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Does your mind jump around, stay on task or get stuck? (berkeley.edu)
260 points by upen on Nov 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments

  My mind went for a walk the other day.
  It returned after a time with such mixed company,
  That I thought maybe it had lost its way.

  The new notions, though, they mixed with old.
  They composed and compiled, assembled and then beguiled,
  Until I saw my mind had been quite bold.

  It went off in willing pursuit with glee,
  The shadows and crisp light of wanton understanding.
  I am quite glad it brought such back to me.

Who wrote this?

Me, 19 hours ago. :)

Took a second pass to get the syllable count right.

I get sick of working after a while and then I go read Hacker News again. Then I go back to work, or get a coffee.

Lately, I've started doing Khan Academy's "World of Math" while I wait for builds or tests or deploys. It's basically over 1000 exercises that encompass all of math you'd learn if you weren't a math major: from counting up through differential equations. Some of it is absurdly easy, some of it is a nice refresher, a few things I forgot how to do and there is of course a perfect explanation included. It's possible to make meaningful progress in a minute or two, so perfect for those little build breaks.

Generally when I get stuck I go into emacs org mode and just use it to brainstorm about what to do next. If that doesn't work I close my eyes and try and meditate for 30 seconds before trying again.

I've been trying to do 10 minutes of Duolingo instead of browsing Hacker News when I need a break from work. But doing the latter has become a really strong habit over the last few years that's hard to break.

I hope it's working better for you than for me.

It's clearly not working perfectly for either of you ;)

I've been doing a lot of Duolinguo and it works like wonders to start picking a new language but then, at some point, it becomes repetitive and boring.

How do you deal with it?

I don't have that problem. I guess your Duolingo work ethic surpasses mine.

However, if I'd become too bored to do Duolingo, I'd progress on something a bit harder like reading gossip magazines (they use simple language and have emotionally charged content, which makes it an easy read).

I'm naturally scatterbrained I swear. I'll be reading HN about half the time I'm working. I'm not sure why I need to switch between it and my other tasks at work. It's just something I do I guess. I can focus when I have to but honestly nothing keeps me focused for long unless I'm really interested in it. Like I can read the Wikipedia for hours on history of the Reconquista but God help me I can't focus on a boring lecture of the same subject.

That comment fully captures my entire method of working. I have been diagnosed with ADHD though. I resisted the diagnosis for a really long time, because I'm very high achieving, but knowing really helps manage it in the long run.

Honestly, software development is a really natural field for someone with ADHD. I half joke the reason why I learned how to program is because I hate repetitive tasks, but I think my inability to concentrate on tedious work really was impetus to learn how to program.

My friends in college, all of whom focus fully on one task at a time, used to joke that it was impossible to catch me working, cause I was always doing something else at the same time.

Before I realized it was ADHD, I always joked that "I needed to slow down a bit so my brain won't catch on fire" .. 30 minutes browsing the internet to 5 minutes of studying/homework.

"Use the pomodoro technique." No problem... crap I've been reading Wikipedia for two hours.

Same here. I can sometimes will myself into focus, but most of the time it either comes naturally or it doesn't.

I find that when I force myself to focus for long periods of time, I'm exhausted at the end of the day (I never make it a whole day). I too need to bounce between code and email and HN constantly.

John Carmack's said "Focus is a matter of deciding what not to do". I think that quote describes a fairly efficient heuristic for keeping your mind focused.

Absolutely. Didn't know he'd said anything on focus, interesting.

Cal Newport's book on 'Deep Work' covers similar ground.

Whenever Elon Musk answers questions about how to learn as effectively as he has over the years, he routinely says "my process isolation isn't what it used to be."

I don't think I've ever had or ever will have any capacity to isolate a process and complete a large project.

What does process mean in this context?

Operating system processes are isolated such that they do not mix up memory. Focus means not being distracted by unrelated thoughts/memories.

I think he is talking in computing terms, sandboxing.

Some people are just more optimized for multithreading

I can hardly fathom the solar Babylon Musk has conjured up in his head

Well at least I finally managed to get out of real mode and onto cooperative multitasking...

I'm going to name my firstborn Babylon Musk

Not surprisingly, my mind can be completely focused for hours when I'm doing something I want to do. If it's something I don't want to do, then not so much.

I feel like I have this problem to an extreme degree, and I still don't know how change it, even a little bit, anyone have any ideas?

