• Alana Stern

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ADHD AND THE CHALLENGE OF SELF-MANAGEMENT IN A NEURO-TYPICAL WORLD


I recently listened to a really enlightening and fascinating podcast about the complexity of the ADHD condition and some of its lesser-known symptoms.

William Dodson MD raises the issues of inaccurate diagnosis, because the basic diagnostic tools still reflect the condition as it presents itself mostly in hyperactive young boys. The condition actually looks very different in teens and adults, and I would add that it shows up in even more variations in girls and women.

Dr. Dodson paints a fascinating picture of the ADHD condition and touches on these 3 far-reaching facets of SELF MANAGEMENT:

  1. Difficulty managing task engagement

  2. Difficulty managing emotions

  3. Difficulty managing arousal

What he has to say about each of these 3 aspects sheds a great deal of light for those who perhaps have suspected they have ADHD or those who can't quite figure out why it is so hard to just get things done.

Let's take a closer look at each of these 3 facets:

  1. DIFFICULTY MANAGING ENGAGEMENT

This is a difficulty starting something, finishing something or giving the right attention and devotion to the task.

Dodson explains that while neurotypical people are motivated by:

  • the importance of the task

  • rewards for doing the task, or

  • consequences for not doing the task;

the ADHD brain, which he describes as a different central nervous system, is motivated by one or more of the following:

  • interest

  • challenge

  • novelty

  • passion.

When none of the above 4 factors are involved, managing attention to the task at hand becomes a problem. So attention DEFICIT is a actually a misnomer. The challenge is in attention REGULATION.

He adds that because importance is not a motivator for the ADHD brain, there is a struggle to prioritize (identify importance) and to make decisions.

Basically, ADHD people were given "the wrong handbook back in preschool", the one that said we are to be motivated by importance, rewards and consequences.

What I take as important here for ADHD coaching, is that in order to GET THINGS DONE, the ADHD brain can be challenged to connect the task to one of it's authentic motivators:

  • Novelty (do it in a new way).

  • Challenge (for example, challenge yourself to get it done by a certain time).

  • Interest (maybe put on an interesting podcast while working on the task)

  • Passion (figuring out what drives you and creatively linking that to the task).

2.DIFFICULTY MANAGING EMOTION

This is the second facet of ADHD according to Dodson's picture; in particular, a great sensitivity to rejection. ADHDers feel terrible about letting someone (or themselves) down. This leads to one of two defence-mechanisms. Either they become people-pleasers in a desperate attempt to avoid rejection; or they appear to become "slackers", with the underlying thought being I'd rather not try than try and then fail, let someone down, disappoint myself. Self efficacy, which is going out and DOING what you intend to do, becomes blocked by this rejection fear.

And lastly, Dodson's third facet:

3.AN INTERNAL SENSE OF HYPER-AROUSAL

This is a variation on the typical symptom of hyperactivity. The ADHD brain has difficulty managing arousal. This looks like:

  • Trouble falling asleep at night.

  • "Hyperactivity" of thoughts.

  • A sense of unease with doing nothing.

  • A difficulty being present and mindful.

All in all, this updated and pertinent description of ADHD definitely gives me a clearer picture of both the ADHD profile and of possible structures that can be created to manage and aid this different but equal brain makeup.



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