Symptoms of Attentional Struggles

Part 4 in the Intentional Attending series of posts — As I said in Part 3 (The Dynamics of Attending), one of the goals of ADD Coaching is to identify areas where our clients can improve on the intentional direction of attentive awareness.

Dynamic Difficulties

Symptoms of Attentional Struggles - Problems with any or all phases of The Dynamics of Attending are why many people - ADD and otherwise - struggle to have much of a life beyond the all-too-familiar "mess it up, clean it up" cycle.

© Phillip Martin, artist/educator

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Problems with any or all phases of The Dynamics of Attending are at the very heart of ADD/EFD characteristics.

That is why many people – ADD and otherwise – struggle to have much of a life beyond the all-too-familiar “mess it up, clean it up” cycle.

Diagnostic ADDers typically have impairments in at least one of the Dynamics, often all three in combination, which dominoes into problems with the registrationlinking and retrieval stages of the memory process.

However, every single person living
has problems with each of the Dynamics of Attending
in some situations at some times —

WHICH MEANS they struggle with:
#1  – Focusing on the Intended Object 
#2  – 
Sustaining the Focus, and/or
#3  – Shifting Focus at Will

A few of the ways those occasional “mind blips” show up in our behavior provide very funny stories – afterwards. Unfortunately, some of them (or too many of them) lead others to conclude that we are not reliable and can’t be trusted — and lead us to doubt our own talents and abilities as well.

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What Kind of Problems?

Difficulties with any of the Dynamics of Attending can show up in a variety of ways.  Below is a composite list of only some of the ways “impaired attention” shows up in bona fide (diagnosed) ADD/EFDers. (with multiple links to more expanded information with actual help with many of the challenges below – some listed again in the Related Content below, in case you miss a few)

  • Very few individuals on the ADD/EFD side of the diagnostic line exhibit everything on the list below, and almost all of them struggle with a great many things that aren’t listed at all.
  • There are also a large number of overworked, over-stressed or under-slept “regular folks” and aging Baby Boomers who fit the ADD/EFD profile frequently enough to make them scratch their heads wondering if they are, in fact, part of the diagnostic ADD/EFD population themselves.

Related posts: ABOUT Executive Functions
What ARE Executive Functions?
Executive Functioning Disorders – NOT just kid stuff

Take a look at the list below.  How many of these Challenges do YOU experience often enough to make you wonder?

Symptoms and Manifestations of Attentional Struggles

•  Easily overwhelmed by tasks of daily living

  • Trouble maintaining an organized living and/or work space
  • Drowning in paperwork
  • Missing appointments
  • Difficulty sequencing and/or prioritizing
  • Getting lost easily

•  Trouble directing focus and concentration

  • Easily dragged off the point
  • Losing the thread of your own conversation when speaking
  • Difficulty recapturing the moment when interrupted
  • Life as a protracted scavenger hunt (continually looking for misplaced objects due to lack of focus leading to impaired registration)
  • Knocking things over, spilling, bumping into things
  • Difficulty completing projects

•  Activation struggles

•  Apparent or actual slowed processing speed

  • Difficulties making decisions (especially when required “out of the blue,” or occasions where a sudden need for a rapid response follows a waiting period)
  • Lengthy deliberation (agonizing over detail)
  • Procrastinating to avoid decision anxiety

•  Uneven performance

•  Easily stuck in hyperfocus

  • Playing computer solitaire for hours on end
  • Web-browsing until surprised by daylight
  • TV hypnosis
  • Looking up “a minute later” to find an hour or more has passed

•  Seemingly altered response to social reinforcement

  • Overlooking rules and regulations – misreading expectations
  • Appearing oblivious to consequences (likelihood of punishment or fines has no direct effect on actions)
  • Immediate & consistent positive reinforcement needed to overcome attentional difficulties
  • Tendency to lose motivation or interest with negative reinforcement (correction or criticism)

•  Delay intolerance

  • Motor anxiety (pacing, etc.)
  • Road rage with slow moving traffic
  • Depressed moods during periods of inactivity

•  Difficulties reading

  • Problematic attentiveness – losing concentration, skipping sentences or paragraphs, missing key modifiers
  • Words “jump” out of context
  • Retention struggles (losing the point of a sentence or a paragraph by the time you come to the end)

What’s it all ABOUT, Alphie?

If YOU have more than a few of the characteristics above, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have diagnostic ADD or any of the bona-fide Executive Functioning disorders.  It DOES mean you’re juggling more balls than you can manage at the time, and one or more of the Dynamics of Attending is suffering for it.

Whichever camp you belong to, ADD/EFD, CrazyBusy, or “Senior Moment” survivors, you will find that employing a few ADD Coaching techniques will help you become more intentional with your attending, life will become a whole lot easier to manage, and your friends and loved ones will be much happier with the way you relate to THEM.

Stay tuned and click around for more articles and tips on Attention, Memory, Executive Functioning Challenges, and EACH of the elements involved that complicate your life and hold you back.  

The above text is excerpted from Intentional Attending,™ the fourth of the twelve eBooks
in the upcoming Optimal Functioning eBook Series™
2000, 2006, 2011 Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, ALL rights reserved

The E-books in the Optimal Functioning Series™

1. The ADD Lens™

2. The Challenges Inventory™

3. Rewrite your Owners Manual™

NINE Individual Challenges Modules:

  • Intentional Attending™
  • Perfectionism – Black & White Thinking
  • StressLess™
  • MoodMender™
  • Hyper-Active™ – more than sitting still
  • The Impulsivity Rundown™
  • Transition Tamer™
  • TimePeace™
  • Organization and Task Completion


As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Intentional Attending™ Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on
(in case you missed them above)

Running your Life:

Intentional Attending:

The ADD Overview series – the best basics:

Related articles ’round the ‘net

BY THE WAY: Since is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.


About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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