An Overlooked Aspect of ADHD: Exceptional Focus

'Maldistribution' of attention
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2016 11:11 AM CDT
An Overlooked Aspect of ADHD: Exceptional Focus
Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard (1) warms up before the first half of a Major League Soccer match Monday, July 4, 2016, in Commerce City, Colo.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

There's a largely unexamined component of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a disorder most commonly characterized as a pattern of either inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity, reports the National Institute of Mental Health. But those with ADHD often also experience "hyperfocus," and there is now a growing call for more research into this piece of the disorder, which can be seen in both the inattentive and the hyperactive types. As psychologist Brandon Ashinoff has said, the disorder presents an "interesting paradox" in that people can have an overload of focus instead of a splintered attention span, reports New York magazine. "The field is wide open and people really need to start researching [hyperfocus]," one researcher says. "It’s not about having an attention deficit, it’s more a maldistribution of attention.... Hyperfocus can be very powerful."

Some suggest that people with hyperfocus actually have an advantage over non-ADHD folks in that they are able to sustain extreme attention on a task for longer periods than normal. This can be detrimental, of course—focusing on a work project at the expense of one's laundry, or sleep, or attention to family—but notable adults with ADHD such as goalkeeper Tim Howard and musician Adam Levine say they excel at their jobs thanks to the energy bursts they get from ADHD. And while the academic data needs to catch up to the anecdotes, one new study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise suggests that short bouts of exercise can improve motivation and energy in adult males with symptoms of ADHD. The University of Georgia researchers point out that while prescription drugs can also help, exercise comes without the risk of abuse or negative side effects. (ADHD and workaholism appear to be linked.)

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