December 1, 2004 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I feel like my brain has stopped working and I'd like to get it fixed. A whole hell of a lot more inside.

I'm unable to concentrate on anything. Work, home, whatever. If I have to figure something out at work I stare at my computer screen, unable to even start anything. I'll read a book and after a paragraph I can hardly remember what it was I just read. After watching a movie I can no longer remember most of it. I've been playing chess for the past year and showing no improvement. I analyze half a move in and then I draw a blank and my mind wanders. No matter how hard I try to think "I do this, he does this, then I do this..." I can't do it. (I don't care if I'm not a great chess player but my inability to think at chess is a good example of everything in my life) I'll talk to people and I'll have no idea what they just told me. I never finish things. I have no creativity. I find a new interest, get obsessed with it for two weeks, and then forget about it altogether. I sit in a meeting at work and I have no idea what's going on. I let my bills go unpaid. My life is one big distraction. I often feel like I'm wandering around in a daze.

I can make a to-do list but I won't do anything on it. I can get organized but I don't stay organized.

The thing is, I feel like I've been this way my whole life. I never did anything in school yet somehow squeaked by. I was tested for a learning disability when I was in 5th grade, but I have no idea what they tested for. The conclusion was I was very smart but very lazy.

Background: I'm 35 and married with a toddler. There's some sleep deprivation that goes with that but I don't think it's any worse than any parent. I smoked plenty of pot from ages 18 - 26 but haven't done any since. I don't drink any more than one drink a day, if that. I have no idea about family medical history and have no way of finding out.

I saw a commercial for adult ADD ("are you constantly distracted?") and thought "holy shit, that's ME!" but I tend to think the whole point of those commercials is to get people to think that.

Am I just being silly? Am I just a busy 35 year old or could there be something wrong with me? What meds (aside from Ritalin) are available these days? What do they do and what are the side effects? What are the tests for ADD like? What else could it be?

While typing this up I've gone to five other websites for no reason at all, checked my email twice and thought of 20 other non-related things. This is the sort of thing I'm dealing with here.
posted by bondcliff to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You haven't tried talking to a doctor about this, have you? I suspect a doctor can give you better advice than this crowd. And besides, if the doctor misdiagnoses, you can sue.
posted by Doohickie at 8:40 AM on December 1, 2004


I can remember when my kids were small and having the same feeling. It could be just that. But talk to your doctor.
posted by Doohickie at 8:41 AM on December 1, 2004

Response by poster: No, I haven't spoken to a doctor yet. That's my next step though I wanted to get some first hand advice/experience from other people first, which is why I posted here. I really find the "hey, this happened to me and I did this..." aspect of AskMe very useful. I know it's no substitute for professional advice.
posted by bondcliff at 8:43 AM on December 1, 2004

I had the same feeling when I saw that add. I mean, ad. (And yes, every time I saw it, thought, "Hey I should do something about this..." and then I'd spot something shiny.)

A good friend of mine is on Strattera for ADD, and had used Adderal in the past. I once tried an Adderal, and MAN! Got things DONE! You (and I) should talk to a doctor.

I find compulsive lists help... if I remember to make them.
posted by mimi at 8:48 AM on December 1, 2004

well....if you are looking for some sort of clinical direction to pursue, those kinds of symptoms are sometimes considered signs of ADD, or anxiety, or depression, or fatigue, or stress, or chronic Lyme's Disease.....(you get the picture)

You need to talk to your doctor.
posted by availablelight at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2004

That's pretty much word-for-word ME, bondcliff.

Um, I haven't done anything about it, either.
posted by contessa at 8:52 AM on December 1, 2004

Are you physically active?
posted by rotifer at 8:54 AM on December 1, 2004

Response by poster: See, contessa, that's why I posted this before just going to a doctor. Part of me thinks I'm just whining, that every busy 30-something with a kid is the exact same way. I want to know if this is true or not.
posted by bondcliff at 8:54 AM on December 1, 2004

'Everything's equally important - it don't matter at all'
You're (probably) clinically depressed mate. Seek help from your doctor.
posted by punilux at 8:56 AM on December 1, 2004

I had similar problems to a smaller degree, and I found a large part of the problem was just the way I was treating my body. My problems came from:

A) Dehydration: This was probably the biggest part of the problem for me. Once I started drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day, I started feeling better. I'm actually closer to a gallon of water a day now. I spend a lot more time in the bathroom and in transit to, but that change was the largest impact.

