Novelty & The ADHD Brain

Novelty & The ADHD Brain

Individuals with ADHD often exhibit a strong attraction to novelty, driven by the brain's constant search for new and stimulating experiences. This inclination towards new activities or projects provides a temporary boost in focus and enthusiasm. However, it can also lead to challenges with consistency and long-term commitment, as interest may wane once the novelty fades. Understanding this relationship between ADHD and novelty is crucial in developing strategies to balance new pursuits with ongoing responsibilities, ensuring a more stable and fulfilling engagement with both new and existing tasks.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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A word form our expert

Why Do People With ADHD Love Novelty? 

Ever wondered why those of us with ADHD get so pumped about new hobbies, only for the fire to fizzle out a few weeks later? According to science, it’s all in our head - or rather, our brain. 🧠

ADHD is often tied to our ever-changing dopamine levels. Even though the DSM-5 doesn't describe "novelty-seeking" as an official symptom, plenty of us in the ADHD community understand it. So, is this knack for chasing new thrills a curse or a hidden superpower? Let's dive into the fascinating world of ADHD and novelty-seeking. 🚀

How Dopamine Makes Things Interesting (Or Boring) For The ADHD Brain

Dopamine is like your brain's VIP party planner, ensuring you know what events are worth attending. 🎉 This neurotransmitter keeps things in harmony for most people, signaling pleasure and reward. But in the case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), think of that party planner as a little distracted. 😅 This can result in an inconsistent attention span and a propensity for novelty seeking.

According to research, the ADHD brain operates on a different wavelength, engaging its unique "ADHD nervous system." This isn't just a quirk - it's backed by dopamine-driven neurobiology. Most people, including adults and children, have tasks they don't enjoy, but for people with ADHD, the struggle with uninteresting tasks goes beyond mere annoyance. There's a physiological component: a dopamine deficiency that makes it hard to tackle mundane tasks. 

Unlike neurotypical brains, the ADHD brain doesn't respond well to everyday stimulation; it craves novelty and interest to fire up its engines. 🔥This makes hyperactivity and impulsivity common symptoms but also points toward an inability to manage tasks that don't captivate immediate interest.

Now, why does this matter? This can contribute to what ADHD specialist William Dodson describes as an "interest-based nervous system." In simpler terms, we're often pulled toward new experiences like a magnet 🧲. It's not always bad, but it gets complicated when this behavior makes it challenging to focus on tasks and responsibilities - especially if they're not rewarding. 

The Interest Based Nervous System

So, how do people with ADHD navigate this dopamine deficit? If you've ever found yourself in a Candy Crush marathon 🍬 or working down to the wire because a 'do or die' deadline finally got you motivated, you're not alone. These are classic examples of how the ADHD brain seeks novelty and stimulation. Most of us respond well to what's shiny and new because our ADHD nervous system craves that dopamine hit.

We might not all be textbook cases as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Still, one thing's for sure: ADHD diagnosis often involves a complex dance of symptoms. Hyperactivity might be a front-runner for children, while adults often grapple with a more inattentive type of ADHD. 🤷‍♀️

The intricacy of ADHD often baffles those with neurotypical brains. 🤯 How can an individual with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder intensely focus on a video game but struggle with seemingly simple tasks? Well, according to the interest-based nervous systems theory I mentioned earlier, Dr. William Dodson suggests that a person with ADHD is fully engaged when something is personally interesting, challenging, or urgent; otherwise, procrastination will likely take over.

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The Day To Day Life Of The ADHD Brain

Most people have some level of struggle with managing tasks, but for those of us with ADHD, it's often on a different level. When you've got an ADHD brain, staying on top of things like chores or assignments isn't just challenging; it can feel like a constant uphill battle. 🏔

As the ADHD nervous system is often motivated by instant rewards, tasks that don't offer immediate feedback or gratification can feel impossible to start or finish. This is sometimes referred to as ‘ADHD freeze’ or task paralysis. 

It can also affect jobs and relationships, too. 👇


How many of you have switched jobs umpteen times because you just couldn't stay put? 🙋‍♀️ Studies show that people with ADHD often seek out jobs that are high on stimulation and low on routine. 

I once quit a "stable job" because it was mind-numbingly dull. It was like a breath of fresh air when I switched to something more dynamic. But, of course, the honeymoon phase doesn't last forever. 😅 As soon as the novelty wore off, I was on to the next job - or industry! 🤦


The same can happen to us in relationships. When we meet someone new, dopamine can light our brains like a Christmas tree. 🎄 But when the "newness" fades, so does that initial spark. It's a rollercoaster of ups and downs that can leave us - and our partners - feeling a bit dizzy. 

