Should I communicate to other that I have ADHD? If so, how?
December 8, 2004 9:08 PM   Subscribe

I've just been diagnosed with Adult ADHD. (No, this isn't the person who inquired earlier, although it inspired me to get it checked.) I'm going to be getting therapy to get better, but I wanted to know how you would view a person who admitted he had ADHD to you? It's apparent to me now that I've messed up a lot of things in my life because of it (Failing out of college, frequent job changes, crappy social life). I want to be able to say, "Hey, I messed up because of this, but I'm changing for the better." If you were an employer or even a guy/girl I was asking out, would you accept this as an excuse for my prior mistakes? Should I even mention it at all?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's a tough call. If it's someone who already knows/knew you fairly well and you're trying to give some sort of apology/explanation for past behavior, it would make sense. However, if you're just meeting someone, maybe not. It seems like someone who doesn't know you might be suspicious that you were mentioning your condition as some kind of pre-emptive excuse for slacking off. I know that seems insensitive, but I feel like it might be interpreted that way, especially by someone who can't directly relate.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2004

If it hadn't affected my work history, I wouldn't mention it to future possible employers. But, since your past job history is affected by your disorder, it would help to mention it. Just think, when your next employer asked you "it looks like you haven't been at one job for very long, why is that?" you can either say "well, I'm a slacker and I hate work" or "well, I've been diagnosed with ADHD, but I'm on medication and I'm doing alot better." Which one is better?

As for a guy/girl that you go out with, I wouldn't consider it that big of a deal. They'll figure out what you're like from being around you. I would say its something you would mention after a couple dates or so.
posted by puke & cry at 9:23 PM on December 8, 2004

Don't mention it. Unless it comes up. Like, if someone asks you directly. I worked with a guy that was adult ADHD and due his meds I never would have guessed. If someone asked about your earlier foibles, I would go with a vague, "...well, yeah, my head wasn't screwed on straight then. But I finally figured, hey, I'm 30 and it's time grow up." (Getting treatment for such a condition is a very grown up thing to do, imo.)

If you are directly asked, however, under no conditions should you lie or keep it from someone.

The reason I say that is because if treatment works as well as it did for the guy I worked with, you won't need to make excuses anymore. Don't make excuses, though. If anything, take responsibility. My two cents.
posted by Doohickie at 9:26 PM on December 8, 2004

I was diagnosed with adult ADHD a few years ago. I'm quite open about it -- cracking jokes about being medicated, talking to anyone who asks questions, etc.

That being said -- I wouldn't mention it before I actually got a job. I've only mentioned it with employers after I'm already in, when it seems appropriate. Dating? Probably not right away. You'll know when it feels right.

But I definitely told people I had prior relationships with. When I was diagnosed, it was such a relief -- I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

Anon, if you need to talk or have any questions, my email's in my profile, and you don't need to worry about me comprimising your anonyminity. Good luck.
posted by sugarfish at 9:27 PM on December 8, 2004

I wouldn't (mention it, that is). It smacks of the U.S. love affair with victimhood. "I'm a f*ckup, but it's not my fault! It's [insert excuse here]!"

Of course, there's a difference between "admitting that you have ADHD" and actively putting it forth as a topic of conversation. If somebody tells you "I'd like to [hire|be friends with|sleep with] you, but you're a wacko," then by all means tell him. Or her.

Otherwise, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Yes, I Googled it. If your therapy fixes your life, then great. If not, it doesn't really matter whether you have ADHD or PQRST: your life is still screwed up. If you care enough to try to fix it, and work at it enough so you do fix it, then you're fine by me. If you don't care, or don't work at it, then I'd prefer you take your screwed up life elsewhere. And if you care, but can't fix it, I'm going to want a much better explanation than "I have ADHD."
posted by spacewrench at 9:27 PM on December 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

First of all, congratulations on getting help, this is good.

