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Using Absolutes to Manage ADHD

Although “thinking in absolutes” is generally seen as a bad thing, there are some situations where absolutes are helpful. For example, most of us follow certain moral absolutes that allow our society to function.

Absolutes can also be helpful for managing ADHD.

Absolute Rule
Not all absolute rules are equally helpful for managing ADHD.

Think of it this way: because people with ADHD have problems with executive functions, things like making decisions, planning ahead, and sticking to plans can be hard. By having an absolute rule you have to follow, you’re putting less burden on your executive functions because you can just blindly stick to the rule you’ve already created.

Some examples.

I mentioned in another post that when watching TV started getting in my way, I created a rule that I absolutely wouldn’t start any new TV shows under any circumstances. I’d failed to plan out and regulate my TV watching in a way that worked, so I decided to just phase out my TV habit altogether as the shows I was already watching got canceled off.

Food is another area where absolutes can help. If you have a hard time being disciplined in the way you eat, an absolute rule can tell you exactly when to stop. For example, I’ve mentioned that I absolutely never buy myself chocolate under any circumstances.

The art of it is in how you create the rule. You have to find a rule that’s strict enough to make an impact on your life but not so strict that your future self will just decide not to follow it. That’s why my absolute TV rule was that I wouldn’t start any new shows, not that I’d stop watching TV altogether.

Take is slowly. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you end up violating one of your absolute rules – the whole point of the system is that an absolute is an absolute. One or two strategically designed rules can make a big difference if you follow them religiously.

Absolute rules are like a way of bypassing ADHD impulsivity. If you have a non-negotiable, no-questions-asked rule you follow without thinking in all situations, there’s no room to make a rash decision because you’re not making any decision at all.

What’s an absolute rule that you follow or that you’re thinking of implementing? Share in the comments!

Image: Iotzov

Using Absolutes to Manage ADHD

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). Using Absolutes to Manage ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jun 2016
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