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19-08-2020 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 11/2020 Open Access

Mindfulness 11/2020

Self-compassion and Perceived Criticism in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Mindfulness > Uitgave 11/2020
Danielle M. Beaton, Fuschia Sirois, Elizabeth Milne
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with increased criticism from others. To date, there is little research considering the consequences of how others respond to people with ADHD. Self-compassion is a positive way of relating to oneself during difficulty. Here, we investigate whether levels of self-compassion differ between people with and without ADHD, and whether perceived criticism mediates any differences in self-compassion between people with and without ADHD.


A cross-sectional design was used to conduct natural group comparisons. A sample of 1203 adults (46% with a self-reported ADHD diagnosis) recruited via social media, online forums and posters completed online self-report measures of diagnostic status, ADHD traits, self-compassion and perceived criticism. Between-group comparisons of self-compassion and perceived criticism were conducted on participants grouped by diagnosis, then grouped by ADHD trait severity. Perceived criticism was tested as a mediator variable between ADHD diagnosis and self-compassion.


Adults with an ADHD diagnosis showed significantly lower self-compassion and higher perceived criticism than the participants without ADHD. Participants high in ADHD traits but without a diagnosis had significantly similar levels of self-compassion to the diagnosed group. Mediation analysis found that higher perceived criticism partially explained the relationship between ADHD diagnosis and self-compassion, even after accounting for co-occurring mood disorder diagnosis.


Adults with ADHD are less self-compassionate than adults without ADHD. This is partially explained by the higher level of criticism they perceive from others.

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