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ADHD and Luck: Taking the Gamble of Inattention

Do you like games of chance? If so, you’ll love having ADHD.

We often associate inattention with problems like not being able to get work done or losing things. But inattention is also a way of trying your luck.

Inattention and LuckEvery time your attention slips, you’re missing out on some information. A lot of times, it’s information that’s not very important. You continue your life none the wiser about what you missed, and it doesn’t matter.

For every lapse of attention you have, though, there’s also a small chance the information you’re missing out on is actually really important. For example:

  • Your mind starts wandering while you’re proofreading a job application, and you miss a glaring typo.
  • You zone out right before your teacher announces that your upcoming exam will take place in a different classroom.
  • You lose your focus moments before a car cuts in front of you

In general, people with ADHD are less likely to get distracted in intense, high-stakes situations – inattention strikes most often during tasks that don’t provide much stimulation. The problem is that some routine activities can turn into life-or-death situations (figuratively and literally) without notice.

The whole thing about not paying attention is that you don’t know if the information you’re missing is important or not because you’re not paying attention.

Of course, everyone takes the gamble of inattention sometimes. But people with ADHD take it a lot more, so the small chances of missing something really important start to add up. It’s only a matter of time before one of them becomes a reality.

This is why it’s common for people with ADHD to live with a sense that things could go wrong at any minute. They’ve taken the gamble of inattention and lost enough that they know it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

I like to talk about coping strategies on this blog, but this is one area where there’s not much coping strategies can do. The only way to take the gamble of inattention and not get burned is to get lucky or to take meds, which will prevent you from taking the gamble as much in the first place. Probably the best statistical argument for ADHD meds out there is the difference in traffic accident rates between people with ADHD on and off meds.

The only other thing to be done, really, is to not beat yourself up when you take the gamble of inattention and lose. Sometimes you just get unlucky! It’s part of life with the disorder.

If you have ADHD, you’re going to end up with some scars from times you took the gamble of inattention and lost. Sometimes literally. I have a line where they had to glue the back of my hand together again after I stuck a knife into it and didn’t even notice until the person I was talking to made a sort of horrified gesture.

The real disturbing part of taking the gamble of inattention is that you don’t even know you’re taking it until you lose. And then the only thing left to do is move on and hope for better luck next time.

What are some times you’ve taken the gamble of inattention and lost? Please share! Any ritual ceremonies you know of for attracting good luck are also welcome.

Image: bennett

ADHD and Luck: Taking the Gamble of Inattention

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). ADHD and Luck: Taking the Gamble of Inattention. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Jul 2016
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