In media, the symptoms of attention deficit disorders tend to be exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Sufferers seem to be on a constant caffeine high. They are unable to maintain focus on anything for more than a few minutes before getting distracted by a shiny object, hence the trope title.
In reality, ADHD consists of a whole set of symptoms, some good and some bad. For example, one person with ADHD might be very social and loves talking to different people, gets excited about discovering new things, and sometimes loses track of what's happening around them; and another might be reclusive and shy and unable to perform well in a controlled setting, but really opens up among a close friend or when talking about something that interests them.
There are a few simple reasons for this trope. First is rampant misunderstanding about what ADHD actually is (in which case you should go do some research), resulting in the oversimplification and exaggerationnote The misdiagnosis of ADHD/ADD, especially with the rampant Ritalin craze in the 80's, have really shaped public opinion towards this disorder. Bear in mind, though, there are people who suffer with this out there. . Second, it's much funnier to have a character who is just fidgets and spaces out occasionally without having to worry about the realism of adding other dimensions to their personality.
See also Hollywood Psych, The Schizophrenia Conspiracy, and L Is For Dyslexia. Contrast Cloudcuckoolander, who doesn't have a disorder (or at least isn't required to), but acts similarly. This exaggeration is frequently seen in Genki Girls and Keets.
Closely related is What Does This Button Do?, which you can expect to hear often from such individuals. Hilarity may or may not ensue.Not to Be Confused with— oh, wow! Look at all the examples!
All of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 — the entire series, as well as its Oddly Named Sequel — happens because Nozomi gets distracted one morning before school and chases a passing butterfly. In a later episode, she displayed more realistic ADHD symptoms. ADHD was never explicitly mentioned, but much like Cosmo, the intention was clear.
Hinako Ninomiya of Ranma ½ is both hyperactive and easily distracted, especially in child form. This certainly doesn't help in her job as English teacher, the students frequently taking advantage of her distractions. She's more focused as an adult, but if she stays too long this way she starts reverting to her childish behavior.
Happosai is one of the series' most powerful martial artists, and the man responsible for teaching Hinako Ninomiya her draining technique. However, he's such a Dirty Old Man that he can easily be distracted with an exposed clevage or some woman's underwear, something that Ranma has exploited on more than one occasion.
Yui in K-On! has already been accused of this. Interestingly, she also shows signs of Hyperfocus. Specifically, she spends all her focus on learning the guitar ignoring her studies and failing a test. Causing her to exclusively focus on her studies, acing the re-take test, but forgetting most of what she learned on the guitar. Which is really possible, people with ADHD can focus absurdly well when they feel like it, foregoing all other brain processes in the mean time.
The main children in Hanamaru Kindergarten see their attempts to follow Tsuchi during his day off hampered by their kindergartener attention spans. After the trio is distracted by a toy machine, a cat, and a panda-cat poster, Hiiragi decides that perhaps kindergarteners shouldn't be detectives.
The iDOLM@STER. Hibiki stops in the middle of her swimming race with Makoto to catch a fish.
From Hyouka, Episode 12 has Chitanda, who has been tasked with asking the Student Council President to allow the Classic Literature Club to have an additional booth for the Cultural Festival. However, she just can't seem to make it there without being drawn in by all the various activities around her.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac seems to have ADD trouble. On a positive note, it makes it hard for him to commit suicide because he tends to lose focus on it halfway though. It got downplayed as the series got Cerebus Syndrome, though.
Bean the Dynamite from the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, occasionally. In his first appearance, Fiona distracts him by throwing some shiny keys away. Later, Sally does almost exactly the same thing with one of his own bombs.
Ooh, Comic Strips...
While not a commentary on ADHD, there was a strip from The Far Side showing a group of warriors storming a castle, running across the moat bridge while one guy points to the water and exclaims "Ooh, goldfish, everyone, goldfish!" Gary Larson stated that he's fond of that one because "that's me on the bridge."
In a series of early Peanuts strips, Lucy is shown to be a golf prodigy. Charlie Brown notes: "You're going to make a great golfer [...] if only you didn't lose interest so fast..." as she sits down in the sand to make a sand castle.
A Frazzcomic◊ calls this "A.D.H.L.A.S." or "Attention-Defi-Hey-Look-A-Squirrel".
Calvin from Calvin And Hobbes has definite traits of this, though he's most often distracted by his own fantasies and daydreams rather than anything external.
