ADD diagnosis at 39 yrs old, after unsuccessful science career from lack of papers

Arrrrg arrrrrrg I feel you. I got diagnosed the summer after graduating from college (3 years ago), and I’m STILL haunted by that feeling of, like, falling off a cliff and not knowing why and having my self-image as The Smart Kid slowly eaten away. Not 2 Put 2 Fine A Point On It. Trauma is NOT too strong a word for the experience.

Also: yes, I had such a hard time setting “reasonable topics” for essays! My professors would be like, “Okay, so that’s enough work for a dissertation… nope, still not doable by next month… I repeat: are you actually from Mars?” I had no idea what they were talking about. An uncanny time.


In university, I could put my mind on almost anything that was of great interest to me. If it was a a topic that I was really into, it was like a guaranteed A. If I wasn’t into it, there was no way I could force my mind to focus.

1 Like


My name is Tess and I cannot explain how much your post resonated with me. I am still in the beginnings of what I hope to be a successful science career but still many things that you said, I also feel. I am 24 years old, finally finishing my undergraduate bachelor of science degree in marine biology. By my graduation this coming December, it will have taken me 5 1/2 years to complete my undergrad, due to a variety of factors, many of which deal with my mental health. I was not diagnosed with ADHD until I was 21 and have dealt with diagnosed anxiety and depression since I can remember.

Amongst my peers, there is such a lack of awareness for mental health struggles. Everyone I know is such a “go-getter” and can just work and work and work on topics that are of no interest. I constantly feel like there is something wrong with me, that I am just not motivated and have no self-discipline. I would love for an ADHD community of scientists/ researchers to exist. I am feeling immensely helpless and depressed as of late and need to regain the confidence I once had. I am at an integral part of my career and I worry if I don’t do something now I will fail.



I am of a similar age, and while I was diagnosed years ago I didn’t give it any weight. It’s only now that I’m finally trying to understand it. Good news you’re a researcher. You know how to get your facts and understand what you’re dealing with. Your own brain is no exception.

You made it through university, you’ve had a career in science and research. A diagnosis isn’t going to make that life experience disappear, or remove it from the possibilities of your future. It isn’t going to make your world come crashing down. Sure… there’s some ups and downs, but at 39 years old I think you’ve likely experienced some before.

it does force me to lay all my failures on myself or at least my ADD traits

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a dangerous one for sure. We can easily fall into a thought cycle of self-defeat; I promise it doesn’t help. But with a slightly different perspective, ownership can help. As we learn more about who we are we can identify behaviours and through identifying learn to ‘cope’. If we believe it is outside circumstance, that sucks because that’s outside our control. This isn’t, you can have some significant impact on how it affects your life. Like a ship can’t change the ocean, it can turn its sails when it pays attention to the direction the wind is blowing.

I had a situation come up a few years ago that made me realize I can ‘choose how I feel’. Now, sometimes I can’t do it in the moment; sometimes it takes hours, days or even weeks. But at some point I realize. “I don’t enjoy feeling this way, I need to change my perspective.” This becomes an achievable goal that I know when I’ve met it.

We can look back on our life and tell ourselves it’s all our fault, and that “I can’t…”. I promise you won’t enjoy that feeling. At some point you need to tell yourself, “I did X against my best interests. I didn’t understand why, but now I do. And because I can recognize it, I can do something about it moving forward.”

As for a career, you’ve had one for a long time. You just need to learn how to tweak it to fit what you learn about yourself in this process. Upwards and onwards. Use your ADHD brain to deep-dive into you and find out how that can actually benefit your career and life instead of hinder it.

Personally, I’m a data scientist. I work for an organization with multiple teams; they all communicate their needs to me. I can choose what is most important and make that my priority. But I also keep a few low-priority back burner projects so that when I’m burning out trying to do the ‘one task’, I can pivot into another project briefly to keep things dynamic and engaging. I also keep a few that involve learning so that when I’m ready I can really engage and learn something new (and exciting). Then I come back to the big fish once I’ve had a few small wins that make me (and the teams I report to) feel like good things are happening.

My career is in its healthiest state with this flexibility and chaotic workflow.


Yeah, publish-or-perish drove me out of academia, and I greatly regret not knowing (at the time) that I had a condition (ADHD was later diagnosed) which could cause me to fail at that particular type of self-starter behavior. I didn’t really DISlike writing academic papers; I just didn’t ever get GOING on them; so, I didn’t push my way into the academic teaching career I had started myself out on. There were lots of other factors for me, too (some of which may also be ADHD related, some of which probably are not), but generally speaking, it’s very tricky for an ADHD-er to thrive in certain careers or under certain conditions, and you were stuck in one of the “wrong” places for you. I sympathize.

