ADHD & Distractions: Why Our Brains Are Easily Distracted
Did you know that while I was writing this article, I spent about half an hour watching YouTube videos on skateboarding? 🛹 I just remembered that I needed to write an article about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, so I immediately stopped watching those videos. Besides that, I had trouble focusing because of the rustling of leaves outside 🍃, which, for me, was annoying.
My ADHD brain is almost always like that: easily distracted. Also, it may get harder and harder to focus on my task if I don't respond to my urge.
But why does adult ADHD cause this challenge? Is this a part of the behavior problems that people with ADHD struggle with? Does everyone with ADHD have trouble paying attention? 😵 What's within our system that makes it hard for us to closely monitor details or be hundred percent dedicated to what we are doing? What are the other issues related to having a distracted ADHD mind?
Let’s discuss the answers in the following sections.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Predominantly Inattentive Symptoms
Getting distracted easily is one of the most common symptoms of ADHD. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition or DSM-V for ADHD diagnosis, if you have this ADHD trait, there's a possibility that you belong to the Predominantly Inattentive category of ADHD.
Generally, ADHD is often characterized by making careless mistakes, difficulty sustaining the same energy in doing a task or activity, or having long rest periods instead of short breaks to relieve stress. However, some people with Predominantly Inattentive ADHD may find it more difficult to do one task dedicatedly due to distractions or environmental stimuli. 😨
However, as ADHD is a complex condition and many external factors can affect how we think or act, some adults can also experience "hyperfocus," which is basically the opposite of being easily distracted. This is when a person with ADHD can focus on one task for long periods without getting tired. 💪 Some people with ADHD can benefit from this trait at times as it can be helpful in certain professions, such as firefighters, surgeons, and air traffic controllers who need to stay calm and concentrated under pressure. However, please note that unrestrained intense fixation also has its downsides.
Going back, please note that being easily distracted is only one of the levels of inattention, as this ADHD type can manifest differently in other people. For educational purposes, we'll try to understand more about the relationship between ADHD and Distraction and the different possibilities that this can affect us.
Is It Normal Forgetfulness Or Our ADHD Brain?
Do you experience walking into a room, then suddenly you think of something else, and then you forget what you were about to do in that room? I experience this a lot 😅 Often, I spend time trying to remember what I am supposed to do inside the room, and then I give up because the more I think about it, the more it slips out of my mind. 😭 However, there's a technique that I'll share with you, which can help you remember when an instance like this happens to you.
When you suddenly get preoccupied before entering a room and forget what you need to do, retrace your path to where you came from. 👌 More often than not, you'll remember your purpose for going to the other room. It usually works like a charm for me whenever I forget things, so it may work for you too! 🙌
Neurotypical people can also be forgetful at times, but they don't consider this part of the more significant health conditions that warrant medical help. However, some adults with ADHD can experience forgetfulness differently because of having too many distractions. 😵 When many things are going on in our minds, we can't seem to focus on the task at hand and forget our priority. In other words, our ability to manage our memory can be significantly affected by ADHD.
A quick tip on overcoming this struggle: make a to-do list 📝 stating the most important task up to the least exciting activity you need to do. This way, you can track your progress and not forget a single thing that you are supposed to finish.
Interesting Things and Getting Lost in Details
Earlier, we talked about hyperfocus or intense fixation on a task. Commonly, some people with ADHD hyperfocus on an activity they find interesting. However, if not utilized well, hyperfocus can greatly affect our overall productivity 😭, particularly when we are supposed to be doing other time-sensitive tasks. Case in point: if we need to complete three tasks today, but hyperfocus on just one, we might end up not finishing the other two. This is one way ADHD affects our ability to meet deadlines.
