Why Do Adults with ADHD Struggle with Distractions?

by | Jul 23, 2015 | ADHD Productivity | 2 comments

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Recently I was interviewed about why Adults with ADHD struggle with distractions. I thought you’d find the information helpful, so here you go.

Why Do ADHD Adults Struggle with Distractions?

I believe that the title ADHD is a misnomer. A deficit of attention is just one of many symptoms of ADHD.

At it’s core, ADHD is a deficit of brain stimulation. (Not to get too technical, but it’s a deficit of stimulation of the neurotransmitter activity in our brains. These neurotransmitters are what help you do things like focus, organize, and follow-through.)

The ADHD brain is always on the lookout for something more stimulating than what it’s doing at the moment.

The constant search for more stimulation shows up as distraction. Anything and everything can distract an ADHD adult – sound, movement, physical sensations, ideas, thoughts.

Where Do You See ADHD Adults Struggle with Distractions the Most?

Technology is a huge distraction for my clients. The Internet is like Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. One link leads to the next. One flashing image on a web page captures their attention and off they go. Checking email. The lure of Facebook. Smart Phones beeping and flashing. Games on their phones.

My clients are more apt to get diverted when they shift from one task or activity to another. We call them transitions. Simple changes like getting to work in the morning, returning to work after lunch, or coming home at night are times when adults with ADHD are more vulnerable to distractions.

Distractibility soars for ADHD adults who don’t take good care of their brains. That’s why I teach my clients how to help their brains work better through things like diet, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness. You can’t neglect brain care if you want o live more easily with ADHD.

What Problems Do Distractions Cause for ADHD Adults?

Distractibility causes many problems for people with ADHD:

  • Distractions cause trouble at work. Projects take too long to finish. Deadlines missed. Priorities and clients get neglected. Troubles ooze over into home when people have to work late to catch up.
  • Things like keys and wallets get lost when our attention gets pulled off task on to something else. (I lost my yoga mat at the gym the other day because I got distracted by an interesting conversation with another woman in the locker room.)
  • Clutter builds when ADHD adults get diverted and don’t finish what they were doing; leaving a trail of unfinished tasks behind them.
  • Reading comprehension suffers when you can’t read a paragraph without looking up from the page.
  • We don’t get enough sleep because we have to get things done in the middle of the night when the world is quiet enough that we can finally focus. (In college, eons before I knew about ADD, I often got up at 3 AM since it was the only time I could focus enough to study.)
  • Relationships suffer when ADHD adults can’t stay focused on conversations. Many ADHD adults have perfected the art of what I call ‘fake listening’. That means pretending to be paying attention when they’re not. When our friends and loved ones catch on to our tricks they think we don’t care about them.
  • We miss out on precious memories of life because we aren’t present enough for them to sink into our long-term memory.

Anything Else You Want ADHD Adults To Understand About Distractions?

Yes. If you have ADHD getting distracted isn’t a failure of will. It’s a brain chemistry issue.

We are also inconsistent. What helps us focus one day may not the next. Having a variety of tools and increased awareness of what distracts you is key. You will never stop distractibility 100%. Focus more on reducing it.

You’ll find some of my favorite tools to help reduce your struggle with distraction here on the blog.

To Your ADHD Success,

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  1. Maso

    We ADD people do better if we can get our hands into what we’re doing… Just sitting in a class room doesn’t work well for us. Give us something to be physically involved with and we do better…

  2. Swetha

    I too was suffering from symptoms like memory loss and concentration problem at home and work


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