As to your question, what you should mention to anyone really depends on the circumstances (yes, I realise this is a non-answer). As a general rule, especially in personal relationships I would advise to prove yourself to the other person as a complete person with your actions first, otherwise they have a natural human tendency to be judgmental and actually expect you to mess it up again if you prejudice their feelings for by telling them that you have issues.

But if you do great with somebody for a while and then tell that you've had problems in the past, it shouldn't be a big problem to anybody. And if it is, well, then they are probably not the right person. It's also not a question of lying. When you first meet somebody, you don't have to tell everybody everything about yourself during the first conversation. Everybody tends to have problems of some sort during their lives and if a person can't deal with that, well, I would call them immature.

As for employers, it's a bit trickier, since they can more legitimately scrutinise your job and academic history when they are first meeting you. I guess the same rules apply though. If they ask, I would be frank about the reasons. If they don't, I wouldn't mention it. The best advice I have received and can give about jobs is that if they judge you for something else than your actual performance or don't want you because of your history, it probably is not the place for you. If you don't like them, don't work for them.

And I would also question the philosophy of using the word "excuse" in your question. It's a diagnosed condition that you have, and you're getting help for it. It's a reason, not an excuse, and that's the way you should approach it. If a guy/girl/employer refuses to accept it, well, it's their loss. Move on, find a partner and an employer that is willing to accept you as you are, I'm sure there is one somewhere out there. And prove them that you will make it.

Good luck.
posted by keijo at 9:32 PM on December 8, 2004

Oh, on preview everybody else already said it in much shorter terms and therefore better. But my email's in the profile as well and will be happy to chat if you wish. Dealing with somewhat similar issues at the moment myself.
posted by keijo at 9:37 PM on December 8, 2004

I had a co-worker who talked incessantly about her adult ADHD and her various medications, and we all thought she was kind of a nut. I say, treat this like any other medical condition, and keep it private except from family, close friends, and your employer if there's going to be a major impact on your work.
posted by bonheur at 9:39 PM on December 8, 2004

Bonheur, I wonder if I worked with you. Hee. I always figured everyone thought I was a nut.
posted by sugarfish at 9:45 PM on December 8, 2004

What Bonheur said: you don't need to mention it unless your performance at work is affected.

However . . it helps to allude to it, if you think it will improve a situation. (Giving highly technical lectures is not recommended.) If I'm having a communication problem with a coworker, I will ask if we can make a specific change. "Sometimes I am easily distracted . . sometimes I get impatient if I don't see why the project is important . . I function best if I have some variety in my routine . . I am great about remembering peoples' names but not always good at remembering when to meet with them . ." etc., and then: "Can you call & remind me about this at the end of the day? Could you write down the tasks and then give me the list?" Describe how you DO learn best. (I do better with written directions on small sheets of paper rather than large. My ADHD-but-won't-admit-to-it boss is very good about remembering conversations, but not details/numbers/deadlines, and he works best if his reminder-notes are on colored pieces of paper.)

Social life: same thing, if it's necessary to bring it up. "Gosh," you could say to your old friends, "Back then, I never felt like I could *focus* very well. These days, I'm" [changing for the better blah blah]. To your new friends: "I can get fidgety and then it's difficult for me to watch an entire movie. Please don't be offended if I get up and start reading a magazine!" You can acknowledge it rather than constructing an excuse for it.
posted by oldtimey at 10:52 PM on December 8, 2004

I would mention it after you get to know people well and consider them to be close enough to confide in... somone who already has a good feeling for your personality and won't start blaming stuff on stuff.

