In life, we sometimes end up needing to let go of a person we love. We could have exited the relationship because it was no longer right for us (such as in the case of abuse, misaligned values, and so on), or the other party could have initiated a breakup for reasons known or unknown to us. Either way, dealing with the loss of someone you loved is not easy. This article explores what “love”, “letting go”, and “moving on” could mean, and covers 10 ways to letting go of someone you loved and move on.

Defining What the Terms Mean to You

Before we delve into the ways to let go of someone we loved, it is important to define some of the key terms for ourselves, as they may differ for each of us.


People have been discussing what love means for centuries, and yet, it is worth a revisit. Sometimes we use the word “love” easily without really pausing to ask ourselves what we mean by it.

There is, for instance, the stereotypical example we are familiar with: the individual who is not really in love with the person they are in a relationship with, but is instead in love with the idea of being in love. This person could have been influenced by blockbuster movies where the hero swoops in to save the person in distress following a hard-fought battle in which they narrowly missed death but ultimately made it out alive (and having found love, of course). Or perhaps, upon seeing friends and acquaintances get married one after another, there is a fear of remaining single in the future, and being in any relationship is viewed as better than none. The possibilities are endless, but you get the drift.

And then there is also the crucial distinction between “love” and being “in love”, with the latter being more romanticised (think screaming fans at an airport). In contrast, the former might include relatively more mundane but perhaps necessary acts such as taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or going out of your way to walk a person home. So when you say that you love (or loved) someone, what exactly do you mean?

Letting Go

How about “letting go”; what does that refer to? Does it mean that you will have no further contact at all with the other person, in real life as well as on social media? If cutting off contact completely is not possible, for instance, if you are colleagues or if you have mutual close friends, what might letting go look like for you?

For instance, some people may have no qualms about cutting off friendships with mutual friends and seeking out new social support networks, while others may prefer to maintain contact with a few overlapping close friends, with boundaries in place with regards to the person they loved. Examples of these boundaries include limiting what kinds of personal updates are shared with the person they once loved via mutual friends, or choosing not to meet up with mutual friends when the person they once loved is present.

Letting go may also mean accepting how things have eventually turned out and leaving the past in its place. It could involve grieving the loss of the relationship, releasing the emotional baggage and attachments that have been weighing you down, and perhaps forgiving the other party and yourself. These are definitely not easy to accomplish, but with time and intention, it becomes possible.

Moving On

Forgetting someone entirely is rarely a practical or realistic option, especially if the person has been a part of our lives for a long time and in a meaningful way. There are also likely to be cues all around you – places, people, and events – that remind you of the person. Given that, how might you define “moving on” for yourself? For some people, moving on means still being able to notice reminders of the person or to think about them every now and then, but with less pain as time goes by. There are also others who might view moving on as a process, rather than a destination. If you imagine yourself as having moved on, what would your life look like? What might you be doing differently then?

Pay attention to your feelings as they arise and validate yourself.

Ways to Letting Go of Someone You Loved

There are many ways to let go of someone you loved. It may take some trial and error before you find out what combination works best for you. This section lists some options that you may wish to experiment with. Feel free to mix and match or create your own renditions.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

When unpleasant feelings arise, we might instinctively try to avoid them, push them away, or ignore them. That does not make them disappear, though. They just remain buried within us, waiting to surface again at the next relevant reminder. Experiencing a range of feelings at different times is normal. Therefore, instead of pretending that they do not exist, try to name the feeling, and allow it to run its course. We may sometimes believe that certain emotions are intolerable, but that is not true; we might be giving ourselves less credit than we deserve.

Be Honest with Yourself

On top of acknowledging your feelings, being honest with yourself can also include asking yourself some tough questions. Here are some examples:

  • If you are initiating a breakup, what are your reasons for wanting a breakup?
  • If the other person is initiating a breakup, what makes it difficult for you to let go of the relationship?
  • Were there any red flags that were ignored or downplayed by focusing more on the good times?
  • What issues remained unresolved, until the very end?
  • What are some of your needs right now? Other than not letting go of the person, that is.
  • What can you do that might help you to feel better?

Take Ownership of Your Own Emotional Regulation

Our emotions are ours and ours alone. While there may have been events that contributed to us feeling a certain way, how we respond to those emotions is up to us. Instead of blaming the other person for our feelings, how about looking back to see what coping strategies have worked for us in the past? Some common coping techniques include exercising, confiding in friends and family, being close to nature, and engaging in hobbies. Some people find it helpful to keep their favourite quotes accessible, such as on the back of their phone cover, on the fridge, or on the home screen wallpaper of their mobile phone or laptop. Do you have a favourite quote?

