Here’s everything you need to know about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Thomas E. Brown, PhD, discusses ADHD diagnosis, ADHD symptoms, available ADHD treatment options, and ADHD medication.
Here’s everything you need to know about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Thomas E. Brown, PhD, discusses ADHD diagnosis, ADHD symptoms, available ADHD treatment options, and ADHD medication.
For many, life now revolves around working from home, home-schooling our children, or coping with the monotony of being at home all day and the pressures and anxiety that can bring. Read our COVID-19 Guide for ADHD Adults here.
For some of us, we also have the added challenge of being required to self-isolate within our own homes, either alone or away from our families to protect them from contracting the virus. Read the HSE guides as to when you should self-isolate here and how to self-isolate here.
So if you are waiting on a test result or if you have received that dreaded positive result but are finding it tough to stay away from everyone, here at ADHD Ireland we wanted to help adults with ADHD to cope with a few tips to help you keep safe and motivated during this difficult time.
The uncertainty of the situation at the moment, and the fear of what a positive test result can mean for you and your family, can cause undue anxiety and stress – particularly for adults with ADHD, 40% of whom also have comorbid anxiety disorder. It’s important to avoid getting overwhelmed by the situation and to allow yourself to keep control of what you read, hear or see, particularly on social media when you are feeling isolated. Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is the advice from the HSE. You can read up-to-date factual information on coronavirus in Ireland here .
According to the HSE, self-isolation – or we prefer “physical-isolation” means staying indoors and completely avoiding any physical contact with other people. You need to do this if you have symptoms of coronavirus or a confirmed diagnosis. This is to stop other people from getting it. The advice from the HSE is very clear; you need to stay physically away from others (even within your own home, where possible). It’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food or supplies. Make sure you’re not in the same room as them, when they do. For more information on how to stay safe and healthy, please refer to the HSE website here.
The key to alleviating anxiety around this new situation, is to try and structure your day. If you are feeling well:
The physical benefits of daily exercise are well documented, but did you know that exercise boosts your mind and mood as well? Physical activity releases proteins that improve brain function and this is particularly good for those with ADHD. It also promotes more restful, restorative sleep. Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it alleviates anxiety and depression, too. If you are self-isolating due to the risk of exposure to Covid-19 but feeling well yourself, a brisk 15/20-minute walk or a good stretch in the back garden will help make you feel more alert and more focused. There are also lots of apps that can be downloaded free of charge and will give you simple, easy to do at home exercises or why not try the Operation Transformation basic exercises to get you started?
We are all in danger of feeling guilty for not working and studying as usual, and for allowing ourselves to sit down and watch day-time TV! Well, since we are all in this together, why not just… relax! This isn’t going to last forever, and we need to remember that our number one job is to stay safe and protect those in our society who are most vulnerable. Take a break. Particularly if you are self-isolating within a home that you share with family. Don’t worry about stepping away from the hustle and bustle of family life. This is the best choice to protect your family. Stay in a separate room, just sit back and allow yourself to indulge in your favourite TV show or a good book. Enjoy a cuppa and just relax and take care of your health. This time will pass and we will be back to our busy lives before we know it!
You want to be a good citizen and follow the guidelines of social distancing, especially if self-isolating, but you are starting to find the isolation really difficult? We are social beings and we need human contact to keep us going. There are so many ways with modern technology that you can reach out to friends and family and keep in touch. FaceTime, WhatsApp video calls and Skype are all really great for putting you face to face with those you love and miss, but don’t forget a simple phone call or even send a letter! We are all in this together, so let’s get each other through it, even if it is from a distance.
As adults with ADHD, it can be challenging for us to sit still, stay home and self-isolate. Instead of thinking of this as being “trapped”, why not take some time out of the day to read a book or try meditation. Allow our minds some calmness and quiet. Usually we find ourselves too busy to settle down and read or to try something new like meditation which has proven benefits for those with ADHD. Did you know that meditation actually helps with mental health and strengthening immunity? It is also ideal if you are spending time alone because it is most effective in a quiet, empty space. Download a good app, such as the Headspace app, set a time each day to do it, and get started!
