Remembering to make appointments? No. Sticking to a skin-care routine? Nope. Going back for maintenance after an initial treatment. Never.
My ADHD brain has a hard time juggling every daily task that goes along with adulting, parenting, and working, making it hard to rely on it to also help me look and feel good. As I look at my ragged nails every month, check the calendar to see how many routine exams I’ve missed, and call around to salons like a maniac to get a last-minute appointment, I often wonder if other ADHD-sufferers have similar issues.
Although ADHD goes largely undiagnosed in adults, in the last two years alone the Attention Deficit Disorder Association saw its membership nearly double, proving it is a prevalent concern for adults, not just children. Adult women in particular are more likely to go undiagnosed.
Recently, I took to the ADHD for Smart Ass Women Facebook page and posed my question to its 46,000 female followers. Within 24 hours, I had more than 200 responses with a resounding, “Yes!”
“It’s so hard,” replied one commenter. “I’m so busy trying to attend to normal life that dentist appointments, physical therapy, chiropractor, etc. go by the wayside,” said another.
“I haven’t gotten my eyebrows done in like two years,” wrote someone else. “I will never get a manicure or pedicure because—don’t touch me. And I’ve gotten my hair cut professionally maybe five times in my thirty-six years of life.”
And it’s not just hair and nails. Medical appointments also end up taking a back seat: “I’m just realizing how seriously this impacts my health,” shared another commenter. “I’m always forgetting to take my medication and have not been consistent with follow-up appointments. I set alarms, but if the medications are out of reach or I can’t locate a component of the treatment, then I get distracted and won’t realize it till the next dose is due.”
So, how can we fix it? Tracy Otsuka, host of the ADHD for Smart Ass Women podcast says this is a common concern from ADHD-sufferers, but there are some easy things we can do to keep wellness in the forefront.
Why We Struggle
“We should start with why it’s difficult to maintain beauty or wellness routines, but also to schedule the darn appointments,” she says. “I think the first struggle is with executive functions and for us, or just anybody, executive functions means that you have a goal, you create a plan, and then you’re able to self-regulate your behavior, and probably most importantly your emotions, to achieve that goal. Much of executive dysfunctions and ADHD relate to emotion, so even though we want to do this thing, we struggle to schedule it because we don’t know if we’re actually going to feel like it on that day or even be able to keep the appointment.”
According to New York neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez, MD, a common symptom of ADHD is difficulty remembering complex routines. “Those with ADHD also tend to struggle with time management, making maintaining a beauty routine each day challenging,” she says. “In other words, they typically feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks or a long to-do list, which is why it may feel impossible to maintain a beauty regimen with multiple steps.”
Tips for Success
“First and foremost, make sure to be kind to yourself,” advises Dr. Hafeez. “Your mental health is important, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t have the energy or forget a step. Do the best you can and be kind to yourself when you struggle. Also, think of skin care as something you want to do because it makes you feel good. If you think of skin care as obligatory, you will start to dread it.”
Make Your Next Appointment While You’re There
“I’m the queen of asking to get on the cancellation list, because I wait until I can’t stand it anymore to make a hair appointment,” says Otsuka. “The same with doctor’s appointments, manicures and pretty much anything else. It took me years to get to this point, but now I always make my next appointment before I leave the salon, dentist or doctor’s office. I make my next appointment right there before I walk out the door so that I don’t run into future obstacles that can keep me from doing what I need to do for months or longer.”
Make It Rewarding
Part of the reason we have trouble following through for ourselves is the lack of dopamine reward, says Otsuka. “ALL of this stuff, doctors, medication, supplements, vitamins—it’s so boring and ADHD is basically a dopamine challenge. That means when we do things that feel good, or when complete a task, our brain releases dopamine. With ADHD, our brains produce less dopamine, so we’re always out scanning for ways to increase it and doing these tedious, mindless tasks doesn’t increase our dopamine. It’s like Groundhog’s Day—it never ends.”
Dr. Hafeez says to give yourself a reward when doing routine actions like making appointments and following through with a skin-care routine. “Listen to music, watch your favorite show, or light candles while doing your skin-care routine. This will help make taking care of your skin less boring and make it something you look forward to.”
Keep It Short
“In addition, if you have a realistic, simplified routine, it may be easier to keep up with it. Instead of having an eight-step skin-care routine,” adds Dr. Hafeez. “Try adopting a three or four step one so it is less difficult to keep up with.