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ADHD and the myth of laziness

By Tara Drinks

At a Glance

  • It’s a common myth that people with ADHD are lazy.

  • ADHD can make it harder for people to complete tasks.

  • There are ways to help people with ADHD tackle work and feel good about it.

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People with ADHD often struggle with the skills needed to get tasks done. Their difficulty is sometimes mistaken for laziness. But that’s often not the case.

There are many reasons why people with ADHD have a hard time completing tasks. They may have trouble with paying attention, or with getting and staying organized. They might also have a hard time with anxiety.

Struggling with these skills can make people with ADHD feel insecure. Being told to just try harder can make them feel like they’re being judged. They may even start to question if they are lazy because other people have said so.

These insecurities can cause low self-esteem. Having low self-esteem can make it hard for anyone to want to push toward the finish line. 

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Keep reading to learn more about people with ADHD and the myth of laziness. 

Dive Deeper

ADHD and the brain

The brain develops differently in people with ADHD. These differences aren’t a matter of intelligence. And they don’t mean that a person is lazy or not trying hard to get things done.

Kids and adults with ADHD struggle with . This set of mental skills helps us do things like organize, plan, and stay focused on tasks we’ve started. Struggling with these skills makes it hard for people with ADHD to start and finish even small tasks. 

Read more about ADHD and the brain .

Why people with ADHD struggle with doing tasks

Starting and finishing tasks can be overwhelming. You have to break away from what you’re currently doing to focus on something new. Being able to make that “switch” is tricky for kids and adults with ADHD — especially if the task doesn’t interest them.

For people with ADHD, this typically isn’t laziness. It’s executive function challenges. Trouble with these skills include:

  • Tuning out distractions

  • Planning out or following steps

  • Knowing the steps to start a task

  • Keeping track of progress

Many kids and adults with ADHD also struggle with anxiety. When they have to do something hard, they might naturally choose to avoid it. Avoidance is not laziness. For people with ADHD, it may be self-protection from feeling insecure, stressed, or even judged by others. People with ADHD experience these emotions more often than others.

See a full list of signs of ADHD .

How to help

There are lots of ways to help both kids and adults with ADHD know you don’t think they’re lazy. A great first step is to acknowledge you know how hard they’re working. You can also explain your expectations of an assignment or task, including deadlines and ways to ask for help.

You can help debunk myths like these at home, at school, and in everyday life. Download a one-page fact sheet about ADHD , and share it.

If you have ADHD: Read how this young adult is letting go of the shame of her ADHD

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  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
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  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom