Monday, August 20, 2012


"He doesn't have attention deficit. We're not going to medicate him."

"It was like I was inside the book."
—Some pros and cons of Ritalin.

108 Comments / Post A Comment


This is why, when my ex kept trying to convince me he had ADD/Asbergers, I told the doctor that there was nothing wrong with him, he's just really lazy (I still stand by this decision, because when he did eventually take medication, there was no difference in his behaviour at all).
Also that kid is awesome for refusing to take the meds.

Reginal T. Squirge

I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored.


@Reginal T. Squirge This was seriously about 90% of the ex's problem.


@Megano! My ex got diagnosed with ADD a month after I dumped him. He then sent me an email explaining how everything wrong with our relationship was due to ADD and "didn't count" and that I owed it to him to give him another go. Sorry, dude, whether or not you have ADD you're still a jerk.


@Megano! Um. I don't know you or your situation but I caution everyone who reads this to please never ever tell someone who confides to you that they feel there is something mentally wrong with them that it's "all in their head" so to speak, or that they're just "lazy." The meds may not have worked for him because the brain is complex, and root issues almost always have co-morbid symptoms such as ADD, depression, OCD, etc, so it's very possible he simply needed to just continue therapy and adjust his medication until he found something that worked for him.

I personally find it quite alarming that you would tell his DOCTOR there's nothing wrong with him and that he's just lazy. Are you his brain? Are you a medical professional? I'm sorry, but those without mental illness cannot and should not speak for the mentally ill.

If he was unhappy enough with his behavior that he sought out medical help, he should be encouraged and praised for doing something that is often very difficult, not be victim-blamed and shamed or have his treatment sabotaged by people who should be supporting him.

A jerk's a jerk, no matter what, but NO ONE is flat out evil for no reason. Everyone deserves help, and it sounds like that's all he was trying to get.

Again, I don't know your specific situation, but honestly... Yikes.


Ritalin never did anything for me, and I am certified ADD.


I was thisclose to being given the Ritalin treatment (or whatever it was when I was a kid) because I was hyper as all hell and disrupted class by always talking and bouncing around. And as a bit of an inverse to this article, my pediatrician told my parents it was normal and I'd grow out of it. And I did. Hormones kicked in or whatever and I chilled right the fuck out and now you'd find me filed under Cucumber, Cool As A.

I know some kids do need it and perform better in school with it, but I'm totally in the camp that think it's being overprescribed.


The other day I worked a double, and at 10 hours in I felt SO FOCUSED and everything I was doing felt incredibly important and my mind was all, "You are walking over there okay now we are doing this okay focus on the task okay." I was trying to explain it to my coworker and the best I could come up with was, "It feels like either hypomania or when you take too much Ritalin."


I think that the boy in this article sounds exactly like myself when I was growing up. Luckily, I was raised before the whole Ritalin phase. Instead of taking medication, I just learned to cope with my attiontion issues. I still have them, but being aware of the issue and knowing how to overcome it is much more valuable than just being medicated.


@graffin Right? If anything behavioural therapy is probably going to be a lot more valuable than drugging the issue away.


@Megano! Yeaaah, on the other hand, I cannot tell you how much my life is improved with a combination of adderall and crazy drugs.

Sometimes, medicating things doesn't make em go away, but it does make em manageable. I was near to comatose with anxiety, depression, and total inability to focus last year and an understanding doc worked with me to get it figured out.

I think over-diagnosed, probably, and also mis-diagnosed.

Also, 10 years of behavioral therapy wouldn't do what 10mg a day of that drug can.

So yeah. There is also that.


@PistolPackinMama Yeah, me too. I fell through the "being a quiet girl with ADD in the 80s and 90s" crack and it's totally fucked up my life. It would have been a bloody revelation if any of the billions of therapists I saw for my childhood depression (since age seven) had been able to make a correct diagnosis. Even when my older brother was diagnosed, no one thought to have me evaluated for it too. It's really astonishing what 30mg of amphetamine salts per day do to my brain, and a really tragic waste of potential that no one bothered to see it before.

This topic is mad personal and always hurts.


@KatPruska Of course for girls it's a totally different ballgame, and I am talking about the people for whom it is misdiagnosed, like the kid in the article. My previous relationship has kind of made me feel a lot of things about this issue, and I don't mean to make anyone feel like crap!


@KatPruska "This topic is mad personal and always hurts."

Word. ADD and depression. And diabetes. I've got an Automatic Drop policy towards any friend/acquaintance who says "people with 'depression' just need to get over it." Whatever, people. Stay out of my mental health issues, thanks.


@KatPruska As another former quiet girl with ADD in the 90s, yup, exactly. I try not to think about how much differently my life would have been if I had been diagnosed/treated before my early 20s.


@Megano! Oh, no worries! You didn't hurt my feelings at all. Sorry that was sort of ambiguous; I was just latching onto PistolPackinMama's comment like an intellectually-lazy remorra.


@PistolPackinMama I have that same policy. It's just victim-blaming in another form.

Kim Novak@twitter

@KatPruska Oh, yes, me too. It's a pretty big crack, there, that 80s/90s "Girls can't have ADD"/"You can't have ADD without also having a learning disorder" crack. I was 26 before I was tentatively diagnosed and 30 before I was officially diagnosed. Grad school was my Waterloo. Makes me wonder how much less trouble I would have gotten into, how much further I would have gone.


@graffin So timely. At age 21, I am on day two of Ritalin and I love it already.

