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Might I have ADD?
January 17, 2013 1:04 PM   Subscribe

After reading this thread of people describing ADD/ADHD symptoms, and reading the links, and feeling like they were describing my life, I got a really, horrid sinking feeling I might actually be ADD. It's kinda wigging me out and I don't know what to do.

For background - I've been being treated for um, 3 years now with anti-depressants after I eventually realised my capacity for coping was broken, and I needed help - I'm in england, so NHS. My GP is ok for the prescribing, not so good for the diagnosing or treating. I did go to a mental health specialist a couple of years back, which helped a bit, though the new meds helped more I think. I've been putting off going to see the psychiatrist for my depression for literally a year now. I um, will make that appointment at some point.

They haven't been that great (currently on 3rd med, high dose effexor XR), but they've taken the edge off the grey fog that sapped my will to live and slurped up all my emotion and happiness; and made just getting through a day possible. Up to now, I've been working on the basis that's a boss that puts my teeth on edge, and a high-stress, massively overworked, underpaid job. Though even though we've hired more people and spread the load, it hasn't really helped.

I'm 36, and pretty high up on IQ, as if that matters. I'm also a techie.

The description of being drowned in post-its with new info all the time rings so totally true. I've been through 4 different entirely unrelated topics just while writing this post in my head. It's like a whirlwind, a tornado of offshoots of thoughts - a buzz of electrons going off. I'm incredibly disorganised, completely. It's not that I don't want to pay my bills, it's just remembered to go through all the steps of actually finding them in the chaos, going to the website, putting in my credit card... Task managers last a few days at best, I have to-do's scattered throught a dozen places. If I get distracted - even getting reminded to do something on he way to do it - I'm sunk. I am a lazy guy physically, but I fiddle intently. I always have to have my keyring, or a pen, or chewing on the cap, or playing with paperclips. One of things about smoking is the lighter, the pack, always something to hand.

I'm a sponge of knowledge. I got called a walking encyclopedia as a kid. I still read the internet so much; TV Tropes, Wikipedia are deadly for me. It's always new tab, new tab, refresh, Ohh, haven't checked SMBC today. Oh wait, this looks familiar, I've already been here 3 times this morning.

Getting me to a meeting on time, or even getting off metafilter/bbc/slashdot/guardian/fmylife/etc and out the door in the morning to work is a nightmare. My parents joke about telling me to be there an hour before they actually want me, so when I'm 3/4 of an hour late I'm actually early. I'm fairly sure they're not actually joking. I struggled at school. So damn dull. So damn repetitive. I sneaked through by just bulk absorbing information, and regurgitate it later. THis came to a crashing failure at uni, and I flunked out. Twice. Turns out they don't care if you don't hand in your coursework, and you just fail.

I've wondered a couple of times if I might be adult ADD, but I can and do focus intensely on a thing I love. Playing a computer game I can literally lose hours of my life and it feels like 10 minutes. Watching Game of Thrones. Working on some complex bit of code, and then suddenly it's lunchtime. Or 7pm and I should have left two hours ago. I kinda love my type of job, because it's always so many random new problems all the time. Never ending. Something new, all the time. On the downside, actually finishing problems is hard. I get sidetracked, a new problem comes up, I see there's something related that also needs tweaking. I literally have job tickets that are 5 years old that are half-finished.

So I ca't be ADD, because I can and do focus when it's interesting. Escept I just found out about hyperfocus. And suddenly, being ADD absolutely fits. And explains a WHOLE TON of a lot.
People describing the quiet in their heads when they're on meds? Being able to focus and do mundane things, in a row, without feeling like you're pulling red hot pokers from your own flesh?

That sounds rather nice, actually. It certainly doesn't describe my life, ever, up to now.

OK. About 8 new subjects, things have been through my mind while writing this. Maybe more. I've deleted several bits on preview for swinging off topic.

Seriously. I'm kinda wigging out here, and trying to avoid giving myself hypochondriac symptoms by digging up more on adult ADD. Do I go see my GP? Go to the psychiatrist I'm supped to go see because I'm on high dose effexor and say 'actually, I wanted to find out if I have ADD'. Ignore it because I've survived this long? Get over myself because actually I'm just a normal broken-down depressed person, and everyone feels like they have butterflies in their head all the damn time when they're not focussed on something like their life depending on it?

You guys helped me out last time when I finally cracked, and went for help over depression.
Please be gentle...
posted by ArkhanJG to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. You're still you. Nothing has changed, so no freaking out!

2. I've heard that it's hard to get an ADHD diagnosis/medication on the NHS, but I'll let someone who's more experienced answer that. If you do have trouble, there might be supplements that can help; I've known a few people without health insurance who have had luck with green coffee extract.

