Inattentive ADHD, ADHD and Smart Phones

This your brain, this is your brain on smart phone?  Remember those commercials?  It appears that smart phone use is making everybody distracted and inattentive, at least this is the conclusion of several reports that I have heard or read lately.

The authors of these reports may have a point.  I have been watching people over the last year that cannot seem to put down their smart phone or iphone and I have been thinking that, for the entire world, these people appeared to have Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI). They rarely hear what was happening in conversation. They hyper focused on their smart phone and they do not ever seem to give anything their undivided attention.  Those are all traits seen in people with Inattentive adhd, right?  But these people do not have ADHD-PI so what is going on.

Some of these same people continue to email and text on their phone in their cars even when the states that they lived in have passed laws banning this cell phone activity. They can not stop multitasking, an ADHD gift, when it is not dangerous as it is in the case of cell phone use and driving.

It seems to me that the cell phone has brought out the Inattentive ADHD in all of us even those of us without ADHD-PI. The cell phone, according to computer experts, will soon put a computer in every hand and will give readily available information to everyone on the planet eventually.

Today, people with Inattentive ADHD, and everyone else for that matter, need not worry about forgetting the first line of Edgar Allen Poe's, The Raven; they can look it up on their iphone. Forget the formula for calculating area?? No problem, check your Blackberry. Forget what your wife wanted for your anniversary? No worries check your email.   Apparently, we should be worried.

Think about how little you need to remember to search for anything in Google search. This summer, while we were vacationing on Lake Michigan, I was able to find the entire lyrics to a very old Gordon Lightfoot song called 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald', by simply typing in the words, "the wreck Gordon Lightfoot", in Google search. Pretty scary and amazing how far just a tiny bit of information will take you these days.

Nick Carr wrote an article in The Atlantic arguing that Google is making us all inattentive and distracted (well actually the word he used was stupid but you can imagine why I would not consider people who are inattentive and distracted, stupid). His article suggest that the plasticity of our brain is working against us when it comes to memory and cognition when we continuously depend on our computers and cell phones to remember things that we used to learn and commit to memory. Carr reports that research may show that our brains are quickly being reformed by our smart phones and computers and that our brains are increasingly becoming dependent on Google search.

His argument is that, just as the brain can reform to help those of us who have Inattentive ADHD become more attentive, Cogmed and other brain training programs have improved the attention and memory of many of us with ADHD by having us perform attention and memory exercises, the brain can make any of us, even those without ADHD-PI more inattentive by relying on our computers and smart phones to be our memory.

I woke up this morning to NPRs, Morning Edition and heard the ADHD psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Hollowell, talking about the general population, not about the ADHD population, losing their marriage intimacy because of constant cell phone use.  He reports that, "Closeness depends upon this rapidly disappearing phenomenon of undivided attention spread over time."

Edward Hallowell is the psychiatrist who wrote the great book Driven to Distraction and he has recently co-authored a book called Married to Distraction. When I saw the press release for this book it was clear that the intended audience were people in marriages where one or both partners had ADHD. Apparently smart phone use is making this book relevant to many other marriages where there is no partner with the diagnosis of Inattentive ADHD or any other ADHD. Interesting phenomena don’t you think??

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  1. It's a very interesting phenomena. One that is hard to not get caught up in or encourage our children to not be aught up in. If you walk around a junior high school you might very well see students sitting in groups not talking to one another, but texting other friends. Another thing that is interesting is that many kids don't know their own home phone number, parents numbers, or friends because their phone dials for them. That can be a scary situation if they are caught without their phone and need to get ahold of someone.
    I have began to purposely leave my phone at home with the mind set that people do not need to be able to get a hold of me all the time. It is easy to let modern technology keep us constantly working and constantly distracted.

  2. Amazing that these kids do not even have to remember their phone numbers!! Pretty soon everyone will need cognitive training. Thanks for your comment!



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