Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

ADHD and Narcissism


People with ADHD have enough problems without being compared to evil tyrants.

There are few things which upset me more than when someone with ADHD is called narcissistic. I compare the term closer to a curse word more than anything else when used to describe someone with ADHD.

Several rulers of the past who sought world domination are often described as the embodiment of narcissism. I agree with that, I go a step further and hazard to believe that they may have had narcissistic personality disorder, among other issues. We also tend to think of such rulers as evil, and why not, they utterly destroyed lives and ways of living. They deserved such terms; they earned them in various horrible, deceitful ways.

Although narcissism at times seems an accurate description of some of our behaviors to the blind eye of the uninformed, the term tends to ignore the symptoms of, and our realities with, ADHD, and therefore, why some with ADHD may behave in certain ways. ADHD is not a moral issue or character flaw, and although the term narcissism may not always be meant to describe our character per se, it does in fact come across that way.

Freud considered narcissism to be an essential part of the human make up. All of us have a bit of it, or we would throw our needs to the wind and only take care of others, which actually, some ADDers do as people pleasers, but that’s another topic.

If you point to any highly successful person with or without ADHD, someone who has achieved world champion status or strives for such excellence, you are bound to find someone with more narcissism than the average person. That’s the way it is. If it wasn’t, the standards for achieving such success would be lower than it is. 

Society in general has, especially over the last century, asked that individuals strive and strive and strive for more, for higher goals, for more of anything and everything. Sometimes it goes too far, but when a person with ADHD attains the pedestal, one of the most common terms I hear to describe that person is, narcissism.

How sad is that?

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

There are some with ADHD who do tend to come across as selfish and uncaring of others. It is a huge issue in relationships. One of the reasons for this is that we have a difficult time understanding many common communication cues, both spoken and unspoken, which does indeed make some of us appear, at times, to not be caring enough.

What comes as natural awareness to most people without ADHD, is usually not the case for us, we must learn these communication cues in order for us to facilitate them in a reasonable manner. If we don’t, our relationships will suffer and most will not last for an extended period of time, if they do last under these circumstances, I would say it’s a good chance that resentment will set in.

If we take into account that most of us diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood have been searching anxiously for answers to our behaviors for quite a long time, and well, yes, that could come across as selfish, even narcissistic to some.

When we search for answers to our very own behaviors, we invest a lot of time into self. It is also quite true too that once we have been diagnosed, the attention to self does not end. We still must learn ways to cope and overcome our internal struggles. There’s a lot of taking care of self involved and this does invariably take our attention away from others. Therefore, balance is necessary, but must be learned, we do have ADHD.

I am not even going to delve too deeply into the fact that many of us have been treated harshly for our ADHD behaviors, have felt like outcasts and have simply withdrawn for fear of criticism and further pain.

So, finally, yes, there are parts of our behavior which could, and often do, come across as narcissistic, selfish or self-seeking. I agree and I think a fair number of ADDers will agree; however, it does not mean we deserve the additional label: narcissistic.

We have the label of ADHD already, which has been construed as a degrading term for bad morals and undesirable character over the last couple decades. Such beliefs and discriptions are wrong. 

Not just wrong, but hurtful.

ADHD is only now starting to be clarified to the general public. Our symptoms and traits can, and frequently do, take many forms that cause enough confusion, which do play havoc in our lives and the lives of our family and partners, the label ADHD encompasses these symptoms and traits.

Yes, it takes awareness and effort to correct our behaviors, or at least improve them, but I dare say that cursing at us with such condemning terms as narcissism isn’t helpful. Yes, I do find it offensive. Simply because someone has ADHD, or succeeds with ADHD, does not necessarily mean they are selfish, egotistical or narcissistic.

I realize that not everyone who uses the word in conjunction to the behaviors of someone with ADHD means it to be insulting and hurtful, but just because they don’t mean it to be, doesn’t mean it isn’t.

I hope the use of such derogatory characterizations eventually stop, as understanding of what ADHD is becomes better known and acknowledged.