I bought my husband a guitar for Christmas. It was what he wanted, and I think everyone needs some form of creative expression and something that helps them relax. He obviously liked the present, because he has become absolutely obsessed with it!
He goes to guitar websites, buys guitar magazines, and watches how to play videos on tv. He’s bought a guitar stand and started taking lessons. “I’m going to take a shower and get ready for work” has become code for “I’m really going upstairs to play my guitar and someone better keep track of the time so I’m not late”.
I bet you’re familiar with this type of behavior in one form or another, either in yourself or your ADD child. Is there an activity that you just lose yourself in, losing all track of time? Do you look up 10 minutes later and find out it’s really been 3 hours? Could the house burn down around you and you wouldn’t know it?
I think that everyone, whether they have Attention Deficit Disorder or not, has that tendency to become so engrossed in something that they don’t notice what’s going on around them. But for people with AD/HD, I think it happens more often, more easily, and when it does happen, we’re more engaged with whatever we’re doing.
This tendency is called hyperfocus, and it can be a huge source of confusion for parents of AD/HD children, or spouses/loved ones of adults with AD/HD. It’s hard to understand how a person who has a disorder that prevents them from focusing and paying attention can become so caught up in something, oblivious to everything else.
I think that part of the key here is simply that when hyperfocus occurs, it most often happens because the activity involved is interesting and enjoyable. Sometimes, though, it can happen just because so much concentration is needed. For instance, when I had to float on my back for 1 minute in order to pass a test in my high school swim class, I was so deeply focused on what I was doing that I didn’t hear the gym teacher blow her whistle or call to me. It wasn’t because I was particularly enjoying myself – I just needed that extra focus.
Hyperfocus is something that just happens naturally, without any effort, but with some practice, it can also be a learned (and very valuable) skill. Start by paying attention to what distracts you. For me right now, it’s the sound of the tv nearby. Once you’ve learned what kinds of things distract you, you can then begin to create an environment that works with you when you need to really focus on something. With enough practice, you can use hyperfocus to your advantage.