Holding work meetings and social gatherings over Zoom can cause unique challenges, particularly for people with ADHD. However, there are ways people can use coping strategies to manage the difficulties they experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive shift from in-person to virtual human interaction. Overnight, many people found themselves spending several hours a day — or more — on video calls.
Because video calls
However, there are some benefits of Zoom meetings that people with ADHD may find useful. People can use movement to increase focus and limit distractions, such as using a desk bike or fidget spinner.
Read on to learn more about how Zoom meetings affect people with ADHD and how they can cope.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with ADHD have difficulty regulating their attention, act impulsively, and may be constantly restless.
Symptoms of ADHD fall within three categories. They include:
- Inattention. People may get distracted easily, appear disorganized, and have difficulty focusing for long periods of time.
- Hyperactivity. These symptoms make people move around often and have trouble staying still. They may also fidget and talk a lot.
- Impulsivity. When people have impulsive symptoms, they act hastily without thinking about their actions. They may interrupt people and make significant decisions without thinking about the long-term consequences.
These symptoms affect attention and decision-making behaviors. Because of this, people with ADHD could be more sensitive to the effects of spending more time interacting with people on video calls.
Video conferencing has grown exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic — for example, Zoom saw a growth of
Back-to-back scheduling of virtual meetings can make people with ADHD feel more tired as they try to maintain concentration. Additionally, as social time after work is replaced with more video conferencing, some people feel more drained than refreshed.
Experts are still working to understand how learning, working, and socializing over video call affects both children and adults.
Historically, researchers have spent more time studying the effects of video calling on children with ADHD. This is because of its use in homeschooling and virtual education.
However, some research has also looked at adults with ADHD.
Challenges in children
Some challenges children with ADHD may experience when learning virtually
- sitting for longer than usual
- having fewer opportunities for group play
- having less defined structure in the day
- getting bored easily due to the lack of excitement and variety
- finding it difficult to interact with friends
- struggling to focus while completing homework and schoolwork in the same environment
- feeling an increase in stress during the transition to home-schooling
All of these challenges can impact children who have ADHD symptoms including attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
One study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health looked at how remote learning affected children with ADHD. It found that children with ADHD had more learning difficulties than those who did not, and parents of children with ADHD reported having more difficulty managing home learning.
Having less established routines, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of emotional distress were all associated with greater learning difficulties.
Challenges in adults
Because it is a recent occurrence, there is very little research on the effects of increased video conferencing on adults with ADHD. However, because they have the same symptoms as children, adults with ADHD may experience similar challenges.
Difficulties adults may have include:
- having a hard time sitting still
- interrupting people on calls
- listening for a long period of time
- taking excessively
- struggling to maintain eye contact for a prolonged period of time
- feeling overstimulation
- fidgeting, tapping, and moving around
They may find video meetings and social events harder to engage with than those in-person. This is normal, and it is not their fault — the challenges of virtual life are exacerbated in people with ADHD.
Although spending more time interacting on a screen can be hard for people with ADHD, they can employ coping strategies to manage symptoms.
Learning over video calls is difficult for children with ADHD. Parents of these children can take steps to make the experience easier and more enjoyable.
Strategies to try include:
- trying to maintain some form of structure on school days
- reducing stress as much as possible
- keeping the learning space free of clutter
- turning off notifications from social media
- chunking the day into sections of learning
- incorporate breaks into the day, like going for a walk or having a snack
If children are taking medication for their ADHD, they should
Work and social video calls can be tiring for people with and without ADHD. However, people with ADHD may find them especially difficult.
There are some coping strategies people can use to help them stay focused. These include:
- sitting on a yoga ball or wiggle seat to reduce feelings of restlessness
- adding movement to the work area by using a standing desk or stationary bike
- keeping a fidget cube close by
- putting the meeting on a television or large monitor and walking around the room
- scheduling breaks into the day
Many people have experienced “Zoom fatigue” as a result of spending more time on video calls. Paying attention to social cues and reading body language alone can make video meetings more exhausting than their in-person counterparts.
Over time, this can take its toll on a person’s mental well-being, leaving them feeling fatigued.
- heightened attention and stress
- pressure to respond
- pressure to work at a higher efficiency
- pressure to self-regulate
These mental and physical responses may eventually result in a person developing a sense of restlessness, an inability to relax, anxiety, depression, and mental exhaustion.
If people with ADHD feel their mental or physical health is under strain from participating in too many Zoom calls, they may find the following resources useful.
If a person with ADHD feels overwhelmed at work or school, they should
They can provide support, create or adjust a person’s treatment plan, and change their medication if necessary. It is important to know that many people are finding this time difficult, and seeking support is crucial to looking after one’s mental health.
People may find it more difficult to engage in Zoom meetings because they are more tiring and overstimulating than in-person equivalents.
Both children and adults can employ coping strategies like taking breaks, using a standing desk, and building structure into the day. This can help them manage their symptoms while virtually attending work, school, or social engagements.
If anyone with ADHD is finding working or learning from home difficult, they should contact a doctor or mental health professional for support.