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I would call that perfectionism vs black and white thinking.
I believe we become perfectionists because of the sheer amount of negative feedback we constantly get from other people about how lazy, how sloppy, how disorganized, etc. etc. we are. So we just want to make it stop by catching our own mistakes.and perfecting everything
I've started telling myself "The perfect is the enemy of the good".
Exactly agree. If it’s something not related to our own personal actions, I don’t think ADHD people are black and white thinkers at all. So many of us have creativity in problem solving and empathy for others, we’re just hard on ourselves. And I think it’s a learned behaviour from so many negative interactions with NTs in our lifetimes.
I know for a fact that I'm not. If anything I get confused by how black and white other people are in their thinking while discussing with them. They just can't fathom that I can have an opinion that differs from theirs and still understand why they feel the way they do and that their opinion is right for them but just wrong for me because we value different things. They go straight to hurling insults as if me disagreeing with them automatically makes me think bad about them.
I used to be afraid to mess up when I lived with my mom as a child though. Verbal abuse isn't all that fun. But now it's just part of progress and progress is always something to celebrate, no matter how small. Some failures I laugh at, some I curse at, but I always keep going because learning is fun!
I like that phrase. My mantra in college was “finished, not perfect” got a lot of assignments in on time and avoided a lot of Zeros with it.
I always told myself “something is better than nothing.” It worked about 40% of the time.
I'd it's worth doing, it's worth half-assing.
Grade D = “done”
Agree. As a child, I used to get told off for not completing tasks. I learned it was better to not even try.
Nowadays, as an adult, I have had to undo that. I learned to just try to make progress. I may not complete a task in one go, but it gets done eventually.
For example, if I have something to go upstairs, it might spend some time on the dining table, then at the bottom of the stairs, then at the top of the stairs, then on a top in the destination room, before being put away. It gets there eventually.
Yep, I think I went through the same realisation, but a little bit slower.
I WAS praised for effort as a child and this did not translate overly well to the adult world where I would often put in an A+ amount of effort but only complete 90%.
People see the 90% - they don't care whether that 90% was A+, C, or D. That's the harsh reality and so I had to adjust a little bit and now I'm in the process of figuring out how to combine this, so for things which aren't time sensitive for example, I can go for the A+ and do it as perfectly as I like even if it stays unfinished, but for things that matter to other people, I'm happier to rush it through just so that it gets finished. That way I still have some A+ energy to spare. It's not a perfect system yet but it's getting there.
That's what I was thinking. I don't think that OP means black and white thinking in the same way we refer to it in psychology though. They probably just couldn't find the right descriptor.
>I've started telling myself "The perfect is the enemy of the good".
A different way to phrase the same sentiment (but has slightly different connotations:
>Perfection is the enemy of 'good enough'
I'm not sure if it's entirely because of the negative feedback, but it's without a doubt a massive part of it.
I remember a few years ago, I didn't like making to-do lists, because I never got everything done anyways. But I realised that if I don't make them at all, I get nothing done. 50% done is more than 0%.
That change of perspective helped me a lot
This I can relate to more so than "black and white" thinking. I don't apply it to anyone else but for myself? I become immensely frustrated when I don't get it right the first time.
This is so healing to read. Thank you for your words.
Don't know.... I'm interested in following this discussion.
I will say, that I spent about an hour yesterday beating myself up for a mistake that I made about 31 years ago... so, there is something going on there...
It's because of how you were raised. This is a common experience of people who were abused growing up and/or shamed for not meeting their parents expectations.
It's perfectionism and shame, in a nutshell.
It's super common among people with ADHD because we're often raised by people who are genuinely confused why we aren't living up to our potential and don't know why their strategies/advice isn't working, so they instill a sense of shame in us intentionally or unintentionally.
And we tend to feel emotions more strongly, so, like so many other ADHD symptoms, it's a common problem we have worse.
But, because it's not a uniquely ADHD thing, the internal emotional/therapy work you need to do to make it better is very well known. Normal 'how to learn to forgive yourself and be less of a perfectionist' strategies should work on you too. It might even be a bit easier because you have a disability. You really couldn't have ever been the person they said you "should" have been. It was never in the cards. The people who were supposed to raise you missed a vital detail and let you down.
If you wanna try a meditation to help, here's one. No focusing on your breath or a candle required. Just a catharsis & emotional processing technique.
I cut my family off last year when I found out I have ADHD, they're narcissistic and treated me like an alien growing up but then claimed they had "no idea" when I told them about the diagnosis. I've been verbally abused my whole life and still beat myself up about stupid stuff as not had access to any therapy yet. I apologise for everything to this day as a reflex from my childhood. Its frustrating.
I'm cutting my family off slowly. I was abused verbally and emotionally all my life. It sucks. I wasn't ever "smart" enough for them. I was shamed for barely graduating high school and from dropping out of college. But hey I found something I really enjoy and I out earn most of my siblings. It's so much better without them
I've been watching Rick Rubin interviews and it really raised my interest in meditation. I have a couple books on it but barely ever started one of them :(
It always cracks me up because at any given time, like now for example, I *should* be able to meditate and I just don’t. It’s like how it takes me three days to prepare for the shower.
