Academically-Inclined Folks w/ADHD?

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    • #124443

      My brother was diagnosed with severe ADHD, so our family started getting ADDitute magazine. I started reading the articles and seeing myself in a lot of them. I never considered ADHD as a possibility because I’ve always gotten such good grades. I just graduated summa cum laude with honors, but I couldn’t really tell you how. I always feel like I’m faking it. I’d procrastinate on every single assignment. Once I started doing an assignment I enjoyed (and I did actually enjoy many, because I have a sincere nerdy passion for academia) I totally threw myself into it and could focus. And the things I wasn’t interested in I was still generally good enough of a writer to pull it off at the last possible second. But the more responsibilities stacked upon each other like my job, money, leadership roles, the more miserable I became. Now post-grad I feel like I’m going to have an emotional breakdown even thinking about how I’m going to do things like budget and pay a whole bunch of different bills when I can barely remember to pay my credit card bill on time. I definitely have RSD, sensory issues, mood issues, and anxiety, and have since I was a child, which I know can all stem from ADHD. It could possibly be something else with a physical root (I also have a family history of autoimmune issues). I’m not sure, especially since my only real-life example that I know of, my brother, is such a different person than I am so it’s hard to compare. So my actual question is, are there people here who have been diagnosed with ADHD who are “academically-inclined” like I am and who loved school, but still struggle with organization, etc.? Could you share with me your perspective in the hopes it can help me see if ADHD is plausible?

      Thank you!

    • #124444

      Hello alittlebluerose,
      I have ADHD-predominately inattentive. I also have an associates in human services and a bachelors in psychology. I loved going to classes when i was’t in a depression episode or had a flare-up of agoraphobia. I graduated with high honors and mangma cum laude. I had a hard time paying attention in classes around subjects that didn’t interest me. I didn’t really wait too long to do assignments because i had to break down larger assignments because i couldn’t focus on it for too ong to get it done in less than a week, it’s torture to do it in less than a week.

    • #124566


      I wasn’t diagnosed (ADD inattentive type) until I was 35 (17 yrs ago), but I have been a high school teacher for 25 yrs now. I have a Master’s degree plus some course work beyond. While I have struggled organizing around work done all throughout (as well as some social-emotional struggles, too), I have always loved school. The stimulating classroom dynamic was so exciting for me; I loved listening to professors and engaging in classroom dialogue. I just had real difficulty completing assignments or following through on things. Teachers always wondered why I could be so engaged in class (and perform well), but couldn’t seem to get the work done. I was labeled ‘lazy’, ‘spacy’, and only engaged by things that interested me. I was too ashamed to say that I was interested in ALL of it, for fear of exposing myself as the fraud I perceived myself to be.

      Even as a teacher, I love the electricity of my classroom. I can engage in multiple topics within a class period, and students respond to my routine. The problem for me is the tedium of lesson planning and the endless correcting of papers. It takes me longer to get things back, as I lose focus when I have to correct a lot of papers. The key for me is being up front with my students and their parents – and understanding that’s kind of what it means to have this condition (I don’t like to call it a disorder).

      It sounds like you’re really talented, but have some challenges when it comes to getting things done. The key is knowing where the obstacles are, even when it’s connected to something that energizes/excites you and that you love doing. Then, find someone (like a coach or therapist) who can help you strategize around those challenges – that’s what I’ve done and it really helped in all aspects of my life. I hope this helps, and doesn’t seem too meandering. I’ll check back to see if you respond. Good luck…


      • This reply was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by hayes.
    • #124573

      Sounds like you defiantly have ADD if not ADHD. I was only diagnosed after I left the structured system of school and university. As soon as I didn’t have a goal to work towards my life fell apart.
      Procrastinating then hyper focusing on tasks and forgetfulness were my two biggest indicators of ADD. I also suffered from mood swings, anxiety and what I call rage fits (sudden onset anger for not reason). I’ve only been on medication for a month and I have only had one breakdown in that time which used to be a weekly occurrence.

      Never hurts to get these things checked

    • #124809

      Thank you guys for sharing! It seems like there are lots of people who don’t get diagnosed until after going all the way through school. What Madison.Jarvis said about not having a goal to work towards making life falling apart makes a lot of sense. I thought that the problem was simply that I was overwhelmed with too much to do and when I had JUST work to worry about, my mental health would get a LOT better. Nope. It’s definitely nice not to have a bunch of required social events and assignments and clubs and the pressures of comparison, but now I have NO structure except for work. And no one supporting my creativity and passions. And everything from here on out requires self-starting, which I just… can’t do for some reason. I’m going to have to pay so much extra for a flight to visit family in Colorado because it’s in two weeks and I still haven’t booked it because I just keep procrastinating and forgetting! I feel like a fraud who’s going to fail at being an adult. I think it might be good to see someone and get evaluated, but don’t know where to start. Also I don’t think my dad would believe me because I’m the “smart, successful” child who just needs to “be a little more responsible…” and a lot neater. /: I am seeing a regular family counselor this Monday through my job’s EAP, though, for anxiety/depression/anger/all that jazz.