I was once watching Elon Musk talk about this, he said something kind of curious, which I'll paraphrase here because I forget his exact words. He said he does not feel motivated every hour of the day, occasionally running into snags, ick factor, brain fog but he also doesn't not view handling those as options. He just literally does not think of 'dealing with it', which sounds like the opposite of most self help book advice It is not so much thinking, as the lack of it that gives him an exceptional personal executive command to coordinate.

Either that or he's got a secret supply of NZT.

It does speak to several things I've read about the brain though. The higher brain functions are 'new' and rudimentary. It fits in with Moravec's Thesis about AI. I don't see many animals procrastinating or stressing out unless there is an obvious physical stimulus that explains why they're behaving like that. Many of the psychological phenomena humans experience must be related to higher brain function and it being evolutionarily unrefined. In the human species itself there is a wide spread of behavior, where a lot of intellectual people are neurotic as hell (kvetching being quite noticeable) but the obviously less intellectual apparently don't suffer quite as much. It cannot be a coincidence that meditation has the goal for absence of thoughts and so many geeks practice it.

> For example, their review of brain-imaging studies found that when the brain was focused on a task at hand, its prefrontal “executive” network, which governs planning and impulse control, among other functions, constrains other brain activity.

That is the reason why dopamine-raising stimulants actually have a calming function on people with ADHD: they fuel this "suppressing" function of the brain, thus enabling it to calm itself.

My theory about ADHD is that there's a genetic disposition, where people need to move physically in order to have their dopaminergic systems functioning properly. Probably a bad adaption to our rather stationary lifestyle.

On top of that I think that if children are frequently interrupted and confronted with bad emotions they don't learn to focus.

Keep in mind that ADHD has two subtypes: Hyperactive and Inattentive. Where Hyperactive individuals express themselves physically, Inattentive individuals get lost in their thoughts.

I feel it's important to note that there's also combined type, which combines elements from both hyperactive and inattentive types.

Absolutely, I find that I'm naturally on the inattentive side but hyperactive symptoms present when I'm forcing myself to pay attention to something (like a lecture) and not let my mind wander.

Just a quick question (in relation to my comment to your other comment): In these lectures that you find hard to concentrate on: Could you say that you feel disgust/repulsion? There doesn't need to be a rational reason, disgust is completely trained and can be felt for anything from the look of the windows to the hairstyle of the lecturer to the actual topic.

If so, then your inattentiveness could be your mind trying to escape that feeling.

That's the worst part, I don't even know have a guess as to why my brain wanders off. It's just gone and I suddenly realize I haven't been paying attention for 10 minutes. I don't think disgust/escapism can explain it, because it can be an extremely fascinating lecture. But my mind will grab on to a topic and continue on "cruise control" internally before realizing the road has a curve in it. If I had to pick something, it would be related to hyperfocus that just gets triggered off of a random thought.

Not meaning to get too personal here, so feel free to ignore this, but it still could be that you're zoning out to avoid some negative emotions.

Could it be that you're dreading something that is "implied" by the lecture in a way? Maybe the practise that you feel obliged to do? Maybe the impact the lecture could have on your work or schedule? Maybe just the end of the lecture and back to whatever comes after?

I think it's possible the hyperactive types try to get rid of their inner tension and negative jumpy emotions by moving.

And, I realise I'm leaning myself out of the window here, I think the inattentive type doesn't have the "dopaminergic focus problems" that strong. He zones out because he is repulsed by given tasks for different reasons. That's the insula and emotions of disgust at play there.

Yeah no. There are four types of ADHD. Level 4 are struggling, with raging impulsivity and energy, violent, expressive - often in prison. Type is what was known as ADD in the past.

Source? I'm only familiar with the DSM subtypes (Inattentive, Hyperactive, Combined)

That was supposed to say type 1. Typed on my cellphone. The combined is the third yes, and the fourth is an aggressive-rage-like version. You know the type, instead of becoming rugby pros, they end up in violent crime.

Let me get back to you on a source, ICD10 somewhere.

Yes, in fact there are six or seven different executive functions impacted by ADHD, attention and hyperactivity are just two of them.

Yes [1].

[1] Varies based on diet, exercise, rest, vitamins, seasonal daylight, supplements and/or substances.


PSA: Adderall is not Limitless

Yeah tolerance and comedowns

My first reaction was to be distracted by fact that the headline doesn't use an Oxford comma. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

I'm not sure what this says about me.

See, I would get distracted if it did have that extraneous comma!

