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for Attention Deficit Disorder Adults

Bonnie Mincu

Senior Certified ADHD Coach

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It could be why you procrastinate!

We generally think of stress as a bad thing.  With ADD / ADHD, the word stress often goes hand in hand with being overwhelmed and paralyzed, — not a good feeling!

If that’s the case, why do people with ADD so often create situations that are stressful?   In the ADD / ADHD Work Challenges survey sent out last week, “Procrastination” was reported to be the number one problem people experienced at work.   Generally, when you procrastinate on starting a work-related project, you’re going to end up stressed in a number of ways:

  • Scrambling to finish on deadline
  • Hiding from your boss or client to avoid admitting the work hasn’t been done
  • Feeling ashamed of your lack of productivity

So why do we procrastinate so often? 

The ADD neurological explanation is simple enough:  When we anticipate a task to be boring, too difficult, ambiguous or unpleasant, we have difficulty kick-starting our neurotransmitters in order to focus our attention on starting it.    However, once the deadline is near enough to generate a feeling of concern or tension, adrenaline kicks into gear.  Adrenaline is associated with the “fight or flight” response.

Fight or Flight?

If you are someone for whom panic-produced adrenaline creates anxiety and paralysis, your brain is attempting to take “flight.”  Most likely, stress makes you miserable.  You could be considered one of the lucky ones, because you unequivocally will feel much happier once you learn strategies to control your procrastination.

On the other hand, since Adult ADD / ADHD looks different for everyone, you might be someone who has the opposite response.  For you, adrenaline brings on your ability to jump into action — to “fight” — which suddenly allows you to focus and get the work done at the last minute.

But there’s a second component to it with ADD:  the need for stimulation.  Every time you succeed in pulling off a last-minute victory, such as squeaking in a project by deadline, you get a rush of stimulation.  It’s similar to the exhilarated feeling of “dodging a bullet.”  Working on a project over time, in a steady, sensible way, would not provide this same kind of intense high.  When you thrive on stress, surviving another crisis makes you feel alive.

This is why you could say that many people with ADD / ADHD are addicted to stress, and seem to spend their lives careening from crisis to chaos.  When things are calm and predictable, the crisis junkie is bored, and may unconsciously revert to old stress-inducing habits because the stress is actually more comfortable.   If this feels like you, you might need to find other ways to get your “stimulation fix” in order to successfully kick a procrastination habit.

What’s your pattern when it comes to stress? Click here to answer in a 2-question survey.


Author: Bonnie Mincu
Senior Certified ADHD Coach, Founder of "Thrive with ADD," Bonnie has been coaching adults with ADD / ADHD traits since 2001. She has developed numerous training programs to help with the challenges of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.


    i was putting off replying, but-
    thank you for your good insights, i am using some on my blog and giving you credit, hope thats ok
    dont know about using procrastination to generate stress which i’m addicted to – could be, but i dont think so?

    Ms. Me

    I have ADD people in my inner circle who are always in crisis. Most of my life I have tried to manage my needs quickly because their needs were more urgent. Now that I realize that I am ADD too, and I think I should have worked things through differently. In my 20’s I remember being able to get that 2nd wind in a crisis moment. But these days I don’t want it (the stress) because stress drains me now.
    I found the procrastination guide developed by Bonnie to be so helpful. Now I notice when my intentions go off course. I allow an internal distraction for 10 minutes, and then get back to the intended activity. Thank you Bonnie!


    This describes me perfectly. Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, deadline nears, almost impossible to complete in the remaining time…. BAM! Kick into overdrive and perform what everyone perceives as a miracle… except that sometimes the task fails to get done, isn’t up to standards or both.

    It’s a cycle – Stress, followed by an adrenaline rush, followed by more stress. Over time it takes it’s toll mentally and emotionally to the point of feeling worthless and incapable.

    Of all my ADD characteristics, and I have many, this one dominates my life and is also proving the most difficult to tame. It causes much consternation in my relationships with family and friends in addition to my work.

    Working on my ADD one day at a time. I frequently remind my wife that it took 48 years to finally come to an understanding of why I am the way I am; it’s not going to be corrected by a prescription and a couple of books.


    Wow you described me exactly – it’s so encouraging to hear there are others who struggle with the same things and its ok!


    This is the most logical and enlightening description of what is going on for me in areas of procrastination, and deadlines (even simple ones ,like due dates on bills) that I have read in a long time.I am seriously now going to consider some of the workshops and telseminars,and am downloading now the free “Clear clutter now “e-book. Thankyou so much! Will be looking forward to any other information on procrastination,since you have such such good insight.Thanks again.

