4 Ways ADHD Makes It Hard To Ask For Help

(And How To Overcome Them)

Published on
February 8, 2024

Asking for help as an adult isn’t very easy in general. Adding Adult ADHD into the mix makes it much more complicated.

But why?

Let’s dissect the reasons why seeking assistance might not even cross your mind…. or could send your stress levels soaring. Then we’ll share some tips on how to ask for help (even when it’s hard).

Why Adult ADHD Makes It Hard To Ask For Help

You Want To Be Independent and Self-Sufficient

Independence is glorified in modern day society. Long gone is the “it takes a village” mindset. Now there’s a flood of posts about “being a boss who can do it all.” All over my feed are images and stories about how one person can do everything - that if you’re not winning at life, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough, haven’t found the right tools, or just don’t have what it takes. We’ve created this image that a successful person fits a very specific (and neurotypical) mold.

Living each day bombarded with these subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) messages, you might feel an intense pressure to prove that you, too, can fit this mold and manage your life independently.

After all, if everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?”

How To Find the Balance ⬇️

There is nothing inherently wrong with valuing independence and self-sufficiency; but, taken to the extreme, it can become problematic. As with all things, the key is to find the right balance of independence and support for yourself and your life.


  • Whether society acknowledges it or not, we are ALL - inter-dependent to some extent. Whether you pay for someone to help with your taxes, to fix your car, to clean your house, to babysit, to deliver a pizza, or even utilize an app to keep yourself organized, we need each other for life to work.
  • What we consider “independent” is based on context and societal standards. Just because you require help with a particular challenge doesn’t make you any less self-sufficient - because a key part of self-sufficiency is also about knowing how and where to get the help you need to achieve your goals.

When you ask for help, you’re actually demonstrating your ability to get things done on your own!

Fear of Judgment / Feeling Shame

People with ADHD are no strangers to being misunderstood or mischaracterized. The average child with ADHD receives 20,000 more negative comments than their neurotypical counterparts. It makes sense that adults with ADHD worry about how they will be perceived. This history of judgment can make them hesitant to ask for help. They may fear that seeking assistance will be perceived as incompetence or laziness rather than a legitimate need.

“This just proves they were right, that I can’t do it.”

“I asked for help the last time this happened; I can’t ask for help AGAIN… I’ll look incompetent.”

“Jennifer never asks for extensions. I shouldn’t need any either.”

How to Counter Those Thoughts ⬇️

  • Reframe it. How can we view asking for help as a positive characteristic? Can we view it as a way to strengthen relationships or build a community? What does it say about your self-awareness?
  • Remember, we often don’t see the help others need. Maybe Jennifer doesn’t share that she needed an extension. Maybe she doesn’t need extensions - but she does need a different type of support. It’s easy to make assumptions that no one else needs anything, or that they won’t understand; but most people have needed a helping hand at some point. If you do feel judged, maybe its worth it to find others in your support system that welcome requests kindly!
  • Consider the pros and cons. Is one coworker giving you a weird look worth missing the deadline? (Especially if the last time you missed a deadline, your performance evaluation suffered, and you ended up having a really uncomfortable Q4 conversation with your boss.) Sometimes, risking judgement is the least worst scenario - even if it doesn’t feel that way. I know that’s not exactly fun to hear, but it can be easy to forget what is more important in the long run. What’s the biggest priority right now, and what are the consequences for different tracks to get there?


Perfectionism is common among individuals with ADHD. You might set high standards for yourself, fueled by a desire to compensate for the perceived shortcomings or negative comments you’ve gotten in the past. You might feel like that’s the only way to motivate yourself is to be the best version of you. But mistakes do happen, and then shame can set in. Asking for help might feel like you’re saying that version of you isn’t possible. That you aren’t who you want to be.

How to Counter That Thought ⬇️

  • Pros and cons from the above example can be a great tool to use in this case as well. In which scenario are you closer to the person you want to be? Waiting to turn in the essay because it needs to be perfect and feeling like you’re always late? Or turning in a B- essay, but feeling reliable and consistent?
  • Learn more about all-or-nothing thinking and the ways it can hold you back from your long-term goals.
  • Think about your loved ones. If your friend came and told you the exact same situation you’re in, would you agree that their goal was realistic? What advice would you give them? When we think about our situation from another person’s eyes, we tend to be a little kinder and more gentle.

Lack of Clarity

Emotions aren’t the only thing that might get in the way of asking for help. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what you need, or how to express it. If you’re confused about how or where to begin with a complicated task, or struggling to prioritize a long list of projects, there are all kinds of decisions to make and questions to ask.

Because people with ADHD are divergent thinkers, our brains naturally try to pursue multiple paths at once, rather than following a straight line. It’s a perfect recipe for overwhelm, confusion, and exhaustion.

What To Do About It ⬇️

  • In these instances, it can be really helpful to work with an ADHD coach. They can help you learn all kinds of helpful strategies, like how to break things down or how to prioritize.
  • Start with a brain dump. Write down whatever comes to mind about the task - what you know, what you’re confused about, etc. Because we use a different part of the brain when writing, it can be a great tool for looking at a situation from a different perspective.
  • If you can’t bring yourself to ask directly for help, maybe you can ask for an example. “Hey Sharon, I want to make sure I get this report right - can I see an example of one you thought really knocked it out of the park?”

How To Ask for Help When You Have ADHD (Closing Thoughts)

Ultimately, there’s no overnight solution to make asking for help any easier. As with anything we’re unused to, it will probably feel uncomfortable at first. But remember - progress over perfection. Start with small asks, and work your way up. You’ll get the hang of it!

Live better, with ADHD
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