3. That said, don't ignore it. My life has improved so much since I got diagnosed and medicated. I feel like a grown up now. Capable and confident and able to pay my bills on time (mostly) and keep my house cleaned and organized (mostly) and do my best at work. And once you get the ADHD under control, the depression might go away.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:11 PM on January 17, 2013


As you've seen, hyperfocus is one of the symptoms of ADD. In fact, when you can make it work for you, it's great, but a lot of the time it works against you. ("I'll get right on that boring work assignment . . . just after I read all these articles on how blingwads work!") I asked my GP how I'd get evaluated for ADD. He referred me to a psychiatrist who asked me a bunch of questions and concluded that I did have ADD. (I am in the US on private insurance. This process may be very different in other places.) This was maybe a year ago and I'm 35. I'd also managed to get a grad degree and have a successful job in my pre-diagnosis time. Being diagnosed with ADD isn't that bad. In fact, finally getting on the right meds helped me stop beating myself up for being so daydreamy and distracted all the time. Do not just ignore it. Get evaluated. Honestly, it's a lot like getting glasses you've really needed for years.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:17 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Go to the psychiatrist I'm supped to go see because I'm on high dose effexor and say 'actually, I wanted to find out if I have ADD'.

Yup, do this. It's a good first step. But if someone brushes you off, don't be discouraged. Don't stop until you get a proper ADHD screening. Then, once you have the results of such a screening, you can determine the best way to handle your issues, whether they're caused by ADHD or not.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:18 PM on January 17, 2013


There are two ways to think about this:

a) Whether it is or isn't ADD, and
b) Whether it is or isn't a problem for you.

Thinking about it the first way, you run the risk of talking yourself out of a diagnosis because you're trying to compare yourself to a specific checklist - do you have THIS symptom? How about THAT one? What if you only have this one symptom sometimes? What then? And you spend so much time trying to decide whether or not your situation even has a label before you go talk to someone about it, that you never sort it out.

Thinking about it the second way can cut through all of that and get you straight to the part where you get help FOR it - "well, whether it's ADD or not, it's bugging the snot out of me and needs to stop." And that gets you to your doctor where you tell them what's going on, and they either work with you to fix it or tell you what can be fixed with medication and what can't, and you make steps towards doing something about it. And please PLEASE don't think you're wasting the doctor's time if you end up with something that can't be treated medically - at least now you both know. (And like my doctor told me when the "appendicitis pain" I went to see her about turned out to be a really bad case of gas, "I'd rather you saw me and we both learned it was nothing than have you not see me and have it turn out to be something.")

Clearly, whether or not this is ADD doesn't matter as much as the fact that it is difficult for you, and you deserve to have that difficulty resolved. Rather than figuring out whether it's ADD, go to your doctor and tell them the symptoms you're having; let the doctor figure out wht to do.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not that hard to get diagnosed and treated for ADHD on the NHS. It is just that while your GP will be willing to diagnose and treat depression, but they almost certainly won't do so for ADHD. They will instead refer you to the community mental health team (or whatever the equivalent is now), which it sounds like you have already been referred to before, and have an outstanding referral to regarding your depression medication. Assuming that your appointment is with an actual doctor (or at least somebody qualified to diagnose and prescribe) then they will be the right person to talk to anyway. Having your appointment with them and telling them your concerns seems like the best first step.
posted by Jehan at 1:25 PM on January 17, 2013


It seems like you're at least halfway to where you need to go already.

Obviously, you are anxious about this, but if you have ADD, you have it. You have it right now. Whether or not you get it in writing doesn't change that. What getting it in writing does is allow you to be treated. Nothing to freak out about.

Go to the psychiatrist I'm supped to go see because I'm on high dose effexor and say 'actually, I wanted to find out if I have ADD'.

Yep! It's literally that easy. You'll likely work your way through an assessment questionnaire first.

Get over myself because actually I'm just a normal broken-down depressed person, and everyone feels like they have butterflies in their head all the damn time when they're not focussed on something like their life depending on it?

That's not how everyone feels and you are being so unkind to yourself. Also, that's your anxiety trying to talk you out of doing anything. Fight that voice.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:52 PM on January 17, 2013


It sounds ADHD-Inattentive (is that the correct term these days- I have to leave in 15 minutes so I am not looking it up). I have no idea what the testing procedure is like in the UK, but given that you have a non-broken health care system, the most that bugging a shrink and getting tested will cost you is about 4 hours or so (maybe a little more).

The hyperfocus bit rings completely true. I have not noticed the passing of time while reading until it was too dark to read. As people have said above, it can be useful, but it is not something that is readily harnessed.

