From TikTok trends to school work and meetings, everyone struggles to focus at times. Since the rise of the pandemic and its ongoing effects, I and many others have found ourselves asking, “could this be a sign of ADHD?” Well, don’t worry friends! Today we’re going to break it down by asking, “What is ADHD?”
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been around for longer than many individuals may realize. ADHD was formerly known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but changes have occurred in the mental health world, and the most clinically accurate term to use is ADHD.
You may know some of the symptomatology of ADHD–talking, fidgeting, and difficulty concentrating–but did you know that there are 2 primary types of ADHD? The first is the hyperactive type which involves difficulties remaining seated, excessive talking, regularly attempting to interrupt others, and struggles with tasks such as waiting in line. These are what most people think of when they are considering if someone has ADHD.
The second type of ADHD is the inattentive type, which has more subtle symptoms but also provides significant difficulty with concentrating. Inattentive type ADHD has symptoms of regularly making careless mistakes due to failure to pay close attention to details, difficulty with tasks that require sustained attention, and often forgetting daily activities or misplacing objects. It is worth noting that ADHD is most often diagnosed in boys as the hyperactive type, and most often in girls as the inattentive type but anyone of any gender could have either type or in specific cases a combination of both.
It is important to remember that everyone has difficulty concentrating at times or times when we get excited over a new topic. So is that ADHD? Well, no. ADHD is the established pattern of behavior occurring in more than one setting and difficulty concentrating most of the time. This article and similar online tools are not to be used as a diagnosis. If you think you fit this definition of ADHD, it may be beneficial to speak with a mental health professional about the possibility.
Other things that can appear similar but are not ADHD include:
-Oppositional behavior toward parents or authority figures,
-A failure to understand tasks or instructions,
-Symptoms that are better associated with anxiety,
-Symptoms better associated with stress,
-or learning challenges such as dyslexia.
So what can we do about it?
These tips are designed in mind for people with ADHD but can be helpful for anyone struggling to focus on their tasks, stay organized, or initiate a new activity.
Some of the most common struggles for individuals with ADHD are initiating a new task and staying organized. Something that may help with staying organized is planning. Physical reminders such as a notebook or schedule planner can help keep from missing important assignments, dates, or projects. If a notebook isn’t for you, that’s okay! Maybe an app on your phone can be used to remind you instead and keep you immersed. A personal favorite of mine is an app called Habitica. In Habitica you get to be a wizard, a warrior, a healer, or a rogue and use your real-life tasks to level up and fight monsters. You enter your real-life tasks and level up by reaching your goals. The app is free to use and can be found here: https://habitica.com/static/home
Starting new tasks can also be a challenge for individuals with ADHD. One way to combat this could be by getting a friend to keep you accountable. This technique is called body doubling, and just having a friend or family member sit with you while you work on the task in front of you can provide some motivation to get things done. Alternatively, setting a short timer can be a way to get past the initial hurdle. Try setting a 5-10 minute timer for a task and telling yourself you’re allowed to stop when the timer is done. Use this to start the task, and when the timer goes off, evaluate how you are feeling. If you can keep working? Great! Jump back in and do what you can. If not? It’s okay. Take a break and come back to it later. If you are working on multiple subjects, try setting a timer and switching subjects every 20-30 minutes to keep things interesting for you.
Most importantly, remember to take breaks for yourself. Focusing can be tiring and it’s important to take care of yourself. Breaks for food and water are a good place to start when doing long projects, and when possible letting yourself have a break for your mental health and attempting to get back to work refreshed is important for the quality of your projects to make sure you’re doing the best work you can.