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ADHD, Part II

Executive Functioning Chaos


Saturday, November 2, 2013

An individual with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) more often than not really struggles to just get through the day. What, you may be asking, is so difficult about living with ADHD? Isn’t that just someone who is hyper and can’t stay focused long enough to get anything done?

Allow me to share some of the difficulties that a person with ADHD lives with, but first a short biology lesson. The part of the brain that is responsible for the symptoms is the frontal lobe. This is where the executive functions skills reside in the brain. To make it very simple, there are neurons that send information from one to another across the synapse (gap) between the axons (ends of the neuron) via neurotransmitters. Without these neurotransmitters (norepinephrine and dopamine) the information gets lost in the gap and essentially stops right there. So the thought processing, memory retrieval, and control center of the brain just isn’t firing on all cylinders. A person with ADHD is low on these neurotransmitters, so the information that should travel from neuron to neuron doesn’t and the things a person plans and attempts to do, simply doesn’t get done. So when a person with ADHD is told to just “try harder” it makes no difference how hard they may try, the circuitry just isn’t working for things to happen as they wish.

Juli Shulem

A professional I spoke with many years ago had a wonderful way of explaining this to children, which I always have loved: Imagine that the frontal lobe is like the Manager of your thoughts, actions, reactions, and ability to stay on task and complete something. This Manager makes sure you finish what you start, helps determine what you will pay attention to, and what you will not notice. The Manager filters out unnecessary information, such as the noise across the street, and keeps you aware of time passing so you don’t miss important events. This manager also helps you to plan, prioritize, be organized, strategize, think before acting (impulsivity), and be able to control your movement.

An ADHD person’s manager is on an extended vacation!

So, this is much more than someone who may fidget and not finish things once begun. Here is a list of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD: Combined Type:

Difficulty sustaining attention

Difficulty with organization

Easily distracted

Cannot follow a sequence of information

Struggles to follow through on instructions

Loses things

Forgetful in daily activities

Difficulty sustaining mental effort

Fidgets

Difficulty transitioning to new activities

Talks excessively

Impulsivity in many situations

May hyper-focus to the exclusion of all other activities

Inability to notice time passing

Difficulty going to sleep and/or waking up

So if you want to know what it feels like to experience a day with the symptoms of ADHD, simply avoid sleep for at least 48 hours straight. See how well you pay attention, remember what you are told, and avoid distractions…it won’t be so easy.

Next week I will address ADHD in children. Have a wonderful week!

Ask a question for the column in November & December and I will address it at the appropriate time. Email questions to Coach Juli, PCC Productivity Coach, at jshulem@gmail.com and put “question for column” in the subject line and they will be answered right here – your name is not used.

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