Every few years or so it seems that a new mental illness comes into vogue. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder are two examples. Word gets around and pretty soon it seems like half of the population thinks they suffer from a certain illness when in fact they don’t. Of course, pharmaceutical companies feed–and are fed by–these false epidemics.
Lately, a growing number of adults think they have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They have a difficult time staying focused or completing a particular task. Surprisingly, though, others tasks may come quite easily. For example, they may have no problem concentrating on the television show they’re watching, the golf game they’re playing, the beer they’re drinking, or the clothes they’re buying. It’s primarily when it’s time to clean the house, figure the taxes, or sort through the boxes in the garage that the attention problems crop up.
Laziness, a lack of self-discipline, and a tendency to procrastinate are negative attributes that most people have to one degree or another. You distract yourself from tasks that you find tedious or boring, or that raise an issue or feelings that you would rather avoid. These behaviors do not constitute a mental illness, however, and are not the same as ADD or ADHD. You may want to view them as a mental illness because then you feel less responsible for your behavior. You become the victim of an affliction. In addition, if you can convince your doctor that you have ADD, then you can take a medication for it rather than put forth your own effort to change. Laziness and procrastination perpetuate themselves.
If you find that you are having a difficult time focusing on something you need to do, take some time to reflect on why the task is so unappealing to you. Then, do it anyways. Adulthood, including older adulthood, is a good time to become more disciplined rather than less. It is a good time to strengthen your cognitive abilities rather than let them weaken. It’s a good time to become less lazy rather than more. And it’s also a good time to stop chasing after chemical solutions to what is in most cases a normal human struggle.