10 Ways Adult ADHD Makes You Socially Awkward

10 Ways ADHD Makes You Socially Awkward. Here are ten reasons I can't keep up with the cool kids who have it all together and somehow always seem to have matching socks, too. www..thedistractedmom.com


I am resigned to the fact that I am not very cool.

I was never into the New Kids on the Block when I was supposed to be, and I still have problems relating to whatever the girls at work are talking about most of the time.  I am awkward and clumsy.  I once tripped up the stairs on a first date.  In flats.  But whatever.

ADHD creates a unique set of challenging circumstances. As kids, it’s harder to keep our grades up and not speak out of turn in class, and as we get older, we never quite fit in…

Without further ado, here are ten reasons Adult ADHD makes you socially awkward… and if you’re like me, you can’t seem to keep up with the cool kids who have it all together and somehow always have matching socks, too.

1. We are flakes. “I meant to show up for drinks after work but was that really today?”  (Or, if you’re like me, you are so neurotic about not being a flake, you avoid making firm plans at all! I’m the anti-flake, but no one can pin me down for plans, ever!)

2. We forget people’s names. I know I’m not alone in this! I can’t remember anyone’s name if I meet them out of context. I panic and my mind goes absolutely blank. My kids and all my close friends have been trained that when they’re out with me they must introduce themselves to anyone we meet and ask, “… and your name is?”

3. We aren’t very good “besties.” We get overwhelmed by everyday life and don’t have the energy for anything “extra.” This makes maintaining friendships, especially newer ones, difficult. Long-term friendships have staying power and you can just check in when you have time. Newer friendships require more upkeep, something that is difficult unless you have a very low-stress life.

4. We don’t always pick up on social bonding cues. You know how the girls at work just pause, chat about office gossip, and then get back to whatever they were doing? Those of us with ADHD can’t shift gears that easily, and if we are in the zone (hyperfocused), we might not even acknowledge the conversation. They don’t like this. This makes us seem “aloof” and “rude” because the gossiping is actually social bonding that facilitates trust between women (something that’s always seemed ironic to me). Note to self: learn to notice and participate in chit-chat.

5. But when we are chatty, we are chatty! Sometimes I will have this moment where I realize that I’m babbling and talking way too fast and all I can do is try to wrap it up and get out of there. I wonder sometimes if people think I’m on drugs. The funny things is, that usually happens on the days I forgot my drugs!

6. Yes, they can tell when your eyes glaze over as they talk when you are mentally urging them to hurryuphurryuphurryup! But in fairness, they should get to the point already. Those Normals sure prattle on, don’t they?

7. We can’t remember all the things. Have you ever noticed how some of your coworkers or friends seem to know what is going on with everyone else? I’m amazed at how they keep it all straight and can ask on-topic questions: “How is your daughter (insert name I would never remember) doing since she sprained her ankle at the soccer game last week?” Then they bond over a conversation about it. I will never be that person because I forget which coworkers have kids or parakeets or whatever because there’s only so much extra stuff I can memorize, and that stuff doesn’t make the cut. But if I could remember all that stuff, I’d be way cooler.

8. Our desks/lockers/cars look like pigsties, just like our school lockers used to! This makes us easy targets for being called sloppy and disorganized. Fair enough. You should see my locker in the Operating Room’s changing room! Every time I open it, stuff falls out and I scramble to pick it up and shove it back right in! I should probably clean that out…

9. We ask too many questions and rock the boat. We may need to clarify instruction at work or school, and because we have a history of getting things wrong or missing deadlines, we might be hyper-vigilant and triple check our understanding. (This is  especially true if you have an auditory processing disorder, which is not uncommon in people with ADHD.) This annoys people, especially when in our persistence, we uncover inconsistencies or improvements to processes that should be made, and then we seem like annoying go-getters.

10. We champion for the underdog. Perhaps because most of us have been teased as children or at least struggled to keep up and know what it feels like, we tend to align ourselves with the underdog and we don’t like to see people singled out. While this makes us spectacularly empathetic people, it also keeps us well out of the “cool crowd” even as adults in the workplace. But the cool kids are just as obnoxious as adults as they were in school, so I don’t mind being uncool.

