Is this an ADHD symptom : Inability to process busy info

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    • #126736

      I have a specific symptom that I feel has been my chief learning obstacle my whole life and I’m not sure if its ADHD or not since I haven’t specifically heard it mentioned as such, so I wanted to ask if anyone knows one way or the other. It kind of sounds like it could be and ADHD symptom … but it also kind of sounds like it could be an ASD symptom. So I’m not sure.

      At any rate … its a visual processing issue. Any time I am confronted with information that is cluttered, I can’t seem to process it. For instance, when I try to read a menu at a restaurant I simply cant. I don’t know how to describe what I experience really, other than to say when I look at it … I know I see words but after that its just meaningless … its just empty and overwhelming … like my brain doesn’t know what to do. Like its confronted with to much data.

      If I want to read a menu, I have to either spend a really long time and focus so hard it gives me a headache or use my hands and arms to cover other parts of the menu so I can only see one part at a time. Its like my brain can not eliminate the data I don’t want to look at so I can see the data I do. It has to treat all of it the same.

      Usually this is a problem when the information is sorted into columns (like news papers, magazines, menus, and some websites) or lists of information like phone books or directories. I also have a problem with reading novels and other kinds of information that I’m not scanning through when I come to a paragraph that is very long and not broken up. I suddenly can’t see it. Essentially if the page is 90% letters, my brain freaks out and all I see is a big mass of letters. I tend to really like books with lots of dialogue and short simple paragraphs, not because of a lower reading level but because I can’t SEE the paragraphs in books like Lord of the Rings or Paradise Lost.

      I honestly think one of the reasons I that I do the ‘…’ when I write all the time (something I’ve done since I was a teen) is a subconcious need to break up my own paragraphs visually so I can see them better, because the paragraph above is starting to look a lot like a blob of letters to me.

      This problem is not limited to reading … when I go to a grocery store and look down the isle, all I see is a blob of objects. I can walk right past what I want four or five times and stare right at it and not see it. My brain is completely overwhelmed by all the things around it and it can’t eliminate all of the other ones to see the ones I want to look at. Just like the menu, I either have to spend a lot of time and concentrate until I hurts … ON EACH object in the isle … or I have to find some other way to connect with it … usually through touch. Touch is a big thing for me. I can connect with anything through touch. Touch is how I tell my brain what is important.

      So if I am in a new grocery store, or the bastards rearrange the grocery store, I end up going up and down the same isle knowing what I want is there and not being able to see it … as I try to eliminate each item until I can find what i want … and then I memorize where it is so that I know next time. Since I’m doing things like touching products (and fixing ones that have fallen over), and walking up and down the isle looking at each one, its pretty normal for people to walk up to me and think I’m an employee taking stock and ask me questions.

      I obviously have the same problem at ANY store I go to whether that is KMart or Best Buy … so I don’t go to real world stores if I can avoid it.

      So anyone else with ADHD have problems similar to this? Heard of stuff similar to this?

    • #126752

      I’m not sure if this is 100% helpful but I also experience this. I literally just got diagnosed a few weeks ago as an adult and am trying to learn everything I can, but I haven’t been able to find much information on this feeling. It affects me mostly with numbers and tests. The way things are formatted makes it almost impossible to read. Before I was diagnosed I ended up thinking I needed reading glasses, even though I could see just fine. Maybe it’s some sort of overstimulated thing. But hey, you’re not alone.

    • #126747
      Dr. Eric

      Very common.
      ADHD isn’t really an attention deficit, it is a deficit in being able to prioritize info.

      I actually use the crowded restaurant example.
      Even though the volumes are the same for someone with ADHD and a neurotypical, the neurotypical is better able to attend to the person they are talking to and ignore the background noise.

      However, they would still be able to react if someone said, “watch out” before dropping a sizzling fajita platter, so the sounds are still getting through.

      When we psychologists test, this is called “figure-ground”, and we can test for it both visually, like you described, or auditorily, like I described.

      I consider this second-tier evidence. It is not a direct symptom, and some folks with ADHD can do ok on these tasks in a unique, challenging 1-on-1 situation, but around 70-80% of the time, my kiddos with ADHD do worse on these type of tasks.

      I believe the challenge is bigger in real-world environments.

      For reading, try a reading window, that blocks everything, but a line at a time.

      You can find them online or at teacher-supply stores under reading window, reading ruler, or similar names.
      You can make a homemade one by cutting an index card.

      • #127037

        I actually also have the same issue with sound, I just didn’t mention it because I had run across an explanation for those symptoms before, just not the visual issues.

        However, when I ran across the problem from an auditory perspective the articles I read were talking about ASD … not ADHD. Despite this, they described it very similar to how you described ADHD. The article said (some) people with ASD have an inability to eliminate irrelevant sounds (prioritize sounds) and so they are unable to focus on the one they want to in the way a NT is.

        I find it very surprising (and not a little frustrating) that both conditions not only have the same symptoms but those symptoms seem to be caused by the same thing … an inability to prioritize sensory data.

        It must be very difficult to sort out high-functioning ASD and ADHD when they appear to have the same symptoms.

    • #126793

      Hihi to both bbylily and righan.
      I am just looking into this for my youngest and it might be worth you looking at (excuse the impractical side of that suggestion! <3 )

      What is Irlen Syndrome?

    • #127792

      Check out sensory processing disorder which often goes hand in hand with ADD. And the loud noise thing could be Misophonia.

      I have both (and ADD) and a lot of what you guys are saying sounds similar to what I experience.

    • #128288

      I really hate to open a menu or go into a grocery store. I didn’t realize it bothered others, too. If I want to buy clothing, I go into a small boutique; a department store is a house of horrors for me. I have spent hours walking around a store & leaving with nothing except a headache. Now I am learning how to approach or avoid issues by just realizing how I react to them. I have adult ADHD, no other diagnosis. Somehow, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

    • #128903

      Good day everyone!

      Righan and bbylily, a lot of what you describe happens to me too.
      Visually, everything except the reading thing – I manage well with reading although I’ve realised that I read even more comfortably on the e-reader on my phone, where I just see about two sentences at a time. But I used to read through an entire book a night as a teenager, even before that, because I just could not sleep. So reading long paragraphs are OK luckily.

      But shops and shopping centres are challenging. I get disoriented if I stay in one for too long – it takes so much effort to do what I went there to do. All the lights and sounds and smells.

      Smells trouble me too 😐

      But I have the most trouble with sounds. It feels like my brain does not want to distinguish between sounds I should focus on and background sounds. This makes lectures very challenging, however I manage that when on Methylphenidate. (Trying to finish my degree.)

      After hours is a nightmare though. I live a student residence which is very noisy but I can’t afford to live anywhere else. People playing music at all hours and cars parking while playing music at super loud levels (with the bass over prominent) has driven me to tears very often. I can’t seem to shut down.

      It feels irrational that sounds should be such a problem for me because I am a musician and study music.

      Getting my brain to “be quiet” has been a problem ever since I can remember, but I wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until recently (am 30 now).

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