Likewise, ADHD & Deadlines sometimes don't get along well because our distractibility can get in the way. When I was studying, I tended to fall into this trap, especially when there was research to be done for a specific subject. For instance, we were studying world history one time, and I got too involved with the topic. I spent numerous hours reading other resources about this specific region. Afterward, I got distracted with numerous trivial details. In the end, I stayed up late, trying to compensate for the lost hours. 🥺
When this happens, it is best to take a step back, assess the situation, and identify the goal we want to achieve. After that, break down those goals into manageable tasks and allot specific time to handle each of your tasks or activities properly. These strategies can help you overcome getting too attached to details instead of finishing your priorities on time.
Impulsivity and Distractions
ADHD can significantly affect our ability to pay attention when someone is talking, especially when they are tackling subjects that we find uninteresting. We might get easily bored listening to what they say 😔, making us more distracted and finding other things to observe or look at. Our brain's ability to ignore a relatively boring conversation and blurt out things we should not can be due to our impulsivity.
Being impulsive is one of the ADHD symptoms that many people struggle with, as there may be consequences. 😭 Relationship problems and miscommunication might happen when we cannot stay focused and hear the other party out. And when we interrupt them while they are still talking, they may interpret this as a sign of disrespect and think that we are not interested in what they are saying.
If you want to work on this, try your best to be more patient and understand that not all conversations will be interesting for you. 👌 Giving the other person the time and chance to speak is essential. When you feel like you are about to cut in or lose focus on what they are saying, explain to them beforehand that you tend to get distracted to at least avoid offending them.
Distracted by Sensory Overload
Have you ever been distracted by someone loudly gnawing his chewing gum? Or can you not get enough sleep because you are pestered by the blinking light of your phone charger 📱? Some people with ADHD are more prone to get distracted by their environment than others. We tend to get easily overwhelmed by our senses, making it hard for us to focus on a specific task.
Imagine taking the examination with a seatmate wearing a strong perfume scent. There was this time that I almost failed the test because of this. Present challenges caused by our sensory overload can be a struggle for us to maintain our focus. Such distraction can either trigger us to get lost in our thoughts or completely block out the stimulus because it is too overwhelming for our brain.
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How Do We Overcome Distractions?
Sometimes, we can’t overcome distractions. But, it is essential to understand how distractions can affect us and how we can minimize their impact.
For some people with ADHD, it is best to find a quiet place to work on tasks that need focus 🧑💼. Background white noise or music without lyrics 🎵can also be helpful. You can listen to our ADHD Lo-Fi chill mix on YouTube and have ambient music while doing something important. Setting a mood in your workspace can likewise improve productivity in the long run. You can also use certain apps that can help you manage distractibility. These ADHD tools can aid you in doing your tasks without the help of medication.
Try not to overload yourself with too many tasks at the same time. Having a to-do list with prioritized tasks 📝can help you get stuff done. Organization tools can also help declutter your thoughts and help you focus on other tasks one step at a time.
If we get frustrated with being distracted all the time, step back and relax. Take a few minutes' breaks after you complete tasks. Getting enough rest can help us avoid burnout, depression, and anxiety-related trouble. If you continue to struggle in your daily life because of this, talk to your mental health professional. 🧑⚕️ They may provide medical advice to help you out with your difficulties.
ADHD can be difficult to manage, but with the right tools and understanding, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Just take things one step at a time, one day at a time. You got this! 😘
PS. I saw the cute dogs of our neighbor. They are adorable. I stopped doing this task for about an hour. 😅
ADHD and Distractions: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is being easily distracted one of the official symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Yes, it is. Being easily distracted is listed in the primary symptoms under the ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type.
What other symptoms or traits affect ADHD-related distractibility?
While being easily distracted is a symptom on its own, other ADHD traits tend to affect it. Some of these symptoms include impulsivity, which even those diagnosed under the Predominantly Inattentive Type might experience from time to time. Then, we have forgetfulness, inability to pay attention to details, and sensory overload.
Are there ways to overcome being easily distracted?
Yes! There are plenty of ways to overcome being distracted. Mostly, it’s a matter of understanding your other symptoms and how you become distracted. For instance, if you get sensory overload from or distracted by too much sound, finding a quiet place to work can help.