Should You Tell People You Have ADHD?

When you are first diagnosed with ADHD it is common to feel a cocktail of positive emotions, such as relief, excitement and total happiness. You finally understand why you are the way you are and why ‘simple’ things that other people do effortlessly are difficult for you.

In those heady first days, it is tempting to share this new piece of information with everyone.

Before You Do, Proceed With Caution!

Once you have told someone about your ADHD diagnosis, you can’t ‘untell’ them.

There are still misconceptions and prejudices against ADHD, and not everyone is going to be happy to hear that you have ADHD.

In an ideal world, if you told someone you have ADHD, they would say

“I am so happy to hear that you have found the root cause of your struggles. That must feel amazing. Now you can start treating and managing it! Please let me know if I can help in any way”.

In reality, what often happens is that people will question your diagnosis, dismiss it or give you their opinions about ADHD medication. This can lead you to feeling undermined rather than supported.

Common comments include:

”But you are an adult I thought people grew out of it”

”How come you are only just finding out now, surely if you really had it, you would have found out sooner”

Everyone has ADHD these days

“You don’t have ADHD, it’s just for boys”

“It’s the drug companies that are trying to sell more drugs”

“You are doing ok. What difference does an ADHD diagnosis make? ”

“I don’t think you do, my cousin has ADHD and he behaves nothing like you”

“ADHD is just an excuse”

If someone says one of these comments, it lets you know they are not informed on the topic of ADHD.  These are all outdated stereotypes, and anyone who has recently read a book or an in-depth article about ADHD would not be saying these things.

Do not take their comments to heart. Do not let their words derail you, or question your diagnosis, even if you love the person or respect their opinion on other topics.

After being diagnosed with ADHD and the initial happiness has worn off, it is common to go through a variety of emotions, including anger, depression and denial. I wrote about all the stages here. Before sharing your diagnosis with the world, give yourself some space to process these emotions.

You can use this time to learn as much as you can about ADHD (without overwhelming yourself). You are already an expert because you have been living with it for all these years. As you are reading blogs and books or listening to podcasts, the information from those sources will validate your real life experiences.

The knowledge you gain will also empower you, so if people say a typical uniformed ADHD statement, you won’t question your self.

In the meantime, rather than telling people about your ADHD, what you can do instead is address your symptoms.

Here’s how.

First develop a really good understanding of how ADHD affects you.

Next think of things that will support you to perform at your best.

For example, if you know your memory for details is poor, and a work colleague asks for some information as you are leaving for the day, say,

“Would you mind emailing me that request, my mind is so full right now, and I really don’t want to forget it?”

If it’s difficult for you to pay attention in meetings, take notes and explain to everyone that it is because it is an important topic and you want to have the key points in writing.

If early morning appointments are tough for you because it takes a few hours to ‘come round’, explain to people that you are not a morning person.

No one will argue with any of these points because they are things we can all identify with. They make the person feel respected, and you are honoring your ADHD symptoms so that you can perform your best.

Having ADHD is nothing to be ashamed about, and we want to set you up for success. After getting a diagnosis, tell your nearest and dearest, but pause before you tell the rest of the world.

Want to learn tips like this one?…check out this mini book Adult ADHD 101 that answers all your questions when you are new to ADHD.

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  1. Zee says:

    My boss won’t allow earphones at work and the office is really loud. Without telling her about my ADD I don’t know how I can get accommodations.

    • MM says:

      I was cut the end off the earphones so that it cannot be plugged into a computer meaning there is no way for there to be music playing so you can still work.

  2. Cathy says:


    Nice article, very helpful.
    Question: I have Adult ADD. How does that differ from Adult ADHD?


  3. A dear friend – and the one who eventually helped me understand that I too have ADHD, phoned me on the evening she discovered (through a questionnaire) that she was off the top of the thermometer for ADHD. She was ecstatic! She said it was like her entire life lifted up and re-arranged itself. Suddenly everything made sense. She also said she phoned her husband (who she now realized also had ADHD) to tell him she was now willing to accept responsibility for half the back seat of the car!

  4. Paris says:

    I self diagnosed (and my doctor diagnosed immediately after I cried in his office)after 39 years of struggling with school and life. I’m now 46 and still struggle everyday but I understand why and cope. I also help my sons with their AdD and they have a totally different experience then I did…a better experience. I DO tell people that I have it. The more people KNOW and understand that AdD and AdHD are real and life long and that girls and women have it too – the more society will accept it. My younger son has Selective Mutism. How many of you have heard of it? Few, I’m sure. There is NO shame in the person you are. If we hide things then people will continue to make false assumptions. If you know someone with diabetes or cancer or depression are you scared of them? Do you love them less? No. You learn more. I am not ashamed of who I am or who my sons are. We struggle but we adapt and our people love us. Tell your friends and family and trusted coworkers – they will be more understanding and you will feel better about who you are!

    • Pendleton says:

      I am thinking the same way you do…we wouldn’t be hiding any other chronic condition… that people around us would have to encounter…

  5. Thank you for the post! When you have a million things on the go and others try to get you to do more- then; you have to say please do not tell me things just as I leave work. Do not wait to the last minute as I commute via ferry home ( lol) . Many accuse me of not remembering things but I always remember to ask about their families and I never miss appointments. Explain to others that no one is perfect and one shouldn’t be expected to be so.
    Keeping a daily appointments book that goes everywhere with me prevents mishaps and keeps me focused.

  6. NewlyDXADHDADD says:

    Thank you so much for this!! I was just diagnosed in February of this year and unfortunately, felt so liberated that I told people I work with about my diagnosis. WRONG MOVE!! Everything became centered around it! WOW!! Wish I had read your post back then! SMH

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! and the word ‘liberated’ perfectly describes how so many people feel when they hear the news. Sorry to hear everything is centered around your ADHD now. There are things you can do to turn that around…give me a shout if you need some tips.

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