Hello, I’m Joni

an excitable creative director

Initial Exploration: ChatGPT and ADHD

23 September 2023

I have been hyperfocused lately on AI use’s current and future implications in general, but more specifically with ChatGPT and neurodiversity. Ultimately, trying to think of all the potential ways it can create more inclusive and accessible jobs, classrooms, and communities–not only as a tool for neurodivergent individuals but for others looking to better understand and adequately accommodate them. As always, I figured a blog post would be the best way to get my head straight around all these exciting and hopeful thoughts.


This topic was born out of natural curiosity and living in an ADHD home. I’ve been using ChatGPT more these days and am in awe of it’s power. At this point, I am only held back by my limited understanding of its true power, so I’m diving into several classes I’ve researched and lined up. Additionally, I’m forever looking for ADHD hacks to make our daily lives more efficient and tear-free.

AI related roughly drawn icons

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve heard, “Wow, I guess everyone has ADHD now 🙄”. The implication here is, of course, that it’s not real or that there is overdiagnosis happening–I have to point out this Reddit post as a VERY unfortunately example. It’s shortsighted not to consider how much better diagnostic tools have gotten, and the fact that we now realize girls and women can have ADHD over just boys. What can we do to help these students through school and into adulthood? What are the gaps in the current system? If these numbers are unprecedented, the solution must be as well–our strategies must be as unique and modern as possible.

I believe the role of an AI tool like ChatGPT here could be a powerful and invaluable one, and it’s motivated me to document my research and thoughts behind it. I’m focusing on ADHD since I have the most personal experience with it, but I believe there are positive implications for many other neurodevelopmental disorders as well–which can be comorbidities. Additionally, I’m focusing on ChatGPT over other AI technologies–there’s a lot out there.

When using ChatGPT, one of the most important things to remember is that the quality of the results depends on the quality of the prompt you’re putting in. This can be a very extensive topic, and this post doesn’t include prompts. While you don’t need to know too much to get started, it’s essential to remember that your results will improve as you improve your ability to get the very best out of it.

Quick, Practical Use Cases

I limited my research to tackling some of the more well-known and disruptive ADHD symptoms around inability to focus and disorganization. So, we are not even touching on AI’s implications on things like early diagnosis, therapy, emotional dysregulation, and social issues. Examples serve as a jumping-off point rather than a thorough how-to.

Organization & Tasks

One of the most significant aspects of ADHD is the struggle around task management and execution. The complexity around execution often comes from a feeling of not knowing where to start. We’ve all heard the phrase around eating an elephant one step at a time to be successful. Well, ADHD folks will trip over how to cut these bites up, which bite is first and why, and also struggle to imagine what life after eating this elephant even looks like–this phrase assumes that people know how to cut things up. Not only is it overwhelming, it doesn’t make sense, and you can get lost in your head about it and spin out.

ChatGTP can manage to-do lists and help break them down into smaller, more digestible pieces when your brain struggles. It can remove those notorious mental blockers that keep us from doing things we know how to do but can’t get out of our way at times. The input here can be a messy brain dump. It will get to work as an assistant to sort this mess for you and bring some calmness to once highly dreaded activities. The best part is that this assistant can work around the clock, accommodating any sporadic schedule.

“Here’s the thing: I know how to do these things. But when confronted with writing a piece of text like an abstract (which I’ve done many, many times), I’m contending with an overstimulated mind, depleted executive function, inattention and decision fatigue. Typing in “How to write an abstract” into ChatGPT yields an outline that provides my mind with an anchor to focus on and return to.”

– Maggie Melo, Inside Higher EDU

Right away, this “starting” part can be the most challenging part of any task when you have ADHD. ChatGPT does this part for the user in many ways, especially with writing tasks. Have it write the first draft of a dreaded email, the outline for a tricky blog post, or some marketing copy you can’t quite nail down yet. Instead of starting from scratch (scary), you’re provided with a foundation to build from based on the context you share (way less scary).

Time management & Scheduling

Time management and focus can even be a struggle when following something like a Pomodoro timer at work or school. This technique uses a timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks–a well-suited match for the ADHD mind. ChatGPT can enhance productivity by prioritizing session focuses based on what you need to accomplish and the total amount of time you are working with.