Accept That You Cannot Control What the Other Person Says or Does

Similarly, the only behaviour that we can control is our own. What another person says or does (or does not), is completely up to them. This means that no matter how hard we try, we cannot force another person to do something that they do not wish to do – it is simply out of our control. In the same vein, the other person’s feelings are just that – theirs. It is not your responsibility to manage their feelings.

Do Not Make Assumptions About the Other Person

Sometimes, we struggle to make sense of what we do not know. This may include, for instance, trying to figure out exactly why the other person decided to end the relationship, which they may or may not have shared with us. Either way, it would be prudent to refrain from making assumptions about what someone else is thinking or feeling; the only person who would know that is them.

Remember That Progress Is Not Always Linear

After a period of improvement where we see ourselves slowly moving on, it can be frustrating to experience a setback, such as being emotionally affected when reminded once again of the person we loved. At times like these, it can be helpful to keep in mind that progress is not always linear. We will have some better days and some not-so-good days, and that is perfectly normal.

Stay Connected to Your Social Support Network

Social support is so important. It reminds us that we are connected to others, and that we matter to various people. Staying connected to your social support network does not mean that you have to tell them everything about your process of letting go of someone you loved. It can also mean enjoying meals with one another, engaging in hobbies, doing what you usually do together, and so on.

Reducing your social media exposure may help in your process of letting go of someone you loved, as you will be less frequently reminded of couple goals and milestones.

Reduce Social Media Exposure if Needed

This one is tricky as it depends on how you use social media. If the updates you see mainly consist of other couples hitting traditional milestones (such as getting together, engagements, weddings, baby showers, and so on), it might be best to limit your daily social media usage or take a break from it altogether for the time being. If, however, what you see provides you with helpful information (such as uplifting quotes, trustworthy mental health resources, videos about hobbies, etc), then it might contribute to your coping. Ultimately, monitoring how social media affects your mood can be insightful for your healing process.

Be Patient and Kind with Yourself

Have you ever felt upset, and then became frustrated at the fact that you were upset? Perhaps you might have believed that you should not even have been upset in the first place. By allowing ourselves the time and space to heal and grieve the loss of the relationship – without judging ourselves for having emotions – we can let go of the secondary frustration.

Seek Professional Help When Needed

Seeking professional therapy is as easy as going to the gym and having sessions with a fitness instructor. The fitness instructor does not exercise or lift weights on your behalf; rather, they create a space for you to work on yourself. The same can be said about collaborating with a professional counsellor or psychologist to improve your emotional health. At times when the feelings seem overwhelming, an unbiased and non-judgmental perspective from a professional therapist in a confidential space can be helpful. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately from your local suicide prevention hotline, such as the Samaritans of Singapore.

Conclusion: Letting Go of Someone You Loved and Moving On

Letting go of someone you loved can be a challenging process, and each person’s journey is unique. At the core of it is a process of learning more about yourself – this includes defining the key terms in your own words and making sense of your thoughts and feelings (even the unpleasant ones). As you do so, you will get a better idea of what your needs are in order to move on. This can understandably take time, which highlights the importance of being patient with yourself. Needless to say, the support from your family and friends is invaluable; they remind you of the other meaningful connections in your life. Professional therapy may also be a form of unbiased, non-judgmental support as you navigate this journey of letting go.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you let go of someone you love so much? How do you let go of someone you are attached to?

There are various things that can help with the process of letting go of someone you love. Some examples include acknowledging your feelings, being honest with yourself, taking ownership of your emotional regulation, accepting that you cannot control what the other person says or does, not making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling, reminding yourself that progress is not always linear, staying connected to your social support network, reducing you social media usage if necessary, being patient and kind with yourself, and seeking professional therapy when needed.

When should you let someone go when you love them? How do you know if leaving is the right thing to do? How do you know it's time to let go of a relationship? What are the signs to leave a relationship?

To answer these questions, let’s recall why you decided to be in a relationship in the first place. How relevant are those reasons now? It may also be helpful to explore your ideas and beliefs about relationships in general, and to see how aligned those are with your current relationship situation.

How difficult is it to let go of someone you love?

