CBT for ADHD and ADD: Changing Negative Self-Talk

It’s natural to have negative thoughts and engage in negative self-talk related to ADHD or ADD. But this type of thinking isn’t productive. It makes us feel bad about ourselves, and gets in the way of finding solutions to any challenges we face. CBT helps us modify negative self-talk and find ways to cope with any difficulties that arise from ADHD and ADD.

Do you ever get upset with yourself because of your ADHD and think things like, “What’s wrong with me? I’m so disorganized” after being late for the fifth time this week? Or, “Why can’t I just stay focused?” as you notice the Word document you opened an hour ago is still blank? Thoughts like these can leave us frustrated, angry, anxious, stressed, sad, and unmotivated, and lead to a cycle of negativity. “I’m such a failure” or “I’m so stupid.”

In this video, we’re going to learn to modify our negative ADHD-related thoughts and use coping statements to improve our moods, help us function better, and be more productive. Let’s look at some common situations and the types of thoughts we might have.

We’re overwhelmed by all the clutter and mess in our homes and think, “I’m so disorganized. I don’t even know where to start. No wonder I can never find anything.” These thoughts do nothing to improve the situation and just leave us discouraged and can lead us to start spiraling: “I’ll never get this place clean. Why bother even trying? I can’t stay on top of anything. I’m just such a slob.”

If we modify these thoughts to make them less negative, our moods will improve, and we’ll cope better with the situation. The key is that these new thoughts aren’t just empty positive thinking that we don’t believe, like “I got this” or “It’s no big deal; it’ll be easy once I get started,” but thoughts that are grounded in our reality and help us cope with the situation.

For example, instead of thinking, “I’m so rude; nobody likes someone who can’t listen,” when we realize we keep interrupting someone, we could think, “I just need to pause before I speak to make sure they’re done talking, and then the conversation will flow well.”

Or, if we’re struggling to focus at work and keep getting distracted and daydreaming, instead of thinking, “I can’t focus on anything; I’m so lazy; I’ll never succeed,” our modified thoughts need to acknowledge the reality of the situation without beating up on ourselves: “It is difficult for me to focus, but everyone gets distracted and daydreams. When I take frequent breaks, I can pay attention better and eventually get this done.”

Changing our thoughts in this way helps us feel better about ourselves and allows us to cope better with difficulties that may arise as a result of ADHD. It can be hard to come up with modified ways of thinking about situations that are less negative and more helpful and productive, but I’ve got some videos with strategies that can help, which you’ll find in my free self-help for ADHD course.

The next few lessons explore negative thoughts and how to modify them in more detail. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.