Do I Really Have ADD?

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    • #110712

      I’m a happily married man and father in my early 50’s. All my life I’ve been an A student but all I have is an Associate’s Degree which I went back to school to get in my 40’s.
      I present very, very well at interviews but I’ve only had dead-end jobs because I have zero professional ambitions. At work I have to write EVERYTHING down or I’ll forget it.
      Because I present as being so intelligent, my bosses are always baffled by the trouble I have whenever I’m put into a challenging position no matter the field I’m working in.
      I suffer from both depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and have been medicated for them for decades. I’ve tended to chalk up my memory problems to my anxiety. But my psych doc just prescribed methylphenidate for me and maybe he’s onto something.
      I can spend hours reading fiction, tho I sometimes do lose track of who’s doing what and why. I think I used to be better about this.
      I can spend hours and hours playing video games, but sometimes the controls seem too complicated and sometimes I lose track of story points. I think I used to be better about this.
      I am terrible at prioritizing and I get overwhelmed VERY easily. I have also not engaged in ANY long-term career or retirement planning.
      I am very emotional and am brought to tears very easily. I had a bad childhood and very low self-esteem.
      I can watch movies for hours without fidgeting, tho I can sometimes lose track of some plot points. I think I used to be better about this.
      Either I used to be better about keeping track of these things, or I used to better at compensating for them, or I just never noticed them. Or maybe as I get older I’m just losing some tiny, normal amount of memory.
      I can have hours-long conversations with my wife about philosophy, theology, her works challenges, etc. in which I am completely focused, helpful, empathetic, etc.
      In business meetings, I get easily flooded by the sea of information flying around and end up distracted by what people are wearing or I lapse into sexual fantasies.
      I do my best every day, at work and at home, to minimize my inputs and rigidly control my schedule. But I’ve always attributed this behavior to the anxiety I feel so strongly.
      I don’t think I exhibit any of the stereotypical signs of ADD and so I’m not sure whether the diagnosis is correct or not. I’m currently on 20mg a day of methylphenidate, which I take with a double shot of espresso, but I’m not feeling any effects of ANY kind.
      Do I have ADD?

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by Frique67.
      • This topic was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #110790

      So my question is: even though you were an A student, were you a good student?

      I see a lot of parallels in your story to what I experienced in school and trying to launch as an adult.

      I was a terrible, terrible student. I got mostly A’s up until high school, which, along with being a well-behaved girl, masked the ADHD. Feats included acing a test I hadn’t studied for and getting called out by my teacher as a glowing example of a student who studies, and doing an entire month-long book report project the night before it was due and receiving an A. So yeah, I never learned how to be a good student. I was just smart. I managed to get into a very prestigious university and BARELY graduated, and had my diploma held hostage because I’d forgotten to pay the shop bill. Then I struggled to get myself a decent job and learn more skills. I basically sucked at everything having to do with living life.

      Finally got diagnosed a few years ago in my mid-20s, and the meds made a mind blowing difference in my ability to function.

      So yeah, it seems like you do have ADHD. Good news is that it’s very treatable and that your issues with keeping your life together are due to different brain wiring and not a moral failing.

      Some tips on meds: 20mg/day methylphenidate is a pretty low dose. You’ll probably want to titrate up until you feel the effects. I had to go up a few times to hit a therapeutic dose.

      Also, lay off the espresso. Caffeine is a weak garbage-quality stimulant, and stimulants tend to not play nice with other stimulants. Methylphenidate is a much more powerful, high quality stimulant, so you don’t want to let caffeine get in the way. If you need to come off the caffeine more easily, I recommend Yerba mate tea – it’s the only form of caffeine that doesn’t mess me up when I’m on my meds. Anecdotal, but still.

      • #113956

        “…. even though you were an A student, were you a good student?”

        Fluttermind, this question hit me like a brick wall. That was me growing up, and it’s me right now.

    • #110852


      Thanks so much for your response. Your question is a great one that I had honestly never considered before: I excelled as a student, but was I a good student? I mainly just remember that getting straight A’s was pretty easy for me. I always did my homework and turned it in on time, but studying wasn’t really necessary. I don’t think I ever really learned good study habits; I just relied on what came naturally. And I think I can say the same thing about every entry-level job I’ve ever had.