B) Blood Sugar levels: I was also only eating one big meal a day, and maybe a snack when I should have been eating lunch. I broke my meals down to about 4 little ones a day, and that helped my brain feel a little less funky.

C) nicotine: Quitting smoking helped my sleep a great deal. I'm not sure if you're a smoker, but it made a big difference to me when I quit.

D) Vitamin Supplements: In case you're not getting the nutrients you need, you may want to add a multi-vitamin to your daily routine. I take one, plus ginseng and gingko-biloba to try to get things level.

YMMV, but these are all things you can try before going the drug route; my experience has been that doctors today are a little *too* willing to prescribe medications when the real root of the cause may not be ADHD, or depression, or what have you.
posted by icey at 9:01 AM on December 1, 2004

But this didn't start with the toddler...
The thing is, I feel like I've been this way my whole life. I never did anything in school yet somehow squeaked by. I was tested for a learning disability when I was in 5th grade, but I have no idea what they tested for. The conclusion was I was very smart but very lazy.
posted by mimi at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2004 [1 favorite]

I am probably borderline ADD and recently it got much, much worse. Then I forgot about it and it didn't matter anymore.


When I finally went to a doctor it turns out I have mold poisoning from the totally old house I lived in this summer. In addition to lots more colds/earaches, the mold really affected my ability to concentrate/think. I've been doing what the doctor told me to do and I'm much better.
posted by pomegranate at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2004

Could it be a case of too many irons in the fire?

As a father of four, husband and working-stiff, I have felt the same things. That's when I said whoa, and took a look at all the things going on. Life can get crazy with the responsibility of it all.

So I started running and the half-hour run I take each day allows that refocus that is essential. I'd hate to see a chemical solution to what may be only symptoms and not the real problem.
posted by grefo at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2004

Sounds a lot like me. I skated through high school and then came to a crashing halt in college because I'd only once encountered anything I actually had to work at to learn. Almost anything was more interesting than doing something hard, and I become easily distracted when faced with such tasks. Actually I'm easily distracted in general, but it's just that that doesn't matter except when I'm faced with a task that I have to really apply myself to. I get through it mostly with willpower: I know what needs to be done and I just grit my teeth and force myself to do it. External deadlines help. Since it is pretty manageable, I think my problem, if i have one besides being a touch lazy, is milder than yours.

Other than ADD, it could be sleep deprivation, which can come about even if you think you're getting enough sleep if the quality of sleep is not good. If you snore a lot, in particular, you may not be getting enough oxygen. This could easily be a longstanding problem and you might not even feel "tired."

Could also be a nutritional deficiency. Try a good multi-vitamin and some essential oils (flaxseed oil, fish oil). I find I am far more alert and my brain works better when I take these each night before bed. I saw a TV report on a study in which kids with difficulty in school were given large doses of fish oil and suddenly became solid students after a few weeks.

But yeah, see a doctor, it sounds like the obvious diagnosis is probably correct. If you find you are easily distracted to a few particular things (i.e. wasting lots of time surfing the Net when you should be working) it could also be a touch of addiction or OCD. There are drugs that might help, obviously. Hypnosis may also be worth investigating for addiction, though I've never tried it. Exercise too.
posted by kindall at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2004

This is terrifying. Bondcliff's mail describes me 100%, apart from being a couple of years younger. Seriously - the smart, but lazy, can't concentrate, squeaks by on the bare minimum, smoked lots of weed until mid 20s. Can't concentrate on a damn thing anymore, apart from maybe computer games and cooking. Pretty much the lot.

The bad news: I still have the same problem, getting worse if anything. I did try going to the doctor about it a couple of years ago (in the UK), and she gave me a camomile-tea-look, offered to make me an appointment with a counsellor, and grudgingly gave me a blood test to check for anaemia - the results were negative.