Similarly, my experience of getting a diagnosis also mirrors your own. I felt it was a “coat hook” upon which I could hang a LOT of past failures and disappointments. It allowed me to group together such disparate things as (1) getting thrown out of high school soccer games for being disrespectful or violent even though I wasn’t ever, but I LOOKED like I was going to get so, (2) choosing (if possible) programs in which I did not write papers over a longer-term under my own managed timeline, but rather took timed examinations at the end of the schedule and under someone else’s imposed deadline, (3) not knowing when people were flirting with me, so that the stunning girl for whom I had the hots, and who was also attracted to me, wrongly thought I was deliberately acting pissed off at her (even though all I was thinking at the time was, how to get her into the sack!) and so she dejectedly cut off all contact even though she really wanted to hook up with me, (4) why I could “futz” away an entire day, never knew where the time went, had a zillion projects, never finished any, or (5) how could I be a master of the computer settings and micro-arrangements of fonts colors and background images on my Windows desktop, but couldn’t get a job in computer tech and hated having to do EXACTLY those things for a living, that I did voluntarily for myself outside of the job context. These and other things … all ADHD-related! Wow! It was great to have that explanation. My diagnosis was (finally!) the first time I knew there was hope to move forward.

Great to have you here! Welcome!

1 Like

Sorry to read you think your career is not progressing. This is why I believe academia and world at large become wise to ADHD and how to best support anyone who has been diagnosed with the condition and so hope you can find some support or able to find a new path that is equally stimulating and rewarding to you. I am really struggling to make the leap myself and still to build the right support network to help me succeed in my endeavors.

I am curious why you have to wait 2 years for an assessment and what assessment you will be taking? I would have thought the world health organization questionnaire would be a reasonable way of assessing and to see if their is a family history with organizational dysfunction and emotional dysregulation. I am also interested to hear what coping strategies you’re thinking of using?

Best of luck and will be routing for you!

Thanks so much for your response Tess. I really appreciate your thoughts and sharing your experience.

I think you have done a marvelous job to get your degree despite the many challenges you had to face. It’s a testament to your determination and am sure with the right support you will achieve great things. I know in my own situation, I should take on more pursuits that interest me as much as my narrow area of science, like music, art or yet other areas I have not yet discovered. But, when I have an endless to do list in my current work and not having my own mode of transport, its pretty difficult to get going on other activities. But I feel the only way to move on is to find a new passion and wish I was able to connect with others with ADHD that have gone through that process.

One thing to remind ourselves of other scientists/academics is that apparently 25% use ADHD drugs without prescriptions, and so we have no idea who are using these drugs to aid their performance. But yes, others I am confident who do not take such measures and some of the more competent colleagues I have worked with, have a common super organized mindset. Such that their offices look empty and you wouldn’t know they ever came to work. For myself I know this will only happen if someone is sitting me down to make up a plan and for that person to push me by continuously externalizing the consequences. I hope you are able to find such support in therapists, coaches and accountability partners at this early stage in your career and hopefully once you see yourself achieving goals you will begin to build some confidence. As you’re still at an early stage in your career, you have time on your side and so can still succeed despite taking a few knocks on the way. I certainly have, but my time is running out and will most likely have to move on if I am unable to get another research position. All we can do is try our best, and don’t let anyone say you’re doing otherwise. As long as you are keeping your skin in the game, as someone with ADHD, you are overcoming mountains.

There is so much I now understand about how my mind works since learning I could have ADHD, and it all makes sense to me but others are not willing to consider. Unfortunately, I have had to stop taking stimulant treatment due to the myriad of side effects I experienced. But for the brief moments I felt it working, it was quite remarkable being able to put any negative thoughts I was having on multiple areas of anxiety to one side, and to not care or spend as much energy thinking about these thoughts and others. Also, given a dopamine deficiency, it is understandable why we engage in comfort seeking behaviors at times we are not engaged in our work and when we have tasks to deal with that present us some discomfort and just wanting to get on to the good stuff. So everything you have described is understandable.

One area of advice that keeps coming up in my own exploration of my own mental health and rejections, is that of meditation to help with calming down and weathering the storm of life during times of upheaval and when sacrificing ones own wishes and dreams. So I am not sure if you have tried meditation before in a group setting, but maybe this could help provide some calm in life. But I can talk as I still haven’t got round that either.

I wish I could go on and chat more as I feel there is still much more to say, but will end here. I’m no expert and not sure if any of this helps, as am sure you must have already considered a lot of what I have written. But, I hope I can wish you the very best of luck in your future work and will be interested to hear how you get on.


