If you want insight into how likely someone is to have ADHD, you could ask them about symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity. But a more creative question to ask is how often they experience changes – both big life changes, and smaller day-to-day changes.
- How often do you switch jobs?
- How often do you move to a new place?
- How often do you drop one hobby and pick a new one one up?
In fact, variations on all three of these questions are used by psychologists to measure impulsivity on questionnaires such as the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale. People with ADHD are generally more on the impulsive side, and they’re also more likely to experience changes in jobs, residencies and hobbies.
There are a few reasons many ADHDers find themselves making these changes more often than non-ADHDers:
- Spur-of-the-moment decisions: Frequently, people with ADHD see something exciting and decide immediately to go for it. They’re intrigued by a new job opportunity, and they don’t think through the downsides of what switching jobs right away might mean for their long-term career. To put it simply, ADHDers are prone to making impulsive decisions.
- Need for stimulation: Many people with ADHD rely on a sense of stimulation and novelty to stay energized. Situations that are new and exciting focus the ADHD brain, and ADHDers often find that these are the situations where they’re at their best. This can lead to seeking out stimulation by frequently exploring new environments.
- Boredom proneness: Once the novelty of a new job, place or hobby wears off, people with ADHD often find that a sense of boredom starts to creep up on them. While this is true for plenty of people without ADHD as well, it’s especially bad news for ADHDers, who have deficits in their ability to self-regulate in situations that don’t naturally energize them. The result is a pattern of starting new endeavors with enthusiasm, then quickly fizzling out and switching to something new when a feeling of routine sets in.
How should people with ADHD deal with this tendency toward change? There are different approaches you can take.
On one hand, being aware of this pattern can be a useful reminder to stop and think about whether a potential change is really going to improve your life. If you know you need a sense of novelty in your everyday life to be happy, it’s also a good idea to seek out jobs and hobbies that provide this stimulation.
And finally, to some extent you can simply embrace this tendency. Yes, you might move more, try out more hobbies, and experience a wider array of jobs than most people, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
Image: Flickr/Open Wheel