Those close to attention deficit disorder (ADD)—psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, therapists, counselors, etc.—frequently reference four distinguishing characteristics or traits that are used to differentiate between those who have ADD and those who do not. The four traits are “distractible” “impulsive,” “hyperactive,” and “lazy.”
In this article, I place each of these traits into a context to illustrate how their obvious interpretations are a function of what people are paying attention to. Let’s begin with “distractible.”
Dictionaries define “distractible” as:
- Easily diverted or drawn away from attention
- Amused or entertained by a pleasant diversion
Now let’s look at how dictionaries define “curious”:
- Eager to learn or know; inquisitive
- Arousing or exciting speculation, interest, or attention through being inexplicable or highly usual; odd; strange
- Interesting because of oddness or novelty; strange or unexpected
After reading these definitions, does anything jump out at you? Is anything obvious? What’s obvious to me is that the difference between “distractible” and “curious” is simply whether you are moving towards or away from something interesting. The adjective used to describe the situation depends on where you stand. Let me illustrate.
Imagine an elementary-age student with ADD. The teacher is in front of the class, teaching a lesson that is not stimulating to the ADD child. At the same time, there is a cockroach crawling across the floor. In the moment the child notices the cockroach, he tunes out the teacher and tunes in the cockroach. The question is this: What adjective best describes the situation?
Seems to me, the teacher would say the child is distracted because it is obvious that the child is not paying attention to the teacher and the lesson. From my perspective, the child is curiously watching the cockroach. In other words, his attention follows his interest, and the child is more interested in the cockroach, which wins out over the boring lecture.
So, in any given situation, is the ADDer distracted or just more curious about something else? By and large, society is boring. In contrast, ADDers have a heightened state of curiosity and are curious about everything. Therefore, given society’s bias, what is obvious is that ADDers are distractible, and society has labeled them so. The travesty here is that the negative label overshadows the more positive curiosity trait.
My point here is that it’s obvious to society that ADDers are distractible. What’s obvious to me is that ADDers are very curious.
What is obvious to you? If you are paying attention to the word “distractible,” your obvious solutions look like forcing yourself NOT to pay attention to what naturally interests you, which just sounds hard to me. On the other hand, if you are paying attention to what you are curious about, what you are drawn to, what comes easy? Seems to me, paying attention to what interests you is the path of least resistance and a way to move forward successfully. What do you think?