No matter what your profession, you use your brain’s pattern recognition capabilities to quickly assess and identify problems. Once you’ve diagnosed the problem, this neural network, unique to your brain, will point to possible solutions. Whether you’re an auto mechanic, investment banker, attorney or IT manager, the information patterns presented by challenges you encounter register unconsciously throughout each day, manifesting in the efficiency with which you perform your job.
The same can be said for physicians and other health care professionals. We listen to patients tell their story, pay attention to facial expressions and mannerisms, rank issues in the order determined by their emphasis, calculate the probability that various diagnoses fit the pattern, and eventually recommend a treatment plan.
“Practicing medicine” is an accurate description of what doctors do. The more time we spend with patients trying to identify patterns and solutions, the more chances we have to be mistaken or correct. The more we learn from treatment failures, the less likely we are to repeat such errors. On the other hand, when we accurately identify a pattern which leads to effective treatment recommendations, the probability of future success increases.
With this in mind, I frequently tell patients that whatever they have to say is important. As I listen and observe, an intangible “vibe” is created by the words, tone of voice, expressed emotions and body language. Over time, a pattern emerges which, although unique to the individual, indicates the most likely diagnosis and hence, the most effective treatment.
When it comes to ADHD, symptoms tend to be consistent. Inattention, procrastination, disorganization, impulsivity, restlessness, inability to complete tasks, inaccurate sense of time passing, hyper-focus and difficulty staying in the moment are, to varying degrees, usually present in those who meet the diagnostic criteria. Underlying personality, work ethic, ambition, frustration and the recognition that more can be accomplished can all affect treatment outcomes.
Coexisting depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder are frequently present in those with ADHD, resulting in different symptom patterns. The degree to which these conditions may be causing impairment and whether they are primary or secondary to ADHD symptoms is key to formulating an effective treatment plan. Because symptoms overlap, accurate pattern recognition is crucial.
As you go through each day, try to observe when you engage in pattern recognition. When the problem and solution seem obvious to you, but not to others, chances are good that you unconsciously ticked through a “differential diagnosis,” quickly arrived at the most effective “treatment plan,” and went on to the next issue at hand. As you become fully aware of the pattern recognition software in your brain, you’ll be able to access and use it consciously, resulting in more effective and efficient problem solving.