There is more conversation than ever about ADHD, especially on social media. This is leading more people to wonder whether they have been missed for an ADHD diagnosis. Many Asian American ADHDers have come to realize that they have ADHD in their adulthood, primarily because signs and symptoms were missed throughout their childhood. This can lead to complicated feelings about what it means to be an ADHDer. In this blog, we’ll talk about how ADHD may have shown up in your childhood, and how it may continue to show up now in your adulthood.
How could you have been missed for a diagnosis?
Model Minority Myth
The model minority myth perpetuates a stereotype that Asian Americans are naturally hard-working, rule-following, and academically intelligent. Because both teachers and fellow students perceive Asian American children as naturally successful, many do not think to offer these children any support or resources, and many attribute any noticeable academic struggle to a lack of effort (rather than to another cause, such as ADHD). Even if a student were to share that they were experiencing difficulty in school, the model minority myth can make teachers and school counselors unconsciously dismiss a potential cause like ADHD.
Read more about how Asian American identity and gender identity intersect for women.
Asian Americans can face intense pressure to succeed academically, as many immigrant parents and grandparents want their children to go to college and build stable, financially successful careers. This pressure can lead to folks doing everything that they can do well in school, even at their own expense. While some ADHDers can struggle with academics, this internal and external pressure to do well may have resulted in compensatory strategies that ultimately hid any struggle. For example, students may become accustomed to pulling regular all-nighters in order to study enough for a test, in spite of any memory or concentration issues they may face because of their ADHD.
How might you experience ADHD in the context of your family?
Lack of Understanding
Many Asian American families have difficulty discussing mental and emotional health, and many are not aware or knowledgeable about learning and executive functioning differences. An Asian parent might see their child struggling academically, and try to support them by being stricter or giving them hours of tutoring. They might not know that something like ADHD is even a possibility, and even if they are aware of ADHD, the stigma against mental health and thinking differences might prevent them from asking for support for their child. As an adult, you may remember years of your parents telling you that you’re not trying hard enough, as they may have assumed lack of effort as the only cause. You may also now be uncomfortable telling your family that you have ADHD, since they may not understand or be accepting.
Concept of “Face” (or External Perception)
Whether or not your immediate family understands your ADHD, you may also experience the stigma of your extended family or the broader community. For example, your parents and grandparents may not want other people in your life to know that you are struggling in school or at work, and they may not want others to know that you have a condition like ADHD. The concept of “face,” or the way that your family is perceived by others, can carry a lot of weight in some Asian cultures. As such, your family may not want others to know about your ADHD because others’ assumptions can affect the ‘face’ of your family. While having ADHD does not mean that you are incompetent or unintelligent, stigma about learning differences can cause others to assume so.
How could ADHD show up in your Asian American Experience now?
Perfectionism (and Procrastination)
While perfectionism is not an issue unique to Asian Americans it can be quite common due to immigrant families’ high standards and expectations. Because many immigrants see academic success (and thus career success) as their only means of financial stability, their children are pushed to be high-achieving throughout their childhood and early adulthood. This push can result in strong internal pressure to be perfect, as any other outcome is discouraged, if not punished. However, in turn, the fear of being less than perfect (of not succeeding) can be so anxiety-inducing and overwhelming that you may procrastinate on your tasks and assignments until the last minute.
Validation in Achievement
For many Asian Americans, their immigrant parents and grandparents heavily emphasized concrete success – good grades, good salaries, access to material goods, etc. This can lead to people thinking that a lot of their worth and value is attributed to what they can achieve, produce, or acquire through their work. For ADHDers, traditional work settings can pose significant difficulties. Poor performance at work (or in your career) can significantly impact your sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
Feeling Unsure in Your Identity as an Asian American ADHDer
Because so many Asian American ADHDers have been told that they ‘just need to work harder’ or ‘just have to stop being lazy,’ they often doubt whether or not they truly have ADHD. Or, even if they do believe they have ADHD, they might feel like it’s an identity that they have to hide or ‘fix.’ It can be difficult for ADHDers to think about the strengths they may have because they are neurodivergent. For example, ADHDers can think artistically and creatively, come up with outside-the-box solutions, and juggle multiple interests or activities.
Guilt or Shame for not Doing Better
When individuals struggle to meet internal or external expectations, they can experience a lot of guilt and shame for not doing what they believe they are supposed to do. For many Asian Americans who can face significant internal pressure and external, familial pressure, this guilt and shame can be quite intense. You may feel guilty for resting or having fun, if your work isn’t complete (even though breaks are restorative, productive, and necessary). You may also feel ashamed for not being able to do things as easily or as successfully as others, especially in regards to the peers that your parents may compare you to.
Adult ADHD Therapy, Individual Coaching, and Group Coaching at YCC
For Asian American ADHDers who have been diagnosed later in life, we believe processing your diagnosis, managing your symptoms, and building your support network can help you live the life you want to live. Yellow Chair Collective offers individual therapy and coaching as well as group coaching to help you learn about your ADHD and improve your executive functioning skills. Our psychotherapists can help you understand the emotional impact of having ADHD and cope with your ADHD symptoms in daily life. Our coaches can help you identify your strengths, and learn new skills and strategies to improve different areas of your life. We will work with you to develop plans to reach your goals.
Begin Working With an ADHD Therapist in Los Angeles, CA
Adult ADHD therapy and coaching works. Why? Because it helps you identify your strengths and growth areas, and take control of your life. By managing your ADHD symptoms, you can create the future that you want. Are you ready to get started with one of our ADHD therapists? If so, please follow these steps. To get started with our Los Angeles and New York City-based therapy practice, follow the steps below:
- Request an appointment using the prompt below or our contact form.
- Begin meeting with a trained ADHD therapist.
- Schedule your Adult ADHD Coaching session with us today!
Read more about Online ADHD Therapy and Coaching.
Read more about our Adult ADHD and Asian American Adult ADHD coaching groups.
Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective
The therapists at our Los Angeles and New York City-based counseling center are competent in various areas in addition to ADHD. They work with teens, individuals, and couples. They can address issues such as anxiety, postpartum therapy, and trauma and PTSD. Additionally, they can provide culturally sensitive treatment for highly sensitive people, burnout, workshops for organizations, and EMDR. All of these services can be utilized in-person or online anywhere in California or New York.