View Full Version : Was I misdiagnosed with ADHD?


OBeier
07-27-17, 11:20 PM
Hello all,

First and foremost, I would like to say that I am new to the website, so I apologize if I break any unspoken traditions of the website for the way in which I post. I found this website as I was recently diagnosed with ADHD at 21 years old after I took a professional exam that ended in me having a panic attack.

I went to the psychiatrist looking for help managing anxiety as I am a college student who can never sleep the night before exams and is often paralyzed by unknown "fear" and the panic attack during the professional exam was the last straw. I left the psychiatrist office with an ADHD diagnosis and a prescription of Vyvanse.

I have been on the medication (started at 20 mg each day and now am at 40 mg each day) for about seven weeks and have been back to the psychiatrist once to check in. While the psychiatrist believes this is the right diagnosis, I cannot help but think it may not be right. Once I was diagnosed I began doing research (including reading on this forum) and while I fit many of the symptoms she discussed as well as the ones online, I just cannot see how it is possible for me to have ADHD as there are a few major things that just do not line up! As individuals who are well aware of ADHD and the notions surrounding it, I was hoping you could all help me realize if I may be misdiagnosed or if I am just having trouble understanding the diagnosis.

To help you understand why I feel like ADHD just isn't possible I have provided some background information:

I am a 21 year old female who is a senior in college. I am a 4.0 double major in accounting and economics. In my opinion as well as everyone else's, accounting is an extremely detailed oriented major that takes a lot of focus- from what I have been able to understand about ADHD, details are not something people excel at. And while I strongly dislike my major (as I dislike math), I have oddly excelled at it. I only attend a large state school; however, I am in a rigorous program within my school but either way school is not an issue for me at all. I do fine on exams and usually study less than others in my class.

In addition to school work I have also been able to handle many other things. I am the president of two honors organizations on campus, I am on the senior chancellor's honorary (1 of 13 students), was selected for homecoming court, work 10 hours each week, am in a sorority, serve of the executive team for the governing board of all sororities on my campus and am the Co-Chair for an all campus volunteering day. While, I do struggle to keep this all together sometimes, I feel like any normal individual would have the same issues.

I am also able to get 8 hours of rest each night (by this I mean I have enough time to sleep 8 hours a night, durning school I have with waking up really early due to anxiety issues and end up with about 4 hours), I work out each day and have an active social life. I have never had to miss out on something I wanted to do because of a too busy schedule or poor planning.

In addition, I am not in anyway reckless or impulsive. I like to gather tons of information before I do anything. I am also not a big procrastinator. I get way, way too anxious if I have stuff to do so sometimes I will just work for hours and hours trying to get it done.

The above reasons are really the foundation for why I just cannot understand the ADHD diagnosis. As I read through personal stories, symptoms and accounts it just doesn't make sense to me. I really cannot see how this matches up with how ADHD works. My life is pretty together or at least I think so.

In order to make this a "fair" playing field, I have also included the reasons I was diagnosed with the disorder.

First, I "scored" very, very high on an ADHD diagnosis exam thing (sorry I am not familiar with the correct terminology). Some where you if you have a 12 or what not you should be checked out for ADHD and I scored around a 29. Some of the things that I found to be similar to my life that were present in the diagnosis exam were:

1. I am distracted by noise or activity around me. In order to study or focus I usually wear ear plugs with noise cancelling headphones over them playing white noise. Before I take exams a lot of my anxiety comes from the idea that I may not be able to wear ear plugs to take the exam, I may get seated next to a heavy breather, the clock may tick loud, someone might tap their pencil...

2. I do fidget often when sitting for long times. I often have to sit on my hands in order to keep calm durning classes which means I can't really take notes so I mostly just sit there and attempt to listen or I plan out my day or think about emails I need to send (I am a bad emailer).

3. I am basically always 5-10 minutes late to everything for literally no reason. I also often forget I have things to do so I have to set reminders on my phone and watch to buzz 5 minutes before I have to go somewhere so I can remember.

4. I very often forget what people are saying but find it very easy to tune back in once I realized I stopped listening and pick up what they are saying based on context clues.