    • #124833

      I’m 22 years old, and I was just diagnosed with ADHD last week. I graduated as valedictorian from my high school, and I maintained a 4.0 GPA as an honors student through my freshman and sophomore years of college until I dropped out because I didn’t find the coursework challenging or engaging enough. I’d never considered that I might have ADHD because, although my mind was perpetually running at a million miles a minute and I suffered from extreme anxiety surrounding everyday tasks, I had excelled academically since I could hyper-focus in class and used my passion for schoolwork as a coping mechanism. It’s odd that in all the years of hearing about ADHD, I’d only ever seen it as a disorder or a disability, but after receiving the diagnosis myself, I’ve been able to recognize how this condition has made my life both challenging and deeply meaningful. It’s been so validating to know that I’m not some bizarre, overly-intense weirdo who just needs to work harder to get my life together (because despite my academic accomplishments, I’ve had an impossible time figuring out how to maintain an enjoyable social life and get everything done without feeling panicked and like I’m constantly teetering on the edge of failing at everything). I can’t describe how comforting it feels to know that I’m not alone in my experience. I’m planning on returning to college to eventually become a teacher, and I’m feeling filled with a new spark of hope knowing that other people experience this condition as well and have figured out ways to lead full and beautiful lives. So, I just wanted to chime in and express some gratitude for all of you for sharing your experiences. It means so much to witness other people expressing the same sentiments I’ve felt and previously thought I was so alone in experiencing.

    • #125157

      Ooh, I could have written your post! Your experience sounds so similar to mine. I did great in school and didn’t know what to do with myself once school was over. I think curiosity and the satisfaction I got from my hyper focus being rewarded with good grades helped me excel but I always procrastinated and stressed about schoolwork. I either also took an inordinate amount of time (even on projects that didn’t matter that much) or else completely blew them off because the stress of perfectionism was too much. While I did well in all subjects, I found history difficult as I could not keep track of any sort of timeline or geographical order in my head. Chemistry also gave me trouble because I was uninterested, had trouble following lab directions, and could not visualize the concept of atoms and such. I was always a good test taker in that I was often able to deduce the correct answer just because of how the question was asked, without previously studying.

      My son (7 years old) is really sharp in school and a total mess otherwise, just like me. He could tell you all about the solar system or dinosaurs or Ancient Egypt, or whatever else has temporarily captured his interest, but he can’t be bothered to tie his shoes, make the bed, or even get to school on time even though it is literally a block away from our back door.

      I think that’s one of the most troubling things about ADHD. So much passion, intelligence, creativity, or other gifts and not enough executive skills to make them as useful as they could be. I guess that’s the beauty of teamwork!

    • #125170

      I was diagnosed around age 40 with ADHD. That really didn’t come as a surprise to me since I often related to many symptoms but I don’t fit the public’s phenotype. I am very successful in life, have a Ph.D. in biochemistry and I am never late for anything. It took me 6 years to finish college after several major changes. Graduate school took a while too since I couldn’t stay focused to hit the finish line until external pressure hit me. In my career, I shifted my specialty a few times too. The diagnosis was very helpful and I realized my struggles were real and I learned there were people and things that could help me in life. Stimulants & a good therapist changed my life for the better in adulthood. A few years after the ADHD diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with OCD (once again not the typical phenotype). This also helped explain a lot but unfortunately my body has been unable to tolerate any pharmacotherpy for OCD but ERP therapy works wonders.
      The bottom line is that you may not fit the phenotype for the diagnosis. That’s ok. Get a good team to work with you; a good psychiatrist and ADHD coach/therapist, surround yourself with people at work who fill gaps in your strengths, stay close to friends who understand you (even if they dont know the diagnosis), don’t hang around with people who do not bring value to your life. Find what motivates you and build your career around that.
      ADHD is a super power and use your powers for good. 😉

    • #137182

      A little background. I’m 48, and I started ADHD treatment in August. Ten milligrams of Adderall XR daily.

      My first couple years of high school were uninspired. I was into drugs, alcohol and parties, and my grades were unspectacular. But then the reality of college loomed, so I knuckled down, got my grades up, participated in a lot of extracurricular activities and was accepted into one of the top U.S. universities. Is it possible to have hyperfocus for two years? Because once I got scared about college I really was able to execute, the way I always do when I’m working on deadline. Except this was a long-term deadline.