I hadn't thought about ADD before. The jury is still somewhat out on whether it is a real condition or not as I understand things (I do some work in a related field to pharma). I'm interested in answer here too.
posted by bifter at 9:06 AM on December 1, 2004

As an approaching 30 adult with a full time job and a 5 year old at home, I can say that while I'm always multi-tasking and free time seems a thing of the past, what you're experiencing is more than just a hectic lifestyle. I'm with everybody - consult your doctor. That means actually setting up an appointment to discuss this - from what you've said above, it seems possible that you may mean to call and get sidetracked. Maybe a reminder from your spouse/ S.O. might help?
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants at 9:09 AM on December 1, 2004

I'm 31 with a toddler, and I'm like this in general, but this year it got so bad that I wasn't really fully-functional. I'd go into the kitchen to start dinner, then get distracted by a spot on the wall, start cleaning the walls, then realize there were toys on the floor so I'd need to pick them up, and what do you know, there's a magazine right there that I haven't read, then I'd read long enough to be reminded of something and then... five hours later, we're eating McDonalds again because I never got back to making dinner.

For me, I had some major depression symptoms along with the total distraction, so my doctor put me on Wellbutrin, and after a fairly long settling in period, I really do feel like I'm back to mostly normal. I still *notice* the things that used to distract me, but I can order my thoughts and behavior again- first, I will make dinner, then I will wipe down the wall, then I will pick up the toys, etc., etc.. Now, I don't know if alleviating the depression made me more able to focus, or if my inability to focus to that extent was a function of the depression, but that's what helped me.

Good luck on finding what works for you!
posted by headspace at 9:10 AM on December 1, 2004

I'm not a doctor, and yes, you should see one, but I'd say it sounds suspiciously like ADD. "Testing" for ADD, in my experience, is pretty much you describing your symptoms, they'll ask a few questions for clarification, and then they tell you their opinion and suggest treatments.

As for ADD meds, most of 'em are still uppers of some sort, though there are timed-release and less addictive options. Or there are things like Strattera, which is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It only helped me slightly, but brain pills are a prime example of the phrase YMMV.
posted by squidlarkin at 9:12 AM on December 1, 2004

Go talk to a physician. You need a good workup. It could be anything, hell, you could be mildly hypothryoid or hypoadrenal for all we know.
posted by gramcracker at 9:30 AM on December 1, 2004

Could be physical, could be psychological. I recommend exercive, vitamins, sleep, and Wellbutrin (a mild serotonin uptake inhibitor) just in case - available at
posted by xammerboy at 9:38 AM on December 1, 2004

You don't have ADD. My question wasn't answered but, as several others have pointed out, the best solution would be to examine your lifestyle and make some changes. A good physician would tell you precisely the same thing. If you open the phonebook and head to a doc with a diagnosis in mind, you're probably smart enough to get what you want - don't do it. I'm not opposed to drugs, but diagnosing yourself is impossible - particularly when tossing in advertising designed to prompt such a thing.
posted by rotifer at 9:46 AM on December 1, 2004

Me too. I attribute it to the major depression and/or Celexa. And MetaFilter.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 AM on December 1, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not as physically active as I should be, but I'm not a couch potato either. I've gone through periods where I'm active but my productivity has been no better. Same with diet, it's neither great nor that bad. I eat McDonaldish stuff occasioinally but most meals are balanced, home cooked with plenty of veggies. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and almost no soda.

I've had depression in the past and took Celexa for a couple of years. I've been off it for a couple of years and what I'm experiencing is nothing like what my depression was like. For the most part, I'm happy.

I'm not trying to diagnose myself nor am I eager to take some happy pills. I'd do whatever it takes to become productive though.
posted by bondcliff at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2004

For those who doubt the validity of ADD or ADHD...

I worked at a program for girls with ADHD. It was part research and part summer camp, and we served as both experimenters and counselors. Every day, we took turns observing the girls and taking notes on their behavior. Half of the girls there had been diagnosed with ADHD and half of the girls had no condition, and we weren't told which was which.

I don't know the results of the study--come to think of it, I should look it up. But I do know that the girls displayed significantly different behaviors. Some were distracted, disruptive, unable to concentrate, and uncaring about what the teachers were trying to communicate. The number of times they looked up from their work per minute, for example, was 20 times the amount that the other girls looked around them. Other girls paid attention, interacted pleasantly with their peers, and seemed interested in the lessons.

