Home » Blogs » ADHD from A to Zoë » Zoë’s Pet Peeves: And I Thought I Was Hyperfocusing

Zoë’s Pet Peeves: And I Thought I Was Hyperfocusing

Zoë's Pet Peeves: And I Thought I Was HyperfocusingI was watching Dr. Russell Barkley’s video about ADHD NOT being a gift for the umpteenth time (I find Barkley’s work, though upsetting, also comforting as he tells it like it is rather than sugar-coat my ADHD).

Whenever I need a splash of cold, hard reality I check in with Doc Barkley. This happens after I’ve read yet another ADHD tome full of feathered chorus girls dancing around with jiggly boobs in kick lines singing about the joys and sexiness of ADHD. Somehow, I always need a shower after reading these “Kiss Me – I Have ADHD!” books.

Anyway, as I was getting grounded with Barkley’s reassuring dose of reality (as I know it), I noticed in the list on the right of YouTube thumbnails by the same author, one entitled, “Hyperfocus.”  Perfect. I’d been writing something about hyperfocus earlier, so I thought I’d check it out.

WHAM! This, I wasn’t prepared for.

Kiss Me - I Have ADHD!I’ve tried to be honest with you. I’ve tried to educate my readers and share my personal stories, the nitty and the gritty, all in the interests of educating myself and others like me. It’s supremely important to me that I get it right whenever I’m talking about meds, symptoms, treatments, or any of the more concrete aspects of ADHD. That’s why I do research. That’s why I try to keep up on the latest books abut ADHD (even though a lot of them read like Dr. Seuss and not Dr. Barkley).

Today’s Pet Peeve is how, in spite of my best efforts, I’ve been caught with my pants down (doubly mortifying as I’m not wearing undies). So here’s my favorite ADHD guru telling me I’ve been mis-using the term, “hyperfocus.” Huh?

Me & everybody else. I know I’ve read other authors (psychiatrists specializing in ADHD, no less), use the term hyperfocus to describe when we ADHDers get fixated on something to the point where those aforementioned chorus girls could dance across our desk, naked, and we wouldn’t so much as lift our heads up from what we’re doing.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, says Russ. We’re not hyperfocusing, we’re perseverating.

Per-WHAT-er…ate – ing? Huh?

Never heard of it.

Apparently, that’s what we’re doing. Hyperfocus, according to Barkley, is for amateurs. No, make that, it’s for people with Autism.  (Never mind the fact that there is a connection between ADHD and Autism, that’s for another post).

Now, who am I to believe? Why can’t the ADHD experts get their act together and agree on these terms? I’m trying as hard as I can to understand my condition, trying to share that information, and here you go throwing me for a loop. ADHD itself already has me loopy enough, trust me, I don’t need the added angst of having to decide who amongst you experts is right. (Nor do I feel qualified to do so).

How can I inform my readers if you guys are all telling me different things? Geeeezzz…

And why is it important?

As a language-lover from way back, I think it’s paramount that we all agree on our lingo. That’s called clear communication. (And God knows, we ADHDers of all people need to work on clear communication).

Not only does Barkley tell me I’m not hyperfocusing, that I’m actually perseverating, but he goes on to say that that’s a bad thing. What?!

I always thought that my ability to hyperfo…uh…to perseverwhatchamacallit was a good thing. An excellent thing. The thing that got me through writing my first book. Ok, the dishes weren’t done for weeks. So I didn’t exactly eat right or exercise. So my house gathered dust. Much dust. A lot of dust. But I got the darn thing written, didn’t I?

Yet according to Dr. Barkley, perseverating keeps an ADHDer from stopping whatever they’re fixated on, and moving on to something else when they should.

I’m going to go out on a limb and be nervy here by arguing with my favorite and highly respected expert to say that, just as ADHD is a situational condition (meaning, if the situation is right, we’re supremely f*cked), so too is my hyperperseverfocusation ing. Why SHOULD my dishes be clean? I was writing a book that has helped thousands. My book is (so far) one of my proudest achievements. It’s my big gift to the world. My children didn’t starve while I was writing it. Wait – I don’t have kids. See? Who did it hurt that I wrote for 16-hour stretches to accomplish this huge thing? No one. It helped others and made me proud. Made my time here on earth well-spent.

Maybe, just maybe, sometimes perseverating is ok, depending on the circumstances. Just as my non-linear creative thinking is ok sometimes, depending on the circumstances.

I think I’ll ask Dr. Barkley for an interview so that we can chat about this. Stay tuned.*

*Those of you who are still fantasizing about the jiggling chorus girls, GET tuned, and read this blog post again, ok? Thanks.

Follow ChickADD44 on Twitter

Zoë’s Pet Peeves: And I Thought I Was Hyperfocusing

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

15 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2011). Zoë’s Pet Peeves: And I Thought I Was Hyperfocusing. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Aug 2011
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.