An ADHD patient, to a stranger, can come across as someone careless and unmotivated or as someone without strong willpower. Planning is difficult, and concentration is even worse. But ADHD is not a personality. It all starts and ends in the brain structure and brain chemistry. Understanding why the ADHD brain makes you a poor planner is a critical step in overcoming the condition.
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Effects of ADHD on Poor Planning
Following are the effects of ADHD on poor planning:
I must have the reward now
This is a common symptom of ADHD in children and even among adults. The ADHD brain has a low volume of neurotransmitters like dopamine. In some cases, the neurotransmitter volume could be just sufficient, but then inefficiently used. This affects how a person processes rewards.
Neurotransmitters strengthen rewards memories. A non-ADHD brain will easily remember how proper planning helped to overcome a previous challenge. An ADHD brain, because of low dopamine levels, will not be concerned with future planning. There is no reward for it, not any that has been learned.
The future is just so far away
Time horizons are interpreted differently between an ADHD and non-ADHD brain. A person with ADHD is likely to see the future as a non-possibility, something that is so far away it probably will never come. In the mind of a person with no ADHD, the future is distant but visible, a genuine possibility.
So an ADHD brain scan will show a smaller amygdala and hippocampus. This explains the impulsivity witnessed among or displayed by ADHD patients. These two regions of the brain are prominent and well developed in persons with no ADHD. The amygdala and the hippocampus together make a hub of emotion processing and decision making.
I cannot put my mind to it
Panning, in itself, is an involving task. It involves playing different scenarios in mind and identifying weaknesses, risks, threats, strengths, and opportunities. This can be a difficult task if you have OCD and ADHD. The two conditions are birds of a feather, characterized by a limited ability to focus and plan.
It is hard to be attentive. There is an altered blood flow to the prefrontal areas of the brain associated with focus and concentration. This altered brain function is among the leading causes of ADHD.
The prefrontal cortex is, in other words, the CEO of the brain—it executes plans and offers alternatives to roadblocks for a task at hand. Limited blood flow to this region flattens alertness, reduces attention span, and decreases working memory efficiency. That makes it hard to plan.
For a patient with OCD, the altered circulation and chemistry in the front part of the brain interfere with communication to the brain’s deeper parts. You get stuck in a ‘loop of wrongness.’ Every plan has an error. In the end, you end with no plan at all.
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ADHD Awareness, How to Be a Good Planner?
The brain structure, chemistry, and function are rigged against you. That’s a sad fact. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a great planner.
For all types of ADHD, living a happy and full-filling life is possible with the below steps:
Improve time management
As seen earlier, the ADHD brain leads to an interpretation that the future is too far. But if you use a clock and a calendar, your mind can learn to see things differently. Create a work or study schedule and stick to it. Work with a timetable and a calendar. Set alarms and phone reminders and reward yourself for doing things on time.
Make and keep appointments
Create and keep appointments with yourself and other people. When coping with anxiety or other mental health issues, it can be easy to miss the most impactful events in your life, education, or career. Write down and pin it on your desk or by your bed. Write down the dentist’s appointment next week, the CAT that you must study for, or the gym class tomorrow. Make it a habit to review such lists.
Distractions are a major challenge when it comes to ADHD and relationships. Remove distractions when planning or discussing things with your loved ones. Listen and write it down if you must.
Start doing what needs to be done early in advance. Use these strategies:
- Ask your loved ones to repeat something in case your mind wanders
- Touch your partner in conversations to stay in the present moment
- Block distracting sites and alerts on your computer
- Put your phone on silent
- Studying away from the window
Remind yourself to do a little, every day, of what needs to be done. Don’t put it off until the last minute. The more you procrastinate, the harder it becomes for your brain to learn the value of planning.
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ADHD affects the brain structure, chemistry, and function, impacting your ability to plan. You then prioritize immediate gratification and lessen focus and motivation for the future.