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Old 10-11-06, 11:14 PM
soupy soupy is offline

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David and FuturePast,

I'm just shy of 41 and, myself, will soon be 6 months past the original deadline for receiving my Masters. I've got one paper to finish, that was only supposed to take me 1 more month. Almost 5 months later, I'm finally getting down to business and writing. I got an official diagnosis in August, and haven't really tried to access any university services since I've only got this one paper. I'm broke, but hired a coach who was able to take me on at half her usual rate (student discount) and I'm putting it all on my credit card. (My testing also went on the cc.) Both are turning out to be worthy longterm investments.

I've had some dark days -- and weeks -- in the last few months, but managed to hold onto some thread of hope and persistence while being bolstered by my coach. One of the most important things has been clarifying why I want to finish the degree. Because of my own struggles, I lost momentum and couldn't see the point b/c it'd all gotten too hard. I've been able to convince myself that there may eventually be ways to deal with the difficulties, or get around them in the future. I've also told myself that it's silly to come this far and just give up. The initials MA look really good on a resume (my coach reminded me the other day.) I've written these and some other reasons for persisting on a card and posted it next to my computer.

I've also been working with my coach on breaking down what I have to do into small discreet tasks, instead of one huge amoeba-like pulsing thing that is constantly hanging over me. Along with this, I put a time limit on myself and try to work consistently at the same time each day. Then, I walk away and do anything else unrelated to schoolwork. (I'd originally tried 1- and 2-hour stints with 15 minute breaks. Now, I'm doing 6-hour stints with very clear rules about what I can and can't do during that time: all advice from a professor.) I'm also exercising as close to daily as I can muster. I just walk briskly, and it really helps to get those neurotransmitters working properly.

My coach has also been really good at pointing out and reminding me of my capabilities, and helping me remember to get in touch with other people who can do the same for me. This is really key when you're going through a tough time. The tendency is to want to beat yourself up b/c you don't seem to measure up to certain standards you think you should measure up to. (Sari Solden says some really great stuff about this, in either of her books.) Although you don't necessarily have to hire a coach, you've got to find someone (make a list!) who can remind you about your intelligence and capabilities. (David, even tho' you're not in the same town, is there a university nearby? If so, can you look into finding other ADHD grad students locally? Call up disability services? Start a support group on Is there a local support group in either of your areas?

Maybe you need someone to help you prioritize your workload so you can figure out how to take it one step at a time, yet keep moving. Maybe you've got to talk out your future possibilities with someone. Maybe you just need to get all the negative messages out on paper so you can think through them more clearly and find a logical way to move on. (I find if I don't process my thoughts out loud or on paper, they spin around my head in an endless loop that gets me stuck, overwhelmed and unable to reasonably process any of them.) Perhaps your expressing yourselves in this thread has helped a bit. Whatever works, keep doing it for as long as its useful to you.

If you aren't able to find support through the traditional channels of meds, psychotherapy and ADHD support services, you can still be creative and find other options and sympathetic people. Just use your super ADD powers!! ADDers, according to many of the books I've read, are usually highly creative people and great problem solvers. I've been told this about myself, and I suspect you've heard the same.

If you've found any of this helpful and there's anything more I can do in terms of support, please don't hesitate to ask. BTW, what are your fields? Mine is History.

Hang in there,
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Old 01-12-07, 10:28 PM
ChrisPerson ChrisPerson is offline

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Iím relieved to find this discussion for no other reason than it confirms that other academics do indeed function while having ADD Ė moreover, that academics with ADD actually exist! My diagnosis came after completing my PhD and after Iíd gotten tenure; throughout my graduate years Iíd coped by self-medicating with alcohol and a variety of other substances. Iím certain that it didnít help affairs in the slightest. That stage of my life is, thankfully, now over; I would never want to repeat it Ė or advise anyone to replicate it.

I suppose one of the things that has been gnawing at me over the years is the idea that someone with ADD should somehow not be in academia; that being an academic while having ADD is perhaps something that can be done, but probably shouldnít be done. (Perhaps akin to the idea that a skinny, tall person might perhaps be able to make it as a professional bodybuilder, but that another sport, like basketball, would suit their physiology somewhat better.) Indeed, Iíve even had the idea that if Iíd chosen a different career path, medication would prove to be unnecessary Ė and perhaps that my previous bouts of alcohol and substance abuse would not have eventuated. Of course, I realise that these thoughts, especially the latter Ė while not quite science fiction Ė are perhaps insufficiently grounded in reality. Regardless, they are present sometimes.

