Social Anxiety masking Symptoms in Childhood

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    • #102456

      Brace yourself, this might be a long one.

      I’m wondering if anyone here had social anxiety as a child to the degree that it may have masked many of the ADHD traits you would expect? And if so, have you had any luck in getting an ADHD diagnosis?

      I was always a very socially anxious child, mainly when it came to talking to adults or strangers, giving answers in class, giving presentations etc I always struggled. Fortunately I was always quite intelligent and never had to work especially hard at school to achieve good grades, so I never really got in trouble or done badly in class. My grades did fall towards the end of highschool in more subjective subjects subjects such as English, Geography, Music etc. but I managed to maintain my grades in scientific subjects as they just made more sense to me, achieving A’s in Maths and Physics, and a B in Chemistry at the highest level available in the Scottish schools.

      Once I started working around 17/18 my anxiety did start to lessen, which has continued until now (now 27 years old), I started university around the same time. At uni I found the lack of structure and pressure to maintain my studies left me lost and unable to get anything done. My grades dropped in 1st year compared to High school and continued to drop through 2nd and 3rd year, with my final year being similar to my 3rd year, finishing University having just managed to get by with a Second Class Honours (Equivalent of a C). Since around 18 years old I’ve found myself dealing with more and more symptoms of ADHD, poor time keeping, organisation, difficulty focusing on work or any challenging task for any useful period of time, impulsivity with money, inattention during conversations, difficulty taking in things I read etc.

      I’ve recently been to my GP and was referred to an ADHD specialist (which took a painful 10 months of waiting, and contemplating, and convincing myself this would be the answer) and have been through the extensive DSM Questionaire with the specialist. The outcome was that I met the criteria as an adult for both the Inattentive and Impulsive/Hyperactive aspects of ADHD based on my own opinions. However part of the criteria for diagnosis is that it is corroborated by someone who was close to you as a child, such as parents. Frustratingly I had been so focused on my current experience of it I hadnt really spent a lot of time discussing with them how it may have manifested as a child. As well as that I believe the social anxiety prevented me from acting on many of my internal feelins as a child, and my fear of talking to people meant I never really told people how I felt as a child, so I think much of it has been lost.

      In conclusion, the doctor could not give me a diagnosis because of my parents answers to the quations and its left me more frustrated than ever. I have managed to get a referral to another specialist for a second opinion (probably another 10 months from now) but I’m worried it will just be the same again.

      I have spent a lot of time trying figure out if the symptoms may be coming purely from an anxiety disorder but I’m struggling to correlate half of the symptoms, especially now that the anxiety is at the lowest its ever been.

      Has anyone had a similar experience, or just have any advice in general? I will definitely talk about it with my parents more before the next appointment, but other than that I’m concerned that the way I was as a child is just going to block any chance of it happening.

      Thanks for reading, I know its a struggle.

    • #102548
      Penny Williams

      When you’re intelligent and do well in school, it’s easy for clinicians who don’t understand ADHD fully to dismiss the possibility. However, you can do well in school and still have ADHD. Probably not severe ADHD, but ADHD nonetheless.

      I think it’s wise to get that 2nd opinion. It can’t hurt.

      As someone with significant social anxiety myself, I know it can take over your life and be so apparent on the surface that it can hide many other things.

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

    • #103591

      Ok… So why is it so imperative to get a diagnoses?

      Nothing about you will change.

      If your doctors are not seeing the ADHD… Why are YOU forcing this?

      Your brain will still be your brain. Drugs are only bandaids.

      So what is the real desired outcome at this point? Are you wanting drugs?

      Drugs did nothing to FIX me. They made new different worse but no benefit. My brain is still not like neurotypicals.

      • #103615

        The same reason you would want a diagnosis for anything, to understand the most likely root cause of problems and work on the best way to correct or adapt for them?

        The first doctor I saw was not an ADHD specialist as such, he deals with ADHD but good focus of on other things (such as anxiety and depression), and while I appreciate his review I don’t believe all of my symptoms can be explained by anxiety.

        For those reasons he was happy to provide a second referral to a more specialist clinic.

        If I go in more prepared regarding my childhood and they still tell me it’s more likely anxiety, then I will put more focus on managing my anxiety and hopefully that will help me.

        But should it be ADHD, then I would be interested in trying medication in the hope it might help me stick with tasks/projects/chores for long enough to complete them, and maybe help with impulsiveness. As well as this I would be able to get guidance to develop techniques to manage other problems at work and at home.

        I’m not trying to force a diagnosis, I’m simply trying to clarify the best way forward.

    • #103633

      Don’t get me wrong drugs are not a quick fix and not right for everyone but it is another option in your toolbox if you get diagnosed.
      Before I had a diagnosis I worked with a therapist for a year with ADHD as our sort of ‘working theory’ and I think this set me up well for when I did eventually try medicine. There are heaps of really good strategies online and organisational/lifestyle stuff that is really important and helpful. Also just understanding how an ADHD brain works and becoming more aware of when you are better/worse and not sort of expecting to hold your brain to the same standards as a neurotypical brain – finding your work-arounds, celebrating your ‘hyper-focus’ occasions etc. will probably be beneficial – even if you have not received an official diagnosis (even if you don’t have ADHD they are good).
      For me, the diagnosis alleviated some of my anxiety around my perceived failing to achieve like those around me – but that is of course just the worrier in me but hey! whatever gets you by!
      Good luck Ryan!

    • #103620


      Thanks for your reply, it’s the kind of thing I was hoping to find by making this post, anyone with a similar experience. It’s a relief to hear that you were able to get a diagnosis without relying to significantly on others opinion of you as a child. I’ve been pulling apart my brain since my last appointment, trying to think of what my thoughts and feelings were as a kid, and I think there is more evidence there than I had thought.

      Like I said in my original post, I’m waiting on a second referral at the minute and not sure how long that is going to take, but I just need to talk through my childhood with my parents a lot more before this next appointment and hopefully whatever the outcome I’ll feel like I’ve done everything i needed to to get on track to figuring out what’s going on!


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