Aspergers? Inattentive ADHD? All That And A Bag Of Chips?

This is going to be a long one.

I’m a middle-aged male in the United States. At some point when I was a child I started to realize I was not like other children; I’m not sure when but I would say it was before high school. Signs were there that almost nobody noticed and that nobody ever pieced together.

I didn’t even fit in with the other kids. Not even my fellow gifted classmates. I was very well-behaved; kids resent a goody two-shoes. I was a voracious reader; my classmates thought I was cheating at “Book-It”. Many years later, I asked a former classmate why everyone hated me in elementary school. “We didn’t hate you; we just didn’t know how to deal with you.”

In middle school I remember struggling to stay focused, especially if I needed to work quietly while others in class were talking. I had trouble remembering homework. I hated school; I dreamed of not going to college. One of my gifted teachers sent me to the school’s speech therapist because they were concerned how I often seemed to stumble over my words. “My mouth has trouble keeping up with my brain” I explained and after a couple sessions the speech therapist agreed I had no speech impediment.

In high school I was a chronic underachiever and completely checked out. I gave little effort, but skated by. I scored high on my first SAT and ASVAB. In one class I aced every test, but got a C in two semesters because I simply never did my term paper. I wasn’t a trainwreck or disruptive so I was overlooked by teachers. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I lacked the normal teenage desires to get drunk, get laid, or experiment with drugs.

I knew I was behind in my social development, forced myself into a social group of classmates, and later regretted it deeply because I came to realize I was ever accepted. I had a few peers I hung out with at lunch or recess in earlier grades, but not real friends - especially not in retrospect. I started carrying notepads with me all the time to write things down that I wanted to look up later and other things that I would otherwise forget (this was of course a point of some amusement to others).

A high school friend who got a psychology degree in college told me they thought I was schizotypal. (Only recently I’ve learned that Schizotypal Personality Disorder has a lot of overlap with Aspergers, with the main difference being whether you have delusions.)

College was a mess; I picked up an associates at community college then crashed an burned attempting a bachelors. I felt like I didn’t have the study skills I needed. I certainly wasn’t motivated. It didn’t help that I was in college somewhat against my will - I was smart so getting a good degree to get a well-paying job was expected of me, and my single parent insisted doing anything else was a one-way ticket to flipping hamburgers of the rest of my life.

At the insistence of a college friend, I went to see one of the college’s psychiatrists. I had one session where I got really tired of being asked “And how does that make you feel?” He told me my problems were because I was majoring in the wrong field (I was) and I should reconsider my definition of success. I spent the next week asking everyone I knew about their definition of success and was very aggravated how immature most of my college acquaintances were - they almost all either gave flippant answers or deflected the question.

I moved back home, worked at a library because I liked books, and felt directionless. I played a popular TCG frequently and even semi-competitively. I carried around a case of several dozen different decks because “I have IDEAS.” I heard so many people talk about all the friends they made playing the game; I made zero lasting friendships from a decade playing it. I also did tabletop wargaming for years and was really good about learning the rules - better than anyone else. Whenever someone had to roll a bunch of dice I struggled to do the math or count how many dice had a high enough roll; everyone else seemed to do this easily. Math had by far my weakest subject throughout school. (I only later learned the term “dyscalculia.”)

I left my library job when my manager changed and it became clear my opinion carried no value with them. A family connection recommended me to a small business. I was hired and later became full-time when the other full-time employee retired. I always had anxiety about making phone calls, especially strangers, which I really had to grapple with there. When I had to solve a problem, I would often present a solution to my boss who noted it that while it wasn’t a bad solution there was a much simpler solution I could use. I got good a lot of good feedback from my boss that helped with personal and professional growth. I found I was taking the work home with me, mentally. I have never know how to compartmentalize.

Any time I ever tried to describe issues to friends I was blown off. I could hold down a full-time job and I wasn’t abusing substances so obviously there couldn’t be anything wrong with me!

I left to go back to college to pursue a degree that interested me. I didn’t make any friends though. I aced all the main degree courses and struggled with some required electives, particularly foreign language. I stumbled into a job that is a great use of my talents and abilities, and I really like most of it. I take the work home, mentally and often figuratively, but I enjoy it so it’s not a burden.

