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Old 01-06-08, 09:50 PM
Bashi Bashi is offline

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: England
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Somebody else who thinks they have ADHD

Hello, I'm a 19 year old student in his second at university. For the last two years, I've been suffering from depression and anxiety (I've always been slightly shy at times, but it has gone from shyness to something far more noticeable). I'm an incredibly proud person, and the idea I have a "mental disorder" or "mental illness" is disturbing to me at the least. I'm the sort of person that doesn't ask for help when he needs it, I try to sort my own problems out. I tried many things to help me recover from this depression and anxiety, but nothing has seemed to work. At first, I thought that my depression and anxiety might be a confidence issue; I've always considered myself a confident person, but perhaps really I had a hidden insecurity? I tried changing my image and being more sociable, but I noticed this never helped - life just seemed more awkward. The next thing I tried was changing my diet, making sure I got all the proper nutrients and having only healthy meals. I practically removed all processed foods from my diet, eating only freshly prepared meals and taking measures such as eating fish twice a week. Did I feel any better? No. Exercise! Perhaps getting more exercise done would help my brain sort itself out? The only noticeable results were that I lost weight, and was slightly healthier from the exercise and change in diet. But my depression and anxiety seemed to be getting WORSE; I think this could be because I was becoming more aware of it and nothing I did seemed to help.

I study theoretical physics at university and my ambition in life is to become a theoretical physics (provided I don't ***** things up at university). I have a good understanding of science and how it works, so I began using the internet to research my problems. I noticed first, that my depression wasn't the usual type of depression most people feel. First of all, I was (and am still!) happy. When I'm alone, I'm very happy and content with myself. I really didn't have negative thoughts such as that I'm worthless or that life is hopeless. My depression was a lack of motivation, a feeling of apathy (and lack of empathy) and just a general loss of interest in life and gaining pleasure from it (anhedonia). If I'm not happy, I'm apathetic. My anxiety was a specific type of anxiety, namely a social one. Being around people I never knew made me very anxious. Sometimes I'd be chilling out with friends, and then one of my friends' friends would come over, someone I didn't know very well. I would suddenly become very anxious and I could feel adrenaline pumping around my body; similar things happen when I speak to strangers on the phone (namely, authority figures - I seem to be fine, say ordering a pizza or a cab). I know it's a totally irrational response, but for the life of me, I can't help it. It just happens. I also have become socially withdrawn; I for the most part no longer enjoy socializing. I've also been suffering occasionally from mind blanks, when in conversation to people my mind suddenly goes blank in the middle of a sentence. I forget what I was talking about, or if trying to convey a difficult idea my brain just seems to overload as to make it impossible to express that idea. So why am I telling you this? It's because I noticed these phenomena have been associated with decreased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Here are a few quotes from Wikipedia, about the function of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain -

"Dopamine's role in experiencing pleasure has been questioned by several researchers. It has been argued that dopamine is more associated with anticipatory desire and motivation."

"Sociability is also closely tied to dopamine neurotransmission. Low D2 receptor-binding is found in people with social anxiety. Traits common to negative schizophrenia (social withdrawal, apathy, anhedonia) are thought to be related to a hypodopaminergic state in certain areas of the brain."

"Dopamine disorders in this region of the brain can cause a decline in neurocognitive functions, especially memory, attention, and problem-solving. Reduced dopamine concentrations in the prefrontal cortex are thought to contribute to attention deficit disorder."

