Perseverance and ADHD Inattentive

Perseverance and ADHD Inattentive
People with Inattentive ADHD often have problems with persevering though they often have no problem perseverating. The word perseverate means to repeat something, a thought, an action, etc long after whatever prompted the action has stopped.

My Inattentive son is a monumental perseverator. He will go on and on about an injustice he sees in his life or about the best way to do a particular thing and we eventually have to tell him to just let it go.

It is interesting to me that he has a great ability to perseverate but not a great ability to persevere. It would seem that we should be able to turn one into the other.

Albert Einstein is reported to have said that he was not that smart but that he did stay with problems longer than most people. I always wonder if he was persevering or perseverating. I think the difference involves how much you enjoy or want to do something. I think that my son perseverates on things that he enjoys or wants to continue to contemplate while he does not persevere with things that he finds boring, tedious or simply not useful.

Many of the guidelines that educators give us to teach children how to persevere involve exercises that amount to, at the end of the day, nothing more than reading The Little Engine That Could.

I am not certain that the type of exercises that we are taught to use with kids to teach perseverance bring much that is new to the motivation front. These exercises ask us to:

  • Believe in each child's ability to achieve. 
  • Expect students to finish what they start. 
  • Avoid accepting excuses for unfinished work. 
  • Give positive feedback when a child puts forth extra effort. 
  • Help students realize that everyone makes mistakes; what is most important is that they keep trying. 
  • Teach children how to regroup and start over. 
  • Motivate students to try new things. 
  • Encourage children to take responsibility for themselves and make constructive choices. 
I have spoken before about the need to make activities and information relevant and interesting to people with ADHD Inattentive and I believe that this is the key that turns on the perseverance ability of people with ADHD-PI.

As I mentioned in the last post, perseverance seems to be a particularly weak character trait in people with Inattentive ADHD. Researchers believe that there are brain pathways that make us particularly susceptible to this particular problem. Conquering perseverance issues is a constant battle for me and for many people with Inattentive ADHD though we often have no problem perseverating on issues and topics of interest to us.

Turning the perseveration of Inattentive ADHD into perseverance may be the answer and enjoying the problem, issue or work that needs to be persevered may be the ticket to success


  1. I, too, have trouble persevering but find myself perseverating uselessly. For me, the distinction seems to be that I have trouble working on or thinking about something until *it's too late*. Then, once it's too late to do anything constructive about it, I'll often perseverate, thinking and talking and fretting about the thing I didn't do, rather than getting ahead with the next thing that I still have a chance to do right. I recognize how illogical this is, and I can even recognize it in the moment and try to talk myself into working on the thing that isn't yet obsolete...but I generally find this kind of thing difficult to control. This is what bothers me most about ADHD-PI--even when I see what I'm doing "wrong" and realize it's damaging and pointless, I still find it remarkably difficult to change.

  2. I have worked a long time to avoid what you are describing but if what I have messed up is too big a deal, I find that I preseverate endlesslly as well!!

  3. Thanks, Tess. I finally took a low dose of Adderall tonight (30 mg) and it helped tremendously with my ability to get back "into" a project I've been dragging myself through ineffectually for weeks! I suddenly feel smart and capable again and eager to progress with my project. (This is something I AM interested in, but until I took the stimulants I couldn't feel anything but dread about having to work on it, and I couldn't figure out how to make the pieces fit together). But I'm also experiencing an uncomfortable side effect (which I've just posted about in the Forum section--sorry to repeat): biting my inner cheek. Still, it's great to know how much a low dose of Adderall could help me get back that sense of passionate engagement and enthusiasm to carry on a big and ambitious project. I hope your advice about low doses of Adderall for ADHD-PI is equally helpful for other readers!


  4. It is possible that a dose of 20mg of Adderall would keep you on task but limit the side effects. It has been shown that often a dose of even 10mg will do the trick. You might try that and see if that dose helped at all.


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