The waiting list in my area is about 30 months and I joined the bottom in January. I’ve had a workplace assessment which recommended coaching which sounded really useful. Unfortunately there’s no money to fund it. Now I’m more aware I notice adhd traits everyday, when I’m distracted or lose a train of thought or forget something or am restless and it’s becoming really frustrating. So i think I’m going to pay for a private assessment, i have mixed feelings about being medicated though. I’ll look into private coaching but I think it will be too expensive for me.

1 Like

I’m with you on this one. I was diagnosed 15 years ago by a psychiatrist. (No testing though). He’s passed away and I have no documentation or evidence.

Only recently am I really trying to understand it and as a result I see the traits everywhere. Problem is our public health system in Nova Scotia I need a referral from my family doctor to get in a years long waiting list for a psychiatrist. But, having just moved to Nova Scotia the first years long waiting list is to even get a family doctor.

I tried calling a psychiatrist directly. And an ADHD coach. Neither of which have returned my calls.

Thankfully my wife and kids are understanding and supportive, and you guys are here. Because I think that’s about where my support list ends.

Very sorry to hear about the waiting lists! I know that I often look with envy northward to Canada, from my national home the USA, because you up there have nationalized government-organized taxpayer-supported health-care programs. I grew up in the USA but did some graduate work in Canada. While I lived in Toronto I automatically got the benefits of Ontario Health Insurance for part of my time there, and I liked that minor stuff (warts on my elbow; ingrown toe-nail) were quickly and cheaply taken care of FOR me without my own need to figure it all out. So, from that perspective, I liked the Canadian system more than the USA’s system. But we in the USA forget that the Canadian system also has its own inherent disadvantages, and this long wait-list thing is obviously going to be one of those disadvantages. So, we Liberals here in the USA are often quite holier-than-the-Conservatives about health coverage, but … hey, the government method has problems too!

Fixes? Are there any? Not sure what the proper and government approved system fix would be, for any resident / citizen / inhabitant of Canada / Nova Scotia, but I would suggest that you can maybe come up with an individualized solution anyway. Try spending your own money out of pocket, ignoring the government’s requirements, and going to a location that will serve you. Like, internet? Private company in USA? I ended up having to implement this kind of fix for myself (less of a surprise, given that I don’t have access to any Canada-based stuff anyway!) so, it’s not like it’s unprecedented. I know, I’m volunteering that you should pay your own money, but, maybe it’s a solution? It only cost me about US$400 grand total for a few appointments, some batteries of tests at educational psychological testing centers, and eventual documentation. It did require return-visits, which might be more prohibitive for you if you’re having to travel from Nova Scotia. Not sure of the specifics, but, it’s something to look into.

No, you shouldn’t HAVE to look into it. But, just thinking of possible solutions, maybe you will choose to do so anyway. Look at the ultimate cost-benefit analysis (sorry to sound like an economist) – doing without a diagnosis for years and years, and failing to master any aspects of your (therefore untreated) ADHD, is potentially MUCH more troublesome and life-damaging than doing without $400 for the short interim.

With ya buddy! Since I’ve lived in Canada, and am living in USA, I figured my bi-national perspective would add a bit to this discussion. If not, sorry to hijack! Best of luck. :slight_smile:

Hope you can at least find a way to get a diagnosis, even if you have to go private, so you at least have SOME rights, officially. And if I may ask (ie. no need to answer if you don’t want to), what kind of mixed feelings do you have regarding medication?

On the one hand I really want the adhd symptoms to go away but i realise medication isn’t a magic bullet for all and there might be side effects. Also the titration period sounds tough. Also what if I have to choose, for example, between being more irratable and getting less sleep in order to see a small improvement in executive function. Also there’s no guarantee the NHS would provide my medication, or if it even survives the next government, and then I’d have to decide if could afford it Privately (unlikely) . And i know its not meant to be addictive but what if I develop a dependency to its benefits then have to stop because it becomes unaffordable, how would I cope with being unmedicated having seen an improvement. Basically lots of “what ifs” and hypotheticals. Ultimately if offered I’ll take it in the hope i can read a scientific paper in one go (it’s taken me a whole day before) and deal with the consequences, but the doubts are still there.

1 Like

Good luck with the NS diagnosis (not sarcasm, at least not towards you. I really hope it happens sooner than later for you :slight_smile: ) … I grew up in NS and sadly the health care system seems to be deteriorating more and more - so many closures - we may have med schools and hospitals - but we sure don’t get the same perks as Toronto-proper, my friend moved there from out east and immediately had a family doctor - when I was in school out of province, I kept my NS doc by flying back annually to visit, because I knew I’d return and had lost one before and it was so difficult to get another - something around 55,000 people on the waitlist.

