How Technology Affects ADHD

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | February 7, 2020

Coauthored by Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. and Michael Campbell, Ed.D.

Technology has transformed how we live, work, communicate, and entertain ourselves. At the click of a button, we can access almost any information, learn new skills, and socialize with others. Technological advances have not only changed the way we perceive the world, but also how our brains receive and process information. Is this a good thing?

Research reveals that technology negatively impacts our memory, attention span, and sleep cycles. However, undoubtable positive effects of technology also exist such as access to knowledge, connection with others, and the ability to organize our lives. The debate continues… does technology improve our lives or cripple our ability to focus, thus making us uncreative and impatient?

Individuals diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) know the duplicitous function of technology all too well. Advertisements and alerts and chats and messages serve as distractions from the task at hand. Yet, the use of an online calendar with reminders and tasks lists, or the uses of meditation apps act as aids to improved functioning.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (previously known as attention deficit disorder or ADD) is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by core symptoms of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. If you think these symptoms sound like you or someone you know, you are not alone. ADHD exists as the most common childhood mental health disorder.

In our cyber era of Youtube/Facebook/Snapchat/Twitter/Instagram/messaging/email/online gaming – it’s no wonder that our attention is constantly pulled in a million directions every minute! 

A trained neuropsychologist who specializes in attention and focus can best diagnose ADHD. Your San Diego neuropsychologist at Therapy Changes will conduct a neuropsychological evaluation to assess your learning style. You will learn more about your unique strengths and areas of impact so you can achieve optimum performance in all aspects of your life, including work, school, home, as well as your relationships with others.

The Role of Technology in ADHD

With our increasing dependence on technology and the competing demands of the modern world, ADHD symptoms worsen in those folks diagnosed with the disorder. Also, otherwise attentive people experience more problems with inattention and memory retention.

I should clarify that it has not been established that the use of technology causes ADHD. Scientists in the field regard the disorder largely as a genetic disposition that cannot be caused by environmental circumstances. In addition, the psychological community has observed and studied attentional challenges long before the most rudimentary technology emerged. Yet, it is undeniable that the distractions from our computers and phones and the costs of living in a plugged-in world likely frustrate and challenge especially individuals with ADHD.

Technology can also act as an asset for children and adults with ADHD. Because people with ADHD commonly struggle with time management, organization, completing tasks, and difficulty paying attention to details, the use of organizational apps emerge as valuable tools to help keep up with the demands of our busy world.

Examples of helpful applications of technology for ADHD include:

    • Calendar apps with alerts and reminders
    • The use of alarms and timers
    • Task lists to improve organization (best when color-coded)
    • Talk-to-text software for notetaking and dictation
    • Audio books and reading software
    • Talking calculators
    • Spellcheck and grammar check programs
    • Biofeedback systems such as Fitbit to monitor heart rate, sleep cycles, movement and to track progress towards your goals

Ways to Improve Attention and Focus

For better or worse, given the current digital climate, one must have the ability to shift attention rapidly from one thing to another to keep up. In our current era, we are not rewarded for focusing on one thing for any period of time. As such, from lack of opportunity and practice, our brains learn to lose focus quickly.

But, wait, there’s good news! Every brain can be improved because of neuroplasticity, a phenomenon that describes the brain’s ability to change continuously through our lives in response to new activities and situations. Many of us have grudgingly accepted perpetual scatterbrain as a hallmark of modern life, but you don’t have to any longer.

The following tips help you feel more focused, centered, and grounded throughout your day:

    • Limit exposure to screens in the evening before bed. The bright lights from computer/phone/laptop screens can fool the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and make it harder to fall asleep.
    • Practice the art of information recall. Challenge yourself to read something and then explain it to someone else. Use memory recall strategies such as imagery and visualization, or using a rhyme or a pneumonic. By doing so, you actually train your brain to improve memory for other tasks.
    • Write down three things you want to accomplish the next day on a post-it note before you go to bed. This will help you navigate through distractions and focus on your priority tasks for the day, leaving you feeling more accomplished and productive.
    • The next time you wait in line at the post office or for your doctor appointment, resist the urge to hop on your phone. Rather, practice deep breathing exercises or use mindfulness strategies such as engaging your five senses to increase awareness of the present moment.
    • Learn mindfulness and meditation skills that you can use at home by participating in an upcoming Therapy Changes workshop offered by Dr. Kimberly Nenemay.
    • Engage yourself physically every day. Movement, especially outside in nature, does wonders to improve overall mood and attention.

If you think or wonder whether you might have ADHD, the best way to know for sure is to see a trained neuropsychologist who specializes in attention and memory-related concerns.

Learn more about your attention and learning style by contacting Therapy Changes at (619) 275-2286 to schedule your initial appointment. Knowing your strengths and areas of impact mark the first step to success and empowerment in your life. Don’t wait any longer to address what holds you back from living a full and balanced life!



Image: l a n g g i on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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