If you are self-isolating but feeling well and finding the hours dragging while you are alone, this is the perfect time to busy yourself with something new. Is there a hobby you’ve always fancied trying but never had the time? Or do you have a stash of materials in your attic/garage that you’ve had for years and won’t throw away because you plan to get to it “someday”? Well now is your chance. Take this time to enjoy spending time doing something new or learning a new skill, which will give you a great sense of satisfaction. It is one of the upsides of this very tragic circumstance; we have been given something we all claim not to have enough of: time.
Endorsed by the ADHD in Adults National Clinical Programme.
31st March 2020
If you have ADHD and suddenly find yourself working from home or temporarily out of work due to business closures, what can you do to fill your day and keep yourself occupied?
Here are some tips for maintaining focus, setting boundaries, avoiding unproductive hyperfocus, and getting the most out of your day.
Sticking to your usual getting up and going to bed time will help your body keep in a routine. Getting dressed – even putting on your shoes – can help switch your mind into work-mode and can help you to feel more productive with your day.
Even though you are not going out to work every day now, you should still take your medication every day because ADHD medication works best when taken consistently.
The science is clear: Exercise promotes focus in the ADHD brain. Make sure to get out and get some fresh air and exercise every day. Your normal commute may involve walking some of the way, or even going out to get a sandwich at lunchtime. Take advantage of working from home by getting a walk at lunchtime or going out to the back garden.
If you’re working from home now, set up a dedicated space for your work station – whether it’s at the kitchen table or in your bedroom – whatever works for you. This will help you to focus and not get distracted by other things when you are in “work mode”. You may find yourself floundering with a lack of structure and colleagues. Try scheduling a regular call with your supervisor or someone working with you on a project daily to help keep your work focus intact.
Try to avoid getting caught up in household jobs while you are supposed to be focusing on your work. You need to grab a pen, walk into the kitchen, and suddenly a snack sounds good and those dishes need washed and what’s that stuff on the counter… and you’ve been in the kitchen now for an hour instead of working.
It can really help the flow of your day if you add some structure to it. Map out in advance what times you are going to take breaks and try and stick to those times. It will help you to stay focused and avoid distractions.
Adults with ADHD don’t generally see time, but you can feel it. You might get hyperfocused on something you are working on and then work through your usual lunch break. Your body will start to tell you it’s hungry and you won’t be productive any more. Set timers on your phone, if that helps and stop at dedicated times to give your body the break it needs, or to give your workflow the switch up it needs from one project to another.
Hyperfocus is a common — but confusing — symptom of ADHD. It is the ability to zero in intensely on an interesting project or activity for hours at a time. Be alert for it because it can cause you to lose hours of your day if you get caught up with one specific thing.
Don’t forget to have boundaries between work and personal time, it can be easy for things to get blurred when working from home. So, if you normally leave work at 5.30, turn your laptop off at that time instead.
Our mental health can suffer if we don’t keep our social interactions up throughout the day. It is very important to chat to people and keep yourself socially connected to society. If you share your home with family or housemates then you have some people to chat to and share social interactions with, but if you live alone and are starting to feel isolated from this social distancing, make time to Skype, FaceTime or simply phone a friend!
Most importantly, try not to get too obsessive about the news and social media surrounding COVID-19 coronavirus. It can become all-consuming, meaning that it is easy to get sucked in and spend too much time listening to discussion around it and reading up about it – some of which you see might even not be true! This can build up and cause anxiety and fear which will not help your ADHD.
For more information please visit www.adhdireland.ie or
Endorsed by the ADHD in Adults National Clinical Programme.
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear.
Look out for one, some or all of the main symptoms:
Other symptoms are fatigue, headaches, sore throat, aches and pains.
If you develop symptoms you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.
This is only a guide but close contact can mean:
If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and you do not have symptoms, you need to restrict your movements. You only need to phone your GP if you have symptoms of coronavirus. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.
Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.
You could get the virus if you:
As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.
The virus may only survive a few hours if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.
There is no specific treatment for coronavirus. But many of the symptoms of the virus can be treated.
Drink plenty of water. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help with symptoms such as pain or fever. Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first-line treatment for most people. Before taking any medication you should read the full package leaflet that comes with your medicine. You should also follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.
If you get the virus, your healthcare professional will advise treatment based on your symptoms.
Antibiotics do not work against coronavirus or any viruses. They only work against bacterial infections.
Supportive treatments, like oxygen therapy, can be given while your own body fights the virus. Life support can be used in extreme cases.
To protect yourself and others from coronavirus (COVID-19) it’s important to think about how the virus is spread.
Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. To infect you, it has to get from an infected person’s nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. This can be direct or indirect (on hands, objects, surfaces). Keep this in mind. It will help you remember all the things you need to do to protect yourself and others from the virus.
Social distancing is important to help slow the spread of coronavirus. It does this by minimising contact between potentially infected individuals and healthy individuals.
Some of the things you can do
To help slow the spread of coronavirus:
Follow this advice as strictly as possible and encourage others to follow this advice too.
You should wash your hands:
Updated 17th March 2020
Good time management requires you to make long-term goals and look into the future to figure out who you are, and who you want to be. Unfortunately, none of those things come easily to those with ADHD. Learn why ADHD makes planning for retirement (or even planning your next meal) difficult, and what you can do to overcome your natural present-focused mentality.
The second hand on your internal clock fell off. The minute hand ticks too softly. And the hour hand sticks from time to time. As a result, planning more than a week (even a day) in advance sometimes feels hopeless, and pointless. Some tasks drag on forever while others suck you in to a time warp. And deadlines almost never arrive without drama, stress, and extensions.
Like so many other skills, time management exists on a spectrum. At one end is Tim Ferriss with his “4-Hour Workweek;” at the other end are those of us with ADHD.
Good time management boils down to this: Effectively using the present moment to bring about a better future. Most worthwhile goals and projects require sustained effort over time in exchange for a positive long-term impact on our lives. The secret to smart time management is learning to manage behaviors and choices in the present moment with long-term goals and ambitions always in mind.
When your internal clock is almost never synced with reality, this is difficult. That’s where these external tools and motivational strategies come in. Read on to learn why ADHD makes time management difficult, and what people with ADHD can do to overcome their inherent challenges and create a better future.
According to Russell Barkley, Ph.D., time management is “the ultimate — yet nearly invisible — disability afflicting those with ADHD.” Why? The ADHD brain is inherently unable to anticipate and plan for the future, which typically manifests in two ways: people with ADHD often have a very short “time horizon,” and they engage in what’s called “temporal discounting.”
To understand a time horizon, imagine you’re standing on the edge of the sea and you can’t see a ship that’s many miles in the distance — at least not at first. But as the ship approaches the shore, it eventually crosses the horizon and enters your field of vision then details of the ship come into focus. A person with strong vision sees the ship earlier than does someone with poor vision — in other words, their “horizon” is much longer.
Similarly, a time horizon measures how close in time an event must be for a person to “see” it and feel motivated to take action. Students with a long time horizon may start working on a project the day it’s assigned and work steadily toward its approaching deadline. Those with a short time horizon, on the other hand, might not “feel” the deadline approaching until it’s nearly upon them. In extreme cases, some students don’t see a thing until the deadline has already passed.
Time horizons are correlated to age. Young children see just a day or two into the future, while adults are capable of looking ahead several weeks, months, or years at a time. People with ADHD, however, often have abnormally short time horizons — a phenomenon Barkley calls “future myopia.” It’s difficult for them to plan for the future because they don’t see the future as clearly as do their peers.
Another phenomenon that disrupts our ability to plan for the future is “temporal discounting.” This is an economics term that reflects this truth: the further into the future a reward or punishment is, the less attention we pay to it in the present moment. If you were offered $100 to shovel a snowy driveway, you might jump at the chance if payment were immediate. But if payment was delayed 3 months, the reward suddenly becomes a lot less attractive — making it much less likely that you’ll agree to do all that shoveling today.