Garfield was grateful for the trope when a dog that was chasing him suddenly decided to chase the mailman instead. The dog then decided to chase a squirrel instead of the mailman.
In The Feel of Feelings after Harry was released from an unjust two-year stint in Azkaban and went to Gringotts to claim his inheritance he spent several minutes playing with the Black and Potter rings before putting them on, while his reaction to all the galleons in the Potter vault was "Ooh, shiny."
Ryuk: ...now what you need to know about the Shinigami eye deal is...
Light: (thinking) ...shoes... I need to get shoes...
Films — Whoah, Animated
All of the dogs in the Pixar film Up seem to have thi—SQUIRREL!!... ... ...s problem. And a new meme is born. Note that this may not be an accurate representation of human ADHD, but it's a much more accurate representation of dog psychology. If there's even a suspicion, a dog will do exactly what it does in the movie, minus speaking — jerk its head away and stare waiting to see its target. If it spots it, it wi— SQUIRREL! ...will typically bark or growl uncontrollably.
Dory from Finding Nemo fits the bill, though her "disorder" is rather attributed to a condition of "short term memory loss". As she can only remember a relatively short span of time clearly, it's easy for her to forget what she was originally doing and thus is likely to switch to a new topic. It runs in her family... she thinks. This is actually a disorder known as Anterograde Memory Dysfunction, or AMD. This is the same mental condition shown in the Christopher Nolan movie Memento.
The "What's This" sequence in The Nightmare Before Christmas is the (probably) unintentional embodiment of this trope. Jack even ends up running into a pole. This, naturally, leads some fans to speculate that Jack has ADD. This is most likely not the case: Jack had been doing the same thing, in the same place, in the same way for an untold number of years. This was the first time he had seen anything like this; he's not distracted by "the shiny" as much as he's trying to take it all in at once while being very (musically) enthusiastic about it.
Films — Oh Look, Live-Action
The recent movie Charlie Bartlett had a scene involving the title character taking too much Ritalin. It was depicted as causing him to run around, singing in his underpants. A more realistic depiction of an overdose would show the character having an anxiety attack while trying to read three books at once.
Matt Stone's character in Baseketball seems to suffer from this — as Ted Denslow (Ernest Borgnine) is explaining his idea for taking the sport pro to Stone and Trey Parker, Stone is distracted by a bird sitting on a branch.
The main character's younger sister in the film Pecker is diagnosed with ADHD, when in reality she just consumes way, way, way too much sugar. After being prescribed Ritalin, she acts quite zombie-ish, culminating with her nearly choking on a pill after she refuses to wash it down with a soda. By the end of the film, she's off both the sugar and the meds.
In the Iron Man films, Tony Stark's eccentric nature makes him prone to zoning out of what he's supposed to be doing.
Stern: Mr Stark? Mr STARK!
Tony: *turns around* Hmm, yes dear?
Used in the Dungeons & Dragons film. When Ridley and Snails are sneaking into the magic school, snails is in a position where he's too scared to jump down a few feet, and Ridley says he'll catch him. Cue Ridley being distracted by an off screen creature grunting and drawing his attention for just the right moment.
Alice: How many kids with A.D.D. does it take to change a light bulb? Bob: How ma— Alice: Hey, wanna go ride bikes?
One comedian talked about his difficulties in school:
"They said I had A-D-H- that's a nice necklace!"
Referenced in a Bill Engvall sketch about parent-teacher conferences. The teacher asks if there's a history of ADD in the family, and Bill says "Yes, we add, subtract, multiply... why are you spelling it?" His wife then says, "M-O-R-O-N. She means attention deficit disorder." And by that point, Bill is looking out the window at birds.
As seen on an A.D.D. T-shirt:
"I don't have A.D.D., I'm just — look, a chicken!"
Literat— Ooh, Books
Greebo from Discworld tends to keep his cat personality even when human, which leads to a somewhat ADD-esque behaviour pattern.
In The League Of Peoples Verse, the entire Cashling species suffer from this: always bored, easily distracted, and unable to focus their attention on anything for very long.
Helen Burns from Jane Eyre probably had inattentive type ADD. The list of personal flaws Helen confesses to Jane all match the diagnostic criteria: "I am... slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things in order; I am careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn my lessons; I have no method; and sometimes I say... I cannot bear to be subjected to systematic arrangements." She goes on to describe how, although she does very well in classes that catch her interest, her thoughts "continually rove away" during uninteresting lessons.
