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Is this ADHD? Or something else? Please help!
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Kimberly0221 posted:
I'm a 26 yo female. I don't seem to fit in with the classical picture I've seen describing adult ADHD, so I'm constantly in doubt, trying to figure out what my problem is. The various (5 diff) meds haven't helped (except to keep me from dozing off), so I'm wondering if this is really even ADHD to begin with. Not all of my issues (below) are even related to ADHD... so could it be that I have something else?



Can anyone help? Especially one of the experts? Dr. Quinn? Anyone? I need to get to the bottom of this because it's truly burying me.

Thank you in advance!


-Achievements: Graduated with honours in undergrad, did a masters degree, many publications, taught at the university, and now in medical school. I struggled through it all. I worked harder than anyone else to make it here.

-Mind constantly active - but not like you'd get w/ anxiety - thoughts are aimless and wandering; from how annoying someone is to why men evolved nipples.
-Fixations: I get exposed to some topic by chance (on tv, in my studies, on web), then I get stuck on it; can't stop thinking about it, researching it online; often its benign/ random (spent 7 hours looking up life story of Eminem without losing focus - yet I can't study for 2 mins w/o losing focus); but if the topic is really disturbing or anxiety-provoking, this lasts for weeks; can't stop myself from learning every aspect, analyzing it, even though its ruining my life. Despite promising to stop, I go back, like an addict. Yes scary things help keep me awake (see below re sleep issue), but it also freaks me out to the point that once I couldn't stay alone for a days.
-Waking up: When I sleep, I don't wake up - AT ALL - for 14-18 hrs - have had to hire help to wake me up every single morning for the last few yrs. Takes her 45 mins. No specialist can explain this (EEG shows alpha wave intrusions, some movement related arousals, not much else).
-Reversed sleep wake cycle w/ extreme daytime drowsiness; dozed off behind wheel a few times or boring convos (now controlled w/ meds); eyes are open but I'm somehow fully asleep; yet perfectly awake at night (past 11pm), can drive, study, work, etc.
-Sociable but socially awkward - not shy - go out alot, talk to others - but just don't know what to say at times. I say/ do minor things and later feel stupid about it (eg saying "thanks" or "sorry" at inappropriate times). No social issues with good friends or strangers, but with peers/ colleagues/ acquaintances, it's draining, leaves me wanting to scream in frustration and confusion every time I leave a meeting/ small group class.
-THE most disorganized person anyone has ever met.
-Memory: Word finding problem (forget basic words/ terms that I know); can't remember what I was gonna say - lose train of thought constantly.

-Reading: I often have to go back and re-read things I've read several times. I'm reading the words, but couldn't tell you what I read right after.
-Memory: don't know my postal code after a yr; don't remember others' names or mix up their names.
-Irritable/ easily angered/ hypersensitive - but quickly calm down
-Constant confusion: (1) In conversations, I don't understand why some others have certain viewpoints. Don't get most ppl's logic. (2) societal requirements: there's always something we're expected to do: many bills, renew car thing/ health card, emission test, oil change, taxes, get eyes or w/e checked etc - don't know how others keep track! exasperates me. so i ignore it all (and spend 3x as long dealing with the consequences).

-Things never get done: Start doing something, then jump to another, forget the first thing and next thing I know, I've spent an hour trying to send a 1-line email. Or wks later, I realize I never finished sending that crucial email.

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What do you think my problem is?
  • ADHD on its own (inattentive or mixed subtypes) can explain this.
  • ADHD Asperger's or OCD or Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • ADHD another mental health disorder not mentioned above.
  • This isn't ADHD. Most likely something else.
  • No clue, but wanted to cast a vote to show support :)
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Haylen_WebMD_Staff responded:
Hi Kimberly and welcome!

It sounds like you are very frustrated and eager to find a solution. Have you taken this detailed list to the doctor who prescribes your medication? It's so clear and well written, I would print and take it in to your next appointment!