Because everyone — not just those with ADHD — feels the present more strongly, it’s difficult to do challenging things now that won’t have an immediate positive impact. Temporal discounting explains why slimming down, for example, is hard for a lot of people; it’s difficult to find the motivation to eat right and exercise when the positive effects take time to appear.
People with ADHD engage in more temporal discounting than do those without ADHD — which means they tend to choose the option with more immediate payoff. Becoming fit and healthy might be more satisfying in the long run, but watching TV and eating ice cream is much more satisfying now — the reward in the moment takes precedence over the punishment or negative effect that comes later.
How can people with ADHD counteract this today-focused mentality? Here are a few strategies:
1. Externalise time. When your internal clock is unreliable, you need to lean heavily on external ones. Old-fashioned analog clocks — not digital clocks — are useful for this purpose; the moving hands physically represent the passage of time; the numbers of a digital clock can be too abstract. Another great tool is the Time Timer; it shows the remaining time as an ever-shrinking red slice on the clock’s face.
Some individuals externalise time by setting up systems that remind them of it constantly. That might mean setting alarms, utilising phone reminders, or scheduling to-do list items directly into a calendar. Designating specific times for specific regular tasks also helps to ensure they get done regularly.
2. Maximise motivation. To harness (and maintain) motivation before it’s too late, visualise a future where time is managed well, and compare it to an alternative reality. For example, a college student with a paper due Friday should ask how it will feel to pull an all-nighter at the library while all of his friends go out to parties.
To practice visualisation effectively, first acknowledge the common lies we tell ourselves to justify poor time management. Examples include: “I have plenty of time,” “I don’t really have to do that now,” or “I work best under pressure.” Confronting those lies, examining them, and admitting when they’re untrue, is critical to developing better time management over the long-term.
3. Eliminate distractions. A hallmark symptom of ADHD is distractibility, which can override even the strongest time management strategies. Since it’s easier to avoid distraction than it is to recover from it, set up your work environment to eliminate distractions and manage the temptation to get off task. This means different things to different people, but some commonly used techniques include: blocking tempting websites on your computer (using online tools like SelfControl or Freedom), putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, or facing your desk toward the wall so you’re not tempted to look out the window.
4. Don’t catastrophise. Sometimes people put off tasks or long-term goals because they imagine the endeavour is bigger, more complicated, and more difficult than it is in reality. But waiting until the last minute because the project seems too hard — or avoiding it altogether because it involves too much risk — tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy; the longer you procrastinate or avoid something, the more difficult (or unlikely) the project or goal becomes.
People who catastrophise tasks in their minds can benefit by simply forcing themselves to get started. Challenge yourself to complete just five minutes of a scary project before taking a break. If you still don’t feel productive after five minutes, it’s okay to stop. But in most cases, those five minutes of work will make it clear that the project wasn’t as difficult as you imagined. Plus, five minutes of work now means five fewer minutes of work later.
5. Identify feelings. Often, people put off doing a task because it makes them uncomfortable, but they’re not actually sure why. In some cases, the project seems boring or pointless, so apathy is to blame. Others might worry about failure — causing them to procrastinate as a way of putting off the anxiety they feel. Apathy and anxiety require different solutions, and it’s impossible to know which solution to try until you identify the root cause of your procrastination.
No single time-management strategy will work 100 percent of the time. It’s important to identify a collection of strategies that each works some of the time, mixing and match them to adapt to new goals and challenges as they arise.
7th February 2020
For more Time Management tools, click here
By Dr Michelle Frank, PsyD
Since ADHD was first studied in the late 1700’s, it has predominantly been studied in boys: white, hyperactive, school-aged boys, to be specific. While research on girls and women is growing at exponential rates, the myth that ADHD is a condition of boyhood has gotten in the way of adequate diagnostic and treatment services for millions of girls and women with ADHD over the centuries (yes, centuries).
