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ADHD & Motivation

By Alia Butler ; Updated August 14, 2017

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a chronic mental health condition that begins in childhood and for some people can last throughout their lifetimes, but the expression of the symptoms might change over time. One of the particular aspects of ADHD is the appearance of a lack of motivation or a motivation to engage in tasks or activities that are considered by most to be undesirable or not beneficial.


People with ADHD are often thought of as unmotivated and lazy; some parents even attribute the ADHD diagnosis to lazy personalities, reports Help4ADHD.org. ADHD is a true mental health disorder that is not a result of a person being lazy, unmotivated or uncaring. People who have this disorder can learn ways to successfully reduce the negative impact their symptoms have on their lives and the lives of those around them.


It can be hard to get people with ADHD to focus and remain working on certain tasks for any significant time period. Due to the symptoms associated with ADHD, these people are unable to remain still and concentrate for extended periods of time; therefore, their motivation is generally to give into their symptoms rather than follow instructions or complete the task. Some of these symptoms include talking excessively, being in constant movement, jumping from task to task and interrupting others.


There is new research focused on motivation in people with ADHD. In September 2009, in the article "Motivation May Be at Root of ADHD," U.S. News and World Report explained that motivational problems associated with ADHD have been shown to be attributed to reduced levels of dopamine in the brain. The research demonstrates that people with ADHD experience a disruption in reward and motivation pathways in their brains, which are related to their dopamine levels, and these lead them to be inattentive and/or hyperactive.

The key is to engage these people in activities or tasks that offer specific rewards and motivation to induce increased levels of dopamine along these brain pathways.


Despite the lack of motivation in many areas, people with ADHD may be highly motivated to succeed in other areas. HelpGuide.org reports that when something is of interest to a person with ADHD, he is often highly motivated to succeed and it can be hard to pull him away from the task.


To overcome the negative consequences that result from the lack of motivation often associated with ADHD, people should engage in a treatment plan. A mental health professional will develop a specific treatment plan focused on improving motivation. Treatment should include the combined use of medication and psychotherapy.

Proper medications will increase a person’s level of dopamine and help improve her motivation and overall functioning. Psychotherapy will use cognitive-behavior techniques and psychoeducation to help a person overcome some problems of motivation and align her life to fit with tasks and jobs that are more naturally motivating.

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