One of the great paradoxes of ADHD is the ability to hyperfocus on some things yet being totally scatty and unable to pay attention to anything else.
How can this be possible parents, spouses, teachers ask? How can my child spend hours glued to the tv, computer or video games yet not be able to pay attention for 10 seconds when it comes to doing homework?
ADHD is all about distraction which is involuntary. When we are distracted we act impulsively and our decision making skills are impaired. This leads to a cycle of all sorts of negative behaviour of which hyperfocusing is one.
Let me try and explain.
Being very visual thinkers, our heads are great places to be and we love to escape the real world which is often very harsh. As children we learn to tune-out from constantly being shouted at for being late, being messy, being noisy etc. If we are allowed to, we find refuge in the tv or video games. Or, we may simply become great day dreamers preferring our own magical world to that of Mom or Dad or teacher screaming at us.
Yes, it becomes a habit. We choose to escape and often parents are so relieved to have peace and quiet for a while they unwittingly re-inforce this behaviour pattern.
Let's look at a common example:
Mom: What homework have you got Trish?
Trish: (@##%%@ ... couldn't find my homework diary so haven't written it down, left my books at school, didn't have a clue what the teacher was talking about.) Hey Mom, we don't have any homework today.
Mom: That is impossible, you must have homework.
Trish: NO WE DON'T!
This goes on and on until Mom gives up the fight, storms out of the room and Trish breathes a sigh of relief. On goes the tv and she escapes into her own world.
Mom thinks: How can my ADHD child sit for hours in front of tv totally focused yet can't remember what homework she has?
ADDers learn how to manipulate from an early age and when in doubt lie! We are clever and we have learned to escape trouble in a whole number of ways.
What happens when we grow older?
Many ADDers never grow up!
We become more and more self-absorbed and our hyperfocusing moves onto different things. We are unable to find the balance so if something grabs our attention we latch on and can become obsessive about it neglecting our families, our friends and the boring parts of our jobs.
This is why jobs such as forensic accounting, medical and scientific research and computer programming are great for ADDers. They can become 200% involved until they find the answers they are looking for. Once they have solved the problems boredom often sets in and the cycle needs to start again. Naturally they must have someone to write up the results, correlate the references and present them coherently
The Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching Programme teaches decision making skills that have not been learned in childhood.
The Role of ADHD medication
At the beginning of this article I said that distraction is the biggest problem of ADHD and that it is involuntary. This is where ADHD medication plays an essential role. The medication works on the dopamines in the brain which cause the involuntary distraction.
Medication does not make you behave better, stop you lying, make you more clever etc. It quite simply reduces your distraction so that you are able to make better decisions and think more clearly.
The longer the ADHD is untreated the worse it becomes. If an ADDer manages to get the distraction under control early in life, they are able to learn to make proper decisions and lead more balanced and productive lives.
The ability to hyperfocus is a wonderful gift but we need to learn to choose what to hyperfocus on and not to use it as an escape mechanism.
Know The Jargon - ADHD Acronyms
ADDer - a person who has ADHD or ADD
ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder
SCT - Sluggish Cognitive Tempo - a new name for ADD
ODD - Oppositional Defiance Disorder
CD - Conduct Disorder
OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Bi-polar - Bi-polar Disorder, used to be Manic-Depression
SPD - Sensory Processing Disorder
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder
ACT - Action Consequence Trigger - monitoring forms devised and supplied by Living ADDventure®