Michaela Huber, a senior studying sociology, never got good grades in high school. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder Spring Semester 2010 that it started making sense.
“I always joke with my family because I was this horrible student, and now I get straight A’s,” Huber said. “And I was always saying, ‘you know, if I had this diagnosis I could have gone to Harvard because I would have had a 4.0 in high school.’”
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, the official clinical diagnoses is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is divided into three subtypes: Predominately Inattentive Type, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type and Combined Type.
“Sixty to seventy percent of ADHDers have the combined type, so they meet the criteria for both clusters,” said Doug Craig, a therapist at the BYU-Idaho Counseling Center.
Craig said the second most common is the Predominately Inattentive Type.
Before her diagnosis, Huber couldn’t focus in school and was on academic probation with the university.
She said she went to the Counseling Center and the Student Health Center to see a counselor and physician because she thought she might have ADD.
‘“I knew that I’d heard the word a lot, but I didn’t really know a lot about it,” Huber said.
After that spring semester, Huber said she went home and saw an ADD specialist in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
“What’s interesting is I originally went because I couldn’t focus in school,” Huber said. “And then when I came home after the semester and saw the specialist doctor, they gave us books to read and I realized that ADD is something that’s not just manifested in school work. It’s pervasive and affects all aspects of your life, and I realized how much it affects me.”
Huber said that her symptoms included not being able to focus — even during conversations — not being able to sit still and interrting people.
“The hardest part about ADHD is definitely concentrating,” said Nate Jones, a senior studying communication. “I have been told before that people with ADHD have a difficult time concentrating on one specific subject for an extended period of time because their brains are overstimulated, thus they are actually focusing on multiple subjects at a time. The thing that people with ADHD have to do is to learn how to hone in on one subject, just as a deaf person who is first introduced to sound must learn to filter out the ambient noise.”
Jones said he was diagnosed with ADHD in the sixth grade.
“With ADHD, school can be very challenging because there are times when I know that I should be concentrating, and trying to really listen to what the teacher is saying, but my mind is racing and I have either too many thoughts jumbling around, or nearly no thoughts leaving a void in my memory,” Jones said.
Craig said that people who have ADHD are more likely to drop out of college.
“People have oftentimes gotten through high school — you know it may have been tough — it may have depended on how rigorous their high school studies were, but when you get to college there’s a whole new level of demand,” Craig said. “So the courses are harder, there’s more work to do and so there’s a higher demand that way.”
Craig said that people who have the inattentive subtype have a hard time maintaining their focus and attention. If they are not interested in a certain thing, they won’t be able to focus, but if they’re interested in something, they can engage in something called hyper focus.
“In one of the books I read they say people with ADD have two time zones: now and not now,” Huber said. “So if I don’t want to do something I will not do it — nothing in the world will get me to do it, but if I want to do something and if I’m motivated, I will drop everything and do it.”
While the average person can track long-term consequences while trying to complete a task, Craig said that it’s more difficult for those with ADHD.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are psychostimulants.
“Stimulants appear to boost and balance levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These medications help improve the signs and symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity — sometimes dramatically,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Craig said that prescribing somebody that seems hyperactive a stimulant might seem ironic, but that it instead stimulates the brain to be less impulsive.
Huber takes Adderall, a stimulant, but said she tries to remedy medication with natural solutions.
“A 30-minute cardio workout is the same as a dose of medication for people with ADD usually,” Huber said. “I [also]try to make my diet the most healthy I can.”
Craig also suggests exercise to help with focus.
“Exercise is good for everybody — and what I’m about to say is true for everybody — if they get 20-30 minutes of cardio, their focus is better for about two hours afterward,” Craig said. “And so if they really need to focus on something, like a paper, if they’ll use that two hour window that they have post exercise that can be really useful.”
Jones said he disliked being dependent on a pill with side affects he didn’t like, and that he does not currently take medication for his ADHD. Huber said she tries to have regular sleeping habits, and has learned to be more disciplined.
“I go to the library every single Saturday — I know before I make any plans that I will be there, so it’s not even a temptation when I am offered to do certain things,” Huber said.
She also said that she used to never leave the library until her homework was finished.
“If they’re easily distracted it could be ser important to be on campus, something where they are free of distractions, rather than back at their apartment. … That’s a good way to self-sabotage,” Craig said.
Jones said that eliminating distractions helps him with his ADHD.
“I put my phone away during class,” Jones said. “I take notes with a pen and paper, so I’m not tempted to surf the Internet on my laptop. I am also blunt with those around me. I have offended and embarrassed people for calling them out in class for being distracting.”
Jones also said that even though having ADHD can be annoying, he is grateful for it.
“I believe there are pros to having ADHD,” Jones said. “It is part of what makes me who I am. I am a creative person, and pay a lot of attention to details, and many of those details will replay over and over in my head, making me more aware of things.”
Huber went from being on academic probation to straight A’s, and even started tutoring others this semester.
“It’s crazy,” Huber said. “I don’t really know how I managed to do it. … I tutor and I work on campus, and I’m planning a class that I’m going to be teaching in the fall. And so to me, it’s just a testament that ADD can be over-diagnosed but it’s very real for the people that do have it but it’s very curable and it’s not like a death sentence. Like, you need to learn to cope with it and then be able to make it work for you. So it’s definitely satisfying to know I haven’t used it as a crutch.”