Although I don’t really like to admit it, I have a really hard time focusing a lot of the time. Maybe some of you feel the same way. Lately I just can’t stop asking myself why can’t I focus?! Do I have ADHD? I get distracted way too easily, whether it’s my own fault or not, and sometimes I really have to fight myself in order to concentrate. It gets me so frustrated sometimes!
Believe it or not, it’s even challenging writing this post because I keep finding my thoughts wandering off to many different things. I need to wash the dishes today, when should I go to the farmers market, man the sunlight is putting a glare on my computer screen, will I be able to execute on a new side business idea this year, what time is it, yikes my hands are dry, and on and on and on….
My father has had both dyslexia and ADHD his whole life. Although I learned about dyslexia growing up, as a friend of mine had it too, I never really studied or read anything about ADHD until now. Since I’ve gotten so frustrated with myself not being able to focus lately, I’m writing this post learn more about ADHD, spread awareness, share my own self assessment, and also hopefully get some feedback from you guys too.
Wait. What Is The Difference Between ADD And ADHD?
First of all I’d never even heard of ADHD until I started doing some research around the web. I always knew the disorder just as ADD = attention deficit disorder. But it turns out the term ADD is rather outdated, as it’s been known since the mid 90’s as ADHD = attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
There are also three main subtypes of ADHD, which are inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and the combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. When a person is properly diagnosed, the specialist is able to pinpoint which subtype applies based on symptoms and feedback.
What Are The Main Symptoms And Causes?
ADHD can affect both children and adults, about three times more often in males than females. According to the NIMH, roughly 3-5% of children have ADHD. However, many experts think that it’s closer to 10%. ADHD is also estimated to affect about 4-5% of adults, which is roughly 8 million people in the U.S. That’s quite a lot!
Although there’s no 100% certain cause of ADHD, it’s believed to be triggered by hereditary factors, changes in the brain, and/or chemical imbalances. The main symptoms in adults are having trouble concentrating, remembering information, finishing work on time, following directions, and organizing tasks. Adults may feel internally restless, have a tendency to choose instant gratification vs seeing things through for a greater reward, fidget when sitting, blurt out and interrupt, get distracted easily from noise or surrounding activities, and have difficulty waiting in line or relaxing. It can also be challenging staying focused when learning something new, getting things organized for performing tasks, making careless mistakes, and keeping focused when doing repetitive or boring work.
I also learned that ADHD is not really something that you can get all of a sudden as an adult. It is pretty much always present from childhood if experienced as an adult. Of course it’s possible you had ADHD as a child but were not diagnosed until adulthood. And unfortunately if severe cases are left untreated, that can lead to a bunch of other problems like depression, substance abuse, and inability to hold a job. These disruptions can really have an impact on one’s career, health, personal finance goals, and lifestyle.
How Do You Know For Sure If You Have ADHD?
Unfortunately there is no standard genetic, medical, or physical test that you can take to find out if you have ADHD or not. Some pediatricians are able to diagnose children, but many refer patients to specialized mental health professionals. Adults are best off seeking an ADHD experienced and licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or physician.
Usually a spouse or close family member is involved in the diagnosis process as well, contributing their observations for analysis. Teachers, caregivers, and parents are often asked for their input when diagnosing children. In order to have ADHD, symptoms must be present for six months or longer, and occur in more than one setting, ex at work/school and at home.
Keep in mind some of the symptoms above are common occurrences in everyday because we all live in hectic environments with so many things constantly demanding our attention. We’re continually distracted by text messages, the TV, work stress, emails, etc. But with ADHD, the symptoms aren’t temporary, they’re frequent and disruptive.
Traditional ADHD Treatment Options
If you’re a parent and have any concerns about your kids I’d suggest seeking guidance from an experienced specialist or your pediatrician. The sooner children are diagnosed, the better their chances of managing or even overcoming their ADHD, and limiting any negative affects on their performance at school, in social settings, and at home.