How difficult it is to let go of someone you love varies across individuals. Everyone’s journey is different, and people will heal and move on at their own pace. There is absolutely no shame in taking as long as you need to heal. However, if you find that the difficulty you face in letting go of someone you love is interfering greatly with your daily activities such as work or school, you may wish to consult a psychologist for further assessment and treatment.

Why is it so difficult to let go of someone you love?

It can be difficult to let go of someone we love because our feelings towards a person generally do not disappear overnight.

If we have been in a relationship with the same person for a long time, they would likely have been a part of our lifestyle and daily routines. Letting go of them may then bring about a wave of uncertainty about what lies ahead – this may be an unwelcome change for those of us who are creatures of habit and who find comfort in familiarity.

We may also have certain ideas or beliefs about being single. For example, in cases where the other person initiated the breakup, the sense of rejection may be accompanied by feelings such as sadness and shame. There may also be a fear of being alone or concerns about remaining single when we notice that others around us tend to be in relationships.

Is it true love if you let someone go? Does letting go of someone means love?

There can be many reasons for letting someone go, of which true love may be one. An example would be if ending the relationship is in the other person’s best interest. Additional reasons for letting go of someone you love include misalignment in values, infidelity, poor communication skills, financial difficulties, abuse or toxic behaviour, unrealistic expectations, or clashes in personalities, to name a few. On the flip side, there are many alternative ways to show love, apart from letting a person go.

How do you accept a relationship is over?

Accepting that a relationship is over takes time and can be tough. One way to move forward is to allow yourself to truly grieve over the loss of the relationship. This may mean allowing yourself to feel any associated emotions such as anger and sadness, for instance. There is also a distinction between acceptance and agreement. We may not have agreed with the other person’s decision to break up, but we might eventually be able to accept that the relationship has ended.

How do you get rid of feelings for someone?

We are human beings with emotions. Thus, instead of aiming to get rid of feelings (is that even possible?), you may want to consider managing your expectations about your feelings. For instance, a more realistic goal would be to be able to have feelings for someone, and yet for it not to affect your daily life in a detrimental way. This could mean liking someone while still being able to focus on one’s studies or work, for example. Over time, the goal could be that as and when you chance upon a reminder of someone you loved, you can remember the person with less emotional pain.

Can you ever stop loving someone you truly loved and move on?

The answer to this question depends on the individual. For instance, different people may have various definitions of what it means to “truly love” someone, as well as to “move on”. Likewise, there could be numerous interpretations of what it would look like for a person to “stop loving someone”.

I would like to know what letting go really means?

Letting go can mean different things to various people. For some, it might mean cutting off all forms of contact, both online and in real life. For others, it may mean no longer being in a relationship, but still having some form of platonic contact, such as during social gatherings or events, or when spending time with mutual friends.

How to let go of someone who hurt you?

It might seem counterintuitive at first, but letting go of someone who hurt you can still be a difficult experience. Types of abuse include physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please reach out to your relevant local organisation for support. If a person is in immediate danger, seek help from emergency services, or contact your local suicide prevention helpline.

How do you leave someone you love without hurting them?

If the person has had any kind of strong connection or bond with you, then the chances are that they might be hurt, sad, or even angry if you leave. This does not mean that you should not leave, though. Instead, be clear about your own thoughts and feelings about why you wish to end the relationship. Thereafter, decide how you might want to communicate that to them in the most caring and respectful way you can. Beyond that, how the other person responds is simply not within your control.

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The popularity of ethical non-monogamy has increased in recent years. This article introduces what the term means and why it has been gaining traction. We then provide some examples of the different types of ethical non-monogamy and explain how it is practiced in relationships.

What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term that refers to taking part in multiple sexual and / or romantic relationships simultaneously. This is in contrast to monogamy whereby two individuals commit to each other exclusively without having any romantic and / or sexual relationships with others.

While there are many ways to practice ethical non-monogamy, the term “ethical” represents what they all have in common – mutual consent and open communication between partners. In other words, in ethical non-monogamy, it is crucial that no one is kept in the dark about other partners, and that no one feels forced into accepting any relationship terms. If a person is involved in other relationships without the consent of their partner, this would be considered cheating, or unethical non-monogamy.

Why Is Ethical Non-Monogamy on the Rise?