      It’s just kind of crazy – I can’t wrap my head around possibly being diagnosed with ADD when I’m over 50 years old. If true, it just kind of casts everything in a new light. For example, I’m known for being super quick-witted. But instead of a blessing or a talent, that now feels like a symptom or a pathology.

      Here’s a question: if I have ADD, how have I slipped under the radar and not been diagnosed for over 50 years?

      I keep alternating between it making perfect sense and the fear that I’m seeking justification for the poor choices I’ve made in my life.

      Also, I’m stunned that you included that comment about it not being a moral failing; because it feels as though you read my mind. I do feel like a failure. I’m a good husband to my wife and a good dad to my kids, but I otherwise feel like a failure for my lack of ambition and focus.

    • #110854

      Here is one of the main things that makes me think that it may be true that I have some kind of ADD-like thing going on:
      I cannot take driving directions from anyone. I cannot. The first couple of instructions make sense, but then the words just start to pile up in my head like a train wreck. I get confused and then I start to get frustrated and ultimately angry. I know that I’ve been this way for at least the last twenty or so years. But I never thought of it as anything special. Does that sound anything like what folks here with ADD experience?

      I experience something similar at work and have learned to compensate by bringing paper and pen with me literally everywhere and writing everything down.

      My question in this post is: is it possible to have ADD whose symptoms are just kind of mild or maybe masked by other traits or even compensatory mechanisms which get in the way of diagnosis?

    • #110879

      Sorry; I just keep going back and forth on this. I’ve been reading a bunch of articles and watching a bunch of videos on ADD and while I think I definitely exhibit some signs and symptoms, I definitely DON’T have many of them.

      For example: I never miss an appointment. In fact, I am almost always early to my appointments. That’s one of the ways that I manage my anxiety.

      I usually finish assignments before my classmates/coworkers.

      I have no problem whatsoever waiting in lines or in waiting rooms. As I mentioned, I show up early almost everywhere. I just bring a book and I sit and read for anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes as I wait. In fact, I enjoy waiting because it means that I can turn down my anxiety and fears that I am supposed to be somewhere else.

      I have no trouble reading long articles.

      I have no trouble following instructions on things such as assembling Ikea furniture or installing software.

      I can easily run to the store for a couple of things and end up remembering those things. If I need more than a couple of things, I’ll usually make a list and I will return from the store with the things I needed.

      I have no trouble listening to others during normal conversations and waiting my turn to talk.

      And lastly:
      A few years ago, when these symptoms first became problematic for me, my first fear was that I was having some sort of brain issue, early-onset alzheimers, etc. So I went and underwent a day-long battery of neurological testing which included all types of testing. I had no problem spending my whole day answering hours-long batteries of questions or waiting for the doctor between tests. And at the end of all the testing, the doctor reported no memory issues whatsoever, placing me squarely within the normal category of memory functioning as well as at the upper level of intelligence. The only thing the doc noted was elevated levels of anxiety and low self-esteem.

      The operating theory at the time seemed to be that the memory issues may have been resulting from my brain having trouble processing new data due to anxiety. BUT it’s also true that I have trouble doing things such as processing verbal lists and verbal sets of instructions even when I am not under any overt anxiety.

      I’m just torn: it would be nice to be able to tie up my processing problems neatly with the nice neat bow of adult ADD, but I’m not fully convinced yet.

    • #111438

      My first recommendation would be to talk to your doctor and see if you can get tested by a specialist. It can be really difficult to diagnose, especially with comorbid disorders like anxiety.

      I’d also suggest making a list of symptoms you exhibit that could be adhd, and another list of things that you feel might point away from it. It might also help to examine the way you think and interact with others. Are you impulsive? Do you tend to have many racing thoughts? Any experiences with executive dysfunction, fidgeting, etc? It sounds like you can hyperfocus but also tend to get distracted when overwhelmed by information.

      Also, examples of notably not showing adhd symptoms can always be examined more. Is being early a coping mechanism to prevent lateness? Could your success in school be attributed to being interested in the material, or a successful set of habits to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed? You seem to have trouble with multi-step directions when they are spoken, such as directions, but are fine when they’re written down or presented in certain ways, like in your example about IKEA instructions. You also mentioned carrying paper everywhere. It’s possible that your situation is similar to that of my mother, who has mild ADHD but successfully managed her symptoms through various self taught coping mechanisms. Are there other odd habits you’ve formed to help yourself function that others don’t necessarily need? Are there strange behaviors you exhibit that aren’t necessarily symptoms, but could be related to them?

