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ADHD and Out of Sync

A lot of the problems that come with ADHD have to do with time. People with ADHD often struggle with time management and regularly find themselves running late.

So are people with ADHD just generally out of sync?

According to one paper published recently in Medical Anthropology, the answer is yes. The paper’s author conducted a series of interviews with people who had ADHD and concluded that many of them experienced ADHD as “a state of desynchronization and arrhythmia.”

ClockThe paper pointed out three themes that commonly showed up in the interviews:

1) an inner restlessness and bodily arrhythmia; 2) an intersubjective desynchronization between the individual and its surroundings; and 3) a feeling of lagging behind socially due to difficulties in social skills.

This idea that being “out of sync” with the world around you is a big part of the ADHD experience certainly rings true with me. When I saw this paper, a number of other ways in which having ADHD can mean operating on a different “rhythm” came to mind:

  • Being impatient and always wanting to move on to the next thing
  • Having trouble estimating how long tasks will take
  • Being stuck in the present and not planning for the future
  • Being motivated by short-term rewards and not being good at delaying gratification
  • Often running late
  • Maintaining an atypical sleep-wake schedule

Of course, it’s hard to say what the cause-and-effect is here, a point the paper I linked to above acknowledges. For example, do people with ADHD have trouble delaying gratification because they perceive time differently or do they perceive time differently because they’re wired to prioritize short-term rewards? Or both, or neither?

In any case, though, it does seem like there’s something to the idea that people with ADHD are out of sync with society. Sometimes we get impatient and do things too fast, other times we lose track of time and do things late. Too fast or too slow, the result is similar: struggling to “find the beat” and get back in rhythm with the world around us.

What’s your experience? Do you feel like part of having ADHD is being “out of sync”? Please share below!

Image: Flickr/Daniel Waters under CC BY 2.0

ADHD and Out of Sync

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. (2017). ADHD and Out of Sync. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Jan 2017
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