There are many possible reasons for this, including media coverage and hearing about others who have tried it out. Some other common reasons why people choose to practice ethical non-monogamy include:

  • When a person feels that they can or want to love more than one person at a time.
  • To seek more variety in romantic and / or sexual relationships.
  • If a person desires to explore their sexuality (eg by being able to date people of different genders at the same time).
  • To be able to have multiple partners who each fulfil different needs of the individual.
  • When each partner has a different level of interest in sex (eg if one partner is asexual while the other is not).
There are many different types of ethical non-monogamy.

Types of Ethical Non-Monogamy

What ethical non-monogamy looks like can differ greatly from one individual to the next, and even from one relationship to another. It all depends on individual preferences as well as what consenting partners have agreed on. You can talk to a psychologist at TYHO to understand and improve your monogamous or polyamorous relationship.

This section introduces a few types of ethical non-monogamy.


Polyamory refers to having intimate relationships with various people simultaneously. There are many different variations of polyamory, some of which we will discuss below. To illustrate these, we shall use the fictional example of Persons A, B, C, and D.

Hierarchical polyamory

In hierarchical polyamory, there is prioritisation among partners. This means that a person might be considered a “primary partner” or a “secondary partner”. Primary partners may live together (also called a nesting partner, where nest means home) or be married and make various life decisions together. An example would be if A and B are married (the primary partners), and they date C and D respectively (the secondary partners).

Non-Hierarchical polyamory

Unlike hierarchical polyamory, there is no prioritisation of any one partner over others, meaning that there is no classification of primary and secondary partners. Everyone can negotiate their own relationship dynamics. For instance, A has been dating B and C, and then starts to date D as well. B and C are not prioritised over D.

V polyamory

Think of the letter V. Now imagine that person A is at the bottom of the alphabet “V”, while persons B and C are at the left and right top corners of the “V” respectively. Simply put, A is dating B and C separately, and there is no connection between B and C.

Triad, or more colloquially, throuple

Persons A, B, and C, are all connected to each other romantically and / or sexually.


This concept is similar to that of a triad or throuple, but with four people instead of three. There are different ways in which this arrangement could have resulted. For instance, two couples could have decided to become a quad, or a throuple may have added a new member.

Kitchen table polyamory

A “polycule” is the term used to describe a group of individuals who are connected through romantic and / or sexual relationships. The members of a polycule may or may not all be in relationships with each other. This is because a polycule may include a partner’s partners within the polycule, with whom an individual is not in a relationship with; the word used to refer to a partner’s partners is “metamours”. Kitchen table polyamory is the idea that members of a polycule (ie one’s partners and metamours) may sit around a kitchen table and dine or sip coffee together.

Garden party polyamory

Unlike kitchen table polyamory, some people would rather not get too close to their metamours, although they might not mind meeting them from time to time. As the name “garden party” suggests, they may only socialise with or see their metamours at larger events like birthdays, for instance.

Solo polyamory

In solo polyamory, a person may have various close relationships while adopting a more independent lifestyle, such as by living on their own. The individual may not feel a need to achieve typical relationship milestones, such as owning a home with a partner, managing finances together, starting a family with someone, and so on. Essentially, instead of having a primary partner, a person practicing solo polyamory prioritises themself.


Polygamy refers to being married to more than one person at the same time. The terms used to refer to a woman who has multiple husbands and a man who has many wives are polyandry and polygyny respectively.


Polyfidelity happens when all the members are equal partners in an exclusive romantic and / or sexual relationship. In other words, it is mutually agreed that romantic and /or sexual activity will only occur between members of the group. An example of polyfidelity would be a “closed throuple”, where all three partners date each other only.

Open Relationship

An open relationship takes place when two people in a primary relationship agree that they may have more than one romantic and / or sexual partner at a time.

Casual Dating

Casual dating may involve having one or more romantic and / or sexual partners without any of the relationships being too serious.


Swinging occurs when there is swapping of sexual partners within a group, possibly on a regular basis.

Of course, this list is non-exhaustive, and the terminology may evolve as time goes on and people find more suitable ways to describe their relationship structures. There are also partners who create or add their own rules and stick to them. Likewise, instead of relying on labels or preconceived notions (we all have them to some degree), keep in mind that every individual and relationship is different.

How Does Ethical Non-Monogamy Work?

What does ethical non-monogamy look like in relationships? How do such relationships begin? What kinds of topics are brought up? While there is no one fixed road map, this section delineates some of the common practices.

Examine Your Beliefs and Reasons

What are your ideas about monogamy or non-monogamy? Where might these beliefs come from? What are some of your reasons for and against ethical non-monogamy?