In the somewhat farcical Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Darksaber this trope becomes a crucial "plot point", as the Hutts' titular superweapon is let down by the Tauril workers who constructed it, who as a race seem to have this trope as their Hat.
In The Time Machine, the Time Traveller's description of the demeanor of the Eloi matches the DSM's criteria for inattentive ADHD.
A queer thing I soon discovered about my little hosts, and that was their lack of interest. They would come to me with eager cries of astonishment, like children, but like children they would soon stop examining me and wander away after some other toy.
Live-Action... Yaaay, TV!!
Bonanza: One of the early episodes, "The Ape," dealt with a lonely man who had a form of autism, but had dreams of becoming a farmer and a land owner. Two things stood in his way: His short temper, which he could neither understand nor control (and when he became angry, he became extremely violent). The other fits this trope: His fascination with a beautiful saloon girl named Shari, a seductress who soon realizes she can manipulate Arnie into buying her expensive things such as drinks and jewelry. Hoss - knowing Shari's true character as a mean, manipulative person — spends much of the episode trying to focus Arnie's attention away from Shari and onto working on his farm, but everytime Hoss leaves him alone, Arnie goes to the saloon to be with Shari and try (in vain) to woo her into his life; Shari plays along, but along with some of the other regulars at the bar, snicker at him and make cruel jokes about him. Eventually, Arnie realizes that Shari thinks nothing more of him than the ape with a pea-sized brain, and he kills her. Arnie is eventually hunted down and shot by a posse.
In the '80s, Saturday Night Live had a series of "Mr. Short-Term Memory" skits starring Tom Hanks.
A gag from a Taxi episode: Louie is sued by an old lady for hitting her with his cab. Learning that she's a notorious scam artist, he welcomes taking her on in court. Just before the civil hearing, Reverend Jim discovers that this time Louie ironically did injure her for real, and tries to warn Louie:
Louie: Ignatowski, get the hell outta here. Jim: Boss, I think there's something you ought to know. Louie: The only thing I wanna know is how fast you can get out of my sight. Jim: Boss, this is really, really important, and you know how short my memory is, so let me tell you before I forget. Louie: Okay, what is it? Jim: What's what?
"This is the way we lock the door, lock the door, lock the door. This is the way we lock the door — Oh, what a pretty bell."
TracyJordan of 30 Rock almost refers to this trope by name; his exact words were "... I have Attention Deficit Disor— Jack your shoes are shiny."
How I Met Your Mother: Barney, in the episode "Robin 101", says he has "AD... something. Can we have class outside?" It's played up in this episode for the joke, but actually a lot of his behaviour over the series is consistent with somebody who has ADHD: a tendency to space out when people are talking to him; an endless amount of energy and enthusiasm; being very impulsive; constantly talking and saying what's on his mind even if it isn't appropriate; the tendency to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions; and the ability to "hyper-focus", that is, hone in and concentrate on one thing, blocking everything else out (like spending three days searching for Robin's video in "Sandcastles in the Sand"; his fixation on Robin and Ted's story in "Something Blue"). He also has a high intelligence level; he can speak multiple languages, plot out elaborate schemes, and he once memorized the exact price of every item when he went on "The Price is Right". Wow, long entry. Can we have class outside?!
Cat on Victorious is this to a T. Especially if you have candy to help distract her with.
Tim: Tyres has got a really short attention span; I remember once we were — oh look, wrestling!
Francis is shown developing a serious case of ADD in an early episode of Malcolm in the Middle: even after his roommate has stripped the room of every possible form of entertainment, Francis still can't focus on his homework, to the point that upon seeing a cockroach on his desk, he prefers to build a labyrinth for it to play with.
Shawn Spencer on Psych seems to have adult ADD. In order to deal with this in childhood, his father taught him how to combine his short, quick observations with his eidetic memory. Instead of being completely unfocused, Shawn can now be incredibly focused but only in short flashes.
Doctor Who. The Doctor, especially Four ("Jelly baby?"), Eight ("These shoes!"), Ten ("New teeth!") and Eleven ("Big flashy lighty thing! That just has me written all over it. Not actually. Give me time... and a crayon."). Sure, he can focus when it's needed, like when the universe itself is threatened, but most of the time he has the attention span of a squirrel.
The Doctor (at least the Eleventh) does seem to honestly have some sort of ADHD, given the fact that it manifests in other ways than simply inattention (such as difficulty engaging in social interactions, impatience, overlooking things that seem obvious to others, and becoming bored easily, but maintaining excellent focus when he knows what he's doing or he's emotionally invested in something). Given his flamboyant personality, some of the "ADD... Ooh, Shiny" reactions could be intentional exaggerations.