Every once in awhile, we'd see one of the more "well-adjusted" girls taking medication--presumably, they had ADHD but were controlling it through medication. I left the experience with no doubts about validity of ADHD and no doubts about the helpfulness of medication.

I have no idea if you're suffering from ADD or ADHD, bondcliff, but I think it's absolutely worth getting tested and considering medication, especially if you've struggled with concentration your whole life. We all procrastinate sometimes, but there are certain chemical deficiencies that make concentration very, very difficult. If you don't have the deficiency, then the medication won't help you anyway, so you'll have your answer right there.
posted by equipoise at 10:05 AM on December 1, 2004

bondcliff you're message is a bit equivocal about whether these are symptoms you've had for a long time (you do say that) or whether they have gotten markedly worse recently (you also seem to say that). If the latter, you need to take this seriously and see someone now. And try to think about what the changes have been, when they occurred, etc etc. Any change in mental status should be examined and taken more seriously than not.

The reason that I stress the (possible acute) changes is because if you go in describing a pattern as old as you are, the doc might miss the acute cause for concern. IOW, there may be two different things going on here.
posted by OmieWise at 10:20 AM on December 1, 2004

There is some good advice in this thread, and I definitely agree with rotifer above, especially about examining your lifestyle.

I am a busy 30-something with a kid and have many of the same symptoms as you. I'm relatively new to this child/job/household gig. Up until 5 years ago, I moved around constantly, was a complete vagabond and totally irresponsible. It started getting old. And now, this new lifestyle has taken some adjustment. I've found that just letting life "happen" doesn't work anymore. Things tend to get out of control.

What I've tried to do is look at things in terms of sacrifices and rewards. I don't like going to work everyday and I find it hard to sit through meetings and interact with people, but I do it with the expectation that if I manage it well enough, in return I get a paycheck, and evenings and weekends that are mine to pursue however I like. I have no problems focusing on things I enjoy doing; it's the things I don't enjoy doing that are a struggle. I swear sometimes I have the mentality of a 5-year old (clean the bathroom and there's a ice cold beer in it for you!), but that's seriously the only way I get anything practical accomplished.

You mention bills piling up. I had a hard time with this too. I hated doing them. They piled up. The bigger the pile got, the more I resisted doing them. Not good. My solution was to start doing them on my lunch hour at work. Moving the chore from the "reward" chunk of my day to the "sacrifice" part of my day seemed to help.

I hope this all doesn't sound too pedantic or simplistic. Just wanted to offer some things that have helped me in small ways.

(By the way, how is the MAME cabinet coming along? That's a fantasy project of mine.)
posted by Otis at 10:36 AM on December 1, 2004

Response by poster: The Cabinet is done, Otis, though like everything else, there's a bit of finishing up that I'll never get around to. And before anyone goes thinking that I obviously CAN focus on something, I worked on it in half hour spurts over several months.

OmieWise, the distraction and procrastination has always been there. For years I've been meaning to do something about it but like other people have mentioned, ohhhhh, shiney! I think I've been noticing it and accepting it more lately because attempting to play chess has been like a year-long mental test for me and I've been failing it. It's very hard for me to explain what I'm dealing with. It's like if I need to think "one + one = two", by the time I get to the second "one" I've forgotten what the first number was because I'm thinking about vanilla ice cream. if I thought I was just stupid I could accept it.
posted by bondcliff at 10:50 AM on December 1, 2004

I have this same affliction, though I'm about 10 years younger ...

Anyway, I don't have a doctor. Are you saying one should see just a normal general practitioner/family dr or someone more specialized?
posted by sfluke20 at 10:55 AM on December 1, 2004

You sound like my sister. They tested her for a learning disability when she was a kid, too, and they said she "lacked focus" and was easily distractable. All of her report cards said she was a pleasure to have in class but failed to complete assignments. She's smart and charming and that got her through school (just barely) but in almost everything she did she was forgetful and flighty. When she went to the doctor and he asked her a bunch of questions she was floored at how accurately they described her life. Now she's on meds (after years of trying to go without them, and then a few more years of putting off calling the doctor - sound familiar?) and she's so much happier.

