The Interest-Based Nervous System

"Almost every one of my patients and their families want to drop the term Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," writes William Dodson, M.D., "because it describes the opposite of what they experience every moment of their lives. It is hard to call something a disorder when it imparts many positives. ADHD is not a damaged or defective nervous system. It is a nervous system that works well using its own set of rules."

Dodson, one of the foremost researchers on ADHD, describes the awesomness inherent in those with the issue in an ADDitude article: "Most people with an ADHD nervous system have significantly higher-than-average IQs. They also use that higher IQ in different ways than neurotypical people. By the time most people with the condition reach high school, they are able to tackle problems that stump everyone else, and can jump to solutions that no one else saw."

He describes the difference between the approximate 10% of ADHDers and "neurotypical" folks in terms of interest. "For people with a neurotypical nervous system, being interested in the task, or challenged, or finding the task novel or urgent is helpful, but it is not a prerequisite for doing it." But for those with what he calls an "Interest-Based Nervous System," their attention and ability to succeed at a task is driven by their interest in it.

Their success is based on the moments in a day when they can "get in the zone" and operate at a higher level than others, and at a higher level than they normally do — being aware of everything, able to multitask, and able to see their steps clearly and follow through on their ideas.  When I am in these moments, I give everything they have and experience a flow of intelligence that is stimulating and rewarding.

For most people, the thought of working for a reward is good enough for them. "I don't mind if my job is uninteresting because I'll get a paycheck next month." But if you have a nervous system that doesn't operate that way, how do you get into that zone, and tap into that awesomeness? You do things you feel passionate about, or that emotionally engage you. You put pressure on yourself with a deadline, with competition, or with structure (like poetry, for example). You nurture the hyperfocus — because your entire nervous system is designed to support it.

Perhaps we should call "ADHD" something else. How about "IBNS?"

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