To clarify things somewhat, I have to state that Iíve been successful in academia (-Iím in the Humanities / philosophy): having only been in the profession for a relatively short period of time (Iím 35 years old), Iíve published consistently in ďgoodĒ journals, and even had widely-reviewed a book come out last year with an international publisher. Because of all of this, Iíve also been a visiting fellow at some prestigious institutions. (Iím not relating any of this for the sake of my ego Ė at least as far as Iím aware; Iím merely trying to convey some picture of who I am and where Iím at.)

But despite my relative success, sometimes, however, it seems like too much of a struggle: the unstructured work environment and the nature of the work itself appear to intermittently overwhelm me. Iím not sure if I have much advice to give to others, therefore; Iím even unsure if I have any questions that I feel like I need addressing Ė although Iím sure I will at some point. I just thought Iíd post this to express my relief at finding this thread. Much thanks.

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Old 01-17-07, 02:43 AM
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It's good to know this exists

It is really very relieving to discover this thread. I'm in academia myself and I find myself struggling more than my peers around me. I began grad school with a healthy enough attitude and a pretty social disposition but things were so bad after just 1 year that I went on-leave. While I could get excited about what I would see in a text, the connections I could make, etc., the transmission of those connections and ideas seemed near-impossible. As an undergraduate I feel I was always able to get away with papers that made up in ideas what they might've lacked in structural coherence. Not so at the graduate level.

I thought about dropping out but that made me restless. I don't know how all of you feel but there is something addictive about academia, even if it isn't exactly suited to the condition we have. For me I couldn't face alternative career paths. I genuinely get excited about academic work, but I can't synthesize things like my grad peers. I feel like I make connections and see the larger picture, but it is always difficult when the inevitable 'paper' is due. I did get diagnosed for ADD while out of school (good friend posited the possibility that I might have ADD...I'd always assumed depression). After receiving treatment, I did feel much more able.

I'm back in school now but even with treatment I still find myself spending far more time with my coursework than others. But the frustration is that you can register a pattern, pick up a crosscurrent, see a wide network of critical linkages, but then there's that frustrating fight for intelligibility, for 'representation.' Writing papers has become the bane of my life. Oddly enough (or maybe not), writing on something like critical theory can be easier than writing on, say, Victorian political economy.

In class when I chime in on discussion I find I'm equal parts 'lucid point' and 'fuzzy transmission.' Obviously this has led to self-doubt and a certain amount of (self)alienation. I'm pretty hermetically-sealed as a result of just trying to keep up with coursework. It's exhausting yet I can't give this up.

I wish I could offer a more inspiring story but I'm still in the process of trying to see what support structures exist for this sort of thing on campus. I share my small narrative here cause I came across this and I could 'identify'

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Old 01-17-07, 03:21 AM
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not only do acedemics function while having ADD, they function despite it and can flourish if their ADD is nurtured. I got through university by taping my lectures - I didn't know I had ADD then and used my pre-school children as an excuse for not attending lectures. In hindsight, when I did go to lectures I never focused and my notes were terrible...I got through Uni and got some good results but I wish I had been diagnosed then, not 20 years later! Keep posting even if don't think you have much to say. Communication says it all.
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Old 01-17-07, 04:30 PM
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I had forgotten I'd started this thread a few months ago... but I'm glad that I noticed it again today, and I'm happy to know that there are at least a few others of us out there... Since that initial post, I've experimented a bit to see what works the best for working day-to-day as an academic...

Writing. I do my writing in the morning, because I'm usually fading by the afternoon. Plus, the office is also usually quieter then, so I get less distracted and am able to stay on task better. I save more mundane tasks for the afternoons and for days when I just don't feel like writing. Instrumental music ONLY while writing, and music with lyrics ONLY while doing mundane data tasks or less-mundane statistical analyses.

Whenever I'm having a good writing day, I don't make myself stop writing just because it's the afternoon and I should tackle a mundane data task. If I'm having a bad day writing, I switch to another task for a couple of hours and try to come back to writing a little later.

This isn't a particularly novel idea... just an application of others' suggestions about incorporating variety into the workday.

Working at home vs. working in the office. I have essentially given up trying to work at home. I try to spend nearly all the time I am in my office being productive in order to avoid bringing work home. If I have to bring work home, I bring only tasks that I can do in front of the tv... I try to do this less than once per week. Just having free time helps me feel less bored.

