Why Healthy Boundaries are Important When You are Working with ADHD



In order to have a successful business when you have ADHD, it is vital to create strong personal boundaries. Boundaries are rules you set for yourself, based on your values and priorities.

Some boundaries are automatically in place without you having to be consciously aware of them. For example, if a stranger stands too close to you, you instinctively step away in order to create a physical space that you are comfortable with.

However, not all boundaries are that easy! Sometimes you don’t know what your boundaries are, so you can’t enforce them. Because healthy boundaries are so important for you to feel happy and be successful, it’s worth spending a little time and reflect what is happening now and what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries.

Here is a list of areas where it’s important to have healthy boundaries:

• Physical space
• Mental
• Emotional
• Time
• Physical body
• Sexual
• Material

How to find your boundaries

If you aren’t sure what your boundaries are now, start to pay attention to how you feel in everyday situations. If you feel (as Marcia says) ‘icky,’ then that is usually a sign your boundaries have been crossed.

For example: A client asks to borrow your car. You don’t feel comfortable lending it, but say yes anyway. Notice how that feels. There is probably a physical sensation in your body. Your material boundary has been crossed and you feel icky.

If a client is always phoning you up and drags meetings out, and you notice you are feeling resentful (icky), this means your time boundary has been crossed.

It is also important to create strong boundaries for yourself. For example, have clear times for when you start and stop work. If you find yourself wasting time in a coffee shop when it’s designated work time, you will have that icky feeling.

The benefits  of having clear strong boundaries are:

1) You feel happier
Because you are paying attention to your innate moral compass, and allowing that to guide you.

2) You have better relationships, at work and at home
Because you aren’t allowing people to cross your boundaries, there are no feelings of resentment. You like these people and feel respected.

3) You have increased energy
When you are constantly giving people more of your resources than you feel comfortable, your energy gets depleted. Healthy boundaries means lots of physical and mental energy!

4) You have increased self confidence
You trust yourself to look after your own needs.

5) You are more productive
Because you have clear time boundaries and because you have more energy (see #3).

6) You have greater self respect
This is a nice side effect of other people respecting you and your increased confidence.

When you start to create and enforce your boundaries it can be a bit scary. It means that you have to say ‘no’ to people who are used to you saying ‘yes’. It also means you have to become a little more assertive, and get comfortable doing things differently. However, the benefits are so worth it!

This week:

1) Notice when you feel ‘icky’

2) Identify what boundary has been crossed

3) Get clear on what a healthy boundary would be

4) Start to enforce your new boundary

5) Leave a comment or email us so we can congratulate you!

Jacqui Sinfield is an ADHD Coach and author. You can find more from her at http://untappedbrilliance.com/blog/


  1. hello Thanks for writing this article I have been using the principles outlined in it and feel that I have got some positive results already. it has only been one day but I genuinely feel that as long as I do not criticize myself when I do fail and continue to work on the ideas within the article I would experience a much better sense of self and much happier relationships with everybody I meet, thanks again.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi Ash
      That is great you have got some positive results already!!! great job! Not being critical of yourself is sooooo powerful, even though it might be hard some times, keep practicing because it does get easier.

  2. I do not think this at all addresses how people with ADHD might cross or ignore the boundaries of others and then use their dx as an excuse.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi JK,
      This article’s focus is about having strong boundaries to protect yourself. However your idea to write about how ADDers can cross other people’s boundaries, is a very good one. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to all ADDers and can cause problem. However its a skill that can be developed. Thanks for the suggestion!!!

  3. I have had dealings with people with ADHD. One was a colleague at work and the other two were my sister-in-law and her son. My experience was one of continued violation of boundaries. Concerning the work colleague another colleague had a similar experience and in terms of my sister-in-law even my wife her sister grudgingly admitted she did not recognise boundaries, and our daughter would have to push back against her aunt’s bossiness, when her mother out of placing loyalty to domineering older sibling ahead of protecting her own family from the behaviors deferred to her.

    It is hard to say that they saw they were trampling across other peoples’ boundaries. It was more that they just did not recognize boundaries on their own actions at all and when people around them react emotionally to this weird invasive behavior they are unable to relate the stress they create with their actions. That is at the time and any polite discussion after the event about the behavior being inappropriate just invites a blank glazed look from the ADHD person or worse, an aggressive back answer. No apology (the odd exception immediately followed by ‘but …’). At work or with the sister-in-law it made for an insufferable situation as it was not an avoidable situation.

    At work the other colleague in answer to my question as to how he managed to stop the behaviors was to do like you do when house training a puppy. Immediately the behavior occurs, two seconds delay is two long, you have to come down on them hard and grave and make it clear there are unpleasant consequences.

    Doing that is difficult at work as it opens one up to code of conduct complaints from the ADHD person and at as guest at home, with the sister-in-law being deferred to by her sister that elicits condemnation from the wife about being rude to one’s house guest who can do and say as she likes, just like she did when my wife was an infant and the sister an older teenager.

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Hi John
    When you wrote
    ” It was more that they just did not recognize boundaries”
    You described beautifully a common problem people with ADHD have. Recognizing boundaries isn’t something that comes naturally to many ADHDers. Social rules like boundaries are confusing. If you know that crossing a boundary isn’t usually done out of malice it can help.

    • “If you know that crossing a boundary isn’t usually done out of malice it can help.” True but up to a point with my experience.

      The sister-in-law once gave my wife a book by Christian authors Cloud and Townsend “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life”. In other words intellectually she knew there was something she didn’t intuitively recognize, i.e. boundaries, that most other people had and which when trampled on would cause stress to those others. She would also have intellectually known that having ADHD she would be trampling on these without realising it. She was also intellectually aware that she was aggressive and domineering with others. The intellectual conclusion available to her was that her natural behaviors would create stress in those who were open and sharing with her and that she should seek coaching to learn the appropriate behaviors.

      But she never saw that as being necessary and made the conscious decision to persist with her behaviors, attributing the stressful reactions she induced in others who had been open to her sharing physical and emotional space with her to the fact, so she would declare, that they were mentally ill. Not that she had any training in any field of health (instead spending her career looking down a microscope at drill samples from the sea floor to determine the likelihood of there being oil deposits in the area drilled, with only minimal need for any personal interaction).

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