What is "broken" in ADHD/ADD and why can't I get my brain to behave?

Maybe you are an adult who was just diagnosed with ADHD/ADD. 

Maybe you were diagnosed as a child, thought you had things under control, and now your spouse wants a divorce because he or she just can't live with you always being late or so disorganized you can't find your keys.

Or, maybe you are "self-diagnosed" and are wanting to understand what on earth you can do about your "attention issues."


The first key to ADHD treatment and improving your life is to understand exactly how ADHD gets in your way. Without understanding, the “solutions” won’t work or will just plain be wrong - which leads to the “nothing works” and “this will never get better” cries of defeat and hopelessness.

With understanding, comes the end of feeling defeated and hopeless. 

I know that you are probably tired and just want results, NOW. Results come after understanding what is broken.

If your sink is not working correctly, it is important to understand what is causing that, because how to fix it depends on what is broken, right? If the sink is clogged, the solution is different than if the sink isn’t even running water through the faucet.

Same with ADHD.


What is "broken" with ADHD? Executive Functions and Time Blindness

ADHD is not just a problem with attention or impulsivity - that is a stereotype that is limiting and changing.

The problems experienced with ADHD are under a broader umbrella of something called Executive Functions - all of the cognitive abilities in our brain that is used to plan, manage, and take action in our lives. When this part of our brain is “broken” so to speak, we struggle to make helpful plans, effectively manage all of the details of our lives, and to take meaningful action to achieve what we want to achieve.


6 Executive Functions impaired in ADHD

  • Task Management (Activation) - Prioritizing, organizing and initiating activity
  • Attention Management (Focus) - Focusing, sustaining, shifting attention to different tasks
  • Effort Management - Alertness, sustaining effort, managing energy, and processing speed
  • Emotion Management - Managing frustration, modulating and regulating emotions
  • Information Management (Memory) - Using working memory and accessing recall
  • Action Management - Monitoring, inhibiting, and self-regulating action

In the next couple of blog posts, I'll go into these issues in further detail, including what to do about it. 

If you'd like more information now, I suggest "Parenting ADHD Now" by Elaine Taylor-Klaus & Diane Demptster of Impact ADHD. (Where I found these great explanations and list of executive functions above) Even though the books says it is about parenting with ADHD, I find that the explanations in this books are very, very good, and many of the tips for kids with ADHD are simple and uncomplicated and work AWESOME for adults with ADHD.


Time Blindness - or "why can I not stop being late all of the time!?"

Time blindness is another main problem for adults with ADHD. (time exists as “now” and “not now” which makes planning, reaching goals, and many other things almost impossible)

For a quick explanation of Time Blindness, watch this short video - the best video on the subject I've found.

A Great Video about Time Blindness by ADHD Expert Dr. Russell Barkley

I'll discuss this more in future blog posts.


So, if I’m broken, then can my ADHD be fixed?

All of the above problems can be managed. They might change over time, but they probably won’t go away. ADHD treatment involved understanding what ADHD is, how it impacts executive functions of the brain, acceptance of ADHD and the limitations, and taking action to manage the symptoms.


Today was a quick overview of what is coming in the next few blog posts. Next post, I will talk more about the first two or three Executive Functions. I’ll describe more of what this looks like in someone with ADHD, the pros and cons of each Executive Function, and why this function is so important. Future posts will be the rest of the Executive Functions, and then post about Time Blindness.

If you are wanting help and/or support with your ADHD, managing Executive Functions or dealing with Time blindness, and are in the Kansas City area, I suggest joining the Adult ADHD Treatment group - a weekly meeting of adults with ADHD to help you finally get (stuff) done. 

Also, if you'd like the rest of the series and upcoming blog posts delivered directly to your email inbox, subscribe below!


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