If you are currently in a monogamous relationship and are considering ethical non-monogamy, what difference would it make? In what way can you bring up your thoughts and feelings with your partner?

While ethical non-monogamy as a relationship structure works wonders for some people, it is not a magical cure to problems that exist in a monogamous relationship. For instance, if you have trouble expressing your needs to your partner while monogamous, you are likely to face the same difficulty in an ethically non-monogamous relationship as well. The reality is that any type of relationship requires effort.

It can be helpful to read up on the multitude of resources available online and to speak to trusted others. There are also various books about ethical non-monogamy available on Amazon and Book Depository.

Discuss Boundaries

It is important to discuss early on, what all parties are comfortable with and not comfortable with. This applies to various aspects of the relationship, depending on what matters more to those involved.

For example, boundaries may relate to how much information one shares about any new relationships entered. Some people may prefer to meet all partners involved, while others may only wish to know minimal details. What kind of information will you be comfortable sharing with your partners, and vice versa? How detailed will the shared information be? Also, what constitutes cheating, and what does not?

Boundaries can also relate to time. For instance, how might a person divide their time among different partners? Who would they spend major events and holiday with? What would the living arrangement look like, if relevant?

Physical boundaries may include how you feel about public displays of affection or PDA and what kinds of touch you are comfortable with, while sexual boundaries may involve discussions regarding safe sex practices and regular testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Other types of boundaries include emotional, intellectual, and financial boundaries. What might be some dealbreakers for you and your partners, if any?

Of course, we cannot possibly plan for everything. As life ebbs and flows, we learn new information all the time, both about ourselves and our partners. Consequently, you may wish to revisit the topic of boundaries with your partners whenever necessary.

Be Comfortable with Your Emotions

We all have different ways of dealing with our feelings. What do you tend to do when “heavier” emotions like anger or frustration arise? For example, some of us may confide in others, address the situation head-on, or avoid them altogether. Learning to regulate one’s emotions is a key life skill. Professional psychotherapy in Singapore can also be very helpful in building self-awareness and coping skills.

It is no surprise that jealousy is likely to surface at some point; that is a normal experience in ethical non-monogamy. What would you do when that happens? How might you manage your emotions? Being aware of and curious about your feelings puts you in a better position to communicate honesty with your partners.

An honest and open communication between partners is of utmost in all relationships.

Communicate Honestly

Part of what makes ethical non-monogamy successful is each partner’s ability to express their needs and wants in a relationship. This might be an open and honest conversation about your thoughts, feelings, hopes, or expectations regarding the relationship arrangement, for instance.

Respect Your Partners

Just because an arrangement is a non-monogamous one does not mean that it is automatically ethical, or immune to cheating and infidelity. Lying and deception can still occur, such as when a partner violates the “rules of the relationship” that were previously agreed upon.

Conclusion: All You Need to Know about Ethical Non-Monogamy

Ethical non-monogamy works for some people, while others prefer monogamy. However you would like your relationship to be structured, communicating clearly with your partner is of utmost importance. Consent is also key in ethical non-monogamy, meaning that both partners must agree on the “rules” of the arrangement beforehand. Just as in any other type of relationship structure (monogamous or otherwise), there is a clear line between what is ethical and what is not – it simply needs to be discussed and defined by the parties involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ethically non-monogamous? What is an ethically non-monogamous relationship?

Ethical non-monogamy is a practice whereby a person takes part in more than one sexual and / or romantic relationship at the same time. It is an umbrella term that encompasses many ways of practicing ethical non-monogamy.

Can ethical non-monogamy work?

It is possible. Just as being in an exclusive relationship between two people is not for everyone, the same applies to ethical non-monogamy. The important thing is finding out what works for you and your partner(s). Regardless of the structure, all relationships require hard work.

How do ethically non-monogamous relationships work?

Each ethically non-monogamous relationship may look different. Some common practices include exploring one’s beliefs and reasons, defining the boundaries of the relationship arrangement, acknowledging and being comfortable with one’s own emotions, communicating those emotions honestly, and mutual respect among partners.

Is non-monogamy ethical?

Non-monogamy can be ethical or unethical, depending on how it is practiced. An example of non-monogamy that is unethical is cheating, where a person enters a new relationship without their partner’s knowledge or consent. On the other hand, the defining features of ethical non-monogamy are partners having open communication and seeking one another’s informed consent. In other words, all partners are aware of one another, and there is no lying or deception involved.

