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10 Ways Adult ADHD Makes You Socially Awkward

I am resigned to the fact that I am not very cool.

I was never into the New Kids on the Block when I was supposed to be, and I still have problems relating to whatever the girls at work are talking about most of the time.  I am awkward and clumsy.  I once tripped up the stairs on a first date.  In flats.  But whatever.

ADHD creates a unique set of challenging circumstances. As kids, it’s harder to keep our grades up and not speak out of turn in class, and as we get older, we never quite fit in…

Without further ado, here are ten reasons Adult ADHD makes you socially awkward… and if you’re like me, you can’t seem to keep up with the cool kids who have it all together and somehow always have matching socks, too.

1. We are flakes. “I meant to show up for drinks after work but was that really today?”  (Or, if you’re like me, you are so neurotic about not being a flake, you avoid making firm plans at all! I’m the anti-flake, but no one can pin me down for plans, ever!)

2. We forget people’s names. I know I’m not alone in this! I can’t remember anyone’s name if I meet them out of context. I panic and my mind goes absolutely blank. My kids and all my close friends have been trained that when they’re out with me they must introduce themselves to anyone we meet and ask, “… and your name is?”

3. We aren’t very good “besties.” We get overwhelmed by everyday life and don’t have the energy for anything “extra.” This makes maintaining friendships, especially newer ones, difficult. Long-term friendships have staying power and you can just check in when you have time. Newer friendships require more upkeep, something that is difficult unless you have a very low-stress life.

4. We don’t always pick up on social bonding cues. You know how the girls at work just pause, chat about office gossip, and then get back to whatever they were doing? Those of us with ADHD can’t shift gears that easily, and if we are in the zone (hyperfocused), we might not even acknowledge the conversation. They don’t like this. This makes us seem “aloof” and “rude” because the gossiping is actually social bonding that facilitates trust between women (something that’s always seemed ironic to me). Note to self: learn to notice and participate in chit-chat.

5. But when we are chatty, we are chatty! Sometimes I will have this moment where I realize that I’m babbling and talking way too fast and all I can do is try to wrap it up and get out of there. I wonder sometimes if people think I’m on drugs. The funny things is, that usually happens on the days I forgot my drugs!

6. Yes, they can tell when your eyes glaze over as they talk when you are mentally urging them to hurryuphurryuphurryup! But in fairness, they should get to the point already. Those Normals sure prattle on, don’t they?

7. We can’t remember all the things. Have you ever noticed how some of your coworkers or friends seem to know what is going on with everyone else? I’m amazed at how they keep it all straight and can ask on-topic questions: “How is your daughter (insert name I would never remember) doing since she sprained her ankle at the soccer game last week?” Then they bond over a conversation about it. I will never be that person because I forget which coworkers have kids or parakeets or whatever because there’s only so much extra stuff I can memorize, and that stuff doesn’t make the cut. But if I could remember all that stuff, I’d be way cooler.

8. Our desks/lockers/cars look like pigsties, just like our school lockers used to! This makes us easy targets for being called sloppy and disorganized. Fair enough. You should see my locker in the Operating Room’s changing room! Every time I open it, stuff falls out and I scramble to pick it up and shove it back right in! I should probably clean that out…

9. We ask too many questions and rock the boat. We may need to clarify instruction at work or school, and because we have a history of getting things wrong or missing deadlines, we might be hyper-vigilant and triple check our understanding. (This is  especially true if you have an auditory processing disorder, which is not uncommon in people with ADHD.) This annoys people, especially when in our persistence, we uncover inconsistencies or improvements to processes that should be made, and then we seem like annoying go-getters.

10. We champion for the underdog. Perhaps because most of us have been teased as children or at least struggled to keep up and know what it feels like, we tend to align ourselves with the underdog and we don’t like to see people singled out. While this makes us spectacularly empathetic people, it also keeps us well out of the “cool crowd” even as adults in the workplace. But the cool kids are just as obnoxious as adults as they were in school, so I don’t mind being uncool.

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