So. Call your doctor now - right now, before you forget - and make an appointment to discuss what's going on. I honestly think it's going to make a world of difference in your life.
posted by stefanie at 10:59 AM on December 1, 2004

Bondcliff: I am the exact same. Eerily so. I have been a depressive/anxious type for a while, and have gone through mostly successful therapy for that, but the behaviour you describe has been around my entire life. Everywhere I read about this topic, I'm lead to believe that this condition -- whether it's ADD or ADHD or something else -- is either incurable, or that it's arises from some combinination of other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, lack of exercise, etc.

I don't believe that it's incurable, for a simple reason. There have been times in my life when I have been insanely productive. My last year of high school, for example, I worked probably ten times as hard as I had the previous year because I wanted to get into a specific university. So, in the absence of whatever mysterious condition I've developed since then, it is possible for me to be productive. Think about it this way: have you ever been productive the way you want to be, even for a modest period of time? Then there's no reason why you can be productive like that again.

But I have experienced the same hopelessness, too. I've improved greatly, depression-wise, and somewhat less greatly anxiety-wise, and I still feel no difference in my "with-it"ness. Even at the times when I've felt best in the last few years, my concentration has been fleeting.

I believe you (and I) need to re-learn how to be productive. That means doing simple tasks all the way through to completion, and learning to appreciate the result. One thing I found helpful is that I tend to rely on external pressure -- deadlines, appointments, commitment. I try to use this to my advantage whenever I can, and it helps (though I'd like to weaken my dependence on this type of pressure, as well).

I know how hard it is to go through with complex tasks you've already started. The only way to get through them is to break it down into smaller tasks, and ruthlessly eliminate all possibility for distraction. You must go to war with it. Set a timer for 20 minutes and just go.
posted by Succa at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2004

This happens to me periodically. It is as if my mind is a computer screen, and it pops up the Blue Screen of Death when I am trying to think.

In my case it is part of my mood disorder. When I am on the hypomanic side of things, my thoughts are clear, and I am full of ideas and can get things done. When I am dealing with the depressed side, my skull cavity may as well be filled with molasses.

Go see yer doc.
posted by konolia at 11:35 AM on December 1, 2004

When I finally went to a doctor it turns out I have mold poisoning from the totally old house I lived in this summer.

This ties in with my hypothesis, which is that it is the result of various (known or unknown) environmental contaminants that we are all exposed to now (see some of the recent reports on concentrations of Prozac and other chemicals found in rivers, etc.). I have seen these symptoms increasingly in many, many people, including myself. I honestly think we are suffering from environmental brain damage, and that this will become increasingly clear over the next few years as people's behavior continues to change to reflect this.

As far as a solution, other than becoming aware of the problem, I don't see that there is one.
posted by rushmc at 11:35 AM on December 1, 2004

So who has tried these ADD drugs? I have trouble concentrating on lots of things, including writing (which I do in the evenings, after work), and was wondering about Adderal, as it's so popular with the kids.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:37 AM on December 1, 2004

Not that it can eliminate a serious ADD, but I find I'm more alert when I take better care of myself, including:

1) Only a little caffeine, if any
2) Early to bed, early to rise
3) Some physical exercise each day
4) Appropriate hydration
5) Don't load up on meat and dairy (they're hard to digest and full of agricultural by-products in high concentrations)
6) Keep your potassium up. Eat a bannana.

A healthy fuck can really snap you out of a daze, too.

Oh, and one more thing that someone here said a long time ago in another thread: learn something. The learning process really activiates the brain and even fights back depression.

Good luck!
posted by scarabic at 11:59 AM on December 1, 2004

As to ADD drugs, they definitely work. They work for everybody regardless of dx, because everyone does better on a little bit of speed.

bondcliff, I'm glad that it seems chronic rather than acute, as that is less concerning. Get thee to a Dr, and even though it is a pain, don't just rest with what your GP tells you, get a referral to a psychiatrist. Ask friends for a good one and suggest the name to the GP.
posted by OmieWise at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2004

i think the internet is really bad for people like us bondcliff.
*back to working on ads due today*
*first must check email*
*now other email*

i think my problem is my talents rarely get pressed into high gear. boredom, atrophy, etc. i need a vocation, a calling, rather then Work.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:01 PM on December 1, 2004

If you *can* sustain focus and be productive in an area that interests you, then it's probably that you're reacting to something in your circumstances (e.g., you're bored, you're trying to avoid something, etc.)