5. Although I am not passionate about accounting, nor do I even like it, I can easily sit down for seven+ hours and work on it. And on that note, if I really am enjoying something I struggle to stop doing it.

6. I basically have no idea where anything is very. I have left my phone in the freezer, I never drive because I never know where my keys are, I never have the right notes for class...

7. I cannot relax.

8. I struggle to be organized. I have an extremely complex organization system so that has helped a lot!

9. I feel extremely unproductive all the time and always feel like I literally accomplished nothing in life, thus my self-esteem is low in that regard as I feel like I have wasted my life away. To be honest though, it is probably too high in other aspects. Every night I go to bed and I am like what did you ACTUALLY REALLY do today? And most of the time I did get things done, like all my homework all emails sent... but I know I could have been better.

10. I cannot read textbooks, like actually have never purchased one in college because I find them useless and I read a page every now and again, decide it is stupid and boring and throw it in a desk drawer.

All in all, I have noticed changes with the medication. I can in fact read textbooks now and for long periods of time and actually understand what is going on. I don't often misplace things and am actually pretty organized. I can sleep when I go to bed and my anxiety as decreased; however, I just can't help but think all the things I struggle with are just normal college things and not something that needs an ADHD medication. Everyone in college preforms better with an ADHD medication (trust me, they are a black market specialty) so what makes me NEED one over someone else? College kids are messy and get board easily, they don't sleep enough and have trouble focusing on certain things. No one actually wants to reply to emails or take notes- so I am just not sure if I have ADHD or am just a super normal human being?

I really do not want to be taking this medication if I do not need to as it is an unfair advantage in school work and I have to report it to my school so they can give me special privedlges for exams like time and a half (but that is cheating in my opinion)

Thoughts? Also I apologize for the lengthy post...

sarahsweets
07-28-17, 06:37 AM
I am a 21 year old female who is a senior in college. I am a 4.0 double major in accounting and economics. In my opinion as well as everyone else's, accounting is an extremely detailed oriented major that takes a lot of focus- from what I have been able to understand about ADHD, details are not something people excel at. And while I strongly dislike my major (as I dislike math), I have oddly excelled at it. I only attend a large state school; however, I am in a rigorous program within my school but either way school is not an issue for me at all. I do fine on exams and usually study less than others in my class.

In addition to school work I have also been able to handle many other things. I am the president of two honors organizations on campus, I am on the senior chancellor's honorary (1 of 13 students), was selected for homecoming court, work 10 hours each week, am in a sorority, serve of the executive team for the governing board of all sororities on my campus and am the Co-Chair for an all campus volunteering day. While, I do struggle to keep this all together sometimes, I feel like any normal individual would have the same issues.

I am also able to get 8 hours of rest each night (by this I mean I have enough time to sleep 8 hours a night, durning school I have with waking up really early due to anxiety issues and end up with about 4 hours), I work out each day and have an active social life. I have never had to miss out on something I wanted to do because of a too busy schedule or poor planning.

In addition, I am not in anyway reckless or impulsive. I like to gather tons of information before I do anything. I am also not a big procrastinator. I get way, way too anxious if I have stuff to do so sometimes I will just work for hours and hours trying to get it done.

The above reasons are really the foundation for why I just cannot understand the ADHD diagnosis. As I read through personal stories, symptoms and accounts it just doesn't make sense to me. I really cannot see how this matches up with how ADHD works. My life is pretty together or at least I think so.

All the successes you have had do not mean you dont have adhd. Its sort of like succeeding in spite of your adhd. I have a BA in english Lit and was on the deans list. I still have adhd even though I did well.
If you have significant impairments in 6 or more ways in 2 or more areas of your life, you have adhd. Were things noticable as a child?



All in all, I have noticed changes with the medication. I can in fact read textbooks now and for long periods of time and actually understand what is going on. I don't often misplace things and am actually pretty organized. I can sleep when I go to bed and my anxiety as decreased; however, I just can't help but think all the things I struggle with are just normal college things and not something that needs an ADHD medication. Everyone in college preforms better with an ADHD medication (trust me, they are a black market specialty) so what makes me NEED one over someone else? College kids are messy and get board easily, they don't sleep enough and have trouble focusing on certain things. No one actually wants to reply to emails or take notes- so I am just not sure if I have ADHD or am just a super normal human being?

