Perceptual Differences in ADHD

ADHD continues to gain interest throughout those who do and do not have the diagnosis alike. Why is interest in this neurodevelopmental disorder gaining traction? Likely, it is a confluence of events, namely the movement toward neurodiversity, increasing acknowledgement of adult-diagnosed ADHD, and a continued normalization of mental health, in general.

As one of the most well-researched diagnosis, ADHD has been one of the first to lose some of its mental health stigma; however, this movement has been, in part, a result of a growing understanding that ADHD is not solely about difficult behaviors in children but also differences in information processing in adults (i.e., neurodiversity).

One of the hallmark features of these differences in perception between those with ADHD versus neurotypical individuals is an altered sense of time. Time perspectives, put extremely simply, different preferences in where people typically orient their attention in time, such as being future-oriented or past-oriented (see Philip Zimbardo writings for more on time perspectives).

While typically individuals have one that is preferred over the other time perspectives, Dr. William Dodson puts forth the notion that those with ADHD are immersed in the present. Thus, ADHDers have difficulty, likely at the expense of excessive working memory, to differentiate between time perspectives, such as being able to disentangle future events into categories like short-term, intermediate, and long-term future states. Conversely, the past is loosely structured, if at all, in typical time structures of memory and, collectively, the present is somewhat mixed together with the past and future. Dr. Dodson describes this state of time perception as being curvilinear, which is defined by as “consisting of or bounded by curved lines.”

While this definition doesn’t clarify much more of what is meant by having a curvilinear perception of time, Dr. Dodson’s usage of the term is in respect to the point that people with ADHD have a skewed sense of time, and it’s particularly skewed toward the present. Therefore, this bias in time perspective could substantiate Dr. Dodson’s conception that ADHD makes it difficult to distinguish, or parse out, the future and past from the present moment.

If this is the case with ADHD, then it would help to explain ADHDers’ challenges with learning from past mistakes and effectively planning for the future. One extension from this idea is it’s likely also the case that ADHD impacts spatial processing, since space and time are interrelated. Collectively, it would stand to reason that the ability to conjure and manipulate mental representations may be a central aspect to the symptoms present in ADHD; moreover, this inability or deficit may be a transdiagnostic symptom of other psychiatric diagnoses.


Hallowell, E., MD, & Ratey, J., MD. (2022, January 10). ADHD Needs a Better Name. We Have One. ADDitude.

Repetitions in Search of Meaning

Sprouts burst forth anew;

Leaves manifest from within to allow, once more, for there to be a thickening.

Where is it that we are destined?

            Will there be true rest again –

                        What about frivolities with friends?

Why do we bother so much with the questions of where does this train end when we spend most our time preparing, pretending, or digging our heels in defending against the march of time?

Always forward. Always moving toward, yet never arriving.

It’s doubtful that many of us care much about if/where time reaches its destination; instead, we’re more preoccupied with which timeslot our departure is booked for.

Some of us can become worked up into fits over the unknowns of this whole ordeal with time; it’s particularly fascinating when one’s worries about things of time reach a point where they’re unable to allow themselves sleep at night.

Of course, this makes some innate sense; after all, sleep punctuates our days by plunging us into the voidless unknown or the mysterious manifestations of the involuntary experiences of dreams – wouldn’t this experience be the most apt comparison to gain some sort of understanding of what the experience will be like when the clock’s hand finally moves to the top, and life as we know it either ceases and stops or continues in a peculiar fashion?

Flows and Fragments

Celebrate with a drink! Cheers to good health with the consumption of a known toxin.
Mustn’t let yourself fret over such trivialities – let’s return to building our own reality.
Where to begin? Are you a friend or foe? Wait – regardless of what you say, how can I trust you?
The response would naturally then be: how can I trust anyone?

We are pressed often by pain; often driven or propelled by an internal pressure that combusts to sustain our inner flame.
The heat motivates, or rather, stirs us into motion. Fueled by an emotion at any given time sets our actions into motions.
Each presumably, and hopefully, preceded by a deliberation followed by a conscious decision. If we know the act was driven instinctually, in most cases, this being synonymous with the term unconscious, then we can conclude or redirect our initial inquiry.

If we know the actor of an action didn’t do so intentionally, i.e., remember not having thought prior to their action, then we can eliminate this channel of inquiry. This speaks nothing of the tenability of other channels. Particularly, we move to the group that can at least acknowledge the presence, even in retrospect, that the effect of their action emerged from some choice on some level of emotive (including somatic) and/or cognitive (e.g., linguistic) grounding.
To acknowledge a phenomena’s existence must precede the stage of naming such a thing – order of events is an important rule of thumb to help remember the principle of reversibility.

