Attention Deficit Disorder

An affliction shared by up to an estimated 5% of the population. Characterized by the inability to focus on a task. Historically treated with RitalinDrug; newer drugs have appeared since the diagnosis count has shot up in recent years. Often abbreviated "ADD" or "ADHD" (+hyperactive).

Lots of info at

ADD-afflictees on wiki:

For a point of view that it's not a disorder see

An affliction shared by an uncountable number of people because, despite tons of studies, nobody's really quite sure how to tell beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not someone has it.

I hate big lies like the above. MRI studies have conclusively shown the difference in brain activity of a person with ADD and a person without ADD. If you can't get your health insurance company to pay for an MRI examination, that is not the fault of the definition of ADD, it is the fault of the insurance company.

I get very pissed off because there is so much misinformation about this on the Internet, and much of it is coming from people who have no scientific or medical knowledge. I don't have ADD myself, but I can read the books and papers on it - written by scientists, ADDers, and Doctors - and I am very close to some adults who do have it, and without their prescription drugs, some of them wouldn't be able to hold a job.

-- KeithRay

This viewpoint has some historical basis. ADD has evolved in the last century from a brain trauma disorder (due to occurrence after an encephalitis outbreak in the 1920s) to a developmental syndrome in the DSR-II (which could be diagnosed based solely on third-party reports) to today's treatable neurologic disorder found via objective testing. And even though ADD is now believed to be a physical condition, treatment often requires both medication and therapy, because old coping mechanisms need to be unlearned and new ones put in place.

Today, there are objective Continuous Performance Tests (CPTs) which can be used not only to help detect ADD, but also to measure the precise effect of the medication, preventing the common problem of overmedication. In practice, some ADD sufferers respond to as little 1mg of RitalinDrug whereas there have been cases where up to 100mg was required to see a measurable improvement.

The problem with CPTs, though (Connors, Wisconsin card sorting, etc) is that they put the individual into a novel and potentially interesting situation. And, those are precisely the situations in which an ADD individual is least likely to have attention issues.

Research into ADD is ongoing: it has been one of the most active fields of neuro-psychology over the last few decades.

-- IanOsgood (disclaimer: I just attended a workshop on ADHD for my new job)

I tend to agree, for a variety of reasons, that ADD really is what readers of this board would think of as a hardware issue, not just a software issue. But I'll quibble with the way KeithRay cites the MRI results as though they're definitive evidence. I think perhaps he's been preaching to the converted too long if nobody has asked him how this is different from the differing MRI (or PET? can't remember...) patterns in skilled chess players analyzing chess board positions compared to ordinary people doing the same. If ordinary skill acquisition and habits alter the physical distribution of brain activity, what is the special significance of ADD MRI activity patterns being different? Is it intended to show that ADD differs from an ordinary learned behavior pattern? And does it show that? I think not. (Maybe if more details of the MRI differences are given, they *are* definitive evidence. I just don't think the information given so far suffices.)
From ShaeErisson:

I was diagnosed with AttentionDeficitDisorder in February 1999. I have had various related prescriptions including RitalinDrug. If anyone tells you that AttentionDeficitDisorder does not exist, or that it is an excuse, please refer him or her to me.

Shae, I'm referring myself to you. I think RitalinDrug is prescribed too frequently, and AttentionDeficitDisorder is often (but not always) used as an excuse for JustBeingaChild. The problem is that any ADD diagnosis is really far too subjective. Teachers in the UnitedStatesOfAmerica (at least) are, in effect, prescribing the drug to students en masse when said students are largely just horribly undisciplined. I was on Ritalin for a while in my very late teens; I also have ADD. I wasn't diagnosed because I was disciplined and knowledgeable due to my love of reading. (I guess the teachers assumed I learned it in their class, when in reality, my mind was miles away.)

But that's just my POV... -- MattBehrens

For me, RitalinDrug or AdderallDrug is the difference between thinking in a fog bank and having clear mental skies. That's why I can say ADD does exist, and that there are people who really need the medication; I'm one of them. -- ShaeErisson

I won't argue with your experience; I believe you. RitalinDrug helped me for a bit, although the headaches made me quit (and my wife seems to think I'm better without it, though I have a hard time agreeing with her...). I just have a problem with those who see AttentionDeficitDisorder where it does not exist. -- MattBehrens

I have a problem with overprescription also (especially since I know the side-effects), but there really are cases where it's a great and wonderful thing. My fiancée says I'm not much fun while taking medication, but I find it very hard to work any other way. -- ShaeErisson

What about programming? Do you find it easier or harder to program on meds, or does it depend on how challenging the programming problem is? -- JasonArhart

Jason: In my experience, ItDepends. Generally it's a waste and makes it harder when you were not okay to begin with, i.e: trying to stimulate to overcome negative. On the other hand, snorting a Ritalin tablet when going into a hacker-mode has, in the past, made me do wonders and HeroicProgramming feats. But TheresNoSilverBullet?, side-effects obviously exist, although in the case of ritas, worse I could go to was craving and getting high for the rest of the all-nighter and waking up late and completely dizzy for work next day. Also, it's deceptively easy to forget to eat.