You’re where I was not too long ago, knowing Rick is on to something, but not knowing how to “access” it. If you found someone describing mediation is interesting, then I suggest you work to commit to a daily practice because that’s where things really get transformative. Meditation apps were great for this. Currently using Balance with a ton of success. It’s structured like a class, where you work on a new or previously learned skill, in an effort to develop your foundation as a person new to meditation. Also can recommend BrainBuddy (it’s a porn addiction app, but I credit their meditation feature for laying the groundwork of my ability to practice daily, and enjoy it!) and Buddhify as well.
Balance is free to me through my old healthcare provider (United) and Buddhify is free to everyone. BrainBuddy has a free trial and I found the $13 a month it costs to be some of the best money I’ve spent towards improving my mental health. It was the first time I’d committed to paying for an app that was supposed to provide mental health relief. That act alone was powerful for me in my decision to get better and made the commitment part easier, since I hate wasting money :) Best of luck!
That's why I love the above YouTube channel. Succinct, localized to the US, and he guides you through the meditation itself so you can jump right into just doing it.
Meditation is a hobby. A skill. 95% of what people say about it makes no goddamn sense until you start.
Just remember, when you lose focus and need to re focus? That's meditation. It's not the part where you are focused, it's the practice
I'm right there with ya. My therapist tells me about all these books that if I'm lucky get through a single chapter before it ends in the pile in the corner of my room 🤦🏻♂️
Interesting. I wouldn't consider myself to be abused, but my family was pretty badly broken. Plus, in my day, ADHD diagnosis and treatment was a lot different. So, I think you're on to something here.
Thanks for all the advice. I'm actually pretty good about this stuff these days, and mostly find it interesting to think about why I still think about some of this stuff that was so minor and so long ago. Seriously, the rest of the world no longer cares. At least I get that part now...lol
I often try to mend my mistakes specially in past relationships. What I learnt so far, people only remember the details that they want to believe in. And forgot everything else. Normals have **sel**-gold-**fish** memory. So playing back n forth all these details, dialogues, arguments in my mind for decades meant nothing. I recently gave up.
I am free.
Totally. I once tried to go back and mend something from a long time ago, and the other guy didn't even remember the incident any more🤣
Rumination is real. I think it is anyway. Why do I doubt that? Why do I keep thinking about Rumination. Is this good advice, bad advise, or am I just thinking about it too much?
"Hi there Ren, it's been a little while..."
Damn, that voice has ammunition on me like no other.
Oh, I don't need that song stuck in my head🤣
ok ok... that came out wrong. It's a beautiful and meaningful song with amazing guitar play. What I meant was, I am crazy susceptible to getting music stuck in my head, and I'm trying not to think about this every minute of every day, even though I don't often succeed.
Great song though.
Friend, just wait! I’m in my fifties and I still recall Oopses from childhood. The good news is the that time and therapy have really made a difference in both how I see / interpret the present and how I manage the past. The biggest thing for me is creating a pause between whatever event or thought and my reaction to said event. Instead of black’n’whiting, more possibilities show up and I can go from there. It’s working for me!
Right there with you!
It’s not Black and White. It’s Perfect and Imperfect.
I like to think "good enough" now, when I can.
It still gets under my skin though.
A simple mantra I've tried to implement to fight this thinking is "don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough" It doesn't always help but it's getting easier.
One that's worked for my adult kid is, "done and better than a zero".
I'll file that away for when my kids start getting stressed about assignments
Seriously. My kid is far worse than I am, and this killed him in high school. If he couldn't do something perfectly, he would just freeze up and couldn't do it at all (before he started on meds when he later got to college). This was so painful. Once you get a zero on something, you can't fix it. Even if you get a 100 on the next assignment, you still have a 50%, which is still an F. It was truly brutal.
Better than a zero...it will save your kid's grades, guaranteed.
Done is better than perfect is mine.
That’s just being human
I had to read your post over to understand.
I can't start a task until everything is exactly right. I did exactly the right set up.
I'm, dunno. To over come it I remind myself it doesn't have to be perfect.
It's probably a result of our executive dysfunction.
I struggle with this too since forever and only started correcting myself a couple years back.
My mantra is now "half ass is better than no ass". It's been working, not perfectly but it's been a lot better that's for sure!
This will be my new mantra. At work my boss always says, “If I’m not worried, you don’t need to be worried.”
My fav mantra by Jake the dog:
"Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something."
Ironically this is how I feel about my parents
Ugh so good I'm going to use that phrase!!
Yeah. I started correcting this way too late, but later is better than never 😁
God. I do this too. I’ve never been sure if that’s the ADHD or something else.
Yah I've had to teach myself (in my 30s!) that sometimes just finished is good enough and I need to walk away and take a break otherwise I just get lost in a fixation spiral
Off the top of my head i'd say it has something to do with our ability to be motivated to do anything. In order to do something we have to consider it worth doing. In order to feel that way our brain has to decide it's very important. If it's very important then it needs to be done well... I guess. Something like that.
Like if something is only worth doing half assed then there's a good chance we're not gonna be doing it at all. We need to consider things very important in some regard before our brain lets us do them 😂
In addition to this point, optimizing work flow/order of operations/etc. is a good way of “gamifying” mundane tasks so that they are interesting enough for the ADHD sufferer to engage with them.
