How to Live With a College Roommate With ADHD

Three Methods:Sharing SpaceFinding SupportRecognizing the Symptoms of ADHD

Are you roommates with someone who has ADHD? Though roommate conflicts are common in college, having a roommate with ADHD may be a particular challenge. No matter who you're sharing space with, it's important to set some ground rules. Talk with your roommate about distractions or concerns you have. Seek advice if things get worse. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of ADHD to understand your roommate better.

Method 1
Sharing Space

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    Talk with your roommate about how to share space. When you are rooming with someone, it is important to separate shared spaces from private spaces. Shared spaces requires maintenance by both you and your roommate. Set guidelines on how to maintain those spaces.[1]
    • Discuss rules or policies for how to maintain your separate areas and common areas.
    • Focus on how to respect each other's privacy. Each of you should ask permission to enter the other's personal or study space.
    • Consider saying, "I'm hoping we can get to know each other's habits a bit better. What do think about about making some roommate ground rules?"
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    Keep common areas organized. Consider making a chart of the guidelines for how to keep things organized. Discuss this early on to avoid future headache. Understand that you both may have different approaches to organization. Identify what compromises you can make and what are your "deal-breakers."[2]
    • Consider making a list of which chores each of you will do in the common areas. Decide how often and when to complete these chores.
    • Make the organization rules in writing. Post them in a common space to avoid any miscommunication about what needs to be done.
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    Limit distractions to you and your roommate. If one of you is studying or sleeping, be mindful of distractions. If your roommate has ADHD, then they may be less self-aware about how they are being a distraction. Also consider what you're doing as a possible distraction for them. Here are some types of distractions when someone is stressed, trying to relax, sleeping or studying:
    • Loud music
    • Loud TV or video games
    • Having a lot of people
    • Interrupting frequently to talk about petty things
    • Talking loudly on the phone
    • Getting into an argument with someone else (on the phone or in person)
    • Having your significant other or friend over and taking over the common areas often
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    Be polite when discussing concerns about their behavior. Be assertive and polite when your roommate is doing something annoying. Your roommate may have a different perspective on the situation. The point is not to determine who is "right" and who is "wrong." Instead it is about making your concerns know in a respectful and open way.[3]
    • Be flexible that discussing behavior may not change overnight. It also may require compromise at times.
    • Take this time to discuss different approaches to privacy, organization, distractions, and cleaning. Learn about your roommate's perspective.
    • Treat them as you would like to be treated.
    • Consider saying, "I know that doing school work can be stressful. But can we talk about the noise level when you're working?"
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    Find a private space for studying and sleeping. Make sure that you find a private space to get your work done as well as to get good rest. This is a key to surviving college. Make clear to your roommate that these private spaces are sacred.
    • Carve out a private space that is yours alone. Avoid sharing a desk or a computer with your roommate that may make it difficult to get work done.
    • Avoid making your sleeping area the favorite hang-out spot for you and your roommates.
    • Avoid using common areas for studying or sleeping. When you have roommates, common areas may not be ideal since privacy is less guaranteed.
    • If the area where you study at home is not private, find spaces outside of home where you can study. Coffee shops. Libraries. A study room in the dorm. A friend's place.

