How does ADD change as you get older?

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    • #49167

      My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was a Sophomore in college, after being put on Academic probation at a First Tier University. A little bit of background and since this is my first time posting here, it’s a bit long.

      My son was a high achieving, modestly great student all throughout primary and secondary schools. He played a competitive sport, which helped him get into numerous top schools. His SAT/ACT scores were very high, his IQ is well above average, very well behaved and highly respected, very well liked student/friend/athlete.

      He was put on a waiting list for his No. 1 (Div 1) school and got accepted with urging of the team coach for his sport. We were all so elated and over the moon. He was so happy and very excited to start his life away from home.

      As a Freshman, he was chosen (because he played exceptionally well) to travel with the team. He played very well and his grades were mediocre but being that the school is very competitive, we were just happy he was happy and not failing. But he did have to drop a class after the Add/Drop period and ended up getting a “W”, which was no big deal, at the time.

      Sophomore year came and his whole world started to crumble. He took on way more than he could chew and had to drop another class. And from that point on, his academic career has been like a see saw. Of course, he had to quit sports, which made him even more depressed. He came home and at the advice of his CAPS counselor, he went for a test and was diagnosed with ADHD. We were so shocked. I’m not sure if he believes he has ADD even now.

      He’s still not finished with his Undergrad, 7 years after he started. He’s been back and forth to his school and this year, he finally said, he was done with that school. He said, the environment is not for him. He wants to transfer to another school and ‘finally’ do what he wants to do, which is Game Design and Production. I feared this path as I belived he is addicted to video gaming. His concentration was Comp Sci at the other school and now he wants to officially go into Game Design and not programming as he doesn’t fit in and doesn’t understand Comp Sci programming…….after 7 years at this!!! Mind you, Comp Sci was HIS choice out of process of elimination…. Sigh.

      But aside from academics, I’ve seen a totally different side of him since he became a college student. His inattentiveness seems to be worse. His memory seems to be worse. His lack of ‘respect’, meaning, not helping out, returning people’s phone calls, volunteering to do things for his grandparents who live nearby…etc. He just doesn’t initiate to do anything….I know these aspects are part of ADD but he wasn’t this ‘bad’ when he was younger. Otherwise, I would have noticed, something was ‘off’ about him. He was never like this.

      I’m really trying to be there for him and support him. God knows, we paid enough tuition for all those semesters that he left in the middle. God knows we’ve paid for all those things he lost. God knows we paid enough on therapy and coaching which never seem to help or work on him. I don’t think he’s doing or not doing intentionally. He just doesn’t seem to know what needs to be done or when or if.

      I need to understand this so I don’t make him hate being at home or us.

    • #49199

      I was very much like your son and although I can’t tell you specifically what has changed I can share my experience and what has helped me with my newfound inattentive diagnosis as an adult. First off I was diagnosed late as well around the age of 17 because my symptoms escalated as I got overwhelmed with my new competitive high school. As I’ve read in an article on here, that is common. Heavier workload can mean the symptoms arise more therefore may “suddenly” need treatment. I have been successful off medication, however it called for a disciplined routine with healthy diet and exercise (and little to no distractions.) Cognitive therapy was a great help especially dealing with stress at my competitive school. The biggest relief was pairing all the above with a low dose of medication. I also had an enormous amount of symptom relief when I introduced meditation/yoga/Eckhart Tolle books in my life. Having those moments where I calm my thoughts, clear my head, and just practice being still is still to this day life changing. It just levels me out and kind of snaps me out of any situation or negative habit. I apologize for the long response, however the point I’m basically trying to make is that I know exactly what it’s like to be in your sons shoes and even seen myself being not so respectful/lazy/uninterested etc but not really know why or how to get out of it. You are a stupendous parent for doing all that you do for him and he is blessed to have you care so much for him. I highly recommend continuing counseling and perhaps mention to the therapist to discuss possible add treatment with medication as his symptoms are interfering with his day to day life. It was all scary and weird when I was first told all of this but luckily I trusted my therapist and tried out medication and doing more research on this stuff. Everything will be okay just know you might need to nudge at treatment because being in the grips of this stuff it isn’t easy to make that first step. Good luck xx