Oh, squiggles

Don't all kids have trouble paying attention in school? Shouldn't that just indicate that we need to change the learning environment to better suit children? Why is it that my college classes have been the same structure as every other class I have taken? As an adult I struggle to pay attention, of course kids have problems with it!

Which is not to say that ADD/ADHD doesn't exist. I just don't think we know enough to be randomly popping pills in kids mouths.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Definately! There are ways to teach these kids, but it takes money and resources that our schools don't have. So, we just teach for the square pegs and medically pound in the round pegs.



It can be incredibly labor-intensive to teach an unmedicated ADHD kid, but so rewarding to see a child learn to manage his behavior without being spacey on meds. Years ago I taught in a summer program and had a student whose mother wanted to take him off his school-year drugs (she asked my permission to let him attend unmedicated, which felt very weird, but of course I said yes). He required a lot more extra supervision/individual attention than is probably possible in a regular classroom situation, especially in an overcrowded school system, but it was worth the trouble.


I do kind of wonder if ADHD is normal for children. Aren't children supposed to be full of energy? Also, it seems like a long time to focus. My parents sent me to the local hippie school for elementary, and we were pretty much allowed to go run or switch subject areas whenever we wanted. I definitely had some trouble with math in middle school, but I graduated from high school with a 4.2 and 8 college credits.


@The Kendragon Yeah, a lot of schools now have cut back on recess time, too, given more academic pressure. So kids may get like 15 minutes of time each day to run around instead of the 30-minute periods I remember from being a kid. I wonder if that has anything to do with kids getting labeled as hyperactive.


@TheBelleWitch Dang. Yeah obviously we weren't allowed to be on the play ground all day, but I definitely remember going up to my teacher and explaining I was full of energy and could I go run a block of the playground? I loved my hippie school.


@The Kendragon Like any mental disorder, ADHD is a matter of degree. It becomes a disorder when it interferes with your life and makes you unable to do what you want to do.

Like, everyone gets sad sometimes, but that's very different from depression, and writing off depression because 'everyone feels that way sometimes' is lame.


@The Kendragon That's my kind of school!


Argh, ritalin. My sister, who does not have ADD, had a few teachers tried to get her on it because she can be a little twitchy and annoying. A few friends, who never had the classic behavioral problems associated with schools pushing it, have gone on it as adults and just been like "Oh, wow, so this is what being a normal person feels like." They were capable of functioning without it, but they all had serious anxiety issues because of how much mental space and time got sucked up in the process of getting anything at all done.


@wharrgarbl One of my friends has severe ADD and really bad anxiety as well. I wonder how often those show up together?


@anachronistique OFTEN. The majority of my depression/anxiety stems from diagnosed but untreated (because I can do it myself! This is a made up disorder! I cannot be defined and I just need to start this NEW PROJECT which will solve everything!) ADD. I started taking adderall again recently and it is just amazing how much more I get done, just by having more ordered thinking.

I was convinced it would kill my creativity, and stifle the things I actually like about myself, but it just allows me to better express those things and accomplish things that I was beating myself up over.


@anachronistique I'd say it's REALLY FREAKING COMMON given how hard it can be to stay on top of your stuff like a "normal person." At least from other people I've spoken to and my own experiences. If the two aren't co-morbid, I'll bet the useless flailing and the hard work put into coping mechanisms can make anyone an anxious mess.

Especially since there still seems to be little focus on behavioral therapy + meds, just one or the other, and sometimes you really need them both. I was raised on a mantra of "why can't you just?" "How could you forget?" "Why didn't you...." and it wasn't until college and saw other people that I realized I wasn't lazy, I was working very hard, for much smaller gains.


@damselfish Yes, this. All of this. It's amazing how emotional I still get when I think about it.


@hotdog Ditto! I can't tell you how often as an adult I've considered going back on my meds just so I can think more clearly; I'm convinced I'd be much less anxious if I wasn't always scared about forgetting appointments, calls, bills etc.

H.E. Ladypants

@damselfish Mr. Ladypants also has ADD, for which he has been medicated as an adult, and that totally stacks with his experience.

One thing that I do wonder about though is the way we seem to designate ADD person/normal as a binary. Every once in a while something will come up and I will use a coping mechanism and it will totally surprise my boyfriend. Why would I need to put a note near the door to remind myself not to forget the keys in the lock when I bring my bike in? Why would I have problems recalling x or y? After all, I'm normal! But while I'm not ADD, I am naturally distracted and forgetful. And so I wonder if maybe it's more of a spectrum sort of thing, where a lot of people may have some traits or behaviors that are associated with ADD but to much lesser degrees.


@damselfish HUGS. I am not actually loving some comments in this thread, since ADD is actually often UNDERdiagnosed in girls. It can manifest differently in girls than it does boys - not so much being hyper as being spacey and dreamy (and since this isn't disruptive, it doesn't get any attention).

My parents STILL insist that I'm making up my ADD diagnosis, even though I wasn't able to graduate college, plan a wedding,or work an actual job with responsibilities until after I started taking medication. My self-esteem was completely in the toilet until I started getting treatment, because I was always getting the "you're such a smart girl, why can't you just get your act together" criticism. Cognitive therapy and positive thinking an just trying REALLY SUPER HARD didn't change my life the way nearly as effectively as medication did.