According to a prominent study by the National Institute for Mental Health in 2011, about 4.2% of females have received a diagnosis of ADHD at some point in their life. However, we are still learning whether these numbers actually reflect incidence or whether rates of diagnosis for girls and women continued to be under reported. Boys are diagnosed two to three times as often as girls, and they are also more likely to be diagnosed early in life. Researchers are currently investigating whether there is a true difference in incidence of the condition between males and females, or whether differences in rates of diagnoses are due to other factors such as gender bias or variations in presentation of symptoms.
Overall, however, women and girls are less likely to be properly diagnosed with ADHD, with boys and men being more likely than girls and women to be referred for services even when their symptom profiles are exactly the same.
The myth that all people with ADHD are hyperactive likely accounts for another reason that girls and women with the condition go overlooked.
Girls and women are less likely to present with hyperactive or externalizing behaviors compared to boys and are more likely to be diagnosed with the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation of the condition. Inattentive symptoms can easily be overlooked or misperceived and are less likely to lead to a referral for evaluation. Inattentive symptoms, for instance, are less likely to cause a classroom disturbance that gets the teachers’ attention. Further, clinicians and researchers are beginning to wonder if current diagnostic criteria accurately reflect the condition for girls and women.
Women and girls with ADHD have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety. This could, in part, be due to a tendency of girls and women to exhibit internalising behaviour while boys and men in general are more likely to display behaviours that are more externalising.
Many girls are initially referred for treatment due to symptoms of anxiety and depression, while symptoms of ADHD are missed. A number of complex and nuanced factors further influence the female experience of ADHD, including fluctuating estrogen levels impacting symptoms and gendered expectations of behaviour that might complicate how symptoms are perceived.
To download the full printable article, please click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Michelle Frank is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in providing diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with ADHD. Dr. Frank is the co‐author of A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Love Boldly, and Break Through Barriers, written in collaboration with Sari Solden and published by New Harbinger. Dr. Frank has been an active member of both ADDA and CHADD and has presented both locally and nationally on ADHD, women’s issues, and neurodiversity.
By the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
When people say things like, “Everyone has a little bit of ADHD these days!” they mean everyone exhibits some behaviours like the symptoms of ADHD.
They don’t mean everyone has a physical difference in their brains. It’s more like, “Everyone is a little distractible, forgetful or impulsive these days!” They probably don’t make these comments to be mean.
They’re trying to normalise challenges. But declaring everyone has a little bit of ADHD is inaccurate. It is also hurtful and dismissive of the real struggles people with ADHD go through everyday. The symptoms of ADHD exist within a continuum of typical human behaviour. Most people lose their keys from time to time. They tune out in meetings. They’re late to class. And they have trouble delaying gratification. But these behaviors are not the same as ADHD. They are human behaviours or experiences that occur for many reasons.
With ADHD, the reason is neurological in origin. It is not a choice, a fluke, or a bad day. ADHD is a brain-based, often chronic, lifelong syndrome. It gets in the way of the smooth operation of self-regulatory functions of the brain. Ongoing neurological studies find many differences in the ADHD brain. The structure, volume, chemical activity and communication pathways in the brains of people with ADHD are different than those without. Scientists have linked several genes to the condition.
People with ADHD show behaviours resulting from this inner dysregulation. These behaviours include forgetfulness, distractibility, impulsivity and an inability to focus. For people with ADHD, these behaviors are disruptive. And they happen more often, with greater intensity, severity, and chronicity than for people without ADHD.
Further, when people with ADHD try to change, they often can’t course-correct the way others can.
People with ADHD have more negative consequences from their challenges than the average. They earn less and incur more debt. They struggle with academic and workplace performance. They even face greater risk of physical injury.
