You think you might have ADD—but you aren’t hyperactive, can focus on a book for hours, and it’s a children’s disorder anyway, right? I’ve compiled a short list of misconceptions about ADD and a list of symptoms exclusively for ADD. You might find that your understanding of ADD was based on a tendency to lump two disorders together, and that it is a different beast entirely.
People with ADD are hyper: This is a common misconception. ADHD is the hyperactive disorder, but ADD is not. In fact, difficulty prioritizing and motivating oneself is a common symptom of ADD. Hyperactivity is the opposite end of the spectrum—with ADD, it’s often hard to get up and get moving.
Short Attention Span: While people with ADD do have a short attention span, it sometimes shows itself in unexpected ways. A kid with serious ADD can watch TV or play video games for hours, but have difficulty listening to a conversation or paying attention in class or at work.
ADD is a children’s disorder: Actually, a large population of adults suffer from ADD. Because we know more about it now than we did 20 years ago, more children are getting diagnosed. Though a few people who have ADD as a child can actually grow out of the disorder by their mid-twenties, many more continue to experience the symptoms throughout their whole life.
People with ADD are mentally disabled: No more than people with depression are. It does not impact any cognitive ability, only the ability to focus that intelligence. It is a chemical deficiency, and one that is easily replenished with proper medication. It is independent of intelligence and social ability.
ADD medications are basically Speed: While most ADD medication does contain a stimulant, it impacts a person with ADD differently than it would someone without. Because a person with ADD does not produce enough chemicals to focus, a properly dosed medication stimulates this production so it normalizes.
Do any of these scenarios sound like something you have experienced?
1. You have planned to clean a room or replace a lightbulb for weeks, but keep putting it off. Common, easy-to-fix, every day things just don’t seem to happen.
2. Caffeine helps your organization and ability to focus—though not as effective as ADD medication, stimulants like caffeine can simulate the effect for short periods of time. After taking Excedrin or drinking a coffee, you take better notes at a meeting or find it easier to clean up your workspace.
3. You are depressed and have low self-esteem. Though this can stem from many reasons, people who are long-time sufferers of ADD often find themselves coping with a lot of frustration. You want to do what you need to, but it almost feels like you can’t. Many people with ADD get diagnosed with depression instead. Anti-depressants can help, but they won’t get to the source of the problem. This is one major reason it is important to talk to your doctor about ADD if you are concerned. If untreated, it can lead to suicidal tendencies and drug abuse.
4. You are often late, and common tasks like taking a shower and cooking a meal take longer than they seem to for other people.
5. You lose things—you were just holding your keys, and now they aren’t in your hand and you’ve no idea where they could be.
6. You are short-tempered and impulsive, often saying things you regret. For men especially, ADD can cause irritability.
7. When doing a task you don’t find enjoyable, you are regularly distracted by anything that lends itself to be a distraction. Reading old letters, grocery lists, or going through a drawer to look at old trinkets.
8. You can do tasks like surfing the internet, reading, playing guitar, watching TV, and playing video games for hours on end.
9. After surfing the internet or playing video games for hours, you seriously regret the lost time.
10. You easily lose the thread of a conversation when something the other person says sparks your own train of thought, and you have little or no recollection of what they just said.
11. Lectures or meetings lead to doodles and daydreams.
12. You often wonder how everyone else knew to turn in an assignment or when a meeting was scheduled, but you have no recollection of hearing anything about it.
13. You find yourself daydreaming while driving, missing turns, and getting lost. Sometimes you go on “autopilot” to the wrong place, or even have come close to running a red light.
14. If reading something you don’t like, it can take a long time to read a paragraph because you zone out each time you try to re-read it.
15. Projects are put off to the last minute, sometimes neglected entirely. Anything that isn’t already on a schedule becomes difficult to accomplish in a timely manner.
Symptoms of ADD can differ from ADHD. Many medical sites list symptoms for ADHD but do not distinguish from ADD. I have listed complaints and descriptions of symptoms I have collected from research, my experience, and experience of people I know with ADD. It is definitely not comprehensive, but can help you decide if you are ready to mention your concerns to your doctor.