During the last decade all my remaining friends moved away for work and I have struggled mightily to make any new ones. I am unable to make friends with coworkers of similiar age.

I often hyperfocus which can interfere with me getting to bed on time. Many times I will feel very sleepy, lay down with the lights off, and soon am wide awake from a thought spiral. Yet I almost always wake up at the exact same time, alarm clock or not, seven days a week.

For a long time I was baffled about what was going on with me. Largely by chance I stumbled into a YT video talking about ADHD symptoms which recontextualized “hyperactivity” as sometimes being purely mental hyperactivity. I had literally never heard anyone describe this in my entire life. They also described impulsive behavior differently than the stereotype of manic spending sprees, drunken benders, and sleeping around. It was eye-opening. The only people I had ever met with ADHD were males were were classic hyperactive cases, and one female who had several comorbidities like OCD. Not coincidentally the latter became my best friend and is one of the very few people I have ever know who “gets” me, and also one of the very few who responded positively when I raised the possibility of ASD and/or ADHD.

However, in recent years, a lot of small things had been coming together giving me a growing suspicion I had Asperger’s/ASD. For most of my life I hadn’t considered this a possibility because I never met anybody with Autism except a few really obvious cases (non-verbal, can’t look anyone in the eyes ever, etc). The DSM criteria didn’t really sound right either. But listening to people on YT with diagnosed Asperger’s actually describe their thoughts and experiences much of it was “Oh, yeah, this sounds familiar.” I took the AQ test online and scored a 40 out of 50.

I make lists; I have trouble following them. My long-term memory is outstanding; my short-term memory is terrible. I’m prone to zoning out and autopiloting. I like routines; without firm plans I feel listless. TVs anywhere within my peripheral vision distract me, even if muted. I’m really good at noting little details. I find housecleaning, exercise, shaving, and other basic, repetitive, tedious tasks to be insufferable. I hate retracing my steps or repeating work. I’m wildly ambitious about creative projects and really bad about staying focused on any one of them. I listen to music frequently to help focus. I still bite my nails. I can emotionally flip very abruptly, but most of the time my emotions seem muted. I have frequently vivid dreams I can mostly remember when I wake up. I’m a notoriously picky eater. My intensity and casual honest make people uncomfortable. I like things black & white; I’ve been called judgmental. I over-analyze. I can’t relax because my brain is almost always going flank speed; I can only try to point it somewhere useful and helpful.

So for those of you who didn’t find that tl;dr do you think it’s ASD, ADHD, both, or something else?

How do I got about getting diagnosed?

2 Likes

Indeed it is . . .

I’m not a reader, but I will get back to you again later.

For now let me just say . . . WELCOME!

:sunglasses:

1 Like

Welcome! As a 44 yr old male with ADHD p.i., the list of symptoms/impairments you describe surely seem familiar. But of course I cannot conclude anything about what particular diagnosis would fit them best.

Present day impairments are usually cause for diagnosis. You can have all the symptoms but if you are not (significantly) impaired by them it’s not a disorder. It’s how the DSM works. And it’s how healthcare works. You have an ailment and it’s treated.

So if you want to get diagnosed it’s important how your symptoms presently impair you. And thus: Why you would need healthcare to treat them. I live in the Netherlands. Here you first see a general practitioner about it and he/she will refer you to a mental healthcare specialist who will determine if your symptoms/impairments fall within a particular category of the DSM.

With or without diagnosis it can still be insightful to learn about ADHD and share stories. So welcome again!

I have a fundamental disagreement with the idea that symptoms are only a disorder if you can provide sufficient evidence that they “impair” you. That’s the same mindset that causes people to think you can only have a mental disorder if your life is a trainweck. Impairment is a matter of not only the presence and persistence of a sufficient number of symptoms, but also what kind of coping mechanisms have been developed.

I haven’t had a GP in 15 years. I’m getting one soon and I plan to ask them about a referral. I tried the search feature on Psychology Today, but there was only one professional in my area with a ASD+ADHD specialty accepting in-person visits and they failed to respond to my message.

I’m mostly interested in getting a diagnosis because when you’ve spent your life knowing something is “wrong” with you there’s a certain comfort in finally being able to put a definite name to what it is. Not just to better understand how to deal with the underlying condition. For example, it’s kind of important whether my shortage of empathy coupled with strong morals is caused by ASP or if it’s because I’m a well-trained sociopath.