I really do not want to be taking this medication if I do not need to as it is an unfair advantage in school work and I have to report it to my school so they can give me special privedlges for exams like time and a half (but that is cheating in my opinion)

Thoughts? Also I apologize for the lengthy post...

I am a believer if the meds help and you have a diagnosis then you deserve to treat it as much as the next person.

userguide
07-28-17, 10:15 AM
You're an interesting case :)

I don't know if you have ADHD, sarah is right that symptomatic childhood might be decisive here.

However, there are people who are achievers despite their adhd. They have usually personal traits or coping mechanisms that help em get through life, like high IQ, supportive family, friendly personality, etc.

PoppnNSailinMan
07-28-17, 10:37 AM
All the successes you have had do not mean you dont have adhd. Its sort of like succeeding in spite of your adhd. I have a BA in english Lit and was on the deans list. I still have adhd even though I did well.

If you have significant impairments in 6 or more ways in 2 or more areas of your life, you have adhd. Were things noticable as a child?


I am a believer if the meds help and you have a diagnosis then you deserve to treat it as much as the next person.

I agree with what sarah is saying here. It's possible to have ADHD and still do well in college. I got a BA from a good university with good grades and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with high honors. Although I ultimately changed my major to something that interested me more, I even went to college with the intention of being a math major because I was pretty good at math. But I did all of this despite having ADHD.

I went on to get a PhD at the same university, but that turned out to be a much bigger challenge for me than getting my BA. My ADHD impeded me in graduate school a lot more than it did as an undergraduate. And I experienced really significant problems in my life as a result of my ADHD after I got out of college, too, both professionally and in my home life. Ultimately, it derailed my career before I realized what was happening.

I just started reading the fairly recent book by Thomas Brown, Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014) and really identify with a lot of what he has to say there and with the profiles of some of his patients whose stories he tells. Brown is now Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and in the book above he has made a point of studying ADHD in especially bright people. As he says on page 4:

Not only is it possible for people with high IQ to suffer from ADHD, but it's likely that they'll suffer longer without adequate support or treatment because the people in their lives assume, quite mistakenly, that anyone who is really smart can't suffer from ADHD.

And I might add to what Brown says, that a lot of smart people with ADHD might assume, too, that they couldn't possibly have ADHD when in fact they do and either have had a lot of outside support or have been good at developing coping strategies. With a lot of luck and support, some people with ADHD can find a path to a job that really plays to their strengths and have very successful careers. But for others, it doesn't turn out so well. As Brown says about the stories of his smart patients with ADHD on page 5 of his book, Smart but Stuck:

Some are stories of amazing successes and impressive accomplishments; others are tales of ongoing frustration and tragic disappointment. Most are a mixed bag.

It never occurred to me for a long time that I have ADHD and I wasn't diagnosed until I was 51. But the impairments from ADHD, many of which seem kind of small my themselves, can really start to add up in a very insidious way and become very disabling. As J. Russell Ramsay and Anthony Rostain say in their book, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD:

When witnessed in isolation, ADHD symptoms often appear as merely annoying nuisances or peculiarities to observers, contributing to the view that "everyone has ADHD." However, the persistent and pervasive effects of ADHD symptoms can insidiously and severely interfere with the demonstration of one's knowledge in an educational setting, fulfilling one's potential in the workplace, establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships, and simply having the self-efficacy to develop, follow through on, and achieve reasonable personal endeavors. No single "ADHD moment" is terribly disturbing, but the cumulative effect of a longstanding pattern of these troubles can be devastating.

So if you have ADHD, better to get treatment for it now before it causes really serious problems for you down the road.

Pilgrim
07-28-17, 11:34 AM
Human beings are complex creatures. Your organisational system is keeping you going but when you think of it you have some significant impairments.
That feeling of getting nothing done or having never achieved anything of merit are serious values and in time this just perpetuates.