The Colbert Report. On more than one occasion, Stephen has begun to speak about something serious, only to be distracted by a feathery cat toy hanging from the ceiling, which he bats and swings at like a kitten. While still very much in character, it's probably meant as an allusion to how real news programs will cut short or tangent off more serious or important stories with more fluff/opinionated pieces that don't require an unbiased view.
Growing Pains: It has often been speculated that one reason behind Mike's (Kirk Cameron) poor academic performance is ADD. Episodes have seen him buy a "magic rock" (from a school scam artist) to help him with an extemporaneous essay, stay home from school to catch up on Gilligan's Island and doesn't take seriously an IQ test. His possible problems are particularly spelled out in the late 1987 episode "Nasty Habits," where Mike's bad habits, constant distraction and inability to concentrate for a few minutes have put him in danger of possibly not graduating from high school on time. Here, he struggles to start an English essay that, after putting it off, is due the next day. At one point, he envisions dancing with pretty girl he met at the pizza parlor (with the Tiffany song "Could've Been" used to frame the scene) ... before he finally is able to clear his mind and write a coherent paper.
Drake from Drake & Josh. He gets distracted so easily. One time Josh was pouring his heart out to Drake who was listening, only to walk away when a beautiful girl walked by. Also when Josh was taken away to be submerged in a chemical bath, Drake looks like he's about to do something, only to see someone left mashed potatoes on the floor.
Subverted on Teen Wolf. Stiles does have ADHD, but it manifests more in a somewhat wacky body language, impulsive decisions and the tendency to ramble.
It's stated by one of his teachers that he has trouble focusing in class, but you could make a case for him hyper-focusing on other things. Also he doesn't ramble that much. More of a zingy one-liner dude.
In the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Luminous Fish Effect," Sheldon is in the middle of proving to Penny why she needs to slow down driving to the supermarket, citing her car's weight & speed, combined with their collective weight when...oh, putt putt golf!
Sometimes invoked on Top Gear to interrupt an argument during the News segment. None of the presenters will stop talking on whatever topic is going on, when Jeremy Clarkson will point at a member of the audience and declare "JESUS IS HERE!"
Many viewers feel that they may have introduced Elmo to set up a commentary on ADD or ADHD. It never happened, but he sure is easily... ooh, shiny! Or, if you want a simpler explanation... He's supposed to be THREE YEARS OLD.
The Batwinged Bimbo From Hell class in Macho Women With Guns (both being Exactly What It Says on the Tin, by the way) has access to the skill "distort reality"; by shifting their attention completely to something like their nail polish, a run in their stockings, or a shiny object, they can avert any attack by not paying any attention to it at all. If the skill roll succeeds, the attack instead targets another player.
There is a running joke among players that creatures with the Stupidity rule (which means there is a chance the unit will do nothing other than wander forward a few inches for a turn) suffer from this, in particular Dark Elf Cold Ones (dinosaur horse thingies) thinking "kill kill kill kill, ooooh shiny".
This is actually accurate in the case of Sigvald the Magnificent, who at random times during the battle will actually become so distracted by how awesome and shiny his armour is that he will stop fighting and demand his henchmen to polish it and tell him how wonderful he is.
Corax in Werewolf The Apocalypse have this as one of their racial flaws. There other flaw being allergic to gold, this doesn't usually work out to well for them.
Goblins of Pathfinder have this, to the point where nothing can hold their attention for more than a few seconds. This ADOS even shows up in the middle of combat, when a goblin may waste a turn to do something completely stupid.
The 1972 live-action adaptation of 1776 had this little bit, when John Adams was addressing Senator Chase, who was enjoying his lunch? dinner? on the matter of American independence:
: Adams: America awaits on your decision, Chase. The whole world' waits on your decision. (Beat, points towards Chase's plate) What's that, kidney? (Chase angrily slaps Adams' finger away from his food)''
Omg, Are Those Video Games??
Sonic the Hedgehog arguably has issues with staying still for extended periods of time, though whether he fits this trope depends entirely on which continuity you're watching/playing/reading, and occasionally, which episode of which continuity. Sonic spends a lot of the time he isn't running around in Sonic X lying on rooftops and snoozing, yet goes utterly insane when cooped up on a ship for ten days and nights. This may be because he's somewhat aquaphobic and can't swim. This is sometimes chalked up to his speedster nature, a fairly common trope (see: Impulse).