What are some reasons why ethical non-monogamy is on the rise?

There may be many reasons why ethical non-monogamy is on the rise. For instance, a person may want variety in their relationships, or to explore their sexuality; therefore, an ethically non-monogamous arrangement would allow them to date people of different genders at the same time. Others might prefer that different partners fulfil various needs of theirs. There may also be situations where one partner is much more interested in having sex as compared to the other partner – an example would be when one person is asexual and the other is not.  Additional factors that could play a role include media publicity as well as having friends or acquaintances who have tried practicing ethical non-monogamy.

What are some types of ethical non-monogamy?

Some examples of ethical non-monogamy are polyamory, polygamy, polyfidelity, open relationships, casual dating, and swinging. Some of these may have sub-types of their own. For instance, different ways of practicing polyamory include V polyamory, triads (or throuples), quads, kitchen table polyamory, garden party polyamory, solo polyamory, as well as hierarchical and non-hierarchical polyamory.

Is ethical non-monogamy the same as polyamory?

Polyamory is merely one of the many ways of practicing ethical non-monogamy.

What is the difference between an open relationship and ethical non-monogamy?

An open relationship refers to a primary relationship between two people. The two individuals then come to an agreement that they may engage in other romantic and / or sexual relationships outside of the primary relationship. Ethical non-monogamy is the umbrella term; an open relationship is one way of practicing it.

What are the rules of ethical non-monogamy?

The rules of ethical non-monogamy can look different for every individual and each relationship. People may also come up with their own rules and abide by them.

Ethical non-monogamy jealousy: How does jealousy work in non-monogamy? Can a jealous person be in an open relationship?

Jealousy can be present in any relationship, whether monogamous or not. What matters is that open and healthy discussions take place between partners.

Where can I find ethical non-monogamy books?

You can find various books about ethical non-monogamy online at Amazon and Book Depository. Your local library may also have relevant resources.

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Attention-deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most well-known conditions affecting children. While diagnosis typically takes place in childhood, adults can also be diagnosed with ADHD. In fact, more than 300 million adults globally were reported to have ADHD in 2020. Although the presentation of symptoms may change over the years, ADHD is often a lifelong condition. In attempting to answer the question, “Do I have ADHD or am I just lazy?”, this article covers what ADHD is, the symptoms of ADHD, and how ADHD is diagnosed. The article then explores some common misconceptions surrounding ADHD, treatment options, and other health conditions that may resemble ADHD.

What is ADHD?

Before we dive into the question, “Do I have ADHD or am I just lazy?”, let us first understand what ADHD is. ADHD has been classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM-5), which clinicians worldwide use to diagnose mental health conditions. The DSM-5 was published by the American Psychiatric Association or APA. According to the DSM-5, ADHD is “a persistent pattern of inattention and / or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development”.

You may also see or hear the term ADD used interchangeably with ADHD. ADD stands for attention-deficit disorder, an old terms that denotes the inattentive type of ADHD (more on this in the next section). This term change from ADD to ADHD occurred in 1987, and the formal term used today is ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

The symptoms of ADHD may be categorised into two types of ADHD: inattention and hyperactivity / impulsivity. A person may have either type of ADHD, or a combination of both.

Symptoms of Inattention

  • A lack of attention to detail or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or in other activities (eg misses or overlooks details, and inaccurate work)
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention when in tasks or play activities (eg difficulty focusing during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading)
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (eg seems to be thinking about something else, even when there is no obvious distraction)
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and does not finish schoolwork, chores, or workplace duties (eg starts tasks but loses focus quickly and easily sidetracks)
  • Has difficulty organising activities and tasks (eg poor time management, is messy, and does not meet deadlines)
  • Tends to avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (eg school work, preparing reports, reviewing lengthy papers, and completing forms)
  • Tends to lose objects required for tasks or activities (eg stationery, wallet, keys, paperwork, and glasses)
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (eg by unrelated thoughts)
  • Often forgetful in daily activities (eg daily chores or errands, appointment times, paying bills, and returning calls)
Do I Have ADHD or Am I Just Lazy