Being late constantly, although only 5 or 10 minutes, is not really tolerated in the working world. It might be at school but it's considered tardiness. What many people don't understand for the ADD person this is not easy to avoid.

Wearing earplugs helps in regard to distract ability. It's hard for your mind to block out certain things.

As time goes on generally your organisational ability has to increase. This is where I really failed.

OBeier
07-29-17, 06:52 PM
All the successes you have had do not mean you dont have adhd. Its sort of like succeeding in spite of your adhd. I have a BA in english Lit and was on the deans list. I still have adhd even though I did well.
If you have significant impairments in 6 or more ways in 2 or more areas of your life, you have adhd. Were things noticable as a child?


I am a believer if the meds help and you have a diagnosis then you deserve to treat it as much as the next person.

Hi Sarahsweets- Before I was diagnosed the psychiatrist had a long discussion with my mother so they did talk about my childhood. From what I understand, because my own memory is flawed, I always needed to be entertained? As a baby I know that my mom had to constantly put up photos in my crib and we had to be moving all the time. I have ALWAYS been extremely disorganized and really, really have struggled to understand where anything is or where I am supposed to be, but until my exam, it never caused a major issue in my life. I have never been a reader of books as they are far too long and I struggle to focus, so I guess everything above has been extremely consistent throughout my life. How does this affect the overall diagnosis of ADHD?

OBeier
07-29-17, 06:57 PM
You're an interesting case :)

I don't know if you have ADHD, sarah is right that symptomatic childhood might be decisive here.

However, there are people who are achievers despite their adhd. They have usually personal traits or coping mechanisms that help em get through life, like high IQ, supportive family, friendly personality, etc.

Userguide: As in my reply to Sarah, I have pretty much been the same most of my life. Always wanting to do things and achieve more. I was never very laid back and was a lot messier, but at the same time a lot of high schoolers live in pig styles. My mother was "interviewed" before I receive my diagnosis so whatever she said must have been problematic.

OBeier
07-29-17, 07:08 PM
I agree with what sarah is saying here. It's possible to have ADHD and still do well in college. I got a BA from a good university with good grades and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with high honors. Although I ultimately changed my major to something that interested me more, I even went to college with the intention of being a math major because I was pretty good at math. But I did all of this despite having ADHD.

I went on to get a PhD at the same university, but that turned out to be a much bigger challenge for me than getting my BA. My ADHD impeded me in graduate school a lot more than it did as an undergraduate. And I experienced really significant problems in my life as a result of my ADHD after I got out of college, too, both professionally and in my home life. Ultimately, it derailed my career before I realized what was happening.

I just started reading the fairly recent book by Thomas Brown, Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014) and really identify with a lot of what he has to say there and with the profiles of some of his patients whose stories he tells. Brown is now Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and in the book above he has made a point of studying ADHD in especially bright people. As he says on page 4:



And I might add to what Brown says, that a lot of smart people with ADHD might assume, too, that they couldn't possibly have ADHD when in fact they do and either have had a lot of outside support or have been good at developing coping strategies. With a lot of luck and support, some people with ADHD can find a path to a job that really plays to their strengths and have very successful careers. But for others, it doesn't turn out so well. As Brown says about the stories of his smart patients with ADHD on page 5 of his book, Smart but Stuck:



It never occurred to me for a long time that I have ADHD and I wasn't diagnosed until I was 51. But the impairments from ADHD, many of which seem kind of small my themselves, can really start to add up in a very insidious way and become very disabling. As J. Russell Ramsay and Anthony Rostain say in their book, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD:



So if you have ADHD, better to get treatment for it now before it causes really serious problems for you down the road.

