Completely rudderless

So, I was diagnosed with ADHD in my adolescence and have been contending with it ever since. Early on in school I discovered that the ability to direct my attention was unattainable and as a direct result, the coursework appeared to be at a greater level of difficulty. I simply could not concentrate. I would read the same paragraph in English class multiple times trying to comprehend and retain what I just read–only to be left clueless every time because simultaneously, I would hear the tap of a pencil; the tick of a clock; and another student coughing in the hallway all whilst trying to filter hundreds of intrusive thoughts.

One day at school I observed a variety of neurotypical students who refused to participate in class and do assigned work. Through thorough observations I learned that they constantly cheated and copied off of someone else’s work daily and never did it themselves. As a result I began to question why I–an individual with an often crippling neurodevelopmental disorder–should have to work twice as hard to get the same output as them, when they have to put forth no effort at all. So, I began to do the same and cheated my way through school–never learning a thing. I somehow managed to graduate with a 3.0, but my academic knowledge was inferior to my other classmates who actually applied themselves and learned.

Fast-forward three years–I have just enrolled in a community college and want to transfer to a four-year university to pursue an undergraduate degree in English Literature, and possibly attend graduate school for a Master’s in English Literature. Seems like I have it all figured out, doesn’t it? Well; I don’t. I didn’t prove my intelligence in high school, so I often question it. I have records of my mom taking me to a psychologist when I was 6, and I was administered an IQ test with the result being an IQ of 97. That is meant to be read with emphasis on 97. This is immensely demeaning as well as degrading and this number tells me I certainly can’t pursue an undergraduate, much less a Master’s.

I am profoundly fixated on my IQ and hope that–because I wasn’t medicated and have severe test anxiety–my test wasn’t an accurate representation of my intelligence and would depict different results if taken today. I can’t stop thinking about this; I’m severely depressed and I have gained continuity in suicidal thoughts. If this is my true IQ I certainly can’t go to a university. I’ve always been told I was smart and I could get A’s in school when I wanted to, but this whole IQ conundrum has me worried. I’m also 20 y/o if that matters. Can someone please give me insight or help?


97 is within the range of normal. Most people you meet will be right in around there… including doctors and the like. Having a high IQ on paper means nothing compared to putting the work in to understand the material and succeed.

Your IQ fluctuates, and except at the extremes, means hardly anything.

I guarantee you I had professors in college with a lower IQ score than you. Never stopped them.

I’ve tested as high in the IQ department. Hasn’t made my life easier. Hasn’t made me a more successful person. Hasn’t made my relationships with other humans easier either. Hasn’t made my relationship with my own self any easier…

If you think your score should be different, retake it. Or better still delve into the mechanics of IQ tests, their origins and what they are meant to represent and what they are not meant to represent. Realise that so called ‘IQ’ isn’t the only measure of a person’s worth.

My best advice? Be like Elsa… let it go.


I do understand.

My son, now 43 years old, was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 4. He struggled, and we struggled along with him. But we persisted. And so did he. There were many ups and downs in his day-to-day school performance. He was described as the “little wild man” in nursery school. Like you, there were some very dark days. He talked about being “stupid” and that “life was not worth living”. When he graduated HS he enrolled in a vocational school to become an auto mechanic . . . but before starting that . . . some daylight broke through his dark, negative thoughts. He decided “maybe I could go to college.” It took him 7 years and 3 different schools to finally graduate. And the “stupid” kid achieved an overall GPA of 3.97 . . . He is an Electrical Engineer.

Take 2 steps forward knowing that on some days you will be 2 steps ahead. On other days you may drop back a step. People with ADHD, almost invariably have ERRATIC PERFORMANCE day-to-day. In part, that’s why we have a hard time judging our real potential . . . doubting ourselves, just never quite sure that we can . . . SUCCEED!

You may have noticed my use of the word “we” . . . Yep, I have ADHD . . . as does my granddaughter (my son’s child). I was not diagnosed until I was 55 y.o. The “label” gave me something to hang my hat on. So maybe I was not stupid . . .

