Is it ADHD or…

These days, it seems as though much of the world is demanding our attention. For some, this means an increasing struggle with inattention. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or more commonly known as ADHD, was once considered rare. However, many people now report that they’re struggling with related symptoms.

Symptoms of ADHD can include:

  •    Struggles with homework or listening in class
  •    Challenges with listening and retaining information
  •    Decreased ability to finish tasks
  •    Forgetfulness
  •    Struggles with sitting still for long periods of time

While this is a real condition, too many people are quick to self-diagnose and blame ADHD for their inability to focus. This is especially true for those who face many different demands at once, such as moms of small children.

A culture of over-stimulation and multitasking overload

Other cultures have not reported as many cases of ADHD as we have here in America. We’re so focused on being productive that we’ve trained our brains to continually multi-task.

Between Facebook, pop-ups, emails, instant notifications, cell-phone calls, and text messages, there’s a constant battle for our attention in today’s culture. Then you try to attend to all of that while watching small kids or working a job with many different demands. What do we expect our brains to do?

It also seems like we can never just be quiet with our thoughts. Our overly busy schedules don’t leave much room for free time. Whenever we do have a quiet moment or break, we immediately break out our phones for stimulation. Why do we expect our brains to be able to do something different than they’ve been trained to do? How much time do we spend sitting quietly compared to the time we’re bombarded with stimuli?

All of this constant stimulation does take a toll on us. Ultimately, it results in an inability to focus when we do want to just be still.

Finding a quick fix

While we may think that we’re getting away with all of this multi-tasking, there are areas of life that suffer from these actions. When our brains struggle to focus at work or school, or we can’t seem to get organized at home, we want an explanation or quick fix. That’s why so many people tend to self-diagnose ADHD or go to medicine as the answer. While ADHD medications can help you focus, it’s also important to understand the dangers of taking them. Medications used to treat this condition are strong, addictive and easily abused.

While ADHD is real, the inability to focus alone does not mean that you have this condition. Our culture encourages us to jump to these conclusions, but with our lifestyle of multi-task overload, it’s possible that we’ve trained ourselves to behave as if we have ADHD.

Training our children to seek stimulation

A life of continual stimulation doesn’t just impact us as adults. Our children model our choices and lifestyles. If you’re constantly on your phone, multi-tasking and seeking stimulation, they’ll do the same. Do your children have quiet time where they can be alone with their thoughts? Or, is their free time dominated by screens and toys? If we want them to sit quietly and focus at school, we need to teach them how to sit quietly and focus at home.

Also, it’s important to note that for some, the inability to focus may be helped by understanding that everyone’s brain works differently. I was personally diagnosed with ADHD in college, but I’ve noticed that my struggles change with what I’m trying to focus on.

My husband and I work together, and while I can sit and easily focus on something that has to do with numbers or concepts, I’m unable to sit and read something that I do not find interesting. My husband, who is not ADHD, struggles to sit still and takes more breaks than I do. However, at the end of the day, he gets just as much work done.

When you’re looking at how to help your child focus, it’s important to find the approach that works best for them. Your child will benefit the most if you can figure out how they work best and develop ways to engage them uniquely.

Changing our expectations

While ADHD is a real condition, it’s possible for many that self-diagnosed ADHD is constructed by our expectations. We expect too much of ourselves. It’s not always possible to get a bunch of things done, while watching our kids, keeping up at work, and being responsive to our phones and social media.

It’s not always possible for our kids to show self-control and sit quietly at school when they have an abundance of energy. If we changed our expectations of ourselves, along with our need for constant productivity and stimulation, I believe we’d see an increased ability to focus, and a reduction in stress and the number of people that need to be on ADHD medications.

– Charity Ritter LISW-S

For counseling information, please visit our page on ADHD.


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