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for Attention Deficit Disorder Adults

Bonnie Mincu

Senior Certified ADHD Coach

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ADHD shame can lead you to doubt yourself

When shame affects your actions

Hardly a day goes by that I'm not struck by how often shame impacts ADD / ADHD adults. It shows up with different people in odd little ways.

Today, my ADHD Coaching client Don called for his appointment, right on time. He sounded hesitant, and asked if this was his coaching time. I assured him that it was. Since he's often asked me this in the past, I really wanted to understand why he never seemed sure.

Don said that he did have the appointment in his calendar, but since we had made the appointment several weeks ago, he didn't trust himself to have it right. He didn't remember if the appointment was confirmed, or simply tentative. The fact that he couldn't remember made him anxious, and concerned that he might have it wrong.

I've had a poor memory since birth, so I'd never expect to remember anything. I figure that's what calendars are for — so we shouldn't have to remember! So I asked Don why, if he had it in his calendar, that he was afraid it was wrong.

“Because I screwed up so much in the past,” he explained. “I'm always afraid I'll screw things up. So I don't trust what I put in the calendar.”

This was an example of how shame had become such a strong aspect of an ADHD person's life that it caused him to question and doubt himself, even in an area where he was doing fine. Of course, with his coach, it's safe and appropriate to show vulnerability. But if Don tends to act hesitant when showing up on scheduled business calls, his lack of confidence might raise doubts about his organizational abilities.

What do you do when your deep-seated shame causes you to doubt, hesitate, avoid, or generally act weird?

The first thing is to be able to recognize when that's happening. So become sensitive enough to your own feelings to KNOW you're feeling anxiety or discomfort because of shame.

The second step is to realize what you're doing, or avoiding, because of it. And then to confront yourself with that knowledge, and ask yourself if you're taking the best course of action.

If not, then ask yourself “What would a self-confident person do in this situation?” In Don's case, a person who didn't constantly doubt his ability to maintain a calendar would simply call at the appointed time and say, “Hi, it's Don.”

This “Acting as If” strategy is only one of the SHAME strategies detailed in the recording of “Break the Chains of Shame.” The download class is available as a free bonus to people who register for my class starting this Wednesday evening, “Procrastination Transformation: Secrets to Getting Started.”

If you're serious about breaking your habits of procrastination, shame-based paralysis, and other challenges that keep you from getting started on tasks and projects — don't wait to sign up for this in-depth class, structured over 4 weeks. Details are at

  • The first class is this Wednesday evening, May 23 — recording available with complete notes. Join us!

What was the weirdest thing that shame caused you to do? Please comment!

Author: Bonnie Mincu
Senior Certified ADHD Coach, Founder of "Thrive with ADD," Bonnie has been coaching adults with ADD / ADHD traits since 2001. She has developed numerous training programs to help with the challenges of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.



    When I was in my 20’s and had no understanding of the causes of my procrastination and my sense of total inadequacy, I had a job as a case worker in a social services. I got so far behind in my cases and had no idea how to untangle the incredible level of disorganization plaguing me that in desperation I went out and bought a neck collar and called in “sick”, saying I had hurt my neck. I spent the next few days catching up on my work at home and then made myself wear the heavy, padded neck collar in the office (and out) in 98 degree weather. I can remember the hot, sweaty collar and the total shame I felt as if it were yesterday (instead of 25 years ago!).

    Bonnie Mincu

    Louise, you gotta give yourself credit for coming up with a creative solution!


    Often to get places on time I go straight to the ladies room or sit in my car and hide there until exactly on the dot, I have to be there. Why, otherwise Ill be late because of shame, I dont have to talk to anyone when I get there early and I am in the restroom, if I am down or feeling shame, I just do that which I am suppose to be there for without any criticism or questions. Its a protection strategy that then comes to be a habit, but I get there on time and consistantly which no one notices. Used to when I was depressed and feeling shame, I would come in late and then everyone would notice me and be critical which was what I was really trying to avoid talking to people when my defenses werent strong.

    Bonnie Mincu

    Katherine, that strategy makes sense to me. I would rather get someplace too early (and wait in the restroom or a cafe), than to risk getting there late. There’s nothing wrong with being a few minutes early to an appointment.


    I was in class, it was on a friday,people were talking about plans, when Jane announced that she was going to sleep in….At which I blurted out SLEEP IN ??!!!
    Everyone turned to look. This is something not common for me but at the same time, common enough to cause me to isolate myself from people.
    It is just easier to be alone than feel the “eyes” of people. It is the one single bit about this disorder that causes me sooo much pain.

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Bonnie, there are no words to express how deeply I’ve been affected by your blog! I’ve only read a few things, but they have created such a complete mind shift that the tears shed have washed away my struggles forever!

For the first time in my life I feel understood and hopeful that I can put some tools and systems in place to help me overcome!”

—Michelle near Seattle

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