The Mighty Logo

6 Tips for ADHD Folk Who Are Dreading the Big First Date

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

First dates can be like interviews – you know, make-or-break, all-or-nothing, and completely anxiety-inducing. 

When you live with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) it can be even more daunting. Knowing when to (and when to not) talk, being hyper-aware of your fidgeting, making sure you don’t zone out in conversations, and other little pesky things can cause just that much more stress when you’re trying to impress someone or find the love of your life.

Other relevant stories:
Can You Have ADHD and Depression?
Do I Have ADHD or Am I Just Lazy?
What is ADHD?

We can’t help our ADHD traits in a lot of ways, but what we can do is find ways to accommodate ourselves even in the very private and somewhat intimate first date setting.

1. If you’re going to a restaurant, check the reviews first.

Dates sometimes like to bring us to new fun places, but if you live with sensory overload, that could sometimes be a little tough. Personally, I can’t stand to be in any super loud environments where I can’t hear the other person. By checking the Yelp reviews, you can see what other people thought of a place, the ambiance, and even prep yourself for the menu. If anything seems off, you have enough time to change the plans.

2. Know what you do and what you don’t like doing, and mention if you don’t like surprises.

Yes, trying new things can be fun! However, I am someone who is very bad at straying and trying new things or being surprised (if I don’t already completely trust the individual). Staying true to the sensory overload theme above, knowing what your icks are as far as activities and places in this sense will be major. 

I feel extremely uncomfortable when I’m sweating, so I prefer not to do any first date activity where I’m sweating or around excessive sweat because of the smells. Overly loud (in an unstructured chaotic way) places are a no-go. I hate the sound of revving car engines so race car dates are out of the picture. The list goes on.

3. Prep any wearable stim toys you may have!

ADHD folk stim too. Did you know that? Leg bouncing and fidgeting are typically stims for us. Sometimes I personally feel self-conscious about that. If you do too, consider your stims and try to think of other ways you can accommodate them. I guess you could almost consider this masking, but I personally don’t see it that way. I typically play with a coin in my pocket or under the table if my hands aren’t being seen, or I’ll draw the other person since drawing is a stim of mine too and make it a part of the night without telling them what I’m actually doing.

4. If you zone out in conversation, remember the basics.

OK, social cheat sheet time? 

If you zone out in a conversation, just say one of the following.

“Huh! Tell me more about that.”

I’ve noticed that even if people don’t feel like there’s more to go into, instead they’ll just retell the story. If you really can’t focus beyond that point, try this conversational turn.

“Wow that’s really interesting,” take a pause, “OK, not to change the subject but I have a question.” And change the subject to something that you know you’ll pay attention to (that they would still talk about).

5. If you cut people off, take notes on your phone of what you were going to say.

Let’s be honest. How many of us are guilty of cutting other people off when they’re talking, even if it’s unintentional? I know I am.

I know phones on dates are a little taboo, but don’t be afraid to take your notes app out and jot down any stories or thoughts that may come to mind when the other person is talking. If they ask, you can simply say, “That made me think of something, but I don’t want to cut you off so we can get back to it,” that way they know you aren’t scrolling through your phone or deliberately trying to be rude. Some people may actually find it endearing and courteous. 

6. Don’t be afraid to be honest.

Living with ADHD can come with some traits that other people may not love. While we can’t help it, it is a part of who we are. Sometimes, if you’re comfortable, just telling someone the truth “I have ADHD, so if I do XYZ, please know I’m listening,” or whatever it may be. You never know. 

Besides, even though all these tips are helpful, nothing tests companionship more than feeling the ability to be true and honest to who you are without fear, shame, or guilt.

Be true to you, and happy dating!

Getty image by Westend61

Originally published: June 15, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home