My father said so many times he wished his parents had taken him to get help when he was growing up. He struggled for so many years that he constantly wondered how much more he could have achieved if he’d gotten help. I too often forget all the frustration and difficulties he had to go through. I need to be more sensitive about this!
So what type of treatment options are there for ADHD? One main type of traditional treatment is medication. There are stimulants like Ritalin, which you’ve probably heard of, nonstimulants like Strattera, antidepressants, and even some high blood pressure medications that can be used in treatment. The other main types of treatment are behavioral therapy and education.
All Natural Treatments And Home Remedies
Additionally, there are many effective natural treatment options that help reduce symptoms. Exercise is believed to be beneficial as a treatment, also for overall health and wellness of course, because the natural release of dopamine by the brain helps increase the ability to think clearly and concentrate. People with ADHD often have low levels of dopamine.
Quiet meditation, setting aside daily time for relaxation, and massage can also help. Spending more time in green outdoor settings have also been shown to be beneficial in children, and I’m sure the same would apply to adults too. I know I think a lot clearer when I’m in the forest or walking through a park!
Many people have also found improvements by making changes to their diet. Reducing the intake of sugar, food coloring, MSG, junk food, preservatives, carbs, and refined foods while increasing vegetables and whole grains can be helpful. Supplements and herbs like zinc, St. John’s Wort, Omega 3’s, chamomile, and lemon balm are other suggestions.
Getting into regular routines, cutting back on TV, and developing organizational skills are also advantageous customs to adopt. And a lot of these natural remedies are beneficial to concentration and staying focused even if you don’t have ADHD.
My Self Assessment
Since my dad has ADHD and it can run in families, he wanted me to get tested when I was young. I vaguely remember going in for testing when I was in elementary school but wasn’t diagnosed at that time. Looking back I do wonder if the therapist could have been wrong and if he jumped to his conclusion too soon. After doing all the research for this post, I think I might have ADHD, but a mild to moderate level if any. I do have difficulty concentrating a lot of times, but I’m usually able to focus better if I change my surroundings and take the time to clear my head.
I was surprised at how many of the symptoms I’ve had throughout my life: difficulty concentrating, easily distracted from noise and surrounding activities, constant fidgeting when sitting, the tendency to choose instant gratification, challenge staying focused when learning something new, keeping focused when doing repetitive or boring work, and lately remembering information. Fortunately though my symptoms have never been disruptive enough to have a major impact on my performance in school or at work. And then some symptoms I’ve never had at all like difficulty organizing, because I’m an organizational junkie.
I’m definitely more likely to have ADHD than the average person since my dad has it, but it certainly doesn’t mean I do by default. At this point I don’t plan on seeking a professional diagnosis for myself, because I wouldn’t be interested in taking medication anyway. Whether or not I actually have ADHD or not, I’m already working on some of the natural treatments like regular exercise, reducing sugar and preservatives, and meditating. I plan to keep at it and to incorporate more Omega 3’s into my diet.
Thanks a bunch for reading this far! I’m really glad to have the opportunity to spread awareness of ADHD, and to show my support for those who have it.
The Best Books On ADHD
Here are some popular books about ADHD for further reading, coping techniques, and advice.
Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder
The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents
The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps
Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential
Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach (APA Lifetools)
Do You Have Trouble Concentrating?
Untemplaters, do you find it challenging to concentrate and stay focused? Have you ever thought you might have ADHD? Do you or anyone you know have ADHD?
What advice do you have for concentrating and improving focus? For those of you who are good at focusing do you happen to exercise a lot?
Copyright 2013. Original content and photography authorized only to appear on Untemplater.com. Thank you for reading!
I have had a hard time concentrating since I was a child. I’m now 47. I have often had a delay in a response. My co-workers (retired and current) knew and know this about me. I was listening to them but it was in the background. They know of me as being intelligent. I’m always curious about learning something new and I am referred to as a walking encyclopedia of useless information. My childhood report cards would always say that I daydreamed. I have never treated this. I have just lived and accepted it as normal. But now that I am older, I am wanting to “fix” this. I will try the exercise. Is there a natural vitamin or supplement that will help? Thanks.