As far as using as an excuse for past transgressions, don't. It sounds like a cop-out. You have a VERY SLIGHT disability, and while it may make your life so much better to understand and work around it, there are so many people with so many more worse disabilities that will view you as a crybaby. Never think of ADD of any type as something that has or will changed your life, except maybe as another hurdle you need to get over. The therapy and any medication needs to help you become a stronger person and to make your life better for the long term -- the diagnosis is NOT there to give you a crutch.
posted by SpecialK at 11:54 PM on December 8, 2004

At the risk of a derail, is it possible to test negative for ADD and test positive for ADHD later in life?
posted by esch at 12:04 AM on December 9, 2004

I don't know if I'm insensitive, but I tend to treat someone else's mind like a black box. I only care what goes in and what comes out, I don't care about the workings inside. While I care on a personal level if you're suffering from something, on a professional level I only care if you're doing your job or not. The mere fact that you've been diagnosed with ADHD (a "disorder" I consider to relative to an arbitrary baseline that I don't agree with) will not affect my dealings with you. However, if you constantly screw up and require help cleaning up your mess, I won't be a fan.

Were I on a job interview panel, ADHD by itself would not make any difference to my decision. Behaviour that might be considered a symptom of ADHD would be assessed case-by-case.
posted by krisjohn at 12:17 AM on December 9, 2004

krisjohn, although I can understand your reaction, and it makes sense in an economics kind of way, I would say that as someone with ADD, it feels like the baseline is a lot closer to where people who can afford to think the way you do stand than it is to where I do. and it feels like that advantage that you may have over people with this disorder is something that it would be insensitive to ignore... along with possibly ill-informed, as there is much more to ADHD than its outward symptoms, such as any deviation from a constructed baseline.
posted by Embryo at 12:26 AM on December 9, 2004

This is one of those times I wish the anonymous person had actually come out with their real 'nic, because I have a bunch of ADD/ADHD questions I'd like to ask. Maybe someone answering can help out.

Can anyone who's actually been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD let me in on what clued the diagnosing doctor to your condition? I ask because I've long suspected that I may have some form of attention problem, based not only on historical evidence (my history, that is) but also current evidence. I sometimes think it could just be that I need more sleep / better sleep, or better food in me, and that will fix me up. But other times I look at situations where I've been completely unable to focus on a task at hand, and think perhaps there's some clinical reason for it.

Usually I'd just waive it off, tell myself I'm just being lazy and need to "hunker down", but I noticed this question on the Green and thought I'd see if there's any connection.

Also, what exactly is the treatment? Ritilin? Does that improve your concentration abilities? Are there any nasty side-effects? Is there anything else "on the market"?

In general, I've been a "mind over matter" kind of guy, and disdain the use of medication on things that can be "willed" better (social anxiety, deliberate concentration, depression, etc.) only because I don't feel we have a good understanding of either the side effects of some drugs, or the possible good that can come from these apparently "bad" things. But I'm throwing this out there to gather as much info as I can.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:17 AM on December 9, 2004

Oh boy--I'm not going to touch the "depression can be willed away" comment. But for those of you who are wondering, signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD must be pervasive, continuous and present *before age 7* (most adult eval centers will call relatives or ask for school records) in order to point to a diagnosis of AD(H)D and not depression, burnout, fatigue, normal effects of aging and/or past dryg/alcohol, etc.
posted by availablelight at 6:31 AM on December 9, 2004

I'm the guy who posted the other question and I'm glad it inspired you to get help. I know you posted anon but if you could email me (jim AT bondcliff dot net) I'd really be interested in asking you a few question. If you'd rather not, that's ok.

As for bringing it up to future employers, I interviewed a guy once who was all to eager to tell me he was on Ritalin and the way he came up with it out of the blue was a big turn off. I'd be honest about it if asked though.
posted by bondcliff at 8:01 AM on December 9, 2004

availablelight, I was only commenting on my own personal situation, and don't hold my own crazy values to anyone else's. Honestly I was just looking for more information. I wasn't aware that the medical history played such an important role in determining ADHD, so perhaps my solution lies elsewhere.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:49 AM on December 9, 2004

I can give you my take from the perspective of a woman who began a relationship with someone who was diagnosed with ADHD & severe depression.

