The 3 reasons why people with ADHD take long showers.

I have heard on several occasions from parents of my clients with ADHD; “my kid takes hour long showers!” “I can’t get my kid out of the shower!” One client told me she regularly takes 3-hour long showers! This intrigued me, so I started doing some digging. It seems to be that there are 3 main reasons that people with ADHD take incredibly long showers. The level of stimulation a shower provides, getting a break from everything else in life, and a mental shutdown once in the shower. Lets break each of these down.

Stimulation is rewarding for people with ADHD.

Showers are highly stimulating for people with ADHD.

If you have ADHD, then it’s not surprise that you are constantly searching for the optimal level of stimulation. The ADHD brain has less dopamine than a neurotypical brain, which means it needs more stimulation to produce more dopamine. I talk more about how the ADHD brain works here. You can find a continuum of stimulating things that give you an increase in dopamine. One thing that tends to be on the higher end of the stimulation continuum is taking a shower.

Showers engage 4 out of our 5 senses. Sight, hearing, smell, and touch. Hopefully you are not eating anything while you shower, that would be weird. The water on your skin is a large dopamine burst. Many people with ADHD love different sensations on their skin, like being tickled or getting the goosebumps. The water on your skin while you shower is highly stimulating. The loofah lathered in soap is another strong sensation on your skin. Add in the smell of your body wash and shampoo. It is sensation heaven.

Sometimes people with ADHD need a break from life.

Some people with ADHD seem to use their shower time as a complete escape from the world. Finding the ideal level of stimulation with ADHD can be challenging as it is easy to teeter too far to one side and tip into overstimulation. If you find yourself overstimulated, a shower can provide a complete break from all other stimulus input and allow you to regulate and reset.

If you or your child becomes overstimulated it can look like anger outbursts, crying, shutting down and disengaging, or emotional meltdowns. This happens because the ADHD brain receives tons and tons of sensory input every second. There is no gatekeeper in the brain to filter relevant vs irrelevant information. Your brain can become flooded with information and cause this overstimulation. I talk more about the gatekeeper analogy here.

Some people with ADHD may experience shut down.

A third reason for taking long showers is that some people with ADHD find they shut down while in the shower due to overwhelm of what is to come. Getting out of the shower means turning off the warm water, drying off and having to step out into the cold, getting clothes, brushing hair, tossing dirty clothes in the hamper, brushing your teeth, and then you must go face your day. Staying in the shower sounds much better than doing all of that!

If you have ADHD than you know the struggle to break down tasks to see them as small manageable pieces. ADHD makes it difficult to see each piece, and instead sees the entire jumbled puzzle. That makes it hard to get started. You can read more about that here.

Each of these reasons make it challenging to get out of the shower, thus prolonging the shower time. All ADHD is not created equal. Which is why showers are stimulating for some, and for others it is a place to go when they are overstimulated and need to disconnect. On the contrary, if you struggle to take showers, here is a fantastic article to help improve your self-care routine.