What Effect Does ADHD Have on Your Perception of Time?

People with ADHD experience time differently. Being on time is easier if you have this knowledge. With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), being on time can be a real challenge for those with the illness. ADHD sufferers are also plagued by deadlines.

These difficulties are not the result of a lack of attention, a typical indication of ADHD. A big part is played by “time blindness,” an ADHD symptom characterized by a difficulty perceiving the passage of time.

A common characteristic of people with normal neurology is that they have an intuitive sense of how much time is elapsed in the course of a day, week, or month. For those with ADHD, time is often nebulous, with no clear beginning or conclusion. The passage of time may feel like it’s flying past.

If you’re having trouble keeping track of your time, it’s normal to get upset. Being able to see that what’s going on has more to do with your mind than with your character is a comforting realization.

Just as it’s feasible to control other symptoms of ADHD, it is possible to change your internal clock to get things done in a timely manner.

Does ADHD alter the way a person experiences time?

As a registered clinical psychologist, Sharon Saline, PsyD, explains, people with ADHD don’t actually sense the passage of time. It’s a faulty switch, she says.

Individuals with ADHD may not be able to manage their time as well as others who do not have the disorder, according to scientific research. To begin, the brain makes accurate predictions of time using memory, attention, and dopamine. ADHD sufferers’ brains are unable to deal with all of these issues.

People with ADHD have difficulty establishing a circadian rhythm, or internal body clock that is dependent on the Earth’s rotation. The rising and setting of the sun is something that most individuals with conventional neurology are able to detect, however persons with ADHD are frequently unable to do so, altering their understanding of the passage of time.

Regardless of how hard you try to be on time, or how much you care about projects and people, you may find it impossible to show there on time even if you want to.

Studies comparing the skills of individuals with ADHD to a control group to assess their ability to perceive time in 2019 and 2021 discovered that persons with ADHD had difficulties in the following areas:

  • determining how much time has passed
  • determining how long a given job will need
  • evaluation of how much time has been spent on an activity in the past
  • preparing ahead of time for future projects
  • perceptions of time moving more rapidly than they actually do

People with ADHD may have brain abnormalities that cause time distortions, such as:

  • the central nervous system, which governs how time is experienced, is unable to communicate.
  • impaired time estimation due to altered frontal lobe activity
  • the prefrontal brain and the networks that govern dopamine, a chemical that signals pleasure and sustains motivation

You can’t change your brain chemistry, but you can learn time management skills that take these variances into consideration.

Tips on how to be on time

Symptoms of ADHD can be alleviated with therapy, regardless of how the disorder manifests itself in each individual.

It’s tough to deal with ADHD on your own, and the majority of people are prescribed a cocktail of medications, counseling, and behavioral interventions as part of their treatment plan.

Similarly, the best way to deal with time blindness is to use a combination of professional assistance and the development of new personal habits. Here are a few pointers to help you stay on schedule and meet your deadlines.


People with ADHD who take amphetamines and methylphenidate, which change dopamine pathways, appear to perform better on time-related activities. It is possible that these drugs might improve your capacity to estimate time, as they activate the frontal lobe.

When you work with a doctor, you can figure out if and what medications are right for you, and you can keep tabs on any adverse effects and dose adjustments.

Adopt a strategy of using visual timers

When it comes to analog clocks, Dr. Saline prefers the style of visual timers, which show the passing of time by displaying a countdown. Using the example of setting the timer for 45 minutes, this time increment is highlighted in blue. You can see the blue fade away over time.

The timer may be set to the length of time you intend to work. If a young child has ADHD, they may only be able to work for five to fifteen minutes at a time. Working for an hour or more is possible for adults.

You may set the timer to go off after a shorter pause of 5 to 15 minutes. Known as the Pomodoro Technique, this is a method of time management.

Breaks in the routine

Motivation may be boosted by scheduling a leisure activity as a reward after finishing a work block. A walk or a phone call to a buddy might serve as effective examples.

Scheduling meal times is also a good idea. People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may become hyperfocused while at work. Your cortisol levels increase if you don’t eat. Burnout can occur as a result of the associated anxiety and stress.

The good energy and inspiration you gain from little breaks and snacks might last for extended amounts of time.

Organize your day in reverse

When arranging your day, Dr. Saline recommends starting at the end of the day and working backward.

An in-person appointment is scheduled at 1:15 pm, but it takes you 15 minutes to get there. You’ll have to leave your residence at 12:30 p.m. You’ll most likely be hungry about 12:30 p.m. You may wish to reheat your leftovers around 11:45 a.m. To put it another way, by 11:15 a.m., you’ll need to be ready for the big show. Your day begins when you set your alarm clock.

Makes remote and far-fetched occurrences feel more real by employing this strategy.

Increase the amount of time you have

Despite its simplicity, this is a critical step. Everything takes twice as long as you think it does, so plan accordingly. According to Dr. Saline, those who fail to plan for this are virtually always late.

Get to know your gadgets

You may use your phone’s alarm clock to set reminders for occasions as well as the time you need to get out of the house, for example.

Then there are apps specifically intended for persons with ADHD, such as

  • RescueTime
  • Pomodor
  • Focus@Will

Time management can be really improved with them.

What’s the plan from here?

Managing your time might be a challenge if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). You may be able to make necessary adjustments if you are aware of the effects of your changed sense of time.

Working with a therapist can help you learn new coping mechanisms. Additionally, engaging with an ADHD coach can aid with goal setting and executive function improvement.

It’s feasible to succeed at being on time if you work with your brain peculiarities.

Fernanda Avila

Fernanda Avila is a freelance writer who's passionate about providing accurate and helpful mental health content for readers. She believes sharing information can help raise awareness and improve society wellbeing.

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