And as for IQ scores. They are not reflective of performance or potential. And given distractibility; poor short-term memory; depression; test anxiety; and a negative self-evaluation . . . No way can I imagine that your IQ Score . . . a single 2 digit number . . . could ever begin to assess your intelligence, never mind what you could (and I believe you will) achieve in whatever you choose to do, whatever you are exited about, whatever you put your mind to! Don’t let your mind do a mind-trip on you! Take one day at a time . . . put one foot in front of the other . . . know that some days will be better than others . . . And don’t beat yourself on the “bad” days . . . And try your best to recognize the good ones.

I think I’ll stop here. Others will certainly respond to you. Stick around. Keep us posted.

Senior member of this fantastic “family”!


This. This is immensely helpful. First, I would like to thank you for taking the precious time out of your day to help a misguided individual gain consolation; it truly does mean the world to me. Secondly–if I’m not being overly intrusive–might I ask what it was like for your son as he was going through HS and then college? Did he struggle with the coursework during both because of a lack of concentration, or did he often forget to do the work? He is extremely intelligent for being able to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering–something I could never dream of. I’m glad he finally found his niche.

I couldn’t even pass the mathematics category in my entrance exam for college, so I am taking developmental algebra ll and college algebra simultaneously. This is mainly do to a lack of foundation and support I received in HS, where I was never provided accommodations. With that being said, my math professor is amazing and extremely in-detail, so I’m properly learning and getting the foundation I needed.

I was infatuated with Computer Science, but I discovered the degree requirements are heavily math intensive (duh), so I decided to pick another major because of my lack of competence in complex math–or anything for that matter. However, I have since discovered that my community college offers an AS in CS, which only requires college algebra, and a university within a reasonable distance that offers a BA in CS. The Bachelor of Arts only requires 3 advanced math classes, so I was chewing it over, but my self-confidence is so depleted and it overwhelms me every time with thoughts of inadequacy. Would an AS in CS be useful if I’m smart enough to do that?

Your paragraph concerning IQ is utterly reassuring and logical. I’ve done extensive research on it and have often questioned how a test could define the intelligence of an organ that contains billions of neurons and often come to the conclusion of it being impractical. It’s just hard to stick to that when there are peoples who state a certain IQ is required for college and more specifically, a degree. I’m trying though. And you are are precisely the support that is keeping me going on my dubious endeavors.


Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.

I feel hesitant in saying that doctors share the same IQ as me. They have to retain so much information; I just can’t see a medical professional being on my level intellectually. I’m trying very hard to ditch the detrimental mindset, but every time I do–I see a post on a social media platform stating that a certain IQ is required to do this and that; attend college, and pursue a degree in a specific field. It’s so demoralizing and demeaning.

This is all a direct result of not proving my intellectual capabilities in HS, so I wake up everyday with optimism, but inexorably fall victim to the crippling effects of uncertainty.



You are not being intrusive at all. That’s what this forum is all about. And of course if someone does not want to go into detail or answer a specific question that would be well understood and accepted.

As for my son, Josh, academically he breezed through high school. Socially he was a little like a fish out of water. He did make friends, a few of whom he still keeps in touch with. A frequent comment that his teachers would make was that “he is so quiet in class”. At home he was just the opposite which earned him the name “motormouth”.

The first college he went to was up in the state of Maine. It was the first time he was away from home. And not at all easy for him. He functioned with a lot of anxiety. We were on the phone with him pretty much every single night until he came home at the end of the first term. The first night he said “I’m not sure about this” . . . The second night he said “I think I made a mistake”. . . He had the constant fear that he would flunk out. He over studyied to compensate for his fear of failing. He studied many more hours than he really needed to. In his words, “I’m burning my brain out!”. Toward the end of the term he called saying that he wanted to come home. We heard that before so we tried to support him and encourage him to stick it out. While we encouraged him to stick it out he said a few things that changed our mind very quickly. “Dad I just want o come home . . . what do I have to say that I’m going out into the street and stand in front of a truck?” I said “Your mom and I will be there tomorrow”. As it turned out, in addition to the emotional strain that he was experiencing, he was physically ill with strep and mono and was immediately hospitalized for 3 days when he came home.

