Understanding and supporting colleagues with ADHD

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Health Assured team

20 October 2021

October is ADHD awareness month. This year’s theme is Reframing ADHD: discovering new perspectives. One of the focuses this year is ADHD relationships and communication. At Health Assured, we're looking at ADHD and workplace relationships. So colleagues can understand how to support each other better.

This guide will cover what ADHD is, the different symptoms and how they can affect working life. We’ll also look at dos and don’ts that will help you understand and support colleagues with ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The disorder affects the way the brain functions, learns and processes information. People with the condition are also sometimes described as neurodivergent. This simply means someone thinks differently from the way the majority expect. Other conditions that fall into this category include Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Tourette’s syndrome. The ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity estimate that 1 in 5 people in the world are living with one of these conditions.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Adults living with ADHD may suffer from a range of symptoms that generally tend to occur in several areas. These areas include distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity, memory, time management and procrastination. Below are some of the specific symptoms that can affect work life.

  • Difficulty completing instructions.
  • Internal and external distractibility.
  • Trouble remembering things.
  • Problems with time management and organisation.
  • Impulsive behaviour and actions.
  • Difficulty concentrating on repetitive tasks.
  • Poor listening skills.
  • Mood swings and irritability.

 

ADHD can also increase someone’s susceptibility to mental health conditions. CHADD found that up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives. The symptoms of ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions can make life extremely difficult. That’s why people must begin to understand the condition and support affected family, friends and co-workers.

Supporting colleagues with ADHD

Many of the symptoms of ADHD can make work-life challenging. And we already know that the mental health risks are higher for people with ADHD. That’s why it is so important to support colleagues who may be suffering. Our dos and don’ts below will help you to improve connections and better understand colleagues with ADHD.

Dos

Think about your language

People with ADHD may feel frequently attacked for their behaviour. Often the symptoms get taken the wrong way by people who might not understand the condition.

When addressing sensitive areas, think about the language you’re using. Communicate clearly and listen intently. Offer an empathetic ear to their struggles and let them know that you’re there should they ever need someone to confide in.

Learn about the symptoms & struggles

Better communication comes as a result of learning about the different symptoms and struggles of life with ADHD. This process will reduce misunderstandings and miscommunications. It can help you to identify why colleagues may act or do things differently to you.

Praise the positives

Living as a neurodivergent in a neurotypical world can be difficult. Outsiders may mistake the condition for laziness or carelessness, but this simply isn’t the case. These judgements can leave people with ADHD with a lack of self-confidence. Praising positive actions and qualities will improve their confidence. This will boost their sense of self-worth and encourage connections with others.

Don’ts

Dismiss the condition

If you aren’t neurodivergent, you have no idea what it's like to live a life with this kind of condition. Don’t dismiss it or brush it under the rug. The impacts can often stretch into many areas of life, from mental health to work and relationships with others. Instead, be sensitive to how the condition can impact your colleague’s life.

Don’t blame

A culture of blame benefits no one. It’s easy to deflect responsibility and point the finger elsewhere. But successful teams work together and support each other. We all have weaknesses. But we all have strengths too. Don’t blame or berate others for behaviours you might not understand. ADHD is a genetic disorder and although the symptoms improve with medication and therapy, it’s a part of life for people with a diagnosis. Instead of blaming, help others see the strengths they bring to the team and work together to find solutions.

Don’t judge or discriminate

People living with ADHD have probably experienced judgements and assumptions throughout their life. But you can put a stop to this by not judging their actions. Instead, realise that everyone has their unique way of working. If you’re aware of a colleague with ADHD, it’s also important not to treat them differently because of this. We are all equal and should be treated as such.

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