Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Self-Absorption(Narcissism) in the ADHDer

A non-ADD partner of an ADD client I coach, asked me why the client often complained about her problems , while at the same time not showing any empathy for my issues, even during times when I had more stress than she did?

I told her that regardless of the positive aspects of the ADD personality, ADDers are often self-focused and narcissistic. They mean well, but have difficulty experiencing empathy for others, no matter how intimate the relationship is. However, it is critical that you don’t engage in comparisons regarding “who is more stressed”. You do have to encourage better listening skills in your partner and reinforce her for improvement. She may remain self- focused much of the time, but might develop more empathy for your concerns.

To Be Successful, You Need Coaching for ADD!


Christel said...

Dear Dr. Kaufman

Describing ADHD individuals as self-absorbed or narcissistic is a little off the mark.

I understand narcissism to be a state in which no interest or care is given to the thoughts or feelings of those around you. It is symptomatic of a lack of interest in the cares and woes of your fellow man and an inability to empathise with those worries.

I have adult ADHD and I do not think that I suffer a lack of the ability to empathise. I am, in fact, by the description of my own Psychologist, too empathic. I have frequently sacrificed my own interests when confronted with a friend in need to the point of causing myself quite serious harm in the long run.

However, I sometimes lack insight into the thoughts and feelings of others and I struggle to appropriately read social cues. This means that the clues that would commonly tip off other people to the fact that a friend is stressed or in need passes me by. When others believe they have sufficiently informed me of their distress to warrant a surcease of discussions of my own woes, I am in fact not aware of it, and may continue to speak of my own worries in a seemingly self-absorbed fashion.

I do not appear insensitive to others problems because I cannot empathise. I appear insensitive because I am not AWARE of those problems. Once aware I can be quire empathic and sensitive to their needs - of this my friends assure me.

I know that to the person experiencing this it seems entirely the same as the experience of narcissism, but I insist that the difference is subtle but important and should be higlighted to ensure that ADD'ers aren't wrongly accused narcissism when they are in fact only guilty of a lack of social insight.


Christel Breedt

Dr. June Kaufman said...


Thanks for your reply. There are varing degrees of narcissism and probably ADDers span the range from lack of social awareness to self-absorption and narcissitic tendencies. Clearly, you seem aware that you belong the group who needs to be made aware of social skills problems.

Dr. June kaufman