constant noise in your head due to your never-ending to-do list. It’s not uncommon to find ourselves saying Yes to more than we should, to make up for our perceived shortfalls. Throw some perfectionism and time blindness into the mix and it won’t take long before you can quickly find yourself at breaking point which, without intervention, can quickly lead to ADHD burnout. A heightened level of physical and mental exhaustion that is difficult to come back from without the proper support and space to do so.
When you hit this point, you may notice your house is out of control, your performance at work is suffering, and you have tonnes of unopened mail or unread texts and emails.
Those of us with ADHD experience constant stress from prioritising everything else and everyone around them, leaving no time for rest. When you are in a state of consistently treading water just striving to complete a never-ending to-do list, the little voice inside us suggesting to us to “slow down” is often ignored. Even when concerns are expressed from our loved ones or our health starts to show signs of the strain, the tendency is still to push through, as by this point the voice is telling us that ’No-one else will do it, so it’s all on you!’ This can feel like the point of no return. This is burnout.
What Causes ADHD Burnout
A desire to compensate. Often with a misguided understanding of the condition, many teachers and parents tell children with ADHD that they need to try harder, focus more, and pay attention. Many children internalise this belief and as adults we take on more and more to try and compensate.
Not recognising personal limits. A huge part of having ADHD is not knowing how to plan, manage, or organise your time. This results in many underestimating their workload and commitments and taking on too many responsibilities all at once.
Hyperfocus. Many of us can become consumed by a task and spend every waking moment on it, without rest. Whilst powerful when harnessed correctly, hyperfocus can also easily disrupt our day-to-day routine, leading to poor nutrition, irregular sleep, and increased stress levels – a recipe for burnout.
Fatigue is the most common and overlooked symptom, but on a deeper level the symptoms aren’t always visible to the person with ADHD or to others. Here is a list of symptoms and signs to help you know when to start hitting the brakes and recharge.
Fear of the future/tomorrow
Excessive worry - about things that you would usually be able to handle.
Physical sings of anxiety -
Low self-worth - “I’m useless” “It’s all because of me”.
Irritability - Low level feelings of annoyance or sudden outbursts of anger
Lack of motivation
Poor impulse control
Heightened sensitivity to rejection - perceived or otherwise
Increased sensory problems and sensitivity.
If you are feeling the onset of burnout, or indeed trying to recover after the event, it’s likely you’ll require some space to rest and recharge to get things back on track.
If you recognise these signs of burnout in yourself then please check out next week’s blog for some hints and tips about recovery.