Prompt it to produce a schedule in a specific format based on appointments, breaks, to-dos, etc. It can be integrated within calendar applications (using plugins within ChatGPT-4) to search for open time blocks or send out invites.

Online Shopping

Buying stuff online can be a complete time sinkhole. It’s too easy to get lost in the reviews and caught up in the stress of making the wrong decision–all the negatives without that needed dopamine! With plugins, you can share a URL to have a summary of these reviews created, saving you from turmoil that may keep you up at night.

Planning

There are so many things that need to be planned. It’s just a part of life that some people can do seemingly naturally and effortlessly. These folks don’t have ADHD.

Planning a trip, for example, no longer has to be a dreaded experience that nearly causes you to cancel instead. Tell ChatGPT where you are going and when, your budget and preferences, and what you hope to gain from the experience. Let it make suggestions and plan your itinerary around destinations, entertainment, and restaurants.

Estimating and planning for things like presentations and meetings can be nearly impossible. Tell ChatGPT what you need to present and how long you have. Ask for an agenda broken down to hit every topic within the specified time. Further, with plugins, you can have it produce PowerPoint slides.

Get help planning a wedding, a test, a difficult conversation, a curriculum–whatever you need to plan and are stuck on. I’ve learned to stop assuming it can’t help with something.

Memory Aid

Past conversations are automatically logged and labeled, allowing for easy reference. This is more helpful than referencing past Google searches because it tracks your in-the-moment thought process around the issue through the conversation and questions asked. These serve as helpful notes based on what could have been a very productive brainstorming session–invaluable.

Translating Thoughts

The ADHD mind can sometimes feel loud and messy–but beautiful as well. A lot is going on, there’s a lot to be excited about, and it can be hard to parse it all productively. I read about instances where ADHDers documented their messy thoughts as-is and shared them with ChatGPT, letting it know that it’s messy and needs to be more coherent–even specifying a preferred way of presentation.

They are still getting back their unique thoughts, but just cleaner, calmer, and more linear.

Minimizing Distractions

Any work done on a computer involves countless tabs–or at least that is what it feels like with ADHD. These tabs add up, increasing the feeling of being overwhelmed and stuck. Any motivation that existed quickly dwindles as the situation becomes larger than life, making it feel like the air is leaving the room. These tabs can also be distracting from tasks while jumping between them in an attempt to absorb as much as possible.

Performing a simple Google search can take you down bottomless rabbit holes, and before you know it, you’ve forgotten what your original inquiry was. Existing in this space protects users from distractions–further pursuing the initial inquiry rather than getting sidetracked by unrelated shiny things.

Additionally, the design of the interface itself is simple, clean, and free of distracting colors, ads, and meaningless animations.

Job Search Process

While the job search process can be challenging for the most neurotypical among us, it can feel impossible with ADHD. There are a lot of expectations to keep in mind, a lot of reading, a lot of repetitive requirements, a lot of writing, and a lot of uncomfortable interactions. It’s boring, wildly inefficient, and often weighs on your ability to have confidence and “sell” yourself. There are countless ways to get stuck on the injustice of it all, and having a more hands-off approach can help it feel more efficient and less personal.

ChatGPT can help you brainstorm the perfect job title based on your experience or if you want to transition into something similar without changing your path completely. Get help predicting interview questions and how to answer them, get easy access to top keywords, let it summarize long and dry job descriptions,

With a resume and cover letter plugin, you can tell it you need a cover letter, and it will produce one to download, or you can copy and make edits, using it as a foundation. You’ll share the job description and resume, and it will match your existing skills and goals to the description. It will capture keywords and even pick up on accomplishments you may not even think to give yourself credit for. The classic ADHD self-worth struggles that pop up in the job search process can simply cease to exist now–what a massive win for mental health.

An exciting thing that I have read about but not explored too much personally and can envision is especially handy here: encouraging ChatGPT to pretend to be you looking for a job and letting it help you think through your best options. Tell it about yourself, what you are looking for, and exactly what you are stuck on.

