ADHD marathoning and why neurodivergency isn't one size fits all
ADHD is a disorder full of contradictions, manifesting differently depending on the person, situation, and even time of day.
Hyperactivity, for example, can present as racing thoughts, forgetfulness or interrupting in conversations – it’s not just running and climbing around.
Then there’s ADHD paralysis, which comes about as a result of physical, mental or emotional overwhelm and causes a ‘freeze’ response where the person struggles to do anything at all.
It’s frustrating to be on this productivity/procrastination rollercoaster, and we know it can feel just as maddening to those on the outside.
However, to make up for the shortfall in work or chores and avoid seeming ‘lazy’, many neurodivergent people end up going too far the opposite way.
ADHD marathoning refers to periods of hyper-focus, and it’s why some with the disorder can appear on the outside like perfectionists.
Leanne Maskell, ADHD Coach and author of ADHD: An A to Z tells Metro.co.uk: ‘As people with ADHD have interest based nervous systems, they have the ability to hyper-focus on tasks to the exclusion of everything else, including basic self-care like eating.’
It’s important to note that this can be both a symptom of ADHD and CPTSD ✨🖤 #adhshe #adhdmarathoning #adhdmarathon #adhdparalysis #adhdtok #adhd #adhdtiktok #adhdhelp #adhdexplained #adhdoverwhelm #adhdperfectionist #adhdperfectionism #perfectionism #adhdandcptsd #adhdcleaning #adhdinwomen
Essentially, the person with ADHD struggles to focus then crams all their necessary tasks in at the last possible moment, seeming (at least on the surface) like they’ve got their s*** together.
Leanne describes it as ‘binge focusing’, adding that the long-term impact of behaviours like this can be burnout, exhaustion, and workaholism.
‘People with ADHD are motivated differently than neurotypical people, with a 30% developmental delay in executive functioning skills,’ she explains.
‘Particularly for low-interest tasks, we may need factors such as novelty and adrenaline to “do what we know”. This means we may really struggle with motivation and doing anything at all if these factors aren’t present.
‘Taking my law degree example, I simply could not “get started” on studying throughout the year. As our concept of time tends to be “now or not now”, I was mentally paralysed when trying to learn anything throughout the year because I knew the exam was months away.’
Despite the fact that people with ADHD often find they thrive in high stress situations, running on adrenaline doesn’t work long-term.
‘It’s not healthy or sustainable to hyperfocus for extended periods of time and can cause us to crash afterwards,’ says Leanne.
‘We may become trapped in vicious cycles of holding ourselves to these impossible standards because we “sometimes” can. It can seriously impact our self-esteem as we may feel serious imposter syndrome in being able to ask for help.’
To break this all-or-nothing cycle, she suggests ‘hacking’ your hyperfocus. This can involve ADHD coaching, which ‘creates a designed pause in each week to stop and practically assess your life and strategies,’ along with strategies you build into your routine.
Strict working hours can be helpful, as can ‘breaking goals down with artificial deadlines, daily exercise habits, regular accountability calls, keeping phones out of the bedroom, and always having food in the fridge.’
Above and beyond this, though, it’s important to recognise when you’re stuck in unhealthy patterns. Are you trying to keep up appearances by ignoring your needs? Are you hiding issues to appear ‘normal’ at work or school?
Learn your strengths and weaknesses and be open when things are getting too much. Otherwise, your mile-a-minute mind is in for a pretty major halt.
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