As the writer of the article at issue, I struggled with whether to use that extra comma in the headline. I also struggled with calling ADHD a mental illness. My son has it and while it's challenging, I don't see it as a mental illness as much as a brain difference. But there's no escaping that it's defined in the literature as a disorder.

When I get stuck I go for a long walk. As for focusing I started meditating and it helped a lot.

It think it's important to acknowledge the effect the body has on the mind. If I sleep early, sleep well, rise early, and do some physical exercise first thing in the morning, I'm essentially a different person: I feel like I double my work output, yet am still essentially calm.

Beyond that, I think the next step is doing something active and intentional to improve the mind-body connection -- sleeping and exercising is essentially only refraining from damaging yourself. Meditation, yoga, taiji, breathing exercises -- I don't think you can go wrong with any of those. Especially for people who sit in front of computers all day, minds in the ether, it's important to remember that you're also a body, always also a body.

>It think it's important to acknowledge the effect the body has on the mind.

I think its ridiculous that its not more commonly understood that the "mind" is literally (physically) part of your body. Whatever circulatory, electro-chemical, hormonal, or any other processes are happening in your body are also happening in your brain.

This makes sense to me. I hear this on HN all the time and don't doubt that exercise does provide mental benefits to most people.

However, anecdotally, exercise (and getting a good night's sleep) has had no noticeable impact on my focus and/or productivity.

Is there anyone else that doesn't feel like exercise doesn't do anything? Or is it because I'm not exercising long enough or with enough intensity to make a difference?

At one point I went from being completely sedentary for about 6 years to spending about 3 months running 2-3 miles a day on an elliptical about 4 times a week with decent consistency. After a while, it did become easier to run further and for a longer period of time (from 2 miles to 3 miles), but I didn't notice any of the mental benefits that seem to be attributed to exercise. I still felt a general "brain haze" and sluggishness that I had assumed was a direct result of being out of shape. I've since gone to exercising on and off for another 3 months before going back to essentially being completely sedentary for several months and nothing about my mental state seems to have changed.

That being said, I do plan on exercising again to ideally get healthy in the longer term regardless of whether or not I get any immediate mental benefit. And I also plan on recording things more diligently to determine if there actually is a result for me.

The elliptical machine barely counts as exercise ;)

I have found that hard exercise, requiring mental fortitude to push through is what really helps. Sprints, power lifting, and distance running wear you down physically and mentally. IMO, continually pushing past the mental 'this is hard I want to stop' phase translates to increased concentration and acuity in other types of mental tasks.

I personally find that team sports help much more than individual sports. It's the only thing that motivates me to push myself beyond my mental limit to my physical limit. Basketball is my all time favorite sport, and I'd play for 3 hours a day if I could, but I've started playing soccer again and I think it's probably just as beneficial.

Didn't see your comment when I posted mine, but I feel much the same.

It's just far more interesting and satisfying. Telling someone to walk on a treadmill to help their focus is like telling them to watch paint dry. But team sports are dynamic, which I feel suits people such as myself, who have a hard time staying focused on one thing.

What sucks about team sports is that few people who play at a high level care to play with someone who can't keep up. So you need to do something to get to a certain level at least. I play soccer and basketball weekly, and I think the extra workouts do help with my performance on the field and court.

Those have never kept me engaged.

What does is playing a sport. Playing pick up soccer gives me a far better workout than lifting heavy objects and grinding on a treadmill, even at high intensity levels.

It's easy to say do these exercises, but to people who have minds that jump around a lot, mundane, boring exercises are not enticing.

I wonder if you just weren't pushing yourself hard enough. Ellipticals are fine, especially if you have bad knees, but they're not going to push your body as hard as other stuff. I'm working out these days, and after a couple of months, I notice I feel better. I admit I don't know how to describe it, but I feel healthier and stronger, and that seems to have some sort of effect on me. I don't know if I would have gotten there though if I did ellipticals instead of pushing myself with a coach at my gym, and going through a period of pain that I felt great to get to the other side of, just the feeling of not giving up. It may also be a placebo effect or increased self esteem or something else, but there's something there. Also, I'm totally not an expert on the subject. But I think there is something there, based on my own experience.

Try climbing. It's a physical and mental workout that is matched by few other activities.

The other day a buddy of mine said he started playing guitar again after 15 years without playing, and that it felt somewaht akin to meditation (which he had been practicing), since he had to be so present and focused in one thing while playing.