Worth mentioning, but he really did not know what he wanted to get out of college. His choice of major was more determined by whether or not he liked the professor rather than what he might be interested in. Now at he home he worked for a landscaping company for a year or more. Then he went to his second college, and though he lived on campus, the school was only about an hour and 15 minutes away from where we lived and that was reassuring to everyone. He decided to major in political science, why? Because he thought “the professor was really cool.” Not exactly a well-thought-out reason in deciding a major. Still fearing that he would flunk out he again overdid it in studying . . . and basically burned himself out. He finished the term and returned home.

Not wanting to go back to college, and not being able to find a job, through some connections I learned that a law firm was in need of someone to help them with all sorts of computer problems. There was no money to pay him but none-the-less he eagerly took it on as a volunteer. Turned out that he was a natural for it and proved to be so helpful that they found money in the budget to pay him a salary. It was through that experience that he learned of his interest with the world of computers. He learned of an “Open House” at NJIT (New Jersey Institute of technology), designed to bring in young people so that they could see what the school had to offer. Josh applied and was accepted. He loved the coursework, the computer “stuff”. He found other guys with similar interest and has remained friends with a few of them to this very day. While his major was “computer engineering” after graduation he had no trouble finding a job in the field of electrical engineering. Seems there’s quite a lot of carryover from one to the other.

So why did it all come together? Josh now knew what he wanted to do, what he was excited and passionate about. With that he had the confidence and stamina to see it through.

If one does not know why they are in college then doing the work can become nearly impossible. And that does not even take into account the added challenges that come with ADHD.

So, someone of so-called “average intelligence” can become a doctor, lawyer, engineer or, without college be successful in some other career.

You gotta know what you want to get it!! Or at least be able to explore options through real-life experience. Find your passion!


Time to put my old bones to bed. Nice “talking” with you. Stick around!

:sunglasses: Barry


You are seeking treatment for your ADHD? Presumably with some kind of therapist or analyst? This is an issue you need to speak to them about.

As I recall, you aren’t going for a doctorate in medicine. You’ll be fine, even if your test had scored lower than your record states.

What I don’t think you realise you are saying here is this: You think people of average intelligence aren’t good enough. Would you ever really say that out loud about anyone else? Then why would you ever say that about yourself? Just be glad you aren’t subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Be kind to yourself. You at least have a direction and one that doesn’t require a particular genius to pursue. Though I am still here telling you the test score means aught. Pursue what you have a passion for and get support for your brain instead of beating it up because it doesn’t fit some imaginary ideal.

  1. get help for the suicidal thoughts and depression. these things are treatable. this is much more urgent than anything else in your message.

if you are getting treatment already, let your care providers know that you are still struggling.

  1. real talk: you’re telling me that you think you shouldn’t study english literature (or computer science or medicine or whatever) as an adult because of your performance on some brain teasers when you were six?

give me a break.

high school was a lousy experience for you. you learned an important lesson from it and you are putting in the work now. you can get the foundation you didn’t get in high school, learn better habits/strategies, and pursue your educational goals.

it will not be easy but it is possible.


Ive been looking into iq tests and things and found out that the average iq of a brain surgeon or rocket scientist was average lol

so i wouldn’t worry about it :grin:


Maybe they’ll choose to believe it now someone besides me has said it. Lol

Average doesn’t mean impaired. Forget the iq tests and just worry about getting support for your unique brain.


Welcome @Ben24 to the HowToADHD forums!

Like the others have implied, I wouldn’t worry too much about what your IQ score was when you were 6. IQ tests mainly measure how you score against the average score for people the same age at time of testing. (100 is the calculated average, an 97 is essentially a 100. The “Normal” range is 85-115. Between 70-85 is “Low”. Below 70 is “Very Low”. 115-130 is “High”. Above 130 is “Very High”, thus regarded as “Genius”.)

I did well academically in K-12 school, but I was always riding my older brother’s coattails. He was one year ahead of me in school.

