If I Have Trouble Focusing, Does that Mean I Have ADHD?

 In Mental Health, Treatment

If you are often having difficulty focusing and have come to realize that you always seem to be forgetting things, you may not fully understand what is going on with you. Perhaps a friend recommended you try their ADHD medication to study for a big test and you wonder if because it was helpful whether that means you should look into getting a prescription for yourself. 

You may have been curious about whether you have a diagnosable issue, but you always stopped yourself from asking the question because you’re unsure about what it means about yourself to have to rely on medication. On the other hand, it may also be tempting to believe that the difficulties you’re currently having with your course load are related to an undiagnosed condition, and the secret to college success relies at the bottom of a bottle of pills. While one of these mentalities may pave the way to success, the other lays the groundwork for patterns of addiction to take root. In either case, you may want to learn more about ADHD and learn to recognize the signs and symptoms. 

To be clear, you will need to consult your doctor for an official diagnosis and to ascertain whether you meet the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or not. However, it is still important to learn as much as possible beforehand, so that you can be prepared to know if seeking a diagnosis is the right step for you.

Roots of ADHD

ADHD is a neurological condition that is caused by a deficiency in the level of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, and the failure of the brain’s neurons to get these chemicals transmitted through the brain. While it is estimated that 80% of behavioral differences can be accounted for by genetic factors, there are additional studies pointing to issues with the mother’s pregnancy or other complications in birth that contribute to the development of ADHD. 

One thing is certain, the causes of this disorder are not by poor parenting or having too much sugar, and symptoms of ADHD are also not the same laziness or some subconscious rebellious behavior rising to the surface.

ADHD was formally referred to as pediatric disorder, however, it has now become clear that many kids never outgrow their symptoms. Estimates indicate that 65- 80% of children that are diagnosed with ADHD in childhood continue with the symptoms all through adolescence and into their adult lives. 

As the disorder progresses and individuals age, there tends to be an improvement of the impulsive symptoms noted in adolescence while difficulty with inattention often occurs for the life of the individual.  The majority of adults with ADHD usually work exceedingly hard to develop coping systems to compensate for the symptoms they experience. Sometimes, unknowingly, people create functionally similar replacement behaviors. For example, a college student who has learned to manage their workload by religiously using a planner, creating to-do lists, and by employing an internal reward system to hack their motivational system may have the brain chemistry of someone with ADHD or someone who has learned that in order to pay attention in class, they need to take detailed, perhaps even color-coded notes may also fit the bill.  

Types of ADHD

One reason that many cases of ADHD go undiagnosed until adulthood may be because of the difference in ADHD subtypes. Many often think of the disorder solely as the hyperactivity often observed in children and do not realize that there is a type solely focused on inattention. 

Inattentive:

Individuals with this type of ADHD make many errors because of their difficulty with focused or selective attention, often not following through with commands due to daydreaming or lack of persistence when faced with difficult tasks and also often suffer from the poor organization of their responsibilities and requirements. They are easily forgetful and dazed by the influx of external stimuli. Primarily Inattentive ADHD can be found more in adults, and it is additionally important to remember that this type may present as what others may call “sluggish” or hypo-active behavior.

Hyperactive-Impulsive:

Individuals with this type of ADHD habitually fidget, wriggle, and have problems remaining seated. They often struggle with impulse-control, interrupt others, talk incessantly, or blurt out answers. 

Combined type:

Researchers generally agree that individuals with combined-type of ADHD may begin with the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness, and they later develop the symptoms of inattention upon reaching school-age. 

Questions to Ask Yourself:

For individuals to be diagnosed with ADHD, the person must show at least 5 of the symptoms below and the behaviors must be evident before the age of twelve. 

1. People Complain that You are Forgetful

If you are the type of person that often misplaces your car keys, wallet, jackets, glasses, phones, and many other items, it may be that your forgetfulness is a symptom of ADHD. While all people may have some issues with misplacing items, it becomes a problem when it is pervasive and affecting other areas of your life. If you have a list of phone calls waiting to be returned, are chronically missing appointments due to disorganization, and it is a miracle for you to track down bills to be able to pay on time, you may want to consider the extent of the symptoms in your life.

2. You Lack Focus

One of the major signs of this condition is having difficulties with specifically concentrating for a period of time or the ability to decipher important vs. unimportant information. Other disorders such as depression, addiction, anxiety, can also affect the focus level of an individual and even increased, or chronic stress may have the same effect. However, individuals with ADHD face these issues across numerous areas of life. 

3. You are Habitually Late and Disorganized

One of the challenges faced by people with ADHD is time management. This often leads to missing appointments or mismanaging the time provided for a test. This can be avoided by implementing strategies for organization & prioritization, developing routines, and infusing structure into their lives.

 4. You Leave Things Half-Done

Adults with this disorder often find it difficult to manage clutter and complete tasks. They may get distracted in the course of driving, reading, and performing other tasks. 

Most of the attention and memory difficulties faced by people with ADHD make it hard for them to begin or finish projects, particularly those they believe may take a lot of attention to complete. This may also be seen as a symptom of depression.

5. You Had Behavioral Problems as a Kid

To be diagnosed with ADHD as a teen or an adult, the person must have had the hyperactive or concentration problems as a kid. 

6. Controlling Your Emotions Has Always Been a Challenge

You might habitually show frustration, be moody or ill-tempered and repeatedly feel indifferent. ADHD, however, makes it difficult to cope with painful emotions or follow proper conduct when getting upset.

Adults with this disorder are often hypercritical of themselves, and this usually results in a negative self-image. Individuals with ADHD may see their inability to focus as their own failure, and this may result in seeing themselves in an undesirable light and eventually may lead to issues in school or relationships.

You may wonder about your own lack of focus and what it means about you. Whether the symptoms you’re experiencing warrant a diagnosis or not, what your line of questioning may indicate is that you lack the organizational skills and tools that you may need to be successful in your college or early career. Launch Centers is a program specifically designed for young adults in the Los Angeles area who will benefit from the support and guidance of the program’s cohesive, therapeutic and educational aspects. Reach out today to learn more about how Launch Centers can help you!

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