But I digress, as far as I know going to another province or country won’t help much as far as getting treatment goes. The rules are very strict in NS. From my understanding/personal experience your family doctor (or psychiatrist - good luck with the current state of mental health care in NS) will be the only person who can prescribe you medication - if you need them (unless its a SSRI/SNRI, etc) - and you will also have to go to the same pharmacy each time and they will not refill anything early, even if it’s 1 day in advance, so be prepared to go monthly the day you run out (I mention this, because if you don’t live in the city it can be a pain). Also some family doctors will make you get a full assessment by a psychologist, so be prepared to take the full-day assessment (it costs ~ $1,000 and is not covered provincially, there may be alternatives but I certainly couldn’t find anything). You could enroll in a uni degree and get a doctor/assessment covered that way, but that’s an extreme alternative.

This message isn’t meant to be a “downer” only a head-ups. A lot of people don’t understand the NS system and will be confused by how hard it is to get care. When I learned all this, it was a crazy shock to me, because mental health is so important to the individual and to a functioning society, so it seems pretty important to me … and on top of that many of our med/psych discipline grads aren’t sticking around it seems, because we always have a shortage

Not a downer. A reality. I ended up paying for the diagnosis. The local clinic gave an ssri for depression, but the ADHD goes untreated.

NS health is a problem. Mental health is worse. I’m in a region of about 30k people without a single practicing psychiatrist.

I just keep reminding myself that I’ve made it this far.


Yes for sure!!! I wish it was better. Makes me sad! Despite it being one of the “have not” province with low employment and other resources, I find the people there really welcoming, especially to newcomers who don’t know anyone, and given that I move a lot, I really love that about there. And having people can really help too! Aside from the crappy health care system, I hope you are enjoying yourself there, and I hope you’ve been able to meet people that are cool! :):blush:

To be fair, I might be biased because I grew up there, but some places have been really hard to me and when I’ve finally “gotten in” and have wanted to invite new people along, I get a look of confusion, so maybe I’m not wrong about that?! … cultural differences …

I didn’t come to my ADHD realization or seeked an assessment, until I moved away (and then came back and all my friends have moved out of the province/country) and adulting was way too hard. It was like playing a terrible game of Jenga and I wasn’t going to win. So I did a ton of research on how to get assessed and the resources available in the province.I had always figured my GAD was just really bad, but there were things that just didn’t line up with that, so after sitting on the fence for about 2 years* about potential ADHD I did it and was diagnosed with both … whoo hoo???

*I have a psych background and in class we talked in depth about ADHD and over diagnosis issues, so I was really cautious about it all. A formal assessment is good for that, because it can identify comorbid conditions and misdiagnosis - GPs do they best they can, but they are jacks-of-all-trades with have limited time and resources - whereas a full MMPI and other tests given and assessed by a clinical psychologist is a gold standard diagnosis.

Anyhow, the doctor put me on Vyvance. I’ve found it initially made a big difference in concentration and motivation and then the effects “lessened”, but I have no plans on leaving it. If your end up with a family doctor that is weird about meds, ask about that one. The abuse potential/addiction is much lower. b/c your body converts the drug to its active form, so it doesn’t have to fast acting, reinforcing effects on the brain that other ADHD drugs can - so doctors seem to prefer it.

BUT, there isn’t a generic version available - at least not in NS and I assume Canada? - so it’s pretty expensive - like $200/month-ish. So if you have a drug plan that will come in handy, otherwise look into pharmacare - for that you’ll need so much paper work! - because, despite the abuse potential being low it’s still scheduled and it will need to also be approved by the province even if the doc is giving it to you.

There are practically no psychiatrists in NS (even in Halifax) - the ones that are there are mostly hospital based - I think there is one in Clayton Park that takes on patients, but I think you also need a family doctor referral to get in and it’s a giant waiting list. As far as I know, because they are medical doctors, they follow the same rules as GPs … so the are part of the doctor shortage - I imagine the ones that come out of Dal move to provinces with different regulations or the US to make better money. Specialist wait times are even worse - 3 year wait for an allergist!

Ok sorry I blabbed on again and probably overshared, thinking it’s the ADD and Maritimer combo. Depending on your location, if it’s gets too long for the doctor wait, check out taking class part-time at one of the uni’s that has a good medical clinic, because you’re automatically a patient as a student. I believe some schools you can stay a patient even when you are no longer a student. Also if you’re initially from Ontario or one of those big provinces then even driving across the province is pretty much nothing to you - hahaha - the first time I heard someone “it’s only a 4-hour drive” in relation to visiting somewhere for 2 hours I almost died … GOOD LUCK!