      Another thing I’d recommend is talking to family, friends, etc. about what kind of symptoms you may exhibit or what kinds of symptoms you may have had in the past. It’s hard to remember how you responded to things in the past, and it can also be hard to gauge your own symptoms. If you do have ADHD, it’s also totally possible that you aren’t great with self awareness and thus there may be some things you haven’t picked up on.

      That’s my 2 cents. I’m no expert by any means, but those are the things that spring to mind when I read about your situation.

    • #111672

      Thanks for your input and thoughts, Jade.

      I’m seeing my doc today to talk about meds. Unfortunately, some of the finer points of my diagnosis are going to have to be deprioritized as I found out from my boss yesterday that performance issues have put my job in danger. I had to admit to him that I am having serious problems managing conflicting priorities and rapidly-changing job demands. I had to explicitly admit to my boss that I become unbearably confused and freeze up when presented with conflicting priorities. Who wouldn’t want such a person on their team in this competitive job market?

      I’ve got about four days to radically alter the way that I process information and change. Hooray.

      Thanks so much to Fluttermind and jadetheeternallyconfused for letting me bounce ideas off them and for letting me know that I’m not alone. This is such an emotionally crushing time for me right now.

    • #111833

      Hey man, that really sucks. I feel you – I’ve been there several times (multiple stints of academic probation, performance improvement plan at work, singled out for layoff at a previous job).

      What you can do in the short term is take those meds, eat protein for breakfast, and try to exercise in the morning before work. Doing those things will hopefully give you a mental boost.

      In the long term, look into cognitive behavioral therapy. The pills help you focus, but they cannot undo a lifetime of maladaptive behaviors, anxieties, or self esteem problems. Being on the meds help CBT work (I was put through plenty of therapy in high school, but was too addlebrained for any of it to stick). I was always described as anxious when I was younger, but I don’t have anxiety disorder, I was just constantly anxious because of my mysterious inability to follow through and perform. It gets to you after a while.

      PS: started answering a slew of your earlier questions on my laptop (phone posting is annoying), but didn’t finish. I’ll try to get that response up soon.

    • #113942

      Hi, it sounds like you are a very visual person who follow visual instructions such as written ones and ikea pictures + words.

      My supervisors realised I’m terrible at following verbal instructions (I understand English but I end up doing weird things) and although I’m visual, I can’t really concentrate on what they say if they talk really quickly while showing me something. I need to see something first and process the logic behind it after that. I read online that some visual folks may have difficulty in processing verbal instructions because they need to translate what they heard into pictures.

      What helped:
      1) My supervisor would just show me quietly how to do it 1-3 times and watch me do it on the spot after that. My guitar teacher would usually tell me to watch first and understand before I write what I understand, because if I’m just writing, I probably won’t fully understand and make a lot of mistakes.

      2) Another supervisor told me the task, such as ‘make a crème Anglaise’ , asked me how I would do it and correct me immediately needed.

      3) My supervisor would ask about the most important parts of my task, such as ‘what temperature does the sugar syrup need to boil to and why?’ as well as the consequences of my mistakes if I accidentally burned something while multi tasking.

      4) As my multi-tasking skills are not great, my supervisors gave very specific instructions on how to complete each task quickly or multi task simpler tasks, such as ‘boil this at a high temperature, stir quickly, add A + B and boil for 2-3 minutes’ and ‘put the eggs and sugar in the mixer and grab other ingredients while mixing’.

      5) Summarising what I heard and telling my supervisor what I understand, as well as telling them what kind of instructions are easier to follow. After I finish something, I will think about it and ask for feedback such as I spent 3 hours doing these few things but I suddenly got stuck in the middle because I was doing it this way. How can I change the way I work eg do it in a different sequence or something so that things go smoothly? I find myself making mistakes in this area or this kind of mistakes, what am I missing and how can I prevent it?

      6) Practicing at home how to prioritise and organise my thoughts when I do housework. Eg in 1 hour, I will put the laundry in the machine, mop and clean my room, tidy up some things. Or if I learn a guitar song on youtube, I would set a time limit and think of how I will learn different parts.

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