How much do stimulants help with procrastination/hyperfocus in ADHD?
July 27, 2014 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm reasonably confident I'd meet criteria for ADHD if assessed. I've been loathe to consider meds for a variety of reasons, but if meds would significantly contribute to addressing the kinds of problems I'm experiencing, over and above behavioural strategies, I'd reconsider.

Disorganization and hyperfocus are the main issues. The latter's great when I can make it work for me. More often, it hurts, inasmuch as I get into heavy avoidance that it's hard to disengage from. It's tough for me to switch out of a process once I'm into it, whether constructive or not.

The only way I've been able to write (or get any kind of project done [I'm in school]) is to completely immerse myself in one thing at a time, in a single, days-long binge. Barreling through is the only way I feel like I can hold it all together in my head. I've never been able to approach a project in chunks; I tend to forget things in between. Forget life balance. The process is physically uncomfortable (owing to little sleep, and aches and pains), which inclines me to heavy avoidance ahead of any project/assignment. And it's of course a struggle to get out of whichever avoidance activity I'm into. The quality of the output is there, if grades and feedback are to be trusted, but getting the output out is torture.

(This is against lifelong issues with organization, going back to elementary school and documented in every one of my old report cards. Any desk job I've had has left me restless within an hour of sitting. A sib has a diagnosis; a parent is afflicted with significant organizational problems.)

Would stimulants help me switch in/out of focus (and avoidance) more efficiently? Or is that aspect of ADHD management actually accomplished through behavioural approaches?

[One reason I've kind of not wanted to pursue this is that I have occasional tachycardia. But maybe the right medication and good monitoring would help.]
posted by cotton dress sock to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Would stimulants help me switch in/out of focus (and avoidance) more efficiently?

Absolutely, yes, although procrastination can still be an issue.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:20 PM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, yes yes - they can totally change how you plan, focus and complete tasks. One thing my therapist says over and over about my inattentive ADHD is that it causes me "to drift to preferred tasks" rather than doing what needs to be done. On adderall, I don't go down a Metafilter rabbit hole when I jump on quick to find that one comment that has the information I need.
posted by hollygoheavy at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

It can vary a lot, for me. Sometimes hyperfocus becomes easier, unfortunately, when I'm not putting enough effort into keeping myself on-task. I need the stimulants; I also need external cues, so my smartphone is invaluable. I have a ton of alarms and reminders set for things. I attribute part of this to the fact that I live alone and most of what I do these days I do at home by myself, so I get precious few cues to stop and check in on time. But what I find is that the stimulant makes it easier to actually stop doing something once my alarm pings and move on to the next thing. I'm sure there's somebody out there who's benefited from stimulants alone without any other lifestyle tweaks, but in combination it's incredible.

With regards to your postscript, Inderal's helped me a lot with that.
posted by Sequence at 12:30 PM on July 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

They can help immensely. Unfortunately there's no shortcut; you have to go to see a medical professional, get diagnosed, and then follow through with your treatment orders. You should visit someone who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. It's very much worth the time and effort. Don't delay, it sounds like you're still young, get this stuff sorted out now so you set yourself up for success in the future. Organization and focus are crucial to survive and succeed in today's economy, you owe it to yourself to get proper treatment.
posted by sid at 12:45 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (I'm not so young, this would be a remedial action :) [much like my schooling])
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:48 PM on July 27, 2014

Whatever I'm doing when my Adderall kicks in is what I will do for the next 4 hours. So, as long as I make sure that I'm doing what I need to be doing when I take it, it's incredibly helpful. I can tell when it is wearing off because I suddenly remember the internet exists and maybe I should go look at it -- that's my clue that it's time to take another pill.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:59 PM on July 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

See a doctor. Don't self diagnose. The doctor will be the only person who can prescribe them for you and they will be able to answer these questions.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:06 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

For me, Adderall induced hyperfocus. It certainly didn't decrease it.
posted by kidbritish at 4:32 PM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

+1 on Adderall inducing hyperfocus. Finding the right dose is everything. If I take too much, I feel like a zombie and get a terrible disassociative feeling. Weirdly, my psychiatrist's solution for this problem was to increase the dosage, when I really just needed to take less. I think everyone is different and needs to figure out the dosage that works for them. It works for me at the right dose, but doubling that dosage doesn't make me twice as focused.

As for the procrastination, I think medication helps a little with that, but I still have issues with avoidance.
posted by perryfugue at 5:28 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I take Ritalin, it has helped me both to focus on one thing (no more "SQUIRREL!") and more importantly to go back to what I was doing after an interruption - which are constant in my office. Before, I'd get interrupted, and find myself on facebook 10 minutes later, no clue as to what I was supposed to be doing.
On the tachychardia, IANAD, but I used to take Inderal for this as well. Hated the way it made me feel. Quit taking it. I had a bad episode recently, went to the ER - they taught me to "bear down" like you are really constipated - stopped the episode immediately. They had some fancy name for doing this that I do not recall.
I haven't really noticed that I get the tachy episodes any more than I did before I started the ritalin.
posted by rudd135 at 6:39 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is an interesting thread to me, because experiences are varying so much. For me, Ritalin helped with procrastination and hyperfocus, though my "hyperfocus" tends to be "getting sucked into a book for four hours," so I'm not sure if it really qualifies. However, when I am on Ritalin, my tendency to procrastinate and zone out is so much diminished that I feel almost like a different person. As someone else said, it also helps me get back on task when I am interrupted.

I will agree that avoidance is a different thing than procrastination, though. If I'm avoiding something for emotional reasons, well, that's different, and Ask MeFi helps more than drugs.
posted by hought20 at 5:27 AM on July 28, 2014

My doctor explained ADHD to once as more of an issue with a poorly regulated attention span than a complete lack of ability to pay attention.

Medication helps me get things done without having to resort to panic induced hyperfocus. I can regulate my attention better and stay on track when I need to. I can listen to a lecture without my mind wandering to the point where I realize I haven't heard what was said in the past 10 minutes.
posted by inertia at 1:13 PM on July 28, 2014

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