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VAST & ADHD - Common Paradoxical Traits

I have been reading an excellent book this week - ADHD 2.0 - by Drs Edward Hallowell and John Ratey - and its really illuminating. It contains both, academic and neuro-scientific explanations of the condition - and in an optimistic tone - offering practical and evidenced ways to help us with the condition to cope, flourish and succeed in life.

At the end of one chapter, the authors provide a table of common traits displayed by people who may have Variable Attention Stimulus Trait (or VAST). This is, as they suggest, a cousin of ADHD. I will do another clip on VAST specifically. To oversimplify: VAST presents very similarly to ADHD - however unlike ADHD which is seen as genetic, inherited and/or caused by brain traumas or insults, VAST is environmentally caused, and so usually ADHD medication will not work to treat a patient with VAST

Anyway the table I am about to share really resonated with me. And I thought it was worth sharing.

So their table presents common traits in two columns: The USEFUL and THE PROBLEMATIC - and that’s how I am presenting them to you now.

So their table presents common traits in two columns: The USEFUL and THE PROBLEMATIC - and that’s how I am presenting them to you now.



​Passionate zealous idealistic will sacrifice everything for a cause or a friend

Can become rigid in the service of a cause, fanatical, strident, irrational

Meticulous at times, perfectionist, especially on projects that matter a great deal

Usually disorganised, even chaotically so; Chaos rules to such an extent that School, job, marriage hangs in the balance

Get a lot done in a short amount of time

Fundamentally a different sense of time - there's NOW and NOT NOW in the world of an ADHD person, so procrastination rules and things rarely get done on time

Appreciation of the unusual unconventional the different

An inability refusal to conform or get in line when doing so he's obviously in his or her best interest

Dreamer par excellence visionary thrives on imagination

Sometimes so bored by reality that he or she ignores it and gets in trouble for having done so

Honest to a fault, will say what others don’t dare to say; outspoken

can hurt feelings and damage his his can wittingly be cruel which is the last thing he or she would want to be

Intense desire to be free and independent own boss master of own fate

Trouble taking orders trouble following rules trouble with intimacy in private life

Naturally creative ideas pop in top all the time like in a popcorn machine

Has trouble organising all their ideas and doing something productive with them

Naturally curious always want to know who what where why in the hell never satisfied until he or she gets the answer

Easily distracted by novelty or any puzzle conundrum unsolved problem - no matter how irrelevant it is

Enormously energetic seemingly never tired

Impulsive struggles to sit still or ponder over a conversation with a colleague or relative

mind like a steel trap - can remember tiniest details from years ago

Forgets what he or she went into the next room to get continually forgets where he was she put their car keys wallet glasses umbrella - will drive off with shopping on roof of car

​Full of ideas

So many ideas they choke the growth of any single one

Decisive to make an important complex decision in a split second

Impatient hates to rest with ambiguity shoots from the hip

Initially surges with excitement over new plans, deals, ideas, projects

Excitement peters out in the middle phase; trouble sustaining interest

Takes responsibility and gets done what needs to get done

Struggles delegating mainly trusting that others can do it as well as he or she can

Extremely hard-working

Driven, compulsive, at times workaholic, manic

Lightning-quick mind

Has trouble shutting mind down risk of developing addictions to quiet their minds

Risk taker focuses and performs best in situations of crisis and danger

Can need danger in order to feel engaged with life and truly alive

Sees the big picture before anyone else

Trouble with implementing the details

Generous bighearted willing to give with no expectation of return

Can give everything away

Funny, the life of the party can connect with everyone

Secretly lonely feels no one really knows who he or she is


Cannot and will not follow instructions

Pays close attention when interested

Easily distracted; mind wanders when not interested; frequently on electronic devices can be difficult to engage

Supremely talented and several domains

Seriously limited in several domains

A life enthusiast; wants to try everything; can’t ever get enough

Overcomitted; about to snap

Strong leader, charismatic and caring

Hates responsibility of being leader; worries he or she will let everyone down

Thrives in highly stimulating situations

Finds contentment too bland and so can disrupt ordinary happiness for high stimulation

Loves debate, sparring

Intimacy can be difficult unless partner likes this as well

I hope you found that useful.

If the list of polar opposite traits resonated with you - either seeing yourself in the descriptors or a loved one, then I hope this clip can : 1. Give you confidence to pursue diagnostic assessment

2. bring you solace to know you are not alone

  1. as I often say: knowledge is power. Awareness of these common traits can help us to avoid those ADHD trapdoors, or develop strategies to help us navigate around our condition’s trickiest areas.

As the book says:

If you know who you are, it becomes easier to like who you are.

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