The Secret Superpowers of the Adult ADD Brain

Posted May 11th, 2018 in Featured, Individual Counseling, Men’s Issues, Women’s Issues by

The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual 5 of the American Psychiatric Association identifies two primary types of ADD/ADHD. The first type is associated with experiencing symptoms of inattention. For adults, 5 out of 9 symptoms are required to know you have issues with inattention.

These inattention related symptoms are things like missing details when writing, difficulty remaining focused during long conversations, issues with meeting deadlines, a mind that seems elsewhere when being spoken to directly at times, often losing things, being easily distracted by things in the environment, forgetfulness in daily activities, or trouble with repetitive boring tasks like completing forms.

The second type of symptoms is associated with hyperactivity and impulsivity. It needs to be noted here you can have either inattentive predominance or hyperactivity/impulsive predominance or a combined presentation.

The hyperactive/impulsive symptoms including fidgeting, trouble sitting still, high-energy movements, and general presence of high energy at certain times, a tendency toward loud leisure activities, excessive talking, trouble with turn-taking in conversations, and trouble with not intruding upon or interrupting others.

To illustrate from real life, a client of mine in the past had adult ADD. He thought he was just a lazy, irresponsible person because this was the label that many had attached to him. He would miss deadlines, he would get so caught up in a TV show and lose track of time that he would forget that he had an important appointment to keep. He once told me that he kept someone waiting for 20 minutes because of being late.

I remember this person telling me that procrastination was a huge problem for him. The thought of doing work seemed too overwhelming and tedious, and that things like doing something supposedly urgent, important, and short-term became more interesting than a larger crucial work project that could be put off for another week.

However, often, concentration would become easier once the deadline loomed closer. This person would then stay up late to get work done. Often, the work would be completed with such thoroughness that even Michelangelo would have been impressed. The marvel of the ADD/ADHD brain is that it is often able to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

With coaching and therapeutic guidance, this client was able to hone these skills by working on channeling this productivity towards times during the day when he would not be so distracted. I worked with this client on improving sleep cycles and increasing sleeping times. A lot of people who boast of not needing sleep to succeed are succeeding despite getting a full night’s rest.

The ADD/ADHD person loves the adrenaline that flows thanks to sleep deprivation. Life was so much better for this client when tiredness did not catch up to him, and he did not feel a mixture of grogginess and alertness throughout the day.

My client’s success certainly had to do with increasing the amount of sleep he got. I suggest he create mandatory times by which he needed to be in bed at night and wake up in the morning, which would provide the reward of not feeling like a zombie throughout the day.

A routine/ritual can be a friend to those who with ADD/ADHD. In addition, my client learned to incorporate exercise and a healthy diet to kick his ADD/ADHD superpowers into overdrive and beyond.

What are your Superpowers?

Rather than as a dysfunction, it might be better to think of ADD/ADHD as a great treasure. The superpowers you obtain with this unique neurology are amazing! Here are a few of your superpowers:

1) Hyperfocus – the ability to be ‘in the zone’. To experience ‘flow’ of thoughts and ideas that translate into quick action for hours on end. Those with ADD/ADHD can have the ability to accomplish an amazing amount of work in a short time without needing many breaks.

For this to work super effectively the task must be interest-driven and with the right scaffolding to direct the energy into its all-absorbing channel. World famous swimming athlete Michael Phelps has the most Olympic medals for any athlete that is 28 years old. Phelps has won 13 individual gold medals and 23 team gold medals.

Phelps thanks his ADHD, which he experienced as early as kindergarten, for his success at swimming. His kindergarten teacher told his Mom that he would never be able to focus on anything. Phelps was formally diagnosed with ADHD at age 9.  By 12 years old he would ask his Mom to get off his stimulant medication and he did fine off his medication because the heavy swimming structure and constant practices he subjected himself to were enough to regulate and channel his energy into a state of hyper focus.

Phelps is famous for having a training regime that includes working out 3-6 hours in the pool every single day and working out on dry land 4-5 days every week. Now, that is a lot of structured discipline to become the best swimmer possible. Phelps is a living testimony to powers of the ADD/ADHD brain.

2) Super Perception – this is the ability to get things correct about people with very little or tangential information. It is really the ability to notice even minute details and take in all interesting information even though to others it may seem like irrelevant information. As a believer, God often adds spiritual discernment to the biological gift of being super perceptive.

Deductive reasoning abilities are often enhanced with this superpower. Individuals describe this ability as like having the ability to read minds. Science estimates that the average brain filters all 11 million bits of information per second from our 5 senses into 40-50 bits of information per second that we are consciously aware of.

The ADD/ADHD brain, on the other hand, can handle more information because an unconscious process is working alongside at a faster rate than most people without ADD/ADHD. This unconscious process is what I would call the ‘gut feeling’ and that ‘gut’ is mostly accurate due to the unique perceptive abilities of the ADD/ADHD brain.