@H.E. Ladypants A lot of people have asked me about ADD and presented their experiences in a sort of "does this sound like ADD to you? Should I talk to a professional?"* way. A lot of ADD stuff is totally normal, it's the severity that makes it a disorder, kind of like depression/anxiety/etc. They're all things that're normal to feel, but it impairs your functioning dramatically. And being able to go "this bothers me about myself and is giving me difficulties" can be hard to separate from "my entire life revolves around compensating for these obstacles" when you haven't experienced both.

*My answer to this is always "if it bothers you, it never hurts to talk to a professional and at least get outside your own head." Followed by "I can't diagnose you, but I'm pretty sure it's not ADD."


@jule_b_sorry Hugs! I know exactly where you're coming from.

I was really lucky in that I was hyper as a kid (which, ironically, I did grow out of) and wildly disruptive to the point where I nearly got kicked out of school. It prompted my parents to get me tested. Most of my inattentive symptoms, though, were me being lazy or forgetful, even after I got the diagnosis. I don't know why so many people seem to think "be less lazy/just try harder" will get any results. I'm trying hard as hard as I can! But of course as a kid I couldn't articulate this stuff so didn't really work on my issues until I was in college.

Tropical Iceland

Oh man I feel all of this. I couldn't believe how different school was when I started taking adderall. I didnt even start until my second semester at culinary school, and I wish I had sooner. I was always one of those kids who tested well but got horrible grades . I couldn't understand how everyone else in class had it together when I just never had any idea what the fuck was going on. It felt like I was missing half my classes despite showing up.

Nowadays though, I don't know. I have an addictive personality and where I used to take it only when needed, when needed has gone from 3 days a week to 5 to 7 and now if I run out I crash HARD. I'm trying to get in the habit of only taking a half on days off, which will usually keep me from yawning constantly and eating everything. Last month I ran out for five days and burned myself 3 times at work (I work in a kitchen) cause I just kept dropping shit. I wouldn't blame all my issues on adderall, I know most of them stem from my drinking problem, but the two kind of go hand in hand.

In sum: medication can help but drugs are drugs and drugs don't stay fun for long so be careful. And don't do coke cause that shit will wreck you. Also heroin, don't do that either.


@wharrgarbl Oh HI! THAT'S ME.

According to my doc, adults with undiagnosed ADHD often have a ton of anxiety and depression problems, because it's stressful and upsetting to know you need to get shit done and just plain not be able to do it.

Aderall has improved the quality of my adult life to no end- just a super low dose takes the edge off enough I can cope with other stuff.

Faintly Macabre

After reading more about the anxiety/depression link, I've been wondering again lately if I should get tested for ADD. I've thought I had it since high school, since I fit a whole lot of the general diagnostic criteria. (Forgetful, procrastinating, always late, got yelled at a lot for not paying attention in class, will get distracted while other people are mid-sentence, etc.) But my parents have always insisted that I just needed to work harder at not procrastinating and that I clearly didn't have ADD.


@Faintly Macabre

Parents: not always an accurate judge of everything ever.

@PistolPackinMama I'm glad it's working so well for you.

Faintly Macabre

@wharrgarbl Yeah. Most of my mom's immediate family (including her) either have it or show clear signs of having it, so I think she thinks that if she's managed to cope for so long, I should too.


@wharrgarbl Considering I am not the world's most stable diabetic (for fun, nothing beats NOT BEING ABLE TO MAKE THE BLOOD SUGAR COOPERATE NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO TEST TEST TEST TINKER TINKER FIDDLE TINKER), I am grateful 10mg of adderall was all it has taken so far.

I am not sure I could have handled yet another brittle medical condition without going absolutely nuts, or becoming a professional medicine tinkerer.


@PistolPackinMama Reading on this topic always makes me feel as though I would really really like to try one of these drugs. My parents and teachers would always ask me "How can you be so smart and so stupid at the same time?" And those days when I literally can't pick anything up with my hands because I can't focus on it long enough, and it takes me 5 trips into and out of the kitchen before I have my tea made. SO FRUSTRATING. Or, i could just be a kook.


@TattyEmu Yeeeahhh-- I know that feeling.

*walk in* where are my keys, oh hey I need to brush my hair

*walk out* oh, what did I come in here for, I am pretty sure my keys are in the kitchen

*walk in* goddamn, I can't find my... brush... well of course not I am in the kitchen

*walk out* How did I manage to walk out of the house without keys or hairbrush. Luckily I have a brush in my office, but I can't get in there because I have no keys...

*walk in* why am I trying to lock my house with a brush?

I am also the WORLD'S WORST INTERRUPTER. The worst. It's disruptively rude

Other Person: So, then I told him "it is not acceptable to call me a bitch"

Me: Shit! Where are my hairkeys? Sorry, you were saying you told him not to call you a bitch... look an eagle... that is so rude, I am sorry he did that!

Other Person: *eye roll, upset* Yes, and...

I get annoyed with myself, and it's me that's doing it.

Adderall. Helps. So. Much.

New Commenter Name

Are you my husband? Wait, no you can't be because you said you just started taking meds. My husband won't do that because he could control it himself if he could only get organized, and besides medication would just change his whole personality and why would he want to do that?? Nope, instead he constantly loses his keys, glasses, paycheck, EVERYTHING and gets angry with the rest of us because we must have moved it. He suffers anxiety that is getting worse with time and now makes him physically sick and causes him to do weird painful things to himself in his sleep.
Yeah, I have no bitterness or resentment obviously.


