The Student Room Group

How did you know you had ADHD?

I am nearing the end of my GCSEs and i wondered why I couldn't finish a single maths paper in time even if I knew how to answer the questions and made silly mistakes. Even when I knew I wasn't going to finish in time I couldn't go any faster. My mum always moans at me for not doing a chore that she had said but I always forget to do it until it's too late. I watched some adhd tick tocks by accident and could relate to them. Am i just paranoid and are these things just normal?
I found out I was autistic in a similar way to you (seeing twitter posts that I related to) and did some more digging. then there was the “oh ****!” moment where I ticked off basically every trait on the lists. I’d say do your research and don’t see it as a bad thing if you reckon you do have adhd… honestly I’m glad I know I’m autistic now because I know there’s a reason for me never doing homework, getting really into my interests (rather than revising) and things like that. also my college were great as they have given me 25% extra time in exams, so definitely if you’re doing college or a levels next year ask about that :smile:
I think you shouldn't look too much into it unless you bothers you, and you should see a doctor instead of looking at random websites and going oh yeah that's me. The issue is if you don't have ADHD, if you start digging and convince yourself you do, you're just slapping a label on yourself for no good reason and give yourself excuses to lose focus.
Original post by ran-dumb
I think you shouldn't look too much into it unless you bothers you, and you should see a doctor instead of looking at random websites and going oh yeah that's me. The issue is if you don't have ADHD, if you start digging and convince yourself you do, you're just slapping a label on yourself for no good reason and give yourself excuses to lose focus.


depending on where op is from it can be almost impossible to see a doctor about possible adhd and the waiting lists for diagnosis are so long, especially now with covid. I’m on a few autism forums and many people on there are self diagnosed for these reasons. if they have reasonable proof the think they have adhd then it’s not just slapping on a label, it’s giving them validity so that they don’t feel like they’re a bad person for not being able to fit in with what’s seen as ‘normal’
Original post by Anonymous
depending on where op is from it can be almost impossible to see a doctor about possible adhd and the waiting lists for diagnosis are so long, especially now with covid. I’m on a few autism forums and many people on there are self diagnosed for these reasons. if they have reasonable proof the think they have adhd then it’s not just slapping on a label, it’s giving them validity so that they don’t feel like they’re a bad person for not being able to fit in with what’s seen as ‘normal’

I get your point. I think you shouldn't feel like a bad person just for not finishing a paper, ADHD or not. I just think it suddenly becomes part of you and being so conscious about it makes things worse. There's also 0 support you can get for self diagnosing, no extra time on exams (which you deserve if you have ADHD, and sounds like OP might need), no meds if that's what they need etc. The best way is to see a doctor.
Original post by ran-dumb
I think you shouldn't look too much into it unless you bothers you, and you should see a doctor instead of looking at random websites and going oh yeah that's me. The issue is if you don't have ADHD, if you start digging and convince yourself you do, you're just slapping a label on yourself for no good reason and give yourself excuses to lose focus.

I understand what you're trying to say, as my first thought was if I was just convincing myself. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't being irrational after watching some youtube videos before going to a doctor.
It's only natural to want an explanation for our behaviours. If you feel you can truly relate to those symptoms listed, then I'd say it's a positive thing.

The person above does make a valid point, though. Professional diagnosis, while not always accessible, is always needed. If not just for the diagnosis but primarily for the management of any existing condition(s).

By all means, if you are really struggling, feel free to have a look at some online self-help resources for coping with ADHD (if you are unable to see a professional). You may find that they help.
Original post by Meduse
It's only natural to want an explanation for our behaviours. If you feel you can truly relate to those symptoms listed, then I'd say it's a positive thing.

The person above does make a valid point, though. Professional diagnosis, while not always accessible, is always needed. If not just for the diagnosis but primarily for the management of any existing condition(s).

By all means, if you are really struggling, feel free to have a look at some online self-help resources for coping with ADHD (if you are unable to see a professional). You may find that they help.

I know both a psychiatrist and a neurologist personally and could probably ask them, but I'm worried that if I tell them and it turns out I don't have ADHD or something else and it's just exam stress they will misunderstand me as an attention seeker or just lazy. It was so that even though my GCSEs are practically over, if I needed it, I could get extra time for a-levels.
Original post by Anonymous
I know both a psychiatrist and a neurologist personally and could probably ask them, but I'm worried that if I tell them and it turns out I don't have ADHD or something else and it's just exam stress they will misunderstand me as an attention seeker or just lazy. It was so that even though my GCSEs are practically over, if I needed it, I could get extra time for a-levels.