I live in the US and I have a great DNP that I go to. When my insurance wouldn’t pay for my Vyvanse a few years ago, she called the manufacturer (Shire) and had them send some paperwork to request help with the cost of the drug from the manufacturer.

They sent me a card that covered the Vyvanse for a year. The next year my insuransr had changed and I could get the Vyvanse for $30 a month (after a manufacturer’s coupon). Now I have changed jobs and get it with a $30 copay. If I had gone that year without the meds, I doubt I would have been able to get the job.

I am not sure how the health system works in Canada, but having a knowledgeable and concerned primary physician was the start of getting on the right path. She did not have to send me to a specialist, but I did go see a psychiatrist for a session or two. We agreed that we would see how things went, and I would call back if I felt I needed help.

I was also dealing with clinical depression and some major life changes, so it all kind of needed to be addressed, and teh Doc was very patient and thourough in regulating my meds.


Really??? I am in the US right now for a job (6 months, no health plan) and make essentially no money, but it’s a job in my field so I am happy about it! I’ve been trying to find one since 2016 in both Canada and the USA! I have been thinking I’m going to have to fly home soon to ask for a refill (but I don’t actually make enough to fly without increasing my debt which is pretty bad considering the difficulties I’ve had finding work, even getting groceries I have to use a credit card and then pay it off … hopefully) or be forced to go without (the second is not something I want to try I’ll prob loose my job). I’ll have to contact the drug company myself, because the estimate I could get for here through a pharmacy was $300 per month here?!?

My doctor is pretty great. He actually took over from another and gave me a full blood panel when I started to have a baseline, which is pretty much unheard of with a lot of docs. The big problem is the overall shortage of people, most want to help but there are so many people on the list and not many people to take them in, either a GP or specialist.

Is DNP a naturopath, I’m am thinking yes? They aren’t considered a “medical provider” by many provinces (except Ontario and Alberta?), because it’s not regulated training. Even in the provinces where they are recognized, they are not allowed to prescribe “medications” - mainly just supplements - (I saw one in Ontario and the supplements recommended were not covered by insurance and very expensive - $100/mo - so I stopped going). They the definitely can’t prescribe controlled ones even MDs are scrutinized for that. It also cost more than going to a GP (MD) because technically they are free, but there is a shortage … so its a catch-22

:smiley: I loooooove science to the moon and back. :goggles::microscope::books::two_hearts:
I was the kid that always had to ask, why and how does that function. I am on my way to turn it into a real profession now. I am not sad about the fact that I had to science my way through learning disabilities and every day life’s struggles. Not knowing how I am different. Don’t ever be sad about your brains guys and the set you have got.

Every brain can be trained to grow a strong neuronal network. If someone feeds it, lets say, with pessimistic thoughts, someone will become a perfect pessimistic person. And a doubter, full of disbelieves settled on low self-esteem. The alternative is to believe, no matter what, a way can be found that will make things work. It might not be like the common methods and techniques, who cares. :nerd_face: Studying still is a challenge yes, but I know, I am smart enough to find fun ways around.

My dyslexia led me to uncover a passion for all kinds of languages. So I became a fantastic writer. My shortcomings of social skills led me to became a very good observer, data collector and puzzle solver. I could go on and on. I may start slow, but my need for deep understanding things, will lead me to outperform my peers in the long term. It already starts to show up naturally. I even found fun ways to handle materials and papers. I even organize myself based on science. :rofl:

It depends on the data, if I am able to push you into the right direction @DeepDive. :thinking::wink:
I already started to mentor my neurotypical peers. They seem to think of learning as a burden and punishment. That fascinates me, cause I can’t relate to it. I chose my study field very carefully based on interests.

1 Like

Sorry I’m just seeing this. DNP is Doctor of Nursing Practice. So a PhD in Nursing, allowed to act as a GP. You do need your doctor to fill out part of the application, but since she was initiating the process during my appointment, it went pretty quickly. I had to go a week without the Vyvanse, but I got through it okay.

They do watch everyone in the process like a hawk. I have to show my ID to the Pharmacist. I have to take hard copies of the scrips to the pharmacist, three at a time, and they keep them on file. They will not fill them more than a day early.

I did try Korean Ginseng on my own, but I found the results inconclusive. BTW, I am also on two antidepressants, for the record.


No worries! Thanks. This is helpful. I was thinking of going back on SSRIs for the anxiety, but pretty worried about memory loss b/c that happened before and I need all the brain power I can summon :joy:

1 Like