Okay, so addressed to this thread in general, because I have many anxiety/depression issues that I feel could stem from undiagnosed ADHD but I don't know how to go about getting treatment. I feel like no doctor would believe me or want to test me? I have terrible procrastination issues, often cannot motivate myself to do even simple things, or if I do, cannot focus on them long enough to get them done.

Like others said, my parents are the "Just do it!" type. Or else, sometimes, I feel like they just think it's my personality. Which, uh, I guess you could say that? But if there's a way to help, I'd like help.


@fabel I would trying going to a doc and instead of saying "I think I have ADHD" you could describe symptoms/behaviors.

I have been feeling so crappy and upset lately.

I can't focus on my work.

I get distracted.

I lose basic shit, and then find it in an obvious place.

I have a hard time listening to and paying attention to people, and then get upset when the think I am being deliberately rude, even though I don't mean to be.

I interrupt a lot, on useless things that aren't even relevant to the discussion.

If I can remember to set an alarm (two alarms!) I will get stuff done, but rarely on time.

I am always late because I will zone out on a task and lose track of time.

I am tired all the time, which makes it harder to remember to do stuff, which means I am tired all the time because I am always running to play catch up.

I can't remember phone numbers and short lists, and will lose the lists I do make and so wind up going back to the store twice to buy milk.

I cannot keep my email organized even with a folder system and forget to reply to things and upset my co-workers.

All this is not improved by the fact that knowing I fuck stuff up makes me really anxious and upset before I even get started on tasks because I know something will go wrong.

Make lists of examples if you can to take with you.

Then see what they say. You can't diagnose yourself, but you can describe accurately and thoroughly what you do/experience and see what they say.


I feel you. It's no fun.


@PistolPackinMama No shit. You've written the screen play of my life.


@fabel Just go to your GP and list off some symptoms and say "I'd like to be referred to an attention disorder specialist to get tested." If they're any good, they won't write you off as a drug seeker. As long as you don't go in all "GIVE ME THE RITALINS" you're good. If they do give you the brush off, well, time to find a new GP, because that's bullshit.


@PistolPackinMama WAIT are you in my head? Because I can't even count the number of gorgeous days I've wasted this summer by not being able to decide what I wanted to do, and suddenly it's 6:38 p.m. and all I've done is sit on the balcony and fret and wander around the apartment. I actually have a list taped to my fridge that says, "Things You Can Do" at the top so that if I get in that circular pattern, I can pick something off the list.


This post/thread is so timely for me because I have been considering seeking a doctor because I think I may have ADD. I don't experience hyperactivity, but I have an incredibly hard time focusing on any one task. I start multiple projects at once and can't focus on or finish anything. I've been very depressed for... I was going to say for the past few years, but I guess it's been longer. I get massive anxiety and sometimes have panic attacks, and when I think of all the things I need to do and can;t focus on, I pretty much crumble.

I had a GP who I liked, but she moved and I need to find a new doctor, which has been on my to-do list for moths, but I always forget until after any doctor's offices are closed for me to call (oops). I'm concerned about finding a new doctor who 1. won't tell me to lose weight to solve my problems and 2. I feel comfortable with. I'm afraid of seeming like a drug seeker or something if I just come like "I have ADD give me pills." But I don't know how else to do this.

Faintly Macabre

@Xanthophyllippa That's why I hate weekends! If I don't have concrete plans, I will get absolutely nothing done because I can't decide what to do first. Is that an ADD thing?


@Faintly Macabre Yeah, I hate weekends too for that reason. All I know is, unless I have a highly specific list of things that need to be done, I'll just waste time doing nothing useful. The list helps, but I have to remember to look at it - also a problem.


I've gone to a gp and a psychologist and they both told me they thought I was just bored with my life. That may also be true, but doing interesting things (interesting to me) all the time doesn't exactly pay the bills. I still think I have symptoms of inattentive type ADD (brother and father are both diagnosed) and it's annoying to be somewhat written off so quickly -because I'm smart, went to a good school and graduated (but did poorly), and am a woman, whatever. I still don't think I'm living up to my own potential because of an inability to pursue any interests long-term. I'm guessing if I went through counseling they might properly diagnose me. I will continue drinking insane amounts of caffeine in the meantime.

Daisy Razor

"The doctor prescribed methylphenidate, a generic form of Ritalin. It was not to be taken at home, or on weekends, or vacations. He didn’t need to be medicated for regular life."

Red flag! RED FLAG.


@Daisy Razor Not really. You only need stimulants when you need to be "on," for whatever you're doing (for kids it's always school, because no one considers what else they may need to be paying attention for). Of course the problem with only medicating at school means you can sit through class but can't sit through homework/studying. I'm kind of surprised by how often people still reach for ritalin instead of prescribing the non-stimulant medications though. There's a bunch of them out there these days.

I mean, they're a red flag in that you develop a tolerance to them (also why they advocate vacations) but people develop tolerances to all sorts of medications and need dosages upped or prescriptions changed.


@Daisy Razor Actually not a red flag. You don't take anxiety medication if you're not anxious (I'm talking about medications that don't last in your body-like xanax); ritalin is similar in that you don't take your medication that helps you concentrate if you don't need to concentrate on anything.


@Daisy Razor Actually yes, a minor red Flag as to technically be diagnosed with ADHD according to the "bible" (DSM) a child has to show impairment in more than one realm of function.... So school and friendships or family life or work if they are older.
So yes, plenty of kids don't "need" to focus at home, but I find it scary that this psychiatrist had parents saying they had no problems or issues and only the school.