Agreed on all points. Good sleep and the first couple hours of the morning really set my pace for the rest of the day. For me those hours include meditation, daily review/planning and mental exercise over coffee, and some sort of intense physical exertion.

What kind of exercise? I kind of envy people who bust out 10 miles on a 7.5min pace

Personal anecdote, so sample size of 1 and YMMV, but 5 months ago I started doing exercise in the mornings that has done wonders for my concentration and has helped me drop 25 pounds without changing much else in my life. It takes 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times per week and I literally don't have to get out of bed to do it.

After being frustrated by my air consumption on a scuba dive, I got interested in free diving (apnea) training. I found an iOS app called Apnea Trainer that looked promising and started doing the breathing exercises. I've gone from being able to hold my breath for just under 90 seconds to breaking 6 minutes for the first time last week. It also revved up my metabolism (like I said, I'm down 25 pounds) and I've gone from having borderline hypertension (with a family history of stroke) to having blood pressure that's almost worryingly low (usually around 100/50). And, like I mentioned above, it's been good for concentration and stress levels as well.

Wet training (in a pool or body of water) requires instruction and a partner, but dry training is pretty safe to do on your own as long as you don't push yourself beyond your limits on a regular basis.

Interesting! Seems that there is some evidence [1] that your experience can be generalizable.

[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19850416

Nice little plug for your app there haha I'm kidding.

I'm skeptical that you'd be able to lose that kind of weight just by breathing exercises.

Thankfully I'm not super overweight but I want to be cut. Gotta start lifting again.

I want to run though I think that makes your mind clear or soemthing.

It's amazing how little exercise it takes to do the trick. Personally I feel like it's important to do something that opens the lungs and gets the heart beating, so cardio of some sort is what I choose (sometimes skipping rope). But some sort of all-body stretching (yoga sun salutation or similar) is actually enough.

I swim a mile. I've been doing it for about 15 years so it's automatic and almost meditative, plus a full-body workout. Surprising how much head work I can do in that half hour.

I also paint, but you can probably insert any totally immersive creative pursuit here (music is probably more common amongst hackers). It completely switches brain hemispheres and unlike programming, my mind does not wander at all when painting, and I can literally go to another place for hours. Unlike when swimming, I can't think about programming or anything at the same time, I am completely absorbed in the painting. Paul Graham has lots to say on the subject.

I used to swim as well. The thought of drowning isn't pleasant haha = out of shape.


Exact numbers don't matter. It depends on your physical status. I find that 20-30' of exercise totally changes my mood and stress levels without exhausting me, allowing me to do actual work afterwards.

Cycling in the morning does it for me. I feel like a totally different person when I skip the cycle and get public transport. Even if it's as short as ~2 miles to where I'm going, I find getting the body going before the mind helps me focus.

I feel that I had to bike to work 10 miles a day, in a month I lost a good amount of weight almost zero gut! Build a bike sim with vr and a rheostat generator hehe

> As for focusing I started meditating and it helped a lot.

This. Concentration can be practiced. If one is able to keep the mind from getting sidetracked from essentially nothing, it's much easier to keep from getting sidetracked from something. It's a lot of work that can be very frustrating at first (and most of subsequent times too), but it's well worth it.

How do you ever get past the first 2-3 months? I've tried multiple times to make it a habit, and generally lose the will to do it 6-12 weeks in.

Not sure how to feel about this article. On the one hand the interview subjects are making good points about the value of neurodiversity and the fact that many disorders are just stronger expressions of typical traits. On the other hand ADHD is labeled a "mental illness" in the opening paragraph. I'm not sure the writer really absorbed the subject matter.

> On the other hand ADHD is labeled a "mental illness" in the opening paragraph

As a sufferer, I agree wholeheartedly with that label. It's an absolute nightmare to deal with and negatively affects every facet of my life.

And it doesn't allow me to 'think freely and creatively' as the article asserts, it prevents me from continuing to think about what I want to think about. That's very much like saying 'nixing the brakes on your car removes the need for wasting time at stop signs and red lights.' I can't be creative with it because I can't think about something for long enough to nail down a useful idea. I GM pen-and-paper RPGs--but never again unmedicated, I learned my lesson there. Being unable to organize my thoughts enough to run a game or even think of a premise FOR a game is leagues away from 'thinking freely and creatively'.

Yes, ADHD is literally when these "strong expressions of typical traits" turn dysfunctional. I was primarily led to getting a diagnosis because I couldn't even sit down and enjoy videogames or hobbies like you describe.

