Could perpetual delay be a sign of a mental health condition?
One person recently went viral on TikTok for tearfully claiming in a video that she was reprimanded for applying for housing for “time blindness,” a condition she says makes it harder to show up for work on time.
The video garnered over 4.6 million views and lots of teases in the comments. But mental health experts say time blindness is actually a legitimate experience, especially for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
“Time blindness is a difficulty with perceiving time, how much time has passed, how long it will take to do something, and it can be quite disabling for people,” says Stephanie Sarkis, a psychotherapist and author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and narcissistic abuse. “It’s a real thing that’s been studied.”
If you consistently overestimate or underestimate how much time has passed, seem to be late no matter how hard you try not to, or think you were distracted for a few minutes just to look at a clock and see that two hours have passed, you may be time blind. Here’s what you should know if you think you’re time blind:
What causes time blindness?
People with time blindness have a hard time tracking and estimating time. It’s harder for them to gauge how long it will take to complete tasks or how long it will take to get somewhere.
Though it’s most commonly seen in people with ADHD, Sarkis says, time blindness can occur in anyone with impaired executive function stemming from the frontal lobe area of the brain, which is responsible for personality, judgment, self-control and more.
The frontal lobe is “like a sluice gate to the brain,” Sarkis says, adding that time blindness can also be present in people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and other mental health conditions. “It’s not unique to ADHD, but it has a major impact on ADHD.”
Ari Tuckman, a psychologist who specializes in ADHD, couples and sex therapy, adds that people can also experience temporary periods of time blindness if they’re grieving, drunk, stressed or sleep deprived.
People also experience time blindness of varying severity, he says.
“We all have some sense of time,” says Tuckman. “This ability to see and be aware of time, is a human ability that is on a spectrum. Some people are really good; some people are not so good.”
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How can people cope with time blindness?
Sarkis and Tuckman offer these tips for those who may be struggling with time blindness:
- Alarms and scheduling apps are your best friends: “Apps are really useful, so use timers as much as possible,” says Sarkis. “Change the tone of your timer if your brain is getting used to it. Use apps that help you schedule and help you prioritize. Take advantage of the technology we have.”
- Try an analog clock instead of a digital one: Using an old-fashioned clock with minute and hour hands can help people with time blindness keep track of how long things are taking and see the present moment in relation to the past and future, says Tuckman. “It’s much more tangible,” she says. “You see the hand moving and you see how close it is to any moment, as opposed to digital watches which are really just abstract.”
- Sleep a lot: Sleep deprivation can exacerbate time blindness and other ADHD symptoms, says Sarkis. “If you have a lack of sleep and you have a lot of life changes going on, it’s really important to talk to someone about it, because that can make your executive dysfunction even more dysfunctional.”
- See an ADHD specialist: If you struggle with time blindness, it’s possible you have ADHD, which can be treated, Sarkis says, adding that working with a professional to find the right medication can ease time blindness and other symptoms.
For those who don’t struggle with time blindness, Sarkis says, feel frustrated and exasperated with someone who won’t fix the problem.
“We all have different strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “Not only do we positively reinforce people’s strengths, but we also need to be kind and understanding about people’s weaknesses, and getting angry at someone isn’t going to improve that weakness.”
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