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Adapting to ADHD --- It isn't good or bad, it just is what it is
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ADHD - Why we procrastinate and avoid work

Posted 06-08-11 at 05:37 PM by KCTang
Updated 06-13-11 at 05:41 PM by KCTang
I've been doing a lot of self-study on this topic over the last few years and putting together a framework for me to better understand how my ADHD works. Here's what I can share so far.

-People with ADHD have brains that crave Stimulation (Stim). It makes us seek excitement and avoid boring, mundane tasks.

-At any given moment, we have a 'Stimulation Threshold' of what is interesting or stimulating enough to hold and keep our attention.

-The height of the threshold (ie the amount of Stimulation something requires to get and keep our attention) depends on a host of factors. Being tired, hungry, angry, unconfident, etc generally makes the threshold higher. Meaning, it makes it harder to for us to do tasks that aren't interesting to us and thus don't meet the Stimulation Threshold.

-How well rested we are can lower the threshold, which is why it's easier to do things later in the day. Medication can lower this threshold, and general fitness has an impact on the height of this threshold as well (energy, hunger, emotions, etc).

-When we try to do tasks that don't meet this Stimulation Threshold, our attention is subconsciously directed away towards something more interesting to avoid boredom. (ie We distract ourselves and procrastinate.) [At least, we think we're procrastinating, but again, its our brain seeking Stimulation elsewhere.]
--> When we catch ourselves procrastinating in this way, we start feeling Guilty and tell ourselves we 'should' get back to doing proper work;

--> However, the feeling of Guilt only makes the distraction even MORE stimulating, because it makes it something taboo;

--> While our attention is fixated on the distraction, we often battle between telling ourselves what we 'should' be doing and having our attention pulled further away from our work. We get worked up, but most of the time we're not able to pull our attention out of this cycle because the cycle itself is the most stimulating thing going on at this point;

--> This cycle continues until the Stimulation level (Stim level) of the original task becomes higher than the Stim level of the distractor. In most cases, it's when we've 'procrastinated' so much that we have almost run out of time or are already past the deadline.
We're finally able to rush now because the dire consequences associated with the original task and more importantly the FEAR that it generates (fear of failing the project, failing the grade, losing our job, etc) definitely meets our Stim Threshold and far exceeds the Stim level of anything else capable of distracting us at this point.
-This Guilt-Taboo cycle not only applies to getting work done, but also getting ourselves to bed, stopping something we're doing to leave on time to go somewhere else, etc. Anything that causes the Guilt-Taboo cycle has the ability to lock our attention into it, which of course causes us to lose precious time, making things more frantic and worse.

-Overcoming our ADHD tendencies and regaining control of ourselves and our behaviours is therefore tied strongly to how well we control sources of incoming stimulation, and how good we are at keeping our Stim Threshold low and under control.

Does this make sense to any of you guys?

I'm thinking of doing some short videos on the stuff I've researched so far, if I see other ADHDers find it useful. If this is of any interest to you, feel free to send me a pm.

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Total Comments 9


  1. Old
    1. Not yet DX'd, but if I am I expect to be DX'd combined (Scored 99th percentile for inattention, 98th for hyperactivity on some scales report thing, so....that's my basis.)

    2. I'd guess at least a 9 if not a 10. I can't say 100% on this kind of thing, but man it sure sounds like what I go through to get anything important done.

    3. Welll...nothing has been effective this far, at all. I am really frustrated about it, as for what I've tried...well I've tried all of the self-motivation techniques I could find on the internet...all doing diddly-squat.

    I constantly beat myself up trying to guilt myself into doing my work, it just doesn't work. Unfortunately this is more than likely going to result in me giving up entirely.

    I've tried saying "i can't do anything else until I get xx done, then I'll take a reward" and many variations like "for problem you complete, eat a reese cup" -- mild mild success, but usually I just end up taking the "reward" thing before I finish my task and be back to square 1.

    and sorry but I can't remember the other stuff I've done right now, but I've tried a lot of things...nothing really works. i can't seem to sustain any system i do put in place (such as the reward once finished one) and the more I fail at managing it the worse things get.
    Posted 06-08-11 at 08:38 PM by CaptainCadet CaptainCadet is offline
  2. Old
    Binwooke's Avatar
    1) Inattentive in the UK as a kid, combined 29 years later by a US Doctor.
    3) Fear of getting fired and in turn kicked out of the US is my most recent means of dealing with procrastination. Before that, I didn't manage it well at all...
    Posted 06-08-11 at 10:58 PM by Binwooke Binwooke is offline
  3. Old
    slugger's Avatar
    1)Not diagnosed yet, but I have no ďHĒ tendencies so I think I would be PI (specifically SCT from what Iíve read so far)

    2) 9. My biggest problem at this time is my iphone games distracting me and keeping me from my work. If I could overcome just that one thing, I would be SO much better off.

    3) Iíve tried a number of things. Iíve tried to work for longer periods of time (e.g. work for Ĺ hour straight, then lengthen it to 45 mins, etc). That only works when Iím doing something that captures my attention. Iíve tried a reward system just like the previous comment (didnít work). Just the other day I put a passcode on my phone (must type it in to wake the phone up), just a simple one but it makes me take one very purposeful step toward playing on my phone, and itís actually worked well so farÖ.. Well itís been only one day so weíll see. But yesterday I manage to only play during lunchtime and one 20-min session in the afternoon.
    Posted 06-09-11 at 12:58 PM by slugger slugger is offline
  4. Old
    speculative's Avatar
    1. Diagnosed with combined type. I do fidget, play with my pen, tap my foot, sway back and forth if I'm standing in place for a long time, etc., but mostly I have cognitive hyperactivity. (Would probably fall under the "over-focused" type in Amen's six types...)