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

  • Fidgeting (eg fidgets with or taps hands or feet, squirming in seat)
  • Leaves seat frequently in situations where expected to remain seated (eg in a classroom, office, or other workplace)
  • Feels restless
  • Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly
  • Often “on the go”, or acts as if “driven by a motor”, difficulty being still for extended time (eg in restaurants or meetings; may appear to others as being restless or difficult to keep up with)
  • Tends to talk excessively, or blurt out an answer before someone completes the question (eg completes others’ sentences, and unable to wait for their turn in a conversation)
  • Tends to have difficulty waiting for their turn (eg when waiting in line)
  • Frequently interrupts or intrudes on others (eg interrupts in conversations, may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission, and may intrude into or take over what others are doing)

Diagnosis of ADHD

For a diagnosis of ADHD in adults, the DSM-5 stipulates that all the following five criteria must be met:

  • Five or more symptoms of inattention and / or five or more symptoms of hyperactivity / impulsivity must have persisted for at least six months, to an extent that is inconsistent with the individual’s developmental level and negatively impacts the individual’s social and academic or occupational activities.
  • Several symptoms must have been present prior to the age of 12 years.
  • Several symptoms must be present in at least two settings (eg school, work, home; with friends or relatives, or in other activities)
  • There must be clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the individual’s quality of social, school, or occupational functioning.
  • The symptoms must not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and must not be better explained by a different mental disorder (eg mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal).

There is no single test for whether a person has ADHD or if they are lazy. To adequately answer the question, “Do I have ADHD or am I just lazy?”, a diagnosis of ADHD based on a comprehensive clinical evaluation is required. The diagnosis of ADHD should only be done by a qualified professional, and this may be a medical doctor, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or a paediatrician if it involves a child.

Common Misconceptions of ADHD

Despite the presence of symptoms, a diagnosis of ADHD can sometimes slip under the radar. This may be due to certain misconceptions about ADHD. This section discusses and debunks some of these common myths.

Myth 1: People who have ADHD are just lazy.

Unfortunately, people with ADHD have sometimes been called lazy by others who are misinformed. This is because symptoms of ADHD, particularly those of inattention, can make these individuals appear lazy.

Yet, the truth is that people with ADHD might try their best by putting in a lot of effort but find it difficult to complete tasks and activities. As such, their unfinished tasks or avoidance of them continue to be mistaken as a projection of their laziness. 

Myth 2: ADHD is not a real medical condition.

ADHD is a genuine neurodevelopmental disorder that has a significant biological basis. Research has demonstrated that people with ADHD have differences in the brain in terms of brain structure, function, and development. These differences may change over the years as an individual matures.

Myth 3: ADHD only affects children.

Although ADHD is a condition that begins in childhood, it often continues in adulthood. ADHD can have a profound impact on different aspects of an adult’s life. For instance, an adult with ADHD may have poor organisation skills that affects their ability to meet deadlines at work. Their difficulty with time management may also contribute to them being constantly late for or missing appointments. Tasks like waiting in line for their turn may also be challenging.

Myth 4: ADHD only affects boys.

ADHD affects both males and females. While both boys and girls may show symptoms of inattention and / or impulsive and hyperactive behaviours, the presentation of symptoms may differ across boys and girls. Boys are more likely to present with impulsive and hyperactive behaviours, while girls are more likely to show symptoms of inattention. Because symptoms of inattention are less disruptive and do not look like the stereotype of what people think ADHD is, diagnoses for girls may occur later or missed altogether. This means that girls may not get the support they need as early as possible.

Myth 5: Bad parenting causes ADHD

When people see disruptive or inattentive behaviour, they may assume that it is due to bad parenting or a lack of discipline. However, while the exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, research has shown that genetics can play a big role in developing ADHD. This means that if a parent has ADHD, their child has an increased chance of having ADHD as well.

Treatment Options for ADHD

Upon diagnosis of ADHD, treatment options for ADHD generally include medication and professional therapy, or a combination of both.


There are various types of medication that can help to relieve the symptoms of ADHD. Your medical doctor may prescribe you with a small dose initially, which might increase over time. Keep in mind that what works well for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always consult your medical doctor before taking any new medication, and only change your dose in accordance with your doctor’s advice. You may also wish to ask your doctor about any potential side effects of the medication prescribed to you.

Do I Have ADHD or Am I Just Lazy

Professional Therapy

professional therapist may be a psychologist or a counsellor. Your therapist will work with you to explore the possible causes of your difficulties and discuss ways in which you may cope better. A common approached used in professional therapy is cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT.