If you can't, then it's likely to be some kind of organic problem as people mention above. Your current issues may or may not have anything to do how you were when you were younger and tested - things change, you know!

Go to a doctor you trust, and have him/her give you a complete physical - there's all kinds of organic/metabolic conditions that can get ruled out. MDs are not terribly good at diagnosing psychological issues - they'll tend to give you the pill for that condition and see what happens ("You sound depressed, here's an anti-depressent!"). If you want to get those kinds of conditions (ADHD, Depression, etc.) tested for, go to a psychologist who specializes in assessment for those things.

I'd say, definitely try the lifestyle interventions first, like diet and exercise mentioned above. If they help, that's fabulous. If not, certainly you can consider a pharmaceutical approach. For these kinds of interventions, though, I'd suggest you not rely on your primary care doc, unless he or she is really an expert in the area - get a recommendation to a good psychiatrist who can work with you on finding the best med or combination of meds. Some conditions, like depression are best treated with a combination of meds and therapy.
posted by jasper411 at 12:33 PM on December 1, 2004

A friend of mine did get some major adult-onset ADD. He basically receded into his mind. Adderall worked quite well for him. The idea of adult-onset ADD is sort of in conflict but I've seen so many first-hand cases that I can't really doubt it. If yours is ADD, (AD/HD is the technical term), which it may well be, the meds are:

Ritalin (or Concerta or Ritalin XR for the time-release version). Most common, quite effective, fairly mild stimulant effects for ADDs. This is what I'm on and it's great. There's also Adderall, which is similar. Then there's the newcomer, Strattera, which is non-stimulant, works all day and night, and requires a bloodlevel to build up like an antidepressant. Its effectiveness rate is somewhat lower than the stimulants, but it's being hyped since it's not addictive and lasts all day (most dosage programs with the stimulants only last 12 hours because it's preferred to have the last 4 hours of your day without the meds so you can get to sleep). Bear in mind there's no reason to be afraid of getting addicted to Ritalin/Concerta or to Adderall; there's practically no chance unless you intentionally start abusing it.

The drugs are very effective. Do talk to your doctor; hopefully they'll send you to neuropsychological testing which will determine your exact disorder from a behavioral point of view. Usually takes about 4 hours. He may just dump a pill in your lap, which is also cool, but I'd get the testing if I were you just to know exactly what's wrong.
posted by abcde at 1:12 PM on December 1, 2004

I've got to say, I find the leaping to medical 'diagnosis' in this thread a little disturbing.

To a large extent, I think the brain can be trained in and out of bad habits. I know, for me, there was a time in my life when I was like this and it seemed to come about after a long period of very intense activity on multiple fronts.

As a teenager I had 12 months of near constant migraines and, as a result, a constantly changing diet of drugs prescribed for me. I'm now very wary of the medical route in general - at least as a first step.

Have a look at your diet and exercise. General health can be the largest factor. I found a very casual go at meditation a huge help. Not in any serious 'Ommmm' sort of way, more just taking time out and paying attention to what is going through your mind, dismissing any intruding thought that comes along to disturb the peace. Either that, or focussing on something very simple and not letting any other distractions dislodge that thought.

I know feel that, although busy, I have trained my mind to be able to switch from one thing to the next clearly, rather than all concerns becoming one swirling mess of neural activity.
posted by figment at 2:34 PM on December 1, 2004

Be careful with ADD diagnoses. It's an incredilbly trendy diagnosis, as you'll see if you compare American diagnosis rates with those in Western European nations. Certainly there are extreme instances of what we call ADHD -- and as an educator, I have seen them -- but most of us who exhibit symptoms like yours don't have anything that severe. And those same characteristics can be caused by things other than pathology.