Not that parents always see it... I have worked with kids who have ADHD and I can say that when they actually have it, I would bet you 4/5 times one of the parents has it and that's always interesting...


@hotdog This is something I just learned, actually. I've been having anxiety issues (shouts out to the Friday Open Thread) and lamented to my therapist the fact that all the depression meds I felt like I might need were taken on a daily schedule / needed days and weeks to become effective and thus I couldn't go off them when I felt fine. The notion of a mood med you just take when you need seemed silly.

H.E. Ladypants

@Daisy Razor My boyfriend takes medication for his ADD but only during the week when he needs to focus for work. Like a lot of things there are trade-offs and side-effects. His medication makes his heart race, makes him sweat more, and gives him a great deal of difficulty sleeping. On the other hand, he would have incredible problems working without it. During the weekends when it is not crucial that he be able to focus, he takes a respite from the side-effects. During the week when being able to focus is a must, he deals with the rest of it.

I think the anxiety medication comparison was probably pretty apt.


I just don't see what the problem is with medicating people so as to conform their behavior to generally-accepted or cost-effective modes of social organization.


@josiahg I take my soma like a good citizen, and so should everyone else.

Springtime for Voldemort

Did she just say she stopped reading online discussions after a diatribe about a nation poisoning children’s developing brains, and then write a diatribe about a nation poisoning children's developing brains?


@papayalily As far as I can tell, yes!

Springtime for Voldemort

@anachronistique Fabulous! "Obviously, though, there's a line, and after that line is crazy. Unless I'm saying it."


I was just about the exact opposite of this kid; praised in school for being smart and engaged, but was really spending most of my time looking out the window and doodling in my notebook. In order to get any work done (including teaching myself everything I missed in class) I had to sit in my room with the shades drawn and the door shut - this was just how I coped, nothing my parents encouraged or asked me to do. A teacher in high school finally said something to my parents, who agreed to have me tested. I was medicated for the second half of jr. year and senior year, and into college. For me, the best way of describing my ADHD was that I gave everything in the room equal attention; the birds outside, the teacher talking, the students whispering, the fan blowing all got the exact same amount of my attention. Ritalin just helped me turn down the noise. I don't think everyone should be medicated, but sometimes chemicals are a good thing.

Bridget Smith@twitter

@LydiaBennett That's a good way of explaining it. This is why I can't hold conversations in loud places: everyone else's conversations get the same amount of attention as the person talking to me, and after a certain point I just can't sustain it anymore. Everything becomes noise.

The sign for me that something might be wrong was the year I started sleeping 13-14 hours a night. I couldn't figure out what was wrong, but I was miserable. Then Someone On The Internet mentioned this was a sign of ADHD, and it was like a lightbulb: the more I read, the more my whole life made sense. I still haven't been diagnosed or medicated, because the university psychiatrist, no doubt used to students trying to get Ritalin for studying purposes, put up so many hurdles that I couldn't motivate myself to get over them. Which seems, actually, like the exact wrong filtering method.


@Bridget Smith@twitter YES! All of this! YES! MY PEOPLE.


@Bridget Smith@twitter A friend of mine used to have people try to buy her Adderall off her during finals week. She was pissed.


@LydiaBennett so you just described my life. When I make lists that I see, I do them and only them. But it takes a lot of work to shut down all the other stimulation. Maybe I should talk to my counsellor about this.

Springtime for Voldemort

And then, of course, there's bipolar: the other ADHD. For when your kid is more frowny than squirmy.


@papayalily I would imagine bipolar and autistic designations have more discrete indicators than ADHD. When I unsuccessfully tried to convince my therapist I was bipolar as a child, he intimated that the manic / depressive episodes had to last longer than the few hours hormonal teens are generally subject to.

Also my mom was bipolar and if I had what she had I'd probably be in jail.

Springtime for Voldemort

@Danzig! Not really, it's still pretty subjective and comes in a wide spectrum of severity. It also depends a lot on who's doing the diagnosing. From family doctors who really know more about strep throat than the nuances of psychology, to various pressure put on mental health professionals to give not only quick diagnoses but certain kinds of diagnoses, what you get labeled with his pretty dependent on who's doing the diagnosing.

Technically, the criteria states that depressive episodes have to last for two weeks, manic for one, and hypomanic for four days, but rapid cycling can go faster, and adolescence lasts several years. It depends so much on if the diagnosing doctor sees this as "normal" - normal mood swings, normal adolescent development, normal after a bad breakup, normal after their parents get divorced, normal when they got on a bad track and don't know how to get out of it, etc. And, do they know how to differentiate it from other disorders, and even if they can, can they actually give that patient that diagnosis? Example: it's extremely common for kids who are abused and acting like their abused to get a diagnosis of bipolar, because the abusive parent who gets told their kid's diagnosis is effectively 'abusive parent' (PTSD, personality disorders, etc) is a parent who is never coming back to that office, who will never let you help their kid in any way, and that kid is just so much easier to treat if all they have to do is pop a pill or three anyway.


I had two friends (in undergraduate engineering school) who dropped out because of amphetamine addictions. Both were doctor prescribed since childhood. You want to get into the book, but you don't want to have conversations with unicorns.

I'm so glad my parents didn't listen to the tests that said I needed medication as a kid. I thank my speed dealing (in college) frat boy (life sentence) father for knowing better.


@Don So that's the OTHER side of the coin, right? Like, I take theses amphetamines, and I am an adult, and sometimes still I think "whoa, I do not need this on the weekend because it's a bit too much". I cannot IMAGINE having access to this as a developing child/experimenting teen.