I think everyone deals with it differently and has different severity. ADHD has different variants as well.

Personally have it, and my "creativity" in my mind is off the charts. When I occasionally have hyperfocus I can make something from it, but I have the similar issues to you in that I lose focus or am unable to organize myself.

I think the mental illness side of things is very grey. Clearly you have a very severe case, but I don't consider my personal variant severe enough to label as an extremely debilitating mental illness,but I benefit greatly from treatment. I can still function-I get most of what I need to done, but I struggle a lot with it. But at the same time, I understand the problem of not always labeling it as such, because then people dismiss it in its more severe forms.

> [ADHD] doesn't allow me to 'think freely and creatively' as the article asserts, it prevents me from continuing to think about what I want to think about.

Really liked this comment.

On the one hand, studies have suggested that ADHDers are generally more creative than their intelligence matched peers. This is true with respect to laboratory tests of creativity [2] and creative achievements in the real world [3].

On the other hand, @viewer5 brings up a couple deep points about how we should qualify our interpretations of this research. First, ADHD comes on a spectrum, and is going to affect different people in different ways. So conclusions about the "average" individual with ADHD aren't going to generalize to everyone.

For example, I have the inattentive sub-type of ADHD, but am low on the spectrum. So my ADHD creates all sorts of problems (I'm late to appointments and deadlines, distractible, find it hard to sleep, lose expensive stuff, etc.), but I feel those are outweighed in my case by advantages (e.g. creativity).

Others who are further along on the spectrum might experience way more of the disadvantages, and in any case, it's deeply personal.

Second, @viewer5 brings up a super-deep point about creativity (though I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind). Being creative isn't just about generating novel ideas (which ADHD probably helps with, on balance). Creativity also requires the ability to focus long enough to assess and develop those original ideas.

There's an old idea that different psychological capacities support the generation and evaluation of creative ideas (see [4]). Psychometric (e.g. [5]) and neuroscientific (e.g. [6]) research has supported this idea. So ADHD might help idea generation, while hindering idea evaluation and development, which seems consistent with @viewer5's experiences (disclaimer: I'm spitballing with this last hypothesis).

[2] White and Shah (2006) "Uninhibited Imaginations: Creativity in Adults with ADHD" http://totallyadd.com/wp-content/uploads/White_Shah_ADHDCrea...

[3] White and Shah (2011) "Creative style and achievement in adults with ADHD" http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886910...

[5] Campbell (1960) "Blind Variation and Selective Retention in creative thought as in other knowledge processes" https://www.researchgate.net/publication/245588360_Blind_var...

[5] DeYoung et al. (2008) "Cognitive Abilities Involved in Insight Problem Solving: An Individual Differences Model" https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234819098_Cognitive...

[6] Beaty et al. (2016) "Creative Cognition and Brain Network Dynamics" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26553223

> Being creative isn't just about generating novel ideas (which ADHD probably helps with, on balance). Creativity also requires the ability to focus long enough to assess and develop those original ideas.

I highly recommend you watch John Cleese's lecture on Creativity. He essentially makes that same claim, but terms it as being in 'open' and 'closed' mode. You need to be in the open mode to generate ideas and be creative, then you need to switch to the closed mode in order to get a good chunk of work done, then go back to the open mode to get and work with feedback, then go back to the closed mode to get a chunk of work done, etc. It fits what you said very nicely.

I've suspected for awhile that I have some level of ADHD (probably inattentive subtype), but after seeing what my brother went through with ADHD meds, I decided to just live with it. It's mostly worked out okay, and I can usually focus well enough when I'm working on something I like or a deadline is looming at work.

Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/89936101

LOVED these comments about whether ADHD is a "mental illness" (@Yanwar and I talked a lot about this.). Here are some thoughts.

> ADHD is labeled a "mental illness" in the opening paragraph

@skywopper is right that our article suggests the value of neurodiversity, and thus it's weird to think of ADHD as an "illness". But @Yanwar is right that because so many people think of ADHD this way, it's important to acknowledge this POV, and think about how our research puts pressure on it.

I'd add that negative perceptions of mind-wandering (and by extension, ADHD) go WAY BACK in the history of Western thought. Back in the 1200s, Aquinas classified mind-wandering as a "daughter sin" of sloth (!) [1].

So we wanted to engage, head on, with this intellectual tradition that casts mind-wandering as a "sin" and ADHD as an "illness".

