Diagnosing ADD in a Young Adult

Patient

Q: Hi, I'm 23 years old and I have a concern that I have ADD. I'm concerned with asking my doctor about it because I feel I will be viewed as just some "college kid" who is trying to get prescribed Adderall or some other similar solution. This is how I was viewed when I went to the mental health center at my college without any testing whatsoever. They were wanting me to talk to a doctor who also was a Professor at the school and take extensive IQ testing, etc. but I do not have the money for this. Maybe this is why they viewed me this way.

I won't lie; this is exactly what I am trying to do. I have had the concern that I have had ADD for a long time. I have talked to a psychologist in the past for anxiety/panic/PTSD issues and the thought of ADD was suggested but seemed to be overshadowed by my other issues (I grew up with a bipolar/drug addict brother and witnessed some things that were very hard for a young child to see). Naturally, he was concerned with the anxiety. I was prescribed medication (Xanax) and didn't like how it made me feel. It made me even more inattentive and made it harder for me to focus. It "numbed" the anxiety but I'd rather deal with anxiety than be prescribed something like Xanax that I feel just dumbs me down and causes more issues. I started exercising a lot and learned to breath in ways that calmed my panic attacks. I have been able to live with my past and overcome those issues; however, the overwhelming inability to focus is still there.

Ever since I was a small child, I had problems in school, and later at work (server/bartender). I recently had to quit my job because my manager stopped scheduling the "money-making" shifts because I was making way too many mistakes; stupid, avoidable mistakes, things related directly to being able to focus on the task(s) at hand. Multitasking is a huge problem because my mind is all over the place, and I get distracted and on different trains of thought without even realizing. I miss key things that my teachers say in school, such as changes to assignments, among other things.

That being said I am intelligent. I was actually in the Highly Academically Gifted Program through grade school (need an IQ of at least 130-140 to be apart of it I think?). My difficulty in school comes from listening to all the details/changes to assignments, memorization assignments/study, completing assignments on time, and overall just focusing on the task at hand without getting distracted otherwise. However, what is strange is that I have no problem with the "high-level" things. I can see the big picture very well. I can point things out things that other people might not immediately see, which in one respect makes me great with group projects since I am a good "challenger". I like to ask the tough questions. However, when it comes to completing tasks, I slow the rest of the group down, because I become easily distracted when it comes to completing specific individual tasks.

I know I am intelligent. I know I am capable of a great life; but I am unhappy. I am discouraged by my inability to do as well as I know I can. I have so much unlocked potential, yet I have been settling for mediocre standards as far as my grades and work performance. I don't know what else to do.

Lastly, I have tried adderal. I don't take it much because I know you shouldn't take things without talking to your doctor, especially on a regular basis. I only take it during exam week, and sometimes during midterms. I simply cannot survive exam week without it. I failed multiple classes when I tried to do without one semester. Often times (when not taking Adderall), it seems my thoughts can race and chain from one to another at a million miles per hour. When I take adderal, all of the outside noise is quieted. When I take Adderal, I am able to control and sustain my mind to focus on the task at hand without getting distracted. I finish assignments at times (no exaggeration) 2x, 5x, 10x faster than it would normally take.

Please give me an honest answer and what your thoughts are. I know that regardless, I need to speak with my doctor. But what do you think about my situation? Do you think my symptoms point to ADD? I will say that my brother had had multiple diagnosis although I'm not sure if they know what he really has (been diagnosed with Bipolar, ADHD, and Tourette's Syndrome). My Dad also seems to have and has discussed having a big focus issue as well, so it may be in my family history (no other known instances in my family however).

One last note, I do not experience hyperactivity. I experience a little impulsivity but this has not seemed to have a negative affect on my life; that is, I don't feel I experience impulsivity more than the average person. It is my inattention and inability to focus that has had the very detrimental affects.

Thank you for your time!

Symptoms:  Symptoms listed above
Doctor

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