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Debunking an ADHD Myth: My child can focus for HOURS on video games, they can’t have ADHD

A common myth about ADHD is that because a child (or adult) can sit for hours in front of a computer screen or video game, ADHD couldn’t possibly be in the picture. More generalized, the myth is that an ADHD diagnosis means you “can’t” focus – so if you can focus on certain things, you must not have ADHD. 

ADHD does not lead to a lack of focus – it leads to a dis-regulation of focus. In fact, this dis-regulation of focus will often lead to what we call hyper-focusing.

What is hyper-focusing? In a nutshell it is a tendency to get absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and provide an immediate reward, such as moving on to the next video game level. Screens – TVs, computers, and so on – are a common source of reward and arousal for ADHD individuals but their overuse can lead to sleep deficits and procrastination.

We recently came across an article published in the New York Times that explains this connection quite well. Dr. Christopher Lucas, associated professor of child psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, states:

“The kind of concentration that children bring to video games and television is not the kind they need to thrive in school or elsewhere in real life. It’s not sustained attention in the absence of rewards. It’s sustained attention with frequent intermittent rewards.”

“The child may be playing for points accumulated, or levels achieved, but the brain’s reward may be the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Children with ADHD may find video games even more gratifying than other children do because their dopamine reward circuitry may be otherwise deficient.”

Click here to read the entire article.

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