Resources for adult ADD?
October 17, 2007 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Does it sound like adult ADD? Resources?

I am in the process of being tested for a learning disability. I have a terrible memory, particularly for auditory learning. I am also horribly disorganized, and have to spend a large amount of time and energy keeping track of things.

I have multiple systems that I have developed to help me (to do lists, reminders, etc.), but find that my systems overlap and inconsistent. For example, I'll lose the to do list, forget to look at the reminders. I am constantly overwhelmed both at work and at home, and feel that my career has been limited by my ineffectiveness managing these weaknesses.

I have always gotten by, but I feel I've never lived up to my true capacity. I suspect that, if I do have a LD, it's gone undetected because I've been able to compensate in other ways.

For those who have ADD, (or are very familiar with it) do these sound like symptoms? I do get diagnosed, what resources are available to help me? How can I learn to better handle my learning style and avoid doing "double and triple work" in order to cover my bases and keep organized? Finally, how do I find a career niche that is a good fit for a "big picture" person who struggles with details?
posted by mintchip to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I lived with someone with ADD (diagnosed, but untreated) for several years and the "losing the todo list" item resonated with me as an ADD thing. It's not that you lose it sometimes, heck we all do that, but that you're unable to kep track of your own ways of keeping track of stuff and spend more time trying to stay on track than doing whatever it was you wanted to be on track FOR.

In any case, it doesn't matter what I think because you're going to get tested. The good news is that if it's ADD you have a really good support community available to you (CHADD) and a bunch of medication options to you if you decide to go that way. One of the things that's decent about ADD as something to possibly take medicine for is that you can take it conditionally, see what you think, and if it's not doing anything for you, just stop. I have a number of friends who took Adderall or Strattera or some of the other medicines who were very surprised at the differences, some who stayed on the medicines and some who didn't. One of the other interesitng things about medication is sometimes just understanding what an organized mind feels like can help you stick with organizational patterns if you decide you don't want to be on medication.

That said, if I were you I'd do some reading. There are plenty of adults with ADD doing amazing things. The whole "thinking a bazillion things at once" mindset, if properly channeled can really be a boon to people in creative professions. If you're really getting started learning about this the classic text is Driven to Distraction written by a doctor with ADD. Flip through it and see if you recognize yourself at all.

For my partner and I, at the time, what worked was developing a lot of routines. Get up, make coffee, make list, talk about day. He had a set of highlighter pens that he used with his calendar that would help him, at a glance get a ballpark idea of whether he had meetings, homework due or other stuff. It seemed to help to have information that could be digested quickly rather than having to be read. The list was ALWAYS in the same pocket [hipster PDA type thing] and bsically if there was something I wanted done it had to be on it. We had a pretty strict schedule ro make sure certain things got done [trash, errands, whatever] and he managed to get himself through law school that way.

One of the things you'll read in that book is that it can be challenging to be in a serious relationship for some people with ADD. It can be hard to focus on the other person, hard to WANT to pick up a whole bunch more responsibilities in addition to your life being a little hectic, hard to take time to really get focussed (was a big problem for me and my SO at the time). There are a lot of different ways to have ADD [soemtimes it co-presents with OCD or anxiety or mild depression] and part of managing it is making sure you're getting treated for other things that may be happening at the same time.

I'm not sure about the career stuff, but there are a lot of support groups where people share the sortof "what works for them" types of things that can help with staying on top of stuff [things like automatically paying bills, color coded lists, viseual cues for more stuff) and you can talk to your doctor if it turns out you do have some variant of ADD about what you want to do medication-wise or not. Good luck. I know we have some ADD Mefiers here and I'm sure they'll show up with more useful first hand information.
posted by jessamyn at 7:16 PM on October 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

1. I have ADD. I take Strattera, a non-stimulant ADD medication.

2. I recommend that you get a book called Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edard M. Hallowell.

3. The book mentioned is very well-written, and contains many tips on how to live your life to the fullest when you have ADD.

4. The two authors of the book are both ADD, they met at Harvard Medical School and both discovered this particular 'disorder'

5. The book also contains resources for you to find out where you can get yourself diagnosed properly.

6. I personally don't find ADD to be a disorder. I see it as a gift. I would not be able to do what I do professionally right now if I were not ADD.

7. As mentioned in the book, you just need to find the key to your life. I also recommend that you trust your gut.

I'd also recommend that you read the following speech by Steve Jobs which was presented in 2005 at the Stanford Commencement Speech--it has helped me a lot for dealing with my ADD issues:

You've got to find what you love / Steve Jobs

posted by seeminglee at 8:22 PM on October 17, 2007


1. I should *emphasized* that ADD and bipolar disorder has many similar traits but are treated very differently.

2. You must get a proper diagnosis by a doctor who knows about this field well.

3. Again, all these info + more is in the book that I recommended to you.

4. The authors also invite the readers to email them directly if they think that they are ADD. As such, you are pretty taken care of there.