For a copy of the printable article, click here
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ADDA is the world’s leading adult ADHD organization. An international non‐profit organization, we were founded over twenty‐five years ago to help adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) lead better lives. ADDA has become the source for information and resources exclusively for and about adult ADHD. We bring
together scientific perspectives and the human experience to generate hope, awareness, empowerment and connections worldwide in the field of ADHD. If you’re an adult with ADHD, (or you love one), discover how we can help make your (or their) life better at add.org.
There are two classes of stimulant medications for ADHD: methylphenidate (MPH) and amphetamine (AMP). Each of these medications is available in several long and short acting formulations, the availability of which differs among countries. Examples of MPH products are Ritalin, Concerta and Medikinet. Examples of AMP projects are Lysdexamfetamine, Dyanavel XR and Evekeo.
The different formulations affect how the drug is delivered to the brain and are designed to modulate the speed of uptake and the length of time the drugs work during the day.
Despite these differences, medications in each class contain the same drug, either MPH or AMP. Both drugs are potentially addictive but their ability to cause addiction depends on how they are used.
Drug addicts enjoy drugs when they reach the brain quickly. For that reason, they prefer forms of MPH or AMP that can be injected or snorted (sniffed through the nose).
In the 1960s and 1970s, many animal model studies showed that MPH and AMP would cause addiction. This caused much concern until researchers realized that they had made a crucial error. They had injected large quantities of the drug into the animal (usually a rat or a mouse) rather than giving the drug orally in the way it is used therapeutically for ADHD.
When researchers at the University of California in San Diego gave these drugs orally with doses that were comparable to therapeutic doses, they found no evidence for addiction. That finding is now widely accepted.
Importantly, the finding is also consistent with the fact that physicians do not observe addiction among their patients with ADHD who use the drug in oral, therapeutic doses.
Concerns have also been raised about the non-medical use of stimulant medications, especially among young adult college students who will use these medications in the hopes that they will improve their studying ability (e.g. by staying up late) or for mixing with alcohol at parties to say awake. This is indeed a problem, but it is not related to the prescribed use of these medications by patients with ADHD. Nonetheless, it has contributed to the perception that these medications cause addiction.
About 15 years ago, I realized that the longitudinal studies of patients with ADHD (i.e. repeated observations of people over short or long periods of time) could help us better understand whether the prescribed use of stimulant medications caused addiction.
With my colleagues at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, I reviewed all available studies. We found no evidence that the use of stimulant medications for ADHD in childhood led to addictive disorders in adolescence or adulthood.
Instead, we found some evidence that the stimulant medications for ADHD protected patients from subsequent addictive disorders.
Additional evidence for a protective effect of stimulant medications came from a Swedish study of commercial health care claims from 2,993,887 adolescent and adult ADHD patients. The authors concluded:
These results provide evidence that receiving ADHD medication is unlikely to be associated with greater risk of substance-related problems in adolescence or adulthood. Rather, medication was associated with lower concurrent risk of substance-related events and, at least among men, lower long-term risk of future substance-related events.
This confirmed an earlier report from Sweden based on a study of 26,249 men and 12,504 women with ADHD.
So, the data are clear and unequivocal. When used therapeutically, the stimulant medications for ADHD do not cause addiction. Instead, because these medications control the symptoms of ADHD, they reduce the likelihood that a child with ADHD will, eventually, develop a substance use disorder.
By Stephen V. Faraone, PhD
To download a printable version of this article please click here.
Stephen Faraone, PhD, is a Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience & Physiology at SUNY Upstate Medical University, President of the World Federation of ADHD and Program Director for www.ADHDinAdults.com. His research studies of ADHD include epidemiology, neurobiology, and psychopharmacology.
by Bryan Hutchinson, ADDitudemag.com
What if you could use hyperfocus on command, bend it to your will, own it, and make it yours? What if you could power through complex tasks with optimal efficiency and minimal frustration? It takes a little planning, but the payoff of training your hyperfocus for good is worth it.
The following seven steps are about as close as I’ve come to finding a magic formula to put my attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) brain into hyperfocus:
1. Gather all the tools you’ll need for the project ahead. Whatever it is you are about to do probably requires tools. Whatever they are, make a list of them and be sure you have them at the ready before you begin. Create a checklist, if you must. I know; I hate those, too, but they can be useful for getting your hyperfocus on. If you forget something, it could break your focus and require you to get it.