@Don Tweaking is pretty common in high-stakes, high pressure school environments. Some of my friends in medical school would have dropped out years ago were it not for the speed that allowed them to pull regular all-nighters. They didn't tweak because they were diagnosed as children, they tweaked because they were overworked.


@Danzig! This, right? I'm a lawyer, and I'm often anxious, and often I have trouble focusing. I don't think I have ADD, but I also have a lot of difficulty functioning at the level I have to maintain for my job. I'm pretty sure drugs would help me concentrate and multi-task better (I've never tried), but I'm also pretty sure that the right solution to overwork isn't to use drugs in order to overwork better - it's to work less, right?


@Danzig! No, you don't understand. They were prescribed 160mg of adderall a day. A DAY. Plus sleeping pills, of course. We were all overworked and under high pressure. We didn't all lose our shit like that. The blame falls on irresponsible doctors at that point, not a tough curriculum.

Cat named Virtute

@Don Right, but I think what Danzig! is saying is that it's not all personalities that can function in an environment like med school or law school because of the time demands (and that doesn't even get into issues like the external demands of having family obligations or something), but overwork has become such an expectations that those of us who can't keep up naturally now have to keep up chemically. It certainly sounds like your friends were overmedicated (I don't know a lot about adderall, so I can't say), but that it was as a result of being pushed more than they were naturally able to achieve on their own.

Tropical Iceland

I think the real takeaway is that kids shouldn't be given mind-altering drugs before they can handle them. I cant tell you how many junkies I know who can trace their issues back to being medicated in elementary school. On the other hand, when you're an adult and you know yourself better and you're in control of your own life, it's really helpful. What the hell do little kids need to pay so much attention to anyway? Medication should be for those who want to focus and learn but don't have the ability and children are not going to school because they really want to get something out of it.

I'm so glad there's so many of you who also find medication helpful though. Ive been starting to feel like a pill head whenever I tell people I take it, everyone just assumes it's recreational these days. It isn't just one way or the other. ADHD isn't a fake disorder or a national plague, it's just kind of misdiagnosed and drugs get abused. Lots of people sell oxy on the street, but some people really do have broken legs.

Heat Signature

I think a bigger issue here is that our medical system fails to take a holistic approach towards diagnosis. Kids with trauma (past or current) look an awful lot like kids with ADHD, and there are lots of other explanations for a child's inattentiveness and/or hyperactivity (chronic hunger, exposure to domestic violence, neglect, lack of a challenging environment, etc.).

Personally, I'm glad that ADHD medications exist because I'm an adult diagnosed with the disorder, and taking Strattera has been enormously helpful for me in my working life (I wonder if I could've finished high school had I been diagnosed earlier). But, I'm also an adult and I'm aware of what the issues in my life are, as opposed to a child whose teachers are telling her parents that she has "issues".


Ugh, no, NY Times. I CRINGE reading stuff from parents who are like "my child can't possibly have a problem, my child will NEVER take medications, she's just a free spirit and Big Pharma is out to crush her." That's what my parents said when I was an ADHD child and now, as a sometimes-medicated ADHD adult, I really, really wish they had been more open to it. Being untreated as a child wasn't cute or liberated, it was like being lost in a dense fog all the time where I was isolated from my peers and felt like I had no control over my environment because I couldn't even keep track of what was going on minute to minute. And I had no way of communicating that I needed help because I didn't know that my mental state wasn't "normal" and didn't really have the vocabulary for talking about it with adults. I finally started Ritalin after I got to college and realized that I couldn't function in a situation with higher stakes than high school. I was so far behind my peers by that point in terms of basic academic/ social/everything else skills, though. It's not a cure-all and it has some big drawbacks (the appetite suppressant thing is serious) but the attitude that your child is going to be just fine with exercise and meditation and will then grow out of it? That's dangerous, too.

@distrighema I don't have ADHD, but I do have OCD and general anxiety. My parents didn't take the "oh hippie dippy liberating!" approach, they were just in total denial that I wasn't perfect, and if my grades were fucked up, well, I was just lazy or "not motivated enough." I still have a lot of really awful rage-y feelings toward my parents for not realizing that there was a problem, and that problem was not that I wasn't motivated or had a learning disability (I did not), but that I was incredibly anxious and absolutely miserable in the overcrowded public school system.

I don't know how many times I told my mom "I'm embarrassed for no reason" or "I'm nervous and I don't know why" or why a classroom with lots of visual *stuff* was so awful and overwhelming for me, and she never seemed to get it.

I didn't "grow out of it." I got lucky in high school in that I was brainy smart and got into the smaller honors and AP classes, and the building was new and stark and it was so easy to focus in those rooms because I wasn't trying to make the room symmetrical just by looking at it. I went to college, started therapy once I realized that anxiety wasn't normal, and got help.

There's a fine line. There's not medicating your kid because your kid is a normal 8 year old, and that's great. There's also the risk that your kid might have a problem, and you, as a parent, have an obligation to help your kid succeed.

@distrighema Oh, and I'll add: my parents learned from that and when my brother was starting to show signs of ADHD and his teachers were like "ummm get him tested!" they did, and it made a huge difference. They lost their weird egos surrounding having perfect kids at some point when I was too old to really benefit from it.


@S. Elizabeth Yeah, when the kid feels like hell because they can't keep shit under control and everyone is mad at them all the time? Or being upset because you can't get your shit done and want to?

