Dating and Making Friends When You Have Adult ADHD

If you have ADHD, you might find it hard to date and to make friends. That’s partly because good relationships require you to be aware of other people's thoughts and feelings. But ADHD can make it hard for you to pay attention or react the right way.

That doesn’t mean you can find a romantic partner or good buddies. It just takes patience, self-awareness, and practical strategies.

How ADHD Makes Relationships Hard

The most common ADHD symptoms can complicate your social life.

Forgetfulness. Miss a friend’s birthday bash? A no-show on your own date? You may well forget if you didn’t write it down or set reminders.

Indifference. Many romances start intensely and cool down over time. But your ADHD brain can zap a crush too soon. Why? It’s wired to shift attention from old to new more quickly. When your passion fades, it can leave your love interest confused or upset.

Social miscues. To connect with people, you need to be able to read body signals and social situations. ADHD can make you misunderstand other people’s comments or not notice how they react to your behavior.

Miscommunication. You might not catch the emotional meaning behind words. You might easily overlook the sarcasm, fear, or other unspoken messages. That can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Disorganization. Household clutter can drive a tidy roommate mad. But the tension can go higher if your ADHD leaves you overwhelmed or anxious at the thought of tackling the mess.

Sex and Intimacy. Your ADHD can get in the way of intimacy -- the emotional bond with your partner. Studies suggest that discomfort and fear of getting close may be stronger the more serious your symptoms are.

At the same time, the impulsivity that’s a common hallmark of ADHD can lead you to do risky things. People with the condition tend to start sex at a younger age, have more partners, and have unprotected sex more often.

What You Can Do

If you think your ADHD is coming between you and your friends or romantic interest, these tips may help make your relationships more mutually satisfying.

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Listen beyond words. Pay attention to body language and tone of voice, too.

Get a trusted buddy to help you interpret conversations. She can help you pick up subtle social cues you might miss.

Watch others for clues on what to do, like where to sit or what to wear.

Role play with a friend or romantic interest to get feedback and improve social skills.

Repeat what you think you heard in a conversation, and ask if you need to know anything else.

Talk face-to-face. Texts, emails, and phone calls can’t give you important cues like tone of voice and eye contact you get from a direct conversation.

Concentrate. Look at the person’s eyes and make a mental note not to interrupt. If your mind starts to wander, repeat what you hear in your head to stay focused.

Tell your partner. Some ADHD meds can cause sexual problems. Talk to your partner openly about this and any other issues that may affect your relationship.

Seek help. Therapy may give you insights and tools to manage relationships. Talk therapy, for example, could help you work through your frustrations and other emotions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach you to recognize and change thoughts and behaviors that might be affecting your social life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 15, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

CHADD: “For Adults,” "ADHD Complicates Romance,” "Organizing the Home and Office Space,” "Finding Help for ADHD and Domestic Violence.” 

Journal of Attention Disorders: "The Romantic Relationships of Adolescents With ADHD,” "ADHD Symptomatology, Fear of Intimacy, and Sexual Anxiety and Behavior Among College Students in China and the United States,” "Risk of Intimate Partner Violence Among Young Adult Males With Childhood ADHD."

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology: "Childhood Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Predicts Intimate Partner Victimization in Young Women.” 

Understood.org: “5 Ways ADHD Can Affect Your Child’s Social Life.”

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