2. Set the mood. Once you have everything you need, take a moment to create optimal working conditions for your brain. Do you work best with white noise or music, or no sound at all? Do what you can to create your favorite atmosphere.
3. Turn off all distractions. This might be hard, but again, the reward makes it worth it. If you’re working on a computer, close all of your browser tabs (yes, including Facebook!), shut off your instant messenger and any other alerts that could distract you. Yes, this is necessary. Don’t forget your phone.
4. Decide on a time frame. I usually work in 45-minute intervals. If that is too long for you, you may drift out of focus and into distraction before that.
5. Set an alarm clock. Once you’ve figured out the time frame for your focus bursts, set a timer for that period. Somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour usually works best.
6. Take a break. When your alarm goes off, stop whatever you are doing and take a break. Drink a glass of water, use the restroom, and walk around a bit. The brain focuses best when it is hydrated, so consider drinking a glass of water between all breaks.
7. Repeat the above. In order to create a habit that works to your advantage, it is important to repeat the process until it becomes second nature. The first few times might not work out so well, you may forget things on your list or forget to set your alarm. That’s perfectly normal and OK; simply try again until setting your alarm and collecting all of your tools becomes second nature.
We may think that hyperfocus comes when it wants to, but I bet if you analyze moments when you did hyperfocus naturally, you will find that you had everything you needed, you had time set aside and had few, if any, distractions. So although it may seem an accident, in reality you did the things necessary without even realizing it. If you realize those things, you can repeat them and make them habitual. And guess what, here is the kicker: Even if you do not shift into hyperfocus, you will have set up a way to be more productive!
September 2019, ADDitudeMag.com
by: Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.
It’s easy to see why many people believe that ADHD is just an excuse for laziness. Everybody who has this disorder has a few activities or tasks where they have no significant difficulty in exercising those same functions that are usually quite difficult for them: paying attention, prioritizing tasks, getting started, sustaining effort, managing emotions, and keeping several things in mind at once.
They may focus very well on playing a sport they enjoy or on playing video games or making art or playing music or repairing a car engine. Yet they are unable to demonstrate that same kind of focus and self-management for their schoolwork or their job.
Noticing that contrast from one situation to the other can certainly lead someone to ask, “If you can do it for this, why can’t you do it for these other tasks that you know are important? Aren’t you just being lazy?”
The fact is that ADHD often looks like a lack of willpower, an excuse for laziness, when it’s not!
ADHD is really a problem with the chemical dynamics of the brain. It’s not under voluntary control. People with ADHD can be lazy from time to time like anyone else, but that is not the explanation for their symptoms. Their ADHD symptoms are the result of neural messages in their brain not being effectively transmitted, unless the activity or task is something really interesting to them, something that, for whatever reasons, “turns them on.”
One of my patients once said:
“I have a sexual example for you that shows what it’s like to have ADHD. It’s like having ‘erectile dysfunction of the mind.’ If the task you’re trying to do is really interesting to you, you’re ‘up’ for it and you can perform. But if it doesn’t turn you on, you can’t ‘get it up.’ And it doesn’t matter how much you say to yourself, ‘I want to, I need to, I should,’ you can’t make it happen because it’s just not a willpower thing!”
In fact, for people with ADHD, neural messages related to tasks that strongly interest them tend to be strong, bringing intensified motivation.
For tasks they do not perceive, either consciously or unconsciously, to be quite as interesting the neural messages tend to be weaker. If messages are not sufficient enough to activate a person, it is likely to make a them seem unmotivated or lazy.
For 80% or 90% of people with ADHD, medication can significantly improve such problems.
Download Printable version of this article here
September 29, 2019
Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D. is Director of the Brown Clinic for ADHD and Related Disorders in Manhattan Beach, CA. and Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. His web site is www.BrownADHDClinic.com
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