Why Adult ADHD Makes Shopping for Clothes a Struggle

August 21, 2018 Noelle Matteson

Clothes shopping with ADHD can be particularly challenging. Learn why clothes shopping with ADHD is difficult and what steps you can take to help.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make shopping for clothes difficult. Some with ADHD love shopping for clothes, while others (like myself) find it tedious. Whatever the case, our sensitivity, impulsiveness, and prioritizing problems throw a wrench into the works. Since I am currently replacing my wardrobe, bit by bit, I would like to offer a few suggestions to make ADHD shopping easier.

Why Clothes Shopping with ADHD can be Difficult

  • Prioritizing problems: Though everyone I know with ADHD is very opinionated, one of ADHD's major symptoms is problems prioritizing. This has to do with our difficulty regulating attention. When I walk into a store, I see countless options and feel the need to try on as many items as possible, just in case.
  • Sensitivity: People with ADHD tend to be sensitive to stimuli, again, due to our inability to control our attention. Malls or even boutiques often include music, people, and so many items, which is both exciting and overwhelming. On top of that, I find it particularly hard to find clothes that I find comfortable. I am shocked when others say that they get used to the discomfort or simply don't notice it.
  • Impulsiveness: Even if you do enjoy clothes shopping, if you have ADHD, you probably struggle with impulsiveness, including spontaneous purchases. If you want something, it is difficult to resist its siren call ("ADHD and Urgency"). This could have to do with our deficiency of "pleasure" neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. Buying something can produce a surge of pleasure.
  • Too many steps: It takes a lot of energy for ADHDers to transition between tasks, and the process of shopping for anything involves numerous steps ("How ADHD Affects Working Memory"). One doesn't just "buy clothes." One scours the store, compares items, makes selections, finds a changing room, gets undressed and re-dressed--the list goes on. (This does not even address what it takes to maintain clothes after they are bought, such as washing, ironing, and folding.)

Other tasks I personally struggle with include the repetitive nature of shopping and time-management. I get bored performing the same actions ad nauseam (trying on clothes, checking them out, taking them back--repeat), but I can also get lost in a store for hours with no sense of how much time has passed ("ADHD and Perseveration").

Tips for Clothes Shopping for ADHD Adults

I have been experimenting with different methods in order to make the process more enjoyable. Whether you agree or just take some inspiration from the possibilities that are out there, please watch the video for some of my advice:

In the comments, let me know your advice when it comes to buying new clothes. Do you share my frustrations or do you have a set system? Are you a shopaholic or do you manage to buy clothes in moderation? Thank you for reading, and please visit HealthyPlace for more information about ADHD and mental health.

Other Resources

Rayburn, Dana, "Tag! I’m It!" ADDitude. Summer 2014.

Rollins, Katy, "29 Things Only a Person with ADHD Would Understand." Healthline. Aug. 2014.

Sinfield, Jacqueline, "How to Decide What to Wear When You Have ADHD." Untapped Brilliance. Accessed Aug. 2018.

APA Reference
Matteson, N. (2018, August 21). Why Adult ADHD Makes Shopping for Clothes a Struggle, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 16 from

Author: Noelle Matteson

Find Noelle on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

April, 13 2024 at 1:20 am

Thanks for the article and the mutual understanding.
- I have a go-to look of leggings or a skirt a jumper or top that covers my bum and flat boots.
- I buy all my clothes in charity shops and where necessary online. This is also because my ADHD obsession manifests itself in care for the environment. My overwhelm comes from knowing most of the clothes in high street store will be burnt before they see the light of day, not so fun fact. Charity shops provide less choice and cheaper option.
- it still isn't foolproof. For example I am still wearing the same shockingly bad pair of black boots. Holes in them, a zipper held up by string and sole coming off... because I haven't got around to buying a new pair. Sometimes I do just admit defeat and buy new where I have to... but then I have to force myself and get around to it. With children that is like a myth to me.
I did not realise how much clothes choices were affected by ADHD recently. I have my self-funded adhd assessment next week and maybe I'll bring it up, I've never felt happy in the clothes I wear it has always been a source of great concern and stress for me.

June, 2 2023 at 4:34 am

I have just read this and actually had a little bit of a tear up. I'm a Brit on a waiting list for ADHD assessment. I have always had trouble buying clothes (and other things). Everything has to be just, just, perfect...every damn detail. I used to do exactly as described in stores but online shopping has made this worse. If I'm looking for something I end up with bags of clothes bought online (100's of £'s worth) which I'll go round and round trying on for days before returning at the 11th hour. It drives my partner (and me too, actually) batty having all this stuff in the corner of the bedroom. Currently it's summer trousers...omg.
I wonder if potential ADHD-ness also has something to do with the way I obsess, to the point of tears, over what I'm wearing to certain key things/events that really matter to me: evening out, work thing, seeing old friends after a while. I have to allow extra hours to go through the wardrobe rotation. I have been known not to go if it's just not right.

May, 7 2022 at 10:50 am

I’ve never been diagnosed with adhd but Im beginning to think that I might have adhd.
Regardless, I hate shopping so much but I’d like to look nice and have clothes that I feel good in. My mom and close friends don’t understand that shopping is overwhelming for me and that my behaviour doesn’t come from a place of being bored or disinterested- I just get so overwhelmed I kind of shut off. Trying to prioritise one thing I need is usually difficult because I put off buying things so much that I almost always need more than one thing when I go out. So I try to go just look for jeans but I know that I really could use x, y or z as well which can make it difficult to stay focused.
The Two tricks that I have:
1) pick and palette- As a teenager I started only buying blue, white or black clothing and it has helped me not have to worry about anything that’s a different colour and makes it less overwhelming (I’ve since added grey and pink into the palette).
2) Sometimes I do better with thrift shopping. I worry less about getting the perfect fit of jeans because they only cost $10. This works better for me in smaller thrift shops and with things like jeans. Big shops or looking for a shirt in a sea of shirts still overwhelms me.

June, 14 2021 at 10:23 pm

I was just diagnosed and I'm just realizing how much of my life has been compromised by this. I HATE shopping for clothes, always have, even as an adult if I try on one clothing item - which usually takes me a long time to decide I will try it on, then when it doesn't fit - the feeling of something not fitting right, combined with being in a dressing room, then walking back out into a loud and busy retail floor - I have an absolute internal meltdown. I've felt like such an immature adult because of it, and never understood why this happens. Thanks for the article!

April, 5 2021 at 8:33 am

Any and all shopping without a specific item needed to purchase is a nightmare. Browsing is even worse. I never do unless “forced” up do with family or friends. I become incredibly antsy and irritable.

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