Safer to do while DrugPairProgramming?, as long as you don't pick a freak :)

Obviously, YMMV. Generally, NotSafeForWork? unless you *really* know what you're doing.

There is a problem in the US with at least some school districts getting extra funding for each ADD-diagnosed student they have, leading to pressure to call nearly any exuberant behavior a symptom of ADD -- Pete Hardie

I've heard of several cases of kids, thought by parents or teachers to have AttentionDeficitDisorder, who upon further diagnosis and testing turned out to be "merely" highly gifted. Placed in an appropriate educational setting - typically more "hard" academic work and only very minimal repetition of already-mastered concepts - they thrive, and their AttentionDeficitDisorder symptoms lessen immensely or disappear.

To me, it's obvious that AttentionDeficitDisorder does exist, but it also sounds possible that it's commonly suspected wrongly or misdiagnosed.

-- MarkSchumann

As a teacher with ADD I feel sorry for my students somedays because I have great difficulty "staying with" a subject more than the first explanation. I have difficulty and find mandatory review of previous concepts painful and I have a tendency to explain them quite poorly the second time around. It takes an enormous effort to "gather my thoughts" on that particular subject as I am off on something else much more interesting by then.

I agree that our society is overmedicated. If we are medicating children into the "bell curve" of society that would be one thing. But the numbers indicated that we are medicating the vast majority of children - not just the few on the fringes, outside of the center of the bell. That is what indicates a problem to me.

Maybe I could hope for a class of well-disciplined ADD students that could "keep up with me" :)

-- CLH, a teacher

I have a random question for either/both of you: Do you find life more or less fun when you are on medication? I don't mean productivity, but fun. -- SunirShah

Tough call. In high school, I would have told you that I felt much less creative and less crazy when on meds. Today, I'm not sure; I think I did too much subconscious association of meds with boring stuff (i.e. required college courses) to make a good judgment. -- MattBehrens

Life is much more fun without meds! But that's more 'in the moment.' Without meds my life has a tendency to fall apart by itself. Day to day maintenance is difficult. I am more fun to be around, and I enjoy it more when I'm not medicated. -- ShaeErisson

I've only been on them for a month, but some of the side-effects of being on an amphetamine make life more enjoyable. For example, I'm more talkative and expressive when I'm on them. I'm certainly more sociable. I feel like I could go to a party and actually make conversation instead of trying to determine the taxonomy of the potted plants. On the other hand, as I've written elsewhere on this page, I'm afraid that I may not be able to hyper-focus while on them, and becoming obsessed with a project to the exclusion of anything else is incredibly fun. -- DanCrookston?

I'll have to second Dan on that. The description above is excellent. Obviously a risky approach for the simple sake of it, but it's a force to be reckoned with when used properly. As long as you remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Amphetamines are not like pot, in that you'd simply give up when you get stoned enough. In fact, it works exactly the other way around, although in practice the local momentum resistance builds up fairly quickly.

Dan: how about going to a party and *effectively* having a conversation about the taxonomy of potted plants? It's tempting with all that dopamine bursting! :)

As someone with fear of having ADD, I must say that I wasn't particularly becalmed by the comments of ShaeErisson and MattBehrens. A huge part of me says that the problem with most people is that they haven't found where they "fit" -- where the feedback from the environment encourages them to continue the natural growth of childhood. Both of your comments lead me to believe that RitalinDrug enables you to tolerate bad situations, and perhaps be more complacent in a social setting. Some modern scientists are daring to point out that depression and ADD-like symptoms may be perfectly valid ways for your biology telling you that you are in a bad situation, and you need to move on. Drugging yourself into acceptance is not the right solution. -- ChristopherPaulicka

I can only speak from my own experience, but I think you may be misunderstanding them. First, there's a difference between "tolerating bad situations" and doing things that need to be done, but which aren't interesting. Everyone has to do things that are boring, unless they're too unintelligent not to get bored. Second, being on medication has enabled me to do things that I wanted to previously, but which were too boring to keep my attention. Because that sounds contradictory, I'll give an example. I've got an entire library of programming books on topics that I'm incredibly interested in. I quickly discovered that reading and understanding them requires trudging through several chapters of introductory material. Usually, only the last chapter or two in any technical book has the really "cool" stuff - but to understand the code in those chapters, you have to read the chapters before them. Now that I'm on meds, I can breeze through chapter after chapter of boring stuff, grasp it, and get to the good stuff. When you keep using the words 'bad situation' it makes me think that you mean 'abusive' instead of 'boring.' I'm on meds so that I can do things I genuinely want to, not so that I can endure the abuse of teachers and supervisors.