First, great article!
Second, I want to mention that sometimes, ADHD gets misdiagnosed and it’s actually CAPD that’s the culprit. Here’s a link here:
It isn’t a hearing problem that can be easily remedied with a hearing aid. It’s how our brain interprets the information that we perceive with our senses.
Thanks Jen! That’s quite curious about CAPD. I hadn’t heard of that before. Thanks for helping raise awareness to help kids.
Peter H. Ha says
I think its epidemic in our society. I work with high school students, and their parents tells me that it takes them 5 hours to do a 30 minute homework. They are so easily distracted, I recommend them to take away their phones and create a computer without Internet access to do their homework. One of the parents told me their kid almost had a nervous breakdown. I’m not surprised that we as an adult suffer from this as well. But I think becoming aware of it is a first step.
I used to take several hours to do 30 minute assignments too. That’s part of the reason why my parents had me tested for ADHD. I would overcomplicate the assignments and get so caught up in it all that I was slow to make progress.
Homework on an Internet free computer sounds like a good idea. That’s how they were when I was growing up lol! I can see how kids nowadays could have a nervous breakdown hearing that though as I’m sure they must use the web constantly to get help on a lot of their homework.
Edward Antrobus says
I’m a total hypochondriac when it comes to mental disorders. I sometimes wonder if I might have ADD (I really struggle with the H because hyperactive is NOT a trait of mine!) because my neither was dismissed as borderline as a child and I do see the signs in myself But then I shrug it off telling myself that Aspbergers and even schizophrenia are also disorders that I can convince myself that I have.
Edward Antrobus says
That should have been brother, not neither. (Really, autocorrect?)
Tie the Money Knot says
Great post. This is something I’ve randomly thought about for myself, though I’m not really sure I have it. But I do tend to have my mind constantly working and thinking of different things to do. For example, if I walk into a bookstore, I see so many interesting things I’d like to read that I just can’t focus on one. I just get so excited but can’t fully concentrate. Odd example perhaps, but that’s how I’ve been.
Interestingly, when I’m at least slightly sick (a few times a year), I’m actually at my most productive and can get the most work done. I’m able to settle in and really focus at a high level.
The was you described going into a bookstore is how I feel about ideas. When I start brainstorming ideas, I get so excited that I can’t figure out what to do with them all and spend too much time thinking about thinking if that makes any sense.
Bobby @ Ban Excuses says
It’s easy to read about that kind of stuff and then internalize everything. I’m pretty sure if anyone would read about ADD almost everyone would feel like they have some (at least) mild signs of ADD themselves. Much like if you hear that someone has a spider on them and it was walking around on their head for a few minutes before they realized it, then all of a sudden it feels like something is on your own head.
Yeah I can see that, and boy is that so true with bugs, especially spiders! I get wigged out anytime I see one even if it’s across the room. And I always seem to find spiders at home too. They must be sneaking in through a window crack or something.
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Thanks for the insightful post! Like Pauline, I struggle with staying focused as well…but I think it’s more a sign of the times than anything else. There’s always something to be done and we can “check” any time we want with a smartphone. It also does not help that I have three little ones running around all the time to distract me. 😉
Thanks John! Yeah it can be so hard not to check on things like emails and texts every few minutes. I usually have a minimum of 2 browsers and 6-12 tabs open, sometimes even double that. It can make me feel rather scatterbrained. I wonder if kids feel the same way, or if all of the info/distractions/data inflow we experience feels completely normal to them. I’m guessing the latter.
I have a hard time focusing as well but think it is a sign of our times. I was talking to my grandfather yesterday and he said Google made him dizzy and he doesn’t understand how we can have 10 tabs open and skip things with a finger on our tablets, all our habits are about being quick, fast, and not concentrating well on one task. It takes some work to reverse the trend.
That makes me wonder what we’re going to be saying about technology 40-50 years from now. I wonder if we’ll ever live in a world where we’ll get computer chips in our brains or something crazy like that. lol It sure feels like we’re headed in that direction with the way that our devices turning into extra limbs.