Other Strategies

There are also other things that you can do to improve your day-to-day coping. For instance, many people with ADHD benefit from having a structured daily routine and sticking to it. At times when you need to focus on a task, you may try to reduce distractions as much as possible. Distractions include background noise, mobile phones, and being within earshot of other people’s conversations. You may also motivate yourself to complete a task by rewarding yourself upon finishing the task.

If I Do Not Have ADHD, What Else Could It Be?

There are many other conditions that might appear to be like ADHD. These might be physical health conditions such as low blood sugar levels, hearing problems, and sleep disorders. They may also be other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. To get a better idea of what might be causing your symptoms, consult a medical doctor. If your symptoms are affecting you emotionally, you may wish to consider seeing a professional therapist.

Conclusion: Do I Have ADHD or Am I Just Lazy?

In short, there is no straightforward answer to the question, “Do I have ADHD or am I just lazy?” because there is no single test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, a full evaluation by a qualified professional is required. This is especially so because the symptoms of ADHD may at times mirror that of other physical and mental health conditions. ADHD has been classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder in the DSM-5. Contrary to popular belief, adults can also be diagnosed with ADHD, although the symptoms need to have been present from childhood. The symptoms of ADHD may fall under inattention, hyperactivity / impulsivity, or both. Various misconceptions may have contributed to missed or late diagnoses of ADHD. Thankfully, ADHD is treatable by medication, professional therapy, or both. A profssional may also adopt other strategies concurrently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD? Why are there two different terms?

ADD (attention-deficit disorder) was the old term for ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder), and it is now known as the inattentive type of ADHD. In the past, a diagnosis of ADD could be “with hyperactivity” or “without hyperactivity”. The change from ADD to ADHD occurred in 1987. The official term used today is ADHD, which covers both the inattentive and hyperactive types.

Do I have ADHD or do I just procrastinate? How do I know if I have laziness or ADHD? Do I have ADHD or am I just depressed? Do I have ADHD or am I just easily distracted?

There is no single test to find out if you have ADHD or if something else such as low motivation or depression. The only way to know if you have ADHD is to consult a medical doctor, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or a pediatrician if the person undergoing the diagnosis is a child. This is because a diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive clinical evaluation. In the process, your doctor will also work to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

What are some signs of ADHD in adults? What are some common signs of ADD / ADHD?

Signs of ADHD in adults may fall under inattention or hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Signs of inattention include lack of attention to detail, difficulty sustaining attention, appearing not to listen when spoken to directly, not following through on instructions, difficulty organising tasks and activities, avoiding engaging in tasks that require sustained mental effort, often losing objects required for tasks, often easily distracted, and often forgetful in daily activities.

Finally, signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity include fidgeting, leaving one’s seat frequently, feeling restless, being unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly, often being “on the go” or acting as if “driven by a motor”, talking excessively, blurting out answers, difficulty waiting for one’s turn, and often interrupting or intruding on others.

ADD / ADHD and the brain: How does ADD / ADHD affect the brain?

Studies have shown that people with ADHD have differences in terms of brain structure, brain function, and brain development, as compared to people without ADHD.

Why do people confuse ADHD and laziness?

People sometimes confuse ADHD and laziness when they see unfinished tasks; they may assume that a task was unfinished because the person was lazy or lacked motivation. However, the reality is that people with ADHD may have put in a lot of effort and may be trying their best, but find it difficult to focus or stay organised, thereby affecting their ability to complete tasks.

What are some common ways of treating ADD / ADHD?

Medication, professional therapy, or more often, a combination of both.

Living With ADHD: What are some things I can do to improve my quality of life?

There are many things that you can try in addition to medication and / or professional therapy. Keep in mind that different things may work for different individuals, meaning that it may take some trial and error before you find something that works well for you. Some strategies that you can try are having a daily structure or routine and adhering to it, reducing distractions when you need to focus on a task (eg pick a silent location with minimal background noise, place your phone elsewhere so that notifications do not distract you), and rewarding yourself each time you complete a task.

If I don’t have ADHD, what’s causing my lack of motivation? What are some conditions that can look like ADHD?

There are many things that you can try in addition to medication and / or professional therapy. Keep in mind that different things may work for different individuals, meaning that it may take some trial and error before you find something that works well for you. Some strategies that you can try are having a daily structure or routine and adhering to it, reducing distractions when you need to focus on a task (eg pick a silent location with minimal background noise, place your phone elsewhere so that notifications do not distract you), and rewarding yourself each time you complete a task.

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