I look at ADD as basically taking certain traits of a guy and amplifying them. Similarly, I see bipolar as taking certain traits of a woman and amplifying them. This isn’t meant to be insulting to anyone, but rather, it is to help humanize these different labels and give a better understanding of how they work. This also isn’t to say that if you’re a woman with ADD you’re a guy. I hope it doesn’t mean that because my wife oozes symptoms of ADD. And yes, in some ways she acts more like a guy than I do, and no, I don’t have bipolar…I’m just a little girly.
ADD can be put on a scale where 0 is not having any ADD symptoms and 10 means you couldn’t be any more ADD symptomatic if you tried. Many people (guys) generally fall on the low end of the scale while those with diagnosed ADD are higher up. For instance, I don’t have ADD, but I’m a guy so I have moments where it could be questioned to like a 4. What’s really interesting is you can be diagnosed with bad ADD but not actually have it because we can have ADD symptoms if we’re not having enough sleep, eating properly, and/or getting enough exercise. For instance, if you want to see a class of kids who look like they all have ADD, eliminate all physical activity and force them to sit all day long. Those kids are going to be increasingly squirrelly as the day goes on. Similarly, you could just feed them sugar all day or not give them enough sleep, and you’ll receive the same results. The same happens to adults, but not to the same degree because we’re a little more self controlled (sometimes). This, of course, means not having enough sleep, eating properly, and/or getting enough exercise will exacerbate existing symptoms; thus, these three things are a good place to start for improving our thinking.
At this point, you might be asking: So what are these symptoms? If you’re not asking, you might be daydreaming about random uselessness because you have ADD. Regardless of whether you have ADD or not, it’s good to remember that there’s good in all things and having ADD can be a blessing if you learn how to use it properly.
- Trouble Focusing: People with ADD tend to struggle at being good listeners unless the speaker is really interesting (this can be a good gage if you want to know if your speaking abilities need some improvement). This same sentence could read “Guys tend to struggle at being…” See how they’re similar?
- Impulsive: People with ADD tend to be a lot of fun if you enjoy spontaneity, but the downside is there is a high risk of them making unhealthy impulsive choices because it seemed like a good idea at the time, which is a slogan that can be used by most guys. I think you get the pattern here, which means I will stop pointing out the similarities.
- Risk of Addictions: Between the impulsivity and the body’s natural desire to be less antsy, people with ADD can be drawn to substances like drinking, drugs, video games, and TV.
- Fearlessness: When you’re impulsive, you can end up giving a fearless vibe because you don’t think about your actions or consequences. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
- Easily Distracted: Following the ideas of having trouble focusing and being impulsive, people with ADD tend to be easily distracted by something seemingly more interesting than what is in front of them.
- Never Finishing Anything: Being easily distracted means people with ADD can hop from one job to another without ever finishing anything. They are so in the moment they don’t even notice they’ve started six different jobs instead of doing the original job they set out to do. If someone has a 100 jobs on the go and finishes only two of them, there’s a good sign they have ADD.
- No Sense of Time: Being in the moment means five hours can feel like five minutes to someone with ADD. My wife needs constant reminders of the time because she has no internal clock, but fortunately, this can be helped… and it’s helped me work on my own patience.
- Hyper Focused: As easily distracted as someone with ADD can be, they can also be hyper focused when they’re interested. The trick is getting them interested.
- Anxiety Risk: If you are always late and/or getting in trouble for not finishing tasks, it makes sense that you’re in a higher risk category for anxiety. A friend went to the doctor after I said they likely have ADD, and instead of addressing this problem because they were afraid to admit they might have it (I’m not sure why), they took an anxiety med, which had a very limited benefit since they didn’t address the real issues of time management and finishing tasks.
- Using their Hands: A great way to keep someone with ADD paying attention is to get their hands working. Sitting in a class can be a challenge, but get them working and they can thrive, which is why sports can be their thing.
- Play: Following the idea of using their hands, people with ADD are often drawn to play because it helps them focus. I knew a woman who would knit during class because it helped her focus on the speaker.
- Drama: If they can’t use their hands, sometimes a dramatic conversation is sought as a way to keep attention. Add their impulsive responses and anxiety, and there’s a good chance a normal conversation becomes a conflict. On the plus side, they’ll be engaged. The downside is you’re having a useless fight.
- Smart: People with ADD tend to be very clever and creative, which can help compensate for the lack of attention or it can lead to more daydreaming if they’re not careful.
- Frustration: People with ADD can get really frustrated that they can’t do something they know they should be doing. The unfortunate reality is they will have to work harder at demonstrating self discipline than the average person, but there are ways to help this.
- Suck at Details & Paperwork: Paperwork has to be one of the most boring things you can do (for a non-geek), so you can imagine how hard it can be to do this stuff for someone with ADD. This is why many contractors are great at the hands-on work but struggle with paperwork. They’re drawn to the field because they’re clever and get to use their hands, but time management and paperwork can kill them.
- Importance of Routine: Routine is a person with ADD’s best friend and biggest challenge. They need to develop routines to keep them from getting overly impulsive and to help get things done that need to be done before they have fun, but these can be hard to establish.
This week may you consider how ADD can be both a blessing and a curse for people.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people