In EarthBound, an otherwise indestructible Master Belch can be defeated if you use Fly Honey to distract him; he'll waste turns guzzling that mess down, leaving himself vulnerable to attack.
Melissa from Knights in the Nightmare is often characterized as having a mild case of ADHD. Unlike many other examples, she actually displays hyperfocus — Ancardia is all she can really be bothered to concentrate on, and she's otherwise fairly easily distracted. The more commonly attributed characteristics of the disorder get Flanderized by the fandom.
Ever Quest II gives us the collection quest items, often nicknamed "shinies" by the players for two reasons. The first is that, well, they glow — they're small, glowing points on the ground with a question mark on top. The second is that you can expect many people to instantly take a leave of their senses and drop whatever it is they were doing (such as traveling, trying to avoid dangerous mobs, healing their group or trying NOT to aggro everything in sight) in order to dig them up. Even more so in groups, where there's a competitive aspect to it — first person to activate the shiny gets it, and the rare ones sell for a mint. A shiny popping up in the middle of a difficult fight can quite easily spell "wipe".
The basis for a joke in Dragon Age: Origins where the game designers fall victim to this trope. It unfolds as follows in the description of a Glamour Charm:
This minor magical charm captures the viewer's attention and distra... ooo, pretty...
Kingdom Of Loathing has an Attention Deficit Demon as a potential familiar (though as a rare one by now, since it was available for a limited time).
[Your Demon] bounces around, helping you pick stuff up. "Did you know that chili peppers aren't actually peppers? And a coconut isn't a nut, either! Hey, remember that one monster you fought? He was crazy. Do you like music?"
Dwarves in Dwarf Fortress, all too often. It isn't uncommon for a dwarf to Urist McTroper cancels post: Pick Up Equipment. Dwarves will cancel a task to pull a lever to activate a critical series or traps or other defensive mechanisms to go get a drink or take a nap. Military dwarves will, on some occasions, literally stop fighting an invading horde of monsters because they're sleepy or hungry.
An entire invading army can be distracted by one of your pet cats, chasing after it instead of laying siege to your fortress.
"My time in the Collective honed me. I am more focused on ... hey, that light is blinking!"
The intro sequence of A Princess' Tale stated that this was how the main character earned her nickname, "Princess Ooh, Look, a Kitty."
Guild Wars 2 gives us the Skritt, who have a unique form of Hive Mind. They all have individual intelligence, but the more Skritt are around each other at a time, the smarter they get. Form up a whole Warren (underground city) and they rather effortlessly start repurposing snatched Asura and Charr tech into their own proto-industrial revolution. When there's only one or two around, though, they have the minds of the rodents they evolved from and are basically this trope made flesh.
Web Anima-! Yay, Webtoons!!!
Chicken of Chicken And Moose has this, seemingly paired with hallucinations. He gets distracted by a "rainbow," which is actually an oil slick.
Jafar winds up distracted by Frollo's fishing line during a climactic battle in The Frollo Show, much like Ganondorf from Twilight Princess above.
Ultra Fast Pony uses this as an occasional gag, rather than a consistent trait of any one character.
In the opening episode, Twilight Sparkle sets off to save the world from an impending apocalypse. One run-in with Rainbow Dash later, she completely forgets about the apocalypse and makes it her goal to destroy Rainbow Dash instead.
In "Copywrong", Rarity devises a Zany Scheme to wreck Fluttershy's modeling career, but the scheme immediately derails and ends with punching Rainbow Dash rather than hurting Fluttershy in any way.
Sweet, Web Comics
In many furry comics, characters that are raccoons or ferrets tend to be easily distracted, especially by shiny objects.
Daisy, on the cover of the third Housepets! book, looking at King's swinging collar instead of King himself. Although, to be fair, its about all you'd expect from a pup who's only words (so far) have been "Hi! I'm Daisy!".
Fluffy from Commander Kitty is a small pink female cat. She likes to push shiny red buttons, and rarely if ever knows what's happening around her. She has a 50% chance of either causing complete catastrophe or miraculously saving the day.
Kiki from Sluggy Freelance embodies this trope. But as she's a ferret experimented on by a Mad Scientist (nobody knows whether the mad scientist part has anything to do with it, but being a ferret sure does) who can literally go ballistic after a pixie stick, it's probably not surprising. In one of the most extreme cases ever, Bun-bun once told all his recent personal secrets he wouldn't want anyone to know to her (while wearing earplugs to avoid hear her chattering in response), because he needed someone to talk to and he knew he could instantly erase all that from her memory by showing her some shiny car keys.
Pixies in the webcomic Chasing the Sunset have the attention span of a moth, probably as a counter for their omnipotence. A pixie can do anything she believes she can, but it vanishes as soon as her attention goes elsewhere. Naturally, all pixies love "shinies".
Larxene from Ansem Retort fits this trope, big time. The fact that she's also addicted to crack, PCP, crystal meth, and nearly every other illegal drug in existence makes it worse.
Scarlet, the squirrel from the webcomic Sequential Art is an example of this◊. Part of what affects her is that, she used to be hooked up to a giant supercomputer (along with three others) where their savant-like intelligence was used to crunch numbers. Coming from a world where things really are instantaneous, the real world would come off as a big distraction to her. Also might have something to do with the accident that ended up getting her out of the corporation where she was being kept involved lots of really intense heat. Which damages computer chips.
The MS Paint Adventures series Problem Sleuth treats this as a useful skill for one character: Pickle Inspector dodges attacks by getting distracted by something else and randomly stepping out of harm's way.
"Look at this! Another Cherished Idol profaned! Such sacrilege has become commonplace with the recent glut of the Underlings. It would bring a tear to my eye if I were not so clearly fit to be tied with these hyperactive mannerisms and severe attention deficit oh my god look a bug."
Clubs Deuce from the Midnight Crew cannot possibly hope to remember more than one thing at a time, and gets easily distracted by clocks.
V's familiar, Blackwing, seems to be easily distracted by shiny objects, whether it's a bauble or a giant swirly rip in space and time (although to be fair to Blackwing, a giant swirly rip in space and time with what would seem to have a planet on the other side isn't something you exactly need ADHD or ADD to be distracted by).
To Elan, at least, dinosaurs are more important than any sort of ethical concerns.
Archipelago: Blitz. To give you an idea, in the second book a man lost in the woods asks him for help. Blitz rather focuses on a shiny bauble he is wearing and asks to show it to his friend. Given permission, he grabs the shiny and gleefully runs back home, unaware that he is dragging the man behind him.
Sabrina "Ultragirl" Mancini in Rival Angels isn't usually prone to this, but it happens to her once at a very inconvenient time. Her best friend, Sun Wong, almost falls off the edge of the stage (twenty foot drop), but Sabrina saves her by grabbing the waistband of her shorts at the last second. Sabrina then uses her other hand to grab the comic's Big Bad (who pushed Sun toward the edge in the first place) to prevent herself from being dragged over the edge along with Sun. And just when it looks like all three of them are going to fall, one of the Big Bad's two Dragons grabs her and pulls. Which is when this exchange happens:
Sun: Don't let go, Sabrina! Sabrina: [looking down] OH MY GOD, SUN! When did you start wearing a thong?
Rolan of Ears for Elveshas this problem when Tanna's showing him around the Taurecuiva Festival. Well, surely he has a right to be distracted when it's all so new to him, what with being a different culture and such...
In one Arthur, King of Time and Space strip Fasha asks Guenevere what the documentary about ADHD she was watching was like. Guenevere replies that she doesn't know, she switched channels to watch cartoons.
Fidget, a Kid Herospeedster who attends the Hyperion Academy in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe suffers from this problem. In his case, its usually over-exaggerated in the storylines, though the writers did do one thing right: when his attention isn't flitting from place to place like a butteryfly in a field of posies, it's hyper-focused like a laser beam to the exclusion of everything around him
Crops up very frequently in Survival of the Fittest. Some portrayals of ADHD (such as Lance Barrett) are very low-key and realistic. Others however, like with Owen Fontaine, are of the plain old bouncing off the walls variety.
Whateley Universe example: Joanne Gunnarson, codename Murphy, but her problem is written fairly accurately. Has ADHD, and has just manifested as a mutant so her meds don't work right. Spends all her time walking around drinking coffee. When she gets distracted or upset, her power kicks in, which is bad. She's a Reality Warper, and reality usually warps so that she gets the short end of the stick.
NigaHiga on YouTube claims to have ADHD and has vlog segments of what he's like when he's "Off the Pill"
The Nostalgia Critic during FernGully 2: "Is this what you humans call ADD? I feel like I can't focus on anythin—oooh, a housefly." (moves off after it) He also displays this in other reviews, especially when he wanders off during a boring film.
Similarly, The Nostalgia Chick gets constantly distracted by puppies, cute jewelery or her team's antics.