Most of the coolest people I know are uncool.

Tell me: How does your ADHD make you socially awkward?

About Carolyn

I'm Carolyn Mallon, RN, and I have ADHD. I'm also parenting at least one ADHD child, so it makes for quite an adventure! I don't have all the answers, but I certainly share the challenges of many ADHD parents! I started this blog as an exercise to help us improve our game at home and at school. Join us!

34 comments on “10 Ways Adult ADHD Makes You Socially Awkward

  1. Oh boy, I actually read #4 and thought “OH…huh…wow…that didn’t occur to me.” I’m terrible. When I’m feeling chatty, I talk too much and interrupt everyone. When I’m into what I’m doing, I might not even say hi. I’m also kind of shy, so I’m pretty self-conscious about seeming stuck up, not friendly, unapproachable, etc.

    I need a shirt that says, “I really do like you, I promise.” 😛

    • I agree with number 4 as well. I am so bad at social situations because i do not pick up on a lot of social cues that most other people do. There are one or two other things I agree with but the rest sound completely opposite of me. Interesting read though.

  2. I apologized to my roommate just the other day because when she leaves in the morning, she always says goodbye, but by the time I hear her and look up, she been gone a few minutes! I call it “stacking.” It’s like her “goodbye” gets stacked on top of the other things I’m processing and it doesn’t filter down until a couple minutes later because I’m ‘in the zone.’ I know I’m not alone in this!! 😛
    Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. #4 and #5 are major problems for me, if I’m into something I don’t take any notice of what’s going on around me (my dad is also a champion of this, sometimes I literally think he needs a hearing aid), or if I get chatting I can’t get back to what I was doing, people turning back to their work I’m still talking…(hours later )

    • I always feel rude when I tune people out.
      Or when I don’t notice that I’m talking incessantly and no one wants to hear it! Such is the life!

  4. Thank you for such an insightful post as it certainly helps many of us in our journey of understanding our loved ones a little bit better.

  5. It’s so comforting not to be alone ^__^
    My brother and I were both diagnosed super late (his at 18 led to mine at 25) and it explains EVERYTHING! It also means that I’m on top of my 8yo son’s diagnosis so that he has support and doesn’t have to go through what we did.
    … still trying to get a handle on keeping life simple, though.

  6. WOW. I never realized there was other people out there like me. I feel I could have written that list myself, it hit the nail on the head. I can’t remember names on the spot if my life depended on it, but for some reason I can remember full names of people that don’t matter (like actors). It’s like if someone tells me their name on the spot I don’t even hear them. I swear I’m listening I’m just not actually comprehending what you are telling me since I’m thinking about other stuff (like what am i gonna say to this person so i don’t seem crazy). I guess that then ties to the not being an auditory learner.
    Lauren recently posted…Bubble Art FailMy Profile

    • I’m glad this post hit home for someone else! I keep thinking of other examples… I’m going to have to make more of these lists… My brain works so differently!

    • I’ve learned to say “I really have trouble remembering names, what was yours again?” Then I do an association thing. Like if the person says Angie, I think of someone I know who has the same name or a celebrity who does. If I can picture that person, my mind remembers the name better. Hope that helps you some. I can totally relate. I had that problem for years. It was so embarrassing.

      • Honestly is always a good policy, but I get so embarrassed! Especially when it’s like, a friend. And that happens! I go totally blank!
        It’s probably partly the anxiety I’ve developed over my whole “name problem.” lol But I think your suggestion about finding a key to remember it is spot on.
        Just don’t let on if your clue is “Brandy… like my childhood dog’s name!” (I did that once!)

  7. Just found your blog and I’m looooovvvinnnng it!!! Thanks for all the info and entertaining format!
    Do you have anything specific on auditory processing disorder? I’m looking for more info on the topic. Does medication help with that?