I unload the dishwasher like an octopus
Wow is that why I do that?? I've never felt like a particularly clean or organised person but I do love to organise.
I think this is right.
Your Brain's Not Broken is a really good book about this. It's a combination of time dilation due to our executive disfunction and using heightened emotions to regulate activity and memory.
Another really good book about this is Keeping House While Drowning, which taught me that chores and stuff don't have moral worth, but also something is better than nothing.
I believe it is a cognitive function rather than a neurological one, because I have been changing my approach over time. Cleaning dishes off the bench into the sink is not as good as putting them in the dishwasher, but it's better than nothing. Putting clothes in the dryer and leaving them there is not as good as folding them and putting them away, but its better than leaving them in the washing machine.
Learning to accept you are not a bad person for leaving clothes in the dryer, or in a washing basket is a big step to realising that something is better than nothing.
I found Your Brain's Not Broken to be super helpful. I really liked the clarity around using heightened emotions to regulate activity and memory. I don't know that I've seen that laid out anywhere else in as clear a way. It's something I've leaned on very heavily in the past without understanding what I was doing.
The black and white thinking tends to come more with autism which is often co-morbid with adhd. ADHD is generally the opposite where you can see all sides to every option of idea so you can never make a decision.
I was coming here to say this -- it's a spectrum thing. Right way and wrong way to do things. It's hard to do things the wrong way if you are afflicted with this. I experience a lot of this around my house. There is a right way to do certain things, not that I can often back it up with any sound argument other than "it's the right way to do it."
ADHD has emotional dysregulation as a common symptom. i'd argue that is a good foundation for black and white thinking, as our emotions frequently frame how we think about things.
I think you misunderstood the term 'black and white thinking' - it does NOT refer to a process of thinking, or to how we structure thoughts. It's a term that describes an *attitude* towards things (or towards situations or people). The attitude of "if I don't do it perfectly, it's nothing", or "that person did something I dislike so now she's dead to me". And I do think it's common with ADHD, at least I have it...
> ADHD is generally the opposite where you can see all sides to every option of idea so you can never make a decision.
Classic analysis paralysis.
I like being able to see all sides to every option especially in my line of work as a project manager and troubleshooting. It works great especially when there's time pressure involved because I *have* to make a decision.
But I wish I could turn that "ability" off for the mundane things. My brain will over-analyze everything and its so much easier to fall into the trap of analysis paralysis for minor things where there's no stakes or pressure.
Formally diagnosed ADHD, not formally diagnosed autistic (but myself and others suspect I am): could this combo lead to grabbing on very hard to the rare moments of clarity that emerge from the soup of "seeing all sides?" I really *like* my rare decisive moments, even if they are sometimes unnuanced and rigid.
A few ppl have asked me if I could be autistic, I don't think so. Self diagnosed ADD and self diagnosed BPD, so yeah, I live in a black and white world and try really hard to see other perspectives but I'm usually set in my ways.
this is a cognitive distortion that a lot of people have. CBT addresses it.
I don’t know how having a hooker kick you in the balls would help, but at this point I’ll try anything.
Please report back for…… science
Dialectical behavioural therapy is also great for analyzing cognitive distortions. I found an [article](https://www.skylandtrail.org/using-dbt-to-confront-black-and-white-thinking/) that explains how DBT is used to confront black-and-white thinking, it’s worth the read.
We don’t. Mine is in far too many shades of grey
How many is too many? 50?
This isn’t something I’ve experienced. I’ve never struggled with perfectionism or avoiding something solely because I’ll mess it up. I dive into lots of things and ruin them all the time.
What does get to me is getting in trouble for doing something poorly. Disappointing other people makes me feed bad.
I think you may have inadvertently hit the nail on the head.
If failure was something you were punished for, and your ADHD increased the number of failures by an order of magnitude, then we very likely will pick up a very strong fear of failure and a need to ensure we get things perfect first try.
Ouch, you described me to a T here in the second paragraph and I don’t like it.
It's better to at least try imo.
You could find something that is hyper fixating in a positive way. You could try more solo projects or try to manage people's expectations straight away.
This isn't really an ADHD thing, especially not for me
I do get wrapped up in trying to make things as perfectly as possible and would rather start all over than keep going.
This is why I can't draw. I'm artistic but that need for perfection holds me back.
I've been trying not to think this way recently because I know it's not good but it can be hard sometimes knowing when to strictly follow the rules and when not to.
For real. If they're not strict I end up either overthinking everything or easily sliding back to bad habits.
Still working on this but it's been a bit better. I try to not be as "demanding" on how well the task needs to be performed. That reduced avoidance behavior a bit, and the more you do it the better, because since you're less demanding you do it more easily and in less time.
I have ADHD and don't always have black + white thinking, in fact I often get overwhelmed or delayed by considering all kinds of different aspects of things to the point where someone asks me something and I'm scrolling through options in my brain too fast for my mouth to catch up and respond properly. To be fair though, when I was younger and before I was medicated I definitely did, it was absolute tunnel vision for me on all stuff
I’m a perfectionist but definitely not a black and white thinker. Those two mean different things. I don’t hold the same perfectionist standards over anyone else in my life and I’ve also grown very forgiving of myself since my diagnosis and therapy and have eased off the useless perfectionism - as much as I can.
