One of the upsides of having ADHD is hypersensitivity. Once you’re able to respond to your sensitivity (rather than react to it), you can really trust it for internal guidance and wisdom. Yet for people with ADHD, this hypersensitivity can make getting dressed in the morning a very stressful routine, which may carry on throughout the day. Shopping for clothes can cause an overwhelming amount of aggravation, from not being able to find what you’re looking for, from getting overwhelmed by all of the options, or feeling overpowered by all of the bright lights, people, smells, and products available. It can be a very engulfing experience. Another hallmark of people with ADHD is poor impulse control. So shopping may also be synonymous with overspending, or bringing home way more new clothes than you actually need. Many of my blog posts are focused on letting go of what you don’t need. For this post, I wanted to talk about some ADHD specific considerations to make when you’re purchasing new clothes. Many of your neuro-typical friends will never have to think twice about these things. I also wanted to share some of my favorite pieces of clothing, to help inspire you to fill your closet with items that will make your life easier.
If you have ADHD, you know how distracting sounds, scents, colors, light quality, and other visual stimulation can be. I’m sure you’re also acutely aware of how things feel, especially your clothes. I know many people with ADHD who have to cut the tags out of their clothing, or will even need to wear their shirts inside-out to avoid the sensory stimulation. Fabrics can be itchy, may not breath or move right, can make noises, make have an uncomfortable texture, or can be irritating in other ways. If your concentration and focus is already a struggle, you know you can’t afford to waste any of your energy getting hung up on the feeling of your clothes. What fabrics work best for you? Do you like to wear 100% cotton? Many athleisure fabrics are great because they stretch and move so well. Look for fabrics that value softness over fashion.
I have ADHD and Hashimoto’s. So on top of all of the ADHD sensory issues, there is the issue of temperature control. Hashimoto’s generally means that your thyroid is underactive, which would mean you’d feel cold a lot. But since it’s such an incredibly sensitive gland, many triggers could make it fluctuate between both over and underactive. It can be very difficult to self-regulate your temperature, so dressing in layers is absolutely necessary, all year long. Even without Hashimoto’s, since people with ADHD are so sensitive, it can be very difficult to take your mind off of being too hot or too cold so that you can focus on what’s more important. Look for garments that will be easy to layer, rather than ones you can only wear when the temperature is just right. While slim fitting clothes are usually good for layering, clothes that are too tight can feel suffocating. Although wool is an environmentally sustainable material, good for wicking moisture, and seems to help with temperature control, it can trigger skin sensitivities and be too itchy for someone with ADHD.
Easy to Care For
ADHD people want to be doing a million things, but usually tending to their laundry is not at the top of their list. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got more fun, important, and more meaningful things to do than to have a wardrobe full of items that need to be hand-washed, dry cleaned, or will need to be carefully ironed each time you wear them. Look for clothing that is easy to care for. It will make doing your laundry a much more simple task so you’re more likely to do it more often, rather than procrastinating because of all of the steps involved. I tend to hang up most of my shirts because I think it prevents them from getting too wrinkled by being folded. For the items that do need to be pressed, you may want to set up an ironing station somewhere that is very convenient. You could also purchase a clothing steamer, which takes a little less coordination and patience. When washing clothes, aim for non-scented laundry soap, free from harsh chemicals. In the dryer, use non-scented fabric softener or dryer balls. Not only can the smell of scented additives cause reactions, the chemicals that create the scents can cause major skin irritation. In addition to wearing clothes that are easy to care for, look for clothes that are easy to put on and take off. The "no-tie" rubber laces have been an awesome addition to my wardrobe!
For people with ADHD, there’s often a sense of anxiety if you don’t have the things you need. In addition to incorporating items that can be layered easily, wear clothing that has pockets. This will help you make sure you have easy access to your keys, pens, cell phone, dog poop bags, or whatever else you may easily lose track of. Just make sure to empty your pockets before you put your clothes in the laundry! In the Pacific Northwest, it’s also a good idea to own a good light-weight waterproof jacket, with a hood. It’s rare to see anyone walk around with an umbrella here, but since you never know if it’s going to rain, invest in a jacket that is easy to layer, and will protect you from the elements.
Since the ADHD brain can get overstimulated easily, having a simple wardrobe can help prevent getting overwhelmed. I once have owned 5 of the same fleece jacket (in different colors), and at least 6 of the same dress (in different colors). I paired this uniform with one of the many pair of leggings I had, and voila! I could mix and match to get many different outfits. I thought this was a great idea (inspired by the artist, Andrea Zittel, who is quite the efficiency expert), until I had a personal stylist come over to help me audit my closet. She helped me diversify my closet, so that it wasn’t quite as militant. I recommend coming up with a few different “uniforms” (basics that you can mix and match), and then adding in a few accessories or prints to help spice things up. Draw inspiration from the “capsule wardrobe” concept. This is about having a few really well made pieces of clothing that you can mix and match. While I’m not a proponent of minimalism (yet I’m not against it), I recommend thinking about how you can pair outfits together. One of the reasons why I’m not an advocate of a minimalist closet, especially for ADHD’rs, is because not only does it take some real planning ahead, with just a few articles of clothing, unless you’re doing laundry every other day, you’ll probably need to rewear things. With how active ADHD people tend to be, we can get pretty dirty (hiking, painting, splashing around in puddles… you get the idea). Re-wearing is often not an option, especially if we want to look somewhat presentable the next day!
Here are some of my favorite pieces of clothing and accessories.