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Social Skills Training for Adult ADHD

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Most people desire, and enjoy social relationships. Moreover, meaningful social relationships offer many positive health benefits. However, symptoms of various psychiatric conditions interfere with the ability to easily form and sustain rewarding social relationships. There are many causes for social skills deficiencies. With respect to ADHD, some social skill problems are due to a lack of attention to social cues and awareness of surroundings (often called social context). Other social difficulties are caused by ADHD habits or patterns that other people find annoying (e.g., being constantly late; interrupting, etc.).

Another tiresome interpersonal pattern is ongoing self-criticism. Many adults with ADHD feel badly about themselves because of their ADHD. They criticize themselves when they make mistakes. They often do this as a means to seek reassurance from others. Some other annoying habits often demonstrated by ADHD individuals are: disorganization; repeated failures to correctly interpret others' body language or cues; and talking without listening to other people. Over time, a pattern like this can be exhausting for friends and family. Some may decide to distance themselves from the relationship.

Social skills training is a well-researched and effective therapeutic intervention. It is usually taught in small groups by clinicians who specialize in social skills training. Groups provide a natural social climate for exploration and practice. However, there are also books and web sites that provide social skills training for those who enjoy working on challenges on their own. Unlike skills training groups, the effectiveness of these independent social skill studies has not yet been determined.