I’m going to assume that since you’re reading this, you’re human. I’m assuming you have lungs, a liver, two eyes, and a nose, among other things typical of humans to have. Us humans, we have brains that are both similar and different from each other in significant ways. I must first acknowledge that all of us have traits of varying degrees of any given condition. In this blog I would like to explore the experiences of those of us who have difficulty with sustaining attention, impulsivity, organization, and restlessness, with some understanding from Gestalt therapy.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can either be predominantly related to difficulties with attention, hyperactivity/impulsiveness, or a combination of both. It’s important to note that ADHD symptoms are experienced differently by different people. Although there is no singular cause of ADHD, it seems to run in families, with genetic and environmental factors playing a key role in its emergence. There are various treatments which support the individual with ADHD, namely therapy and medication. It’s also important to check for any thyroid imbalances when considering the presence of this condition.
ADHD is a common experience in children around the globe, and some of these individuals retain traits of this condition into adulthood. This condition is often characterized by difficulty in certain cognitive domains such as working memory, planning, and vigilance. Traits of ADHD pose quite a challenge to the individual especially since they emerge in a period of rapid change and growth in a person’s life – the onset is before the age of 12 years old. These difficulties are experienced in a variety of contexts such as school, work, and home. ADHD can sometimes be tricky to spot since certain symptoms may be internalized (like hyperactivity turned into a feeling of inner restlessness) (Serfontein, 2017).
Gestalt therapy considers every human being as a whole which is larger than the sum of its parts. From this lens, I invite you to look at the person’s history, personality, environment, relationships, the emerging symptoms, and their ways of coping with symptoms such as hyperactivity. The Gestalt perspective not only sees the person in their entirety, but also gives importance to the lived here and now experience. A person with traits of ADHD might be experiencing sensitivity to stimuli, thus their attention is rapidly shifting as it is taken by one thing then another thing, and so on. With so many stimuli being perceived, it is difficult for the person to prioritize their needs, so lots of tasks become interrupted by other tasks, leading to a sense of dissatisfaction. Internal confusion due to so many perceived stimuli and having difficulty staying with one task until it is completed can make the person feel frustrated, distressed, disappointed in oneself, and anxious about disappointing others. This is why seeking support and treatment is encouraged.
Although ADHD presents significant challenges to the individual in our society today, it is also considered to be a beneficial evolutionary trait having helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive in the past. Some also argue that it is strange to have children, adolescents, and adults sit down for most of the day – our body has not evolved to accommodate this (Krans, 2018). Sitting down for such a long time is another reason why exercising every day is so beneficial for us!
Gestalt therapy uses play as a way for children to express themselves and a dialogic approach with adolescents and adults. This dialogic approach serves to empower the individual with more awareness of how they are, to inspire them to become active participants in their own process of well-being (Serfontein, 2017).
Amber Tabone practices Gestalt Psychotherapy with individuals and couples at Willingness. While currently reading for a Master’s in Psychotherapy, she has developed an interest in working with relationships, gender, and sexuality thanks to her experience with families and domestic violence issues.
Krans, B. (2018, 11 1). Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/evolution
Serfontein, M. (2017). The effects of Gestalt group work on behavioural aspects of ADHD among adolescents in a school setting. University of Pretoria. Retrieved from https://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/62656/Serfontein_Effect_2017.pdf?isAllowed=y&sequence=1