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The Neuroscience of Self Compassion & ADHD

the neuroscience of self compassion and adhd

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can cause difficulty in managing emotions, maintaining focus, and achieving goals. It’s easy to become frustrated or overwhelmed when it feels like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t achieve the results that your peers seem to achieve effortlessly.

But here’s the thing – with ADHD comes a unique set of thought processes that can be incredibly useful if used correctly. Let’s explore the difference between typical and divergent thought processes and how it affects self-compassion.

Neurotypical vs Neurodivergent Thought Processes

Neurons are the cells within our brain responsible for processing information; they send electrical signals from one part of the brain to another. The way neurons process information differs between people with ADHD compared to those without.

Neurotypical thought processes are those that follow a linear path from one point to another — one idea leads to another which leads to another and so on. Neurodivergent thought processes, on the other hand, involve thinking through multiple paths or angles at once with the ability to jump between ideas quickly and easily.

People with ADHD often have neuron divergent thought processes, which can look like they may have difficulty sticking with one task or completing projects in a timely manner, as well as the inability to filter out distractions from their environment or thoughts from their mind. However, they will often come up with creative solutions or insights due to their “outside the box” thinking style. They see the world in a unique way and are able to come up with fresh ideas and solutions.

It is not uncommon for individuals with neurotypical and neurodivergent brain types to experience negative thought processes. These negative thoughts can be intrusive and self-defeating, and they can interfere with daily functioning. However, there is evidence that self-compassion can help to counterbalance these negative thought processes.

There is growing evidence that self-compassion can be beneficial for individuals with neurotypical and neurodivergent brain types. For example, one study found that self-compassionate individuals with ADHD were less likely to be bogged down by negative thoughts about their symptoms.

Furthermore, self-compassion has been shown to improve well-being and mental health in general. Therefore, practicing self-compassion may be an effective way to reduce the impact of negative thought processes in neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals.

The Art of Self Compassion

It's no secret that negative self-talk can have harmful effects on our mental and emotional wellbeing. For neuro typical individuals, this self-critical inner voice can contribute to feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem. However, research has shown that self-compassion can be an effective tool for managing negative self-talk.

Self-compassion involves treating oneself with the same kindness, care, and understanding that one would extend to a friend. Individuals who practice self-compassion are able to acknowledge their own shortcomings without self-judgment, and they are more likely to forgive themselves for making mistakes. Furthermore, self-compassionate individuals are more likely to persist in the face of difficulties and setbacks.

the art of self compassion

Instead of berating oneself for every mistake, self-compassion allows people with ADHD to view their mistakes in a more objective and forgiving way. This can lead to improved self-esteem and decreased anxiety and depression.

In addition, instead of seeing their ADHD as a deficit, self-compassion allows them to embrace their unique perspective and strengths. As a result, self-compassion may be a key ingredient in allowing people with ADHD to thrive. The key is understanding how your unique way of thinking can be an asset rather than an obstacle, and using this understanding as a source of strength when times get tough.

Bridging the Space Between

But, don’t think you have to practice self compassion solo. In fact, studies have shown that negative self-talk can have a profound effect on mental and physical health, increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and even chronic disease. This can make the simple solution of self compassion seem like a daunting -or even impossible - challenge.

This is why counseling can help to bridge the space between the neuroscience of negative self talk and self compassion. The counseling process can help to identify and understand the negative self talk, and then work to change it. Counseling can also help to teach new coping skills. Ultimately, counseling can help the neurodivergent, ADHD mind to foster self-compassion, leading to a more positive outlook on life.


So, what does all of this mean for people with ADHD? Neurotypicals may be able to tune out distractions and negative thoughts more easily, but neurodivergent thought processes can offer a different perspective that is equally as valuable. The key is to have self compassion and understanding- which is where counseling can play an important role in bridging the space between these two worlds.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one bridge the gap, please feel free to reach out for a free 20 minute online consultation. We would love to hear from you! If you find I am not a good fit, I can also offer you referrals for other amazing counselors I know of. Yes it can be intimidating to get started but remember we are here to help you. The first step is usually the scariest. You got this!


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