  • In 4th grade, his teacher recognized how bright he was, and recommended that he be placed in the “Gifted and Talented Education” class the next year. The school gave him the usual test to qualify for GATE, which he bombed. (I think he didn’t realize it was a timed test.) Yet, he was admitted to the program in 5th grade based on his teacher’s recommendation, and he got even another year ahead (6th grade level while in 5th grade) in math.
  • At the same time, the school put me into the 4th grade GATE class without testing me. After the start of that school year, they had me do the test, and I passed. (I don’t remember if anyone told me that the test was timed. I thought tests were fun at that age. I now admit what I wouldn’t back in my school days… I’m a nerd!)

Fast forward to college and adulthood…

  • My brother got a BS degree in CS after 6 years in school. (He changed majors once, the first year he studied Aerospace Engineering, the switched to computers.) He is a computer programmer. He does not have ADHD, but I don’t think he’s neurotypical. His handwriting isn’t much better than it was in 3rd grade, he’s ambidextrous but writes just as bad with both hands (barely legible), but he can handle tools adeptly with either hand. He is socially very awkward. I suspect that he’s on the autistic spectrum, and thus with his giftedness, he would be considered “2e” (meaning “twice exceptional”).
  • I struggled in college and career. I changed majors repeatedly, studying: Aerospace Engineering, Computer & Information Systems, Architecture, Mathematics, and Computer Engineering. I attended 5 different colleges, approximately 9 academic years spread over 22 calendar years, and still no degree. I changed careers, too: first I was a Retail Sales Associate, then I was a Math Tutor, then a Retail Store Assistant Manager, and finally found my niche working in various computer support roles in Information Technology. I took several Computer Science classes, but I’m not a very good programmer. However, I work well with computer systems, operating systems, software, hardware, networks, printers/scanners/copiers, and (here’s where I stand apart from most tech support lackeys) I work great with end users! I’m a little introverted, but I am much, much more sociable than my brother.

That brings me to the topic of intelligence. There’s more than one form of intelligence, yet IQ tests only measure a narrow range. What I have more of than my brother is high EQ…I have emotional intelligence. We have different work styles. He can spend all day long working in computer code and interacting only a little with other people. I can spend all day long interacting with people while simultaneously fixing their computer problems. (I can review code and understand it better than most people, but if I try to make more than a single, small change, I’ll break it.)

I ascribe to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, that each person has strengths in multiple spheres. We each have a unique set of capabilities. Life gives us opportunity to explore options, discover our interests and abilities, put out skills to the test.

@Ben24 what is your interest with CS about? What are you hoping to do with a knowledge of computers? Do you want to create mobile apps? Computer programs? Web design? Video games?
Do you like putting together computer systems?

In retrospect, I wish I’d studied Information Systems, a better fit for my career than Computer Engineering was. Or web design. I’m interested in User Experience Design and User Interface Design (UX and UI), which is where computers and psychology meet. I understand people pretty well, and I understand computer technology. I’m interested in psychology (but not clinical psychology), and I’m familiar with computer technology. When I was in high school, Star Trek: the Next Generation was on TV, and I thought their touchscreen graphical user interface computers were so cool. I wish I’d recognized back then that we were so close to that kind of tech. I could have been a web designer and mobile app designer.

  • My parents encouraged me to study science and engineering, but discouraged me from studying art and design…but if I’d studied both, it would have prepared me to work in UX and UI design years ago! Still, I eventually got into a career I’m good at (that usually requires a degree), even without a degree.

Stretch your imagination. What do you see yourself doing? Where do your interests and capabilities meet? CS may be the degree you need, maybe something related, maybe something else. There are jobs today that didn’t exist ten years ago. Ten years from now, there will be new jobs that don’t exist today. A degree that was designed ten or more years ago might prepare you well for a job today, but maybe not for a job in ten years from now.

Expect things to change. Look for opportunities. Maybe even create your own opportunities.

Good luck, and thanks for joining us on the forum!


Thank you for the reply and for the welcoming, as well as for the information pertaining to IQ tests. I’m glad to know you found your niche and that you didn’t let the indecisiveness in regards to what you wanted to major in get you down. That’s very motivating. I have just completed some research on the theories of multiple intelligence’s and have found it to be intriguing as well as more pertinent than the measure of a single intelligence, so thank you for introducing me to that.