Does this sound familiar? I'm not a neurologist, but there was a pattern emerging - that my depression and anxiety could be linked to low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (I'm aware about the limitations in "brain science" but this isn't something I'm going go into here). But the last thing is very interesting, namely "attention deficit disorder". I always thought ADD/ADHD wasn't really a disorder, and just some bull**** that doctors had made up for parents who were too scared to beat their kids. You can blame the media for this view. I remember watching a BBC documentary (Panorama I think, it was on ADHD), and I was unconvinced that there was neurological impairment. But I suppose the same is true for many mental disorders; if you don't suffer from it, it really probably is impossible to understand it. I wasn't really aware of ADD or ADHD predominantly inattentive, I just knew about the other version of ADHD, the hyperactive type (I always thought that ADD and ADHD were the same thing, if someone was inattentive this would make them hyperactive. Again, I was wrong - blame the media again). At first though, I didn't read about ADHD, I began reading about studies that were looking at the effect of dopamine in the brain, and the effects of drugs like amphetamines. I also began considering whether I had OCD, because I had some weird tendencies but in retrospect my obsessive tendencies only occur during phases of "hyperfocus". References to ADHD kept cropping up in most these studies, but I ignored them because of one major factor - I'm not hyperactive or impulsive. Reading through the literature, I came across ADHD predominantly inattentive. This caught my attention, because this actually seemed to apply to me. I read about the problems people diagnosed with this "disorder" have - my jaw literally dropped. ADHD without the hyperactivity is *me*. But why did I think I had ADHD? One of the criteria’s for ADHD diagnosis is "there must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning". I believe I strong case for at least, significant impairment of "academic functioning", and I will list the case below.

When I was in middle school (I come from a county where we have a three tier system for schools), I was bored and I was "socially retarded" - I was unware of the implicit social rules that most of the other kids seemed to be aware of and so I never had many friends. For this reason, I feigned illness throughout the whole of my middle school (years 5 - years 8). I had around 45% attendance overall when I was at middle school. When I started upper school, it was a fresh start, I was older and more mature. I now had social awareness and began making friends. I began enjoying school and attending regularly. Soon, however it was spotted by my teachers that I would come under a category called "academically gifted". For somebody who had practically missed out on four years of schooling, this was quite surprising. I was obsessed with computers when I was younger (an activity I suppose I directed my hyperfocus on) and science in general. Coupled with obsessive playing of computer role playing games (these games have thousands of lines of well written text, which I attribute to one of the sources for the command of language and grammar I possess today). I guess I was mainly self taught in this respect, and that's why I began to shine when I entered year 9. I never had problems with homework, because it was easy and well structured.

My problems started to begin in year 10, when we had to do coursework. Coursework is honestly the bane of my life (this sounds like such a trivial issue, it makes me want to squirm just writing about it). I was predicted 13 A*s at the beginning of year 10 by my teachers (I would only achieve 1 A* at the end of my GCSEs). I've noticed, any task that requires sustained mental effort is of mammoth difficulty to me. Not only do I get easily distracted, when I try to focus my energies on writing an essay or doing coursework I experience extreme frustration, my mind goes blank a countless number of times (I experience a writers block, as they say). Writing an essay for me, takes at least a week of sustained mental effort (note, this is only if I'm not interested in the subject matter). At the end of each day, I will probably get one paragraph down. Creativity ceases to function for me. When I do usually get something creative or imaginative on paper, I'm usually forced up from my chair and must wonder around the house aimlessly, have a glass of water and a snack, and then a little conversation with myself and then when I've sufficiently calmed down, I can continue. In English, I tried ever so hard to do my coursework. At first I was on track, but some pieces of coursework would be handed in a year and a half late (one of my teachers came to my house to pick up my coursework). In ICT, my strongest subject, I simply refused to do coursework. My brain put up such a fight, that I knew it was best to fail the subject and concentrate my studies on more important subjects. Ironically, I obtained 94% and 84% on the written examination for ICT, but as I didn't do the coursework I obtained an E overall. I always knew I was a master of procrastination and perhaps very lazy (when I wasn't interested in the subject matter). But I did try, I would sometimes be staring at a blank computer screen for days, trying to get something that would flow naturally on the screen. That was one of the problems, to get coherent sentences that followed each other logically conveying ideas. I suppose if I wrote down what I was thinking, the jumbled mess that one would read would probably be a reflection of my state of my mind. I also didn't do my P.E. coursework, and coursework for other subjects was usually rushed at the last minute (most of my courseworks were handed in on the deadlines when they were being sent off for marking). I also began playing truent again (bad habits die hard), and my attendance dropped to about 80% when the pressure of coursework started piling up on me. Still I did very well in my GCSEs, but I never met my predicted criteria of 13 A*s.