I met a guy last summer who seemed fairly cool. On the first date he told me that he had ADHD. In my opinion, he used that as an excuse for everything, well that and the severe depression. He was late picking me (1 - 2 hrs late), it was the ADHD's fault. He didn't listen to me, it was the ADHDs fault. He had to sit in the 2nd row at a movie theater, it was the ADHD's fault. He was sexually lacking, it was the ADHD, severe depression, and medication's fault. He couldn't parent his 13 y.o. daughter, in fact left her at relatives over the 4th of July weekend because of his ADHD/depression. He might not call for several days, it was the ADHD's fault. The list goes on.

It was a major turn off. If anyone ever again discloses that info to me within the first few months of a relationship, I will run full speed away. I really felt that he was blaming all of his character flaws on these diagnosis. He simply would not take responsibility for his actions because he had a crutch.

A couple of years ago I went on a date with another guy. Actually, he made dinner for me at his house. No sooner did we start eating, than he disclosed his ADHD diagnosis. He was another man that wouldn't take responsibility for himself.

I would rather deal with all of the personality issues w/out knowing the medical diagnosis. At least in the beginning. That way if he's perpetually late, I can least decide whether it's a flaw that I can live with or work with him to change. But, if he tells me that he has ADHD, then I know that he will never change because he has an excuse. "Excuse" is really how it comes off too.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:07 AM on December 9, 2004

The lines are fairly obvious: jobs that require tight, extended narrow focus, such as law or surgery, are bad; jobs that require multi-tasking, such as sales or emergency room work, are good.

Thanks for sharing that. That certainly helps.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:21 AM on December 9, 2004

esch - hmmm no. It is a disorder that starts in childhood. You don't 'just get it' it has been shown there are physical differences in the brain of people with the disorder.

Civil_Disobedient I found out I have ADD while reading a study on it. Included in the information was one of the tests for the disorder (very comprehensive took over an hour to fill out. As I was reading it I kept saying, 'yup that's me'. Turns out after several more tests I scored off the charts) I went to my family physician and sent me off to a specialist, who treated adults with the condition, for a second opinion. The specialist Dr Gerbil (he acted like a gerbil - name stuck) backed up my assessment.

As to the posters question, would I accept ADD as a reason for past mistakes? Up to a point. If there is a willingness to change and your actively working on making a change for the better, yes I would/could give you a second chance but if you continued to ignore your problem then I wouldn't have much sympathy for you. I am like that with anything in life. I'm not sure I would tell an employer unless there was a really good reason to and even then I would be hesitant. As for personal relationships it would depend on how close you are to someone else and whether it might make a difference in telling someone and/or how much you value the friendship. 'Hi my name is Joe and I have ADD is definitely a no-no' ;)

Civil_Disobedient et al if you want to know more can email me - its in my profile.
posted by squeak at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2004

Embryo, there is one bit I didn't add because I have difficulty expressing it, but here goes.

Of the "symptoms" of ADHD, I find only some of them to be negative. Most I find to be well within acceptable norms and others I find to be positive traits.

The hyperactivity part of ADHD is particularly troubling; "Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat." -- this is a disorder? It concerns me greatly that ADHD appears to be a diagnosis designed to allow teachers to stigmatise children whom they can't control.

I fear that ADHD is itself a symptom of a homogenised community increasingly unable to cope with even minor differences from person to person.

This is, however, beyond the scope of the original question.
posted by krisjohn at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2004

I own three helpful books past what-is-it and more relevant to the intermediate stage of what-can-I-actually-do-about-it:

Driven to Distraction / Out of the Fog / Healing ADD.

(Your mileage may vary, &c.) There are likely other good books of this style and I don't know about them yet -- many, however, are downright irritating to read. And I'm not the leading authority on the subject, but feel welcome to also type to me if you'd like.
posted by oldtimey at 6:30 PM on December 9, 2004

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