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Understand Negative Self-Talk for Natural ADHD Remedy

A while back I posted a multi-part series of Facebook entries entitled, Score Your Successes – which is based on what I teach in Way 9 of ADD Crusher™ Video II. This particular strategy is about…

  1. Understanding our skewed perspective on our ADHD ‘failures’
  2. Putting these ‘failures’ in healthier perspective
  3. Learning to acknowledge our successes – big and teeny, and…
  4. Keeping track of our ADD ups and downs so that they provide positive motivational fuel

Shortly thereafter I was listening to one of the archived shows at Attention Talk Radio and learned about a much deeper dimension to our ADDer habit of not giving ourselves credit for anything — and blaming ourselves for everything.


The Negative Self-Talk of ADHD


It’s called negative self-talk, and host Jeff Copper interviewed Debra Burdick, LCSW and psychotherapist, about this topic in detail. In a nutshell, negative self-talk is the habit of talking to yourself in a way that reinforces the negative feelings you have about yourself and, ultimately, guides the things you do (not in a good way, of course).

We all do it – ADDer or not. But we ADHD sufferers of course tend to do it more than others. Think about it: We’ve been conditioned to feel we’re chronically wrong/out of line/problemsome/etc. For instance, here’s a beautifully painful exchange with a six-year-old patient Debra recounts:

6-yr-old boy: My new medication is working great!

Debra: How do you know it’s working?

6-yr-old boy: Cuz nobody yelled at me all day!


Better Awareness and Understanding Are a Natural ADHD Remedy!

As with so many areas of our adult ADHD, the more we understand it, the better able we are to accept it, deal with it and crush it. And I realized, listening to this interview, that negative self-talk is an area of particular opportunity for creating our own natural ADHD remedy through greater awareness and understanding. For instance, have you ever heard yourself say anything like…

  • “I’m not smart enough to get that promotion.”
  • “I don’t have what it takes to start my own business.”
  • “I didn’t deserve to win that award.”


Toplines from the ADHD Negative Self-Talk Interview

Now, I can’t do justice to all the information in the interview, but I’ll summarize a few key points…

  1. Become AWARE of your negative talk. (Confession: When I pull a bonehead move, which is usually trivial, inconsequential – I replay what I was often told as a kid and yell at myself, “You @#$%$ dummy!”) Wow, gotta cut that out!
  2. Identify the various types of of negative talk you engage in most (there are several, as described by Dr. Daniel Amen, who calls them “species”).
  3. Understand that negative thoughts are most often inaccurate, and always self-defeating.
  4. Pay more attention to your successes (as described in Video II, Way 9). We ADHD adults/kids tend to “filter out” successes in our thoughts and recollections – leaving only the ‘failures’.

Bottom line, know that your ability to move forward powerfully has a helluva lot to do with how fairly you judge your own past. Successful people tend think more about their successes…as should you.


Image: Pitt pen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald

14 Responses to “Understand Negative Self-Talk for Natural ADHD Remedy”

By ARY - 12 March 2021 Reply

Came across this at the same time I am taking Jon Acuff’s “Soundtracks” program—identifying where we beat ourselves up and replacing that with something better to tell ourselves. Thank you for this post!

By ADD Crusher - 12 March 2021 Reply

So glad you found this when you did. And thanks to you, I just pre-ordered Acuff’s Soundtracks book! This is a big issue for me every day, and I hope my blog will have helped you reduce the negative noise even a little! apb

By Kimber-leigh - 12 June 2020 Reply

Any resources or ideas on how partners can better support their ADD spouses when the itty bitty shi&$* committee comes knocking?

By ADD Crusher - 12 June 2020 Reply

Great question, Kimber-Leigh — and here’s a GREAT resource, offered by a couple of esteemed colleagues of mine: https://centerforlivingwellwithadhd.coachesconsole.com/marriage-uncomplicated—couples-study.html Wishing you all good things! APB

By Miranda Bushey - 8 June 2020 Reply

Which show on Attention Talk Radio were you listening to? What is the name of it?

By ADD Crusher - 8 June 2020 Reply

Hi Miranda — it was a few years ago, so I don’t remember exactly. But google “host Jeff Copper interviewed Debra Burdick, LCSW” and you might find it! APB

By Keith - 3 September 2015 Reply

I used to have conversations with myself, like “Why did I DO that? That was so stupid!” “It’s because you’re an idiot and a loser!”, etc. One day, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized I looked like an angry old man. It occurred to me that’s what people see of me in public. So I attempted to be aware of my expression and body language, for example, when I’d go to the dog park. I’d put on a big phony grin and try to make eye contact with people. At the same time I told myself to lighten up on the negativity. It took practice, but soon I started speaking with a woman who I’d seen often. This blossomed into a relationship! I believe this began a snowball effect. Pretty soon I hardly ever yelled at myself, and when I did, I’d say “that’s not acceptable, and it’s not even true”. Now, here’s the catch: my ADHD is still there, and the pressure of being in a relationship started catching up with me. Sure enough, the negative self-talk flared up and threatened the relationship. I opened up to my lady and resumed my self-coaching. With persistence and (forced) faith, it works.

By ADD Crusher - 4 September 2015 Reply

Simply put, this is one of the best comments i’ve ever read. Thank you Keith for sharing this. So much truth in this, and a powerful lesson in here (or two!). Bless…Alan

By Steve - 30 September 2014 Reply

My negative self-talk is spontaneous, brutal
and profane. Sometimes even tourette’s
syndrome is considered but untrue.How can I stop it when it is such an engrained habit.

By ADD Crusher - 30 September 2014 Reply

Hi Steve. I think it’s fair to say that ALL negative self-talk is spontaneous. It’s part of our “inner dialogue” that’s actually not ourself speaking, but mostly our ego chattering on. So your very observation of it is step one on quieting it.

Keep identifying those thoughts for what they are — 99.9% untruths that are unfair to you. Look at them with a clear-eyed attitude and awareness.

If, as it sounds, you are burdened by a particularly strong negative mindset, you might want to try an ADHD coach. A good coach can help you re-frame this chatter. A psychologist could potentially go a level deeper.

Wishing you the success you deserve!!

By Diane - 11 August 2014 Reply

As a coach I deal with this the most. Thanks for sharing this. I put it up on my FB business page so my clients can benefit.

By ADD Crusher - 15 August 2014 Reply

Hi Diane — indeed, it’s powerful stuff, the often ridiculously unfair things we say to ourselves, of ourselves. And thank YOU for sharing it!! If you’ll share the link from your FB page, we’ll in turn share it with our FB community! – Alan

By Melodae - 28 March 2014 Reply

Great information.

Is there any way you could darken the font on your webpage? The content of this article is really hard to read because the font is so light.


By ADD Crusher - 28 March 2014 Reply


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