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ADHD and Perfectionism

ADHD and Perfectionism

It may be difficult to comprehend that ADHD and perfectionism can go hand in hand.  However, a recent article by Psych Central, ADHD With a Side of Perfectionism, discusses how the two can not only be found together, but the combinations can also be debilitating. Petersen states in his article, “What makes ADHD and perfectionism a disastrous duo is that perfectionism can exacerbate many negative side effects of ADHD symptoms.” He lists some common symptoms of ADHD that may include;

  • Taking longer to complete a task
  • Procrastination
  • Ineffective time management
  • Starting projects and not finishing them
  • Inability to plan and organize

All these symptoms relate to weak executive function which can also result in deficits of attention, motivation, and self-regulation. But how does perfectionism play into these symptoms to make it more even difficult for people with ADHD to function?

Perfectionism can increase procrastination which includes not finishing projects because individuals are discouraged by their own impossibly high standards. Individuals may also get wrapped up in details that lengthen the amount of time it takes to finish tasks. This can cause hyperfocus making it difficult to task switch.  

Here is a list of reasons Petersen believes that some people with ADHD have perfectionistic tendencies:

  • Impaired self-regulation: Deficits in “executive functions” are a hallmark of ADHD. When people have trouble planning and monitoring their own behavior, they find it harder to know what the appropriate amount of time and effort to put into something is – so they just keep doing it until it’s “perfect.”
  • Perfectionism as a coping mechanism: People with ADHD tend to grow up being told that they should “try harder” and that they need to pay more attention to details. They wonder why they make so many “careless mistakes,” and they resolve that they need to be more perfect. To counteract their symptoms, they become absorbed in trying to get every detail right.

Petersen goes on to discuss the idea of whether perfectionism is a coping mechanism and if it is an effective coping mechanism.

Currently, there hasn't been research done connecting perfectionism and ADHD, but Peterson’s article raises some important points. Perfectionism can be as debilitating as ADHD symptoms, so how do we combat symptoms especially when both perfectionism and ADHD are present?

One effective tool that can be used to strengthen executive function is Play Attention, a neurocognitive learning system that improves cognitive skills associated with executive function, which reduces impulsivity, helps with task switching, aids in rational thoughts on emotions, supports the ability to plan and organize, and benefits self-regulation.  Play Attention can create new neural pathways to increase executive function to improve brain function and increase self-esteem. Our artificial intelligence, Sheer Genius, automatically sets mini goals for each individual.  This teaches you that being perfect is not the goal.  Simply striving for small steps of achievement each day is the key to success.






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