I don’t know, if any, treatment would be effective. Probably not medication, which is good because I don’t want to take any.

That may be. But diagnosis is really something you get so you can get treatment or accommodations for your impairments.

If your only goal would be to get to know yourself better and put a ‘label’ on your past. You really don’t need a diagnosis for it. That’s not what a diagnosis is for.

Edit: Not saying I agree with it. But this is how it is. Still, I’m sure there are people that have the same symptoms as I do but don’t get diagnosed because they aren’t impaired enough by them in their present situation. Or are simply unaware of the impairment. People that could still benefit from learning about ADHD but never get the chance. People that could still get answers as to how or why they always felt different.

If only there was a name for the set of Symptoms we experience without having to call it a disorder… Because then I could say: Yes my friend you probably have that.

And don’t get too caught up in looking for having ‘either’ ASD or ADHD symptoms. Those are merely classifications of the DSM. It’s no exact science. It’s a spectrum. We all have more or less of this and that. And ASD and ADHD happen to be related (if not a broader spectrum of one thing) If you recognize yourself in one or the other or both that is ok too.

1 Like

Welcome HelloHurricane

The best way forward is to see a psychiatrist who specialises in ASD & ADHD.

There has to be symptoms from childhood.

These symptoms may be hard to identify as ASD or ADHD.

There should be information from medical records , information from family (guardians or friends ) or school reports , ideally from early childhood.

Which condition is the most severe in your opinion ?

For an ASD assessment , questionnaires are generally filled in , tests possibly include ADOS ( describe a situation), tell a story .

For ADHD, I had a clinical interview, based on questions from your childhood and current circumstances.

A lot of questionnaires will probably be filled out but you , maybe involving your parents .

There has to be a psychiatric history for an ASD assessment or ADHD assessment.

The psychiatrist will look for impairment.

If you are diagnosed with ADHD, treatment maybe medication, CBT, mindfulness, , exercise , maybe a combination.

Good luck .

Well it took me a while to read . . . But was able to stick with it. Your descriptions were “right-on” . . . for me who would say much the same. So much in common!

:+1:

:+1:

:+1: I was required to take one math course in college. No clue why I took calculus . . . The professor knew I was completely unable to “get it” . . . he once told me how “CREATIVE” my work was . . . not at all correct . . . but “Creative”. I should have failed the course, but he gave me a “C” . . . I figured “C” for “creativity”!:rofl:

:+1: “Just keep it simple!” I’d be told.

:+1:

:+1: My psychiatrist (saw her primarily for “Meds”) self-revealed that she was a :brain:, for which she took meds.

Which required me to go get a Masters Degree in Social Work, as the job was a “work-study” program. So I fell into my career. Took a while to become enthusiastic about it . . . But did!

:+1:

:+1:

As the saying goes, I am great at “finding the fly in the ointment”. Been told “You ask questions that no one has ever even thought of . . .”

:+1: So-called “emotional dysregulation”

:+1:

:+1:

So here are my comments. Didn’t answer your question about a diagnosis . . . Beyond my pay-grade!

Best of luck to you on your journey!

:sunglasses:

1 Like

What’s the best way to find one in the USA?

There’s are no relevant medical records; other than the middle school speech therapist evaluation I was never evaluated for anything developmental or psychological. I can think of only once incident where I got into behavioral trouble throughout grade school, and I graduated high school over two decades ago so I doubt there are any school records.

Other than my sister (whom I’ve never been close to) there’s nobody left who knew me before sophomore year of high school. There’s two of them, living in other states. After that we’re down to people I didn’t meet until after high school.

I do remember a lot about my life from mid-elementary school onward. Years ago I wrote almost 20 pages covering my life up until high school (and I really need to write down my high school memories which would probably be another 10 pages). I didn’t write them because I did or experienced anything probably worth publishing a memoir about; it was an effective exercise in brain-dumping.

Social difficulties, especially making new friends.

Difficulty prioritizing and focusing on what should be a priority. Too much momentum, not enough consistent direction.

Hi HelloHurricane.

Go to psychologytoday , pick issues , city , search ADHD, Aspergers issues .