The symptoms of ADD are very much the same as what has been called 'giftedness'. Not the hottest term, but think of it this way: You have a lively mind and you are fascinated with novelty. Is that so bad? The trick is in making this work for you. I have similar characteristics, and I chose a career path (writing and museum work) which lets me always turn my attention to new topics. I've always got something new to talk about. I know a little about a lot of things. I regard this type of thinking as a strength, not a weakness. Some behavioral modification and goal-setting -- much like what I used to quit smoking, start an exercise program, or lose weight -- helps me stay organized enough not to suffer. Take care of yourself, as many here have suggested. Enough sleep and good nutrition will help you stay with the boring tasks longer.

You may want to read The Gifted Adult: Liberating Everyday Genius. It might give you a new perspective on what you're going through.

You should definitely also talk to a doctor, but make an effort to get more than one opinion. Ask what other causes might give you these symptoms -- you may be a normal, bright person who is also suffering from depression, fatigue, or anxiety. Be wary, because doctors are often all too willing to prescribe speed for you. When I have taken Ritalin, I've found the sensation pretty unpleasant -- overly slow and foggy. I prefer my keyed-up natural state. There are others who really like taking the drugs. Only you will know what the right path is for you.

Science is getting better and better at drug design. At some point in the future, we might all be able to take drugs that let us pick and choose our personality characteristics -- bubbliness, sarcasm, laziness, outgoing-ness, optimism, whatever. The question then becomes - how much do you want to mess with the unique mind your own life has formed for you? Where is the line between controlling a pathology and altering your basic personality? I belive in overcoming illnesses, but I'm not sure that 'mild adult ADD' as frequently diagnosed really is pathological. And though our drugs are getting fancier, they're still crude. There's no drug, for isntance, that cures depression asreliably as regular exercies does. Think about what you can do for yourself that will improve your energy level and the way you feel generally. See if you can't make your life work without accepting a label.
posted by Miko at 3:03 PM on December 1, 2004

Re: the internet being a contributing factor to symptoms like this:

Damn Straight! When I think back to the days before "always on" internet connections, I remember focussing on a task for literally whole 20 minute chunks of time without getting distracted! Of course, nowadays when my cable modem goes down, I sometimes feel like a part of my brain is missing, so it's a trade-off. On the subject, I was reading My Pilgrim's Progress by George W.S. Trow the other day and he quotes a passage from a 1940's book that goes something like this (don't have it in front of me): "Any schoolgirl today can tell you facts and figures the likes of which would make old Socrates stagger, and yet her intellectual life is to his but the shadow of a day moth." Information overload, man...
posted by idontlikewords at 3:29 PM on December 1, 2004

At the same time, I must second all the folks who suggest cutting any stimulants (caffeine / nicotine) from your diet. It doesn't work for everybody, but for some people I know, the change has been amazing! Make sure you give your body at least a week if not more to balance out though.
posted by idontlikewords at 3:31 PM on December 1, 2004

Bondcliffe: been there, done (much) of that. Here are some tips for your visit to the doc, plus some other tips. Many of these things have already been mentioned by the excellent posts above, included here for emphasis.