I am interested in Web design! The idea of creating or updating designs is inundating. I love the whole aspect of technology and the freedom/escape I can get from the real world. It’s like I’m in the matrix when I get on my computer. I don’t have to pretend to be anyone, I don’t have to worry about my eccentric social behavior ( I have extreme social anxiety), and I can simply just be what my username depicts; nothing more, nothing less.

Do you think an Associate in Applied Science CS degree would be useful? It only requires college algebra or contemporary mathematics, so would I be at a huge disadvantage if I pursued a career in web design with only experience in either of these mathematics?

Thank you for everything so far!


So, I can’t afford to see a mental health specialist, but my college has one on campus and I was considering contacting her. My parents don’t know that any of this goes on. I wear a mask until I’m out of their sight; so they could never suspect these things.
They have noticed the lacerations on my leg, which are self-explanatory, but they don’t seem to know where they came from and when asked about–I just tell them it was from a previous accident.

I know. It’s utterly preposterous, but when I become fixated on something, I can’t stop thinking about it. I became so obsessed about it, that I didn’t sleep for days at a time. I feel so inferior and misunderstood. If I didn’t find this forum, things could’ve gone very badly; but I did and all of your replies have helped so much more than you’ll ever realize. I was literally sitting at my computer, praying for a response and feeling inundated with the desire to just let go. It’s so exhausting. Every day is exactly the same. It’s become black and white.

Your last paragraph is eye-opening. I don’t know why I can’t have any confidence in myself and move on, but I can’t seem to reinforce myself. Inadequacy is a shoulder-tugging backpack that I can’t seem to leave at home, or better yet–in an alley where it is never to be found again. I literally almost choke when I try to be positive to myself. It’s immensely distasteful.

Thanks for your response.


Thank you for sharing Josh’s incredible story. It was very emotional for me to read and I got choked up throughout the entirety of it. I can relate to everything it entails, specifically the “I’m burning my brain out”. I am a perfectionist, so my assignments take 2-3x more time to complete; not because of the difficulty, but because of insecurity. I’m a very insecure person, so I make up for it with my school work. I critique everything I do for hours and then for days, until the assignment that I had originally completed a week in advance–but have restarted several times–is due and I haven’t completed it.

I always feel the need to do it better. I can’t tell myself “it’s good enough”, or “It will never be perfect”. That’s an aspect that makes me so infatuated with computers; you have the ability make your work on computers flawless. I’m specifically interested in web design because of the creativity that is required/implemented into the work. I’ve always been a creative abnormal thinker and believe it would be a good fit for me.

OK! Thank you so much for the time you spent and for the in-depth response; I will come and look at this daily as a reminder to persevere when times get rough and to let Josh’s story serve as motivation.

Best of wishes to you Barry, and to Josh as well!


:sweat_smile: Yeah, well, I didn’t let it keep me down forever. I definitely berated myself a lot of times about my indecisiveness over the years, but now I just own it that this is my life story. I recognize that I have multiple interests, and that my career has been multidisciplinary.

  • (Sounds fancy! Way better than “indecisive”. I kept looking for some magical way to figure out “what I want to be when I grow up”, but now I know…I just want to be me, the guy who likes all kinds of things.)

That degree sounds like a good option for web design. (Other degrees that might be acceptable would include Art & Design, Communications, or Business, among others.) For any kind of creative career, you should also build up a portfolio. Show you style and your skills.

Math is not likely to be a big factor, unless you are building web tools that require a strong knowledge of math. In computer programming, an understanding of math helps with creating algorithms. Because web design is more about the user experience, it’s much less focused on functional programming. (Of course, there are people who include such programming in the scope of their web design work, but they are a smaller segment of web designers.)

  • There are a lot of tools and add-ons to add functionality to websites, and new ones added as time goes on. You don’t have to know it all, but knowing about some can help you bring you more opportunities.
  • I know that the basics are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but there’s a lot you can add on as you develop the scope of your knowledge and talents. Be curious. Try to replicate page designs that you appreciate something about.

