What differentiates Overfocused Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) from the other five types is excessive worry. A person with this type of ADD gets stuck in negative patterns of thoughts triggered by excessive worry and is unable to distract oneself from painful memories, situations and emotions. Like the other types of ADD, these people may appear inattentive, disorganized, hyperactive and impulsive.
Often people with Overfocused ADD will exhibit rigid behaviors similar to people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with OCD. So, Overfocused ADD is commonly misdiagnosed as OCD. However, there are two huge differences when it comes to the disorders.
The first is that people with OCD will always follow through when making decisions about courses of action. A person with Overfocused ADD may not, because they are constantly focused on the decision and may be unable to choose a solution. The other major difference is that people with OCD are not impulsive. People with Overfocused ADD are impulsive. This makes sense. If a person is unable to stop obsessing about a situation or problem, they will never make a decision and never accomplish anything. For people with Overfocused ADD, I choosing a course of action is beyond their control. As a result, they depend on intuitive feelings and hunches.
Let’s face it. Everyone has worries. Life is stressful, so everyone struggles from time to time with negative thoughts and emotions. But there is a difference between normal amounts of stress and worry and the excessive kind. When it comes to diagnosing, the problem becomes how to determine when that worrying is excessive. To further complicate things, the amount of worrying a person can tolerate varies with every individual. It’s easy for professionals to ask a patient if their worry seems excessive to them and is interfering with their daily lives. However, people with certain forms of ADD may not realize their worrying is excessive, since there has never been any time in their lives when they worried less.
This has been my personal experience. It is also one of the reasons, I was not diagnosed with ADD until my 30s. Professionals constantly told me stress is normal, especially when it came to jobs and school. As a result, I assumed my excessive worry was normal when, in fact, it was not. Like the person with Overfocused ADD, the root problem was not the worrying, but the fact that my brain would get stuck there.
My brain is a lot like a train station and can operate several different trains of thought simultaneously. For example, it can concentrate on listening to music, having a couple of internet conversations at the same time while writing this blog. Thus, I am unable to be distracted by a task. If someone calls me on the phone, another train leaves the station.
Therein lies the problem when it comes to Overfocused ADD and the difficulty of diagnosing it. The person’s brain is unable to move on from a particular memory or emotion. No matter how hard they try to distract themselves or do something else, they can’t. That stressor is affecting them all the time. For example, if I was depressed that day there was no activity that could get my brain to stop obsessing abut being depressed. I had to wait it out. So, do people with Overfocused ADD.
Since my brain has always worked in this manner, I assumed everyone was just better at coping with suicidal thoughts nonstop for days at a time or panic attacks that never seemed to end. One day, I figured out it’s abnormal to have the depressed thought train going nonstop every day all day long. When I started taking medication, the background noise of all those other trains stopped. Only one train can leave my station now.
Of course this opens a whole new set of problems including how does a person decide what to pay attention to and choose something to focus on?
If the core root of Overfocused ADD is an inability to distract yourself from an emotion or memory, the remaining symptoms of the disorder make sense. People with Overfocused ADD are much more likely to hold grudges, can be argumentative and oppositional during confrontation and suffer more severe form of depression and anxiety.
I hope this post sheds some light on Overfocused ADD and the particular challenges of the disorder. For more information about the six different types of ADD, visit my other posts:
Coming up next week:
Temporal Lobe ADD