      • #50261

        Thank you very much for sharing your experience.
        I can’t imagine living in this chaotic world with a special “brain.” I wish we lived in slower and calmer lives so he could function better at his own pace but that, too, can be problematic because of his “time-blindness.” His younger life – before college – was definitely more structured so he, we, didn’t recognize his needs. But on a profound level, I instinctively knew he needed a different environment in elementary school but didn’t know that the reason was because of ADD. His teachers thought he was “too smart” and was always bored, which made him do this own thing, like reading a book under the desk in boring classes. I felt he needed a smaller classroom where he could focus better so he went from a class size of 27 at a public school to a private school with 12 students with teachers who paid attention to ALL students and not just those who needed help. He did better academically at the smaller private school and enjoyed playing sports but we all missed the symptoms because he excelled academically and playing sports. So the formal diagnosis didn’t happen until he was ‘free to roam’ but couldn’t manage in college.

        He was working with an ADD coach in college but that didn’t help him. They just concentrated on how to schedule things for school but not for general daily living things and didn’t help in managing his time or prioritizing. He went to several Psychologists but mainly to get clearance to return to school (he took medical leaves each time he left so he needed a therapist’s clearance to return to school.) Finally, he went to a Psychiatrist to get on meds and he said he tried Concerta this past semester but it made him sick. He threw them out because of the side effects. Oy. Had he told me about the side effects, I would have told him to go back to get a different prescription or a different dose. Again, not analyzing properly to get to the result he needed. Seems to be one of his worst symptoms.

        I would like to take him back to a Psychologist, as a family, and go with him. He has been lying about things and I don’t trust that he’s getting counseling for ADD but just general anxiety. It might not matter as long as he’s getting counseling but I really think he needs to get specific help for ADD, otherwise, he won’t understand why he’s feeling this way or why he’s failing at certain things in life or why he feels he has to lie, etc…which are all related to ADD. Little lies lead to big lies and he needs to be honest to himself and to others. When I confront him about his lying, he knows all the reasons why he shouldn’t but he does it anyway and doesn’t think deeply about the consequences.

        Sorry about the long reply but I want to make sure I’m on the right track and needs to understand more about ADD. And to help him understand.

    • #49201
      Penny Williams

      With adulthood comes a lot more demand on the executive functions that are often deficient in individuals with ADHD. That can explain why things seem to be getting worse — he’s not changing as much as the life demands and independence are increasing.

      What Does Executive Function Disorder Look Like in Adults?

      The good news is that he knows what he wants to do and he wants to take the steps to reach his goal. You really have to support him in this to keep your relationship and trust intact.

      The ADHD is motivated by interest and urgency, not importance. So, while he thought Comp Sci Programming was an appropriate field of study for him, it wasn’t interesting and engaging enough to help him succeed, or even finish. His intense interest in gaming will help him do better in school, preparing for that career.

      Secrets of Your ADHD Brain

      The gaming field is actually growing rapidly. My daughter starts college this fall (she has anxiety and is not diagnosed with ADHD, although we highly suspect it), and is majoring in animation and interactive design for the sole goal of working in the gaming industry, on the art side of things. At first, we told her she needed to major in programming and minor in the art aspect to broaden her horizons. Fortunately, an AP class in programming in high school this year revealed that she doesn’t have the aptitude for programming. But, she is a talented illustrator and this animation program, even though a BFA, is a career-readiness degree. We support her fully in this choice, because we know her deep interest will motivate and spur success.

      Treatment can help your son a great deal, and there are several options. That could provide the clarity he really needs to access success in college.

      Adult ADHD Treatment Options – An Overview

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

      • #50263

        Oh my goodness. Your daughter sounds like my son! I wish my son would have known earlier that that’s what he wants to do and accepted his talents and weaknesses sooner. He didn’t need to fail so many times for so many years before having the guts to be honest with himsef! We always supported him in everything he wanted to do, even advising him that Comp Sci might be too hard for him at this school. He loves music and plays piano beautifully and we always urged him to pursue music but he thought we weren’t serious! Gah! All those years of his suffering and feeling inadequate for struggling made his self-esteem suffer. I feel so bad for him and his never ending turmoil.

        Thanks for the links. I’ll forward them to him too. Maybe he’ll realize that ADD is not the end of the world and it’s time for him to accept it and optimize his special ways his brain works.

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