The Struggle of ADD is The Challenge of Striving for Purpose

Robert Hunt

The most amazing thing is that anything happens at all – that there is life on this planet, and we are conscious of it. We are endowed with the gift of consciousness that enables us to be aware – and to know that we are the ones having the thoughts we experience. We can direct our consciousness to the outside world around us, or to the internal thoughts and emotions within us. We can connect our present to our past. We can anticipate, even shape, our future.

What has this conscious awareness got to do with ADD? Everything.

Attention Deficit Disorder is the failure or inability to direct our awareness towards an intended purpose. If we consider that the challenge of human consciousness is to give meaning to our existence, then the challenge of ADHD is to find and pursue personal purpose in our own lives.

The struggle of ADD is not just attention in the moment – really listening and participating in the conversation – but also remembering to buy the dog food. It is about connecting to all aspects of our lives with purpose.

The Point of ADHD Treatment

The point of ADHD treatment is not just symptom-reduction. It is life enhancement. It is accomplishing meaningful tasks that make a difference. Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist who survived Nazi concentration camps, recognized that those with a strong sense of purpose were the most likely to survive.

The point of ADHD treatment, then, is not just to enhance attention or simply reduce impulsivity or over-activity. It is to facilitate meaning and productivity. It is to help people with ADHD pursue lives with meaning and purpose.

Attention is the seed of focus, and it blossoms into content, beauty and substance. Here is the challenge: meaningful attention requires significant goals, broken down into concrete tasks and implemented over time.

A Critical Step in Treatment

A critical step in the treatment of ADHD is turning attention to tasks, and linking tasks to meaning. We must not just connect attention to symptoms reduction, but also to enhanced task performance.

Many of the people we work with have a clear vision and plan regarding what they really need and wish to accomplish, but they lack the attention to turn goals into strategy and execution. They know what they want and need to do and how to do it – but they are too distracted to get started, and too impulsive to get tasks completed.

They may also be too random to discriminate which projects require true excellence, and when “good enough is good enough.” Excessive perfectionism is as impairing as excessive distractibility. Others, even when they are focused, have little sense of direction or priorities. For them, therapy becomes an important vehicle for establishing realistic goals and defining the processes and sequence of accomplishing them.

Yes, there's an App for That!

In my private practice, I have seen the need to help patients record in real time how effectively they can control their attention, not just to reduce symptoms, but also to enhance productivity and improve their overall well-being. In response to that need, we've developed assistive technologies – yes, there's an App for that! – that ultimately contribute to a larger sense of meaning and purpose. Patients do not just want to be “doing something” or “be busy.” They want to take action that generates sustained meaning and purpose.

At the end of the day, isn't that what we're all here for?

Comprehensive treatment of ADHD must focus on improving overall well-being. The more we understand about ADHD, the more we must innovate, utilizing both technology and real-world experience to fashion mental health solutions that drive health and enable people to reach their goals and ambitions.

Are you focused on tasks that matter? Is what you're doing significant? Do medications matter?

More From ADHD Blog