Making progress. Ah, this one is a biggie. I'd like to say I make detailed plans and schedules for each day and then follow them, but that would be a big lie. Lately I've re-outlined my research statement and have prioritized the papers I'm working on and the ones I still plan to write before I start applying for jobs again in a few months. Now I work on them in the order in which I hope to submit them (within reason). I refuse to let myself start a new project until I have submitted 1 old one for review/publication. This seems help me get things done a little better.

All in all, the biggest helper has been the right medication at the right dosage. I had to stop taking it for a while because I was having heart palpitations and it was just bad news until it was back in my system again. I had a lot of trouble doing any of these things, and wanted to start new papers SO BADLY because I was just SO BORED with everything that's been in my queue for a while.

Also, since my original post, my mood has been WAY down due to a variety of life events (e.g., unemployed husband, death of family member, missed deadline at work due to family member's death, which led to bad feedback from boss, which just generally spiraled out of control to the point that I was clinically depressed). With a therapist's help, my mood has been a lot better and this has also helped my productivity and concentration. I have spent a lot of time beating myself up for not doing as well as I thought I should be doing... and just accepting that it's going to be harder for me to be as successful as neurotypically-normals has been freeing. I don't have to take on where I'm going to be 2 years from now when I get out of bed each morning... I just have to keep myself in my chair and get ENOUGH done to feel good at the end of the day.

Last but not least, I also found this post on the Chronicle for Higher Education's forums helpful:,15261.0.html

I haven't said anything about teaching... maybe I'll post about that later. I've had some ADD issues related to teaching, and have some ideas about how to structure the classroom environment to better work for me and possibly also my ADD/ADHD students.

Looking forward to more conversation about what gets you through your day and helps you in your role as an academic.
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Old 01-17-07, 05:27 PM
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I have two master's degrees (Reading Education and Counseling). I'd probably have a doctorate by now if my shifty ADD brain had stayed on track instead of deciding to switch careers right as I was finishing my first program (I switched majors five times in my undergraduate program ). I had 4.0's in both master's programs, which contrasted greatly with my elementary school record. Unlike a lot of you have shared, I was identified by age 4 as ADHD but never medicated (until recently). By the time I was an adolescent I looked like had outgrown it. My grades also took a definately upswing at that time. I think the ability to pick classes I was interested had a lot to do with it, since my grade kept right on improving through college.

I like Mel Levine's concept of "specialized minds". He says a lot of folks who really struggled as kids in school, have what it takes to be successful as adults where they get to specialize in what they're good at and what interests them (assuming they weren't so demoralized by the time they got there that they'd given up). In elementary, you're suppose to be good at everything. ADDers frequently have very strong and very weak areas, with few middle grounds. If you can find your area, you can thrive.

I think the other thing that really helped me succeed in grad school was mentors. In both programs, I had a professor who took a special interest in me and helped me stay on track. Without that, I don't know that I would have made it. If you're still struggling to get through, finding a mentor is really helpful. If that isn't possible, hiring an ADD coach to help you keep on track might be the next best thing.

Take care all!

PS: Thomas Brown of Yale University has an excellent book called Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults that deals a lot with what ADD looks like in very bright individuals. He discusses some of the research they did at Yale with gifted students with ADD (IQ's of 120 and above). If you haven't read it, it's worth taking a look see.
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Old 01-28-07, 08:23 PM
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I feel exactly like David

I am just finishing up my undergraduate degree. I have had a stellar academic career thusfar, but I am also a procrastinator to the max. I have always known I had symptoms of ADD (inattentive type), but have not been diagnosed until recently. I am getting to the point where I am loosing my motivation as well. I have been applying to graduate school, and it's been really difficult for me because of the workload. I have a problem keeping jobs, although my last one as a surf instructor was good. I always get extremely bored and loose focus in a steady job situation, or I show up late too often. I was recently perscribed medication and I am worried about the risk of cancer, or a dependence. I, like David, am loosing my sense of urgency. It worries me as I am pursuing an MA or PHD in psychology. I have faught the ADD very hard, and I feel like i've come leaps and bounds since my teenage years, but I feel like I'm not in control of my life sometimes. I just found this group so I am very excited to have some support. Thanks everyone.