TL;DR…or Listen

This is my favorite one of the bunch. Reading a wall of text or listening to a long talk about something that is not thrilling can be a CHORE most of us can’t force ourselves through, regardless of the consequences. With plugins, you can have bulleted (however many you specify) summaries of web articles, PDFs, and videos. This saves precious time and makes a once impossible thing doable and presented in a way that is much less likely to overwhelm and intimidate.

Did I use it to summarize some of the too-lengthy articles I came across when writing this post? Absolutely.

Budgeting

Personal confession: financial spreadsheets make me sweat. My heart rate skyrockets. I know I’m not alone, especially in the ADHD world. Seeing all those numbers in this traditional format feels overwhelming and quickly causes many people to shut down. ChatGPT can be used for things like budgeting by taking the fear out of it and approaching it in a different way and format. You’ll share your salary, expenses, and financial goals. It will provide a breakdown for you to follow and suggestions around how to meet your goals based on your situation–no more cold sweating.

Need cost-saving tips? Ask! Need tips on involving others in the budget? Ask! We’ve all heard there’s no stupid question while constantly worrying that our questions will be perceived as dumb or expose our “ignorance” to something we should know like budgeting–hello again, crippling self-doubt. When asking ChatGPT, you can genuinely ask your honest questions and not have this underlying worry.

Meal Help

If you’ve spent time on the ADHDWomen subreddit, you’ll know that making dinner can be especially tricky to manage with ADHD. There are many things to consider when whipping up a “quick” meal, and meal prep can be a significant cognitive load involving early planning and organization. Tell ChatGPT what ingredients you have on hand and ask for meal ideas. Have it meal plan for the family and make your shopping list.

The more specific you get here, the more helpful the results will be. Define allergies, and specify which meals of the day you need and how many. Specify personal taste preferences, diet goals and restrictions, caloric goals, etc.

Looking Ahead–A Hopeful Future

AI has some genuinely incredible implications on the horizon for helping manage (not cure, of course) disorders like ADHD. While it likely goes without saying, I feel compelled to anyway: this post is a high-level, microscopic look at what’s possible now.

While it’s already mind-bending enough, the future is looking incredibly bright. A robot that makes tedious “adulting” calls about scheduling and billing or chatbot-driven cognitive behavioral therapy, to name a couple of incredibly impactful prospects. Medication alone is not enough to address ADHD symptoms, but combining it with these accessible, powerful tools can make life immeasurably less painful for many people who are actively suffering each day and are exhausted.

Conversations around ADHD symptoms must evolve past blame and suspicion and towards empowerment through modern tools to foster confidence, independence, empathy, and patience.

Resources

These tools and our knowledge move fast, so I only referenced resources written in 2023 for this post. To further complicate things, ChatGPT doesn’t actively search the web for the most up-to-date information possible. The responses of the most current version, ChatGPT-4, are based on the knowledge provided in January 2022.

A final note I’d like to make is that when researching, it’s currently especially handy to use something like Perplexity.ai because it includes the resources it’s pulling from to answer your question.

OK, here’s the list of resources I found especially insightful:

TL;DR (For Real)

I know this post is ironically likely tricky for people with ADHD to get through. Here’s a ChatGPT-provided, highly condensed summary of it within five main points:

  1. Exploration of AI and Neurodiversity:
    • Joni delves into the potential of AI, particularly ChatGPT, in promoting inclusivity and understanding within neurodiverse communities, stemming from her personal experience in an ADHD household.
  2. ChatGPT’s Role in ADHD Management:
    • The tool offers assistance in task management, breaking tasks into actionable steps, and provides foundational support for writing tasks, making the starting process less daunting.
  3. Practical Applications of ChatGPT:
    • ChatGPT aids in time management, scheduling, online shopping decisions, trip planning, meeting agendas, and job search processes, acting as a versatile assistant for various tasks.
  4. Enhancing Cognitive Processes:
    • The AI tool serves as a memory aid, translates complex thoughts into coherent statements, minimizes digital distractions, and offers a simplified interface for users.
  5. A Bright Future with AI:
    • The horizon shows promising AI applications for ADHD management, including potential tools like robots for administrative tasks and chatbot-driven therapies, aiming to empower and support the ADHD community.