Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

38 and Distracted (ADHD)? Pick a Number


A perfect piece to read on my 38th birthday: research explaining why I act the way I do! Who could ever ask for a better present than that?

And not just any research. Studies from HARVARD, the smart place where you say “Amen” to whatever they throw at you.

Here it is, according to a article by Jessica Girdwain called “Attention Sappers: 5 Reasons You Can’t Concentrate”:


You misplace your keys, waver between work assignments and YouTube, and daydream during conversations. Some of it’s normal–life can get pretty hectic–but how do you know if you have a more serious problem? For adults who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), this chronic inattentiveness becomes debilitating. 

“We see an influx of adults being diagnosed around age 38,” says Timothy Wilens, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “That’s right around the time people start multitasking more, juggling jobs, families, a home, and other personal obligations–and problems focusing and staying alert seem to get worse,” he says.


Age 38 is when things start to get worse?? Um. Yeah. I don’t think it can get much worse than writing your own name (not your daughter’s name) on the back of the Valentines you send in for the school party, or dropping her off in her pajamas a week before that because you can no longer read dates.

Alas, here are the 5 reasons I really can’t concentrate … not that they are going to make me feel better:

1. Technology overload.

I know, I know, that’s why I’ve given up Facebook for Lent and am trying to live as technology free as a blogger can. I didn’t exactly pick a great field for staying off line. We do have a no-TV or video games policy before 5 p.m. in our house.


Solution: Learning basic organizational skills, like writing down responsibilities and maintaining a day planner, can help alleviate these problems. So can taking a break from constant television, Internet, and email inundation–or setting house rules about technology-free times after dinner or before bed, for example

2. Lack of sleep.

Part of this is sort of unavoidable for me. Katherine still has atrocious sleeping habits, so non-interrupted sleep hasn’t happened in seven years, as if the bags under my eyes don’t tell that story.

Solution? “By getting adequate rest, like hitting the sack earlier, you should get your focus back,” Dr. Wilens says.


3. Poor job satisfaction.

I’m actually doing pretty well in this category. For those who aren’t as fortunate, here’s what the article says:

Sure, everyone’s unhappy at work from time to time–maybe your client presentation flopped or your boss gave you a poor performance review. And if a disorganized work environment or a boring project make it difficult to focus, that’s completely normal. But if you find that you consistently can’t complete projects–to the extent that you’re missing deadlines or getting in trouble for it–you probably need medical attention. Or a new job.


4. Too much stress.

Stress? What’s that? The article says:

Stress takes a toll on concentration, says Dr. Wilens. “It competes with your cognitive centers–the areas in the brain that are responsible for quick, sharp thoughts–so being anxious or stressed drags focus down even further,” he says. Consider meditation: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the relaxation technique can increase your ability to block out distractions. Another study, from researchers at UCLA, suggests that in adults with ADHD, meditation improves attention and eases symptoms of anxiety and depression.


5. Too little exercise.

Already work out like Lance Armstrong, guys. And I still am tired and stressed. Sorry. Here’s what they say on this one:

Mounting evidence suggests that regular exercise can keep your mind sharp and increase learning and memory capacity. It’s even more crucial in adults with ADHD, who battle mental restlessness. “My patients who exercise all report that they see improvement in attention,” says Dr. Wilens. Working up a sweat can also help you burn off the extra energy that causes you to feel fidgety, and it can help you sleep better at night.

P.S. A very happy birthday to Larry today!


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  • Your Name

    I don’t understand the exercise one myself. Everyone says it’s such a great reliever and med, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much for me. I keep waiting for the endorphins to kick in, and they just never seem to. I’m not giving up on exercise, I just keep waiting for that “aha!” moment when it will feel like I’ve been uplifted by sweating my butt off. Thanks for all of your blogs and articles, your insights are a big help!

  • Holly

    I’m so happy you’re doing well in the #3 category! Hope you’re having a very happy birthday.

