The Basic Steps Of Problem-Solving, even with high-functioning Autism, ADHD and OCPD

Problem-solving 101

So you’ve had a problem and want to know how to solve it, right? Wrong! According to modern “thinking” on problem-solving, we first need to ask the question: what is a problem?


A common answer goes something like this: a problem is anything that can be seen as undesirable or dissatisfactory. This is wrong for two reasons – firstly, such an ambiguous definition would mean that just breathing could be construed as a problem; secondly, there are many more problems than those which stem from direct human dissatisfaction.

I prefer the following definition: a problem is anything that prevents us from reaching our current goal (if we believe we have one). By this criteria, not having enough money isn’t a problem, but not being able to pay the bills certainly would be.

So now that we have a working definition for problems, let’s begin by saying that problem-solving requires three steps:


Problem Recognition.

The first step in solving any problem actually recognizes it as such – this means that you must be aware of the present circumstance which prevents you from attaining your goal. Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid falling into the trap of “ignorance is bliss”, especially when our feelings are involved; however, if you are unaware of your current situation, how do you know there’s even a problem to solve? This step is thus crucial because it prevents wasting time aimlessly searching for solutions to non-existent problems.


Problem Analysis.

The second step is breaking down this problem into smaller pieces that are easier to identify and solve – in other words, you must ask yourself, “what exactly prevents me from reaching my goal?” Be specific! Just because the birdie didn’t come when you called it doesn’t mean you have a serious problem; however, if your boss demotes you for not showing up at work all the time, then I’d say there’s a good chance that might be enough of a reason to start looking around for ways to fix your situation.

Photo by Ali Pazani on

There’s even a name often given to the process of identifying smaller parts of a larger problem: dividing by 2s. In other words, if you have a big problem you need to solve, instead of tackling it head-on, try splitting it up into two separate problems which are smaller in nature and easier to solve. For example, if your landlord is about to evict you for not paying rent on time, recognize that the real issue here is simply money management; as such, instead of whining about how much you hate paperwork and filing, why not focus on finding ways to become better with money?


Problem Solution.

Once we’ve identified what prevents us from reaching our goal, we must now figure out how to fix those issues – this step requires creative thinking: think outside the box! Once again, I look back at my own personal experiences: when I wanted a new car, the real problem was money management; in order to solve that, I had to come up with a list of creative ways to save (or spend less!) money every day.

Here are some examples of creative thinking:

– If you find yourself constantly checking your phone when you’re supposed to be studying/working, try buying a cheap alarm clock.


– If you often find yourself skipping work or school due to mental health challenges, why not make an agreement with your boss/professor about how many days you’ll miss before getting fired/getting expelled? Then stick to it! [EDIT: after receiving numerous requests for more details on this approach, I looked back at my own life and remembered that I actually did something similar when working at my last job… even though not everyone knew about my high-functioning Autism, ADHD and OCPD, of course!].

– If you struggle to make friends in school or work, try finding ways to get involved in clubs/projects/teams/sports – problem solved!


– If you can’t seem to focus on your work because of all the distractions around you, try moving somewhere else with less noise.

– If that doesn’t solve the problem, then taking up meditation might help! I never thought that’d be effective, but hey, whatever works for you.

By using these quick tips, not only are you preventing future problems from popping up again by setting yourself up with healthy habits now, but also improving your mood by discovering new interests and exploring possibilities? Plus, creativity is just plain fun.

Remember: if at first, you don’t succeed, try something else! (Just kidding, or am I…?!)


Problem Resolution.

Finally, the last step is putting these ideas into action and solving this problem once and for all – it’s time to make a decision! For example, when I wanted a new car, my plan was set in stone: I had to save up over $2k worth of money for a deposit in order to afford to buy one — simple as that. Obviously, this step may be very short or take a long time depending on the complexity of your situation; however, either way, I can guarantee you there won’t be any headaches since this last point doesn’t require much thinking at all – if anything, it requires more will power.

There You Have It!

I hope that this article has been helpful to those of you who have been struggling with problems for quite some time. I know from personal experience that it really helps to read other people’s perspectives, as well as find new ways to look at your own life. In fact, there are many other types of problem-solving models – if you’d like me to write an article about one in particular, please let me know using the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and sharing.





2 responses to “The Basic Steps Of Problem-Solving, even with high-functioning Autism, ADHD and OCPD”

  1. […] Having a plan will give you a sense of control during a time that may feel chaotic. Knowing what you need to do and when will help ease your mind. […]


  2. […] exactly does “lived experience” mean when talking about mental health conditions like autism and ADHD? Lived experience is a critical part of many people’s lives, but at the same time, there are […]


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