I can tell you are an extremely educated individual! Your response is almost exactly the same as what the psychiatrist told me. I understand completely what both of you are saying and your examples make complete sense. It is very possible I have ADHD, but it probably will take me a while to accept it. Especially because those who see me in an academic setting constantly, boyfriend, friends, think I am just a normal college student, overplaying their problems, looking for a solution to a normal life. They have used the line, if you have ADHD, then everyone has ADHD and those that don't have it will want it. So fighting that path has been its own little struggle. I will for sure pick up the book you recommended though. It seems like something I should read through or maybe give them to read. Thank you so much for your answer. I went to seek help because as I progress in my career, I wanted to be rid of my anxiety, I was just derailed by this diagnosis and struggle to understand if it is right or if I am just benefiting from the medication the same way everyone else does.

OBeier
07-29-17, 07:15 PM
Human beings are complex creatures. Your organisational system is keeping you going but when you think of it you have some significant impairments.
That feeling of getting nothing done or having never achieved anything of merit are serious values and in time this just perpetuates.

Being late constantly, although only 5 or 10 minutes, is not really tolerated in the working world. It might be at school but it's considered tardiness. What many people don't understand for the ADD person this is not easy to avoid.

Wearing earplugs helps in regard to distract ability. It's hard for your mind to block out certain things.

As time goes on generally your organisational ability has to increase. This is where I really failed.

Pilgrim- Fortunately, I have found a way to combat the lateness for the most part, I still struggle some days but I simply write everything down in my planner 15 minutes before it actually starts (although I know deep down it doesn't begin at that time) planning to be there 15 minutes early usually gets me there about 5-10 minutes early or on time which is a blessing. And for really important things, like job interviews or work I starting moving towards the door 30 minutes early and am there 15 minutes early or so like every good employee should be.

So I guess that strongly supports the idea that organization and comping mechanisms play a significant role in my life. Thank you for taking the time to reply and point out the things that you see as symptoms of ADHD. It is very easy for me to generalize that everyone has these issues, i.e. clocks are annoying to everyone and if they wanted to do better, everyone would use earplugs (obviously, probably not true). Or everyone feels unaccomplished in college, I mean we don't really do anything that changes the world (when you start to think about it, that probably isn't normal to not ever feel accomplished).

You mentioned that you struggled with organization- why do you think this is? Do you think being capable of organization is a sign that what I have may not be ADHD?

sarahsweets
07-30-17, 04:59 AM
Hi Sarahsweets- Before I was diagnosed the psychiatrist had a long discussion with my mother so they did talk about my childhood. From what I understand, because my own memory is flawed, I always needed to be entertained? As a baby I know that my mom had to constantly put up photos in my crib and we had to be moving all the time. I have ALWAYS been extremely disorganized and really, really have struggled to understand where anything is or where I am supposed to be, but until my exam, it never caused a major issue in my life. I have never been a reader of books as they are far too long and I struggle to focus, so I guess everything above has been extremely consistent throughout my life. How does this affect the overall diagnosis of ADHD?

Well, adhd symptoms must have been present in childhood and impair your life in 2 or more ways in 6 or more areas. Its sounds like it does for you.

daveddd
07-30-17, 07:01 AM
i have to be impaired in 2 ways in 6 areas now?

wow these criteria get stranger every dsm, its why i dont pay it any attention

Little Missy
07-30-17, 07:18 AM
i have to be impaired in 2 ways in 6 areas now?

wow these criteria get stranger every dsm, its why i dont pay it any attention

yep, bourgeois!

sarahsweets
07-30-17, 09:47 AM
i have to be impaired in 2 ways in 6 areas now?

wow these criteria get stranger every dsm, its why i dont pay it any attention

As far as I know its been this way for awhile. Unless I have it mixed up and its 6 or more ways in 2 or more areas.

namazu
07-30-17, 11:05 AM
As far as I know its been this way for awhile. Unless I have it mixed up and its 6 or more ways in 2 or more areas.
Per DSM-5, it's 6 or more symptoms (5 or more for adults age 17+) from either the "inattentive" and/or the "hyperactive-impulsive" symptom lists, causing impairment in 2 or more areas (like home and work, or relationships and school, or work and driving). [Details here. (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html)]


OBeier, regardless of whether or not you decide to take medication, you are not obligated to report your diagnosis to your school, nor to use accommodations. However, I would highly recommend it. As someone who made use of accommodations myself due to ADHD and associated problems, I can assure you that having extra time on an exam won't improve your score if you didn't already know the material and if you didn't need the extra time (assuming you're not in a field where timed performance is an absolutely required element). For me, when "I ran out of time" or "I can't manage so many classes at once" were no longer ways to write off my failures (because I used accommodations that addressed those issues), I was motivated to work much harder.