    2. Probably around an 8-9. This started mainly in college, when I would wait until the day before a paper was due to write it. I would gather research beforehand, and think about what I wanted to say a bit, but it never came together until the very end, then I would figure out how many pages it was, and from there extrapolate how many minutes I had to print it, hop on my bike, ride up to the classroom through campus (which was illegal at the time and campus cops would stop you if they caught you riding in the middle of the campus) and make it to class right on the dot.

    3. I have tried to make myself start earlier and work steadily on projects/tasks/assignments instead of back-loading them. However, this has been unsuccessful up to this point. Medication has been helping. I once successfully completed NanoWrimo with zero prep work. (Wrote a whole novel in one month, November: ) However, every other attempt at this has failed because I tried to structure the project, whereas the year I succeeded I simply kept writing without worrying about structure or the end project. Actually, this is going to be my real test of my progress this year: Nanowrimo. If I can come up with an idea early, at least mid-summer, and start writing outlines, character sketches, maybe even short side-stories that won't end up going in November's work and counting toward the 50k, and then if I can execute the plan... How close I come to success this year will be a measure of my progress...
    Posted 06-09-11 at 11:14 PM by speculative speculative is offline
  5. Old
    Unmanagable's Avatar
    You have absolutely nailed how my mind operates.
    1. Six years ago, my primary dr. diagnosed me with severe depression and we tried a LOT of different meds, to no avail. April of this year, my new therapist said I am a classic case of adult female adhd and explained that the hyperactivity occurs in the mind and emotions as opposed to physical hyperactivity (she suggested adderall, my primary dr. prescribed it, and I did feel a positive change for about 2 weeks, but it faded). The new psychiatrist diagnosed me with add, severe depression, and a mood disorder, but provided no specificity beyond that (this was last Thursday - he gave me the max. dosage of vyvanse, cymbalta, suggested i take adderall kickstart in am in addition to the vyvanse - I had to peel my *** off the ceiling after 2 days of that - went straight into 5 day depressive state - paralyzed with excessive, unrealistic fears and anxiety)

    2. 10
    3. I've tried making lists, setting an alarm as a reminder, timing myself, leaving myself voicemails and emails as reminders - It has all worked at some point, however, I've not managed to maintain consistency and end up in vicious cycles of accomplishing little to nothing.
    Posted 06-10-11 at 02:27 AM by Unmanagable Unmanagable is offline
  6. Old
    1) Were you diagnosed with ADHD-Hyperactive, Inattentive or Combined type? (if not yet diagnosed, which do you think you are?)
    I was intially diagnosed with inattentive type, but I can have hyperactive symptoms at times as well. So, I was later diagnosed as combined.
    2) On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how much does your Procrastination match the above?
    3) What have you tried doing to overcome this Procastination, and how effective has it been?
    I have noticed that lists and alarms do help. But, I find that there will still be times where I procrastinate and forget to check the alarms and lists.
    So, I have short chunks of time where I am productive and get a lot accomplished. Then, there are long chunks of time where I don't get much completed.


    Posted 06-13-11 at 12:07 PM by artsyT artsyT is offline
  7. Old
    LordranBound's Avatar
    What I don't understand about procrastination is that it's almost a universal. I would say that of the people who procrastinate, only a small number of those people have add, even if it's the entire add population. What is the difference between us(add'ers) and them(the rest)? Is it more difficult for us NOT to procrastinate? Isn't everyone really looking for stimulation?

    I'm not sure where these questions came from originally but I'll answer them too:
    1) Inattentive
    2) 7
    3) Many different motivational tools, still without much success. I get things done on time, but I think it's because I'm a fearful person
    Posted 07-07-11 at 10:53 AM by LordranBound LordranBound is offline
  8. Old
    KCTang's Avatar
    What I don't understand about procrastination is that it's almost a universal. I would say that of the people who procrastinate, only a small number of those people have add, even if it's the entire add population. What is the difference between us(add'ers) and them(the rest)? Is it more difficult for us NOT to procrastinate? Isn't everyone really looking for stimulation?
    The difference between those of us with ADHD and the people without it, is the frequency, the ubiquitousness, and of course, the triggers.

    We procrastinate more often.
    We procrastinate on more tasks.
    Our reasons for procrastinating are more easily triggered.

    People without ADHD don't need to wait for something to be as last minute as we do. People without ADHD procrastinate to our level on things like 'exercise' and 'fixing the cabinet', but stuff like paying bills, filling up gas, or buying groceries can be put off to epic proportions.

    Paranoia is a common coping mechanism I've seen, used with quite a bit of success. There are other ways to help initiate earlier, but mild fear is something that I keep on my toolbox.
    Posted 07-08-11 at 11:24 AM by KCTang KCTang is offline
  9. Old
    alisno1fan's Avatar
    I'm seriously stimming off your ideas and theories.
    I love researching and learning about the ADHD mind.
    When I get time. We should make some magic and breakthroughs lol
    Posted 11-26-12 at 05:37 AM by alisno1fan alisno1fan is offline
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