ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. This name is deceptive, because people with ADHD don’t really have a deficit of attention, they just lack the ability to regulate it. So, while being unable to focus their attention on one thing, they may hyperfocus on something else.
I have two modes: either I’m not sufficiently stimulated or engaged by what I’m supposed to be focussing on and consequently do not focus at all. I’ll be distracted by anything and everything. Or I am so intensely focussed that the rest of the world melts away and I loose perception of time and notion of anything else I’m supposed to do.
Regulating attention is just one thing that is promblematic for people with ADHD. Attentional regu;ation is one of a set of ‘executive functions’; cognitive processes that help us control ourselves and acheive goals. Impairment of all or most executive functions characterises ADHD.
Some executive functions are:
- • Inhibition. Aka self restraint / self control, resisting temptations and impulses.
- • Interference control. Resisting distractions, not paying attention to things one doesn’t need to pay attention to.
- • Working memory. This is the memory bit that holds information temporarily in order to complete a task.. Like for remembering instructions or just following a conversation.
- • Emotional regulation. Effectively managing and responding to emotional experience aka not having an emotional breakdown.
I think everybody can relate to the “symptoms” of ADHD. For examle: I think anyone with half an imagination will struggle to not get distracted in a boring meeting or get so absorbed into a good book that they completely forget about the rest of the world. What distinguishes a neurotypical person from someoone with ADHD is that the challenges of having imparied intereference control and other impaired exective fucntions is so significant that normal life is particularly difficult.
Here are 5 little and randomways that ADHD interferes with normal life for me:
- • I get so absorbed by things in my head that I don’t devote enough attention to whatever task I’m doing so I end up doing stupid things everyday. Latest example: using loo cleaner instead of laundry liquid to wash my clothes.
- • I don’t ride a bike or drive a car because I get too distracted on the road. I can sort of do both of these things… but only at the risk of myself and of all beings within the immediate vicinity and beyond.
- • You know those answer machines where they list options and then you press a button? I don’t pay attention long enough to know which button I’m supposed to press. I have to hang up and then call again. And then the same thing happens.
- • I can get intolerably bored very quickly.
- • I get exhausted very fast.
For these reasons, and many others, life is bit too often like a pantomime.