Speaking of her team, Dr. Tease gets distracted by gerbils when she's trying to warn the Chick that Dark Nella is closer than she thinks.
YouTube personality Tobuscus is this trope personified in his "Lazy Vlog" series, which are often more of a Motor Mouth-fueled stream of consciousness than anything planned. Some recurring distractions approach the level of Catch Phrases, such as "Ooh, an airplane!" or "Hot hot hot!" when seeing an attractive female. He also has a Let's Play channel (called TobyGames), in which he can be counted on to constantly lose track of what he's supposed to be doing, leading to amusing (if occasionally frustrating) misadventures.
Atlus developer: ... Wait, I'm confused. What was I fixing again? Oh, look! A puppy!
Noka: Found has the brilliant idea of smashing the furniture down and refashioning all of it into a fort-igloo hybrid. Albeit, he did almost none of the work and spent most of the time searching for his bacon-print underwear to fly as the fort's flag, he still managed to convince Abel and Solo to help him.
Found: ...Convince? Az: Yes! Convince! How do you sell someone the angle of "Wanna destroy the furniture in this room and turn it into a fort? We can stick my underwear on top and call it the flag!" — actually that's pretty convincing in itself...
Stuttering Craig: Seeing something pretty will never be more important than gameplAY- what is that over there. *pauses* That looks really- I'll be right back. Hold on. That looks really cool. *Runs off* IT'S SO SHINY!
Dan Carlin's hardcore history says that the Romans describe Germanic invaders in more or less this way. Tall, strong, unbelievably brave, skillful with weapons, a monstrous horde descending on Rome! Then they get distracted by Spain for a few years.
Bart, after pulling a few too many pranks in one day, was diagnosed with ADD and put on "Focusyn". The episode was more focused on the side-effects of the drug, which wound up making him insane and paranoid. Although...he turned out to be right about major league baseball spying on people with satellites. In fact, his reaction to the medication is Truth in Television. ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall have increased anxiety as one of the nastier side effects. Psychiatrists sometimes prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds with the stimulants to balance that out and symptoms of depression are official contraindications against usage of the drugs.
There's another one, in which he's committed to writing a school essay:
Bart: Gotta study, gotta study, gotta look at that bird...
Even in the early episodes before the characters became very exaggerated Bart showed signs of having concentration issues. In "Bart Gets an F", a season 2 episode, he promises to do better on the next history test, as the teachers were saying he might have to repeat his grade, and when he really sits down at his desk (which he put in the basement so he would not get distracted by the fun snow day everyone else was having), he finds cannot remember anything and cannot concentrate. Even after studying hard he still fails the test, and only scrapes a D by remembering a bit of information that was historical and a fact but was not really relevant.
Homer also shows signs of this one. Example is this exchange between him and a recruiter for a cult:
Homer: Wait, I'm confused. So the cops knew that internal affairs were setting them up? Recruiter: What are you talking about? There was nothing like that in the movie... Homer: I know, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie, I have a very short attention span... look a bird! (runs outside and chases it)
Upon discovering a man identical to himself lying knocked out in front of Moe's:
Homer: (Gasp) This man is my exact double! (GASP) That dog has a puffy tail! Here puff, here puff! (chases dog)
When Homer attended college, he left the classroom to chase a dog, running merrily around a tree.
When Marge wrote a novel and Homer promised to read it:
Homer: No, gotta read Marges' book. Can't get distracted. Distracted, that's a funny word. Does anyone ever get 'tracted'? I'm gonna call the suicide hotline and ask them.
Timmy: Well, I'm Timmy Turner. I'm ten years old and I have a short attention span. Also... (pauses for a moment, then walks off)
Another Timmy one: When Cosmo and Wanda couldn't grant him a cheese and ham omelet because it was 10:31 AM and it was against Da Rules to grant breakfast wishes after 10:30 AM, Timmy said nothing would take his mind off it until... then he noticed a garage sale.
Tom Green: Hi, I'm Ottawa's Tom Green. I live in Hollywood, thank you. So some of you may have been mean to a kid with ADD. That's not cool. Coffee? Anyone for — coffee anyone? All right, sorry. I like cotton candy. Check out my muscle. Potato chips. It's a Ferris wheel. So I guess what I'm trying to say is — plastic bag! Plastic bag! Plastic bag! Plastic bag! Plastic bag! Plastic bag!