    Wendell Ching

    That is very important, because this concept is very deep and very complex. Of course, we all know the human mind is as such. So to understand it is one thing. To gather knowledge/to practice said items to good use/to know oneself/ etc. — are are knowledge. And yet, in today’s world of modern times, the human mind is still puzzling to the experts of the brain and behavior.

    To understand myself, took many years. It took all my entire life to understand my ADHD, to today’s satisfactory standards. The ADHD disorder is like any other disorder – the mal-alignment behavior and neurotic behavior. The eating disorder, the sex disorder, the compulsion to steal/kleptomaniac…etc. etc.

    Ours are paying attention and getting things done…..the disorder results in the lack of beneficial performance. We out-fox ourselves, then, when is the hole of being a desperado becomes deepa – our super focus rescue ourselves (said behavior repeats in all aspects of our lives). Such is a Hero Movie style.

    But do we know the script…? And what are we doing about it ?

    Bonnie Mincu

    Hi Wendell:
    I love your movie / script analogy! Sometimes our ability to hyper-focus pulls us out of trouble and makes us the Hero. But other times… hyper-focus is the Villain, causing problems and grief.

    The best way to write a successful “script” is to anticipate which one it will be, given the situation, and set things up to facilitate the hero response (or at least keep out the villain.)


    I’m a great procrastinator, and my friends know that the way to get me to do something important is to give me something even more important to do and I’ll end up doing the first thing! I have definately noticed that I ‘thrive’ on stress and will frequently leave things to the very last minute where somehow everything somehow gets done! I sometimes hate myself for it – like why cant I just do it early and feel calm and relaxed? I do manage to do this some of the time, but not nearly enough. Reading this idea that ADDers are addicted to stress and that adrenaline high made a lot of sense. I’m great at coping in a crisis! Now I’m trying to learn how to cope without one!!

    Bonnie Mincu

    Perhaps calm and relaxed doesn’t give as much satisfaction as the thrill of getting it done at the last minute. You may need to create the feeling of stimulation another way. Try setting a timer and some fast music for short steps of the project, much earlier than the deadline. Then play “Beat the Clock” for short bursts.


    Thanks thats a really good idea! I have found that such strategies work well for me so I’m definitely going to try it more often. It’s amazing what power ADDers have to ‘fool themselves’. My non ADD friends cant understand how I use that strategy to help myself get things done, for examples, to make a fake deadline, to keep my watch a couple of mintes fast and tell myself its on time, or even just to pretend to myself that I’m not really doing this boring job – just one tiny bit, and then another tiny bit, and then another till the job is done ‘without me noticing’!!

    Bonnie Mincu

    Doug – I appreciate the mention on your blog. Also, your wonderful little post on “dithering” and “piddling!” Especially fine words for us ADDers.

    Readers: Check out Doug Purvear’s blog:


    Very interesting that I read this today, and said the same thing to a friend last week? Do I create the drama with procrastination and chaos because I am bored and uncomfortable with normal and drama free? Or because I know nothing else but chaos that if i don’t have it….i create it?

    Thanks for all of your posts, it is acceptance of this condition that I am struggling with instead of fighting it

    Bonnie Mincu

    Leanne – Great question! Do we create chaos for the excitement, or is it because we simply don’t know how to NOT create chaos?

    Well, I love teaching the “how to” part. This whole procrastination/stress area is one I haven’t explored before in my classes, so it will be interesting to incorporate it into my procrastination lessons.

    Linda Secretan

    This is absolutely me!
    Even being late — how close can I cut it? how long before I’ll actually be breaking the speed limit (often!) — can provide a boost of adrenaline. When there are no deadlines, nothing gets done.

    Short sweet post — spot on and to the point!


    Mark, I agree with your comment completely. I have never thought about it this way before, but I get a RUSH out of completing a project/assignment at the LAST MINUTE, under what seem to be IMPOSSIBLE circumstances.
    It seems to mystify the “others” who wonder where this BURST of energy and adrenaline and determination came from!! (Especially because my procrastination appears to indicate that I wouldn’t care enough to put forth so much effort in the first place).
    It’s almost as if you’re put on a pedestal sometimes for such remarkable feats in such a short amount of time. However, ultimately the quality of work suffers, stress takes its toll, and this cannot continue.
    Thanks again, Bonnie, for your exquisite insight. It is hard to let go of the stress and adrenaline habit, and begin to do things in a calm, comfortable manner.
    When you’re used to riding the rollercoaster, the merry-go-round can be hard to get used to.