My problem is I almost *never* think in black and white; my thinking is almost always grey, riddled with "what if's" and various scenarios. So anyway, I majored in philosophy and graduated with a 4.0 major GPA.
It's because without obsession, it's hard to conjure the motivation to do anything. It's a self-defeating method of hacking our warped reward response. Perfection is more desirable (motivating), but also unattainable (frustrating).
Not an ADHD thing.
It’s a normal cognitive distortions a lot of people have, so it’s caused by the same things that cause other negative thought patterns— bad experiences and overgeneralization.
It’s really only associated with BPD and autism.
It's called "splitting" and is more associated with BPD than ADHD. It's a defense mechanism we retain from childhood
Yes, I have both and am more familiar with this as a BPD symptom.
For me, fear of failure is a real motivation killer. If I know I'm going to do it half-assed and the result will be mediocre, I just won't do it at all. Or I quit the task before it's done.
A very interesting and complex question. My guess is that it doesn’t come from having ADHD itself per se, but rather from the trauma experienced while growing up with it. The vast majority of individuals with ADHD will have received a lot of negative feedback, regardless of their efforts, for most of their lives. Spending so much time being shamed and looked down upon simply because your brain works differently certainly leaves some long-lasting effects.
Having your needs entirely neglected like this can also lead to trauma-based disorders like CPTSD and BPD, so there’s the possibility of it being that also.
Probably due to childhood conditioning.
It's due to emotional dysregulation. If an emotion becomes overwhelming it will color your Outlook
This is not a blanket statement for people with adhd. There are many, many people that don’t think like this
I like to explore all possibilities. So .. not for me. I think in a lot op nuances. Sometimes from a lot of angles on the same issue
We all don't.
Yeah normally I don't do shit, but when I do I do it *really* good. Not sure why
If I don’t complete a project all in one effort, it most likely won’t get completed for weeks, months or years, but all my tools, supplies, papers, data files will clutter up the space of my brain, computer and physical area, hiding under the debris of other incomplete tasks, awaiting some faraway archaeological dig to happen, and the anxiety of the web of ruin that is my life is compounded yet again. I don’t know that I can blame that on my parents. Something else could easily be going on. Not enough is known about the brain nor adhd.
Because that's how the world interacts with us.
I have ADHD and sometimes have white and black thinking but not many times. I dont think it is a symptom many people with ADHD have
Some do, some don't.
I don’t feel that way at all
I don’t I’ve very, very grey ones too
Honestly, I think it's related to OCD tendencies. I was diagnosed with both. But those thoughts always led me to a black and white decision.
Nah. I have extreme ADHD and I see things in spectrums, not black and white. It affects scarfing differently
I see this in my wife. It doesn't help that her upbringing was under a harshly controlling father with outdated modes of thinking.
I've probably got a blind spot in my self reflection, but I would say I've gotten better at seeing nuance. Before I knew I had adhd, I used to wonder where my thoughts even came from. I reasoned I can't really control what pops in my head, whether it be in private when alone or externally influenced by media consumption or conversation/observation.
Im more or less okay that I'll never be 100% efficient at anything, even if I try. And I still do! I like being efficient, consistent, "perfect", but I left room for me to mess up and not be any of those things.
I think because we need the comfort of not being at fault even if it’s for the tiniest thing. Because the tiniest negative comment or perceived sense of lacking is a nightmare for us.
i think many many people struggle with black and white thinking tbh
Do they? I’m 52. Always had it. Know plenty of people with it and would never say that as a blanket statement. I’m not that way in general but do have occasional times I react/feel that way.
One of the issues I struggled with was just getting started. I’d take forever to get out of bed, always late. Could waste a whole day not moving from bed and time blindness would be wild. You kind of have to slow things down, and try to pull yourself into the present moment to align yourself to just get going. Things are super draining if your also always thinking and in your head.
It's a funny contradiction. I feel that partially because of ADHD I have (& others with ADHD, etc.) a more free-associative way of thinking that's a little more conceptual or creative than others. But it's just like how you explained when it comes to task switching, logical/linear planning, or problem-solving - I just hit a wall or something and don't perceive as much depth in the problem. I remember when I got tested, much of the abstract exec function test performances were fine but the task switching / cognitive flexibility components were as low as 1st percentile. I reckon that with ADHD the irregular communication between task networks and the default mode network plays a big role in that. Might lend itself to creative thinking but not the ability to sit and wrestle with something rational.
Its not exactly Black and White thinking. Most of us actually have very grey thinking styles due to how our brain is wired. Of course everyone has their moments and things they feel are most important to them, but people with Adhd tend to be more forgiving when making decisions, often standing in a more neutral position because of their tendency to make mistakes and reflect on such pain.They base their decision on whether their brain is capable of motivating themselves to do something, or if its too much of a hassle usually.
In what you are speaking of, there is a commonality between people who have Adhd and think this way... and the answer lies in the fact that most of us make so many mistakes or dont finish things too often and they set limitations on what they will or won't do based on the experience of living with Adhd. You realise that the thing you are about to do is probably not going to be satisfying, or rewarding, or end well, and thus you default to things you know you can do well. Its stopping you because you dont want to face the mistake again and run through another bad experience for nothing, or you are well aware of what you will finish and what you won't, and not bothering with niceties when you know you already wont complete something is just you managing yourself and knowing what you are capable of, and what isnt worth the trouble.