    • I haven’t written about Auditory Processing Disorders yet, but I plan to, and to look into treatment options. I’m so glad you found my tiny corner of the web and that you like it! Please share any posts you enjoy so I can keep growing! 😀
      Nice to meet you!
      Carolyn recently posted…Privileged White Kid ProblemsMy Profile

  8. This post is amazing!! Thank you for sharing! I’m glad I’m not alone! 🙂 I’ve found that I over compensate for my messy tendencies by being neurotically organized to the point that I perseverate when my desk is messy or things start to get cluttered. It annoys my classroom aides and I waste a lot of time organizing and reorganizing my things. Unfortunately, if I don’t keep things neat and orderly, I forget where I put things and they might as well be lost forever. 🙂 It works for me but it irritates others. Such is life with ADHD.

  9. Karen, I do that too!!! Contrary to the messy ADHD person myth, I get so overstimulated and stressed by clutter that I’ve become quite a minimalist. I tend to throw everything away, though!!
    Actually, today is a housecleaning day for me because I’ve been so busy working that things have got a bit out of hand around here… if I could only pull myself away from the computer to get started!!!! LOL

    Thanks for visiting!! 😀
    Carolyn recently posted…ADHD Household Maintenance Made EasyMy Profile

    • Minimalist for sure!! But then I “accidentally” throw away things I need and then 4 months later curse my former self for my so-called efficiency. Haha! P.S. Your blog is awesome!!

      • I will admit that I do go looking for things I have “tossed” from time to time, but I would rather have that than live surrounded by clutter the way I used to. And besides, I used to have the opposite problem: I’d hold onto everything, but I could never find anything because of the mess! Now I own less stuff, but I know what I have and where everything is! 🙂

  10. I have this issue at work where if I am on the phone with a dr and am told by someone that another dr , say, is on line 2, I might verbally acknowledge that but I don’t hear it. I’ll later say “he didn’t call me back!” And coworker will say I told u and u acknowledged he was waiting for you!! Oops. I’m not totally open about add at work either. And I don’t take stimulants so it’s hard sometimes. I also do all of the things u mentioned just about.

    • Oh my gosh, I do that! I will “acknowledge” a person in the OR and not really hear them (because I’m charting) and then later be all… “um… where’s my blood? It should be here by now!” and I then I hear “Carolyn, I told you five minutes ago that I bought it in! Anesthesia hung it already!”

      That’s called hyperfocus. LOL

      I was once so hyperfocused that my surgeon stood there for a whole minute waited to be tied in while I charted and everyone giggled… and I was like…. What?! OOOOhhhhh!!!!

  11. I don’t have a diagnosis, and am not sure I have ADHD…I always just thought I’m a disorganized person. But everything except for #9 rings true for me. and I tend not to ask questions because I don’t want to look like the only person who doesn’t understand…
    I have actually hired our babysitter to help me go through my clutter, get rid of it, and organize what is left, to try to be more organized! I have learned lots of compensation strategies at work, and people think I’m SO organized! LOL Only my office-mate, who I get on with very well, knows how disorganized I am in my head!

  12. Oh my mercy, the reading social cues thing is a HUGE PROBLEM for me. I tend to forget about those grey area boundaries, like “is my coworker just nice? or does she really want to be my friend? Where do I fit??” THANK YOU for posting this!!!

  13. Hi,
    I have always felt left out! My professor called my behavior off, and another one told me I was odd and they didn’t understand why I acted the way I did. I have been diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD so social events are not my strong point. When I get excited I get overly excited and I don’t realize I am until later when I over analyze every moment of my conversation. I just want to fit in! I am 26 and I am scared that it will never go away

    • I make so many social gaffes… My medication does help… Mindfulness helps, too, but I often simply forget to be mindful! And I can identify with the anxiety aspect your PTSD aspect probably adds. Anxiety disorders are very common in ADHD, especially social anxiety… Have you seen anyone about this yet?

  14. Oh my…it’s almost like reading my self. I sometimes feels awkward in social situations. Always the last to hear gossips and news. Always left off, get spacey, mind wandering, flying alone on the sky. So hate my self when I feel completely overwhelmed by everything that I have to do in a day , and the one thing that I actually want to do is the thing one thing that I get lost. I also easy to get freak out, anxiety attack and lots of fear. That was a big burden towards my friends. One of the reason, my best friend left me. Back at that time, I didn’t know that my brain executive malfunction messing with me. Should I love me?

