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Body Doubling for ADHD

By: Emma Morrissey

Living with ADHD can be a daily challenge, as individuals navigate through a world that requires endless time management and unhindered focus. Simple tasks can become Herculean feats, and maintaining concentration can feel like trying to catch fruit flies in a hurricane. However, in the storm of this chaos, a powerful strategy known as "body doubling" has emerged as a game-changer for many individuals with ADHD. This is a tool that I use daily that helps me achieve simple household tasks such as folding laundry, and more time-sensitive tasks such as completing papers for school.

According to (CDC, 2023), “ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood…” “…Some adults have ADHD but have never been diagnosed. The symptoms can cause difficulty at work, at home, or with relationships. Symptoms may look different at older ages, for example, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness. Symptoms can become more severe when the demands of adulthood increase.”

There are many ways to treat the symptoms of ADHD that are often successful for individuals including medication, therapy, and organization tools. Unfortunately, buying endless planners and organization supplies was just a way for me to add to the doom piles of items that were used twice and forgotten about. Each person has a unique experience but a common shared challenge among those of us with ADHD, is the ability to maintain these strategies.

Body doubling is a technique that involves working in the presence of another person, even if they are not actively involved in the same task. This method can provide a supportive and structured environment, helping individuals with ADHD stay on track and complete tasks more effectively. The benefits of body doubling include Accountability, Structured Environment, Emotional Support, Improved Focus, and Routine.

People with ADHD utilize this tool for concentration and task completion in a variety of ways including having a person physically in the room with them, on the phone or through a video call such as Facetime. I have personally found success with utilizing Facetime with my best friend. When I need to complete mundane household tasks that I typically struggle to begin or complete, I will Facetime my friend, put the phone down, and am able to complete the task. One example of this would be completing homework. There is minimal verbal communication and neither of us is verbally redirecting one another. We simply have our phones out with the call active and complete our homework while in the presence of one another. I have vacuumed, folded laundry, and emptied the dishwasher using this tool as well! There is something about my ADHD brain that requires mild outside stimulation from another source to allow it to complete larger tasks. It took me 31 years to realize that this was a tool that would work and it’s probably one of the most effective resources I have to increase my ability to function as a human. The best way I can describe my success with the body doubling tool is that in high school I could barely scrape by with minimal grades, and now as a Graduate student, I am maintaining nearly a 4.0. People with ADHD often are labeled as lazy, disorganized, or unwilling to attend to or complete tasks when in reality, our brains simply require alternate stimuli to be able to succeed. 

This is a tool that I use with my 6-year-old, who also struggles with ADHD and the challenges of completing tasks and following through. I find that when I am present in the room and either sitting at the same table working on my own tasks or offering small reminders to remain focused, he is more successful in completing the tasks in front of him. Being a younger child, he requires more verbal redirection than someone who is an adult; however, I have noticed that sometimes just being next to him provides the physical support (body doubling) that he needs, in order to stay on task. 

Living with ADHD presents unique challenges with everyday tasks, but strategies like body doubling offer hope that one day, our doom piles will grow smaller and that all those yearly planners we buy will actually get used!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, September 27). What is ADHD? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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