Why am I a screw up? Is it ADHD that makes you make, what looks like to others as “careless,” mistakes? I say “careless” in quotes, because it isn’t carelessness, it’s just that you have ADHD. ADHDers have the lack of executive functions that create the factors that make us mistake prone. Here I will list and explain how each factor plays a role in mistakes. Then I will tell you what can be done to best reduce making them. Then I will tell you how you can actually make your mistakes actually work for you. That’s right, I said,”WORK FOR YOU!”
You’re in the middle of slicing a cucumber, and all of the sudden a person walks by, and a cool looking car appears, and a bird lands in your yard, and any of a million little things take your attention away from your task, you lose focus, and you slip and cut yourself. The neurotypical brain tells that person that those objects are not as important as the task at hand, so they keep focus. The ADHD brain has much more trouble doing so.
Again you are slicing a cucumber. As you are doing so, your overactive brain is coming up with 1 or 2 other ways to slice the cucumber. Then all of the sudden you are confused by which method is best and should be doing at the moment. Then your brain all of the sudden starts trying to implement 1 of the new ideas you came up with and you get confused and combine the tasks. If they, as they almost always are, are conflict enough, then blam- a new mistake or 2!
Impatience is a very common trait for ADHDers. We tend to need to rush through things. As I’m sure you have already guessed, causes you to go too fast. We have a hard time slowing down when it is needed, or just pacing ourselves. All of this is a recipe for mistake ridden disaster. It is said that our brain go like a race car, but it has bicycle brakes. Everytime we come to slow for a curve in the road or a place to stop, we crash – AKA make mistakes. And we end up hyperfocusing and forget about needed pit stops. A race car without pit stops eventually breaks down (burns out) and crashes (more mistakes).
Anybody under stress tends to make more mistakes. If an ADHDer is stressed out, they are even more likely to make mistakes. ADHDers tend to have more stress due to having how much harder life is for us. This is not to be confused with a pressure situation. Under pressure, ADHDers tend to do and think better. due to the fact that it stimulates our adrenaline. Adrenaline helps stimulate dopamine production which helps us do and think better.
When you act impulsively, you act rashly So What Can Be Done by failing to think things through. This, of course, causes you to make mistakes.
ADHDers tend to be perfectionists. Do you know anyone or anything that is perfect? Somethings that might seem perfect will not be so under scrutiny. Everything contains mistakes. And you are going to make mistakes. If you work under that kind of pressure, you are certainly opening yourself up for more mistakes. So why try for the unobtainable? You are only setting yourself up for more mistakes and failure.
Most ADHDers are sleep deprived. We just can’t calm our mind from racing thoughts long enough to get to sleep. And then it is like waking from the grave to wake us up. We generally can’t sleep till exhaustion takes over.
How We Avoid Mistakes
We shouldn’t avoid mistakes. That’s right I said that we shouldn’t! At least not at the beginning, we shouldn’t. Think about it. I’m going to tell you that I learn best when I make mistakes. Mistakes are one of the best teachers. In fact, from constantly making mistakes, I have become good at adjusting to them on the fly. I slip and trip all the time. I used to fall. But now I am able to catch myself almost every time.
And to add to that, I have actually been able to help others learn from their mistakes. This has helped me become a problem solver. This is a known skill for ADHDers, and that is well sought after by companies. If you can learn how you can learn to do this so it valuable to a company, you can make good money. Or you can start your own business. ADHDers make good entrepreneurs.
So what can we do about this.
The Right Medication
I’m in no qualified to recommend anything about medication, but those who it works for claim that it makes them think and feel normal. Many ADHDers claim that they cannot function without it.
But there are a few problems that go with medication. It is only effective for about 80% of us. Some, like my son and me, complain of aggressive anger on them. And the right dose and medication requires the right medical professional to prescribe it. This can take quite awhile for to get it right.
