Bianca Boyer on why people with ADHD often experience overstimulation
What happens in the mind of someone with ADHD? GZ psychologist Bianca Boyer discusses this in a two-part episode of the Dutch 'Podcast Psycholoog'. She likes to look beyond the symptoms described in the DSM-5. 'Those are just the tip of the iceberg.'
Being easily distracted, impulsive behavior, and constantly losing things are the classic symptoms of someone with ADHD. 'Those things are accurate,' says Boyer. 'But there's a lot underneath that causes this behavior, and this receives little attention.' In the podcast, Boyer mentions three causes, which, by the way, do not necessarily apply to everyone with ADHD
Flood of stimuli
First and foremost, there are problems with executive functions, located in the front part of the brain. 'This includes attention and working memory, among others. When these control processes don't work well, you have difficulty keeping the information you need to complete a task in your head. As a result, people with ADHD may find it challenging to concentrate on repetitive and monotonous tasks, or they tend to lose things more easily.' These disrupted control processes also impact sensory processing. 'All the stimuli that come in, both sensory and internal thoughts, seem to have high priority. This leads to a flood of stimuli. Planning and organizing, therefore, require three times as much effort.'
Difficulty with motivation
Furthermore, the brains of individuals with ADHD have more difficulty getting motivated than the brains of 'neurotypical' individuals, especially when it comes to mundane tasks. 'When I have to do something boring for a long time, I can motivate myself. That's incredibly difficult for someone with ADHD.' It's not yet clear why the reward system functions differently. 'Sometimes, people with ADHD may experience hyperfocus, where the brain is highly motivated. However, individuals with ADHD lack the remote control to switch from one mode to another.'
Lastly, time is processed differently in the brain. 'People with ADHD often struggle to estimate time. If you tell them, "You have ten minutes to complete this task," one person may take it very slowly, while another may unnecessarily rush and hurriedly finish the task.' Boyer also mentions that this can lead people with ADHD to wrongly appear unmotivated to their surroundings. 'For example, if you don't estimate time correctly and make someone wait, the other person may think you're not motivated. This can be very frustrating for people with ADHD. The brain is not motivated, but the person often is.'
Luisten to Bianca Boyer in 'Podcast Psycholoog'
In addition to the underemphasised causes, Boyer also mentions traits that are not often linked to ADHD but are quite common, such as perfectionism, difficulty regulating emotions, and the positive illusory bias. She also talks about the everyday challenges that people with ADHD face, differences between men and women, and the positive aspects of ADHD, such as creativity and honesty. Curious? Listen to the episodes (in Dutch) here: