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1 What is ADHD Burnout?

What is ADHD Burnout?

adhd and burnout

ADHD Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion different from neurotypical burnout. There is little info on ADHD burnout, but much of what anecdotal reports indicate suggests it is similar to autistic burnout. This page is written based on that assumption so that the accuracy may be questioned until further research.

What are the symptoms of burnout in ADHD women?

In my therapy practice, I see women with ADHD experiencing a range of symptoms as burnout begins to set in. Anecdotal reports and research support my observations. These symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to sensory cues,
  • A preference for solitude,
  • Heightened Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD),
  • Deep exhaustion,
  • A worsening of executive functions,
  • Meltdowns,
  • Increased fight-or-flight response, and
  • Difficulty at work and home performing tasks they were once able to manage, especially those that require executive functioning skills.

It's crucial for individuals experiencing these symptoms to seek support and implement self-care strategies to prevent burnout from worsening.

What are the common triggers of burnout in ADHD people?

ADHD burnout often results from the cumulative stress of daily life and societal expectations. Common triggers include:

  • Masking neurodivergent traits
  • Undergoing stressful life events,
  • Facing stigma and discrimination,
  • Sensory overloads and an overwhelmed nervous system from continuous focus, social interaction, sensory processing demands, or other overstimulation.

The effort to function in a world designed for neurotypical individuals without accommodations creates the condition for neurodivergent burnout.

What strategies can help prevent burnout in ADHD people?

Preventing burnout in individuals with ADHD involves a comprehensive approach. Strategies include:

  • Engaging in activities that promote physical and emotional well-being, such as exercise, meditation, and therapy.
  • Understanding and managing your physical, emotional, and cognitive energy throughout the day.
  • Recognizing energy drains and peaks.
  • Prioritizing tasks.
  • Taking scheduled breaks.
  • Managing sensory input.
  • Setting boundaries.
  • Practicing self-awareness and self-advocacy.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity.
  • Prioritizing sleep hygiene.
  • Maintaining a balanced diet.
  • Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
  • Incorporating hormonal cycle awareness.

How does burnout affect the overall well-being of ADHD people?

Burnout profoundly impacts the overall well-being of individuals with ADHD, affecting their physical, emotional, and mental health. The chronic stress associated with burnout can manifest in symptoms like overwhelming fatigue, significant drops in cognitive functions, emotional dysregulation, or complete shutdowns, leaving individuals unable to engage in any activity.

What are the potential long-term effects of burnout on ADHD people?

The long-term effects of burnout on individuals with ADHD can be severe. Here are some potential outcomes:

  • Persistent fatigue due to ongoing exposure to stressors without adequate recovery periods.
  • Chronic anxiety or depression, stemming from long-term stress.
  • A feeling of being emotionally 'drained' or numb.
  • A decline in performance at work or school.
  • In some cases, a regression in skills or coping mechanisms, which could take years to recover from if not addressed.

Are there any coping mechanisms or self-care practices that can alleviate burnout symptoms in ADHD people?

Yes, there are coping mechanisms and self-care practices that can alleviate burnout symptoms in individuals with ADHD. These include engaging in comforting routines or hobbies, withdrawing from stimulating environments, and getting sufficient rest and sleep to recuperate. Building the ability to recognize stress, practicing unmasking, advocating for oneself, engaging in activities promoting well-being, managing energy, and practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques are also crucial.

How can parents, partners, or friends support someone with ADHD who is experiencing burnout?

Supporting someone with ADHD experiencing burnout involves understanding and collaboration. It's crucial to recognize signs of stress or burnout, adjust the individual's environment, reduce expectations, and provide the necessary support. Acceptance is critical for neurodiverse individuals to decrease the need for "masking" and empower them, boosting their self-esteem and allowing them to embrace their neurodiversity as part of their identity.

What role does self-awareness play in preventing burnout for ADHD people?

Self-awareness is crucial in preventing burnout for individuals with ADHD. Understanding personal triggers, recognizing activities or situations that are particularly draining or energizing, being aware of hormonal cycles and their impact on energy and mood, and engaging in special interests can all contribute to managing and preventing burnout effectively.

Are there any accommodations that can help burnout in employees?

Yes, appropriate workplace accommodations can significantly help employees with ADHD prevent burnout. These accommodations can include the option to work from home, a quiet workspace free from frequent interruptions, noise-canceling headphones or white noise, uninterrupted work periods, reduced workload focusing on essential job duties, deadlines and prioritization assistance, partial work days or leave for rest and recovery, strength-based job focus, and personalized adjustments like taking short, frequent breaks or spending time outdoors.

How does burnout affect the cognitive functioning of ADHD people?

Burnout can significantly affect the cognitive functioning of individuals with ADHD. It can lead to overwhelming fatigue, significant drops in cognitive functions like memory and concentration, and struggle with emotional dysregulation. This can leave individuals feeling stuck, panicked, and unable to function effectively, compromising their thinking skills and overall cognitive performance.

Are there any medications that can mediate people?

There currently is little understanding and no research on ADHD burnout. No medications exist that I'm aware of. It's crucial to consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice and support regarding the use of medications for managing burnout symptoms.

What are the key differences between ADHD people and non-ADHD people when we are describing burnout (not the same)?

