ADHD and Letting People Down

origami-827901_640Here are 5 common reasons why people with ADHD ‘let people down’, even though you don’t mean to.

  1. Forgetful

  2. ADHD affects memory. This means you forget things including: important meetings, birthdays, events, errands you were going to run. When you realize you forgot something, you probably feel awful and try to make it up to the people involved.

Miss Deadlines

When you have you have ADHD, a deadline can make you hustle. As the deadline approaches, you are able to work with laser-like focus and clarity. You might pull an all-nighter, and clear your schedule to meet this deadline. But not always.Sometimes a deadline will be approaching, and you just can’t make yourself take action. The deadline comes and goes and you feel really bad.It’s not that you forgot; it’s been consuming your mind for days. When you miss deadlines and other people are involved, they feel let down, annoyed or angry.

3) Cancel at the Last Minute

You have a plan to go to an event and then you have to cancel last minute.This might be because you have a deadline to meet for work, or your car ran out of gas and you are stranded. Maybe it’s because you planned it a long time ago and your excitement and motivation to go isn’t there anymore. When you cancel repeatedly (even when there is a good reason), it upsets people and they feel like you don’t care.

4) Over-Committing

Over-committing often happens because your intentions are good. You get multiple invites for one evening and rather than letting people down, you say ‘yes’ to everyone. However, this can cause the very thing you were trying to avoid. People do feel let down, because you didn’t stay long, or you were stressed and distracted while you were with them (perhaps checking your phone to reassure the next person you will be there soon).

5) Motivation

Dr. Russell Barkley says ADHD is less about attention and more about motivation. This means unless you are motivated to do something, it’s very hard to take action. In the morning, you might tell your spouse, that you will take the trash out, cook supper, or do the laundry. But when you get home from work, you aren’t motivated to do anything. They feel let down or that ‘you never do anything you say you will’. You feel bad about the situation and that you hurt someone you love.

Negative Consequences

When you feel you are constantly disappointing people, it affects your self-esteem and puts you at a mental disadvantage. You feel you owe the other person for these repeated ‘let downs’, so you tolerate behaviour from them that isn’t usually acceptable. They might put you down, or say mean things, or have an affair, etc. Because you feel you are to blame, you tolerate it.

You might agree to things you wouldn’t usually agree to, to ‘make up’ for your behaviour. For example, you agree to help them move, when you hate moving, or go on holiday to a location you know you dislike. When you do this, your ADHD symptoms get worse, which can create more problems.

Ready for change?

Actions speak louder than words. Don’t try to convince people you are going to change. You don’t need their belief or support. You just need to believe in yourself AND a plan of action. Taking consistent action is how you will see different results.

Here are 6 suggestions for you to stop letting people down and start feeling great about yourself!

  1. Use External Memory Aids

For example: a daytime planner, online calendar, reminders on your phone. They all support your memory.

2. Become an Excellent Planner
You might not be a natural born planner, but it is a skill you can develop. When you plan your day, week and month, you get a realistic idea of what is possible. It also helps you to be prepared. For example, you can plan a time to stop to buy gas if you have a long trip.

3.Create Systems and Habits
Habits are great way to override memory and motivation problems. When something becomes a habit, you do it automatically. For example, checking your calendar on Fridays to see who has a birthday next week.

4.It’s Ok to Say No
People would rather hear a no, than a yes followed by a cancellation. The first time you say no, it might feel scary, but after a few times, you will become a pro.

5. Yes Means Yes
If you get an invitation, check with your calendar. If you have time and want to go, say yes. Then do whatever it takes to be there. That might mean saying no to more exciting offers, leaving work early or going even if you don’t feel like it. However, this is how you will get a reputation of being reliable.

6. Motivation
When you start to upgrade your life using these suggestions, you will get a clearer idea of what you genuinely enjoy doing (the things you are motivated to do) and what you are doing out of guilt. Now, stop doing activities out of guilt! There will still be tasks you don’t feel motivated to do that need to be done. E.g. housework. For these, set up a reward system, use your timer to create a sense of urgency and turn it into a game.


What do you do to avoid letting people down?

Enjoyed This Article?

Img 4586 %281%29

Then lets keep in touch. Sign up for more ADHD articles like this one!

You are also agreeing to our Privacy Policy

Powered by ConvertKit


  1. Melissa B says:

    Wow, this speaks to me for sure! I always feel like I am letting people down. I let my first husband down with my forgetfulness, motivation, and missing deadlines. Of course the reason for the end of our marriage was way more complex than just my ADHD but it was a huge contributing factor. I was also undiagnosed at the time too so I felt really bad about myself for things I could not always control. As a a result I became almost overly obsessed with control and organization and developed an anxiety condition as a result which of course compounded the whole thing. I am getting better at it and I lean heavily on my day planner and my large home wall calendar. I just wish there was a way to instantly record pertinent details of conversations that you would need to remember later without looking like you are taking notes while talking to someone.

  2. Paris says:

    Dear Jacqui,
    Love all you share with us! Letting People Down sounds like it was written ABOUT ME! I thought I was the only one who did every single one of those things. My family and friends expect me to be late or cancel. The weird thing is: I’m a super friendly “people person”. Once I leave my house I enjoy being out. But just like Val B, I have to set my phone alarm for anything that is out of routine.

  3. Hi Jacqui

    I have to put reminders in my phone to make me remember things. Even things like getting ready for bed!

    It works though 🙂

    X x x


    • Autumn Posey says:

      I have an alarm to get ready for bed too! A few times it has gone off when I am with people and they have laughed at me/it, but I just laughed it off because it is funny but it sure helps me!

  4. The motivation is the hard factor with I have been struggle.

    I use a planner, I put in the calendar do an activity like “At 5 a.m. I am going to do exercise”, but when I watch my clock in the morning I don’t want do exercise!! I want in my heart do exercise but I think tomorrow, but it is a lot of tomorrows, years of tomorrows…

    Thank you for your suggestion,

  5. Amy K says:

    Hello! Lately I’ve had absolutely no motivation to get out of bed. I’m a 39 year old married woman, and I can’t work due to chronic pain all over that stems from a horrific car accident 11 years ago. My husband works his butt off at his job every day; he owns a painting business. I’m depressed because any job I take, I end up quitting after a few months because of my chronic pain. I stay awake all night then sleep until 4pm or so. Or I’ll go to bed at 2 or 3am but stay in bed until 1pm because I have no motivation to get out of bed. I feel guilty because I can’t work. My husband y setsyahds this but I just feel worthless anymore. We’ve only been married 16 months. How the heck can I motivate myself to not sleep past 7 or 8 hours? Alarm clock? I turn it off when it goes off. Before bed r day day I make a list of things to do and feel so motivated then, but it never works out like that. Any suggestions?! Thank you.

    • Hi Amy, sorry to hear about your chronic pain. I use to be a nurse and know how debilitating pain is.
      It is very tiring when you are living with pain, and depression also causes many people to sleep more.

      A few questions..are you being treated for depression?
      have you explored any natural ways to help your pain?
      Is there anything fun you enjoy doing that you still like and can do with your pain?

Speak Your Mind