• Ron Burton

Adult ADHD: A Unique Perspective


Dodson gives a perspective on adult ADHD that many people find helpful.

Dr. Dodson takes a unique approach to describe ADHD that many find helpful. from. Rather than adapting terms originally used to describe children like diagnostic manuals, he unfolds years of observation working with adult ADHD clients.

According to Dodson, the hallmark of adult ADHD is inconsistency

For decades, how to define and diagnose ADHD has caused debate. Let’s consider whether the source of that medical quandary flows from the very nature adult ADHD.

Dr. Dodson observes that consistent inconsistency is the hallmark feature of adult ADHD. “Inconsistent engagement, inconsistent performance, inconsistent moods, etc. Activities that were done beautifully yesterday are terribly done today. Usually this is presented in a very judgmental way that the person with ADHD is flighty, unreliable, unpredictable, or intentionally not trying.”[1]

As more and more people diagnosed with ADHD as children become articulate adults, their stories relate a much different picture. Unlike the labels attached to them, given the right circumstances, they stop focusing on the wrong things at the wrong times, becoming intensely engaged and highly effective. With the proper conditions removed, however, they return to what other people consider a state of impairment. They don’t describe their experience when they “check-out” as apathy. They give it labels such as: boring, overwhelming and other adjectives that reveal they do not know how to control or avoid “being distracted”.

What makes the difference? The better question to ask may be, “What makes them different?” Most people experience Importance-Based motivation while ADHDers have an Interest-Based brain. The key to understanding may be in those labels. Adults with ADHD attach a dreaded, disabling fear great enough to immobilize them to adjectives such as boring and overwhelming. Apparently, the <5% of people with ADHD have brains wired differently than most. The other 95% find themselves motivated to focus on things they perceive important or that people who influence their lives consider important (parents, coaches, teachers, employers, IRS). The 95% also find rewards and consequences motivating. Not people with ADHD. Importance, rewards and consequences may be helpful at times, but do not cause their brain to engage long enough to accomplish tasks, at least not if the task bores them. Similarly, what people with ADHD require, the 95% find helpful, but not essential. The essential elements required for ADHD brains to engage in a task are always Interest, Challenge, Novelty and Urgency, never importance and consequences.

Sensitivity and Rejection Avoidance

Dodson’s second defining feature of ADHD entails emotional sensitivity. People with ADHD nervous systems tend to experience intense emotions. Patients proclaim their strong emotional reaction to perceived criticism as the major problem of their adult lives.[2] Feeling wounded often results in depression like symptoms that interrupt life for days. This emotional intensity may be the culprit that causes the greatest pain in the lives of people with ADHD and their families, distancing relationships and creating a cycle of avoidance of issues.

Combined, emotional sensitivity and an Interest-Based brain account for the majority of challenges faced by people with ADHD. As an ADHD coach, however, I am quick to point out they do not explain the upsides which have potential to leverage the talents and skills of people with ADHD to their advantage. Also, they only hint at the intuitive brilliance and unique perspectives displayed by many people with ADHD.

[1] Dodson, William. Inconsistency: The Hallmark of Adult ADHD

[2] Dodson, William. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

#adultADHD #braindifferences #emotionalsensitivity

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