Realizing I may have ADHD (I have questions)

Hello fellow brains. I recently discovered Jessica’s TEDx talk accidentally on YouTube and realized everything she talked about described me in a very scary way. Prior to this, I had no idea how serious adult ADHD was, so I never once considered it as a possibility for myself while searching for answers as to why I am the way I am. I have struggled as the square peg trying to fit the round hole society wants me to fit for as long as I can remember. Everything I tried to do to emulate normal adult behavior I failed at doing in some way. It’s resulted in a massive and complex series of issues in my life – my credit is awful, I have several unpaid bills, I keep losing jobs, I am severely behind my peers in skill level, my car is being repo’d, I’ve lost touch with practically all friends, family have turned against me, relationships always end badly, all the while I can’t even begin to fix any of these things… and that’s just a glimpse. I have struggled to piece together why these things happen despite all the effort I put in to being the person I’m expected to be. The only thing, ONLY thing I’m doing right at the moment is finishing my degree. But even that has it’s challenges. I am a habitual procrastinator. I cannot help myself when this happens even though I know I should and want to start early, and as a result I’ve become a master of writing entire essays (that get As!) the day before they’re due. I constantly want to tear myself away from school work that is boring or uninteresting and fixate on a video game for hours, or watch random videos about horseshoe crabs (this literally happened the other day) when I’m supposed to be working on a project that has absolutely nothing to do with horseshoe crabs. In class, I struggle to pay attention or process what’s being said by the instructor, and have to write literally everything down to both stay engaged and remember it later, and when classmates talk to me, I sometimes catch myself fading out when they’re talking directly to me, occasionally I have to pretend I heard them because I’m too afraid to let on that I didn’t catch half of what they said. And speaking of memory, boy is that bad. I cannot remember even the most important things when I need to. I lose track of time very easily and it’s almost like I don’t even have a concept of what time is. Days blend together and I frequently become surprised at what day of the week or month it is. Appointments and deadlines are among the hardest things for me, and I have planner books and a fully functional smartphone and yet I keep forgetting to make use of them to keep track of these things, so the pattern of missing or almost missing them is seemingly infinite. I nearly missed a deadline to update my Fall grades for my university application and it freaked me out that I would forget something this serious especially considering how badly I want to be accepted.

I clearly have something going on and have for a long time. I have a doctor’s appointment coming up in which I will begin the process of trying to get a diagnosis. However, when I was reading about what to expect for an ADHD diagnosis, there was an emphasis on evidence that the individual had ADHD since childhood, which really only family and old records could provide. Problem is, I’m not going to have access to either of those. Especially not family. Like I said above, family is not in the picture anymore. Pretty much everyone, including my parents, have left me out in the cold and think I do all these things on purpose. Even when I was previously diagnosed with major depression and GAD, they didn’t even care, and accused me of finding excuses. They were content to allow me to live in a car for almost a year rather than accept that I had actual problems I couldn’t control. So I refuse to even speak to them now.

Do I have a chance at being diagnosed even without any real evidence of a childhood with ADHD? I feel that this is me, that ADHD does indeed explain me, but what if I can’t get diagnosed because of these complications?

I appreciate any insight and personal experience you can afford me.

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When it comes to evidence of past ADHD issues, it’s unlikely that you will be asked to provide witnesses or incontrovertible proof. What they are looking for is a description of your childhood that is indicative of undiagnosed ADHD.

I think you have a good chance of diagnosis if you share all that you’ve written here, along with some testing.

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The person diagnosing you is going to be looking for symptoms going back to childhood, but this can be accomplished by you describing what you were like as a child. Report cards and comments from people who knew you as a child are helpful, but your own description can also work when those aren’t available.

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@Kael

Welcome!

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Hello @Kael !
Sorry to hear about your estranged family :slightly_frowning_face: If records are important for the diagnosis process, could you reach out to your former school? (Perhaps they have kept a copy) Could a former professor write a testimony?

But first things first: get an appointment with a specialist ASAP (neuropsychiatrist, or psychologist specialized in adult ADHD). Depending on where you live, you might need a referral from your GP.

Once you are on the waiting list, the specialist will tell you what kind of info they need :slightly_smiling_face:

I hope this was useful. Good luck :heart:

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That “resonance” you felt with Jessica’s TED talk is much the same as how I twigged to my own ADHD, except in my case I was reading an article in the Guardian newspaper where someone described their life and I was almost frightened at how similar his story was to mine. Incidentally, the Guardian have been running a series on adult ADHD and it’s revealed that a bunch of their senior journalists are in the same boat!

