ADHD Time Blindness and Understanding Life

ADHD Time Blindness

A preeminent ADHD research scientist, Russell Barkley, PhD, calls it ADHD time blindness.  That is, many people with ADHD have difficulty not just “being on time” but having a sense of time.

Jeff discovered he has ADHD at about age 46. “Not the best of times to find that out,” he notes, “certainly not after 46 years of having bad habits solidify.”

Still, he dedicated himself to understanding the full depths of what it means to have ADHD. That included learning to recognize problematic behaviors while they were occurring and modifying them for more desirable results.

Fortunately for his readers, Jeff has for several years shared his personal and philosophical musings on ADHD at his blog, Jeff’s A.D.D. Mind [no longer online, sadly].

I discovered Jeff’s blog while writing my book.  Frankly, I was feeling overwhelmed with the-then omnipresent rosy talk of ADHD’s gifts—and little of the downsides.  (The early and mid-2000s.)

The individuals and families I knew who were affected by ADHD were truly struggling. Sure, they needed assurance and encouragement. But didn’t they also need realistic information and strategies? (My husband didn’t ease my worries about the book’s reception. In fact, he jokingly offered to move us to a missile silo in Nebraska.)

Jeff’s honest, thoughtful essays validated my approach at a critical juncture. I am forever grateful.

Here is one of my favorites from his archives:

Time and “Life”: Inextricably Linked

To make sense out of life, one must also be able to make sense of time. That is, understanding one requires understanding the other.

In our everyday world, they are inseparable: Life requires time, and time has meaning because of life. The life of the human being is understood to be “a life” because it occurs in time over time.

If time and life are so entwined, so ontologically inseparable that the existence of one requires the existence of the other and, furthermore, if the fundamental problem of A.D.D. is an inability to understand time, then the only conclusion is that the A.D.D.er cannot understand life.

Time is exactly the concept that eludes the A.D.D.er. It is this inability to understand time that is the source of the A.D.D.ers’ problems with finances. It is this inability to understand time that makes the A.D.D.er see life as a series of “do-overs.”  Every life change is seen as an attempt to get it right this one time.

The A.D.D.er has enormous difficulty understanding life as a linear progression that starts with a birth and ends with a death. Trapped in an infinity of “nows,” the A.D.D.er cannot, except with great difficulty and much artifice, comprehend the linear nature of life. It is only based on observation of “the past” and continual repetition of the past (that repetition may be little more than a mantra spoken over and over again) that the A.D.D.er trusts that there is causal link, however tenuous, between an action occurring now and a result in the future.

But the A.D.D.er does not truly know this and, therefore, does not truly understand the progression of life.

Gina Notes:

Of course, with increased awareness and, often, medical treatment, many people with ADHD do gain a  better sense of time — and enhanced ability to harness it before it slips away.

I highlight a few management tools here:  Six Key Management Tools For  Adult ADHD

By the way, I’ve heard more than a few friends with ADHD say that Salvador Dali is one of their favorite artists. That’s his Montre Molle Au Moment (above), which roughly translates from a French double-entendre to “soft watch”.

2 thoughts on “ADHD Time Blindness and Understanding Life”

  1. This is good, Gina!!
    Oh I put a widget linking to your blog on my blog at top for a while~~
    wish my family would read my blog!!
    xo!
    D

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