ADHD Coping Mechanisms: How To Manage ADHD

Living with ADHD can present unique challenges, often causing individuals to struggle with various aspects of daily life.

From difficulties with focus and organization to impulsivity and hyperactivity, it’s crucial to recognize the need for effective coping strategies.

By implementing coping methods, individuals with ADHD can better navigate their challenges and enhance their overall well-being.

Coping strategies can be especially useful for individuals with undiagnosed ADHD as a way to cope if they cannot access the same professional support that those with diagnosed ADHD can.

adhd coping 1

What Difficulties Can People With ADHD Face?

People with ADHD can face several difficulties in their daily lives, making it a challenge to navigate certain environments and situations. 

Let us discuss some of the most common difficulties typically experienced: 

Attention and concentration 

Maintaining attention and concentration for prolonged periods of time is a commonly shared experience for people with ADHD. 

This can be particularly enhanced if what they must focus on is either deemed boring, uninteresting, or mundane (Fugate & Gentry, 2016). This can be both task-specific but also in other instances such as conversations and presentations. 

It is common for someone with ADHD to drift off into space and daydream about other things they find more stimulating, which can make it harder to regain focus. 

Lastly, they are more susceptible to distractions, e.g., loud noises, bright lights, or sudden movements (Ross & Randolph, 2016). 


Impulsivity is another big challenge. People with ADHD are more prone to having both impulsive thoughts and behaviors, leading them to react or do things in the spur of the moment. 

This can range from interrupting others when talking and changing subjects suddenly to potentially putting themselves in risky situations as they have not thought out any potential consequences beforehand. 

Poor organization and planning 

Challenges in being organized and well-planned can arise as a byproduct of attentional difficulties and impulsivity. 

Oftentimes, people with ADHD experience difficulties maintaining structure, upholding routines and can find it challenging to organize and prioritize tasks.

This can lead to missed deadlines, procrastination (Bolden & Fillauer, 2020), and increased stress about daily life activities.

Forgetfulness and memory difficulties

Being forgetful and having overall memory difficulties is another sign of ADHD that can interfere with daily life (Raggi & Chronis, 2006). 

Deadlines, appointments, anniversaries, or special celebrations; can all be missed due to individuals with ADHD not remembering. 

This can also impact work, with instructions being forgotten, or personal relationships with not remembering stories or information that people have expressed before.   

Emotional regulation

Challenges with emotional regulation are another common ADHD struggle (Christiansen, Hirsch, Albrecht & Chavanon, 2019). 

Due to impulsivity, emotional expressions may be exacerbated above what the situation calls for, with less thought being put into how these outbursts might impact others. 

Someone with ADHD may find it more difficult to control anger and irritation or struggle to feel centered again after a confrontation. 

Enhanced sensitivity to negative situations such as rejections (rejection-sensitive dysphoria) and arguments is also common, with tendencies to have a negativity bias and interpret ambiguous situations for the worse instead of viewing them from a neutral lens.   

Social difficulties

Social difficulties are also a common struggle for someone with ADHD. This can stem from impulsivity, trouble sustaining attention, forgetting, or mishandling situations due to emotional dysregulation (Litner, 2003). 

Additionally, many people with ADHD may struggle with certain social skills, such as active listening or picking up on social cues, often resulting in mirroring or masking behaviors (hiding neurodiverse behaviors to appear more neurotypical). 

It is important to note that none of these behaviors stem from purposefully malicious intentions but rather contrastingly, people with ADHD are rather sensitive to criticism and situations where conflict may occur.

What are Some of the Consequences of Having ADHD?

adhd consequences

ADHD can impact several areas of life, with traits leaking into both professional and personal relationships.

Let us look at some of the main consequences in three key life areas: 

Personal Struggles

People with ADHD are at an increased risk of developing comorbidities with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression (Fischer et al., 2007). 

Even if signs of these conditions do not become severe enough for a clinical diagnosis, stress and worry are often prevalent in this population group. 

Additionally, struggles with not feeling good or capable enough and heightened sensitivity to criticism and judgment can lead to avoidance behaviors, imposter syndrome, and a negative self-perception.

Academics and Work

Challenges with inattention and impulsivity can consequently lead to lower academic or work performance. 

This directly stems from difficulties with managing time, organization, and forgetfulness and finding it more challenging to remain engaged, focused, and interested. This directly impacts one’s ability to do work to the best of their abilities, with grades, assignments, and work projects taking the hit.  

Interpersonal and Social

Additionally, interpersonal and social difficulties are another common consequence of having ADHD. 

Social cues may be missed, important anniversaries may be forgotten, or people who know the person with ADHD may feel they are not being given quality time due to distractions and impulsive behaviors. 

Rifts may begin to form, which can lead to misunderstandings or even conflicts. Disagreements may also arise if impulsive behaviors, e.g., gambling addiction, become risky.

What are Some Coping Strategies for Managing ADHD?

Below are some coping mechanisms for managing ADHD:

1. How to increase concentration and focus

Firstly, ensure you minimize any distractions. This can be from the environment, e.g., noise and bright lights, or electronic, e.g., app notifications and messages. 