Now, comes A-level (NB: AS-level is the first year of A-level, and A2 is the second year of A-level. You can drop a subject after gaining an AS-level in it, for those who don't know). I was doing subjects that I had chosen and so I naturally should've done well in them? Well, I chose to do all the science A-levels (biology, chemistry and physics) and maths. I loved mathematics; I could spend hours and hours doing math problems. My obsession with mathematics would lead me to episodes of complete obsession, where I would forget to eat and be totally obsessed with some problem (hyperfocus). The same was true for some extent of physics, but I never really enjoyed A-level physics. A-level chemistry and biology began to bore me, as the emphasis was more on rote learning for the exam rather than a proper understanding and appreciation of the subject. I did my AS-levels, I had two pieces of coursework to do in that year, in physics and biology. I managed both. In the second year, in my A2 year, I carried on doing all my subjects. However in this year, I was required to do coursework in chemistry in addition to that of my biology and physics coursework. The level of the coursework this year was higher than the level of the coursework of the previous year. I just barely managed to do two pieces of coursework last year, and I had become increasingly depressed at the prospect of having to do chemistry AND biology coursework. I had continued chemistry and biology up to A2 level and then dropped them after Christmas. This was solely due to the cousework component; I just knew I couldn't do the coursework. As I needed three A-levels to go to university, I took up doing further maths (mainly because there was no coursework involved in mathematics, and it was the A-level I had most interest in). I had already begun teaching myself AS level further maths, as I thought it would look good on my university application and just out of general interest in maths. What I did, was after January, I decided to do a full A-level in further maths (which arguably is one of the hardest A-levels you could do), so I had to teach myself an additonal 4 modules in the time from January to my exams (three of the further maths modules I did were the hardest math modules I took and the A-level wasn't taught at my school). Doing what I did with my A-levels is practically unheard of, and I met stiff opposition from teachers in my school. I guess the reason they let me go ahead with my plan was that I was still one of their best pupils. Anyway, the point of this story is, my inability to do coursework led me to teach myself a whole A-level in a restricted time period. This would to many seem much harder than actually doing the coursework, but for me, this was the easier option. I got a B in further maths, and I ended up going to university.
At university, I've encountered similar problems. I have one module, which is entirely coursework based, and last year I failed it. I did fairly well in my other modules.

I have other symptoms of ADHD as well. For example, I need to be constantly moving to think. I pace around my house incessantly, having conversations in my head with myself. It's only really during these periods where I can clearly think and express myself. However, I'm only expressing myself to myself. But there is some advantage of this. I will usually prepare responses for possible conversations I might have in the future, as I know how unreliable my brain can be. Or if I need to make an important phone call, I will rehearse what needs to be said, in case I have a blind blank so I can quickly throw up one of my preprepared responses. When I was younger, I used to always jump around on the furniture (I carried this activity on until I was 16, but I make my best attempts to limit myself to pacing around in the room that I'm in now). When a commercial break used to come on TV, I would usually jump on one sofa, then the table and then the sofa continuously until the TV advert ends. Other times, when watching TV, I sometimes get so excited that I have to get up and start moving (this is a common problem when reading as well). To make myself not look weird, I usually go in the kitchen, get a glass of water and pace about a little if no one is in the kitchen (pacing about feels sooo good for some reason). Another habit is that I usually pick up things and start throwing them in the air and catching them, repeating this process (until I usually will drop the item after a certain amount of time because of poor coordination). I've read that people with ADHD tend to have worse coordination than people who don't have ADHD. My coordination is absolutely abysmal. For a male, I don't know anyone who has coordination as bad as mine. I'm absolutely pants and sports like football.

I suppose something else that might support the idea that I have ADHD is that I think my father has it too. But I won't cover that in too much detail. If anyone has read this whole post and not fallen asleep, then thank you! I don't really know what I want people to respond, but I just felt to get some of this down. I will probably condense this post and take it to the doctor. For general interest, I got up at least 9 times when writing this post, but after that I stopped counting.
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