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ADHD and Self-Medicating Behaviours

The constant struggle to navigate the demands of daily life and racing thoughts can be overwhelming and can lead to an instinctive tendency to look for relief from discomfort and distress through dopamine seeking behaviours.

Self-medicating behaviours can take many forms, gaming, scrolling, shopping online, or any activity that could offer some sense of control over the tumultuous landscape of ADHD and seemingly alleviate the symptoms. Some of these behaviours could be quite risky like driving recklessly, bungee jumping, paragliding, or partying.

Work, academic or personal setbacks, social challenges, and feelings of inadequacy may all become too much. Self-medicating behaviours can then offer a temporary feeling of calm, control, and possibly even a sense of euphoria.

Impulsivity and the seeking of immediate gratification and new experiences inherent in ADHD, coupled with the diminished ability to consider the long-term consequences, may create a downward spiral of poor choices.

Unfortunately, the relief gained from self-medicating behaviour is often fleeting, giving way to a cycle of regret, disappointment, and self-criticism. What begins as an attempt to manage ADHD symptoms could become a negative loop of destructive habits which, in the long run, compound the negative self-talk so prevalent in ADHD.

Recognising the concept of self-medicating behaviours within the context of ADHD is essential for developing effective interventions and support strategies. If we understand that self-medicating behaviours are a “home remedy” for underlying factors like impulsivity, emotional distress, overwhelm, and a variety of unmet needs, then we can begin to find effective strategies to break the cycle.

Through coaching we can help identify the negative feelings and triggers that lead to self-medicating behaviours. We can work together to empower individuals to reclaim control of their lives and to make positive choices that improve both functioning and self-worth.

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