Get tested. It's better to know than suspect and not know.
posted by Hactar at 2:48 PM on January 17, 2013


First of all, I don't think of ADD as a "disease" that you "have" or "don't have." The label is used to describe a list of troublesome behaviors. There is no CT scan, blood test, or any other actual medical test that will tell you if you have ADD. There are just behavior checklists.

As for the hyperfocus, yes, exactly. One casual definition of ADD is "not being able to pay attention to things you don't want to pay attention to." This is why kids with ADD might not do their homework but can become phenomenal videogame players.

It sounds reasonable for you to go to the psychiatrist and see if s/he thinks you might benefit from a trial of stimulant medication.

I'm not your therapist.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:12 PM on January 17, 2013


Maybe read a bit on this as a way to help wrap your head around it while you work out the logistics of being diagnosed. Hallowell's Driven to Distraction, while it has its detractors, is a good place to start.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:29 PM on January 17, 2013


This morning (no joke) my son was officially diagnosed with ADHD combined type and an anxiety disorder. Based on the journey, I have no doubt whatsoever that my daughter will be diagnosed with ADHD of a single type (she's beginning her diagnosis journey shortly), and that when evaluated, I will be diagnosed with ADHD of a single type. Also, that my mother would be, were she diagnosed when younger.

Now, I mention this, because I too (very recently) had the same experience as you, reading all the symptoms and such and thinking "well, of course I have it!" and as a result, I chose to discount that feeling and assume I likely don't, and that seeing those behaviors doesn't mean my kids have it. Going to a doctor is always the best way to determine these things, and so we did for my son, and now he's got his diagnosis.

The thing is, the more I learn about it, the less I think about it as a disorder, and the more I think about it as an evolutionary pathway for the human brain that has significant benefits, although it also has significant limitations. The level of creativity and insightfulness associated with adults+ADHD has been critical for driving human progress forward, yet we've set up learning institutions that are completely incompatible with the limitations that ADHD presents for young kids.

So, now that we've got this diagnosis, his mother and I can take concrete, well-considered steps to help him in the short and long term (which may or may not involve medication; there are lots of other things that can be tried) whereas before she and I had to make choices with the uncertainty of "but what if this is about his environment or his diet" or somesuch. This is a huge relief, and I have high hopes that this knowledge can help us help him now, and help him help himself later.

In short: get tested, find out. Whether you know or not, you'll still have to live with yourself, so at least find out if you have ADHD...which is to say, find out if you are likely compatible with a wide range of chemical and non-chemical ways to mitigate your shortcomings and leverage your strengths.

Good luck!
posted by davejay at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just an online test, obviously; but

70 & up - Adult ADHD
50 - 69 - Moderate ADHD
35 - 49 - Mild ADHD
25 - 34 - Borderline ADHD
0 - 24 - No ADHD likely

I scored a 104, and I was being conservative. I think that's a good enough hint to try and find that letter from the mental health team and see if my referral is still valid. If not, back to the GP to see if he'll renew the referral - he was pretty insistant that I go, so hopefully that'll be doable. Even if it's for something else, strictly speaking.

Looking up the NHS treatment for ADHD though, it doesn't seem they actually treat adults who weren't diagnosed as children; which I wasn't - there's no treatments licenced for adults, which rather sucks. I was kinda hoping I might be able to get help with being such a disorganised mess, that maybe I could get help with being such a procrastinating screw-up. Ah well. Maybe they can pt me on a CBT course or something.

Reading up though, it certainly fits with my history. I got really sick of being called lazy. Disruptive. Lazy. Bright, but doesn't try. Never does homework. Lazy. Doesn't apply himself. Man, the fights I used to get into with my parents over it... Sigh. When I was young, I thought when I became an adult, there'd be some switch that got thrown, and I'd Get It, and be able to do all this stuff that has to be done without it being such a goddamn struggle to keep track of and not get sidetracked halfway through every damn thing. Hah! How wrong was I.

