“An opinion given about something or someone, esp. a negative opinion, or the activity of making such judgments” — Cambridge Dictionary

Everyone criticises, sometimes films, books, and literature, but to some people, it may seem that the world’s reservoir of criticism is mainly towards other human beings. Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD) characterises sensitivity to criticism (and to many other things, I wonder if side tracking is criticised?). According to research, people who have ADHD receive at least 20% more criticism throughout their life than their peers, would this be a cause for criticism sensitivity? Nobody really knows, and when one considers nature vs. nurture, two people with ADHD will significantly differ due to their upbringing and potentially different levels of received criticism. However, despite differences, there are many factors that could potentially influence the level of sensitivity to receiving any type of criticism, it is evident that many Adhders indeed might get used to being criticised.

Why do people criticise?

According to Melanie Greenberg, a licensed psychologist, there are 30 possible reasons why a friend, partner, relative or any other human being may criticise you ( I will not list them here, but send you to this link where you can learn more, but I will talk about some). One of the items on that list is the fact that someone might be concerned about your motivation, skill level or performance level— usually applicable at the workplace. It is well known that Adhders suffer from inconsistent motivation and their performance might suffer due to that or other reasons. Or, another item on the list states that people might feel you are not doing your fair share of the housework, tidying up anyone? The author also points out that many reasons for someone to criticise you are their issue or their insecurities, but this is a separate topic.

According to researchers from the University of Sheffield, who analysed a large amount of data from a qualitative study where participants were recruited online who either were diagnosed with ADHD or had symptoms consistent with ADHD. Participants with co-morbidities were excluded from this study. The study has shown that the inattentive ADHD type frequently receives the most criticism, which is associated with behaviours such as forgetfulness, being aloof, mindless, being late for everything, and missing deadlines. Society is a demanding entity, it demands sharpness, focus, and societal responsibility for others. When someone fails to meet those demands and is criticised, and does not match the persona that is associated with let’s call them a ‘Responsible Citizen’* only for this article. The ‘perfect’ unit in society is productive, hard-working, controls their emotions and remembers all the chores that are written on the endless to-do list. Adhders do not fit that realm.

Why do we talk about criticism?

Abnormally high levels of criticism can have a negative influence on every human being. Adhders are predisposed to be emotionally vulnerable due to having a hard time controlling emotions. Hence, the impact on their lives is significant and complex. The study done by researchers at Sheffield University suggests that some people develop feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a distorted sense of self and self-worth. Sometimes Adhders withdraw from social interactions due to a lack of understanding from their peers. People also reported that even without receiving direct criticism, they thought others are criticising them behind their backs, but politeness stops them from saying it out loud. One very interesting response was about lowering expectations. A participant shared that they deliberately choose life situations that are below expectations, for instance, a career that could be considered below them, to avoid issues with criticism and possible performance problems. Another story was about people who overwork themselves to make up for the time lost during an unfocused chunk of the day. Or to avoid criticism at all costs.

The type of criticism that is usually received by people is very far from constructive and positive criticism. It is just an example of an inflexible society and an individual’s tendency to treat humans like units in society with a particular role in the assigned box. Societal inflexibility is the cause of exclusion, discrimination and endless discussions about what should be a human right or not. What should be a human right is the ability to thrive in society, despite hatred toward to-do lists.

*If you are interested in what various academic fields say: [https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-75746-5\_2]

Marianna x NeuroDump