Kim Possible's boyfriend is the poster child of this trope. Lampshaded, of all places, in the episode where Ron is tested whether or not he is actually the hero.
Bobby from King of the Hill is once put on drugs for what appeared to be ADHD. The drug's actions on his body are rather realistic, causing him to count the ridges on checkers rather than playing the game, to everyone's surprise.
Peter is no different either in later seasons. Chris even lampshaded one episode after Peter's stint as a pirate in which he quickly loses interest after losing his parrot and found a piano. Most of Peter's antics is due to his "It Amused Me" attitude. If something is not amusing him, he will quickly find something else that will, which makes his focus waver all over. Peter also has a nasty habit going completely off topic when he speaks to someone without missing a beat at all. Brian lampshades this when he asks Peter if he is asking for his help or if he is going to ask another pointless question again.
One episode has Peter display an extreme case of being easily distracted. When Peter screws up the timeline in the past by going with Cleavland to a club instead of going out with Lois, it causes him to be married to another woman in the present instead of Lois. Death gives Peter another chance to fix his screw ups, but Peter winds up screwing up several times (pissing off Lois and then going to the club with Cleveland every time Death gives Peter another shot). Death finally gets pissed off at Peter and tells him he is on his own. Of course, Peter manages to fix everything in the last minute.
James Woods, whose animated likeness served as a murderous antagonist for the Griffin family, would often contemplate his revenge against the Griffin family before being distracted by a trail of Reeses Pieces ("Ooh, a piece of candy!" "Ooh, a piece of candy!" "Ooh, a piece of candy!" ... ), before falling victim to a trap box, where he would be restrained until his ultimate arrest — or as the show made it out, to await examination by scientists.
The Pinkie Pie clones created in the episode "Too Many Pinkie Pies" are this cranked Up to Eleven. So much so that the ultimate test to determine the real Pinkie is A Good, Old-Fashioned Paint Watching, which only the real Pinkie is determined enough to pass.
The animals on My Gym Partners A Monkey go into a hypnotic trance if presented with a shiny object. For that reason, they're banned from school grounds. Jake uses a faceted glass doorknob from Adam's house to put the entire school under his power. They spend the whole day talking about "monkey butt". Pretty pretty, shiny shiny...
Violet from Word Girl is easily distracted by anything remotely cute or pretty. Puppies, butterflies, paintings, cats....
The Tick, of course. In a Journey to the Center of the Mind episode, his own brain explains "I'm easily distracted by shiny objects." Later on, Tick sees something shiny in the distance and runs off to check it out.
Daffy Duck from The Looney Tunes Show has a severe case of this. One such example is when he realizes that Bugs' new dog is a dangerous Tasmanian devil... then he gets distracted by an ad for guitar lessons. Later he tries to warn him again, but stops to buy a hooded sweatshirt.
Metalocalypse: The members of Dethklok are constantly fiddling with items such as laser pointers and cell phones, even while Ofdensen is trying to convey important matters to them
Ofdensen: You have a very short attention span! Nathan: No, we're not!
In episode 11 of Wild Kratts Martin is in a bass suit and sees a fish lure, causing him to say "Shiny... Flashy... YUMMY!" as he then darts at the lure, trying to eat it.
Jake from Adventure Time. It's especially evident in an episode where Finn has gone missing, and Jake, though genuinely worried about him and determined to track him down, keeps getting distracted by random fun things going on along the way.
Jake: Take my sandwich, BMO! I'm gonna go find Fi—(gasp) A dancing bug!
Soos and Mabel from Gravity Falls veer into this at times. For example, Soos was distracted by a laser pointer.
Soos: I am so glad I turned my head. That dot did not disappoint.
Speaking of Mabel:
Mabel: Don't worry, brother. Whatever happens I'll be right here, supporting every step of the OH MY GOSH, A PIG!!!
Webwolf Darkwing Duck's ancestor from the episode "Inherit The Whimp" is a barbarian warrior who is easily distracted by round things, every time he spots one he stops what he's doing and says "Ooh a roundy, roundy, roundski!" and goes off to play with it.
Miles Luna from Rooster Teeth has been diagnosed with this in recent years. Particularly notable when he's on caffeine.
Benedict Cumberbatch has hinted about having ADHD in a few interviews and uses meditation to help him concentrate. The symptoms are really apparent in red carpet interviews where he frequently gets distracted by other people coming by.
Doug Walker admitted it in one of As Himself videos. It usually manifests into getting sidetracked from what he's talking about with new ideas, and then apologizing for it.