Please note that WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

You might want to check out the ADD & ADHD Health Center for more information about your symptoms to discuss with your doctor.

Please check back in and let us know how you are doing! I cast a vote to show support for you! I know you can find the answers you need!

Haylen
 
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Kimberly0221 replied to Haylen_WebMD_Staff's response:
Hi Haylen,

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate the support.

I should mention that I did not post this to get a diagnosis or medical advice. Obviously I do not follow medical advice from anyone but a health care professional who has properly assessed me. I am familiar somewhat with how the website works and its purpose by looking at previous posts for a while before signing up. I have noted that other visitors and some of the experts do make comments on others' posts and provide ideas about what they could be looking into ... and I understand that this is not a substitute for medical advice, but just ideas for people to go forward with.

So in a sense, that's all I was hoping for. Some direction on where to go from here when I've reached a dead end.

Thanks for the advice on taking this to my doctor. After a dozen specialists, I think I've exhausted all the options I can think of. I was just hoping for some guidance, perhaps from one of the experts.

Kimia
 
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Neuroscience86 responded:
I really dont have a really informative response to this post but just to say that as you described your symptoms it was like I was reading about myself. With that said, today I was prescribed Adderall and I'm on it now. It definitely helps me with the concentration and being able to FOCUS on the detail of questions and conversations and not check out. Its also interesting that I feel more socially confident and I'm able to have interesting responses to conversations with peers and acquaintances.

Ive only been on this for a few hours so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt but I think this medication works well. I took 20mg of the generic version today. Maybe you could talk to your DR about that.

Good Luck to you, stay healthy and God Bless!!
 
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Gina Pera replied to Kimberly0221's response:
Kimia,

I can only say that I saw many "red flags" for ADHD among your shared details.

As to the "classical ADHD picture," do you mean the overdone sterotype? The one that makes it easy to create digestible sound bytes about ADHD for the media -- and even to make it sound appealing ("charismatic, outgoing, entrepreneurial, exciting, etc.")?

Truthfully? Almost no one fits the "classical ADHD picture" -- because there isn't one.

Every month, I sit in a room with about 40 adults with late-diagnosis ADHD. And, while almost all share overlapping areas of challenge, these people are not clones!

ADHD is highly variable. It's a syndrome, and it's "flavored" by many other aspects of personality, genetics, socioeconomic status, intelligence, health, etc.

So....all that said, I would ask, did you know what to expect from pharmaceutical treatment? Did you and your physician identify treatment targets and use those as a metric by which to gauge progress (or note side effects)? Did you make other lifestyle changes to support treatment (establish better sleep schedule, eliminate caffeine, increase exercise, etc.?)

Given the typical answer I hear to this last question, I'm guessing you'd say, "no." Am I right?

Gina Pera, author
Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?
 
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Kimberly0221 replied to Neuroscience86's response:
Neuroscience86,
Thanks so much for responding! It's strangely comforting to know that I'm not alone. And I'm glad that Adderall is working for you. I have tried that (among others), and unfortunately, same result as the others - side-effects that were more unbearable than the issues I mentioned above.
I'm not giving up yet though. And I appreciate the well wishes and support!
 
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Kimberly0221 replied to Gina Pera's response:
Hi Gina,

I really appreciate the time you took to write a response.

In terms of medications, my issue is the side-effects... I don't even care for extraordinary effects at this point - I just want to not feel like I'm falling off a cliff with every dose I take...I feel so ill after taking them that I take off the day from school and just lay in bed, waiting for it to wear off... It's been the same with all the meds so far. And the non-stimulants, those don't have these effects but they made me so groggy, that I couldn't lift myself off the couch.

It's true that a lifestyle shift is needed - I'm already pretty physically active, and I have no choice but to stop taking caffeine (caffeine my med of the day = even greater disaster). The only issue among your suggestions is the sleep, which while a "schedule" is theoretically there, it may as well not be given that the issue has been resistant to any "willpower" or external intervention (and I'm speaking from experience of 3 sleep studies, 5 sleep specialists, many medications, prescriptions, melatonin etc - oh, and some fancy expensive light in the mornings, and an alarm clock that bounces around the room in the morning!) That one issue, I've just decided to forgive myself for and accept.


