General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Do I have Attention Deficit Disorder?

Asked by Hobbes (7368points) October 28th, 2008

I’m not asking for a professional opinion (unless someone here is qualified to give it), just your thoughts.

I’m asking this question at five in the morning. I’m up right now because I’ve been working on a paper for the last three hours. I didn’t start it until late (but that’s different – a procrastination issue), and I haven’t got much done. Whenever I sit down to work, I find myself constantly distracted by things. It’s very hard to focus on any one thing for more than half an hour if I’m interested in it, and equally hard to focus for over five or ten minutes if I’m not. Trying to slog through a dense, boring textbook chapter takes several hours, and a few pages of writing (when I don’t much want to do it) while not difficult per se, often takes upwards of four hours to complete.

I can sit through a good movie or book, but I tend to get fidgety even then. When I watch a movie on the computer, I’ll constantly skip back and forth between it and several other things. In fact, the reason I watch the show Friends so often is precisely for that reason – it’s something to have on in the background while I do three or four other things.

I’ll lose the thread of a conversation because something the person says will make a connection with something else in my head and I’ll start thinking about it, only to realize that I haven’t heard a word that’s been said for the last few minutes. It’s not to the point where I can’t talk with someone, but it’s a noticeable problem.

A couple other things: unless I’m actively focusing on keeping still, I’ll constantly fidget and develop little physical tics: cracking knuckles and toes, shredding a napkin, running my hands through my hair, clicking, etc. I also have a terrible memory for some things (names especially) and a great memory for others (I’m very good at memorizing lines for plays or remembering song lyrics), though that is probably entirely unrelated.

So: what do you think? Am I just scatterbrained? Am I making too big a deal out of this? Or do I have a legitimate case of ADD?

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35 Answers

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

I have ADHD and was diagnosed in the first grade. The memory thing is definately not unrelated, in fact that is a symptom. Along with your focusing issues and fidgeting.
Do you have anger problems? Or are you easily angered, moreso than your peers seem to be?
It’s 5:30 AM here, since time is being mentioned. But I’m not up due to focus issues or a project to do. I’ve actually been out all night, haha.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

hobbes! oh no! if you do, i think i do too. i’m also awake right now (it’s only 4:20 here, ha ha ha, like there’s a difference) for the same reason. i identified with a lot of the things you said. i don’t shred napkins (my mom used to grab my hands when i figited with them) but i do tap my feet a lot. i used to try to keep that under control, but after i read that it helps you stay skinny i gave up completely.

the thing that bothers me the most is that i have a hard time concentrating, even if it’s something i actually enjoy doing. you know? okay, this project in particular is annoying, and i don’t really want to do it, but even when i do, i will work for like 10 minutes, then i have to stop then work stop work stop. if it’s a passive activity, like reading a textbook, i can go for 20 or 30 minutes, but then i have to do something else.

for some reason, fiction books, novels, etc don’t give me any trouble. i can read them for hours on end. so maybe i don’t have ADD i just get bored…

anyway, you asked for our thoughts…those are mine….i have no idea if you’re making too big a deal or not, but i’m quite curious what the collective will say, when everyone else wakes up…

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

Oh, you can always just give meds a shot. Like, go to a doctor and convince him you have ADD and get prescribed and try it out. If they help, (and by help I mean keep you focused but make you lose your appetite and get depressed) then you’ll know you have ADD.

Hobbes's avatar

@needle – I’ve never had any anger problems. I’ve always been a very calm person, and though my attention is often all over the place, I tend to be very collected emotionally. I don’t know about meds – though the condition (if I have it) has it’s problems, it has its benefits as well, and I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about prescription meds from friends.

@chica – Yep. Sounds like our problems are pretty similar. How does ADD keep you skinny, though?

La_chica_gomela's avatar

i read a study in my statistics book about how ppl who tap their feet and squirm around in their chairs burn i-don’t-remember-how-many calories more a day than ppl who don’t. so i thought, hey, why should i stop?