"Last time I tried to put away all the dishes at once, I ended up not finishing it and giving up. Why would I try to conquer all the dishes at once again when I know that I only will do small amounts of dishes at a time?"
Usually its because of an experience that you modify things to fit your capabilities. You aren't black and white, its your brain that sets the limit because it adapts to the conditions it is put under. You are just going by how you feel, and that stance is less to do with things that are set in stone by your thoughts, and more to do with the reality of what you are going through. You faced a problem, and your ideas changed to fit the issue, and that is Grey. That is going with the flow, and as a cowboy, you already rode down that path once before, and were met with a messy situation.
I don’t have black and white thinking, I’m actually one of the least judgmental people I know to a fault. Like if someone is a bad or dangerous person it’s never mattered to me. Rich or poor, gay or straight, racist or anti racist, I don’t really care and I don’t hold grudges. I don’t start things if I don’t have two hours to spend, that’s where my black and white thinking comes into play , I’ll avoid working on something unless I can sink some time into it.
this is really interesting. i wonder if there is a qualitative study on it or something
Interesting, as someone with ADHD with many fellow ADHD friends I've never noticed this. I hear it's common with autism but hasn't heard it for ADHD. Some of my friends, not on the spectrum, actually get mad at me because I say everything is subjective so I'm not sure if I'm an outlier or if that's specific to your experience. I'm intriguing and will be reading the comments!
This isn't true for me at all.
Because we are frustrated and afraid of failing again.
Sometimes I block myself so much with this at work when I see a difficult task that I can't 100% perfectly complete that I have to use the pomodoro timer just to get myself moving.
They don't, not everything about someone's personality is their adhd.
This is completely unbacked by science or anything, just speculation. What if it's because, since ADHD people often have an overload of simultaneous thoughts, if we took into consideration all the grey possibilities it would overload our minds even more, so it's easier to just pick one of two extremes.
Like, as a super simplified example, if I had to tell you the temperature of a bowl of soup I'd say "it's hot" or "it's cold," black and white. If I had to consider "well it's colder than the cup of tea I'm currently drinking but not as cold as, say, an ice cream sandwich, but I can't really say it's warm because it's a little hotter than warm....." then I'd never say anything at all.
Even more complex thoughts like about political opinions, religious beliefs, the value of people in relationships, have such infinite possibilities that maybe my brain shelters me from a lot of it so I don't overload. I have to concentrate and spend time engaging other possible roads if thought.
They don’t. Just because you do doesn’t mean we all do.
Black and white thinking is a cognitive distortion commonly associated with anxiety, depression, and a number of personality disorders.
Not everyone with ADHD has depression or black and white thinking. These distortions develop over time and become automatic because of how our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors interact.
It would help you to look up a “growth mindset” vs a “fixed mindset.” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also help.
“Black and white thinking” as you put it has nothing to do ADHD. It is not exclusive to ADHD and is not directly associated with it.
What’s your source for this? I don’t think I fit this description at all. I am a perfectionist, but usually I’ll hyper focus on whatever it is (to a fault) to bring it up to my standards. Caveat: this isn’t a good strategy either, no judgement. Just saying my coping mechanism is a bit different than yours
I have black and white thinking around education/projects because of my upbringing. When I was 11 years old I worked for weeks on a capstone project on Japan. I struggled through task initiation. I figured out how to research at the library by myself. I painstakingly drew intricate pictures even though I would rather have listened to nails on a chalkboard. I stopped myself going on too many tangents. I was so proud of the work that I did on it but I didn’t finish it completely on time and I got zero. I sat on my bed sobbing for hours. It has taken me decades to heal from that.
That’s the executive dysfunction talking.
We often don’t recognize how much work it takes to make something look effortless. That’s a general societal problem, revering the outcome but ignoring the process, but we also have a weird relationship with time that makes us think we can do it effortlessly without needing to put in ask the work.
Uh... I dont think they do. I think that's your experience.You can't take every trait and experience you have and assume that applies to all people that share one of your characteristics.
I see this often. I have a harmless condition called Guillain-barre disease where I have elevated levels of Bilirubin. I can't tell you how often the facebook group for that condition has posts asking " DO YOU GET MIGRAINES TOO?" and all the comments are variations of "MUST BE GULLIAN-BARRES", but multiply that for every experience possible. It's always Gullian-Barres. (It's not)
My point is, try not to do this. Confirmation Bias is a hell of a drug.
I thought black and white thinking is generally an ASD trait, not an ADHD trait.
I think this is a human trait (perfectionism) vs an ADHD thing.
Are you sure about that?
Black and white thinking is not an ADHD thing.
It's something that a lot of people do and have.
My ADHD makes me have less black and white thinking. Because it causes me to overthink everything, and think that every little detail and nuance is important.
