Is a symptom of something? (not medical advice)

Just curiosity. For mouseover, it may be ADD-related. In any case it’s brain related. I’m going to ramble a bit, so skip down to the stars if you want the actual question.

I’ve always had problems staying on task. I’ve recently discovered that I do a heck of a lot better if I put on a movie or something. I tend to always have music going, but when I’m working it doesn’t keep me going. Now that I’m putting on a DVD or whatever when I’m doing my homework I’m working for an hour and then surfing the net for fifteen minutes, rather than working for fifteen minutes and then surfing the net for three hours. (Yes, I’m that bad.)

I’ve had various people say that I probably have ADD or ADHD. My sister most likely has ADD (I don’t know if she was ever officially diagnosed or not), my mother might, and one of my cousins has been officially diagnosed with it. Obviously, if I do have it (and I’ve never pursued the diagnosis), it’s not so bad as to prevent me from finishing school, getting an AS and nearly getting a BA.

I’ve always driven my teachers nuts by doing other things during class. I used to read and pay attention (more or less). These days I write, draw, or surf the net during lectures. I think it has gotten worse, but that may be related to my depression (which is being treated and not related to this OP). I’m sure a major part of that is that I’m totally not an aural learner - I don’t even like watching videos for tutorials. I want it written down with pictures if applicable. I literally can not pay attention to lectures lately. (Fortunately, I’m an art major, and oh yes only have a semester left :smiley: :smiley: so lecture classes rarely happen. And they’re all over.). If necessary (in meetings or whatever), I can pay attention, if I take notes.

I can pay attention to a single task, if it’s reading or writing, or especially challenging, although I usually prefer to have music going too. According to my sister, who is not a doctor, and who I no longer trust for anything, being able to focus super-intensely on creative pursuits is a characteristic of people with ADD.

Actual question: So is needing a lot of background input during less than exciting tasks something that is characteristic of ADD or some other disorder? Again, this is not for medical advice. I’m merely curious. At this point in my life, having a label for it is not going to affect my life at all.

And please, feel free to share your brain weirdnesses too.

It could be a lot of things. Just FYI, I am very leery (and try to avoid myself) of self-diagnosing mental issues, particularly things like ADD. I’m not accusing you of doing this, but simply pointing out that it is much easier for people to claim they have some ‘malfunction’ with their brain rather than admit they are lazy or do things half-assed. Just sayin’.

Some people tend to be involved with some kind of escapism. The internet and just media in general have afforded us the opportunity to do this to a great deal. Is it a bigger problem when you are stressed? Maybe its easy to focus if its a do-or-die situation (ie if I don’t get a B on this exam I’ll fail the entire class!) but if its just some day to day task/assignment it doesn’t get much attention?

It could also have to do with your patence with tasks. I’ve seen people who are so driven they’ll attempt something a thousand times because they want to accomplish it and don’t care how long it takes. Other people get frustrated and quit if they can’t accomplish it on the first try. Unfortunately, there are many things in our lives that take a significant amount of perserverence to master, particularly if it is something you find boring/uninteresting/scary.

My brain being messed up (which it is - clinical depression and social anxiety) has nothing to do with the fact that I’m lazy and a horrible procrastinator. The true cause of it is more likely to be that I breezed through high school and never got good study habits.

I was just curious, cuz I thought it was weird.

I think there’s a big difference between ADD and simple task avoidance. If I’m doing something I don’t particularly find interesting, I find other things to distract me.

I have always found that having music or TV on while I’m working helps me stay on task because it gives me something to work on tuning out while I’m trying to stay on-task. If I don’t have that extra something to work on tuning out, I allow myself to be distracted far more easily - a grade school teacher said I daydreamed a lot on one of my report cards. I was also in a class at the time that I was soon advanced out of, so it turned out that I was bored because I wasn’t being challenged in class, so once I was skipped from one grade to the next, I did much better in class. Not ADD at all, just bored and unchallenged. It turns out I’ve been like that my whole life so far, all 39 years of it.

College was similar, part of applying myself after freshman year had to do with realizing how much money was going toward college courses, and what a waste of money it would be if I didn’t do well. High School, I never read a single textbook and pretty much bullshitted my way through. Working for the last 20 years, same thing - need music playing or even a loud workplace helps because I have something to tune out while I’m trying to stay on task.

If the above is a description of a person with ADD, well then everyone with an IQ over 100 must have ADD. I think it’s just the way some brains work.

Incubus, I wonder if you’ve thought about the reasons why people might be lazy and do things half-assed?

Undoubtably I am lazy and do things half-assed. I also have an ADD diagnosis. Lack of attention to detail, a hard time paying attention to things that aren’t fascinating, and persistant problems with motivation and procrastination, all go hand in hand for me and for most people who end up diagnosed with ADD. And I do think it’s a case of individual differences in brain function. The people out there who naturally are motivated to work hard and can easily direct their attention to things that aren’t very interesting, might once in a while say ‘oh, I’ll be lazy and surf the web rather than doing my work’ but it’s not a lifelong pattern that they feel they don’t have much control over. KWIM?

I recently saw a study that showed that people who consider themselves to study better while listening to TV or the radio actually stay on task much better when they have no distractions. I have no idea if it was a valid study or not. But I do notice that although my daughters have told me that they study better with the TV and computer on, they absolutely do not. I think they heard it somewhere and want it to be so. I remember telling my mother the same thing.

