Most readers of this article are familiar with the term ADHD which is defined as “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”
What is less familiar is the term, “intention deficit disorder,” a different way to look at the problems associated with attention deficit disorder. What is intention deficit disorder and how can it be helped?
Before delving into intention deficit disorder, it may be helpful to review symptoms commonly associated with ADHD:
- inability to sustain focus
- challenges remaining in one position or setting without needing to move
- calling out or talking out of turn
- losing personal objects
- lapse in memory
- drifting off in conversation
- poor school performance that may lead to disciplinary action
- lack of reliability on the job that might result in termination
- memory lapses
- cluttered workspace or home environment
- not following tasks through to completion
- getting inspired by nearly everything without ability to sustain momentum
- sensory overload
- resistance to change
The upsides of ADHD include:
- creative ideas come readily
- many have high energy
- out of the box thinking
- can be successful in numerous areas of endeavor
- sensitivity to energy shifts
- leadership skills
This condition impacts children and adults through the life cycle and may go undiagnosed, even in the face of disruption in activities, relationship dysfunction, and feelings of personal disempowerment.
As a ‘come clean,’ this clinician with nearly four decades of experience working with clients who exhibit these signs, carries some of them as well. As I write this article, I have taken two phone calls, checked emails, signed up for an on- line course, responded to text and Facebook messages, and have contemplated other article ideas. I have been listening to music which inspires me. My mind is like a computer with several applications open simultaneously.
There are times when I believe I can multi-task successfully and others when I drop some of the plates I am spinning. It is then that I refocus, with the use of re-directive self-talk that sounds like, “Okay, we need to pay attention to the task at hand. Once we’re done, we can move on the next thing on the list.” I also imagine how good I will feel when I have completed what I have set out to do. I have become my own cheerleader, rather than hyper-critical detractor.
I have also discovered that when I engage in mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, meditating and spending time in nature, I am able to get back on track.
There are numerous notables with the diagnosis of ADHD including Justin Timberlake, Jamie Oliver, Will Smith, Michael Phelps, Jim Carrey, Paris Hilton and Solange Knowles. Each of them taps into the creativity that comes as a gift of the diagnosis. If a person with this condition can harness the positive aspects, they are often equipped to hyper-focus on a project until it is completed. Like any skill, it takes practice. One thing to keep in mind is that the ADHD itself may not pre-dispose these people to succeed, but rather it is inherent talents on other levels that may have them do well in spite of the condition.
What Is Intention Deficit Disorder?
“ADHD is not an attention disorder. It is a blindness to the future,” according to Russell A. Barkley, PhD This experienced clinician, researcher, and author has expounded on the concept of Intention Deficit Disorder which he graphically describes in a video on the topic.
As is the case of many of my clients, Dr. Barkley has discovered that those with ADHD are intelligent people who have the cognitive ability to know what needs to be done, but not always the means to exercise the skills required to follow through. It is when a task must be accomplished that they may be able to rise to the occasion. As long as a deadline seems safely in the future, they practice cognitive dissonance, rather than act on the assignment ahead of them.
A few clients who are high school or college students have expressed that precise dynamic that has had them note an increase in anxiety and a decrease in self -worth when they label themselves for the inability to accomplish what is required as ‘lazy,’ ‘failures,’ and ‘slackers,’ who have disappointed themselves and their parents. Living in the moment, the person with ADHD doesn’t accomplish what they intend to do.
Dr. Barkley goes on to say, “People with ADHD know what to do, but they can’t do what they know.” An illustration of the brain highlights the difference. The rear part of the brain houses knowledge, while the front part of the brain houses the practical application of said information. ADHD is, as he shares, “like a meat clever that separates the two.”
Help for Intention Deficit Disorder
Barkley sees intention deficit disorder as a chronic condition that responds to stricter accountability and consequences and specific interventions.
- Make lists
- Use timing devices
- Micromovements/baby steps
- Use external environment to support reinforcement
- Ask what the reward is to motivate action
- Make progress incremental
- Use manual tools; some with ADHD are kinesthetic
- Inner cheerleading (you can do this)
- Meditation, deep breathing
- Ten minutes of work, three minutes of break
- Physical exercise
- Keep blood sugar stabilized
- When indicated, medication can be helpful
According to Barkley, 40 percent of adults and 90 percent of children are not being treated for it and he sees it as one of the most treatable mental health conditions that therapists and psychiatrists see in their practices.