EDIT: i really started to get curious after i read all the thing we do similarly, and i checked out th cdc’s website. they have a guide to diagnosing add and adhd, but i don’t think i fit into the definition now.

it seemed like a lot of the things there centered around not paying attention to the details or doing a sloppy job of schoolwork such as losing papers or not reading the directions, and i’m the opposite. i’m hugely detail oriented, and i keep track of my papers meticulously, and i often read the directions of an assignment over and over again, and i’ll email the teacher for clarification if i don’t understand.

i just have a hard time getting myself to focus, before or during. some people say, “oh, once you start the project, everything’s fine!” no, not for me. once i start, i can pretty much count on dividing my time evenly between working and screwing around…if i’m lucky…

Hobbes's avatar

Ah. Well that makes sense. Maybe that’s how I keep slender and shmexy. ;-)

La_chica_gomela's avatar

aneedleinthehay, maybe this is a dumb question, but what’s the difference between ritalin and adderol? do they both have those side effects or were you talking about just one of them? or something completely different?

La_chica_gomela's avatar

side note about my link:
it says ADHD in the title. apparently theyre calling ADD the “predominantly inattentive type” of ADHD now. if you’re wondering why i put up a link to a page about ADHD when we’re talking about ADD, that’s why. apparently they’re the same thing now…

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I am diagnosed as ADD; my youngest daughter and husband are ADHD. Our symptoms are different, but we do share some characteristics. I have much of what you describe, but also the following:
Intense need to multi-task—I can get projects started, but am easily distracted by the “bright, shiny object” and as a result am mid-way through a number of things, with the procrastination kicking in about finishing. I have a hard time deciding where things belong and putting them there, but once i do, I’m like a magpie. I tend to clean house in a drive-by method—things move to where they belong by a progression of steps.
Piler, not a filer—One of the characteristics of those with ADD is a tendency to need things out in plain site, especially paperwork. As a result, mail, once opened, will sit in stacks until its dealt with, and beyond, as opposed to filing. Desks at work tend to be messy, with stacks of work sitting out.
Problems with managing time—constantly late for meetings, family events despite best effort. Being on time seems unnatural.
Hyperfocus on repetitive tasks—the best way to describe this is to give an example. I was volunteering ad my daughter’s grade school to process 1,000 new library books they purchased with a grant. In order to get the book on the shelf, it needed to have the school name stamped on the front and back inside covers, a label with the dewey decimal number typed and affixed to the spine, a library card typed with the book name, inserted into a card envelope, and affixed to the inside back of the book. 5 steps. Everyone else working on the books would take one book, complete all 5 steps. I took a stack of 20 books, stamped all 20, typed and affixed the labels on all 20 spines, put the card envelopes in the back of 20 books, then typed the 20 cards and inserted them in the proper book. It frustrated the heck out of the librarian, who asked me if I was ADD. On certain types of task or subjects, those with ADD have the opposite of distractibility, and instead are able to focus in for long periods of time. I will peel wallpaper off the wall from now until the cows come home, work on complex database management projects with amazing focus; I have hard time getting started, but once I start, the next thing I know, it’s 4 hours later.

mea05key's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock @ Hobbes

I am all what you describe in your respective posts. I love to do repetitive tasks, I am late most of the time, I constantly fidget ( Flipping my pen in all directions ), I cannot concentrate long and when I force myself to do so I will get very tired and my emotional state turns negative.I also realise that I am underweight eventhough I eat reasonabally sufficient. I always thought i have high metabolism and now ADD seems to be anothe reason for that. I also get lost in conversation very often because i tend to think too much on a particular matter

Anyone out there that can give good advice on this matter??

Mr_M's avatar

Do NOT eliminate the possibility that you have OCD, i.e., Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The reason you have trouble reading or keeping your attention may just be that you get INTERFERING THOUGHTS as you are trying to focus on one thing. It may appear that you can’t focus when, in actuality, it’s these “thoughts” that interject themselves as you try to do things. Google OCD.

Hollywood would have you think OCD is only the constant hand washer. It’s not.

nikipedia's avatar

1. Have you DSMed yourself yet?

2. Have these behaviors ever had any serious consequences that you can think of?

Honestly, my diagnostic instincts are leaning toward no, but it’s hard to make a good diagnosis in this venue.

@Lcg: Adderall is a mixture of amphetamines (mostly dextroamphetamine); Ritalin is methylphenidate. They have very similar primary and side-effects, although everyone reacts to drugs differently.

andrew's avatar

@alfredaprufrock: Do you have any links to support the “piler not filer” stuff? It’d be really helpful for supporting evidence in my domestic struggle for tidiness.