3) Super Imagination – the ADD/ADHD brain loves to imagine all sorts of possibilities. This superpower enables one to have ‘out of the box’ solutions to very difficult problems. Many of those without this gifting can only see unrelated pieces of information. The ADD/ADHD person sees connections in unique ways that were not possible using conventional wisdom.

Solutions to problems do not have to be linear or relate to the prevailing science of causation. The ADD/ADHD person tends to exude theta waves that help them stay super relaxed and calm. This calm state allows the person to access the subconscious and spiritual dimensions much faster and more efficiently. Deep insight, perception, cleverness, originality, resourcefulness, inventiveness, and vision are hallmarks of this superpower.

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 28:18

4) Many more superpowers are present, such as super ability to be ‘on the go’ and get right into the middle of a mix without the paralysis of analysis that many people face. Another important superpower is the ability to want to rescue and save people from a crisis or an unpredictable situation. I could write about many more superpowers, but I will save that for a future article. These 3 superpowers of hyperfocus, super perception, and super imagination are crucial ones.

Harness the Power – “With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben

Harnessing your superpowers requires you to realize that you have an interest-based neurology. It means that things that thrill you also have the power to help you work hard at that thing or to pull you down and get you addicted. Knowing yourself is key for the ADD/ADHD brain. Focus in on the things you enjoy doing and make your play part of your work.

If public speaking helps release the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain take more speaking engagements or make presentations in front of larger crowds at work. Now that you have set up a speaking engagement, know what events will be most distracting to you in achieving your goal of preparation, arrival, and departure for the speech.

For example, if you have a co-worker, who always complains about something on work trips, ditch that co-worker, and find co-workers that are supportive and encouraging. Surround yourself with encouragement and it will certainly help you hone your craft.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising, sleeping well, and employing spiritual disciplines are also ways to maximize your superpowers of hyperfocus, super perception, and super imagination. I am a big believer in creating positive habits. Habits are useful to tap into autopilot tasks that need to be done.

Sensory overload is something that can distract the ADD/ADHD brain from accomplishment. Getting rid of distractions is very important. Allow yourself to enjoy some good music while you work to drown out distractions.

Turn off alerts on your phone and let people know that you are blocking off time to be involved in deep concentrated work for a short period of time, like 30 minutes to an hour. Have an assistant or colleague interrupt you only for emergencies.

Peter Shankman, who is a business entrepreneur and life coach, in his book “Faster than Normal,” illustrates several key tools to harness your superpowers.

1) Clutter is like kryptonite is to Superman – create a space that is clean, neat, and does not need sorting. A messy desk will tempt you to start sorting papers because you remember there was a bill you needed to find that you should pay sometime this month.

Remember, you do not need to invent a perfect filing system. Keeping yourself clutter-free can be as simple as moving papers you never look at into a folder or bin and throwing them out if you never attended to that bin during a whole month.

2) Get rid of choices – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, was onto something when he eliminated choices from his wardrobe. Having too many choices leads to paralysis when that energy can be put to use in saving the world. Wear that favorite jacket and shirt.

There is no guilt in it. It will free up valuable time. Buy multiple pairs of your favorite clothing and match them beforehand so you do not have to think about what colors match each other.

3) Create deadlines in the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly – “And in as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” Time is short, and we are to value the time that Lord has given us.

Your superpower means that starting things is difficult but finishing and completing projects is easier because the ADD/ADHD brain loves closure. However, you cannot have closure if you do not have a deadline. It is helpful to work backward from a set deadline and anticipate and allocate time to each micro-task in a project.

Remember, the ADHD/ADD brain is fast, yet it is not possible to travel faster than the proverbial limits in our lives. It is important to set realistic timelines rather than fantasizing that you can finish a large project in two days.

4) Delegate the small stuff – Why? It is because you will get stuck chasing rabbit trails rather than going after the wild big hairy audacious goal. Remember that you are doing tasks that are big. These tasks that can only be performed by a superhero. You also cannot be everywhere at the same time as much as you might want to.

Give areas where you get lost in the weeds to someone who loves to organize and order your world. Are you not glad God made us all different so that someone can come alongside you and help!

Closure

Love being different! Your greatest shortcomings are your biggest assets! Know yourself through reflection on the Lord and His word. Know your human nature and the gifting God has given you. Don’t deny God’s spiritual gifts and his omnipotent presence in your life.

Allow all the goodness of the Lord to fill you each day and be positively motivated to accomplish great things because He created you to do so. If you need help reach out to a Christian Counselor and Coach. Identify and thrive the way God intended you to in life.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

References
Shankman, P. (2017). Faster than normal: Turbocharge your focus, productivity, and success with the secrets of the ADHD brain. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Photos
“Never Stop”, Courtesy of Fab Lentz, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Sunshine Bath”, Courtesy of Zac Durant, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “The Face Behind the Mask”, Courtesy of Joey Nicotra, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “The Year of Darth Vader”, Courtesy of Jose Martinez, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Author Info

Nitish Matthew

Nitish Matthew, MA, MA (I/O), LMHC

Licensed Counselor and Clinical Supervisor

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