You're right about the stereotype - I guess I fell into the same trap as everyone else. I'm just trying to figure out why in addition to meeting the ADHD diagnostic criteria, I seem to be "exceeding" it! I have quirks that are nowhere in any book - I've never even heard of anyone going through some of these strange ruminations, chronic confusion, and random irrelevant neutral thoughts. In your experience, have you ever heard other folks with ADHD mention such things?
 
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Brixter12 replied to Kimberly0221's response:
I fee your pain Kimberley i feel the same way alot of times.l was diagnosed with Aspergers 2 years ago and i was just recently diagnosed with ADHD a year ago. It is a struggle but i guess there are positives to every problem except i cant seem to find any with my issues.
 
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Patricia Quinn, MD responded:
Dear Kimberly

Most of the symptoms you describe can be seen in women with ADHD. In addition, they commonly have coexisting condition like OCD. ADHD can affect social skills and cause many of the word finding difficulties you describe. I would suggest that you discuss your symptoms, which you clearly outlined here, with a knowledgable psychiatrist, who has some expertise in treating women with ADHD. Stimulants (especially amphetamines) can make anxiety and OCD worse, so I would suggest that you discuss this with your treating physician as well.

Dr Quinn
 
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acarroll74 replied to Kimberly0221's response:
You are not alone, sister. I am 37 and you described me to a T. I now have a son who has been diagnosed with ADHD, and I feel like I am the only one who understands and accepts him for who he is. For example, I know he is gets too distracted to take notes in class. Why, cause taking notes is boring. I told him to draw pictures of what the teacher is saying and he now gets more out of it. Improvise and overcome. I probably have had ADHD all my life (if we believe it to be a disorder). Lord knows I have struggled just trying to fit in sometimes, thinking I am somehow different from everyone else. I tried medication for awhile, but it gave me more side effects than anything.

Then one day my 80 year old grandmother told me something that changed my life. At one point I was very depressed about all of this...after talking with her, she hobbled over to me, shook me, hugged me, frowned at me, and said to stop trying to fix myself! She said that I was unique and to embrace those quirky qualities...it is what makes me...me. It's what makes me special. Work with what you've got. I have never forgotten those words.

Obviously it is not impacting your life to an insane degree. You did graduate with honors and are now in med school. You seem to be doing well for yourself. And, who is to say that you have to be interested in things that don't interest you! Who says that it is wrong to have a different viewpoint than others!

So you are unorganized with bills. You know this, you recognize it...find something to make it easier, something to keep you organized so you won't have to do it yourself. I finally got everything on my online bill pay and it is all right there in one place. I never remember to check my mail, so now I don't even worry about bills coming in anymore. We can fix these things. It just takes some creative thinking and I'm pretty sure you are a creative thinker. You can do this. People spend millions trying to cover up the problem with labels and medications, counseling, and therapy. I think what we need more is simple suggestions/instructions on how to handle these "flaws" and impulses, not try to cover them up. Because even with medication, they will still be there!

Unfortunately there is a standard out there and if you do not fit into that mold, something must be wrong with you. People start labeling you and throwing medication at you telling you to go seek help. After hearing it enough, you really start believing it.

After 15 years of it, I have to say that I am done with all of that. I am tired of being labeled and told I have problems because I like to stay up late, or I have different opinions on things. I am tired of being told that being disorganized, having a brief memory lapse on what I was trying to say, or "obsessing" over things once in awhile is some type of disorder. When I finally stopped analyzing myself and getting analyzed by others, and embraced myself and all my so-called "flaws" I became a much happier person. We all have our differences. That's nothing to try and fix. It is what makes us unique.

Doctors and therapists will never tell you this...if they did, they would be out of a job. Good Luck.
 
