What is ADHD Fatigue?

By Steven Booth, Co-Founder, Elevation Behavioral Health

When we hear the term ‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),’ you might assume that a person with ADHD would have boundless energy. For many who struggle with ADHD, however, the reality is anything but. Instead of bouncing off the walls with unlimited energy, those with ADHD may actually suffer from fatigue.

When you think about it, ADHD-related fatigue makes perfect sense. The disorder requires a great deal of energy just to function normally. When you have ADHD you struggle to stay on task, which means a concerted effort must be made just to complete assignments or work projects. These folks also have difficulty organizing their daily tasks, so prioritizing a to-do list and staying on task require constant effort. Even listening to the boss’s instructions is a challenge that can sap energy.

If you struggle with ADHD-related fatigue, you are not alone. Keep reading to learn more about this phenomenon and what to do about it.

About Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD face many challenges on a daily basis. These individuals struggle throughout the day to stay on task and follow them through to completion. They have difficulty meeting the demands or expectations of employers, spouses, and children. They may appear to be disorganized, flighty, and irresponsible, which can adversely impact their career.

Signs of adult ADHD may include:

-Difficulty sustaining attention at work, school, or social events
-Chronic boredom
-Struggles to organize tasks or chores, feeling overwhelmed and confused
-Easily distracted by external stimuli
-Forgets important dates
-Fails to fulfill daily responsibilities due to forgetfulness.
-Avoids tasks that require their sustained attention
-Prone to angry outbursts
-Can become easily frustrated
-Makes careless mistakes, no attention to detail
-Tendency to being late for appointments or work
-Poor listening skills
-Has low self-esteem
-Makes errors due as a result of inability to focus on instructions
-Fails to complete assignments or work projects
-Misplaces or loses important papers or items
-Substance abuse

To help cope with the demands of the disorder, adults with ADHD can utilize tools that assist them in work-related challenges. These include organizer phone apps, day planners, cell phone lists, calendars, sticky notes, to-do lists, and white boards. By incorporating these into daily routines it can help them preserve energy and reduce fatigue.

ADHD and Fatigue

Think about how much concentration and focus must go in to simply listening to instructions for a work project, or paying attention to a college professor’s lecture, if you have ADHD. It requires a great deal of effort to maintain your attention and then retain what you heard. It isn’t surprising that people with ADHD struggle with fatigue.

Another source of the fatigue relates to problems with sleep. Someone with ADHD may not get to sleep early enough, due to having difficulty shutting down their brain. The circadian rhythm may be disrupted, so they are not getting enough restful sleep and wake up feeling fatigued. Or, they may simply struggle with insomnia.

How to Boost Energy if You Have ADHD Fatigue

To help boost energy during the day, consider these tips:

Self-care. Small indulgences can go a long way toward reviving flagging energy levels. Consider these actions:
-Take a warm bath before bedtime to help you improve sleep quality
-Get a massage
-Take a short afternoon nap to recharge
-Take a brisk walk

Avoid multi-tasking. Flitting from one task to the other without ever completing them is draining. Try setting a timer on your phone to devote enough time to complete a single task. After it is done, move to the next and set the timer, and so on.

Set realistic expectations. Don’t bury yourself from the outset by creating a to-do list that you can’t possibly finish. Be aware of the time requirements for each task and make a realistic list.

Reduce clutter. A cluttered desk, office, or home causes over-stimulation for someone with ADHD. De-clutter your living space and workspace to reduce mental fatigue.

Treatment for ADHD

An evaluation by a psychiatrist can begin the treatment process. There are two types of adult attention disorders: the hyperactive-impulsive type and the inattentive type. Most adults with an attention disorder will present with a combination of both types.

Treatment for adult ADHD involves an integrated approach that relies heavily on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help modify irrational thinking, such as black-or-white thinking (causes perfectionism), catastrophizing (an exaggerated response to events), personalization (taking the blame for negative events), and negative self-talk. By making adjustments in thought patterns, the negative behaviors can be diminished.

Medication is another prong of the treatment for adult ADHD. Medications include Adderall, Vyvanse, or Concerta, which are stimulant drugs that can help improve concentration, stamina, memory, and focus.

5 Lifestyle Tips to Manage Your ADHD

Just as important as receiving traditional evidence-based treatment for ADHD is the act of making needed lifestyle tweaks. Consider these 5 tips for better ADHD management:

1. Exercise. While getting regular exercise is beneficial for everyone, movement and exercise are particularly advantageous for those with ADHD. Engaging in exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which can ignite the executive functions in the brain. This region of the brain helps regulate mood, decision-making, impulsivity, and memory.

2. Nutrition. Optimum brain health and functioning relies on a nutritious diet. The diet should be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and legumes, whole grain breads, pastas, and rice, and plenty of organic vegetables and fruits. Adults with ADHD should avoid sugary treats, corn syrup, and starches.

3. Organizational tools. Take advantage of the excellent organizing tools available. Smartphone apps can reduce stress and fatigue, and improve work performance by helping you organize tasks, calendar the tasks, and remind you of appointments and meetings.

4. Manage stress. Adults with ADHD tend to experience a great deal of stress with the disorder, so learning how to effectively manage anxiety and stress is an essential coping skill. Examples might include practicing mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and guided meditation using a smartphone app.

5. Avoid triggers. Adults with ADHD often become familiar with the situations or settings that may trigger the disorder. For some, lack of sleep might be a trigger, while for others it might be excessive use of technology. Other triggers for ADHD might include a poor diet, not adequately managing stress, or having a sedentary lifestyle.

Adult ADHD can be exhausting. By incorporating these helpful tips into your daily life you should begin to reduce your ADHD-related fatigue and increase your overall energy.

About the Author

Steven Booth is the CEO and Founder of Elevation Behavioral Health in Agoura Hills, CA. Steven earned his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Economics. Before helping to co-found
Elevation Behavioral Health, Steven worked in both private and public accounting. Like many others, Steven has seen firsthand the destruction that addiction can inflict on family and friends. He has also witnessed the extraordinary changes that can be made when addicts receive the necessary treatment. His passion is providing outstanding mental health care through his facility, and improving the quality of life of clients.


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