Have You Got ADD?

Death of Conversation

Photo from The Death of Conversation by Babycakes Romero

I recently met a friend of a friend who had just been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. The symptoms he described were ones I could recognise in myself as well as most people I know. It is my belief that the internet, and particularly smartphones are causing us to have shorter and shorter attention spans.

I found this online test for ADD. How would you score yourself on the following questions:

1) How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?

Never  Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Very Often

2) How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?

Never  Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Very Often

3) How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?

Never  Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Very Often

4) When you have a task that requires a lot of thought, how often do you avoid or delay getting started?

Never  Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Very Often

5) How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands or feet when you have to sit down for a long time?

Never  Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Very Often

6) How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, like you were driven by a motor?

Never  Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Very Often

If you want to do the the whole test it is here.

Although I still exhibit a lot of these behaviours, since practising mindfulness, I’ve got so much better at sitting still, doing one task at a time and not getting distracted, being able to relax and being a bit more organised.

I used to be so compulsive about checking my smart phone that I’d get it out whilst waiting at the traffic lights on my bike. I used to be so fidgety that at least one colleague would avoid sitting opposite me because I was so distracting! I used to feel like I was constantly rushing to catch up with myself, never allowing enough time to make the appointment or to meet the deadline.

I think already displayed these behaviours before I got a smartphone, but having so much information in my pocket, the notifications, the ability to contact my entire social network, the limitless news I could read, the constant emails, meant that I never felt on top of my inbox and feeds and that any ‘spare’ moment I had I would whip out my phone both to entertain myself and catch up.

I think that one of the reasons that mindfulness has become so popular is that it improves your ability to focus on one thing at a time. I can now for the first time since I can remember work on a single task for an hour or more. I can read a book without having my mind constantly wandering and taking out my smartphone. I listen to people much better when in conversation, which means that we both get more from the experience.

So if you recogise these ADD symptoms in yourself, take heart from the fact that it is entirely possible to train yourself out of it. But just as you practise scattering your attention everyday, if you want to change you’ll need to practise focusing on one thing at a time, everyday. And that takes serious discipline!