Method 2
Finding Support

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    Talk about any concerns you have with your roommate first. While talking about concerns may be difficult, it's important to not let them fester. Avoid being passive-aggressive or rude with your roommate. Talk with them openly before talking about them with other people.
    • Focus on one issue at a time. Avoid lumping all the problems at once into one argument.
    • Avoid discussing every little thing that bothers you. Learn what really bothers you versus things that can just make some time to adjust.
    • Talk with your roommate directly. Not via chat, text, phone, or email. Don't have someone else talk to them for you. You need to address this issue in your own words. Face to face will allow you to understand their body language as well as avoid miscommunication.
    • Consider saying, "Can we go over the ground rules for when you enter my room when I'm studying?"
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    Resolve conflicts through an RA or counselor. If you do not feel comfortable with talking directly with your roommate, discuss your concerns with the RA or another counselor. Residence hall staff are trained to handle roommate conflicts.[4]
    • A counselor or RA can act as a mediator and help to deescalate the situation if needed.
    • If you do not have a RA where you're living, talk with the college's counseling center. They can also help to address conflicts or difficult relationships.
    • Roommate conflicts be stressful. There are many people on campus who have expertise on how to help. Take advantage of these resources that are often free for students.
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    Talk with friends and family. Discuss your roommate situation with your family. They may be able to offer advice about what to do. It can be difficult to deal with a roommate that you're at odds with. Getting support for yourself will help you to avoid anger or resentment against your roommate.
    • Your parents may offer advice about how to handle sharing space effectively.
    • Support during a stressful relationship with your roommate will help you stay calmer and focus on the good things.
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    Address medication concerns. If your roommate has ADHD, he or she may be currently taking medications to help manage the symptoms. Medication must be taken regularly to be effective. It should not be abused for someone else's benefit. If it is a prescribed medication, only your roommate should be taking the medication.[5]
    • Secure all medications in a private space without access from other people.
    • Notice if your roommate has been consistently in taking his or her medications.
    • If your roommate trusts you, see if he or she would like reminders about taking medications. Consider saying, "I know we both take medications in the morning. Do you want me to remind you at the same time I take mine?"
    • See if you roommate needs help with maintaining a medication schedule. If they don't seem to take their medications consistently, talk with the RA, hall staff, or a counselor for guidance.
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    Set boundaries from yourself. Your roommate's symptoms of ADHD may make it difficult to live your daily life, get your work done, and still be friends with them. So it's important to set boundaries, whether or not you want to continue a friendship.
    • Your roommate doesn't have to be your best friend. It's okay if he or she is simply someone you respectfully share your space with.
    • If you cannot resolve your ongoing conflicts with your roommate, consider if moving out is an option.
    • Some problems are not yours to solve. You may not be able to change your roommate's behavior no matter if they have ADHD or not. Unfortunately symptoms of ADHD may simply make typical roommate conflicts more irritating at times.
    • Learn how to de-stress. Separate yourself from any roommate stressors as much as possible.

Method 3
Recognizing the Symptoms of ADHD

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    Examine if they show a lack of focus or inattention. If your roommate has ADHD, then the symptoms of lack of focus are more prevalent than in other people. You may feel yourself getting annoyed that they cannot focus on what you say. They may be very distracted after a short time. Be mindful of their condition. Consider these symptoms of inattention: [6]
    • Lack of attention or easily distracted even in the middle of a conversation
    • Difficulty with studying or completing a project
    • Overlooking details or struggling to organize thoughts to complete tasks
    • "Zoning out" or seeming to wander from one idea or topic to the next without focus
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    See if they are fidgety or hyperactive. Does your roommate seem to fidget or talk a lot? Does their behavior make it difficult to work or get sleep? Consider these signs of hyperactivity:[7]
    • Talking nonstop
    • Fidgeting constantly with a chair, a pen, or some other object due to discomfort and anxiety
    • Seeming to be constantly "on the go" or very restless
    • Tapping a pencil, their feet, or something else to relieve nervous energy
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    Notice signs of impulsivity. Being impulsive can be about taking risks or craving excitement. It can also be about lack of consideration for others. People with ADHD may lack some of the social cues to notice things such as:[8]
    • Interrupting or intruding on others who are working or having private conversations
    • Blurting out answers or completing other people's sentences without thinking ahead
    • Not being able to wait their turn due to impatience
    • Get easily frustrated when things are going too slowly
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    Be aware how other medical or mental health conditions may be connected. Many people with ADHD have co-morbid conditions such as depression or anxiety. ADHD is a medical condition that needs to be monitored by a healthcare provider. If your roommate has ADHD, he or she may also have other mental health or medical conditions. Learning disabilities are more common among people with ADHD.[9]
    • Medication can help people with ADHD, as well as other conditions they may have.
    • Counseling may be beneficial. Counseling often teaches real-life coping skills so that stressors become more manageable.
    • Avoid judgment or stigmatizing a person with a mental health condition. If they are in treatment through medication and/or counseling, be respectful. They are actively trying to get help.


  • Talk with your roommate about accessing resources and services through the college's student disability resource office. Many students with ADHD can get extra support. This can be very helpful when starting college, or when dealing with a tough semester.
  • Registering with the student disability office can make classes and student life more manageable.


  • Avoid assuming that your roommate has ADHD due to irritating behaviors or symptoms. Don't self-diagnosis. ADHD can only be diagnosed by licensed healthcare or mental health professionals.
  • If you think that your roommate may benefit from additional medical and/or mental health support, talk with your RA or counseling staff at your school about your concerns.

Article Info

Categories: Attention and Developmental Disorders