Unless you have a fantastic General Practitioner (or Family doc), they may not be of much help. As stated above, if they can't 'appreciate' the symptom in office, they're just going to refer you willy-nilly. Here's an approach to help organize them:
  • Do your homework -- write all your symptoms down before you go in, along with those questions you think up in the shower. Take it in with you.
  • Also write down what you are most concerned about in terms of causes, in order. The most beneficial thing for you will be to rule in/rule out various issues. I'd be looking at ADD/ADHD, Depression, Sleep Apnea, Hypothyroidism, and any physical maladies that you think you're at risk for (mold poisoning, if you live in an old moldy house, toxins if you live in Love Canal, etc).
  • When you schedule the appointment, tell the scheduling nurse that you're in for mental health reasons (too hard to explain otherwise), and ask for a 30 min appt. You probably won't get satisfaction out of a 15 minute checkup
  • I'd suggest you tell the doc something like: "I've recently noticed that I'm feeling *what you're feeling*. I'm not entirely sure when it started, maybe I've always been this way. Now it's starting to effect my life in *these ways*. I feel strongly that I need to get to the bottom of this, and I'm hoping you can help." This is going to let your Dr. know that you're not just in for an afternoon headache, and that unless they do a good job up front you're going to keep pestering them until they do.
  • Along the same line, ask your Dr. to help you find the best Dr (or whatever) to help you get to the bottom of it. Again, your GP is a good place to start, but you probably want to switch over to somebody more focused on this kind of stuff for the month to month management.
  • If you're a snorer (or maybe even if you're not) you should definitely add Sleep Apnea to your list. Sleep Apnea is like an oxygen diet -- it thins out your brain. It could easily be the root cause, and it's something that you live with for years before it gets bad enough to find out about (if ever). There are quite a few mental health issues which could account for the stuff you're talking about. ADD/ADHD is the easy fit, but don't rule out depression (also dysthimia -- chronic low-level depression), bipolar, or anxiety issues. If/When you go to see a psychiatrist, they'll reel off a set of symptoms related to (at least in the DSM) each diagnosis that seems to fit. Try hard to answer the questions honestly, it seems easy to me to manipulate your answers into getting whatever diagnosis you 'want', which isn't always what you need. If you've got a Flexible Spending Account attached to your benefits, this might be a good time to start funding it. If you spend a lot of time with Drs, you'll probably spend a lot of money, at least some of it out of your pocket. About drugs: Don't be afraid to try them out. What you can go on, you can go off. If you think you need them, get them from a Psychiatrist (not another Dr. who just thinks it's a good idea). The biggest problem w/ meds is that they're not managed properly according to my therapist. I've just recently started meds after pretty much a year of putting it off. It was a year badly spent. About Lifestyle stuff: Do the easy stuff like drink enough water, take a multi-vitamin, and get exercise. Regular (3-4 times a week), arobic exercise alone can resolve some depressions. It can't hurt (too much) to try going off coffee, alcohol, etc. Didn't help me much, but maybe it will you. Don't not-go-to-the-doc cause you're doing this stuff instead. Consider seeing a therapist if you can find a good one. They work well in combination w/ meds or alone, and might help you get to the bottom of why this is bugging you right now if you've actually always been this way. Lastly: consider that you have always been this way, and that it's OK. You're clearly not the only one. If you're happy, and not trashing the lives of those around you then maybe everything's alright? If you want to persue this to the Nth degree try out Vipassana.

posted by daver at 4:11 PM on December 1, 2004

DSM IV checklist for ADHD

Sound familiar?
posted by LimePi at 4:56 PM on December 1, 2004

Familiar? That was my entire childhood. Hell, it's my adulthood. If it weren't for the fact that I like solving puzzles, and I have a line of work that can be construed as puzzle-solving, I'd be in deep shit.

And in fact, that's my strategy for staying focussed when I need to: try and recast the task at hand as an intellectual thing I'm interested in.

But having read this thread, maybe I should try drugs.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:58 PM on December 1, 2004

I find that paying close attention to my nutritional needs pulls me out of the kind of thing that bondcliff describes. It happens to me sometimes, too. For all my enthusiastic recreational self-medication over the years, I've always found that eating right has a stronger effect on my mental wellbeing than anything else, when coupled with sufficient (ie a lot) of sleep.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:10 AM on December 2, 2004

Lots of good advice in this thread. I'd recommend both the lifestyle checks (diet, exercise, sufficient sleep) along with getting a good doctor to check you out for ADD.

I've got one thing to add on the theory of training your brain into a better place. When my wife was diagnosed with ADD, we had some discussions of the symptoms, and I realized that I probably had a milder form of it when I was younger. I give primary credit for reprogramming my brain away from that mode of functioning to my martial arts practice. The martial arts both forced me into the immediate here and now, and also gave me a lot more discipline for staying on task. I can definitely tell that my brain works differently now from how it did back in my pre-martial arts days.

Of course that's just one data point. I don't really know if the martial arts would work the same way for anyone else. Still, if you ever had an interest in them, this might give you an extra excuse for checking out classes. (Note - don't expect the effects to be anywhere near as quick as the results you'd get from ADD medication. Still, the advantage is that you're not dependent on something external.)
posted by tdismukes at 9:09 AM on December 2, 2004

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