A.D.D. Overfocused A.D.D.

I was 38 years old before it really occurred to me, hey who the hell am i, what do i really want out of life, and how do i get it? I should have tried to figure that out at 20, but when i hit the brick wall of responsibility i rebelled against childhood issues and decided to resort to alcohol and crack. But they just put off the inevitable.

(Speaking of, doesn’t anyone notice that the word "alcoholic" just adds an "ic" to the end of the substance? So "shopaholic" doesn’t make any sense - there’s no such thing as "shopahol."  Really you’re just a "shopic." Or a "chocolatic" i guess. Or just a plain ol’ freak.)

I’ve realized i have a base problem, which is i can’t multi-task. I can walk and chew gum, it doesn’t mean i won’t have the TV and music on while i work on the computer. But all the interconnected and related details of a task fill my brain, and shifting to something else is overwhelming. Once i start, everything else will get forgotten, like sleeping, eating, showering (there are other things i don’t forget to do though...).  

I’ve lost a job because of this (well we "mutually agreed it wasn’t working out"); and any regular job in our busybody, hyperactive society requires multitasking out of the yin yang. So i avoid that and usually work temp jobs, which ends up working out OK though, for trying to do music and write in between, unless i ever want to get married or buy a car.

Switching locations is hard too, for example when i’m home, going out is a big ordeal, it takes forever to get ready and i’m always late. But once i’m at the party, i want to stay until they throw me out. Why didn’t i want to come here?  I love people, but it takes a mental shift to talk to each one. Even spending a weekend with friends can make me feel trapped. When entering a room or meeting i need time to get adjusted; don’t talk to me right away just let me hide in the corner until i get into the flow.

Making phone calls is like pulling teeth; i don’t know why, it takes a mental shift and there may be some other fear of it from childhood, maybe it’s just that the phone is so "disembodied," you can’t get any visual cues. Setting up interviews becomes this big scheduling nightmare and overwhelms me. Or am i just shy and prefer to avoid it all? Is it just part of the usual perfectionist pathology?

When i’m awake i love to stay awake forever, and when i’m asleep it is like hell to get up. Who put the damn morning people in charge? It takes me several hours before i realize i don’t hate being alive. And part of the reason is i’m always so tired to begin with.

Where my freaks at?
Do any of you feel like this? It seemed to me like i had some reverse form of ADD. I didn’t fit any of the regular ADD or ADHD assessments. I kept asking people, but as usual, nobody gets it. And isn’t that part of what being creative or artistic is all about, that we’re all f*ed up in some way and the frustration splurts out like some mad secretion on a canvas or guitar? And there’s a fear that if we "get normal" all that’ll vanish and we’ll have to move to the suburbs and get a station wagon.

In all this confusion, it’s hard to tell what "normal" really is; a lot of these "symptoms" are common, and there are crossovers with compulsive behavior, just normal weirdness, crap from our parents, whatever. It’s easy to become paranoid. Wait, who said that?

And ADD and all this other psychobabble is probably not a yes or no question; as usual there is a continuum and we all wobble somewhere on the tightrope between sanity and insanity.

ADD is known for the symptom that a person can’t concentrate; but i kept saying my problem is i can’t NOT concentrate. And the other day in a bookstore i finally saw the exact same quote!  There is a guy named Dr. Amen who uses brain SPECT imaging to determine levels of brain function. One of his books is called "Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD," and his website is amenclinics.com.

And i found it! -> Type 3!

The third type of his six is called "Overfocused ADD." (I like to call it "Hyperfocused ADD.")  It has underlying ADD issues, but in addition has to do with a part of your brain called the "Cingulate Gyrus." According to Dr. Amen, this part of the brain "allows you to shift your attention from thing to thing, to move from idea to idea, see the options in life. Feelings of safety and security have also been attributed to this part of the brain. In my experience, the term that best relates to this part of the brain is cognitive flexibility."

Dysfunction in this area can result in "symptoms of trouble shifting attention... difficulty with transitions, excessive worrying, and oppositional and argumentative behavior. There are often also symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity."

"The cingulate system has... been implicated (with the other aspects of the pre-frontal cortex) in ‘future oriented thinking,’ such as planning and goal setting... On the negative side, difficulties in this part of the brain can cause a person to see fear, predict negative events and feel very unsafe in the world. Seeing options... and new ideas protects against stagnation, depression and hostile behavior... When the cingulate system is abnormal people have a tendency to get stuck on things... get the same thought in their heads over and over and over!  They may become worriers... Something upsets you and you can't let go of it, or you have a "future concern" which recycles through your brain."

How this affects me, Tom Minkler
I don’t fit everything on the website, but some manifestations include just general compulsiveness, the need to "fill my hole" with whatever i can get my hands on. Which is also a typical symptom of addiction.

The Doc mentioned that with the cingulate problem some people feel the need to sleep constricted, like wrapped tightly in a sleeping bag, as if in a cocoon. I thought that was weird until i realized my whole life i’ve slept with the covers over my head and a teeny hole to peek out of, rolled up on one edge of the bed like some kind of pajama burrito!

In general ADD a brain is short on seratonin, which means it requires extra stimulation to feel "normal" (or not depressed). The problem is that:

Positive thoughts calm our brains,
whereas negative thoughts stimulate it!
 

So we get into negative thinking. No we don’t. Wait, yes we do. And it sucks the big one, real bad.

Fixation

Dr. Amen’s book describes different methods for treating these conditions, including diet (the overfocused type needs more carbs whereas other ADD forms need less), balancing and focusing your life, working on stopping our ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts, such as: all or nothing, always/never, mind-reading, thinking by feelings, guilt, blame, labeling), learning to breathe deeply with our bellies instead of shallow in our chests, what to do when we get "stuck," and ways to get to sleep.

Feedback techniques can also be used. In addition to the usual barrage of prescription medications, he makes valuable suggestions of over-the counter drugs that can help (in the overfocused case, to replace serotonin and dopamine he suggests St. John’s Wort and either L-tyrosine, L-trypophan or 5-HTP). Also he suggests avoiding "other" drugs." Sorry!  😎 

Back when i wrote this i had just started trying those over-the-counters, but i never continued them regularly. It would be cool to get my brain scanned sometime to find out if i really have this or i’m just being paranoid. 😯  I hope this information was helpful. Having felt for so long that nobody gets it, i wanted to pass it along to you!

In addition to Amen Clinics i had found these resources, which are still valid:
ChildMind.org
Wikipedia
ADDitudeMag.com
ADHDmanagement.com