It sounds like you are also dealin with significant anxiety about school. For some people, treating the ADHD can help a lot with that. For others, the anxiety takes on a life of its own and needs to be treated or unlearned separately. Have you discussed additional (possibly non-medication) strategies for managing stress with whoever diagnosed you? This might be beneficial as well.

daveddd
07-30-17, 12:56 PM
ahhhh cool

PoppnNSailinMan
07-30-17, 01:50 PM
OBeier, regardless of whether or not you decide to take medication, you are not obligated to report your diagnosis to your school, nor to use accommodations. However, I would highly recommend it. As someone who made use of accommodations myself due to ADHD and associated problems, I can assure you that having extra time on an exam won't improve your score if you didn't already know the material and if you didn't need the extra time (assuming you're not in a field where timed performance is an absolutely required element). For me, when "I ran out of time" or "I can't manage so many classes at once" were no longer ways to write off my failures (because I used accommodations that addressed those issues), I was motivated to work much harder.

I wish that I'd had those kinds of accommodations when I was in college (back in the 1980s and 1990s). I had to drop some classes or change my grading option to pass/fail in some of them even though I knew the material and had worked really hard in them. But because of the types of exams the professors gave in those classes, usually ones with multiple short answers, I just couldn't read all the questions, organize my thoughts for each one and get my answers written fast enough. The parts of the exams I finished were always good, but I had trouble finishing on time. When I was in college, it was only just starting to be recognized that adults could have ADHD, so it might have been difficult for me to have gotten accommodations even if I had tried.

Little Missy
07-30-17, 03:08 PM
I wish that I'd had those kinds of accommodations when I was in college (back in the 1980s and 1990s). I had to drop some classes or change my grading option to pass/fail in some of them even though I knew the material and had worked really hard in them. But because of the types of exams the professors gave in those classes, usually ones with multiple short answers, I just couldn't read all the questions, organize my thoughts for each one and get my answers written fast enough. The parts of the exams I finished were always good, but I had trouble finishing on time. When I was in college, it was only just starting to be recognized that adults could have ADHD, so it might have been difficult for me to have gotten accommodations even if I had tried.

And the thing I noticed about multiple choice is that sometimes I can explain why each answer can be correct in certain instances and that there really is no best answer.

userguide
07-30-17, 10:48 PM
And the thing I noticed about multiple choice is that sometimes I can explain why each answer can be correct in certain instances and that there really is no best answer.

I thought it's only me and my promiscuous mind :lol:

OBeier
08-03-17, 06:27 PM
ahhhh cool

Thank- you for your response. I just cannot in good conscious ask for these accommodations. For me, it would be cheating. I do not struggle with timing on exams any more than the person next to me. It would just give me additional time to check over my answers and to make sure I didn't make any silly mistakes, something that all students would benefit from. As a student who does not often receive below 95's on exams, this just would not be fair to students who are actually really struggling.

I understand that some individuals with ADHD may have trouble because it is really challenging to focus, I understand that! Before the medication, I was studying for the LSAT and I had to read each question stem 8-11 times. Yes that eats up time, but I still always finish with a few seconds to spare. Now that I need have the medication, I only have to read the stems 1-2 times and I get done much quicker, usually under time! If I asked for extra time, I would be able to go through each exam almost twice and really, really check things through which just doesn't seem fair to me. Would I do better? Yes for sure! I know the material and with extra time, I can make sure I answered things correctly. But is that right?

I have studied with people who do not have ADHD and really struggle with timing. They can't get through the whole exam when reading the question 1, those are the people that could benefit. I just can't sit there and ask for the extra time when on practice exams (I know not the real thing, anxiety will reduce my score for sure) I am scoring in the high 160s without medication and without extra time.