The top comments argue that it’s not inherent to the condition, but I think it might be. My guess is: Our brains don’t reward us properly for accomplishing shit, so we try to find a reason for our lack of satisfaction even though we did the thing. We find reasons not to be satisfied with the job we’ve done. There’s no such thing as perfect, so we can always find a reason why it’s not enough. If you do that enough times in a row, you will inevitably reach the conclusion that an achievement that isn’t perfect is tantamount to not having achieved the thing at all
You're probably autistic, this has nothing to do with ADHD. I can know I need to do the dishes but still not be able to finish washing all of them 100%. Not being able to finish tasks is part of ADHD, even if I'm interested in the task. That's how I complete 70% of a project in two days but am not able to make myself finish it all the way.
To my mind the phrase ‘black and white thinking’ refers to being a person who cannot or will not see nuance in situations - which I think people with adhd tend to be quite good at (?).
To me what you’re speaking of is an ‘all or nothing’ attitude. And, yes, I have it too - a deeply ingrained perfectionism that tends to mean nothing ever gets done because I know/fear it won’t be good enough. I don’t know where it comes from but some of the early childhood experiences mentioned in the replies make sense to me.
“Why do people with ADHD have black and white thinking?”
I definitely do not and know a lot of conservative leaning folks that embody polarized/black and white thinking.
i would say that's not the case, but either may be due to rejection sensitive dysphoria or a comorbid disorder. I don't have black and white thinking, personally.
I have OCPD/suspect on the spectrum so there are things in very black and white on, and things that all I see is grey and so I get frustrated when things are treated as black and white. It’s a fun mix!
Personally I'd say that it's because a lot of the things that make sense to other people through intuition don't make sense to us.
So like a blind person using touch and hearing to figure out where the furniture in their new house is, we try to cope by understanding obstacles, like DO and DON'T, because of the general grey area represented by the nuance that can often elude us.
We have a polarized understanding of our environment because it's how we navigate.
I wasn't aware this was a symptom, but as a common cognitive distortion we could be more likely to accept black and white thinking because of impulsivity?
I used to have it. Working Healthcare fixed it.
That’s kind of a gray area.
I'm not like this most of the time tbh, but sometimes. I often start things i don't finish, such as art or other projects, then i convince myself I'm not good enough to finish it, or it'll be shitty LOL
but with certain things i guess i will just go "why bother starting/ trying", though I've tried to push myself to not think that way and just try. That, or remind myself it's okay to not finish everything at that moment, or just in general.
More often than not now, for non-work related things (or important things) I'll get myself to try and accept that i can't do it, or force myself to finish over time just to say i completed it
For important stuff i hate stopping mid anything though, so i sometimes put it off a bit until i know i have time to do it all at once lol
I wouldn’t be shocked if it was related to dopamine like most ADHD things.
For me, ADHD presents itself in constantly problem solving and choosing things based on the best and most efficient way to do things
For many of us including me everything is HARD so I find the best way to do it so I don’t need to do it again.
I think this is the same for me with black and white thinking, I have to sit and think through everything and it’s either 100-% worth it or not at all. Because I’ve already thought of all the outcomes if I don’t think it’s 100% correct
It’s not black and white thinking. I very much enjoy my comfort zone of greys when objectivity is encouraged.
It’s just perfectionism. Fear. Over-compensation for failures. Because we do have quite some experience in failing.
TED has a lot on the topic and I find [this](https://youtu.be/iCvmsMzlF7o?si=sfnu4Kq80n5y7gaJ) very helpful.
It's not that it's black an white it's that we use a kind of flowchart way of think.
My first instinct was to conclude something with emotional dysregulation. A strong emotional response, making logic sort of 'hone in' on things that support that response. If something is bad, then it is VERY bad. if it is good, it is VERY good. struggling to take a step back and see the picture.
mind you, this is my first instinct. i am generally considered a very reflective person, with good abilities to avoid black and white thinking. however, in the moment i fail to live up to this standard i've set. mind you, with age comes experience, and with experience you can more quickly rein yourself in.
For me, it’s the energy cost/benefit. My brain isn’t able to start a task unless it’s sure we can complete it 100% and not give up halfway. Or knowing 100% that we’re gonna succeed.
I’m also a perfectionist with a lot of trauma. But I’m working on that with my therapist.
No, it's not a universal thing that people with ADHD have black and white thinking.
Your description is more like what "How to ADHD" calls "the wall of awful." It's basically a trauma response to messing up a lot and feeling bad about it. The other example is perfectionism, or getting caught up in overthinking a process instead of taking it a step at a time.
I don't think people with ADHD have black and white thinking. As far as I know this isn't a trait of ADHD.
What we do have going on though, often, is our brain sees everything all at once. So if we're like I need to clean the kitchen, out brain tells us about every single untidy thing. It can be hard to organize tasks into a plan of action. This can cause what looks like black and white thinking: you go into the kitchen to was dishes, and can go Clean All The Things or it's too much, fuck it. I have the "brain sees everything" symptom and I have to very consciously and actively divide up tasks and set an end point.
But this isn't black and white thinking, which I view as inflexible thinking. This is its own thing.
Focus comes from understanding what to focus on would be my first approach. Then second is why? Probably because they want to be a good person to themselves and to others. And then, choose good over bad for others, well they want good soo… good discipline and decision making makes for wanting others to choose good over being a fuck up sounds logical to me…
I would be interested in knowing if it’s the same explanation as the autistic symptom too. I’m AuDHD so always assumed it was my autism. I didn’t realise it was an ADHD thing too. I feel like it’s maybe the opposite with ADHD which is why it’s so overwhelming inside my brain. I need it to be black and white but I also can’t pick a fucking side.
