ADHD and Self-Handicapping

As an adult, I have heard a variety of excuses individual’s offer for not getting tasks, assignments, duties, chores, and work unsuccessfully competed. However, the one that I find troubles me the most is the excuse, “I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” I feel as though, when adults use this diagnosis as an excuse for not completing their required tasks at work, home, and school, they may expect others to tolerate their lack of incompleteness. Specifically, I am referring to the area of group task oriented duties, such as coworkers and classmates.

According to the National Resource on ADHD (CHADD, 2017) 10 million adults have ADHD. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2017) estimates 11% of America’s children are affected by ADHD and this disorder has been increasing in prevalence. By no means am I dismissing this diagnosis. ADHD effects many adults and children, and you may know several individuals struggling with the symptomology of this disorder. However, I do get annoyed and at times frustrated, when individuals just causally suggest this ADHD diagnosis is why they continually do not pull their weight in group oriented tasks.

Interestingly, this week’s lesson discussed self-handicapping as a strategy some individuals utilize as an excuse for failure. Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2012) define self-handicapping as “creating barriers to successful performance prior to, or simultaneous with, an achievement task.” This type of behavior enables individual’s the rationalization for their negative performance by “shifting” the blame to other conditions (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). As I was reading this concept, the ADHD excuse explicitly stuck in my head. Upon further investigation, I found several articles suggesting individuals diagnosed with ADHD do indeed utilize self-handicapping as their rationalization for failure, due to their disorder (Jaconis et al., 2016 & Waschbusch, Craig, Pelham, & King, 2007).

Jaconis et al. (2016) suggested both sexes utilized self-handicapping as predictors for self-reported severity of ADHD symptomology. However, they found females tend to claim higher perceived levels of self-handicapping, indicating these increased symptomology reports to compensate for their failures (Jaconis et al., 2016). Furthermore, Waschbusch, Craig, Pelham, and King (2007) found that children with ADHD demonstrated increased self-handicapping than those in the control cohort, regardless of self-reporting or measures of behavior were used. Children in the ADHD cohort demonstrated self-handicapping measures by “reduced effort and preferences for debilitating conditions” (Waschbusch, Craig, Pelham, and King, 2007).

These two studies suggest individuals afflicted with ADHD have an increased prevalence of self-handicapping, which may protect their self-concept (Waschbusch, Craig, Pelham, and King, 2007). Individuals tend to compare themselves to others, and the “feelings, attitudes, and perceptions that one holds about their own ability” is termed self-concept (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). The children in the ADHD cohort had increased self-handicapping when dealing with difficult tasks and this may have threatened their self-concept (Waschbusch, Craig, Pelham, and King, 2007). Whereas, they demonstrated decreased self-handicapping when faced with less difficult tasks maintaining their self-concept (Waschbusch, Craig, Pelham, and King, 2007).

Self-handicapping is an interesting concept and one that I am sure many of us may utilize as rationalizations for failure. It appears to be prevalent in both the academic and workforce environments. ADHD is just one disorder I found may be relevant to the self-handicapping concept, due to my frustration with this disorder being used as an excuse for incompleteness in group oriented tasks, such as academics and the workforce. Since ADHD is a disorder disrupting one’s concentration, activity, and impulsivity, it is plausible to suggest those afflicted with the disorder, have an increased prevalence of self-handicapping to rationalize their negative performance, while protecting their self-concept.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Data & Statistics. Retrieved from

Jaconis, Maryanne, Boyd, Stephen J., Hartung, Cynthia M., McCrea, Sean M., Lefler, Elizabeth K., and Canu, Will H. (2016). Sex Differences in Claimed and Behavioral Self-Handicapping and ADHD Symptomatology in Emerging Adults. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders. 8(4), 205-214. Retrieved from

The National Resource Center on ADHD. (2017). Understanding ADHD: For Adults. Retrieved from

Waschbusch, Daniel A., Craig, Rebecca, Pelham, William E., and King, Sara. (2007). Self-Handicapping Prior to Academic-Oriented Tasks in Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Medication Effects and Comparisons with Controls. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 35(2). 275-286. Retrieved from



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