Why Your ADHD Is Worse Right Now, Even if You Don’t Have ADHD
This week, a viral TikTok dispelled the common misperception of ADHD as just a childlike distractibility (“I’m going to write this email. Oh look, a squirrel!”). The video amassed over 1.4 million views on Twitter in just over a day.
ADHD is having a moment. And it’s no surprise to me: 2020 has wreaked havoc on my own ADHD-addled attention span. Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, you may have noticed similar effects: switching fruitlessly between tasks; trouble prioritizing; forgetfulness.
During the agonizing waiting game of the presidential election, it seemed that the only thing people could talk about, besides the election itself, was the sudden depletion of their attention spans. Now, with the election mostly behind us, Covid cases rising precipitously, and the holidays ahead, we have new uncertainties to freak out over. Do we cancel family get-togethers? Layer up to socialize outside, with chattering teeth? Should we avoid leaving the house at all? And amid all of this, life goes on — rudely demanding that we complete our daily functions, attention span or no. It’s an ADHD experience for all of us. Here’s why, and how to address it.
Overloaded brains are inefficient brains
One term for this is “analysis paralysis.” When we feel overloaded, whether by tasks to get done or information to process, we may experience a pang of indecision. Our brains see all the myriad items competing for our attention and get stuck on which item to attack first. So much choice! Which choice to choose? (President Barack Obama famously wore only gray or blue suits for this reason: to pare down his decision fatigue, and devote his thinking muscles to running the country, and Mark Zuckerberg’s gray-tee-and-hoodie uniform freed up the mental space for him to do… whatever he does.)
The rest of us often find ourselves oscillating between items on our to-do list, squandering focus — and time — in the process. That, or we procrastinate. Or we do both at once.
It can be tempting to chastise ourselves for these behaviors, seeing them as disorganization or laziness. But…