For adults with ADHD, social media can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it offers a platform for connection, information, and entertainment. On the other hand, its constant stimulation and unpredictable nature can exacerbate ADHD symptoms and lead to a phenomenon known as “ADHD doom scrolling.”

What is ADHD Doom Scrolling?

Doom scrolling, a term all too familiar in today’s digital age, takes on a new dimension for adults with ADHD.  What might be occasional mindless browsing for some can become a captivating and compulsive cycle for those with ADHD.

Our brains crave stimulation, and social media platforms are masters at delivering it.  Likes, comments, and new content all trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.  

For adults with ADHD, who may already have differences in dopamine regulation, this positive reinforcement loop can be particularly powerful.

The very design of social media platforms is geared towards keeping you engaged.  Auto-playing videos, endless feeds, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) all contribute to the feeling of needing to constantly scroll.  

This can be especially challenging for adults with ADHD, who may already struggle with impulsivity and maintaining focus.

Social media algorithms work hard to curate content specifically for you.  This means you’re constantly bombarded with things that are likely to grab your attention, whether it’s funny cat videos, sensational news stories, or updates from acquaintances you haven’t spoken to in years.  

For someone with ADHD, who may be easily distracted by novelty, this personalized feed can be a major time suck.

What starts as a quick check can easily morph into hours spent scrolling.  The initial dopamine hit gives way to feelings of guilt and frustration as important tasks go neglected. This cycle of wasted time and missed deadlines can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and contribute to the ADHD burnout cycle.

While doom scrolling often involves encountering negative or overwhelming content, it’s important to remember that even seemingly positive social media interactions can contribute to the cycle.  

The constant barrage of perfectly curated lives can lead to feelings of inadequacy and social comparison, further fueling the need for the fleeting dopamine hits of scrolling.

Understanding the allure of ADHD doom scrolling is the first step towards breaking free from its grip. 

By recognizing the triggers and developing healthy habits for managing social media use, adults with ADHD can reclaim their time and focus on activities that bring them genuine fulfillment.

Do People with ADHD Struggle in Social Settings?

While social media can feel isolating for some with ADHD, it’s important to distinguish this from challenges in face-to-face interactions.  Adults with ADHD may struggle with social situations due to difficulties with focus, impulsivity, or trouble picking up on social cues. 

However, social media can also present its own set of challenges.

How Does Social Media Impact ADHD?

Here’s a closer look at how social media can negatively impact adults with ADHD:

  • Increased Distractions: The constant notifications, updates, and visually stimulating content on social media can be highly distracting for someone with ADHD. This can make it difficult to focus on work, relationships, or other important tasks.
  • Information Overload: Social media bombards us with a constant stream of information. For adults with ADHD, who may already struggle with filtering information, this can lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
  • Comparison Trap: Social media often presents a curated version of people’s lives, filled with highlights and achievements. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and social comparison for adults with ADHD, impacting self-esteem.
  • Procrastination Pitfall: The ease of scrolling through social media can be a major procrastination trigger for adults with ADHD. What starts as a quick check can easily turn into hours spent mindlessly browsing, leading to missed deadlines and feelings of guilt.

The ADHD Burnout Cycle and Social Media

The constant stimulation and pressure to keep up with the online world can contribute to the ADHD burnout cycle. 

This cycle often involves:

  • Hyperfocus: Initially, social media can trigger a state of hyperfocus, leading to excessive scrolling and neglecting responsibilities.
  • Exhaustion: Over time, this hyperfocus can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion, impacting mood and motivation.
  • Frustration and Self-Doubt: The cycle can then lead to feelings of frustration and self-doubt as goals go unmet and productivity plummets.


Social media can be a valuable tool, but it’s important for adults with ADHD to be mindful of its potential drawbacks. By understanding how social media impacts your ADHD symptoms, you can develop strategies for managing your online time. Here are some tips:

  • Set Time Limits: Schedule specific times to check social media and stick to them. Utilize website blockers or apps to limit access during focused work periods.
  • Curate Your Feed: Unfollow accounts that trigger negativity or comparison. Instead, follow accounts that inspire, educate, or motivate you.
  • Prioritize Real-Life Connections: While social media offers connection, prioritize in-person interactions with loved ones.
  • Engage in Activities You Enjoy: Make time for activities you find genuinely engaging. This can help reduce reliance on social media for stimulation.

Remember, social media doesn’t have to control your life.  By taking control of your online habits and prioritizing strategies that work for you, you can leverage the benefits of social media while minimizing its negative impact on your ADHD.

Empowered Therapy is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and trauma informed care for individuals and couples in Chicago and the surrounding area.

Learn more about our therapists and
specialties here. 

Follow the link below if you’re ready to start therapy and get back to you.