Maybe not drugs to fix it. But that's just stressful, and working with the reality of how stressful it is, is important.


Honestly, a lot of these comments are why I don't tell anyone IRL that I have ADD (inattentive). People assume you're faking it or lazy or stupid, and believe me, after living with it undiagnosed for 20-odd years, I've told myself those things enough for the both of us. I get it, though. Nobody likes to think about medicating children.

I was a quiet, shy girl growing up in the 90s when ADHD meant hyper boys acting out in class. My third grade teacher, bless her, told my parents to get me tested, but they brushed her off because they didn't want to make me 'a zombie'. Nobody seemed to think it was odd that a girl who could read at a high school level failed fourth grade Language Arts, and aside from a new homework planner, getting grounded and some brand-new self loathing, not much happened. My fifth grade teacher decided screaming at me in front of my classmates daily was the best course of action, so that was nice. Thus began the report cards that all said 'so much potential, but if she could only apply herself..." Yeah, if only.

I coasted through college on pure fear and adrenaline. I accomplished zero that I wanted to, because by then untreated ADD had blossomed into depression and anxiety. Wanting to do things and being completely unable to accomplish them isn't great for the self-esteem, to say the least.

But it wasn't until my first real job that I thought, hey, maybe I should do something about this. Honestly, I'm amazed I had the willpower to do it. I was so bogged down in this negative image of myself as, essentially, worthless, that I don't remember exactly how I convinced myself I was worth the 60-odd bucks to see somebody. By then I was on the verge of being fired because I couldn't complete simple tasks, utterly paralyzed by anxiety and an inability to concentrate on anything. This was a simple, low-key receptionist job.

So I went to a specialist and after a few sessions and computer tests she told me I was a pretty typical case. I can't really overstate what a revelation it was. Taking meds was like standing on solid ground for the first time. I can finally work on projects I've meant to start for years. I'm taking classes and completing them. I can read books again. There's this misinformation that ADD is bullshit because everybody has trouble concentrating on boring stuff. That's not it, though. ADD stops you from doing what you desperately want to do. And no, ritalin hasn't turned me into a corporate drone devoid of creativity and emotion, sorry. On the contrary, I can actually develop creative skills and apply them, now!

If I sound bitter, I am, just a little. If someone had caught on earlier that I was a kid in need of help, not lazy or stupid, things could have turned out a lot differently. So I look at the parents who "refuse to medicate" their kids a little askance. Sorry for the novel.


@han I think it's really ironic that people think meds will make their kids into "zombies." It's when I'm not on meds that I feel like I'm in a trance.


@han I don't want to go too far from your story, but general complaint at world - women/girls never present in the "typical" way because "typical" is generally based on men/boys. We need to change the medical system (and people) so that girls such as your past self can get the help they need when it is most helpful! Glad you are working stuff out/being creative now

Cat named Virtute

@han Wow, a lot of people have said things in this thread that have pinged, but I identify with this SO MUCH. I'm so bogged down in emotionally-charged life disruptions right now, and figuring out which is the shortest leg on the depression/anxiety/ADD stool is exactly where I'm at. Do I have anxiety and a poor attention span because I have atypical depression? (I have most of the symptoms). Or do I have ADD that is making me anxious and depressed? Argh. I'm so glad that you're completing projects and focusing your creativity; it gives me hope.


@Cat named Virtute :e-hugs!: I had the same feelings before I saw someone about it... the thing is, it's not your job to untangle that web alone. Seriously, if you have the means, get someone to help you with it, because it's impossible to look at objectively from the inside. Any good doctor will evaluate you for all the co-morbid stuff and help you see where you stand and how to deal with it. But, ugh, I totally get where you are and it sucks ass.

@robyn.andrews Ugh, totally. There is a whole lot of new science on girls and ADD that's very encouraging, but it's all pretty new. Thanks!

Cat named Virtute

@han Thanks. I've been researching therapists in my area, but maybe I should just see my gp first for a referral. Did it take you long to find someone who worked for you?


@Cat named Virtute No, I just went to the specialist my GP referred. Maybe I was just super lucky but she was GREAT. It took about 3-4 sessions, I think.

@han "Nobody seemed to think it was odd that a girl who could read at a high school level failed fourth grade Language Arts, and aside from a new homework planner, getting grounded and some brand-new self loathing, not much happened. My fifth grade teacher decided screaming at me in front of my classmates daily was the best course of action, so that was nice. Thus began the report cards that all said 'so much potential, but if she could only apply herself..." Yeah, if only."

This was 4th-8th grade for me. *hugs* I know exactly, EXACTLY what that was like.

Cat named Virtute

@S. Elizabeth Yeah, for me it was that I had a hard time completing tasks unless HIGHLY motivated. Every non-math grade below a B I've ever gotten has been because if I'm at all bored, depressed, or anxious, finishing ANYTHING becomes a Herculean task of focus. But because I'm a "smart" person, it can't possibly be anything but laziness and disorganization.


@S. Elizabeth Thanks. :) It's nice to know 10-year-old me wasn't alone!


@han Yep, this is me. I go art school and since starting my meds I have been SO MUCH MORE productive and creative, and making things I like and feel proud of, and even getting things shown and published. It's all because I can finally calm the fuck down and just think of a project, start it, and (this is the crazy part) actually finish it all the way to completion, and then make way for a new project, and finish those too, and then actually do something with them! It sounds so simple but it continues to blow my mind how I can continual achieve my goals that were once hopelessly difficult and out of reach.