Still waters – why do we believe we strive for stillness? Because we’re so busy we are dying to rest? True. But this merely means that we need rest and not that we want to stay there. Sure. We may want to now, as we think of this as a future potentiality, but our minds would likely change upon the actualization of this desire. However, this speaks to reduction of tension not to an elimination of it altogether. Rather, this speaks to a wish for a temporary tensive reprieve.

As actors, we enjoy getting to act upon others. This of course requires there exists others upon whom we might be able to act. But their existence can be conjured in the imagination, if necessary, so we’ll make the assumption and conclude in the affirmative of this statement’s validity.

Next, to move as an actor onto another, there must exist some dimensional gradient; that is, an imbalance that functions like a slope allowing for flow to occur. This is juxtaposed to stagnation. That is to say that the actor and the acted upon must have some degree of difference (> 0). This needn’t be a categorical difference. It merely must be enough of a difference to allow for the bifurcation of identity, i.e., each receives its own identity. Some degree of sovereignty over our own machine; how’s that working out?

We spend time worrying about the various things that are going to or have the potential to kill us while overlooking the stronger likelihood that the culmination of stress, pain, fatigue, apathy, and chronic pain will somehow not ultimately be our killer. I believe we secretly wish this to be true because then we wager with the death toll collector about when, or at what age is our toll due, evading these types of contemplations through the inner games we play with ourselves to manipulate time.

Flowing Forward

The flow of time is due to entropy. Entropy is flowing from a state of order into disorder, and we perceive that as the arrow of time. But, on a true scale, time is truly relational: it is a matter of motion and change relative to other things (ultimately, light).

What does this mean phenomenologically? How do we experience time? We seem to perceive the past as something that is solidified. The past happened. The future, on the other hand, is ruled by probability. Points and events are not located and defined. At best, we try and predict using information gathered from the past. The past is continuously shaping the way we view the future. But, the past is also not static. We can influence the past through the way we think of it. So, can we change the way we think about the future by changing how we think about the past?

What would changing the future do, though, but give us control over the future? What would you do with complete control of your life? If you could map and stage out the events of your life, how would you make it: Would it be easy and relaxing for the entire duration, or challenging and arduous?  Would you choose to live leaping from one high to another or sprinkle dashes of both extremes of highs and lows? The real question underneath this has to do with growth. There must be some form of transition for anything to grow or a change resulting from some disequilibrium. This transitional period may be perceived as suffering and uncomfortable, or merely different and strange—possibly even exciting due to the novelty of the unknown. If something were in constant equilibrium, then there would be no growth because how could something change without at some point disrupting the balance.

Why are we afraid of change? We fear change because it reminds us of our inability to be certain of the future. We fear what the future might bring and fret about how to prepare ourselves for the multitude of scenarios conjured in our imaginations. At the core of these worries is our fundamental need for self-preservation. Additionally, it could include other cardinal characteristics of ourselves that we’ve wrapped our identity around; in either case, the point of rumination revolves around the question of what happens when those areas break down or are threatened?

Furthermore, why is it that we assume our sense of self and identity are unified to begin with? If we utilize our mental energy for analyzing futuristic what-ifs, then when do we make the necessary mental pivot from gazing out into the future to reflecting backward into our past? Without self-reflection, we operate as entities merely floating down the river of time, anticipating what might present itself to us next and striving to respond accordingly. By remaining in this state of assessing and predicting, we simultaneously avoid the task of reflection and contemplation necessary for a consolidation of the self. Moreover, this future-focused mentality is quite easy to continually justify as one need only cite that the river’s perpetual motion as the reason they are unable to shift to a different mental viewpoint. The challenge lies in the question of when? When will do we feel it’s the appropriate time to engage in self-reflection and, by then, can it even serve the same purpose?

It is so alluring to become caught up in the constant motion of time that we can forget entirely about what rhyme or reason motivates us to continue pressing forward—also, forward to what? If we focus solely on the future, then doesn’t it stand to reason that we will continue to do so in the future? The challenge becomes to determine where and what the threshold is for enough: What constitutes enough money to merit reducing work? How many followers on social media are enough to shift this from one’s central priority? When will there be enough safety measures in place that we feel protected from the uncertainties of the future?