Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD is a chronic condition that includes attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Although the causes are unknown, research shows that genetics play a huge part in it. Other risk factors include brain injury, alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy, premature delivery, and low birth rate. ADHD can only be diagnosed by an expert because it shares similar symptoms with conditions like anxiety, depression, etc. 

ADHD commonly presents in one of three ways:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation; The child finds it challenging to finish a task, pay attention to details, follow orders or stay focused in lengthy conversations
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation; The child is always restless, talks a lot, and may have a higher tendency towards impulsivity than their peers. They find it difficult to remain physically still or in the same place for long periods of time (especially compared to their peers), like during classes or meals. Toddlers may run and jump around all the time. 
  • Combined presentation: The child has a significant number of diagnostic symptoms of both presentations listed above.

Perfectionism is defined as an extensive personality style, distinguished by a person’s distress with aiming for flawlessness and perfection, and is followed by critical self-evaluations and worry over how others evaluate them.

Children with ADHD could hardly be seen as obvious perfectionists, but when put in certain situations, they can display traits of perfectionism. They will likely get stuck on a topic or action, and when this happens, they may say the same thing or behave in the same way repeatedly. This trait is also sometimes called perseveration. Children with ADHD who perseverate are not intentionally trying to be uncooperative or difficult. Perseverating is usually a mechanism to manage stress, process information, or shift attention.

The need to do something perfectly can generate a lot of anxiety, and anxiety tends to make perfectionism a lot harder to manage. Children with ADHD can be hyper-focused, spending a lot of time making sure a task comes out “just right.” And if it doesn’t come out the way they expected it to, they might dwell on what could have been done differently which will make the child begin to feel like a failure. Grappling with perfectionism can be overwhelming and can take a toll on their self-esteem. 

Children with ADHD dealing with perfectionism should be constantly reminded by parents, caregivers, and teachers, that things don’t have to be perfect; that making mistakes is part of learning, and that not everything requires the same amount of detail or care. Avoid telling them to “try their best”, because, chances are, they probably already are. Besides that, the word “best” can heighten existing stress about performance. Instead, praise their efforts to help them redirect focus to what actually matters, such as completing the task, learning new skills, or improving on previous attempts

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