At a glance
Kids with ADHD are more likely to be bullied than other kids.
ADHD symptoms and behaviors can make them stand out.
There are things you can do to help kids avoid and cope with bullying.
Kids who learn and think differently are often the targets of bullying. But for kids with ADHD, it can be even worse. One reason is that some ADHD symptoms and behaviors are very noticeable. They set kids with ADHD apart, which gives bullies more power.
Bullying isn’t just physical. It can be verbal, too. It also doesn’t have to take place in person. Kids can be bullied online, via text, and on social media. Being mean and excluding kids can also be types of bullying.
Understanding why kids with ADHD are more likely to be bullied can help you troubleshoot problems and teach kids strategies and skills. Here are five reasons ADHD can make kids stand out to potential bullies.
1. Trouble following social rules
Kids with ADHD can have a hard time learning and following social rules. And they may not remember the rules in the moment when they’re interacting with others. Trouble with makes it tough to keep track of the dos and don’ts in social settings.
Many kids with ADHD struggle to pick up on social cues like body language. So, they may not realize how people are responding to what they’re saying or doing, or what the situation is when they start interacting.
Impulsivity, a key symptom of ADHD, can create a lot of problems for kids with ADHD. They may interrupt a lot, overshare, or accidentally be rude. They can also play too roughly, grab items from people, and do or say things without thinking.
All of these impulsive behaviors can lead to kids with ADHD being picked on.
3. Trouble managing emotions
Trouble managing emotions is another aspect of ADHD that can make kids stand out. It leads to behavior that can make kids easy targets for bullying.
Kids with ADHD can get fired up fast and struggle to keep their emotions in check. They might get angry over small things and not let it go. Or get overexcited or cry easily and often. And if other kids respond, they may overreact to that, too.
Hyperfocus is a part of ADHD that many people don’t understand. But kids with ADHD often get so focused on things they find interesting or fun that they can’t pull themselves away or stop thinking about it.
So, a child might keep repeating the same thing during a conversation. Or stay on a topic for too long when the conversation has moved on. They might continue to do a classroom activity that they really enjoy, even though the class is doing something else.
5. Low self-esteem
Some kids with ADHD have a hard time with academics. Seeing their classmates learn the material more easily can impact their self-esteem. That lack of confidence can make kids more likely to be picked on and less likely to stand up for themselves.
Many kids with ADHD get a lot more negative feedback at home, at school, and in social situations than their peers. That can also lower their self-esteem and make them feel unsure of themselves.
Bullying comes down to an imbalance of power. The more you know about it, the better equipped you’ll be to stop it and help kids cope with it.
Trouble with social skills and with managing emotions make kids with ADHD easy targets.
Low self-esteem and low self-confidence make it harder for kids to stand up to bullying.
Bullying can be physical and verbal, and it can happen online, via text, and on social media.
About the author
About the author
Margie DeSantis is an associate editor at Understood.
Andrew Kahn, PsyD is a licensed psychologist who has served as an evaluator and consultant in public schools for nearly 20 years. Kahn, who describes himself as neurodivergent, is a subject matter expert at Understood.