If they are good at their jobs, then they won't do that.

You're not stupid or attention seeking for wanting to know.

If you have reason enough to suspect, you have reason enough to get it checked.
Original post by Anonymous
I am nearing the end of my GCSEs and i wondered why I couldn't finish a single maths paper in time even if I knew how to answer the questions and made silly mistakes. Even when I knew I wasn't going to finish in time I couldn't go any faster. My mum always moans at me for not doing a chore that she had said but I always forget to do it until it's too late. I watched some adhd tick tocks by accident and could relate to them. Am i just paranoid and are these things just normal?


Hello,

Hoping I can give you a bit of insight/reassurance/guidance here :smile:

I'm a woman who was diagnosed with combination type ADHD (Inattentive & Hyperactive) in my 30s - I had been diagnosed with a different mental health condition in my mid 20s, I'd started struggling with my mental health in my teenage years and throughout University and it was only after understanding that ADHD wasn't only the stereotypical "hyperactive misbehaving overstimulated boy" that I even began looking into it as I had a lot of misconceptions about what it is and how it presents, especially in women.

For me, I remember reading about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria out of context (I didn't know it was an aspect of ADHD) and related to it more than anything else I'd ever read. I had previously felt uncomfortable referring to my other diagnoses because it never felt quite right so I would frequently refer to periods of burnout as "when I was ill" because I felt like an imposter to say I was "depressed" or suffering with "anxiety" which were the two diagnoses I'd been given.

Still, for a long time I put off voicing to anyone that I thought I may have ADHD because I have very significant imposter syndrome with post things and that included ADHD and any mental health issues. There was also still stigma around it from some family and friends and colleagues and I too had fears of being seen as "trying to excuse my behaviour" or "attention seeking". What made it more complicated still is that on the surface I appear to be very high functioning, I have had multiple job promotions, held down multiple jobs at a time, was a grade A student in school etc, a typical perfectionist people pleaser. Unbeknownst to most of my loved ones and colleagues I'd been struggling with significant mental health issues for 2 decades and been at a mental health rock bottom for about 4 years and suspected I had ADHD for 2 years before I contacted my GP surgery about it. From then, it took about 1-2 years to get a diagnosis and then a little longer for treatment (depending on what treatment you choose).

I would say, don't rush into anything but also don't dismiss your concerns out of fear of imposter syndrome - your thoughts are valid. Don't presume you have ADHD (I know many people who self-diagnose but there's a lot of cognitive disorders/mental health disorders/complex PTSD which can appear really similar), self reflection and self insight is a really important thing and ultimately your goal is to understand yourself and if you do have a mental health condition or disorder, your goal is to get the right diagnosis so you can thrive.

For me, getting the right diagnosis was a lifeline - my biggest fear was "leaning into the symptoms" and becoming worse and excusing my behaviours instead of understanding them in order to function better. However, getting my diagnosis meant I now understand how my brain works much more than before. Whilst I may not beat myself up about the same things, it actually made me a much more productive and functioning person. For example, problem behaviours I was portraying because I was chasing dopamine I began to be able to strategically curtail. Social anxiety and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria was still present but I began to understand that I may just be in a spiral and to question my thoughts. I'm now on medication and it's trial and error, finding what's right for me - there's some benefits and some drawbacks. It's a journey.

Getting the wrong diagnosis won't do you any good so I think if it's something new you're considering then just take your time to learn about it some more and try to approach it unbiased. Make a list of the reasons you think you might have it. For me it was things like:

- Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, felt this was clear but considered it could also be social anxiety rather than specifically RSD - this would reach levels of paranoia and anxiety where I believed people hated me, so much, that I was unable to leave my room in my shared flat for days on end and couldn't respond to calls and texts for sometimes weeks because I was frightened and overwhelmed. The RSD was the aspect that worsened the most over the last few years and what finally pushed me to get a diagnosis.
- I was very young for my age, I felt very out of step with my friends about normal "milestones" and was about 5 years behind everyone this
- I have an extreme level of executive dysfunction which I hide from people, now and again it will catch up to me
- I have detrimental impulsive behaviours as coping mechanisms (these are "dopamine chasing" behaviours) - mine were impulsive spending, gambling, binge-eating and on the flip side anorexic/bulimic tendency paired with exercise addiction. I unfortunately let these all reach extreme levels before seeking help and have hidden most of these from loved ones (as I said I appear to be very high functioning to everyone else). I was in significant debt by the time I sought help.
- I was repeatedly late despite being a people pleaser and being socially anxious so I would regularly turn up late and feeling extremely worried about it; no matter what I did I couldn't get a grip on this and it resulted in a lot of self-hate. It began to impact relationships with partners, friends and family and with work and has been a lifelong struggle.
- I had severe bouts of depression but serotonin based antidepressants weren't working at all/made me feel worse (depression/anxiety disorders and undiagnosed ADHD can display very similarly but serotonin based antidepressants won't help with ADHD as the key hormone for ADHD is dopamine rather than serotonin).
- A significant number more as well.

As part of the ADHD assessment, they ask you what aspects of your life do you feel are affected by your suspected ADHD and by the time of my assessment I ticked every category. I would be hopeful that other people can get a diagnosis before reaching that state in life - I feel a lot of frustration that I didn't have my diagnosis in my late teens or early 20s as my life may have been very different now. Now I have a lot of recovery to do in terms of my health, my finances, my job, my home, friends, family and my relationship.

I think it's striking a balance. You're much younger than I was when I first started considering ADHD. I would personally take a couple of years to explore ADHD more and explore your own mind more. The pre frontal cortex of your brain is still developing up until the age of 25 so it's really important to take it easy on yourself, allow time for self-reflection and to grow and not give yourself a hard time and not get stuck on one thought.

If you think you have ADHD, one thing I did when I was exploring it and waiting for my diagnostic assessment was to start "treating" it with things I knew ADHD brains benefit from which are:

- Regular exercise: so boring I know, but the endorphins and dopamine from exercise will do more good than just about anything else, NOTHING works better than this. Even if it is going for a walk for 1 hour a day or 30 mins a day, go outside or play a sport or go to a gym or a class. It will promote dopamine in the brain which will improve mood, focus, your health and your sleep quality and pattern.
- Meditation: even more boring and I STILL struggle with this but it is insanely good for ADHD and many other mental health conditions and the younger you start practicing it the easier it will become. I try to do any sort of mindful exercise I can, things like Hotpod yoga which focuses a lot on wellbeing.
- Water - drink it. If you do have ADHD, you're probably not drinking enough of it because your brain isn't reminding you to and it will have a knock on effect to your health and your weight (drinking more water usually leads to some weight loss and not drinking enough can lead to weight gain).
- Reward oriented task lists and to do lists - set out small achievable goals on a to do list, even things like "drink a glass of water", "take antihistamine", "brush teeth" - if you have ADHD then you will likely forget about many basic self-care tasks and also the dopamine that is released from ticking off a task or many encourages you to complete more and stay engaged and focused.
- Give in to bouts of hyperfocus - if you have ADHD (or autism I believe) then you'll likely experience "hyperfocus" on something you're passionate about or interested in. Don't try to curtail things that make you you, there are some benefits to having an ADHD mind and hyperfocus is one I love. The things I've achieved by embracing my hyperfocus make my neurotypical friends jealous! :smile:
- Cold water therapy/Wim Hof - particularly good if you struggle with mornings and take hours to feel "awake" and extremely beneficial if you have any anxiety. Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) includes our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and a parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). You'll be familiar with the SNS as this is the cause for our "fight or flight" response, it's the nervous system we need to keep us safe and on our toes when we're in danger. However, if you have anxiety, your SNS is likely overstimulated and overactive so we need to instead try to wake up our PNS instead. Instead of fight and flight, this one is responsible for "rest and digest". Two excellent ways of stimulating the PNS are cold water therapy (if you're not ready for this you can try rubbing an ice pack or something really cold near the top of your chest/base of your neck to stimulate the Vagus nerve) and also holistic therapies like Swedish massage.

All of these will benefit mental wellbeing for anyone but will all be extremely beneficial to someone with ADHD.

I'm sorry for such a long message but I really hope this helps you! :smile:

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