Good luck!

posted by seeminglee at 8:26 PM on October 17, 2007

Yeah, I am a woman, 32 years old, diagnosed about a year ago, your description is brief and vague but those do sound like symptoms and any documents online will tell you that but they are also symptoms of other things. You really need to find this out from a specialist.

*Now cue the posters to come in and say you're drug-seeking or that ADD doesn't exist.*
posted by loiseau at 2:01 AM on October 18, 2007

There are three (that I am aware of) books in the Hallowell library: Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction and Answers to Distraction. I have all three, as my son and husband both have ADHD. I'm not suggesting that you read all three (because clearly, if you've got a learning disability and have trouble with details and memory, reading has got to be a bit difficult, yes?) but at least page through them. Hallowell is very good about naming his chapters appropriately. Get them and use them.
posted by cooker girl at 7:50 AM on October 18, 2007

Seconding CHADD! If you're not into pharmaceuticals, it turns out that many AD(H)D people use marijuana to self-medicate. Please note that this is illegal in many countries, particularly the United States. (*wink*) I am about to purchase a software package to help my ADHD daughter with her working memory issues. Try this site for some helpful explanations. Best of luck. I have developed my own coping strategies, and haven't managed to screw my own life up too badly!
posted by Fferret at 1:10 PM on October 18, 2007

The symptoms you are describing are pretty vague, so obviously it would make the most sense to get an opinion from a professional, but it sounds like you're asking for our initial impressions, and from my experience (as a 23 year-old who was diagnosed with ADD during college), I'm not so sure that you have it. It sounds like you may have some problems with organizational skills or forgetfulness (for which there are probably a lot of resources), but the real question is if you have problems with concentration. A few questions:

If you start reading a book or magazine, do you immediately find your mind wandering? Do you have trouble accomplishing tasks without feeling distracted? Do you have trouble paying attention during meetings/lectures/etc?

For me, those were the real signs of ADD-- feeling constantly distracted, and the inability to concentrate on anything.

Regardless, I would suggest talking to an expert, rather than me :) Hopefully they can give you some advice and resources, regardless of whether it is ADD or something else.

I hope that helps.
posted by stilly at 4:24 PM on October 18, 2007

I agree with stilly -- I don't think you have ADD. The only symptom you mention that is strongly ADD is being highly disorganized, which I imagine could be the result of some other LD (I don't know much about them, so I can't suggest what it might be instead). The fact that you mention no other symptoms -- particularly that you don't mention an inability to focus, social problems with others, or impulsiveness of any kind -- makes it hard for my to believe that ADD is the right diagnosis.

There are loads of tests online that list potential symptoms of ADD. Do a google search and fill out one of these tests. That will list all of the common experiences of most people with ADD.

This is not to say you may not benefit from the sorts of techniques, treatments, and drugs that help those with ADD.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:00 PM on October 18, 2007

The symptoms you describe do sound like ones shared by adults with ADD, but also like adults with generalized anxiety disorder, bi-polar (primarily type II), and mild to moderate front hemisphere brain damage like that often associated with concussions.

This is because every brain function is interwoven with many others, but no two functions have the same set of linked functions. Thus, A might have trouble with attention and short-term memory, while B has trouble with attention and impulse control.

How do I know? I learned it the hard way.

After fifteen years of therapists, psychiatrists, drugs and diagnoses based on my self-reported history, it was still hard for me to do things that most people have little trouble doing. Things like staying current on bills, getting the trash out on trash day, and remembering to take the shopping list with me to the grocery store. Despite my above average intelligence, ethics and work ethic, the state of my marriage and of my career showed the effects of my, ummm, unorthodox style.

In 2005 I had had enough and decided to pursue a single mental health goal: Instead of seeking a diagnosis of my general condition, I decided to find out what are the likeliest causes for my primary symptoms; chronic cycles of apathy and lethargy, difficulty paying attention, random waves of anxiety, periods of hyper-focus, compulsive needs to read about everything that was even remotely related to my interests, and my lifelong process of developing a system to organize my life but always re-starting it so that I never began using it.

With the help of a couple of good brain imaging experts, a neurologist and a couple of neuro-psychiatrists, I was able to establish that my brain structure and function has characteristics that correlate with ADD, bi-polar II and generalized anxiety disorder. (This work was done in Southern California.) I also learned that no brain imaging evidence supports the theory that we have single, precisely definable conditions. The structures and functions of our brains are as individuals as our personalities.

My incredibly effective treatment has involved bio-feedback therapy, new drugs, minor dietary changes and cognitive therapy. Inside my mind the experience has been as if, before I had a decent Pentium running Windows NT, and now, I have a Core 2 Duo running a highly optimized version of XP (or whatever the best, hyperbolic OS allusion might be).

My input, then, is YES!, do get a diagnosis. But don't approach it as a yes/no question. Find a doc who will help you find out "Given that I'm smart, creative and ethical, why is it so difficult for me to _____ and _______ and ______."

Very best wishes.
posted by Hickram at 4:29 PM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

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