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Swimgirl57 replied to acarroll74's response:
Kimberly and Accarrol, It was interesting Kimberly to read your post. I noted a little Asperger's into your post, and probably ADD. My brother has Asberger's and he is so smart and interesting, but he is socially awkward. My daughter was diagnosed with ADD in high school and was on Adderall for 2 years. It really did improve her focusing in getting her work done, but she decided to go off the meds last summer, said the medication was starting to make her feel numb. Well, I am a 54 year old woman and have suffered from migraines for over 15 years. I was feeling so tired one day and kind of depressed so I decided to take one of my daughter's adderall's (15 mg). I couldn't believe the effect it had on me. My head felt clearer, if was def. more focused, but I felt motivated to do things that I used to just freeze over the thought of doing. And, most importantly I didn't wake up with a migraine -- I actually felt clear headed! So, I am wondering if I really do need this drug, and maybe I do have ADD, or maybe I am depressed. I am baffled. So I am going to my Neurologist next week and tell him this info and see if he can prescribe me the Adderall. I'm guessing he won't, but it's worth a try. Any thoughts here? I sure would appreciate it.
 
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Britiful replied to Kimberly0221's response:
Hello Kimberly0221,

I was just wondering if you have found answers to your questions and whether you've received any help or treatment to date?

Your post immediately reminds me of myself.

I am a 23 year old female and a first year student in law school. I, too, graduated my undergrad with honours. I also struggle in school in so far as I am completely unable to focus in class and cannot retain the information I'm taught. I almost always fall asleep in class involuntarily and it has become extremely embarrassing. Even when I get adequate sleep the day-time drowsiness is completely overwhelming- there is nothing I can do to keep from dosing off. This has been going on for as long as I can remember. As a result, I have to learn all of the information on my own after school- which is difficult because I cannot concentrate on the material I read and easily get distracted. It takes me so much longer to do things and finish assignments than my classmates. In addition, I can NEVER finish a written test on time because I can too many thoughts and too much information to sort through.

Like you, I also get fixated on certain topics and will spend hours researching things online, rather than doing my homework. I can focus on these things for very long periods of time and I become completely consumed in my research, whereas I cannot spend more than 10 minutes at a time focusing on my studies.

I am extremely disorganized and I am a huge procrastinator. I put off things like chores, paying bills, making appointments and calls etc. and then later spend 3 as long dealing with the consequences.I have a problem getting things done.

My mind is constantly active. I can't even turn it off to sleep. I have insomnia because my thoughts are too invasive. I also have a delayed sleep onset cycle. I stay up till 4 am or later and then sleep in whenever given the opportunity. I have been for a sleep study recently and am awaiting the results. I prefer the night and find I am unable to function during the day. I am always late for things and can never wake up when my alarm goes off.

While I am sociable, I do suffer from some slight social anxiety. I often dwell on my conversations with people and spend a lot of time thinking about what I should have said or how the person feels about me. This could just be insecurity, but it really interferes with my life and sometimes hold me back from social situations and meeting new people.

I have some obsessive compulsive tendencies i.e.. constantly worrying about leaving my straighter on and checking to make sure its off, locking and re-locking my car, double, triple checking emails and homework for errors, etc. These tendencies really get in the way and cause me undue stress. While I recognize that my behaviour can be irrational, I am compelled to second-guess myself.

I have been diagnosed with general anxiety. I am a worrier. I worry about everything and everyone all the time. My anxiety also holds me back sometimes i.e. afraid of going out on my own for fear of getting lost. While I do force myself to do these things, the experience can be quite daunting and stressful. I really have to work myself up in order to leave my comfort zone.

I also have depression, for which I am on antidepressant medication. I lack motivation and will-power, never sticking to my goals. I often feel sluggish and will go through periods where I do not get out of my bed unless its really necessary. I can sometimes be irritable or overly sensitive.


I think there is more to my problem than just anxiety/depression.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Hope to hear from you.


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