I was on Ritalin for a time as a child. I remember two things about it: 1) It gave me incredible motion sickness. We lived 2 minutes away from my elementary school by car and every day I would get nauseous as shit. The other thing was 2) it suppressed my appetite to the extent that school admin was convinced I had an eating disorder, and they had one of the hall monitors stand over me and make sure I ate a sandwich every day.

Eventually the nausea got so bad that my mom took me to the hospital and had my stomach x-rayed, we figured out it was the Ritalin and ended it. They upgraded my diagnosis from ADD to PDD, and for what it's worth it was probably an accurate call.

Blackwatch Plaid

This is only obliquely related, but if anyone has recommendations for psychiatrists in Boston I would really appreciate it. Things have been getting tough lately :/

Petite Araignée

@glittercock McLean Hospital has a really great outpatient program, and is generally full of competent and really nice doctors. I've never been treated there, but my sister and a couple of my friends have, and I've only heard good things. I hope things get better for you!


@Petite Araignée
However, I would not want to be an inpatient there.
[Article with MIT students' experiences being involuntarily committed](http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N59/58mentalhealth.59n.html)

Petite Araignée

@AtomicTangerine I think it's kind of a different thing; the issue with the MIT students seems to be more of a screw-up on the university's end. Also, McLean's has actually been working on a better program for college students, since that demographic often slips through the cracks when it comes to mental healthcare. I don't think they'd put two more or less normal (albeit depressed) students in with truly mentally disturbed people. My sister was there in 2010, and they helped her immensely. She went voluntarily though, if that makes a difference.


Man, fuck this lady for condemning children of parents who were on the fence about meds or the reality of mental disorders until they read this article to an entire childhood or even lifetime of confusion and insecurity.

If you're uncomfortable with medicating a growing child with something that has uncertain to very real side effects, that's totally legitimate. However I didn't read anything about her giving this kid any sort of behavioral therapy or focusing on ADHD specific life skills.

I take adderall now and I really wonder what I could have been or done with my life had I been treated sooner, or at least had some special needs recognized while I was in school so I could have been trained to cope with my disorder rather than fear I was just stupid or lazy and told I was smart but not "reaching my potential" which what the fuck does that even mean to a kid and I'm supposed to figure that out on my own with a handicap?

My parents never thought to spot the ADHD (probably because I'm a girl and have the Inattentive type, so unfortunately easy to miss), but when my chronic major depression hit me like a brick wall when I was 10 years old, my mom saw how I was suffering and missing out on life. She sat me down one day and gave me a choice. She explained that there are medications that will make me not so depressed, but I won't feel normal and that there are side effects. She avoided her personal bias and laid out the facts for me. I was only 10 years old but she knew that only I knew my body and mind best. I chose not to take the meds, and suffered through a pretty dark adolescence as a result, but I don't regret it- I learned some things about myself with a sober head growing up and that was important for me. But, when I was older and it came time to face the fact that my mental illness was becoming debilitating, I felt totally comfortable asking for help and going on anti-depressants. They're working great so far.

I take SSRI's and 25 mg Adderall daily and I am fucking THRIVING. At this point I feel like I need to be on the meds to function and am definitely dependent on them, but I think that's necessary for now. They're helping me develop coping tools and habits (like exercising and eating right and thinking positively) that I simple could not even begin to think about tackling right now in an unmediated state. I don't plan to be on them my whole life. They are a crutch to help me help myself, and some day I hope to take off the training wheels and be able to ride through life all on my own. But if it turns out something in my brain is an impassible obstacle to enjoying my life the way I want to (or even to keeping me alive, as is the reality for MANY MANY people I know unfortunately) then I refuse to feel guilty or weak for choosing to stay on the meds as long as I need them.


@Esther Also, ADHD is a spectrum disorder. Why does it never occur to people that the reason the stats are increasing is not because people are being mis-diagnosed, but because awareness and tolerance of different ways of thinking and learning is increasing. If over-medication is a problem (which I do believe it is) then the solution is fixing the dumb ass way we run our education systems designed for one very specific type of student to thrive who represents our social and cultural ideals, but does not include the wonderful plethora of other types of kids who often make up some of the smartest and most interesting citizens.

If schools could accommodate instead of shaming and leaving behind kids who think and learn differently, we could simply help ADHD kids learn how to live WITH their attention-deficiency rather than suppressing it to conform to our arbitrary and mis-informed expectations. And if medication still helps someone achieve their goals they might otherwise not be able to pursue, then lets continue to research these drugs, make them better, and let people be fucking happier.


@Esther One more thing. If you think you have ADHD, or depression, or any other mental disorder or illness, get a diagnosis from a professional you trust. If you feel they are correct in their assessment, wear your loudly and proudly. Tell people the name of this thing you have or are. Tell people how it works, and how it doesn't work. If you're on medication, talk about it. Be honest. Tell people how it makes you feel, how it helps you, what side effects it gives you. Don't be ashamed. Help tear down the taboo of mental illness and spectrum disorders. Some people will get uncomfortable but that's only because they think you're sharing something "too personal." But it's not, it's just you and part of who you are, and people need to get used to it, and talking about this shit. We need to make people get comfortable with it because this is an important social issue that needs to needs to be confronted.

We're finally at a point where we're beginning to celebrate and embrace the fact that there is no perfect body and no two bodies are alike- let's do the same honour to our brains.


@Esther APPLAUSE. Thanks for these posts. You rock.

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