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Mar 19, 2021

Many ADHD Sufferers are Working From Home. Here's How to Maintain Focus.

written by
Julie Fung

Home Distractions

Distractions are a serious issue for many of us, especially when you're juggling work from home duties with your domestic life. There are too many possibilities for your attention to be stolen. 

Distractions come at a cost. It takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption. Notifications pull your attention away from the task at hand.

Every time a notification appears or you feel the vibration of your phone, your brain releases dopamine along a reward pathway. This context-switching can be especially challenging for individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

What is ADHD?

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. While it is often first diagnosed in childhood, it can continue in adulthood. Symptoms can cause difficulty at work, at school, or at home.

While girls typically mature faster than boys, they're less likely to show symptoms as they develop coping strategies. This can make diagnosis difficult, which is why most females are typically diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood.

Behavioral Genetics

ADHD is highly heritable. Genes associated with dopamine and serotonin play a major role in the development of ADHD. More specifically, people diagnosed with ADHD show mutations in the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1), which codes for proteins that pump dopamine out of the synaptic cleft and back into the synaptic neuron.

According to the DSM-5,  an ADHD diagnosis requires that five symptoms are present in adults and six symptoms for younger children. These include: 

  • Failure to give close attention to details
  • Difficulty holding attention
  • Trouble organizing tasks and activities
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities
  • Inability to sit still
  • Excessive talking

These symptoms must be present in two or more settings and interfere with the quality of social, school, or work functioning.

There are three different presentations of ADHD:

  1. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation, characterized by hyperactivity such as restlessness, excessive talking, and impulsiveness, but lower inattention.
  2. Combined presentation, characterized by inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms as well as problems with behavioral inhibition.
  3. Predominantly inattentive presentation, characterized by significant problems with inattention, but lower hyperactivity and impulsivity.

As symptoms can range in severity, some adults may have inconsistent performance at work or in their personal and family lives.

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Managing ADHD

Fortunately, there are strategies to help ADHD sufferers throughout the day.

Create a work environment that works best for you. Find a quiet and unused room with few distractions. Turn off your notifications; turn off your phone or put it in a different room. Keep your workspace clean. Keep a notebook or journal nearby to jot down ideas to avoid interrupting your current task.

Develop a consistent routine. A morning routine, such as waking up at the same time every day, can help you adapt to the idea of dedicated work time. Identify your Most Important Task for the day, break the task down into manageable parts, and reward yourself. This may help with overcoming procrastination.

Work on one task at a time. Avoid context-switching or task-switching.

Set alarms for yourself. Set specific times for checking emails. This can be accomplished in intervals so you block out time specifically for these tasks.

Explore different methods to help with task completion. You might use a timer to stay on task, such as with the Pomodoro Technique. Establish a deadline to help reinforce accountability. Work with a coworker and set up checkpoints.

Regularly take breaks. This might be drinking some water, walking around, or even running up and down the stairs.

Note: This is not a solution. Keep in mind that this may work differently for anyone. Reach out to your physician or therapist if you find that nothing works for you. Remember that you are not alone.

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