Overview – Boredom and Adult ADHD
Adults diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have a long, scattered history of unfinished projects, half-done hobbies, uncompleted forms and classes they have had to repeat more than once. You’ve seen the model airplane, sitting in the corner of the den, half-done and gathering dust. You have witnessed the repeated struggles with routine paperwork, such as tax returns, job or loan applications and college term papers, left unfinished as the adult in your life turns to something more exciting, like the latest video game.
It’s hard enough for a person without ADHD to complete routine, boring tasks or paperwork, let alone someone dealing with this condition. When the adult with ADHD reluctantly starts a project or assignment that could be called “boring," it isn’t long before the pencil is slammed down and you hear, “I can’t finish this!" These adults need a sense of connection or meaning to the task at hand. Adults with ADHD can deal with boredom–they need to feel a personal connection to routine activity or be able to change frequently to avoid giving up on the task.
Adults diagnosed with ADHD need to find something stimulating in the activities they do. For instance, if they are attending college and are taking classes they are interested in or that give them sufficient intellectual challenge, they may actually look forward to reading chapters from the text, completing written assignments, projects and research papers, according to Dr. Robert M. Fraum.
Adults with ADHD may become frustrated with routine activities perceived as “boring." They don’t have a high tolerance level for frustration, so any difficulty they experience adds to what they’re already feeling, leading to giving up easily and turning to another activity they enjoy, according to Dr. Joseph M. Carver.
It is difficult for the adult with ADHD to start an activity, particularly one that is boring. Where people who don’t have ADHD easily gather everything they need all at once before starting, the person with ADHD forgets items and has to go back and get them. Because organization is a challenge for them, they are already feeling frustrated or as if they cannot accomplish the task when they try to start.
Options in Activities
The adult diagnosed with ADHD needs to have options and choices in tasks or assignments. In the educational environment, the adult student should visit the college students with disabilities office, discuss options and ask for assistance from the counselors on staff. In the classroom, the student should quietly ask the professor for consideration and any possible accommodations in class assignments. For instance, instead of writing down lecture notes, the professor can allow the student to tape record the lecture sessions. Research papers can be substituted with hands-on projects that allow the student to demonstrate his or her understanding and grasp of the class material.
Adults dealing with ADHD need variation in activity. This could entail a homework schedule of 30 minutes on homework, 15 minutes on a break. This schedule, called the Pomodoro Technique, encourages workers and students to stay on task, as they work against a timer. They find themselves more easily able to concentrate on the task they are doing as they work “against the clock."
Encourage the adult with ADHD to work in short spurts and take small breaks since this keeps their brain more engaged, and allows them to work with their brain’s natural tendency for variation and change in activity.
Connection to Required Activity
You have witnessed the adult with ADHD in your life start, drop and stop several different activities. Even though this person’s experiences have been different, people with adult ADHD can learn to deal with boredom.
Sit down with this person and find out what connection they have to activities they may be bored with. For an adult with ADHD who loves music, this could be practicing a new song and adding it to their growing repertoire. If this person is engaged in a music group, learning the music can involve listening to the song online or watching someone else play it, then following along.
Adults with ADHD who get bored easily by routine tasks have to find a connection that enables them to get through the task without giving up. While this may involve repeated tries, it’s important to let them know they can achieve their goals.