Some symptoms of ADHD — like hyperactivity — can come off as extroverted energy. However, people with ADHD often have introvert traits.
Introversion and extroversion are personality traits that indicate where you go to recharge your energy levels:
- Extroverts gain energy from the world around them.
- Introverts pull energy from their inner world (thoughts and feelings).
Introverts often require alone time to recharge their social batteries, but being introverted doesn’t mean you’re shy or quiet. You can be very outgoing as an introvert — just maybe for a shorter amount of time.
ADHD symptoms like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention can come off as high-energy extroversion, but these symptoms are independent of whether you’re introverted or extroverted.
Yes — you can have a diagnosis of ADHD and be an introvert.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that can impact people with any personality trait.
Ryan Bolling, a behavior analyst from Atlanta, Georgia, believes ADHD may be more closely linked to introversion than many people realize.
“In fact, I believe that there is a strong connection between ADHD and introversion,” she says. “Symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity and hyperactivity, can often lead to social isolation and withdrawal from activities that are overwhelming or stimulating.”
You don’t have to have “quiet ADHD” (ADHD without hyperactivity) to be an introvert.
Hyperactivity in ADHD is not a quality of extroversion. It’s a symptom that presents, in part, due to
“ADHD is commonly misunderstood as being outgoing, when really it is a neurodivergence that affects processing of dopamine,” says Elizabeth Tate, a licensed clinical mental health counselor associate from Charlotte, North Carolina.
“This divergence means that focus is difficult to sustain and the body can become hyperactive, as the brain is running out of dopamine.”
Your personality traits — like introversion — don’t dictate whether you’ll have ADHD hyperactivity, but they can influence how it emerges.
“Hyperactivity is only one small symptom of ADHD, and both introverts and extroverts can struggle with it,” explains Jeremy Schumacher, LMFT, from Milwaukee.
“Introverts may be hyperactive in different ways, such as nerding out over a new idea or a book series, whereas an extrovert may be bouncing off the walls as the life of the party.”
The symptoms of ADHD are not dependent on your personality type. Both introverts and extroverts can experience primary symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or both. As an introvert, however, you may be more inclined toward certain presentations of symptoms.
Bolling says common ADHD introvert characteristics may include:
- impulsive behavior
- difficulty focusing or concentrating
- feeling easily overwhelmed or overstimulated
- social isolation
Gabrielle Juliano-Villani, LCSW, from Sarasota, Florida, says hyperactivity is a common characteristic even for ADHD introverts.
“Hyperactivity shows up in different ways, especially in adults and in women,” she says. “It could look like fidgeting, being impatient, having racing or nonstop thoughts, always moving (always cleaning, needing to do something and unable to sit still), or social anxiety.”
Other characteristics of the ADHD introvert, according to Juliano-Villani, may include:
- time blindness
- lack of motivation for simple tasks
According to 2018 research, introverts with ADHD are at a higher risk for internet gaming addiction than extroverted people with ADHD.
When the symptoms of ADHD are telling the world you’re a social butterfly, it can be difficult to find the “me” time you need to reset your energy.
1. Setting boundaries with others
The people around you may not understand that hyperactivity, restlessness, or conversation jumping aren’t signs of extroversion. Setting boundaries can help prevent your energy from being drained.
“To cope with ADHD as an introvert, remember that you have the right to put boundaries on your time and energy!” says Tate.
It’s okay to set limits on how long you want to engage in activities, how available you are for meetings, and how regularly people can ask for your time.
Hanging a sign on your door at work, updating your calendar, or setting an availability status that says “unavailable between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.,” for example, can help coworkers respect your alone time.
2. Catering to your stimulation needs
Hyperactive ADHD as an introvert doesn’t mean you have to expend energy in social settings.
Juliano-Villania suggests embracing other ways to use energy that don’t tax your social meter, like:
- home projects
- arts and crafts
- learning a new skill
- playing games
3. Stepping away
It’s okay to say no to social events or to limit the time you want to spend somewhere.
If you’re obligated to attend long-format gatherings, taking a few minutes outside as needed can help you escape the sounds and chatter that can cause overstimulation.
4. Using technology
“Some common ADHD techniques like body-doubling (completing mundane tasks with another person at the same time) may not always be available for introverts, so having good structures in place to keep accountability is helpful,” says Schumacher.
He says introverts may need to rely on technology, such as setting alarms or virtual assistants, whereas extroverts will accumulate people to help with that accountability.
5. Maintaining self-boundaries
Schumacher adds that an ADHD introvert may not be out all night partying, but they may find themselves caught up in endless link-following online, or powering through content that snags their interest.
For this reason, he recommends having boundaries for yourself, such as a regular sleep schedule and hydration schedule so these important aspects of wellness don’t fall by the wayside.
The treatment for ADHD is similar for introverts and extroverts.
There are various ADHD treatment options, including behavioral therapies and medication, depending on your symptoms and how much ADHD symptoms impact your life.
A mental health professional can help you find management strategies that cater to introversion, such as technology use over group support.
Looking for a therapist, but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.
It’s possible to live with ADHD and be an introvert — even if you experience symptoms of hyperactivity.
Maintaining boundaries for yourself and others, as well as finding non-social ways to expend energy, can be helpful ways of preventing burnout as an introvert.