mindsetLately I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset, and how it affects our ability to manage not just our ADHD, but our lives in general.

Think about the people in your life… do you know anyone who is a “perpetual victim”? Perpetual victims tend to complain all the time, and they blame other people for everything and anything that is difficult in their lives. They have a very strong belief that life is hard, and that there’s nothing they can do to change that.

I think we’ve all known a perpetual victim, and some of us have more than one in our lives. Their negativity, complaints, and anger can be absolutely draining. Sometimes you just want to take the perpetual victim by shoulders and say, “Stop complaining and do something!”

That is, unless it’s actually YOU who is the perpetual victim…

In my work with ADHDers, I’ve found that there is a mix of people in our community. There definitely are some perpetual victims. Some people want to blame their ADHD for every challenge they’ve had in life. They are angry at the people who don’t understand them, and they believe that they’re destined to live a miserable life. So they complain, complain, complain. And they take on the role of a victim.

But there are also people who have similar feelings and, yet, do not take on the role of the victim. In fact, many successful and well-adjusted people do blame their ADHD for their challenges, and they do get angry when they feel misunderstood. They even complain sometimes. But not for long. Rather than take on the role of a victim, they take on the role of a survivor, a doer, or a maverick.

The difference between these two types of people can be explained by a number of factors. The one that I’m most interested in right now, though, is mindset. Some people tend toward a more positive outlook, and some toward a more negative outlook.

More often than not, the family of origin passes down a general mindset. ADHD or not, we grow up with parents who are either positive or negative. Sometimes people have a parent of each persuasion, which can make things even more difficult! But science has proven over and over again that we are a product of nature and nurture. That we can change the way we think, and the way we do things.

I’ll be exploring this topic for a little while here on the ADHDmanagement.com blog because, well, there is a lot I want to say! And in the meantime, I have two requests for you:

  1. Before I continue to write on this topic and you continue to read about it, please ask yourself, “Am I a perpetual victim? Do I complain all the time? Do I blame my ADHD for my challenges? Do I blame others for my difficulties?” If the answer is “yes” or “sometimes”—and most certainly if the answer is, “you don’t understand how hard it is for me”—then please don’t get angry at me and don’t get down on yourself! There is no judgment here. My goal is to help you build the skills that you need to thrive in your life. And in order to do that, you need to develop your self-awareness and be honest with yourself. (P.S. Even I do these things sometimes, so I think we all have room to learn how to improve ourselves.)
  2. Please make use of the comments section for this post. Tell me where a negative mindset challenges you most. Have you tried to overcome it before and, if so, did it work? Why or why not? Let me know what I can specifically address to help you in this area.

I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion with you! For now, do me a favor… smile. No matter what’s going on in your life, just stop and smile. Research shows that the simple act of smiling improves your mood. It can’t get any easier than that! :)

 See Also: ADHD in Adults: Shifting a Negative Mindset

Jennifer Koretsky About Jennifer Koretsky

Jennifer Koretsky, SCAC is the Managing Partner of the ADD Management Group, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of ADHDmanagement.com. She is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach, and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD.


  1. A negative mindset challenges my ability to think I am capable. I’ve used some of the wonderful tools at our disposal to address it and it isn’t nearly as big an issue as it used to be. Medication was the key. However, I approach life differently, in a positive way, for the first time in 48 years and it takes a little getting used to. I told someone recently that I haven’t acted with much intent until now, and I’m learning as I go. I think that I would like to hear more about people on the same journey.

  2. Mindset definitely has an affect whether you have ADHD or not.

    It also helps to get out of the Victim mindset and be able to respond to life rather than endless reacting. One thing I’ve learned about is Karpman’s drama triangle that many ADHDers can fall into whether they are being victims or trying to help out a victim, or in some cases even being a bully. Building awareness and trying to insert a pause into our rapid track time can help so much.

  3. I am generally a very positive person, at least on the outside. Inside I have spent years aware of the difficulties in my life that ADHD has contributed to and constantly felt less or “broken”. Instead of attacking my ADHD behaviour I’ve often given up, ceding defeat before I even begin the battle. It’s only recently that I’ve decided to take control and stop whining.

    It’s tough, because my untreated ADHD has contributed to so many problems in my marriage and my life on the whole. I find it difficult to walk the line between recognizing where ADHD has made my life difficult and blaming my ADHD.

    Bit-by-bit, with effort and a very supportive wife, I’m dealing with this. I’m examining medication as an option (something I’ve always been violently opposed to), I’m changing my entire process and environment to make up for the skill that I don’t naturally possess.

    Even just educating myself on why ADHD does what it does has helped.

  4. When your child feels like a victim, he will begin to act like a victim. He’ll start thinking, “When something isn’t fair, the rules don’t apply to me.” That’s when you’ll see your child punch a hole in your kitchen wall and then blame his little brother for making him mad. Or you’ll hear your teen say, “I didn’t have the money for this make-up, so I stole it.” This cycle of Unfairness-Victim Stance-Manipulation often starts at home; parents unwittingly play into it. Sadly, the behavior can transfer to other areas of your child’s life. If your ten-year-old thinks you aren’t being fair, it frequently later becomes, “My teacher isn’t fair; school isn’t fair, my coach isn’t fair.” If unchecked, this mindset can continue into the teen years and eventually into your child’s adult life, and will turn into a chronic state of mind. You’ll hear, “My boss isn’t fair,” or “It’s my spouse’s fault.” Remember, fairness detectors become keener as we play into them. We teach kids to be victims and to whine—and to become complaining, whining adults.

  5. *There is a very real, clinical difference between someone who has been victimized or someone who has to work through painful emotions and experiences, from someone who has become bogged down in the role of perpetual victim and complains repeatedly, without real reason or improvement. We do not mean to imply otherwise. Sometimes it is a fine line. Therefore, it generally it is best to give people a respectful, benefit of the doubt without repeated experiential evidence.

  6. The common thread here, lies in the loss of mindfulness, a lack of intentional, mindful awareness. Being mindful of everything happening in my world at any given moment is what enables me to experience new and fresh facets of life that energize and inspire me. As I sit and write this at this moment, two stunning yellow finches have just touched down outside my window. As I study their depth of colour, I realize one is a male and one is a female. They are so tiny! So precious. I am delighted by them. In my past, when deep in anxiety or depression and living in a perpetual state of unawareness of the many goings-on in the world right around me, my mindset would have prevented me from noticing how spectacular these two adorable little birds were.

  7. Hilary Frew says:

    Impulsive thinking and behavior is my biggest issue. If I really don’t want to do something (like study for an exam in two hours, ha) then I will clean or browse things online.

    The medication has really helped with impulsivity. I definitely blame myself for a lot of mistakes I make, being late is one of them.
    Now, I try to tell myself that no matter how ridiculous it is, I am going to be early for everything. And I am going to “think” before I act & speak.

    I know that these bad habits have been exacerbated by my ADHD, but being mindful of my shortcomings helps a lot in preventing me from making the same mistakes repeatedly.

    I highly recommend meditating each day…it helps a lot!