  15. I find I over share, I just seem to have no boundaries. I will also get nervous and say seemingly random things, forgetting that they’re not following along with the full dialog/ thought process in my head.

  16. Man, I do nearly ALL of those things. At 55 I was finally diagnosed, though I’ve been thinking I have ADHD for, oh, 20 years or so. Even though I already suspected it, receiving the diagnosis has had some profound effects on my self-perception. It’s ok now that I do these things. I am no longer so hard on myself. I always thought all these traits were moral failings or laziness. It feel completely different to see them as just how I am wired. Even though I must still find ways to deal with their effects, I am willing to forgive myself. I hope others can, too. Thank you for showing me that I AM normal–among those of us with this disorder!

  17. I’m 30 and just now realizing there is a reason my whole life had been so difficult. It all makes sense now. I really struggle with turning my brain off and fidgeting. I over analyze thoughts and conversations long after they are gone. I worry about everything I say and do. Remember little things can be a challenge, even with a calendar because I don’t use it. I am a terrible procrastinator and have social anxiety. I feel as though everyone is looking at me and judging. I really hate crowds. Even visiting family is a struggle. You can forget friendships because, as with everything else, I get bored quickly. Once the excitement or challenge wears off, it gets pushed to the back. I cannot finish anything, even something as simple as cleaning. What motivation? I have none. But I am a great multitasker and last minute superhero.

  18. Wow. Thank you for the list. I was misdiagnosed years ago with something else. Now, with the right diagnosis, I am able to take the right medication and that has helped. People have always thought I was odd, and I tried to hard to fit in. I can’t keep or make good friends and I think that a lot of that has to do with 4, 5 and 6. I have never cracked the social code. I can’t engage in mindless gossip or pointless conversations and I often have the glazed eye look. On the other hand, I can chat about something I am passionate about, often talking over someone else. Thanks for the article! I guess I do fit in somewhere.

  19. I have spent the past few hours reviewing blogs and articles about adults with ADHD. This is the first post that made me smile. I AM socially awkward – which drives me crazy, because I am amazing at reading people – like friends pull me out at parties and have me read people, amazing. That said, I cannot seem to apply what I read and understand about people to myself. I draw people in easily, but then my sense of social justice (#10 – fighting for the underdog), my need to hole up when I am on sensory overload (#4 – missing the social bonding cues) and my need to ask questions (#9 – asking to many questions) drive people away eventually. It’s such a bummer – all of it. I am a people person; I just can’t be the person people want. One thing I want to say about the question-asking thing. I manage to annoy my classmates and professors in grad school every time I ask a question – mostly because they think my question is off-topic or otherwise unrelated. They think I just want to hear myself speak. It took me awhile to figure out why they never had to ask clarifying questions themselves. I don’t know if this is true for all those with ADHD, but it is for me. My brain does not compartmentalize information like the average brain does. I do not have mental file cabinets that allow me to just drop the piece of information into the correct drawer/folder. My brain is a spider web, so I need to know how a piece of information links with already stored information in some ways, but delineates in others. For example, when I was teaching, I studied anything and everything I could get my hands on about educational equity. In grad school, I discovered the many categories that COULD fall into this broad topic like Multicultural ed, Global Ed, Teaching for Social Justice, Critical Pedagogy, etc. These are very similar in goals and outcomes, but each area has specific language that differentiates one from the other. Since patterns are very easy for me to identify – like the similarities among these categories – I found myself carrying other assumptions along that did NOT apply, and that affected my grade. So I asked more questions – and, well, I covered that. I have all my PhD coursework done, but I cannot bring myself to finish. I left grad school feeling so bad about myself and my inability to fit in, I just can’t stir up the energy to go back. I will, but I have to get my mental shields back in place first. Okay – brain dump. Perfect example of social awkwardness. Um – I like your blog. Bye.

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