ADHD and grief

The effects of ADHD on healing from grief and loss

By Fatima Malik

Having ADHD means that your kid has low dopamine (the happy hormone).

Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function and more.


Grief and Loss

Having low dopamine has its challenges. But the worst, by far, is dealing with grief and loss. Why?

Because low dopamine means feeling the ‘low’ a little too much, kids with ADHD are emotionally sensitive as it is (that also means they are great observers and empaths) but add to that strong emotion like grief and loss. It’s exponential compared to their neurotypical peers.

These kids end up feeling loss more intensely than neurotypical kids, which means they need extra support during these times. 


Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Another symptom of ADHD is the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ – meaning, if something goes inside a drawer, a child with ADHD will forget it exists. 

Have you ever seen the desk space for someone with ADHD? Instead of being filed away or thrown out, all sorts of letters, printouts, and bills will all be sitting on top of the desk. Why?

Because if they put them in the drawer, they are lost forever. 

If they printed something out for future use but filed it safely in a drawer, rest assured they will be printing it out again when the need arises because the one in the drawer doesn’t exist. 

Something similar happens with grief (in some cases); for example, if your teenager with ADHD has a break-up, the full extent of the grief might not be felt until much later when they are reminded of their loss. 

A break-up essentially means they put that loss in a drawer because the person is gone. Because it is in a drawer, it is difficult for them to work through the grief and heal.

If they see that person a few months later, that grief will come out of the drawer, and it’ll be like they just broke up. 


So not only do kids with ADHD feel grief more intensely, but they also sometimes stow it away in a drawer in their brain because the reminder isn’t there. This makes it difficult for them to fully move on because that drawer can open anytime, and those feeling will come to the surface like they’re new until they deal with them or put them back in the drawer (for later).


If your child needs help with grief and loss, we have child psychologists and psychotherapists all over Canada.

Montreal, Quebec

Toronto, Ontario

Vancouver, British Colombia

Edmonton, Alberta


Positive Kids
Author: Positive Kids

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