Guess what’s one of the things that most frustrates someone without ADHD about their loved one with it? The fact that something deemed as important is not usually enough to get them into action. I’m not talking about important to only one of the people but to both.
That’s right. Just because the bills HAVE to get paid doesn’t mean they will. And even though they know it’s important to clean out the cat box, in no way does that ensure it’ll ever get done, forget about every day.
For the non-ADHD person, their regulatory system subconsciously handles a lot of decision making for them automatically. They don’t have to manually set the wheels in motion like someone with ADHD does. Working to override the ADHD system’s natural instinct, to just notice what is interesting to them, takes a lot of mental effort. A non-ADHD person also have a good supply of dopamine that helps the reward center’s operation, which does consider concepts like importance.
The person with ADHD does not have importance influencing them. They can intellectually know that the house should be cleaned, that mail and such should be organized, dishes washed, shelves dusted, floors mopped and vacuumed, but none of that is interesting and because it is not interesting to them their brain doesn’t identify it as something to engage in.
They know it’s important but that knowledge doesn’t ignite them. In this, we can begin to understand how shame develops at a very early age. Shame comes from knowing that what you are “supposed” to do is different from what you do.
The low levels of dopamine found in the ADHD brain contribute to this differentiation. When taking ADHD stimulant medication, dopamine levels are increased because dopamine production is stimulated. When you have optimal levels of dopamine, you feel more calm, focused, and your reward center functions better. This doesn’t mean you have to use the stimulant medications, but they do help in the area of motivation.
If you have ADHD, a great strategy is to tap into your natural interests, and curiosity, or use challenge and urgency to drive you into action. Ask yourself, “How can I get curious about the things I find mundane?” Often people can make play out of what’s boring.
- How fast do you have to get to beat your personal best?
- What color of objects do you choose to run around and pick up first?
- How many baskets of mail can you fill from what’s laying around the house?
- When you’ve finished that boring task, what’s the reward you’ll give yourself?
Creating an external reward system is helpful when the internal one isn’t going to do the trick. We see this in schools where they use star charts. So, what stars can you create for yourself that will help you do the things you want to do?