Benefits of ‘Body Doubling’ When You Have ADHD

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 13, 2024

More than 366 million adults and 129 children and teens currently living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Although there are several symptoms of ADHD and they present differently in individual people, experts in the field have found several helpful tactics that almost everyone can use. One is called “body doubling” and it’s sweeping the ADHD community.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD, short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder typically begins in childhood and can last into adulthood. Those with ADHD experience attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that can affect their daily lives.

An excited child plays with an apple in class

Source: Freepik

It’s important to understand that all people with ADHD respond to the condition differently. While some will struggle to pay attention in class or in a meeting, others may have excess energy, still some experience the inability to sit still, and others grapple with impulsive decision making.

Many People With ADHD Struggle to Stay Focused

One of the most common side effects of ADHD is that both adolescents and adults will struggle to stay focused on a task until completion.

A woman is clearly frustrated while working on her laptop

Source: Freepik

They often start a project feeling extremely dedicated and productive, but will get distracted along the way and become unable to focus their attention on the task at hand.

The Benefits of Body Doubling

To combat this frustrating reality, many people with ADHD have turned to a specific and helpful tactic: body doubling.

Two coworkers sitting at a large table simultaneously working on their own projects

Source: Freepik

Robin Nordmeyer, an ADHD coach living with the condition, explained that body doubling is a productivity strategy in which a person works on their project alongside another person working on their own task.

The Body Double Works as a “Motivator”

Billy Roberts, the clinical director of Focused Mind ADHD Counseling in Columbus, Ohio, explained, “The idea is that the presence of another is essentially a gentle reminder to stay on task. For folks (with) ADHD whose minds tend to wander and get off task, the body double somehow works as an external motivator to stay on task.”

A woman works on her computer while a man scrolls on his phone next to her

Source: Freepik

Essentially, the body double can focus on a completely different task, just having another person who is also working nearby can do wonders for someone’s productivity.

Externalizing Motivation

A common experience for those living with ADHD is that they find far more motivation to complete a task when it’s being performed for someone else, such as a teacher or a boss, than for themselves.

A man working from his home office alone, clearly frustrated

Source: Freepik

While that can mean people with ADHD are great students and employees, when they have a project they truly want to do for themselves, they struggle to find the motivation to complete it. Body doubling is a form of externalizing motivation for any and all tasks, and when used correctly, it can be extremely effective.


Using Body Doubling Effectively

One of the most important aspects of this productivity tactic is that the person being utilized as the body double cannot distract the other from their task at hand. As mentioned, they do not need to be working on the same thing, but they do both have to be working on something.

Several coworkers play a game in the breakroom at work

Source: Freepik

If the body double can distract you from your work or is easily diverted from their tasks, they may not be the best choice for you.


Some People Use Social Media for Body Doubling

While having a focused person working directly next to you is certainly one of the best ways to stay on task, there are other ways to utilize the body double method.

A woman videos herself for a social media post

Source: Freepik

These days, many people turn to social media for help staying productive. They turn on their camera and share a live feed of themselves at work either with their friends or millions of followers, and many find it a great external motivator to remain on task.


There Are Options for Passive Body Doubling

Additionally, some people opt for a more passive kind of body doubling. Instead of asking a specific person to work beside them or posting on social media, they will work in a public place like a cafe or library where people are constantly around them.

A man looks focused as he works on his laptop in a cafe

Source: Freepik

Even people without ADHD have found these three modes of body doubling to be extremely helpful when attempting to stay focused on a specific task.


Body Doubling Can Be Helpful in All Areas of One’s Life

It’s important to note that body doubling isn’t just for schoolwork or work projects, it can also be used for exercise, cleaning out the garage, or other organizational projects.

Two people look at each other while holding plank position at the gym

Source: Freepik

Dr. J Russeel Ramsay, founding co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s ADHD Treatment and Research Program, explained that people can always ask for and offer their own help at the same time: “You help me organize my garage on Saturday; I’ll help you organize your home office on Sunday,” Ramsay said.


Utilizing a Community to Live Your Best Life

As the saying goes, “it takes a village.” For many of us, including those with ADHD, reaching out for help is a vital part of living a happy and successful life.

The logo for the Center for Living Well With ADHD against a white background

Source: Center for Living Well with ADHD

For anyone who doesn’t have a support system in their family and friends, there are fantastic organizations all around the country and the world that offer services, like body doubling, for those who need a little extra help getting their work done on time.


There’s No Shame in Asking for Help

As Roberts explained, “Some people work better with community support and just the awareness of other people around them. We all think and work differently, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Several women coworkers celebrate completing a project at work

Source: Freepik

Body doubling can be a wonderful way to feel supported for both those with ADHD and those without, and it’s important to remember that there is no shame in asking for help.