Talking to my wife about it this evening though; she is Not Surprised. Cos yeah, when it comes to like, doing stuff, I'm a champion at 'I'll sort that in a minute hon!' 2 Days later... 'Hey, I was just about to do that!' Sigh. I suck.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2013


And on non-preview; thanks davejay. Best of luck with your son too.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:54 PM on January 17, 2013


Looking up the NHS treatment for ADHD though, it doesn't seem they actually treat adults who weren't diagnosed as children; which I wasn't - there's no treatments licenced for adults, which rather sucks. I was kinda hoping I might be able to get help with being such a disorganised mess, that maybe I could get help with being such a procrastinating screw-up. Ah well. Maybe they can pt me on a CBT course or something.
They absolutely do diagnose and treat grownups. Even though there is no medication licensed, I know that at least methylphenidate (known as Ritalin) is prescribed to grownups.
posted by Jehan at 4:14 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got evaluated in middle age and was found to have ADD (no hyperactivity). I developed coping skills, and did pretty well, but medication has been a huge benefit. Wish I'd known sooner. So, maybe think of discovering that you're wired a bit differently as a good thing. You can find ways to manage it, and appreciate your innate curiosity and mental flexibility.
posted by theora55 at 6:00 PM on January 17, 2013


I just got diagnosed a week ago and started adderall. It doesn't sound like I have as strong a case as you do, but being on medication is amazing. Before, I had to basically have a long exhausting argument with myself if I wanted to do anything 'boring' and if I was doing something, all it was take was a split second of not focusing/waiting for a program to load before I was totally distracted. Now, I can actually think about a single thing at a time and remember that that's what I'm doing and prioritize stuff instead of switching everything I think of a new task.

I almost certainly have a high IQ and I'm doing very well in college at the moment, but it is due partly to luck (having very few long term projects) and required feeling miserable and helpless when I did have to write papers because as much as I knew I needed to start them, I just couldn't. I was notorious among my friends for knowing random stuff and "I read a study about..." but it was rarely stuff that was actually relevant to school or papers I needed desperately to write.

I had a hard time getting myself to get help, but I kept telling myself that this was something that was really bothering me and affecting my life and at times, making me absolutely miserable. Even if it wasn't ADHD, it is worth talking to someone about.
posted by raeka at 7:24 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Talking to my wife about it this evening though; she is Not Surprised. Cos yeah, when it comes to like, doing stuff, I'm a champion at 'I'll sort that in a minute hon!' 2 Days later... 'Hey, I was just about to do that!' Sigh. I suck.

I have adhd and my husband does not. Being married to adhd can be hard. I am constantly distracted and unorganized. Tax time is a disaster. I do take meds and it helps immensely. It helps keep from screwing around all day - and focus on my job, family, life in general. I really recommend that if you get a chance read http://www.additudemag.com/ It has a lot of good tips whether or not you're diagnosed through NHS.
posted by lasamana at 5:20 AM on January 18, 2013


First of all, I don't think of ADD as a "disease" that you "have" or "don't have." The label is used to describe a list of troublesome behaviors. There is no CT scan, blood test, or any other actual medical test that will tell you if you have ADD. There are just behavior checklists.

You can say the same thing about the common cold or depression. It may not be a "disease" in that it is not communicable or the result of some part of the body malfunctioning, but it is certainly a real disorder beyond just "troublesome behaviors". Calling it merely behaviors implies that it can be fixed just by having more self control. This is not helpful. The world is full of people who claim they cured their ADHD just by trying real hard and developing a good work ethic. The answer to that is: are you sure? If they really did that, then they didn't really have ADHD. And the truth is that they probably didn't actually fix anything within themselves, they just figured out enough coping mechanisms that make it seem like they aren't really affected. (If this isn't what you were trying to imply, I apologize.)

Because actual ADHD is beyond just controlling behaviors. If people with ADHD *could* control their behavior, they wouldn't be having the problems they have. Granted, successful treatment of ADHD is 50% medication and 50% relearning executive skills. This is because people with untreated ADHD often have layers and layers of coping mechanisms that no longer function properly when medication is introduced.

Anyway, the right approach is to tell your GP about your symptoms and how they are negatively affecting your life. If these symptoms have been around since you were a child, mention that too. This led you to take the online test, and your high score correlates with your own experiences. Because of this, you'd like to take the next step in determining whether you have ADHD.

ADHD and depression often present with similar symptoms. Untreated ADHD can cause depression as years of the frustrations of stressful work, unfinished projects and chaotic personal life build up.
posted by gjc at 6:10 AM on January 18, 2013


You can say the same thing about the common cold or depression. It may not be a "disease" in that it is not communicable or the result of some part of the body malfunctioning, but it is certainly a real disorder beyond just "troublesome behaviors". Calling it merely behaviors implies that it can be fixed just by having more self control. This is not helpful.

I have ADHD, I have receiving treatment for years, and I have no problem with the description. The implication is not that it can be managed through self-control but rather learning how to best manage the symptoms could allow certain aspects of the condition to work to a person's advantage (e.g., hyperfocus). It is a disorder under the DSM IV, but even my psychiatrist thinks of it more as a lifelong condition than a disorder. Her own son has ADHD.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:48 PM on January 22, 2013


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