Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are relatively well-known, somewhat controversial behavioral conditions that affect a person’s ability to focus on a specific task or idea for an extended period of time. Though most of the research surrounding Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has concentrated on prevention and maintenance of the disorders, and much of the controversy has centered around possible physical causes, the spiritual implications of such conditions are often ignored. Christians should be aware, however, that the Bible directly addresses the behaviors associated with Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and provides guidance for both Christian caregivers and those diagnosed with the disorders.
What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?
A person diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder is basically someone who struggles with an extreme form of inattention. This person is unable to concentrate for any significant length of time, and therefore has difficulties staying on task or following directions. Someone dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder . . .
• is forgetful at work or school
• might seem distracted or preoccupied when being spoken to
• often fails to follow through with instructions or finish schoolwork, chores, or workplace duties
• has difficulty organizing and prioritizing tasks and activities
• is extremely distracted by external stimuli
Without proper treatment, someone struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder is likely to avoid tasks that require continuous efforts of concentration, and have trouble keeping track of things necessary for daily activities.
What’s the Difference Between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has all the characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but with the added challenge of hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. An individual who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will wrestle not only with inattention, but also with a strong compulsion to fidget, talk excessively, or move in some way. Someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder might . . .
- squirm or fidget, have difficulty sitting still
- frequently leave their seat at work or school
- run around or climb things at inappropriate times
- have difficulty playing quietly or engaging in sedentary activities
- blurt out answers or otherwise interrupt and intrude on conversations
- have difficulty waiting for their turn
What Does the Bible Say About ADHD and ADD Behaviors?
The behaviors associated with Attention Deficit Disorders are difficult for both those afflicted and those who love and care for diagnosed individuals. In both instances, the Supreme Authority offers words of guidance and encouragement for the affected Christian.
On Issues of Attentiveness:
- God encourages us to prioritize, and to follow through with our priorities – Proverbs 24:27.
- God encourages us to listen to those who are speaking and learn from their teachings – Proverbs 7:24; James 1:19.
- God acknowledges that staying on task is difficult, but He encourages us to persevere – Colossians 3:23; Proverbs 6:6-8.
- God understands that it is easy to become distracted, but that we are always rewarded for focusing our efforts – Proverbs 12:11.
- God tells us to create daily reminders so that we can remember those things that are important – Proverbs 6:20-21; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; 2 Peter 1:12-15.
Biblical Teachings Concerning Issues of Self-Control:
- We must always work to exhibit self-control in the words we speak (Proverbs 10:19; Matthew 12:36).
- Paul spoke of working hard to maintain control over his body and discipline his mind (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- Self-control is something we need to develop (Galatians 5:23), and it is a great addition to our faith (2 Peter 1:6).
- And we are encouraged to be vigilant and to value self-control as a great virtue (Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 25:28).
- We are cautioned to avoid impulsive judgement or speech (James 1:19).
- God tells us that things done in haste will not often succeed (Proverbs 21:5).
- And we are told that patience is a sign of faith (James 1:2-4; Galatians 5:22).
- We are also encouraged to take the time to fully understand something before we respond to it (Proverbs 18:13).
How Can Someone with an Attention Deficit Disorder Best Serve Christ?
With all the negative behaviors associated with ADHD and ADD, it’s easy to forget that individuals diagnosed with these conditions should be considered as vital a member in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:11-26) as anyone. Although these disorders can produce trying behavioral issues, there are elements of the conditions that can be beneficial to others and contribute positively to Christ’s work. The day-dreamer is often quite imaginative, and able to envision creative solutions his or her more task-oriented colleague cannot. The hyperactive Christian abounds with ample energy and has a strong desire to use it to serve Christ. The impulsive one is often driven to get things done, and their spontaneity and vigor can be quite contagious to others.
How Can Parents and the Church Help Individuals with an Attention Deficit Disorder?
It is the role of the church and parents to help redirect the energy of individuals with Attention Deficit Disorders so that the positive aspects of their condition can benefit those around them, as well as aiding the afflicted in developing stronger focus and attentiveness through faith. The Bible offers the following guidance in disciplining the affected mind:
1.) Help the Individual Become a Servant of Others
By redirecting excess energy away from selfish motives and toward serving others, individuals can be motivated to push through the discomfort of completing extended tasks and learn to be a more patient Christian (Philippians 2:3-4).
2.) Help the Individual Take Control of Their Thinking
The Bible talks about changing your patterns of thinking (Ephesians 4:23; Romans 12:2), and encourages us to focus on truths (Philippians 4:8) rather than fantasies.
3.) Help the Individual Better Understand Their Condition
Encourage the individual to read what the Bible says about ADD behaviors (see the above passages).
4.) Help to Motivate and Encourage
In the early church, members came together in fellowship (Acts 2) and shared in each others trials and tribulations. As a Christian, try to motivate and encourage others as they work to change their behavior (Hebrews 10:24-25).
5. Model Proper Behavior
Just as Paul modeled for Timothy (2 Timothy 3:10-11), sometimes individuals learn better by seeing rather what’s right rather than hearing what’s wrong.
6. Embrace Their Special Gift
By viewing someone with an Attention Deficit Disorder as a person who is fulfilling a special place in the body of Christ, we can help them tap into their own unique potential.
No matter what strategy is employed for dealing with Attention Deficit Disorders, parents, pastors, and those who work with individuals facing behavioral challenges should understand the importance of Scripture to instruct and heal those with ADHD and/or ADD (2 Timothy 3:16).
To discover more resources for dealing with Attention Deficit Disorders and to share your journey with other Christians who are also coping with this condition, please join our free ADHD and ADD Support Group.
What are your thoughts or experience? Please let us know below.