  • john glennon

    I exercise my mind! It’s obviously a use it or lose it proposition. I work with an ADD Coach. She recommended Play Attention to help sharpen my cognitive abilities and attention. Great stuff. I move stuff around the computer screen by mind alone! Like Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker. I think it’s essential that we stay sharp especially if we already have some attention problems.

  • Annapurna Moffatt

    Happy birthday to you,
    Happy birthday to you,
    Happy birthday dear Therese……..
    Happy birthday to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ((((((((BIRTHDAY HUG))))))))

  • Karen N

    Happy birthday, Therese! Thanks for your great posts-they keep a lot more people going than you think.
    Karen N.

  • Debbie S

    I have a spouse and my oldest friend (we are in our 40’s) who have adult ADD. My spouse takes ritilan (among his other meds) and is a consistent list maker. It is an everyday battle to get and stay focused, and to “do the possible” as we say around here. I have 2 kids 11 & 15 so I know how distracting that can be. Go easy on yourself, as your writings help so many, and I look forward to them in my email everyday. Happy Birthday, you look great in your pics and videos, because beauty shines from the inside out.

  • Elizabeth

    It’s my 38th birthday today!!! happy b-day to me!! ELizabeth

  • EZ

    Happy birthday To you and 9 million others who are having there birthday today. May God continue to bless all. The secret to happiness is to be grateful with all you have received. may all your dreams come true.

  • Lisa Marie

    I only had two children, Michael and Angel (boy&girl) my teenage son Michael died due to leukemia in 2002. This month would have been his birthday. I always tell parents to make sure they hug their child and let them know everyday how much they are loved because life is to short and unpredictable. Even though it has been six years since Michael’s passing, my heart still cry’s for him. I know he is with the Lord because Michael had a heart of gold. He was such a blessing from God and I can only hope that I’m worthy enough to be reunited with him in Heaven.
    God Bless & take care.

  • Your Name


  • Your Name

    All these negative write ups about the person with ADHD is really demeaning yet it is the truth,they were carefully studied and observed by my favorite psychologist Dr.Williams of Florida.I really feel the sacrifices of Dr.Williams,i can imagine his endurance of this kind of patient,the patient is also poor one because all his life never have time to have fun,for 12 years even those years before that. it is a hard case,Doctor,i appreciate your patience and i hope,and i trust your healing power.It is the hardest case you have
    handled i believe Dr.Williams.

  • Your Name

    After years of struggling, I started Wellbutrin last January at age 40. It was like a miracle – my projects actually got completed (most of the time). An unexpected pregnancy in November and I went off the Wellbutrin — I have not gotten one project completed since. Today was the first time, after reading your article, it even occured to me that not taking the medication had anything to do with my inability to not get sidetracked! I was just telling myself I was too busy and was disappointed in myself for not being able to complete anything.

  • Your Name

    I am 52 y.o. and realize the extreme difficulty I had with this as a child in school – the teachers recognized my short att. span and would often make me sit near the front of the class. My ability to focus (and my grades) improved as I got older but when I developed asthma in the 70’s and was on a high dose of Theophyline the distraction factor was enormous. I was not able to finish college and the first 2 years were a tremendous struggle. I simply could not focus long enough to get the point when listening to classroom lectures. I have worked FT ever since and when new asthma drugs enabled me to get off the Theophyline the distraction factor and nervousness decreased tremendously. However, I note I still have trouble listening to someone’s entire comments (even when its important) like my brain can only handle so much at one time. And staying on task while cleaning up trivia at work is tough. (This is shared for what its worth.)

  • nancy

    i can relate to the first story and five reason why you can not concentrate. My mother had dementia before she passed in 07 i try hard to think and keep my mind active I pray the Lord keep me in my right mind. I am on dialysis and that kind of add to the problem. I believe there are other things going on out there beside dementia. But every doctor you go to wants to name everything demential or alzhemia. I just do not believe it or is that I just do not want to?

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