So, what's the solution? As with anything ADHD, the secret is understanding your brain; 🧠 when we know the inner processes of our neurodivergence, we can find ways to 'hack' it to cope with the demands of the neurotypical world we live in.

Figure Out What Gets You Engaged

What jazzes up your ADHD brain? 🌟 Identifying what really grabs your interest could be your lifeline. For adults and children with ADHD, the key lies in transforming obligatory tasks into something more appealing. So, if social interaction gets your dopamine flowing, turn that gym session into a fun gathering by inviting a friend! If you can't start your chores, find a podcast related to your special interests or hyperfocus.

Tackle Emotional Hurdles

We can't talk about ADHD without addressing the emotional side of things. Living with this disorder isn't just about managing symptoms like hyperactivity or inattention. It's also about navigating a rollercoaster of emotions that can affect how you respond to various circumstances. 

Most people don't necessarily realize how closely emotions and task completion are connected in an ADHD nervous system. It's important to give yourself space to explore your feelings through journaling, talking to a friend, or working with a therapist experienced in ADHD. Emotions such as shame, rejection, and even comorbid conditions such as depression can get in the way of How Adults with ADHD Handle Rejection and Negative Emotions what we find rewarding.

Make Tasks Rewarding

Say you need to write an essay. How about breaking it down into mini-tasks and rewarding yourself at each milestone? This taps into your brain's love for immediate rewards and helps keep you engaged. ✅

Find Stability in the Chaos 

The trick, as many experts suggest, is to find ways to inject novelty into the "old" rather than seeking something completely new. Spice up your job by taking on new projects or finding a new hobby to share with your partner. This will feed that insatiable hunger for new experiences without requiring a life overhaul every few months. 🔄

Don't Go It Alone

Your ADHD journey doesn't have to be a solo trip. Lean on your support system - friends, parents, or healthcare providers. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑They can offer additional perspectives and strategies you might have yet to consider. They can even help maintain a sense of control - for example, reminding you to redirect your attention when it's essential to not get distracted. 

Working with a medical professional specializing in ADHD can also allow you to explore treatment options such as behavioral therapies or medication such as stimulants or alpha agonist medications. 💊


The vast majority of people might not understand that our brains are wired to function in a way distinct from what's considered 'the norm.' In particular, our ADHD nervous system and dopaminergic system contribute to that. These aren't just scientific terms; they're the building blocks of how we operate day-to-day. 

Having ADHD isn't just a diagnosis; it's an intricate part of a person's life, influencing everything from your sense of control to your motivation levels. Researchers are constantly looking into how these unique aspects of our nervous system affect our interests, abilities, and even how we rest. We're a pretty interesting bunch of people to study. 😉

Knowing how our brains are wired helps us understand the importance of personalized management strategies. Treatment isn't a one-size-fits-all approach; medication is a lifesaver for some. For others, behavioral therapies work wonders. The trick is to find what best syncs with your unique ADHD nervous system. This is especially true for parents supporting children through this journey, particularly as they grow and change. 

Finally, let's not forget about the importance of passion. ADHD brains are built to be passionate and intensely interested in specific tasks or topics. Understanding how to manage this, reward ourselves, and sustain that interest can make a massive difference in our lives.

Of course, the big goal here is a well-rounded, fulfilling life where both the rewards and challenges of having ADHD are acknowledged and managed. Living with ADHD is a rollercoaster; there's nothing like understanding its mechanics to better enjoy the ride. From careers to relationships to how we take rest or sleep, having the roadmap to our unique neurobiology is beyond empowering.

That's why these conversations are crucial - ADHD affects every corner of our lives, and that's okay. The more we engage with the science behind our disorder - the dopaminergic system, the striatum, and all those other fun terms - the better we can use that knowledge to our advantage. It's not about "fixing" a disorder; it's about embracing who we are and using that knowledge to thrive. 💪

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ADHD and Novelty: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is novelty-seeking ADHD?

Novelty-seeking ADHD isn't an official subtype of ADHD, but it describes a tendency many people with ADHD experience. The ADHD brain often seeks new stimuli to keep them engaged and focused.

Why does novelty-seeking tend to happen in many people with ADHD?

People with ADHD often crave new experiences because their brains are wired to seek out extra stimulation. This isn't just a random habit; it's how their brain tries to maintain focus and motivation when tasks are mundane or repetitive.

How can you cope with novelty-seeking behavior?

One effective coping strategy for novelty-seeking behavior is channeling innate curiosity and enthusiasm toward a long-term passion project. This allows for a consistent sense of engagement while permitting some room for variability. Another approach is to make mundane tasks more rewarding by pairing them with something stimulating. For instance, listening to a podcast can make chores like cleaning or organizing less boring. This way, you're tapping into your ADHD brain's need for engagement and motivation while still completing those essential tasks.

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