[1] Thomas Aquinas (1273) Summa Theologica, IIa IIae q.35a.4

Depends on the environment around me, more than anything else, I guess. Noise is death on concentration.

Same here. The problem is that after a while I don't even notice the noise anymore but it still hurts my concentration. When I am in a quiet place focusing on something is suddenly really easy. It's not only people talking but the whole white noise like air conditioning.

I also get really tired sitting the whole day in a cube farm. In my home office I can go for 8 hours straight and am still fresh at the end.

White noise SHOULD help as long as it's consistent and uninterrupted. Aircon coming on and off will get your attention but a constant drone should be eventually ignored by your brain.

You could try some active noise cancellation headphones with something like http://rain.today or http://mynoise.net, I use this all the time at work to generate non-musical noise at low volumes and it blocks out all the office noise.

Recommended headphones would be the Bose QC series or the AudioTechnica ones. I'm sure there are others!

Studies have shown that background noise increases stress even when we are not consciously aware of it. The best reference I could find with minimal effort is about halfway down ("How does background noise affect our concentration?"):


Several studies have indicated that stress resulting from ongoing white noise can induce the release of cortisol . . .

Not to stereotype people but the white noise thing seems to be very American. Same as having TVs run everywhere so there is some background noise. Personally I want it just quiet. I also don't want to have headphones on my ears for an extended period.

Agreed. It drove me insane (almost literally) with the number of people that insisted on having a loud fan or a tv on just for the notice once I moved to the US.

I'm Australian :) Quiet is very elusive. The only place I can get absolute quiet is at home.

I did a little unintentional experiment about this. I worked at a lab in a basement where there was a lot of constant basically white noise. Nothing stood out, it was just a lot of things like ventilation ducts.

I noticed after a few months that I couldn't figure out how to solve some problem until I was walking home. Curious if it was the timing or the noise, I got some hardcore machine shop ear protection that I wore from then on. Suddenly I was dramatically better able to focus at work.

The dull roar in the background was definitely just sort of consuming attention unconsciously and seriously slowing me down.

It was really loud in there though, every place I've worked since it's always conversations and sudden noises like doors opening that distracts me. I would never have heard a conversation a few desks away at the earlier place.

was your walk home in a quiet environment? or just different kinds of background noise?

Just typical street noise in Cambridge, MA. Quieter for sure than the lab.

> it blocks out all the office noise.

Our office would look at those 'phones and mutter "challenge accepted".

> White noise SHOULD help as long as it's consistent and uninterrupted. Aircon coming on and off will get your attention but a constant drone should be eventually ignored by your brain.

My anecdotal evidence from talking to friends and coworkers is that this varies from person to person. Some people can work very well in a crowded coffeeshop with loud random background chatter, and find complete silence to be distracting. Others like working to a sound like rain or ocean waves. Others like a rhythmic sound like fast-paced electronic music. Others need complete silence, and can’t deal with pure white noise. My speculation is that it has a lot to do with past experience/practice.

This works for me quite well - qc20 running whitenoisefree - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/white-noise-free-sounds-for/... using "brown noise" and "grey noise" mix, running quiet.

However, now that I'm reading other comments, I'm wondering if it's still a concentration breaker like others are saying. I def don't feel I can concentrate as much as I did a year ago, but I've got literally 3x as much work as I used to have, so I can't really tell if it's the noise or just too much on my mind... :/

Been wanting to try the QC30, but reviews indicate the noise cancelling is less than the QC20, not more.

It truly depends with me. I'd rather have music than a bunch of things shuffling in the background - studying in the library as a kid was just torture. I'd hear folks turning pages and dropping things and any murmur people did. And it was just absolutely horrible. I'd lose my place reading and stuff like that.

Quiet class time was the same. This has decreased a little with age: Yet it comes back just the same while meditating or doing some other tasks. Sometimes it is nearly painful.

Yet I find actual quiet - the type I get at night when the neighborhood is sleeping - quite wonderful at times.

I'm one of the authors on this paper, and was so happy to hear this thread was going! I've heard about HN from my hacker friends, and it's hilarious and flattering to be here!!

Seems like you've been having a great discussion. Thank y'all and stay curious! I'll go through the comments and respond where I can.

[Edit: thanks to @upen for posting this!!]

I fought so hard through every year at school. At home, computers let my mind explode in computer games, 3D realms and unlimited feeling exploring of operating systems and hardware.

