Exploring the Relationship Between Perfectionism and ADHD

On the outside looking in, many would assume that ADHD and Perfectionism would be polar opposites. Where ADHD is a disorder that deals with hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and difficulty with focusing, Perfectionism is most commonly associated with requiring a high level of attention to details. However, despite their perceived differences, there is a strong relationship between having ADHD and being a perfectionist that many may not realize.

According to Mabel Yiu:

  • Perfectionist behavior can develop in someone with ADHD as a means to cope with previously perceived failures in your life.
  • Perfectionist behavior can also develop in someone with ADHD as means to not be judged for their ADHD diagnosis.
  • ADHD Perfectionism can greatly affect women, men, and children in how they function in their daily lives and relationships.
  • Commonly diagnosed amongst school-aged children and is often a behavior that continues into adulthood.
  • Perfectionism in people with ADHD can lead to feelings of needing to overcompensate. People with ADHD are often told to “try harder”, without fully understanding the underlying conditions of the disorder. A perfectionist with ADHD will constantly feel the need to prove their worth in order to be seen as “trying harder” as requested.
  • The inability to properly focus on a task the first time due to ADHD can lead to perfectionist behavior that forces the person to harp on the next task until it’s right.
  • Attempts at attaining unrealistic expectations set forth by perfectionist behavior can cause a person with ADHD to devote too much time to a specific task or project. This in turn affects time management skills and can develop into anxiety.
  • Some people who only have ADHD are already prone to developing anxiety disorders over missing important details or fear of mismanaging their life. When perfectionism is applied, the anxiety is multiplied.
  • Perfectionists with ADHD use perfection as a means to measure their own value, both from internal and external pressures.
  • ADHD Perfectionists are harder on themselves for making mistakes and take the notion of imperfection to heart.
  • Sharing feelings for an ADHD Perfectionist is hard and often unwelcomed. Showing more signs of vulnerability is not ideal.
  • Though perfectionism is not always bad, the shared relationship between ADHD and perfectionism tends to be more maladaptive in nature. This means the results of the disorders coming together typically create unhealthy behaviors and perspectives.
  • Perfectionists have maladaptive coping strategies that force them into a mild degree of disassociation. The inattentiveness that is presented can mimic ADHD.
  • ADHD and Perfectionism are in a constant battle with one another. Perfectionist behavior can force someone with ADHD to feel the need to “make up for lost time” that occurs when they lose focus on a task.
  • ADHD Perfectionists need help setting realistic perspectives on accomplishing tasks and personal behaviors.
  • Helping people with ADHD and Perfectionism cope with their behaviors is about teaching how to accept natural flaws, prioritization, and accepting mistakes.
  • Positive reassurance is the most effective method.

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