ADHD Time: Right Now and Everything Else

A Problem of Time

Time can be a big problem for Individuals with ADHD. The misperception or blindness to time can manifest as habitual lateness for appointments and meetings, underestimating the time a task will take, and losing track of time altogether in a state of  hyperfocus when working on an interesting project.

This time insensitivity can wreak havoc on relationships, school and careers.

A great deal has been written about ADHD time blindness, and some researchers have suggested that misconception of time should be included as one of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

The Roots of Time Blindness

Research studies have begun to identify linkages between impairments in executive function and working memory and difficulties with the perception of time. One study conducted in Germany suggested that time processing issues could be tied to problems in the cerebellum. As the genetic components of ADHD clearer, the key to time insensitivity may be found there.

The key elements of time blindness include:

Inability to sequence events – A neurotypical brain tends to order upcoming events in sequence and see each event as a separate entity with a specific time and date, and chunks of time between events. The ADHD brain tends to lump events into “now” and “not now.” All the “not now” events get grouped together as one lump with no blocks of time in between.

Impaired time estimation – Having ADHD can make even familiar and repetitive tasks seem new each time they are performed. This can lead someone with ADHD to believe they know how long tasks will take, but estimating time turns out to be more a matter of chance.

Procrastination and performance anxiety – Because ADHD individuals lump upcoming tasks “now” and “not now,” they tend to procrastinate and then quickly become overwhelmed when the time comes to do the “not now” tasks. They realize what they have ahead of them, experience anxiety and retreat into the safety of some favorite distraction.

Treatment is Essential

The good news is that treatment regimes, including medication, behavioral therapy and coaching have been shown to help improve the processing of  time for individuals with ADHD.

If you have ADHD and experiencing difficulty with managing time, there are plenty of excellent strategies – e.g. those outlined by strategies to find what works best for you. Feeling more in control of your time can go a long toward a better quality of life.



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