The difference between ADHD and laziness

Many people struggle to understand what it feels like to have ADHD, and they often assume we’re just lazy. Many people who have ADHD ask themselves if they aren’t just lazy, after being accused of it all their lives. But there is an important difference.

Kate and Sarah just started working at a clothes store. Their job is to fold clothes, arrange the displays, etc.

Kate is really excited and wants to do a good job. She is told to fold clothes on racks 1, 2 and 3. She happily jumps into it. She folds rack 1, then forgets all about 2 and 3 after a customer asks her a question. When reminded, she feels terrible about forgetting and apologizes. She promises to her boss and herself to try to do better in the future, but she may not be able to (at least not immediately). She then goes for a smoke with their phone to de-stress for 5 minutes, and spends 30 minutes out instead, losing track of time redditing, and goes back feeling apologetic and trying to work extra hard to make up for the lost time.

Sarah finds the work annoying, but needs the extra cash. She is told to fold clothes on racks 1, 2 and 3. She is annoyed at the request, and tries to get out of it however she can, lying that her back hurts, so she can’t stand up for long that day, asking a coworker to do it instead, or just ignoring the task while chatting with a coworker or a friend. She may do rack 1 as slow as possible, to get out of having to also do 2 and 3. She feels entitled to longer breaks, as she “worked so hard”, and purposefully takes a 30 minute smoking break instead of the allowed 5 minutes. She will not apologize, unless she fears not doing so will get her in trouble.

On the surface, both Kate and Sarah are doing the same thing: only folding rack 1, and taking longer breaks than allowed. However, Kate wishes she did more, whereas Sarah wishes she did less. Kate will be happy when told there is a chance they may be able to work better in the future (through medicine, therapy, or various coping mechanisms). Sarah will only look for ways to do less work while still getting money.

Kate has ADHD. Sarah is lazy.

2 thoughts on “The difference between ADHD and laziness

  1. I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD at a very young age (I’m 20 now so I’ve been dealing with it for a while) and even though my family and a few friends are understanding about it I’m still called lazy every so often and it really hurts because I’m doing my best. I’m so glad that you were able to put the difference into words.

    1. Yay, my first comment!

      I am really happy to hear you enjoyed this post, and that it helps others with putting their thoughts and feelings into words. This is the main goal of my blog, as I often struggle with phrasing things properly and understanding what’s going through my head.

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