ADHDers and the Internet: A Love/Hate Relationship
For someone with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the Internet is a place to learn about our condition and research our passions, but it can also feel dangerous. People with ADHD are subject to addictions, and the Internet, with its potential for constant stimulation, can lure us in for hours. On top of that, Internet conversations are notoriously frustrating, which is especially difficult for emotional ADHDers. I’d like to touch on the good, the bad, and a few solutions when it comes to using the Internet when you have ADHD.
The Bad: ADHD, Internet Addiction, and Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria
Even those without ADHD know how easy it is to fall into a hole on the Internet. You look up one thing, click on a link, and another link, and are then reminded of something else to look up. Alternately, there are specific websites you might regularly visit or games you love to play. This is perfect for ADHDers because we can pursue our obsessions and always have something new to interact with. However, it is difficult for us to stop something we’ve started. Because of that, we can waste hours online.1
In addition, interacting with others online is both anonymous and vulnerable. Anonymity appears to make people behave more aggressively, without fear of consequences. Venturing online also makes you vulnerable because what you say and do may very well go on record, and almost anyone with any intentions can interact with you. ADHDers sometimes suffer from rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD) because we are so sensitive to being criticized or rejected, and the Internet is filled with arguments and insults.
The Good: Internet Community and Advice
On the other hand, one can find a sense of community online. If you cannot find people in real life who understand you, there is almost always somebody somewhere who does. People with ADHD can feel isolated and have difficulty making friends, so sharing common interests, as well as tips and tricks for dealing with ADHD, is a wonderful opportunity for those with the condition.
Generally, there are ways to cut down on negative online interactions. Here are a few things that I try to do:
- Read comments in moderation (if at all, depending on the website). I also take breaks from reading comments or participating in certain message boards.
- Write comments and responses somewhere else before posting them online. This gives you time to cool off and reevaluate what you wrote.
- Remind yourself that people online do not usually know you--and you do not know them. They might feel like they are talking to themselves rather than to a fellow human, and you know yourself better than they ever will.
- Block people when necessary, if possible.
- Write about your anger and personal values in your journal.
- Step away to take a walk or exercise.
Here are a few tips for when you find yourself spending too much time online:
- Use timers. I’m not always aware of how much time has passed.
- Use apps that limit screen time.2 I think of it as a reminder. It makes it that much more difficult to continue using an application or website if I have to frequently encounter a pop-up that tells me my time is up.
- Perhaps spend a certain amount of time online as a reward. This is a hard thing to do, but it helps limit my time on the internet. I also feel like I've earned it.
- Find some other obsession that is not Internet-related.
Do you struggle with the Internet or love it? If you have issues with using it, how do you counteract those problems? Let me know below.
- Schwartz, Allan, "Adolescents with ADHD and the Risk if Internet Addiction." MentalHelp.net. Accessed Apr. 2019.
- Hurley, Katie, ADHD and Technology: A Help or a Hindrance? PsyCom, Feb. 2018.
Matteson, N. (2019, May 1). ADHDers and the Internet: A Love/Hate Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2019/5/adhders-and-the-internet-a-lovehate-relationship