I don't think perfectionism comes from ADHD. It comes from those negative childhood experiences.
I also have this problem. I have ripped out 12 hours of work to start a knitting project over again because it wasn't "right". I have knit some shawls 3-4 times before I actually complete them because I have unknit or frogged so much of it.
When I let them go... I see the imperfections forever.
I stammer as well as having ADHD, and I was only diagnosed with the latter about two years ago. When I think about an answer to your question, I think it’s because people - family included - were not shy in telling me what I did wrong, and why couldn’t I be like others? This doesn’t come from a malign intent, but that - I guess you’d call it ‘ableism’ today - along with being bullied for most of my life, and asked why - when I started to work - why I couldn’t be consistent, has made me very defensive. If you’ve had to be on your guard against criticism for most of your life, criticism that has bred shame - the most toxic of all emotions - then it makes sense why you wouldn’t comfortably hang out in the grey, uncertain spaces. I put people into boxes all day, every day; it’s safer for me that way
I think part of it is a "saving the pain for all at once so it hopefully hurts less" thing. At least for me, I often wait until I had no laundry to do my laundry. I could do it before but then I would have more incidents where I would be doing laundry, which feels like more pain to me. Or similarly a sunk-cost fallacy, what's the point of going through all the effort to do something and then don't finish? Then all the pain and work went to waste. Therefore I should finish and do it right or don't do it at all.
I'm a huge black and white thinker. And a perfectionist. I agree with those posters who say it's likely something that's been ingrained since childhood. My parents had very high expectations which I continually failed to meet. I was constantly in trouble.
I have grown up knowing that there is a right way and a wrong way, and that the wrong way feels awful emotionally.
That being said, my husband also keeps telling me how much autism also sounds like me, based on the audiobooks his sister keeps making him listen to.
I think what you’re describing is different from the general concept of “black and white thinking.” You’re talking more about “I can only being the task if I can finish it.” While black and white thinking generally refers to a general approach to a much much broader scope of ideas.
Mine is the complete opposite. I'm grey in most areas, unless it's the government. I'll assign side against the government.
This is a very specific example. I find in a lot of cases I have way more grey in my processes than others might.
But when it comes to motivation to do something, it’s very all or nothing.
Someone told me that ADHD was named wrong, it’s not an attention deficit disorder, it’s an attention regulation disorder (which made my life make so much sense finally), and part of the regulation issue is regulating emotions. I wonder if the reason for thinking something is just horrible, end of the world, unforgivable, etc. is that it feels that way, and your mind makes up the story to explain/justify the feeling. For what it’s worth, I have the same problem.
>What in our brains causes this exactly?
Trauma. That perfectionism isn't black and white thinking- it's insecurity and a recognized cognitive dissortion.
Unfortunately, we don't need a large sample size of bad experiences to always recall the feelings failure evokes due to how emotional disregulation pops up for many of us.
It's worth taking the time to challenge those thoughts and crack them apart.
Not like this at all. Maybe you’re just a perfectionist 🤷🏻♂️
I’ve thought about it a lot and I just cant really connect perfectionism with ADHD in a logical way. I do know that OCD is generally comorbid with ADHD, so that might be an explanation.
But ADHD on its own and perfectionism somehow doesnt make sense to me.
Emotional dysregulation. Stronger emotions lead to absolute thinking
Simply put, we don't. It sounds as though you are misattributing your understanding of black and white thinking to ADHD. Perfectionism may be something that some people with ADHD experience, but there are plenty of people with the disorder that are not perfectionists. A lot of people are very happy to simply accomplish a task in the first place.
Given how difficult it can be to start tasks, it is understandable that when you are in the process of doing a task you would want to do it to the best of your ability. It is far easier to redo something in the moment than find the motivation to start over at a later point in time. If you struggle with wanting things to be 'perfect' then ADHD can certainly serve as a barrier that makes it difficult to act upon your desires, but it is not the ADHD that causes you to desire perfection, it just inhibits your ability to 'achieve' it.
This isn't black and white thinking to me. Actually, black and white thinking tends to be something I associate more with autism.
I think what you're describing is poor metacognition, or what I tend to think of as a lack of seeing the big picture and a tendency to overly focus on details.
In psychology the "Everything I do is so stupid, I always blah blah" is called catastrophisation.
I've heard researchers say that people with adhd have a lessoned a lessened ability to "see the future".
Perhaps, if we feel a certain way, we have a more difficult time imagining a future where things are different, so we see what as as what will be.
This is a self fulfilling prophecy though. You can't be in a better future, if you don't act towards something you see as better. This is a place where we can struggle for the same reasons. If you're feeling stuck, find something that's easy to do, and productive, that you know is within your skillset, and get it done. It can be anything, and it helps with those feelings.
I think black and white thinking is a result of avoidant behaviors developed from ADHD symptom stressors. The “good” is simply leaning into obsessive hyper fixation. The “bad” is simply being dismissive of things/thoughts that bring about discomforting feelings. That sounds super general because it’s different for everyone. Example: well-adjusted people who remind you of your own lifelong struggles at “normality”. Why think about the whys when you can dismiss the person as negative for some other reason?