I’m diagnosed ADD for nearly 20 years. I’ve written about it elsewhere on the site.

@hobbes: Just based on the symptoms you’ve listed, I wouldn’t jump to an ADHD diagnosis… how are you socially? Do you hyperfocus?

Take niki’s DSM link, and ask 2 people whom you are close with about the symptoms. That’s what a psychologist would do anyway when trying to diagnose you.

Hobbes's avatar

@niki – I’m pretty sure that I meet five of the inattention criteria and partially meet another two. I only meet one of the Hyperactivity criteria (the fidgeting).

@andrew – I don’t have any big problems socially, but I do hyperfocus. Until I read Alfreda’s description, I had no idea it was connected to ADD. I had a job has a house painter last summer, and could spend hours stripping stain off a deck, being extremely meticulous about it – sure to get every lose piece (though I preferred to listen to music or a book on tape while doing it). Like Alfreda, if there’s a task involving, say, inputting numbers, I’ll get lost in it for hours.

I think asking people close to me about the symptoms is a very good idea, because though on the one hand, I hope I don’t have ADD, it would also be a relief, as it would explain a lot of things. My point is, I might be unconsciously exaggerating my symptoms, so asking folks who know me is something I’ll definitely do.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@Andrew, read a really great article on piling vs. filing while waiting in psychologists office to get tested. I had to burst out laughng. (There is a page with ADD links. If you google “piler or filer” ADD you get a lot of links.)

With regards to how I manage the piles, the article basically said that it’s hard to make a piler into a filer, but you can cultivate pile containment. So that’s what I do. I have a series of baskets, and have made a commitment to cultivating several habits.
1. when the mail comes in, I immediately go through it and throw out anything that was not a bill or personal. If I’m not expecting it, or didn’t request it, I toss it unopened.
2. All the bills go into a basket into the kitchen, and on the 25th and 10th of the month, I go through and enter all the payments into online bill payment for the 1st and the 15th. Certain bills, like the mortgage, power, phone, water, are on automatic bill payment from an account that I don’t have checks or a debit card for. I only put money into this account. For the bills that come out the the variable account, I write processed in the statement, and dump them into a basket in the dining room. Once a quarter, I file the things in this basket.
3. Anything that’s personal or requires a response, I answer immediately.
4. I have a think about basket on a desk in the living room. This is for things that I’m not sure I need. Example: Crate and Barrel catalog, NYT Book Review, several solicitations from charities that I usually give to, wedding invitation. When I can’t sleep, I go through the basket and process or toss.
5. All magazines immediately go into a basket besides a chair. My husband has signed up for tossing duty.
6. Articles that I want to save are either scanned or retyped, or located online and the URL noted on a spreadsheet on my desktop. I save no stray pieces from periodicals.
7. I have a basket at the bottom of the steps for things to take upstairs—shoes, stray pieces of clothing, etc. and one at the top of the stairs to take down.
8. The last thing I do at night is sweep through the house and put all stray items in the basket at the bottom of the steps. It takes 10 minutes.
9. I try to minimize what I own.

delirium's avatar

Mikey… you very well could be. We’ll have a long discussion about it if you want to… but I think you’re simply scatterbrained and clumsy. You have the type of intelligence of someone with ADHD and the habits associated with it. Perhaps a little bit of strattera would be helpful for you. It wouldn’t hurt to try it… but unless its dramatically obstructing your life its probably not necessary.

andrew's avatar

@alfredaprufrock: Have you read Getting Things Done? Changed my piling ways!

Mr_M's avatar

@delirium makes a good point…with a lot of psychological disorders (ex., ADD, ADHD, OCD) one can have symptoms all their life yet not have the disorder. BTW, “piler” can also be how a HOARDER is described, with hoarding being a symptom of OCD. The symptoms of the two are often confused.

delirium's avatar

Yep! A person can have traits of something without actually having that something. Its only a disorder if it has a negative impact on your life…. or if its debilitating in some way.