    What a timely topic! Three years ago I started remodeling my kitchen; it came to a halt due to marriage and financial difficulties. I recently came up with the funds to order a countertop (My “new” cabinets have been covered with particle board this entire time), which is to be installed tomorrow afternoon. Before that can happen, I have to finish leveling and bracing the cabinets. Well, it’s now after 9:30 pm, I have to be at work in the morning, and I’ve been finding every reason possible to sidetrack myself, including sitting here checking email. My rationale is that I’ll just take a “quick break”.

    Years ago a supervisor, out of frustration, told me that I have an annoying habit of putting off assignments until the last minute, then coming out of it “smelling like a rose”. What he didn’t know was that I often would pull an all-nighter at work to finish those assignments.

    I’ve become resigned to the knowledge I’ll do that tonight.

    It’s frustrating, because I know I do this, but don’t know why. Years ago I’d get a huge adrenaline rush, powering through the task at hand with great results. It was almost fun because I’d get a great feeling of satisfaction, knowing that not only did I do a good job on the required task, but I got alot of other non-essential tasks done concurrently. Nowadays I find myself just plodding along, usually getting the bare minimum done. It’s as though I’ve become stuck in this pattern of behavior, but no longer feel the same satisfaction of accomplishment.

    Bonnie Mincu

    Keith, unfortunately, as part of our need for stimulation, we ADD’rs are stuck with the “been there done that” syndrome. Even things we once loved can lose their excitement once we’ve done them a number of times. That’s one reason so many of us change jobs and careers quite often. That might be happening with the lack of satisfaction you’re feeling.

    You might try to get that sense of accomplishment back by putting a new spin on the activity to make it more challenging.

    Christina Johnson

    This is a brilliant insight! I had noticed this about myself and gave myself labels like “drama queen.” I unknowingly sought crises at work (procrastinating), in relationships (choosing unstable partners), and even in doing mundane tasks (driving too fast). Some schools of thought call this “negative pleasure.” It was exciting when I was younger, but now it is exhausting.

    I was finally diagnosed with ADHD and I am now. learning to cope. I am grateful to have found this resource and am continuously impressed with your work, Bonnie!

    P. S. I really like the movie/script analogy, too!

    Bonnie Mincu

    So many of the “drama queen” types on reality TV strike me instantly as being ADD! The problem with being a drama queen (or king) in real life is it not only gets draining on you, but on those around you.

    There’s nothing wrong with a little drama in life, but it’s nice to be able to consciously choose how to make things exciting, and when, where and with whom you can enjoy the drama without hurting yourself, your job or your relationship.


    Same wave length! I just wrote a couple of posts based on the word “Dithering.”

    Such a cool word is Dithering. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    Bonnie Mincu

    Daryl, I love your ADHD for Dummies blog! What a wonderful resource to help ADHD kids and teens. I highly recommend it!


    I have just read a couple of replys and am sitting here in tears. I am 57 and just discovered I had ADD several years ago. I feel so sad about it .That maybe if it was discovered earlier my life would have been much easier.I am a recovering alcoholic 9 yrs sober. It’s so frustrating because most people don’t understand. They get frustrated with me because of my procrastnation,sloppyness,forgetfulness etc. Over the years Iv’e had great ideas but never followed through.I feel like life has passed me by.I am so glad for this blog .I can at least vent.It’s like if you are not an alcoholic you don’t really understand.

    Bonnie Mincu

    Suzanne: I’m so glad you found us! Please be assured you will be able to find strategies that work for you on procrastination, clutter and so many more problems. As for forgetfulness… forget memory exists at all. Using calendars and reminder systems, you won’t need one. My memory has been horrible all my life, which is why I rely so much on taking good notes and posting EVERYTHING in my calendar.

    Shawn Hudson

    I have been diagnosed with Adult ADHD-Inattentive type for a little over a year now, and it can be tricky to explain how you can finish things at last minute but not before. This helps. The idea of “hyper-focus” confuses people because of its name. It almost sounds like a superpower, but the question is then, “Aren’t you supposed to have low attention and focus … how do you have this ‘hyper-focus’ on things that you like?”

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Bonnie, there are no words to express how deeply I’ve been affected by your blog! I’ve only read a few things, but they have created such a complete mind shift that the tears shed have washed away my struggles forever!

For the first time in my life I feel understood and hopeful that I can put some tools and systems in place to help me overcome!”

—Michelle near Seattle

Clear Clutter Now


Find out what's REALLY stopping you with free "Procrastination Tree" Tool for Adult ADD / ADHD.