Yeah, that’s a great, positive way to look at it. We are often criticized because of impulsive behavior and indecisiveness, but in reality we are interested in everything unlike the neurotypical person who only has one interest. I’m starting to perceive my ADHD brain a little differently every day in a positive way. Your replies are responsible for that!

That’s good to know because advanced math is certainly not my strong suit! Also, thank you for the info on the basics. I’m currently researching about HTML and trying to learn some of the basics. I will certainly keep my curiosity! Without curiosity, what is there?!

Below is a screen shot of the AAS-CS curriculum:


That degree looks really well rounded, like a good starting point for any computer-generated career.

PHP is used for websites, too. It lets you do more advanced things. It’s not as widely used as it once was, and so I haven’t learned PHP programming, but it can still be useful.


i hate that access to mental health services is such a problem. talking to your school’s mental health specialist is a good idea. she may also be able to get you connected to other resources.

your safety is the most important thing. dead people don’t study computers, english, or anything else.

it sucks, doesn’t it? i once heard a math professor say that she spent a lot of time trying to rid herself of self-doubt. then she realized that she would probably always doubt herself and the key was to do the thing anyway.

this pep talk is 98% for my own benefit btw because i’m a ball of nerves about starting something new.

additional observation: you sound way more excited about computers than english literature.


Hi Ben24,

First and foremost, sod IQ scores!!! (I’m pretty sure we aren’t allowed to sware on here or I would have used much more colourful language.)

Here is my take on them as someone with a degree in psychology:
1 they only measure what they presume intelligence to be
2 they are based on western ideas of what is useful (remembering random numbers and reading jumbled words) and what is not (literally anything practical) and they are not reflective of how people behave in the real world (knowing how to use a calculator is a useful skill!)
3 for those of us with neurodevelopmental differences (e.g. ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Autism etc.) they stip away our coping strategies and don’t allow us to approach tasks as we usually would.

In my opinion (and how they are used by actual professionals) they are only useful as a tool to find and the support areas of difficulty (which appears may not have happened in your case).
IQ scores are usually divided into separate areas of intelligence (e.g emotional intelligence, verbal intelligence, numerical intelligence, spatial intelligence ect.). You have only ever been given part of the picture. You have only been told your overall IQ score rather than the areas in which you perform well, the areas where you could benefit from support and where you were simply average. I would argue that your overall score is far less meaningful than how you performed in these individual areas.

And yes, I bet that if you did an IQ test today it would tell a different story because our results will change over time as we adapt. But, even if it were 97, I would have no less confidence in your ability.
Do you know what IQ tests don’t take into consideration? Passion, hard work, confidence, ability to develop coping strategies, creativity, ability to adapt to new situations etc. All important factors in success. You will have a lot more of these qualities than you realise! These are all things that can’t be assigned a numerical value to so IQ tests don’t measure them!

I’m sorry that your IQ score has made you feel less than. You are not alone in this. I know it can be hard but please don’t let it get to you. You were 6 years old! When I was seven I had tests done that said that I was barely functioning (let alone below average). I didn’t know what was going on at the time and the person doing the testing was so dismissive and mean to me.
As an adult I have been to university, graduated, got a job and have my eyes set on getting a PhD in the future. All this some someone who a test said was barely functioning!

IQ tests are biased, flawed and fallible. They are not the be-all and end-all that we have been taught to believe. Please don’t let it define your self-worth.

Don’t let a number tell you what you can do!


My apologies for the late reply, I’ve had a ton of homework!

Thank your for the insight, as well as your opinion over all of this–it’s incredibly helpful. Your points are all validated and reassuring. You have indeed eloquently painted a clear picture–along with everyone else who has responded to my posting–and your words definitely help with my lack of confidence; they’re reinforcing. I can’t believe how many replies I’ve received and how much support I’ve been provided with. I simply can’t thank everyone enough. I’m finally over this stupid test. When do you plan on attempting grad school? Also, what are your plans after you earn your doctoral degree and what are you going to specialize in?

Sorry again for the late reply.

Thanks for everything.