Also, I have an unfair advantage… I know Hobbes in person, and have a different perspective because of it.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

@chica: There’s not much of a difference between ritalin and aderall. I was on ritalin for 9–10 years and then I was put on adderall. Both made me lose my appetite and gave me depression.

Carol's avatar

Here are the symptoms of ADHD:.

Some common symptoms and problems of living with AD/HD include:
* Poor attention; excessive distractibility
* Physical restlessness or hyperactivity
* Excessive impulsivity; saying or doing things without thinking
* Excessive and chronic procrastination
* Difficulty getting started on tasks
* Difficulty completing tasks
* Frequently losing things
* Poor organization, planning, and time management skills
* Excessive forgetfulness

We have now found that working memory deficits contribute enormously to chronic disorganization. Did you know that IQ is correlated with memory?

Recently, there are several computer programs available that are designed to increase working memory. The best I’ve found is Cogmed. You can go to their site to learn more:

As a clinical psychologist who diagnoses ADHD on a weekly basis, I recommend you do everything you can to see true change. That includes medication….and not from your internist or family practitioner. You will do be with a psychiatrist who knows drug interactions and can work with you on the best drug for ADHD and best dose for your situation. Internists and family practice Docs usually underprescribe since they’re wary of giving meds they don’t know alot about and, in the case of drugs for ADHD, if you’re given a stimulant, they fear it will be sold on the street to addicts. Ask your GP for a referral to a psychopharmacologist.

By the way, sleep deprivation is a no-no for those with this condition….it will make your symptoms worse.


Hobbes's avatar

Carol – Isn’t the official list of symptoms different than that? I fit nearly all of those criteria, but not all of the ones listed in the DSM-IV.

What do you mean by working memory? As I said, my memory for certain things is very poor, but extremely good for others.

I am frightened of being medicated and have no desire to take pills unless the condition (assuming I do have it) becomes extremely problematic. As of right now, it’s not bad enough to merit the probable side effects of any drug I might take.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@Hobbes, there is also ADT, which is exhibiting attention deficit traits due to working in an environment with constant interruptions.

krose1223's avatar

I just started taking adderall and I like it a lot actually… It didn’t make me depressed at all, it actually got me out of depressed mode! It’s supposed to be an upper. It was the weirdest thing when I felt it working… I still got sidetracked but it was like I could put them in another place in my brain. For example, my deciding factor on going to my doctor about all the things you guys have mentioned, was when I was trying to write a paper but I could not because of the stupid fish tank! It was the softest sound but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I would get sidetracked by the noise then my train of thought would lead me way far away from biology land. Anyway, so I went to my doctor the next day and she gave me adderall… Within 24 hours I noticed a difference! I sat in the same room with the same noises but I could focus on my papers… I still heard the fish tank and was still focused on it even, but it was like I put it to the back of my brain where it wouldn’t bother my main focus. I don’t know if that makes sense. I’m on a really low dosage though because I don’t want to have difficulty getting off of it. They say you can get depressed when coming off of it, but my doc said as long as you slowly wean yourself it shouldn’t be too difficult. Anyway, this is a really long answer… but I just wanted to give my input of adderall. I am still fidgety and whatnot, but as far as doing school work goes I am doing 100% better.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@krose, It’s funny you described Adderall this way. When I started it, I described it as if there was a radio in the next room that was not quite on station, and all of a sudden it was as if someone walked into the room, and adjusted the knob so the broadcast came in clearly. That’s the thing with the meds, you seem to pretty much know right away if they work or not. if you don’t need them, they have the opposite effect. My daughter was on Stratera, and it helped her witht he fidgets as well as the concentration.

krose1223's avatar

@alfreda- Yeah I think that is a good explanation of it too. It was the weirdest thing. I’ve never actually felt medicine work. I don’t mind that I still fidget or really any of the other stuff. Just as long as I get my work completed aI am happy!

cstobart73's avatar

Hi. I’m new not only to this discussion, but also to this group. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with ADD but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Although I only fit about half the diagnostic criteria if that, I do identify with what Alfreda was saying about being a Piler not a Filer. I fly in the face of the typical Asperger’s Syndrome stereotype (yep I’m an Aspy too), in that rather than being fanatically tidy, I struggle to focus on becoming tidy. Everything piles up around me, letters, unwashed dinner plates etc until I have to phone my dad and ask him to help me get started on a clear-up.

