ADHD and Gaslighting: How to Easily Gain More Confidence and Control

When you live with ADHD, you can be vulnerable to gaslighting which can lead to self-doubt, and feelings of hopelessness, that you can’t do anything right. 


Gaslighting is a form of manipulation to gain control over an individual, that leads that individual to question their own reasoning and soundness of mind. 


Often to shift blame or deny what happened in a situation, gaslighting can lead a person to negative feelings of self-worth as well as mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.  Gaslighting can come from a romantic partner, parent, boss, coworker, acquaintance, or friend. 


ADHD and Gaslighting 

Although gaslighting can be intentional, when you live with ADHD, gaslighting also can be unintentional, and can be the result of misunderstood and unacknowledged ADHD. 

Scenario Between Romantic Partners:
Jenny worked hard making a special dinner for Bob. Just before Bob was about to leave the office to get to Jenny’s, Bob received an important phone call he’d been waiting for all week. Bob became involved in the conversation, and as soon as he got off the phone, followed up on some details before he would forget. Bob lost track of time and was late for dinner at Jenny’s. When Bob arrived, the conversation went like this:

Jenny: You’re so late. Look at this nice dinner for us that’s cold and ruined.
Bob: Well, I had this important phone call I’ve been waiting for all week. This deal will mean a lot for both of us. I stayed late because I love you.
Jenny: You’re crazy. Didn’t we set a time for you to be here? I thought we agreed you’d set reminders so you would leave on time. Why can’t you listen? You’re making things up. 
Bob: That’s not what happened. I did set reminders, but I had this phone call. You’re overreacting.
Jenny: You’re always late. 
Bob: Why are you always bringing up the past? You’re too sensitive. 

In the above scenario, although both individuals have positive intentions, they are denying acknowledgment of the other person’s perspectives and experiences to assert their own. Bob is calling Jenny “sensitive” when she’s communicating her feelings, and Jenny tells Bob he’s crazy and always late. This conversation is blaming, hurtful, and invalidating for both individuals.


Here are three ways to keep unintentional gaslighting away and more easily gain confidence and control when you live with ADHD.   


Stop Blaming and Start Problem-Solving


Unintentional gaslighting can happen when an individual is not taking responsibility for their actions or perceptions.  Instead, the conversational exchange resorts to criticism, disrespect, defensiveness, and shutdown. 


Quick Tips:

Use I-Statements to express your needs in a positive manner.
Show appreciation by acknowledging the other person’s perspective, qualities, and positive actions.
• Offer an apology, and if possible, ask how you can make amends.  
Take a break to calm down if necessary.
Acknowledge what you need and stay accountable.

Alternative Conversation for Jenny and Bob:
Jenny: I’m so disappointed you’re late. I worked so hard to make a nice dinner for us so we can have a nice evening together.  (I-statements)
Bob: It looks like such a nice dinner. I’m so sorry.  I had this important phone call I’d been waiting for all week. It was that deal that will mean a lot for both of us. I stayed late because I love you and it will be good for our future together. I know can see you worked hard. How can I make this up to you? (Appreciation, acknowledging, taking responsibility, apology) 
Jenny: I can understand this deal means a lot. At the same time, we set timers and agreed on a time to be here. What can we do when important situations like this come up again?  (problem-solving)
Bob: You’re right, we did set timers. As soon as I got off the phone, I was anxious I’d forget to send a follow-up email about it. I lost track. Next time, I’ll call you when something like this happens. (acknowledge what you need)
Jenny: That’s a great idea. What can you do to remind yourself to call? (How to stay accountable)
Bob: I will have a reminder set to call you when I’m planning on leaving. That way, if I must do something before that, I’m still calling you.  (Accountability)


Ask for Reasonable Accommodations

Jim's company has a new open-seating plan, where employees choose to sit in random, open spaces.  This work setting was not supportive of the type of work environment necessary for Jim's success. Jim knew he needed a private workspace for his focus, and his own desk to support staying organized. Wanting to fit in, Jim resisted disclosing his ADHD, which didn't help his situation. Over time, Jim continued to lose focus, had challenges staying organized, and fell behind. Working under these stressful conditions made it even more difficult to be successful. After several warnings, Jim was put on probation. 


If you find you’re being denied support for your ADHD after disclosing it, you’re being put on probation because of it, or you’re not getting the reasonable accommodations you’ve asked for given your ADHD, you could be facing a gaslighting situation at work. 


In Jim's case, he did not disclose his ADHD, so Jim was facing unintentional gaslighting. Still, had he disclosed his ADHD when the company changed to open-seating and asked for reasonable accommodations, there would most likely have been a different outcome.

Quick Tips:

Don’t wait too long to disclose that you have ADHD.  You don’t have to disclose when you’re looking for a job, but if your symptoms tend to get in the way at work, don’t wait until you’re on probation.
• If the job is a good fit, but your ADHD is getting in the way of being successful, consider reasonable accommodations such as a support person for tedious paperwork, a private workspace to increase focus, and taking breaks. More a more comprehensive list of reasonable accommodations, please see
• If your employer is pushing back, you may need a workplace advocate. Document all interactions and seek support from friends and family. 


Don't Gaslight Yourself

June constantly blames herself for everything. She's used to those voices in her head that she's no good. "Why can't she just be on time, listen better, and get things done like 'everyone' else?" She's "always" struggled with being late, and with folks being angry with her, be it a teacher, family member, or friend, and it's no different for her to be angry with herself.


By the time you’re an adult living with ADHD, you’ve most likely had a lifetime facing negative feedback, feeling minimized, or being invalidated.  You may be vulnerable to being labeled as dramatic, sensitive, or that you’re simply not trying hard enough. Perhaps you’ve even been told your ADHD isn’t real and why can’t you just try “harder.”


Quick Tips:

Educate yourself about ADHD. An understanding of ADHD will be supportive to your experience. 
Focus On Your Strengths. Rather than dwelling on your perceived deficits, focus on identifying your strengths and how they can be used to make life fit for you.
Stop shoud’ing on yourself. Let go of limiting ideas or rules others may have imposed. Instead, be present with what’s most meaningful for you. 
Don’t compare yourself to others. Rather than focusing on where you are relative to other people, put your experiences into the context of your own journey. 


To sum up, when you experience gaslighting, be it intentional or unintentional, to gain more confidence and control,


Stop Blaming and Start Problem-Solving

Ask For Reasonable Accommodations

Don't Gaslight Yourself





PS. Need support gaining more confidence and control? 

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we’ll set up an action plan now!


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