People who abuse and get addicted to ADHD meds are neurotypicals who use them. Most of us have heard of Adderal abuse. ADHD meds stimulate the dopamine production in ADHDers. Caution must be taken, because even ADHDers can become addicted.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This is done by a therapist. The therapist should be well versed on ADHD and be one that works well with you. Like meds, the right fit of a therapist might take several tries. As of the writing of this, I am trying a new one. CBT can teach you mindfulness. Even if you find the right med, the combination of the med with CBT is seen as the best treatment of ADHD.
Self care is very important in ADHD treatment. Getting enough sleep is a very important way to self care. I take a pm pain reliever that sometimes helps. It was something that my dr. recommended.
Another way is to get do a mind dump. This is done by writing down what’s on your mind just before going to bed. Shortly I’ll be going to bed after finishing this post. I am very tired from it.
A blindfold or a perfectly dark room might help.
This the act of paying attention to what it was that caused you to make the mistake. Then you can pause and analyze what happened that caused the mistake. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will be, and you learn from you mistakes quicker.
I work in a paint department. One day, as I was rushing to fill a paint order, I knocked over can of paint the can of paint that I needed was set on to make it spill paint all over the aisle. Having the painful task of cleaning up a gallon of paint, was a great motivator for avoiding it. So I applied my brakes, and I analyzed what it was that I did you make this happen. Did I have to slow down completely? No. All I had to do was apply the brakes at the curve, when I was grabbing the paint, and slow myself to grab the paint carefully enough to keep from spilling paint. The surprising thing that happened was that the more I did this, the quicker I got at it with skill – practice makes perfect.
ADHDers don’t usually have the ability to slow down, so the practice of mindfulness is an amazing tool to help you stop and think before you do something. The more you do it, the more it becomes habit. Mistakes suck, so when you make one, be mindful of why and what could be done different to avoid them. The more you do that successfully, the easier it will become habit.
Most ADHDers become negative through all of the negative aspects and consequences of being ADHD. This creates a downward spiral into a terrible negative vortex that just gets worse and worse.
So we need to cut the negativity off at the pass. And we do this by doing the following:
- Surround yourself with positive people and cut out the negative ones. If you cannot do the latter, then learn to ignore them and stand up for yourself. Positive people are the ones who understand that no one is perfect, especially us. People that understand us tend to be others with ADHD themselves.
- Stop any negative thoughts when you make a mistakes. Learn to say a simple thing like oops, and don’t take it too seriously. Sincerely say you are sorry to whomever you might have wronged, and move one.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. Most mistakes are funny when looked at at the right perspective. It helps when you have surrounded yourself with positive, understanding people. You have ADHD. You and others are just going to have to understand that mistakes are just part of it.
- Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes. This is one of the best ways of not taking your mistakes serious.
Being positive takes the negative stigmatism out of the mistake. The negative stigmata can make you feel like a screw up, and make you more mistake prone. So being positive can help make you less likely to repeat the mistake.
Eric Tivers of ADHDreWired.com asks, “How has it worked out for you so far?” Being hard on yourself doesn’t work. It costs nothing to be and talk positively to yourself, so you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!
Practice, Practice, Practice!!!
It is said that it takes replacing a bad habit with a good habit takes 30 days. With ADHD, I’m sure it takes longer. To become mindful and positive, practice it until it becomes automatic. Just imagine how much better off if mindfulness and positivity not only ruled how you did things, but brought positive results to your life.
We with ADHD are way more mistake prone the those with neurotypical brains. We are distracted, overthinking, impatient, impulsive, perfectionists.
Mistakes are good to make. You can really learn from them, especially with volume of mistakes that us ADHDers make. Almost all mistakes are recoverable. If you get fired, you can find another job. You can develop your skill of mistake recovery and learning from them into the skill of problem solving. This is a great job skill.
And the combination of medication and CBT just might be the best treatment for you.
So just remember to be mindful of how and why you made the mistake, be positive about yourself through them, and practice the hell out of both mindfulness and positivity till they become automatic.
And do your best to get enough sleep and cut down on stress.