Yeah, studying definitely needs no distractions. But this is doing projects - art stuff, and if it’s real quiet and still I get bored and wander off task.

I’ve always considered it motivation based. It’s much easier to motivate yourself to do something you hate if you’re doing it while you’re doing something you don’t. It may take me a couple of weeks to clean my room, but sans music and a few silly things I do to make it fun, I wouldn’t do it at all. You should have seen my room growing up.

I worked for many years as a movie theatre manager/projectionist. So I always did work in my office with the monitor to the film playing. So I do that now. If I’m doing something I put in a DVD or some music.

But then again, I almost always have to put some music on to go to sleep. I developed that habit when I was a teen.

I am diagnosed with ADD and I can relate to a lot of what you said in your OP. I play music almost constantly at work (sometimes this is to drown out distraction, but not always) and yes 15 minutes of work to 3 hours of surfing is not unheard of for me. :o At work I almost may as well not even go to meetings (I am a visual/kinesthetic learner) and in school my notes were something like 50% relevant to the course and 50% completely unrelated doodles.

Somewhere I read a hypothesis that our brains have an unusually active data processing center so we seek to occupy it with as much sensory input as we can… I don’t have a cite though.

What about how I can focus on meetings much better if I knit (something simple, not really requiring thought)? It’s not really audio or visual but more tactile distraction.

Seriously, if I go to a meeting at work with no knitting*, I will always start nodding off, even if I’m trying really hard to pay attention (writing notes, even). If I can sit there doing simple knitting, though, I stay awake and actually hear and remember what’s been discussed.

In this case, it really doesn’t seem like task avoidance (which I definitely do, too! :D), it’s actually a way for me to do the task at hand,y 'know?

  • Which is the vast majority of the time, since I know most people don’t think it’s a good idea.

I have ADD (accurately diagnosed in 1986 in spite of being at the height of the ADD craze), and I could have written your post. Just FWIW.

You sound exactly like me. Diagnosed ADHD, non-hyperactive, inattentive type last year.

OK, so it can be a sign of ADD / ADHD, which doesn’t necessarily mean I have it (although considering my family it’s certainly a possibility.) Nice to know my hypothesis was correct.

Poor parenting? Low expectations for their own self? Immaturity? There’s lots of reasons that don’t require a DSM book to sort out. It certainly requires a great deal of self-motivation to address and manage.

Its very easy for us to confine ourselves into a personality ‘bubble’, where we feel safe and don’t have to change. If we face a challenge, it takes zero effort to chalk it up to something outside our own control than to actually step outside our comfort zone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for seeking professional help on the issue if it comes down to it. I’m just pointing out its far easier to blame it on something beyond our control. The people chiming in with their ADD stories are reinforcing it. But I think the most constructive thing is to be proactive about changing our own behaviors, and if that doesn’t work, go from there.

What about what I posted above? I’m curious because I also relate to the OP 100% (though was giving an alternate scenario that I have as well).

A part of me really wants to ask my doc about it, but I’d kind of feel like a tool with how HUGE ADD was a few years ago. I wouldn’t want him to think I’m some moron who just hears what “everyone” has and thinks she has it too, y’know?

Have you had problems paying attention before, or is this new? ADHD is not something that spontaneously shows up. It’s one of the reasons an ADHD diagnosis was ruled out for me (The other being that OCD perfectly explained my symptoms.)

My procrastination and inattention were both due to anxiety and extremely high standards for myself.

BTW, I agree with Incubus that you should try to fix yourself before going the psychological route. In fact, the proper steps in general order of acceleration are try to fix yourself, find self-help books, see if a friend can help you, find a therapist, find a group (optional), go for psychological help, and then, if all else fails, go psychiatric. You really shouldn’t jump ahead unless there is an emergency (defined as a clear mental problem that causes so much distress you can barely stand it, or you start doing something like violence, panic, self-violence, etc.)

In particular, jumping ahead to psychiatry is a mistake a lot of people make. It’s the one skip that can be the most detrimental. It’s less of a risk with something like ADHD, but it’s still not a good idea.

A lot of times it’s just a bad habit you’ve gotten into. I always leave my TV on, even when I could care less about the program. I just like the background noise. It gets really irritating to me not to hear the background noise. I can do without it though, it’s just a habit I got into

I’m not sure if these are aimed towards me or not, but I’ll assume they are. I’ve always had problems paying attention - like I said in the OP, I’ve always done other things during class, etc. I also have very poor self-discipline, at least about getting distracted and procrastination. It’s the major thing I’d like to change about myself. I’ve tried dealing with it, I’ve tried self-help books. I haven’t talk to any sort of professionals, although I do know one.

I don’t know if I have ADD or not; it doesn’t really matter at this point. I’m rather just thrilled that I figured out a way to help stay on task.

My son has ADD and he can’t even sleep without the tv on. He was diagnosed as a young child and at puberty he changed to just ADD minus the hyperactivity. He doesn’t take any meds for it but I know how hard he struggles with staying on task. He is an adult now and at work they always have on which helps. He also double checks his work for errors. He tends to make mistakes and not pick them up on the first pass.

People with ADD have a hard time focusing so anything that keeps your attention feels good. Unfortunately if it is video games you will play them all day long. It is because they hold your attention and make you feel less scattered. It also gives your day structure. A person with ADD likes and needs structure. Even if it is just playing a computer game it is structured time.