Symptoms of Adult ADHD/ADD

I get these e-mails from this “natural health” doctor, and he had this chart of what to look for to see if one has ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) or its cousin, ADD (attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity, “which is more common in grown-ups”).

Time to self-diagnose:

*Trouble concentrating, especially when reading
That can happen, especially when I’m thinking of something else I want/need to do.

*Being easily distracted
Definitely true. Sometimes, I’m working on one thing, and the next thing is more interesting. Then I have to peel back to get back to task #1. Although sometimes, at work, task #2 pops up and it’s more important than task #1. Then task #3 might become the priority.

*Disorganization and procrastination
Disorganization has ALWAYS been true. My mother in particular dubbed me the “Absent-Minded Professor”, a description my sisters gleefully seized upon.
Now, I have systems. My bike lock key, when I’ve locked my bike, is always in the same slot in my backpack; ditto the bus pass. My glasses go on the same part of the dresser so I can find them in the dark.
When the routine is altered, I forget. I don’t ride my bike one day because the weather is miserable. I will; take my bike lock out of my backpack, because it’s terribly heavy to carry for no purpose. I ride my bike to work the next day, and only halfway there, when it’s too late, I realize I have no bike lock. (I end up sneaking it up to my office via the freight elevator, because the security folks get REALLY nasty if I take it up the passenger elevator.)

I used to procrastinate over things I hate. But I’m better; I tend to do them first, just to get them over with, on the theory that fretting about them took up too much psychic energy.

*Addictive behavior (e.g., drugs, drinking, gambling, overeating, excessive shopping)
Drugs, no. I remember my father giving me a sleeping pill – I was 25 at the time, and I felt SO good that I KNEW I should avoid THAT.
Drinking, maybe for a brief period in my 20s.
Gambling, no. I’m bored by gambling, and particularly hate casinos. I might buy a lottery ticket when the pot is high enough that an office pool is formed.
Overeating, for sure, especially when I’m feeling melancholy.
Shopping, when I first got credit cards, I spent too much. Largely curbed, and now I hate it when I can’t pay off my bills in the current month. (The root canal, not covered by my insurance, is going to take two or three months.)

*Restlessness
Definitely true. I should do yoga.

*Anxiety, depression, mood swings
Anxiety and mood swings, not so much.
Depression, can be inexplicably subject to that.

*Impulsive and risky behavior, including reckless driving
Actually, I’m usually quite risk averse. It’s not that I can’t be impulsive; I’ve had whole romantic relationships based on that in the past.

*Low self-esteem
Actually, no. I’m rather wonderful.

*Inability to finish projects, lacking motivation
This has long been true. You know how complicated projects need intermediate goals? DEFINITELY true, because if I have a big project, I’ll often attack it with great enthusiasm, but lose passion for it; it even says that is true of me in an extensive horoscope I got in the late 1970s. Blogging is great because it’s 365 discrete (but not always discreet) pieces. But writing a book? Can’t imagine.

*Forgetfulness, chronic lateness
I used to forget a lot. That’s why I need the systems. And I’ve long tended to be late, though so does my wife; the difference is that she fails to recognize it. But I HATE being late to an airport or train station, and desire to be early, if I’m in control of the situation.

Here’s a classic morning at home recently. My daughter is upstairs, wants a particular outfit. It’s in the dryer in the basement, so I go downstairs to the first floor, but realize I need to go to the bathroom, and I do, reading something; I use up the last of the toilet paper. Then I start going back upstairs before I remember that I need to go down to the basement. Now I need to take a shower quickly at the point the daughter needs to go to the bathroom. “Go downstairs,” I say. So she does, but, of course, there’s no toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom, because I used the last of it, so I have to go bring some downstairs before I shower.
Now is that ADHD, or is that just morning?

*Being short-tempered, inability to tolerate frustration
I used to be quite short-tempered, especially in my 20s. I figure it was a reaction to not being able to fully express my anger in my childhood. I get frustrated much less than I used to.

At some point soon, I’ll write about preventing adult ADHD.

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0 thoughts on “Symptoms of Adult ADHD/ADD”

  1. Roger, from the moment you wrote that the doctor’s message included “ADD in grown-ups” rather than “adults,” I could smell a little snake oil!

    Truth is, at our age (although I’m sure I’m older than you, but we won’t get into an argument there!), most of the above is common. And trying out substances, drinking, all that jazz, c’mon. We all did it (my Riley says her mom ROCKS because I admit I did all that stuff and show her ways to get around it in social situations)!

    The short-tempered part and some others may typically be simple anxiety or just who we are. As a manic-depressive with PTSD, I know too well that society either wants all these things to remain hidden (like how we used to whisper the word “cancer”), or over-catagorize mental illness, or treat it where it isn’t present. Case in point: Riley was diagnosed as bipolar like me… the doctor put her on a chemical soup that almost fried her brain and did cost her a semester in college. Turns out she has Asperger’s which is a highly functioning form of autism. Since she didn’t have obvious markers, they never considered it. And she was the Valedictorian of her class!

    Great post, great and honest self-assessment. Would that we all did this… Love, Amy

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  2. A lot of this is yes for me, but I’m pretty sure I’m not really a walking diagnosis. On the other hand, some of the big ones are no: no self-esteem issues (beyond the normal questioning of self in the occasional new situation), not short-tempered at all (my family will usually say I’m patient to a fault), no risky behavior (not even old relationships!), and not really addictive behaviors (sure, I like to visit a casino from time to time, but not irresponsibly so; I’ve never done drugs, and while I’ll have a drink on very rare occasion, I’ve never been drunk). All in all, I think I’m just a common slacker!

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  3. The standard medical solution to ADD and ADHD seems to be to treat it as a purely medical disorder like diabetes or an infection, which is too simplistic. I’m not saying it’s purely psychological either, that’s also too simplistic. I see ADD and ADHD as an adaptation to life, distraction as a way of dealing with pressure. Somehow the learned trick of distraction becomes so internalized that it becomes part of you both mentally and physically. Suddenly as an adult the learned and deeply internalized response to stress interferes with your daily tasks, as you describe.

    I don’t mean to insult or anything like that here. I do not have ADD or ADHD, but like you I am afflicted with anger and rage and have had consequences, such as asthma for example. The solution for me has been to go inside and examine how that anger has made me what I am both mentally and physically. With the asthma, I’ve been forced to examine how my body and mind both work together to restrict my breathing.

    I’m definitely not making recommendations for you, self examination is neither fun nor pretty. Avoiding dealing with the avoidance techniques by taking doctor drugs may be the lesser of two evils for most people. I’m simply trying to point out another way of looking at this problem.

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