Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hey, easy on the stress! - Inattention ADHD and motivation

People with ADHD like to use stress to overcome procrastination and get things done. That's the message you get from reading most popular books on ADHD. ADDers prefer to leave things to the last minute for example, so adrenaline will provide the essential motivation for the underaroused ADDer to get off his/her rear and get things done.

But as with so many other things you read about in general ADHD literature, it doesn't necessarily apply to those with inattentive ADHD.

ADHD Blogger Tess Messer points to
research showing those with inattentive ADHD tend to have above average levels of the stress hormone cortisol when exposed to moderately stressful situations. By contrast, those with ADHD combined type show normal cortisol levels and those with the hyperactive/impulsive form of ADHD actually have below average levels of cortisol in stressful situations.

In other words, inattentive ADDers appear to be more easily stressed than other ADDers, so what works for the majority of ADDers may not work for those with the inattentive subtype.

Back when I was a young teenager, I tended to leave a lot of tasks for the minute. But by the time I reached university I found this to be so unpleasantly stressful that I actually started projects sooner than most non-ADHD students. Ever since then I've found that the only way to tackle challenging projects is to start them early and try to break them down into small junks. Otherwise I'll simply get overwhelmed and give up.

Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline do help with motivation, but at high levels they can significantly worsen your productivity. When you're highly stressed your memory is poor, and it's very difficult to be creative. Similarly, you tend to acquire tunnel vision which makes it hard to work with other people and consider alternative solutions to problems.

Like everyone, inattentive ADDers do need some stress to help with motivation when it comes to difficult or boring tasks, but we certainly don't thrive on ongoing high stress levels, and much of the time our stress levels are already higher than they should

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