Rick Green over at TotallyADD.com suggests that finding those stories that resonate so clearly is a pretty good sign that you do have ADHD. It seems to hit us all in much the same way, especially if we’re not diagnosed as children and have had to muddle through without understanding that there is a reason we struggle with things that others don’t, like getting things done on time, maintaining focus, drifting away from friendships that we’d really like to keep but just can’t seem to keep up with.

In fact, reading your account was yet another of those, “Oh, bloody hell, he’s like me!” situations, even down to the diagnoses of clinical depression. I’ve since worked out that my depression effectively resulted from mis-management or maladaptation to my ADHD, things like beating myself up for “failing at normal,” or struggling to adapt to a 9-5 office worker routine.

The bugger of it all is that although awareness of ADHD in adults is growing, it’s still regarded by our medical bureaucracies as a childhood thing. For instance, here in Australia we have a wonderful Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that ensures that the vast bulk of medication, particularly vital prescription medication, is effectively subsidised and is available at a very affordable rate, but there are exceptions. One of those exceptions is that if you are diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, but not as a child, you have to pay full price for your ADHD meds - in this case, the subsidised cost is $37 (or something close to that) and the full price, which I have to pay, is $130. It’s not that I didn’t have ADHD as a kid, it’s just that no-one realised, and for that I have to pay a premium.

Back to your situation, it’s a very good idea to get formally diagnosed, because a formal diagnosis will give you the chance to get certain allowances from your uni. Another of Jessica’s videos goes into getting allowances from uni - I have no idea how it works in other countries, but I know that in Australia they aren’t legally allowed to discriminate against you for a mental condition.

Another benefit of a formal diagnosis is that you’ll now be much more sure of yourself when it comes to looking for ways to manage your situation. Time management, for instance, is a classic bugbear for us. I’ve lost track of the number of time management courses I was sent to during my office life and none of them were worth a damn, simply because they were designed by and for neurotypical people and were of no use to someone with ADHD. Knowing what I now know, I look for things designed by and for ADHDers, like using a bullet journal, or the “pomodoro technique” of timed 25 minute blocks of intense focus, and these have a much better chance of working.

By the way, there’s a great irony in that your family seems to have isolated you for these ADHD-related behaviours. ADHD is extremely heritable - there’s an extremely good chance that one or both of your parents have ADHD to some degree. Many adult diagnoses have come about when a parent finds out their child has ADHD and realises that they were exactly the same at their age.

Now, apologies for bouncing all over the place here (seriously though, it’s an ADHD forum, of course we bounce around!), but regarding your concern about your previous diagnoses of depression and anxiety interfering with an ADHD diagnosis, it shouldn’t. If the shrink follows the guidance of the DSM-V (that’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, the American Psychological Associations ‘bible’, so to speak) then you’ll undertake several interviews regarding your life history, including any other mental conditions, and then a pretty long questionnaire that, if answered honestly, will give a very solid basis for a diagnosis. There also seems to be a strong tendency for depression among ADHDers - it’s my belief that this stems from our tendency to beat ourselves up for “failing at normal” more than anything else, but I may be wrong.

Anyway, I hope that helps!

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What you describe about yourself I can relate to very much.

Yes, there is a chance of getting diagnosed without having a lot of “evidence” to show them from childhood. They will likely ask about what things were like as a child. Be honest. Let them know where you struggled and where you didn’t. Even A students, quiet students, or obedient students can have ADHD. So, just because you weren’t hanging from the ceiling fan doesn’t mean you didn’t have it. And they should understand that. Let the know where school was and is hard for you, as well as what you remember about what people said about you, your behavior, or your work. At least some symptoms have probably been there since before age 12, so you can think back and try to recall those.

Childhood recall is not the only diagnostic criteria, though. They’ll also be looking for current impairments. They may ask some questions about some fo the things you’re currently facing to see if you meet criteria now. Take a look at the symptoms ahead of time and make some notes. Try to use examples of where you struggle when you talk with them, not just saying that you get bored or distracted in class. Some of what you’ve listed above is great.

Bottom line, I had a similar experience to you in terms of finding these forums and also coming to a diagnosis in adulthood. So, hopefully the process goes well for you!

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