      The college I attended is very challenging. I loved it. I realize in retrospect that having a clear set of tasks to work on suited me, as did taking a whole new set of classes every quarter. Good for the ADHD brain. I studied all the time and did well. True, I struggled with procrastination as I worked on assignments. Still, I graduated with honors.

      Then I wandered. After the structure of college I couldn’t figure out what to do with my English degree. I worked for several years at an IT consulting firm and really enjoyed learning about that stuff. But that’s where I first encountered crushing procrastination in a professional context. After a few years I was assigned a big project I really didn’t understand, and rather than admit I was struggling and ask for help, I procrastinated. For a long time. I don’t know why no one noticed. I quit before I faced any consequences.

      That’s when I went back to school. I decided I wanted to be a professor, so I started grad school at my alma mater. I loved being back on campus, back in the structured environment of graduate coursework. But procrastination had become a real problem. I routinely took incompletes and didn’t follow through. One failed project in particular I cringe to recall. Additionally, at this point my alcohol use was getting out of control. Not having finished my master’s thesis, I left that graduate program and started another one. I was in real denial about my ability to finish a thesis while starting a whole new round of coursework. Real denial.

      After a couple of semesters in my new program, I crashed out, mainly due to alcoholism. I got sober not long after and eventually finished the thesis from the earlier program and got that degree. I went on to a career in journalism, where the short deadlines and endless variety suited me — though I still struggled with procrastination. I started learning about adult ADHD over the last year or so, and bells started ringing. Now I am being treated. I’m still sober, 19 years this year.

      In short, the structured nature of academic work suited me, but eventually my procrastination did me in. I always thought I was good at school, so it was humbling and scary when I realized I was in real trouble.

      As part of being diagnosed with ADHD I scored quite high on an IQ test, and in school I think that capacity helped me compensate for my ADHD. And as with you, original poster, my writing skills carried me a long way. But with my academic career as with many things, I wonder what might have been if I had been diagnosed and treated earlier.

    • #137201

      Yes. I just earned a PhD last year, but at one point, I thought it was going to kill me (I’m not being dramatic). The only way I could function was to run on about 3 hours of sleep a night. I was just recently diagnosed at the age of 56 after a lifetime of having ADD issues. Good luck to you! You can do it.

    • #137383

      Like others who’ve replied, I was diagnosed relatively late… in my 50s, over the course of just the past couple months. A lot of what you write, BlueRose, sounds just so familiar, and so yes, I’d say ADD is a plausible diagnosis for you. Like you, for so long, my ADD symptoms had been masked by academic and professional achievement that was high in some ways, though I was floundering in others. Being naturally curious, interested, motivated, and in certain respects talented can be great coping mechanisms and helped me compensate in many ways, but eventually procrastination, avoidance, and disorganization nearly did me in. As responsibilities grew with my level of seniority, they overwhelmed my ability to compensate. While I’ve shined in some respects, I’ve totally tanked in others, and earned myself a reputation as someone who is unreliable and doesn’t deliver… nearly a death sentence in a workplace.

      Thankfully, I have a supportive workplace that’s helping me get things sorted out. I’ve been assigned a compassionate manager with whom I feel comfortable speaking freely about my situation (though this isn’t recommended for everyone) and who is starting to help me develop some coping strategies and organizational systems. I have an excellent therapist, who is extremely well-informed and empathetic about ADHD because she has it herself, and she’s also just a wonderful human being. Visiting family over Xmas, I shared the diagnosis with them, and got supportive responses from all.

      My spouse is relieved I’ve been diagnosed, and definitely finds affirmation in learning what ADD-spouses routinely deal with, but I wouldn’t say our relationship has moved passed the very strained state it reached, and that it’s transformed into being a source of support… that’s my main challenge at the moment (in addition to work), and quite a painful one (even more so than work).

      Here are some thoughts, based on what’s helped me so far:
      – learn as much as you can, but remember that ADD manifests differently for different people. (There are some great podcasts, including ADDitude Magazine’s ADHD Experts. Dr. Ned Hallowell’s work is really helpful… e.g., the classic book Driven to Distraction)

      – get a good therapist, and make sure it’s someone who *really* knows ADD, and works with a lot of folks with ADD, and who you personally click with.

      – meditation is extremely helpful. (Dan Harris and Jeff Warren’s “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” is super practical and down-to-earth. Also check out Lydia Zyloska’s podcast on ADHD Experts)

      I hope there’s something useful in all that.
      Warm wishes and best of luck.

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by sk1927.
    • #137454

      Happy New Year to all my ADD-intellectuals here! Your stories are all so inspiring – May the new year bring you all peace and insight…


    • #137456

      Thanks, you too!

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