by Charles Kenyon


(message posted on mail list about clutter problems)

Although I display many of the ADD symptoms, I don't think I am ADD. I can be very focused when there is something that I WANT to do. I think that I am more "Sidetracked" and I definitely have the "But First" syndrome. When you add the fact that I am something of a "perfectionist" in my cleaning . . .

Thanks again,



Your note incorporates one of the most common misconceptions about ADD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder): that a person who has (is) ADD can't focus or concentrate. Most people with ADD have a tendency to "hyperfocus" - focus very very strongly on something which interests them.

ADD is a neurological difference that makes it very difficult to attend to things which are not interesting to the person involved. Note, I didn't say "not important" but "not interesting." In fact, for a person with ADD, the harder he/she tries to concentrate/focus on something that is not interesting to that person, the harder it gets to do so! The part of the brain used for focusing shuts down! When that same person is working on something that is interesting, it can be almost impossible to get that person to switch attention elsewhere.

One of the ADD misconceptions lists on the Internet is that provided by "ADD and Challenged Individuals:"

  1. Children who can focus their attention in some areas (i.e. Legos, drawing, video games) cannot have ADD.
  2. Since the child with ADD can focus when he/she "wants to", punishment will serve to help that child behave and focus when he/she becomes distracted.
  3. All children with ADD are hyperactive.
  4. ADD is not a proven disorder, it is currently controversial.
  5. All doctors are trained to diagnose ADD.
  6. All teachers are trained to recognize and/ or diagnose ADD.
  7. ADD can only be diagnosed by a doctor.
  8. Medication is the only intervention for ADD.
  9. Once a child is given medication, he/she will always be able to learn and attend in the classroom.
  10. Schools can insist that parents medicate their children for ADD.
  11. The medication used for ADD will cause addiction.
  12. Children outgrow ADD.
  13. ADD is caused by poor parenting.
  14. Behavior modification always works for a child with ADD.
  15. Children with ADD listen better in class if they sit still and do not fidget.

Both extreme clutter and extreme perfectionism/neatness can be hallmarks of a person with ADD. No psychological test / computer test / or even short period of observation by a treatment professional can diagnose ADD. The best method of diagnosis is a thorough history taken by someone who knows what ADD looks like in adults / children. This has to be coupled with a medical examination / tests for other conditions such as thyroid disorder (which has most of the same symptoms as ADD) or depression. (A diagnosis of depression does **not** preclude ADD, just makes it harder to decide; a person can have both ADD and depression. Sometimes the ADD symptoms cause a person to be depressed!)

 For people with ADD there is treatment available which is effective for most. For those with ADD it can make their clutter problem much easier to deal with.


If you would like another view on hyperfocus, there is an excellent article on the Mining Company.

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