Archives for September 2010

Attention and ADHD

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. However, the name “Attention Deficit” is slightly deceptive as ADHD is more about how attention is controlled rather than an actual shortage of attention. It is tricky for someone with ADHD to focus on the most important thing at any given moment since it’s hard to filter out the less important things that are occurring in the environment.

For example, if you are having a conversation with a friend, in an ideal world you would focus on them so they know you are listening and that listening to them is important to you. Yet it’s hard to do that when you can hear a siren going off in the distance, people are moving around in your peripheral vision and your phone is vibrating in your pocket.

The perfect way to illustrate that ADHD is not about a “deficit” of attention is hyper-focusing. Hyper-focus is the ability to focus intently on one activity for hours at a time. When an activity interests you, your focus is exceptionally strong and the rest of the world disappears into the background. Hyper-focusing, like distractibility, is thought to be due to low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Hyper-focus can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a gift in the sense that it allows you to make enormous headway into projects in a way that a non-ADHDer can only dream of. The downside is that if you have other tasks you are supposed to be doing, they can get left by the wayside.

Here are some ways to make hyper-focusing work for you:

1. Fill your life with activities you enjoy as much as possible.
2. With tasks that you have to do, make them as interesting as possible for yourself. For example, the famous swimmer Michael Phelps hated reading and math when he was in school. To make these activities interesting and compelling, Michael’s resourceful mom gave him the Sports section of the newspaper to read and customized math problems to cater to his interest, such as “If you swim one meter per second, how long would it take to swim 800 meters?”
3. After you have done a boring task or two, do one of your hyper-focus tasks as a reward.
4. If you are doing a task that you know you are going to hyper-focus on, yet have other commitments, set an external reminder, such as a timer, cell phone alarm or person, to physically remind you that it’s time to move on.
5. Enjoy the gift of hyper-focus. When channeled in the right direction, it can allow you to excel in life.

ADHD Hyperactive Impulsive Type

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD displays itself differently in an ADHD adult than in a child. The characteristics are more internal and less obvious to the casual observer.

Here are 18  characteristics you could be experiencing if you have Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

Hyperactivity

1) Always in motion. Even when sitting, you are fidgeting with your hands busy or your feet are tapping.
2) Have a restless/aggravated feeling inside (sometimes to the point of pain) when a social situation requires ‘stillness’ e.g. long conversations, lectures, dinner
3) Multi task (do many things at once) +++ but not necessarily effectively
4) Feel bored a lot of the time.
5) Talk lots!…more than anyone else you know
6) Your mind is always racing and you have millions of thoughts
7) Crave excitement
icon coolADHD Hyperactive Impulsive Type Take risks in order to relieve boredom and feel alive
9) Drive MUCH faster than the speed limit, particularly on highways.

Impulsivity

10) Experience a low level of self control
11) Feel impatient when dealing with ‘slow’ people.
12) Answer a person before they have finished speaking.
13) Have a reputation for being rude, or not interested in other people
14) Says things without thinking and can offend people.
15) Difficultly understanding other’s personal boundaries (physical or emotional)
16) Unlikely to finish an entire book
17) Act spontaneously. This can put yourself and others in physical danger
18) Prone to addictions

If this is you, don’t be alarmed. There are things you can do to manage these characteristics.

Exercise Pick a  form of hard cardio exercise (that is fun for you) and do it every day. This is an incredible way to reduce hyperactivity. It helps calm your busy mind, burn of excess energy and help you feel grounded and calm

Eat the good stuff. Avoid sugar and ‘white’ products (e.g. white bread and pasta). Also avoid getting too hungry. Sugar, ‘white’ products and getting too hungry all produce huge highs and lows in the blood sugar and exacerbate ADHD. Check the guidelines for an ADHD diet.

Sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital . When getting by on too little sleep you experience things that mirror your ADHD like anxiety, difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, and increased distractibility

Meditation. Meditation helps quieten your busy mind, makes you feel calmer, less stressed and helps concentration. Practicing it for just 5 minutes each day makes a big difference.

Communication. If you notice that you said something you didn’t mean to, simply say “sorry that wasn’t exactly what I meant say” If you realized you interrupted someone simply say ” Sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt” by acknowledging it you will feel better and so will the person you are with. Instant damage control means there are no hard feelings.

Excitement. Create an exciting life for yourself. Fill your life with fun and engaging people. Engage in activities that are stimulating and exciting for you. Then not only will you feel less bored, you are also less likely to put yourself in danger or use recreational drugs or unhealthy amounts of alcohol.

When you employ these techniques (and any others that you have found work for you personally) you will notice a big difference in how you function in the world and feel about yourself.

ADHD. Inattentive Type

Typically when you hear the term ADHD the Hyperactive-impulsive type comes to mind and the  ADHD Inattentive type is left in the shadows. However, Inattentive ADHD can be just as problematic if left unmanaged.  Of course, some people have the combined type and experience both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive ADHD.

Here are 15  characteristics you could be experiencing if you have inattentive ADHD.

1) Hard for you to focus, yet you can be physically still.
2) Don’t appear to listen to others during conversations,
3) Those close to you complain you forget things they shared with you
4) Disorganized in your physical environment,
5) Find it hard to stay on task from beginning to end, and even harder if the task is boring
6) Make careless errors despite your best intentions.
7) Detailed tasks, for example taxes, are exceptionally challenging and stressful
8) You find it hard to follow verbal or written instructions
9) Often late for or miss appointments
10) Lose important items often, like  keys wallets and passports
11) People would describe you as a day dreamer
12) Find it hard to block out noise
13) Experience fatigue
14) You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Could try harder” a lot a school (even if you were trying +++)
15) Are prone to Procrastination

If this is you, don’t be alarmed. There are things you can do to manage these characteristics.

1) Listen to classical music.
Have you heard of the Mozart effect? Listening to classical music, but particularly Mozart, helps you to focus and complete tasks more effectively. You can do this while you are studying, paying the bills, working on a report or running errands. Aim for 3 hours a day. Playing music also has the added benefit of blocking out other distracting noises.

Try to exercise daily. It improves attention and energizes you both in the long term and as a short term fix

3) Organizational tools.
Use organization tools and tricks that work for you. You might , write lists, consider getting and using an agenda, use a timer, etc.

4) Reduce stimulation
Reduce unwanted stimulation in your environment. For example, clutter, noise (point 1 will help with this). By doing this, you will be able to focus more easily on what is important to you.

5) Increase Visibility
Increase the visibility of things that do need your attention. For example at work you can have a white  board with your ongoing projects listed, and brightly color-coded folders in sight.

When you employ these techniques (and any others that you have found work for you personally) you will notice a big difference in how you function in the world and feel about yourself.