The assailing sensory overload of Times Square is not unlike the brain of a person with ADHD. ADHD is a medical condition with symptoms appearing before age seven that involves a lack of important brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters, the most notable in the case of ADHD being dopamine and norepinephrine) that help the brain’s ability to block out some of the incoming information in order to focus on the most important. While a typical brain might be able to focus on a given task in the midst of many competing demands, the person with ADHD is constantly sidetracked by the loudest, or the most interesting, or the most pleasurable stimuli in the environment. Thus the over-stimulated, overwhelmed brain that feels similar to being in the heart of Time Square. Tasks are begun, but not completed. Important items are lost. Tardiness becomes inevitable. All because a brain with a lack of dopamine has such difficulty maintaining focus on an ordinary task long enough to see it through without succumbing to distraction.
For some people, the challenge of inhibiting unhelpful distractions lessens with age. Often, puberty brings a chemical shift in the brain that helps balance out the necessary neurochemicals (although the opposite can also be true). But for many, this challenge will be lifelong, requiring aid in many forms in order to be successful. The National Council for Learning Disabilities has a wonderful article describing the basics of how medication is helpful for a person with ADHD. Additionally, dietary changes, holistic supplements, acupuncture, even caffeine have all been found to be helpful for some people with ADHD. The worst course of action is to do nothing and hope that the underlying chemical imbalance will go away on its own. After all, who would want to live at the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue with no way to find the quiet necessary to think clearly?