Most adults with ADHD have been diagnosed only recently. There are many reasons for why these people were missed for so many years, even when it was painfully obvious that there was something going on.
“Attention-deficit” implies that people with ADHD don’t have enough attention, but the real problem is that they don’t control their attention effectively. Mostly, they get distracted and shift their attention when they should have stayed on the original task. Sometimes, though, they stay glued on something when they should really shift.
We use the lessons from past experiences to make better choices the next time around. People with ADHD have a hard time stopping long enough to remember those lessons and apply them forward, so they’re more likely to make the same mistakes.
Once someone with ADHD gets going on something, there’s the second challenge of sticking with it all the way through. Unfortunately, most of our daily obligations don’t give partial credit for tasks that are mostly done.
Everybody has to use a certain amount of force of will to get going on boring tasks, but people with ADHD have a much steeper hill to climb. As a result, they tend to procrastinate until the pressure of a looming deadline pushes them into action.
People with ADHD tend to express their feelings more strongly than others do and are more influenced by their feelings than other people are. This also affects their ability to see beyond their emotions and to take others’ perspectives into account.
In our busy lives, we all have dozens of little (and not so little) things to remember to do over the course of a day, such as phone calls and appointments. People with ADHD have great difficulty reminding themselves of these tasks at the right time, often forgetting completely or remembering only when it’s too late.
People with ADHD have difficulty monitoring the passage of time and planning accordingly, a skill that’s really important in today’s busy world. As a result, they tend to spend too long on some activities and not plan enough time for others. This contributes to their well-known time management problems.
We use our working memories constantly to hold information in mind as we remember what just happened, relate it to long-term memories, and think ahead into the future. People with ADHD tend to have blinky working memories which leads to a wide variety of problems in their daily lives.
The key to successful decision-making is that tiny little pause where we think through our options and make a good choice. People with ADHD have difficulty creating this pause and as a result get distracted, forget things, and leap without looking.