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Focus in ADHD

April 26, 2021

Focus is like a wave. It has its own momentum. It is part of a larger process. It ebbs and flows. And if you catch it at just the right moment, it can carry you. People with ADHD have focus. They just have a hard time catching the wave and riding it in certain circumstances.

The “inattentive” part of ADHD is best understood as a problem with assigning, sustaining, and regulating focus. The deficit is not in the amount of focus, but rather in the individual’s ability to direct that focus toward a designated task, and in the designated time frame. In fact, many people with ADHD have high levels of focus and are able to “hyperfocus” on areas or tasks of interest. People with ADHD have difficulty assigning attention, initiating the task, sustaining task persistence, filtering distractions, and re-engaging with the task after interruption. Limited tolerance for designated tasks can lead to a limited window of engagement, resulting in difficulty focusing on a task one perceives to be too easy, too hard, or uninteresting. This is very common among individuals with ADHD. 

Treatment for ADHD includes a variety of approaches that help to support the individual in developing their capacity to assign, sustain, and regulate their focus on a given task. 

Overcoming anything that feels overwhelming starts with acknowledging the power of the thing and giving a nod of respect to how big it seems to you. From there, adopt a stance of competence and confidence in your ability to complete the task and/or find support where you need it. 

It can be very helpful to break the task down into small, manageable steps which can be successfully completed. Each small success will provide motivation to move to the next small step. 

For children and adults with ADHD, an evaluation can help to pinpoint where they struggle the most, and get them started in the right direction of finding help in that area.