The shifting focus of ADD reminds me of the shifting sands on the beach—in constant motion. At last year’s ADDA conference, John Ratey, M.D. said the inability of people with ADD to maintain focus is a key factor in their not improving, even after getting medicine. At least that is what I thought he said!
For me the concept of not being able to stick with something long enough really struck home. I think we sometimes shift focus because we have lost interest in what we are doing, and our focus gets attracted to something more interesting. However, other times, I think we are interested and committed to what we are doing—get called away to do something else—and then just forget to return to what we were earlier so focused on and committed to.
This problem of forgetting and losing focus comes graphically to mind when I recall setting up a behavioral medication program for two of my children. This was years ago. We were in family therapy, trying to improve the behavior of our two, undiagnosed, children with ADHD who had a mother (me) with undiagnosed ADD. Under the therapist’s guidance, I had established a wonderful behavior modification program that worked wonderfully for the first three weeks. When we returned to the therapist on the fourth week, he asked how the program was going. At first, I didn’t know what he was taking about!—and then I recalled the program. I had no idea why we weren’t doing it any more. One day I woke up and forgot the program—and then I forgot it forever after.
I have heard it said that it takes 30 days of practice to acquire a new behavior—and that for those with ADD—it can take 60! What can you do to maintain your focus on acquiring the new habits and behaviors you wish to have? I suggest that before trying to acquire a new habit, you first figure out how you are going to stay focused on the habit for the next 60 days.
Best wishes—and here’s to your success.
~~~~Cynthia Hammer, MSW, Director, ADD Resources