How does ADHD affect having feelings of shame

By Fatima Malik

Note: I’ll be honest, shame is one of the worst emotions a person can feel. I personally hate it so much that I cringed each time I typed it in this blog. But some things need to be addressed, especially if they are affecting our children.


Let’s first discuss the difference between shame and guilt:

Guilt focuses on what one has done. Shame focuses on who one is.


People with ADHD experience both guilt and shame at a greater level than their neurotypical peers.

For example, kids with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages by age ten than their peers. These messages are usually communicated to them by people of influence in their lives, for example, parents, teachers, siblings etc. The reason is that they are expected to be typical; however, they are neurodivergent, so some tasks that neurotypical kids find ‘easy’ may not be registering the same way to a neurodivergent brain.

Feeling Unequal


Kids with ADHD catch on quickly to the fact that they are different and begin to view themselves as fundamentally different and flawed. Causing a sense of separation. Like they do not belong. If not treated, these feelings later turn into depression.


Feeling bad about themselves


Low self-esteem is one of the most common symptoms of ADHD. When people in their lives remind them (consciously or unconsciously) that they have failed to meet the expectations, kids with ADHD begin to feel like they are lesser than their peers, which is untrue. Their ‘way’ of doing things may be different, but similar results can be reached because kids with ADHD are intelligent and can find workarounds/solutions. 


Trying to be perfect


Kids who have shame try to avoid it as much as possible by meeting everyone’s expectations. This doesn’t help them live better. Instead, they end up suppressing what they want and who they are for the people around them, leading them to genuinely forget what they want from their own lives.  


Shame, like any other ADHD symptom, needs to be treated. It can sometimes be hard to detect because the child will try to hide it as much as possible and avoid situations. Still, professionals like doctors, child psychologists and psychotherapists can help identify shame in children with ADHD and address the situation head-on before they take it with them into adulthood.


If your child needs help with guilt and shame, we have child psychologists and psychotherapists all over Canada. Contact us at 1-866-503-7454

Montreal, Quebec

Toronto, Ontario

Vancouver, British Colombia

Edmonton, Alberta


Positive Kids
Author: Positive Kids

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