The key differences in burnout between ADHD and non-ADHD individuals lie in the triggers and manifestations of burnout. For ADHD individuals, burnout often results from environmental stressors exceeding one's capacity in general and accumulating over time. Whereas in non-ADHD individuals, when we talk about burnout, we are talking about occupational stress. The factors in this kind of burnout are usually:

  • Lack of control at work
  • Lack of rewards
  • Values Mismatch
  • Poor Work Relationships
  • Too much work
  • Lack of fairness

A neurodivergent or ADHD person CAN have both work burnout and neurodivergent burnout.

ADHD individuals might experience heightened sensitivity, increased emotional reactivity, and a more pronounced impact on cognitive functions and overall well-being.

How can ADHD people manage their energy levels to prevent burnout?

ADHD individuals can manage their energy levels to prevent burnout by recognizing energy drains and peaks, prioritizing tasks, taking scheduled breaks, managing sensory input, setting boundaries, practicing self-awareness and self-advocacy, engaging in regular physical activity, prioritizing sleep hygiene, maintaining a balanced diet, practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and incorporating hormonal cycle awareness.

What are the consequences of ignoring burnout?

Ignoring burnout can lead to severe consequences, including long-term physical, emotional, and mental health issues. It can manifest as persistent fatigue, chronic anxiety or depression, a feeling of being emotionally 'drained' or numb, and a decline in performance at work or school. In some cases, there may be a regression in skills or coping mechanisms, profoundly impacting an individual's quality of life.

Can therapy or counseling help?

Yes, therapy or counseling can significantly help individuals experiencing burnout. These forms of professional support can provide valuable guidance, coping strategies, and a space to explore and address the underlying causes of burnout. They can be crucial in the healing process and in preventing future episodes of burnout.

It's essential to differentiate burnout from depression, especially in the context of treatment.

While both conditions share some overlapping symptoms, the approach to managing them differs significantly. Mental health providers unfamiliar with the nuances of ADHD burnout might mistakenly treat it like depression, focusing on activation strategies such as encouraging social connections and activities.

However, ADHD burnout requires a different approach, often necessitating periods of disconnection and rest to restore one's energy levels and cognitive reserves. Encouraging individuals with ADHD burnout to engage in more activities without addressing the need for rest and disconnection can exacerbate the condition, leading to further exhaustion and a prolonged recovery period.

Are there known risk factors for developing burnout?

Known risk factors for developing burnout include "masking" neurodivergent traits, undergoing stressful life events, facing stigma and discrimination due to being neurodivergent, and experiencing sensory overloads and challenging social interactions. These factors can contribute to both chronic and acute episodes of burnout, making it crucial to recognize and address them.

How does burnout affect the motivation and productivity of individuals with burnout?

Burnout can significantly affect the motivation and productivity of individuals. It can lead to a decline in performance at work or school, feeling emotionally 'drained' or numb, and a decrease in the ability to engage in and complete tasks. The emotional and cognitive exhaustion accompanying burnout are a sign that you should not be trying to maintain productivity levels but

What are self-care practices people with burnout should prioritize to prevent burnout?

Individuals should prioritize self-care practices that promote physical and emotional well-being to prevent burnout.

These include engaging in:

  • Special interests
  • Managing energy and stress throughout the day
  • Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • Prioritizing sleep hygiene
  • Learning to recognize feelings, emotions, and stress
  • Practicing unmasking
  • Advocating for oneself and building supportive networks with people you don't have to mask with
  • Working in job environments that are a good fit for your strengths and allow you accommodations

Are there specific treatment approaches for managing burnout?

Burnout isn't to be managed but healed from. Healing from neurodivergent burnout involves a thoughtful, multifaceted approach, acknowledging that it's more than just feeling tired; it's a profound condition that affects the nervous system, often resulting from chronic stress. Here are strategies outlined in your document to heal from neurodivergent burnout:

  • Prioritize Stimming: Stimming is essential for neurodivergent individuals as it helps regulate the nervous system and provides relief. Embracing stimming, rather than suppressing it, is vital as it is a natural behavior that aids healing and protects against burnout.
  • Rest is Essential: Deep and extensive rest is crucial for healing from burnout. If work or daily demands are overwhelming, reducing those demands significantly is important. The focus should be on essential tasks, allowing the brain and body to rest.
  • Connect with Like-minded Individuals: During healing, connecting with fellow neurodivergent individuals can offer comfort and understanding. Shared experiences and empathy from those who truly understand can be incredibly supportive.
  • Reflect on the Causes: Understanding the triggers and patterns that led to burnout is crucial. This reflection helps prevent future episodes and build resilience by identifying and addressing the root causes. Often, causes involve not pushing yourself past the comfortable limits of what your body is comfortable with. This may involve working with your body to recognize signs of discomfort.
  • Build a Support Network: A support system is invaluable during healing. Connecting with those who offer genuine understanding and empathy, especially fellow neurodivergent individuals, can provide the emotional support needed during challenging times.
  • Tread Lightly Back into the World: Re-integrating into daily routines after experiencing burnout should be done cautiously. A gradual return helps prevent a relapse and ensures recovery is not disrupted.
  • Engage in Joyful Activities: If possible, engage in activities that are special interests or bring joy. These activities can be therapeutic and rejuvenating, contributing significantly to healing.

Check out Dr Megan Neffs Site on ADHD burnout recovery


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