Secondly, remove any temptations. Whether that is looking at your phone, a website, or talking to a colleague, ensure you have nothing around you that may shift your focus.

There are websites and apps available that lock you out of the specific website you chose, e.g., Instagram, for a set amount of time to increase productivity. 

Lastly, break down work into smaller chunks and incorporate comfort breaks. The Pomodoro technique might be very beneficial, especially when working or studying.

pomodoro method

2. How to manage time better

Firstly, identify your pique productive days and times and schedule your tasks around that. 

By doing work during your most energized times, you are more likely to finish tasks quicker and leave time for other activities. 

Secondly, ensure you have set achievable goals and have left enough time to complete them (Modesto-Lowe, Chaplin, Soovajian & Meyer, 2013). A tip might be to incorporate some extra buffer time just in case of unexpected delays. 

Lastly, use some form of a planner tasks or organization calendar to note down everything that needs to be done. This way, you can set reminders for things, track your progress, and ensure you are on time. 

3. How to stop procrastinating

Firstly, break down the task into smaller, more manageable targets. 

Oftentimes, people procrastinate more if what needs doing seems big and imposing. Breaking a big task into smaller, achievable tasks can feel less daunting.

Secondly, use some of the time management techniques mentioned before to structure your day and give yourself a schedule. 

Lastly, use motivation as a driving force. This could be external, e.g., telling your friends or family and asking them to keep you accountable (Ventouri, 2020), or internal, e.g., rewarding yourself with breaks, your favorite snack, or a few minutes of screen time. 

4. How to get organized

Firstly, make use of organization tools such as planners and calendars. This could be either electronic or pen and paper, but having a system in place to track what you need to do is key. 

Secondly, declutter your space. Ensure that your working environment is helping you be organized and focused on the project at hand without any unnecessary items littered in the space.

Lastly, identify a routine that works for you and be consistent. Ensure you stick with your system but remain flexible and open to making adjustments.

5. How to manage relationships

Firstly, establish a form of mutual trust and an environment where you and another person can both openly communicate. This will help you discuss any disagreements more amicably and know where you are both coming from. 

Secondly, be clear about your own needs, wants, and boundaries. It is important to honor these so you can truly feel fulfilled in your relationships, whether romantic or platonic. 

You can explain to people that the reason why you act a certain way may be because of your ADHD. However, this should not be used as an excuse to behave in a hurtful way, and accountability should still be taken.

Lastly, do consider counseling or speaking to a professional to help express your views and get support on managing ADHD and the specific relationships in question.

6. How to manage impulsivity and strong emotions

Firstly, try to incorporate mindfulness and breathing exercises as part of your daily routine. These can help ground you and assist you in taking a step back from impulsive thoughts.

Secondly, use delay techniques. Whether that is noting things down first, asking yourself questions such as “Is this a true need or want?” or counting down in your head from 5 before reacting, these can help you minimize reactivity. 

Lastly, identify expression strategies to help get your emotions out where you are not in a position to impact others. For example, journaling, exercising, creating a drawing, recording a voice note, or talking to a trusted person.

7. How to remember things better

Firstly, ensure you are organized and make reminders your best friend. You can create these into calendar reminders or even set an alarm. If you need to set multiple alarms to remind you, then do this!

Secondly, place reminders in places you frequently see or visit. That could be leaving a sticky note on your fridge or your car or even changing the background of your phone to something important you want to remember. 

Lastly, ensure a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Lack of sleep, for example, can impact memory (Harrison & Horne, 2000), alongside other things such as stress

How Can Coping Strategies Help Someone With Undiagnosed ADHD? 

Coping strategies can offer several benefits for someone who is undiagnosed with ADHD, as they can provide practical techniques to manage some of the related signs. 

Just because someone has not received their official diagnosis yet, does not mean that they do not have associated struggles and experience the world through an ADHD lens. 

Self-regulation is one of the biggest takeaways from coping strategies, as they are often centered around the management of time, relationships, and organization. 

They can help provide a structured routine, minimize interfering distractions, and boost productivity overall. As these can also be applicable to many areas of life, noticeable changes for the better can begin to arise.

A reduction in stress, anxiety, and overall feelings of being overwhelmed may also begin to lessen. 

By deploying strategies centered around better coping with life situations, any unhelpful emotions arising from procrastination, disorganization, inability to start/finish a project, etc., can slowly begin to minimize. 

This will then directly impact the overall mood and both relationships with one’s self and others. 

Lastly, coping strategies, even for undiagnosed ADHD, can directly impact communication and how relationships are managed. 

Signs of ADHD can often revolve around impulsivity or lack of focus, which can directly lead to interpersonal relationship struggles both at home and at work.

Thus, managing techniques can boost skill sets and social confidence and reduce instances of conflict and residual unhelpful emotions following that.

Frequently asked questions

How can ADHD coping strategies be applied at work?

As many ADHD strategies are centered around enhancing productivity, they can be a great addition to be applied at work. Here are a few ways you can begin doing that:

– Ensure your work desk is organized and clutter-free to help you focus better

– Check if there are any distractions in your environment, e.g., bright lights, loud noises, or online messages, and try to minimize them.