Many posters argue that black and white thinking is an ingrained response to consistent criticism, and I think that’s true. But for me a lot of it boils down to emotional lability. I think in a very black and white way about issues I am emotionally invested in, but if I can detach myself emotionally my thinking becomes a lot subtler. NB black and white thinking is also a hallmark of depression, suggesting there is a strong emotional basis.
I feel like I'm often perfectionist about something because I'm just become so focused on the details that I don't keep a reasonable perspective over the project. I'm not thinking "that's pretty good for a beginner" or "that'll be fine for what we need" I'm thinking "that isn't right, that should be more like....".
And then knowing I'll fixate on details, it does "make sense" to be perfectionisty. If I start a planner or journal or something, and then on a key page write the heading wrong, it would be sensible to just "ignore it/fix it/whatever". But knowing me, everytime I try and use that journal all I will think about is that mistake and it'll annoy me and eventually I'll stop using it.
So, sometimes it is legitimate to stress and make / buy "exactly the right thing" because then I will actually use it (for a few months at least). But obviously it's time consuming and expensive....
I get that, and I flipflop nonsensically from thinking "I mess everything up" (after doing one to three things in a row wrong) to "heck yeah I am an infallible genius" (after doing one to three things in a row right). I also do this with opinions: sometimes I feel like I can affirm the entirety of one perspective on an issue, then later on if something happens that changes my mind, I can flip over to the other side of the same issue. Both of these things are tiring.
Err, I wouldn't necessarily blame all this on ADHD. I know the whole "all or nothing with getting task done" is generally accepted as part and parcel with ADHD, but the "everything I do is stupid I can't do anything" part sounds like comorbid depression, or maybe borderline personality traits/disorder (where black & white thinking, or "splitting" features pretty heavily). Or rather, I guess it doesn't need to be pathologized with any big label, but just that being hard on yourself might be more about your life experiences (which may or may not be related to the difficulties you've experienced because of ADHD). Do you experience black and white thinking about other people and things, or more specifically to your thoughts/actions/achievements?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, while more associated with treating BPD, is designed to help with black and white thinking, as well as breaking problems down into easier pieces, so you might benefit from it (or many other therapeutic modalities, I imagine. I believe there are some ADHD-specific CBT modalities).
That said, I have no professional training, so I could be talking out my ass.
When someone says "black and white thinking" I think of people who either want you to have the same opinion as them or you are seen as evil. I wouldn't want to call people with ADHD black and white thinkers, in fact, the people with ADHD I know are the most versatile and grey thinkers I know. Always looking at the bigger picture, this also goes for problem solving. I found that we look at all possibilities before giving up, so I wouldn't call that black and white thinking. In fact I think that black and white thinking is more an autism thing, and I do not mean that in an insulting way, this is my experience with autistic people in general. It either is or isn't within their view, making it very difficult to solve problems with imo.
What you are describing sounds more like self-destructive behaviour, failing in prioritising what is most important, and therefore neglecting something. And this does sound a lot like adhd.
In bpd we call black and white thinking “splitting”, and it’s a fucking bitch and a half because you literally cannot stop yourself from either lashing out at others around you out of frustration and humiliation or self ridiculing yourself to devastation . What has helped me at least is dbt therapy. They give you tools to step out of the emotional mind and into your wise mind by examining the facts. By doing this you see you’re thinking out of your emotional mind rather than your logical wise mind and it can help separate that black and white thinking into more of a gray neutral color.
I just have to say, I was diagnosed two weeks ago, and I have been constantly reading posts from people who are going through the same things as me. It finally makes me feel like I'm not alone.
However, that's not what I wanted to write about. I am not entirely sure what causes our brain to behave in this way but what I realized is that ADHD not only affects my perfectionism when completing tasks, but also how I perceive myself/certain situations as good or bad.
In my mind, I understand that there are gray areas in everything, but I struggle to show compassion towards myself when it comes to determining whether I am good or bad. This can happen even with small things, like someone asking me for a favor that I don't want to do. In my mind, I immediately label myself as a bad person. It could be related to my ADHD, although I think it might also be linked to my tendency to overthink and my inability to silence my internal dialogue. However, since starting medication, my black and white thought process isn't as strong as it used to be.
What's been helping me is therapy, trying to find out and understanding where the tendency of being very black and white comes from and learning techniques to slowly letting go of that way of thinking, is not easy, it doesn't happen in one day, but it's helpful to talk about it with a professional and get a different perspective
I guess I would often get stuck in the decision paralysis or executive dysfunction. Then I realized that even if I can’t give something my 100% effort, that 75%, or 50% is still better and more than 0%. That’s getting a project started is the hardest part, even if it takes me 3 days to finish when back in the day it would’ve only taken me a few hours.
A lot of people in this sub tend to identify some personality trait of theirs and just ascribe it to ADHD. Some people with ADHD might tend to have black and white thinking but it’s simply not universal.
It’s the autism lol
That’s not b&w thinking, that’s perfectionism and defeatism caused by fear of rejection and failure. Not the same thing.