The only way to control my thoughts and mind was ridiculous amounts of exercise, 1 hour run daily or equivalent and drinking 5 cups of coffee per workday, just to have a normal focus.

Somehow, after living a very random 20's. I graduated with a bachelor and a master degree. My life was a still a mess, but at least I graduated.

Something had to be wrong. The thought had occured to me, is this ADHD, but I surpressed it. Didn't want it do be me. Felt agonized over the thought of having a condition, and offended by the character traits that were all exact descriptions of me.

At age 32 I kept going at a rock bottom slow pace. Had no job. The occational consulting stint. No proper money in the bank. Everything messy around me, including my head, clean but untidy. Relationship with my girlfriend hanging by a thread.

If I was was to stay in the paradigm of trying to get a solid career dayjob, and performing well, something had to change fundamentally. ADHD is real. Get diagnosed if you believe you have it. I waited 7 years before daring to speak to a professional psychiatrist, don't do the same as me if you believe you have it!

I took the plunge and visited a private Psychiatrist. Nice office, expensive art hanging on the walls, meters of full bookshelves on surrounding the interview area. The guy himself, top notch, understanding and genuinely interested. Through 5 solid sessions, and 2500USD later, I was diagnosed with ADHD level. "For your own sake, it was really fortunate that you came".

I was prescribed Concerta 54Mg (3x 15mg Ritalin daily).

My life is now entirely upended and everything has been an incredible improvement in all aspects of my life.

- After taking the medication, I was able to focus completely on tasks. Seeing them through, completely focused and analyzing the problems. -- Sequential tasks (doing something from A through to Z) like doing the dishes, cleaning my room, or building a spreadsheet model over 7 hours - no problem. - Frustrated thougts and mild depression over lack of life progress completely evaporated - Before this I couldn't get a job. Couldn't make it through the interviews. My CV was never good enough et cetera. - After this, I got 5 job interviews with great companies, 2 job offers with high salaries - I now work in the world's largest technology & strategy consulting company. - I was just promoted, fast tracked - I just got a raise - My bank now believes in me financially and is about to offer me a mortage to buy an apartment - My diagnosis and medication has given a fantastic life where all my opportunities are within reach. #RealLifeLimitless

Great story – my sincere congratulations!! I find myself in a very similar situation, but I got diagnosed at an older age than you and I am still waiting for that big change in my life.

The one thing I would like to note here is that medication alone may not be enough. It helps me a great deal with persistence and motivation but it also brought issues to light that I apparently had previously suppressed. I find it hard to break the behavioral and emotional patterns I developed over the past 30+ years and I feel like I need help to overcome those.

I've seen multiple doctors with the same problem. I just can't keep my mind on something, a random thought always suddenly jumps in. The answer is always "There's not really anything we can do. You just have to live with it. The medication is so restricted in Australia you'll never, ever get it."

Adderall is completely illegal here, and to get Ritalin, Dextroamphetamine, or similar, you basically have to have been diagnosed as a kid.

Thanks, War On Drugs, for ruining my life.

No supporter of the war on drugs here, but Amphetamines have their downsides, emotional and mental problems, potential for addiction. They're not a panacea by any means.

The science behind ADHD medication is far more established than things like depression.

Fear mongering about drugs has led us not to use them for fears of addictions. Alcohol is legal and yet we discourage the use of drugs that may help people medically.

Many people have seen drastic improvements in their lives because of ADHD medication. The potential risks are well worth the reward for people with truly disruptive ADHD.

I don't think I implied there could be no downsides to weigh up.

But I do't buy that adults should be completely unable to even try them to solve their medical problems, but can get wasted on alcohol and literally kill themselves and their family with cigarettes just because they feel like it.

I went to see a doctor once, with similar issues.

I was given a leaflet to go to counselling.


I think you should get a second opinion. Also, go to a fully fledged Psychiatrist who specialises in adult adhd, not a regular GP.

I think I will.

No psychiatrist in their right mind will diagnose you with adult ADHD, while you have co-morbid issues with depression and/or anxiety. (edit: that are not being taken care of)

When did he say anything about co-morbidities?

"I'm trying to think but nothing happens!" -Curly Joe [1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlejsgxOxrU

My physical health and environment make an enormous -- fundamental -- difference in this.

Sooner or later, the psych disciplines are bound to catch on to this. </sarcasm, to greater or lesser degree>

Is there a mirror for the actual review?

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