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Old 01-29-07, 01:42 AM
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So glad to read these posts. They are actually very inspiring. I'm hoping to get back and do my masters, after a period in the workforce. Thanks to all of you for posting.
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Old 06-07-11, 12:39 AM
academentia26 academentia26 is offline

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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

I was just informed that I test just on the cusp of having adult ADHD, but frankly I think it explains a lot about my academic experiences. I have just completed my Masters degree and managed to do very very well, but I could have done much better had I not lost things, been so disorganized, and had trouble getting to class (especially on time). I think one of my professors this last semester might have ADHD (and people kept telling me how much I am like her) so I do think it is possible to be an extremely successful academic with ADHD but you have to figure out how to make it work for you. I don't think I have issues with inattention, but I tend to try to do everything all the time--like join tons of committees, take tons of classes, read everything I can possibly read, and go to tons of conferences. I guess I am more hyperactive than inattentive, but hte disorganization and forgetfullness has really held me back! I might try medication at some point, but I have more important issues to address medically before I focus on the possible ADHD. Don't give up though! I am sure it is possible, but it might take medication, therapy, or extra time
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Old 06-17-11, 12:53 AM
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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

I'm also about to get my Masters degree, but it's been a struggle lately. My first year was good: going to classes and attending meetings is usually easy for me if there's someone who provides the right stimulus. I finished all my credits with an A, which is impressive but, at least in my program, it doesn't mean a lot if you're having trouble writing your dissertation. My advisor likes to emphasize how some chapters are poorly written, writing things like "my undergraduate students can do better" and so on. She is one of those who thinks that saying those things will make me work harder, but it just makes me inert. It came to a point that I check my mail every two days because I'm afraid of getting messages from her. Also, I think I've never been so lonely like I am now: when you only have to write and you can do this from home, well, it's an invitation to solitude which, in my case, leads to more and more solitude. I'm certainly accomplishing things and I'll finish my program, but Academic life is not exactly for me. Also, I need to make a living and I don't see myself doing it if I manage to get a PhD. As for me, Grad School is over as soon as I get my Masters degree.

(this is totaly about me, though; I believe ADD people can do really great in Grad School, specially when finding a theme we're passionate about - you know, something that we'll be interested in for more than a couple of months)

So, it's possible and although my experience is not the best, I believe many ADDers can do better
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Old 05-18-12, 08:42 PM
namelochil namelochil is offline

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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

I am in my fourth year of a phd program in Philosophy of Religion. I completed a two-year masters program before starting the phd. So, I've been in graduate school for six years. I'm done with coursework, and I've been 'studying' to take my qualifying examinations for about two years.

I'm somewhat heartened to read some of the posts in this thread. I'm amazed at the similarities between my grad school experiences and those expressed in some of the other posts.

Sometime last year things came to a head. I had a week of intense anxiety. I realized that my ADD had finally caught up to me. I had 5 incompletes and I'd been working on a 20-page paper for my advisor for over a year. Over a year for 20 pages! Six months later, I'm still not done with the paper (although I now have like 60 pages). I've postponed my qualifying examinations three times now. Most of the other students in my program have their exams done by their third year. I'm at the end of my fourth.

I just feel like I've burned out. I've been taking stimulants for ADD since college. They're really effective for reading. But they don't help me write at all. As jmh2277 says, "Writing papers has become the bane of my life." In fact, I feel like almost everything jmh2277 writes about applies to me as well. I especially a kinship with regard to the inability to synthesize. I feel like I'm quicker at seeing connections and performing on-the-spot analysis than almost any of my peers--for this reason, i think, I excel in class discussion. But when it comes time to synthesize heaps of information and insights and present them in a structured way, my mind balks. I feel like I can't possibly properly express things. Plus, any time I try to start writing something, I cut myself off at the knees. I turn my critical mind on myself and can't even get a thought out before i start seeing all the ways that it's wrong or framed incorrectly or misleading, etc.

I also see myself in the other contributor who said that he went to grad school by default. I have no idea what else I could do.

I feel like I'm constantly at war with myself. For the past year or so, the rebellious child part of me has gotten his way. I've just been watching tv shows and looking at porn and playing online strategy games. It's sad. But I'm not sure that changing careers is the solution.