The wake-up call for me to look more seriously at the possibility of having ADD is the fact that I found a mouse in my house a couple of nights ago. I’ve called an expert in and he’s put down some traps but I always knew this might happen one day.

The trouble is it’s so easy to just pick one thing up, but when there’s loads you get flummoxed and don’t know where to start in case things already get more mixed up than they already are.

Can any ADDers identify with this? I think if I were able to just snap out of it I probably would have done by now.

Great to talk with you all

Chris Stobart

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@Chris, we’ve had a posting for the merits of Get Things Done. I think it’s beneficial for people with ADD because it does what many people seem to do instinctively, which is break down tasks so they don’t become overwhelming and cause you to drift.

As an example, if I say I’m taking down the Christmas decorations today, what it really means is, bring up the boxes from the basement, put all the mantle decorations in one box, put the lid on, carry it to the basement, put it on the shelf. Take the ornaments, garland and lights off the tree, put them in the box, take the tree skirt outside and shake it out, put the lid on the box, carry it down to the basement, put it on the shelf, take the tree stand to the basement and hang it on the wall, and carry the tree out to the curb for the recycle truck to pick it up. If I fail to complete any one of these steps, then the Christmas stuff is not really put away. I have to force myself to do a task completely in order to accomplish the objective.

cstobart73's avatar

What I’m asking is do I sound like I’ve got ADD?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

How old are you? Did your parents make you do chores as at home? I guess what I’m getting at is, were you trained as a kid on how to manage your home life? The reason why I ask this is, I know people whose kids never picked up after themselves, never took the trash out, did the dishes, did the laundry, made the beds, etc. and didn’t realize that in order for those things to get done, you have to do them. They are totally oblivious to the need to do them. Most of them lived on their own for a year, and then moved back in with their parents. Their roommates wanted to kill them.

It doesn’t sound entirely like ADD to me, except for being overwhelmed by it. But chaos is overwhelming. ADD or not, you can cultivate daily habits to end it so it doesn’t get out of control.

cstobart73's avatar

I’m 35. I did get given some chores to do but not to the point where it was “Have you done your chores Junior?”. As I got older ie teenage years I learnt how to do my fair share of washing and drying up and putting away dishes as well as doing my own laundry and sometimes hoovering the living room in the school holidays when Mum was busy. The one thing I always preferred my Mum to do was my ironing.

My own bedroom was nearly always chaos though. Ironically my parents thought I’d learn more living alone than with friends. Considering I struggled to keep one room tidy I fail to see why they thought I’d manage four rooms! But I have my rodent problem under control (I think) and been comforted that many others have had mice too and not just in their lofts!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I think the mice thing is due to the weather and not housekeeping. But it seems like they’ve given you a wake-up call about housekeeping practices. I’ve found two things to be really helpful. One is my grandmother told me, “You can do it once, or you can do it twice. It takes as much effort to leave stuff out as it does to put it back.” While that’s not entirely true, it is somewhat. It takes less time in the long run to hang clothes up or put them in the hamper as it does to drop them on the floor. The other thing is, never leave a room without taking something with you. I actually play “I Spy” every time I walk from one room to another—I check for something that belongs in the room I’m heading into, and I take it with me.

This is an interesting video on hoarding. It made me want to be a better person.

Hobbes's avatar

My parents’ house is really quite neat and we’ve had mice on occasion. They’re just looking for a warm place to pass the winter (and nibble through your cereal boxes).

Thanks for the explanation of “breaking things down into chunks”, Alfreda. People have explained the idea to me before, but it’s never really clicked until now.

molly's avatar

this sounds strangely similar to me. LEA, GET ME YOUR MEDS

h3ll0kitty7990's avatar

basically if you cant focus and get VERY easily distracted by music, tappin of any kind, and just cant focus when your around people I guess you have add/adha. thats how i was and they said i had adha i was also diagnosed with depression. so how do you have depression and adhd? beats me but I was put on meds and the meds for adha helped but the depression ones made me feel like a zombie so i completely stopped taking both of them (its been 4years now) and ive been fine. usually it has to do with seasonal change and just other normal things going on around you. hormones as well. im not a doctor or anything but this is just my opion.

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