– Utilize technology to support you. For example, the Pomodoro method for focused work time, to-do list apps for reminders, and collaborative software for group work.

– Check-in with yourself around areas of stress, perfectionism, or imposter syndrome, and remember that mistakes are a universal experience and a chance for us to learn.

How can ADHD coping strategies be applied to studying?

As many ADHD strategies are centered around minimizing distractions, increasing focus, and enhancing productivity, they can be a great resource to apply for studying.

Here are a few ways you can begin incorporating them into your study routines:

– Firstly, identify your peak productive days/times, and establish a routine around them

– Ensure your environment is helping you to study. For example, good lighting, reduced outside noise, and minimized distractions from electronic devices.

– Break down larger assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks

– Incorporate technology to help you, e.g., timer apps for focused studying or online organization tools, or flashcards for spaced repetition

– Ensure you have everything you need with you before starting to study to overcome procrastination barriers and frequent interruptions.

Is it possible to calm down ADHD signs?

While it is not possible to completely eradicate ADHD signs, their impact can be reduced through coping mechanisms and management strategies. 

In terms of consulting professionals, medication and therapy are two evidence-based avenues people can take to help manage ADHD. 

On a more personal level, ensuring your environment is adjusted to your needs can be an excellent first step. For example, reducing distractions, stimuli and having an organized space.

Secondly, establishing solid routines around your peak productivity times and asking for support from your friends or family (if you are comfortable doing so) is another possible way to help calm down signs. 

Lastly, ensuring healthy lifestyle habits are sustained, such as adequate sleep, balanced eating, and some form of exercise, are key to ensuring your body is getting the rest, fuel, and movement it needs for day-to-day functioning. 

How can someone with ADHD deal with rejection?

Dealing with rejection can be challenging for several people. Having ADHD can present additional difficulties that can make rejections even more tricky to manage (Canu & Carlson, 2007). 

However, there are still ways that can be used to help. Here are a few suggestions:

Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions have risen and recognize that it is okay to be upset or hurt

– Reach out to people you feel safe with for support and to express your thoughts and feelings

– Try to take a step back from the situation and do not internalize what has happened. View it as an isolated incident and not a reflection of who you are and your value as a person

– Identify what you can learn from the rejection and use it as an opportunity to work on skill sets

– Remember to take care of yourself. Do an activity you enjoy or a self-care night and give yourself the time and space to recharge


Bolden, J., & Fillauer, J. P. (2020). “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week”: Executive functions mediate the relation between procrastination and attention problems. Journal of American College Health, 68(8), 854-863.

Canu, W. H., & Carlson, C. L. (2007). Rejection sensitivity and social outcomes of young adult men with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10(3), 261-275.

Christiansen, H., Hirsch, O., Albrecht, B., & Chavanon, M. L. (2019). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and emotion regulation over the life span. Current psychiatry reports, 21, 1-11.

Fischer, A. G., Bau, C. H., Grevet, E. H., Salgado, C. A., Victor, M. M., Kalil, K. L., Sousa, N. O., Garcia, C. R. & Belmonte-de-Abreu, P. (2007). The role of comorbid major depressive disorder in the clinical presentation of adult ADHD. Journal of psychiatric research, 41(12), 991-996.

Fugate, C. M., & Gentry, M. (2016). Understanding adolescent gifted girls with ADHD: Motivated and achieving. High Ability Studies, 27(1), 83-109.

Harrison, Y., & Horne, J. A. (2000). Sleep loss and temporal memory. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Section A, 53(1), 

Litner, B. (2003, June). Teens with ADHD: The challenge of high school. In Child and Youth Care Forum (Vol. 32, pp. 137-158). Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers.

Modesto-Lowe, V., Chaplin, M., Soovajian, V., & Meyer, A. (2013). Are motivation deficits underestimated in patients with ADHD? A review of the literature. Postgraduate medicine, 125(4), 47-52.

Raggi, V. L., & Chronis, A. M. (2006). Interventions to address the academic impairment of children and adolescents with ADHD. Clinical child and family psychology review, 9, 85-111.

Ross, P., & Randolph, J. (2016). Differences between students with and without ADHD on task vigilance under conditions of distraction. Journal of educational research and practice, 4(1), 1-10.

Ventouri, E. (2020). ADHD and Learning Motivations. Open Access Library Journal, 7(8), 1-28.

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Ioanna Stavraki

Community Wellbeing Professional, Educator

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc, Neuropsychology, MBPsS

Ioanna Stavraki is a healthcare professional leading NHS Berkshire's Wellbeing Network Team and serving as a Teaching Assistant at The University of Malawi for the "Organisation Psychology" MSc course. With previous experience at Frontiers' "Computational Neuroscience" journal and startup "Advances in Clinical Medical Research," she contributes significantly to neuroscience and psychology research. Early career experience with Alzheimer's patients and published works, including an upcoming IET book chapter, underscore her dedication to advancing healthcare and neuroscience understanding.