I'm impressed with this post of mine. It is a good display of my halting, scattered mind.
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Old 10-03-12, 05:02 AM
Manjunath Manjunath is offline

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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

When I read these posts its almost the story of my life. I have always been one of the better students right from school, but was always confused about how little of my potential was being realized. It was frustrating to say the least and I have often lived through days of intense guilt and suicidal thoughts.
A friends suicide during my final days of PhD was a wake up call and I sought out a doctor. He diagnosed me with recurrent depression and prescribed cipralex. Although it helped to an extent, the improvement was no where near making me normal. I have since consulted over 4 doctors and have come away frustrated with how little attention they paid to me when I spoke to them.
I finally started digging around for answers on the internet and realized I might actually be suffering from adult ADD and that my depression and trouble with impulse control could just be consequence of that.
Its difficult talking to people about this condition, least of all because I understood so little of it myself. Everyone around me including myself are frustrated by how I am not able to live up to my potential. To be honest I am getting tired of going through life as a spectator, watching everyone else living it, while i spin my wheels furiously without getting anywhere.
I would love to talk to anyone with similar experiences. You might be able to help me sort myself out before its too late. Please do drop a line if you think you might have an answer.
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Old 11-25-12, 01:33 PM
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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

Hey all, After quite a failed degree in Computer Science, I'm in the second year of my Ba in Political Science and I would love to go further and go into research because Political Science has always been my passion. I always had difficulties with concentration and discipline and got diagnosed last month with ADD. The doctors offered ritalin treatment, I read many horrible articles about it but was wondering what academics with ADD think about it and what your experiences with ritalin and other kinds of medicine were when studying for an exam, following up courses and writing an academic paper, as all these things are quite difficult for me now.

To Manjunath, I don't suffer from depression myself but do know 2 ADD patients that also have depression, which means you might not be alone. Anyway congratulations on your phd, if there's any experiences you want to share you can always contact me.
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Old 04-29-13, 10:47 AM
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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

Hello Everyone !
I got diagnosed with ADD few days back I'm on medication now and could feel the change. Now lets come to the point I'm a PhD in Biochemistry from India. Then I did my Postdoc for 4 years in four different labs in US.
Every where I disappointed my bosses right from my PhD, I need not elonorate any more of the symptoms details coz it's already been mentioned... lack of attention,lack of interest, disorganized, lack of focus.
One thing I would like to mention is for a Postdoc or PhD student with ADD it would be a hell to remember all the numerical data of each experiment and maintain focus till completion of the exp. ... It was hell. Apart from that now I feel guilty that I misused my bosses grant/project money.
The results :
1. Though I received PhD with 3 publications its half good as compared my other fellow PhD colleagues. They are still in US doing well where as after jumping four labs finally I got tired and came back to India looking for a job for past 2 year, I could have got a job but I lack motivation lol
2. Screwed up my marriage, got divorced at least helped her reach US and now she is married to someone else and doing great! Add my alcohol addiction to this during our 4 yrs relationship to this, I needed this to cope with my dopamine demands.
3. Was into lot of risky dangerous impulsive behavior in the form drinking, into prosti"tes, strip clubs etx. Some how I was never into drugs and probably never will.
I'm 37, I'm hopeful and feel a lot of life is ahead of me to explore now that I started mediaction I will rectify, resolve and improvise and will succeed in my life !!
By the way nice to meet you guys !!
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Old 05-09-13, 11:00 PM
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Re: ADD/ADHD in academia?

I did well all the way through PhD, because TAKING classes is fairly well structured: read this by that time, hand in this paper by this date, etc. I am high functioning in a structured environment. Even writing the dissertation -- I did fine, except for some trouble finishing the last chapter, but (this is LONG before diagnosis) I realized that NOT finishing it would keep it hanging over me like a weight. Finishing is the only way to relieve the burden of writing it.

Where I began to have problems was teaching. Organization and planning are really, really difficult for me, and that extended to lesson plans for class time. Teaching humanities requires lots of structured discussion planning. I could plan discussion questions, but couldn't go much further -- no sense of what to do or how to go on if the students responded in such and such a manner. I could get caught up in the ideas being discussed, or the material I was presenting -- and lose track of what was happening among the students. College classes are beginning to require the kind of classroom management normally associated with high schools. It can be rugged.

I had not had any kind of practice teaching. In retrospect, what I needed was some kind of "master teacher" -- a teaching coach -- who could help me w/ lesson plans and classroom dynamics.

I was great at setting up a course and designing assignments -- if it's text on a page or screen, I can organize and strategize forever. My colleagues would adopt and adapt my assignments and even my planned activities for their own classes. The closest I get to organization in learning or setting up sequences, so setting up scaffolding -- sequential assignments that build in additional skills -- for the semester's work was also something I was good at. But if it's activity in real space-time, not so much. Hardly at all, as it turns out.

Anyway, that's my experience. And it's not as if I was a total dud; my teaching did improve for a while, and I did get tenure. But the stresses were already putting stress on my coping strategies, and over time, things began to deteriorate.

My one regret at not being diagnosed earlier is that I might have understood my difficulties teaching better, and been willing to face them head on and get help.
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