If you think you may have ADD, don't let what's said here deter you from examining literature on the subject at length, possibly seeing a psychologist about it, and then making a decision *on your own* about whether to go on meds for it. Don't let anyone pressure you into it, but do remember that you can always stop taking them if they don't work or make things worse. You also might, as you suggested, try to find where you "fit" by looking for a new line of work that caters to short attention spans. If you can handle the emotional aspect of it, being a paramedic is very fast paced. -- DanCrookston?

I suppose it depends on the seriousness of your affliction. If someone was depressed to the point of contemplating suicide, I'd say, hell yeah, give them drugs as soon as possible if it'll get them back on track enough to make a rational decision. Similarly, heavy-duty ADD symptoms just plain need some kind of treatment so that a person can function in today's society. We live in the real world, and not in a fantasyland where we can get humanity to adapt to us. (Sometimes I wonder what sort of mind-altering drugs the rest of the world would have to take in order to come in-line with my thoughts.)

Obviously it'd be ideal if they could function without; and of course I, like many others, worry about the day when we drug our population until we can't recognize individuals anymore. I don't think we're anywhere near that point, though. FWIW, I haven't taken anything but Tylenol and Sudafed for a few years. Coffee seems to do me just fine now that I am actually working with computers all day at work as opposed to trying to follow lectures in school. -- MattBehrens

Question: How closely related are Sudafed and Ritalin? Sudafed is one of the precursors of speed; Some users consider Ritalin to be equivalent to speed.

The Modesto Bee has written a piece of propaganda on the manufacture and use of speed:

-- AnonymousDonor (feel free to delete or rewrite or change the meaning of this post.)

I've had prescriptions for both dextroamphetamines, and for methylphenidate (Ritalin). Having taken both of them legally, I can tell you that dextroamphetamines sometimes makes my mouth dry, my muscles sore, makes me feel paranoid, and gives me insomnia but always makes me calmer and more focused. Ritalin does not have the same side-effects. Sometimes I feel suddenly sad when Ritalin wears off, but that's it. For me at least, amphetamines suck, they have way too many bad side-effects. -- ShaeErisson
The two points where RitalinDrug or AdderallDrug really make a difference for me are: As for minute to minute thinking, when I look at my watch and count the seconds out loud, somewhere between three and six seconds later I've forgotten I was counting and am thinking about something else. Ritalin gives me more than thirty seconds. How long can you count?

Let me ask this... is this true for you for *all* tasks, or just for tasks like counting out loud? Are there any tasks you can perform while not on Ritalin and if so, what kind of tasks are they? Does Ritalin affect your performance of these tasks, and if so, how? -- AndyPierce

Making myself do something I don't enjoy is extremely hard for me; I have this feeling of climbing a high wall to push myself to do it. With Ritalin, the wall is much smaller and it takes about one third of the effort normally required.

The good points are: I think the condition called ADD is just way out towards one end of the bell curve of humanity. I just wish it would fit into the prevailing society better. -- ShaeErisson

"... When I look at my watch and count the seconds out loud, somewhere between three and six seconds later I've forgotten I was counting and am thinking about something else."

How can this be? I'm not trying to doubt you; just this is difficult for me to imagine being the case for anyone having your obvious grasp of natural language, communication, high-level concepts, etc. Would it affect your concentration duration, do you think, if someone were to ask you to do this same verbal watch second counting thing, if they guaranteed payment of $10 million to you if you could keep counting seconds for an hour? And if you believe this would affect your concentration positively, could you also just imagine some kind of overarching scenario like this - though it be fictional - before beginning your count, and have that too play a part in sticking you to the task as long as you wanted? (Just trying to understand.) -- BillKelly

There's no way I could count all the seconds in an hour with no breaks to remember what I was doing. $10 million wouldn't do it, nor would a huge dose of focus drugs. -- ShaeErisson

A supreme application of willpower can sometimes power through these moments, but imagine what it would be like to have to work that hard all the time, just to do what most people do effortlessly.

I didn't write the paragraph above, but I agree with it. The supreme application of willpower works sometimes for a short span of time, but it's hard work. -- ShaeErisson

Let me ask this... is this true for you for *all* tasks, or just for tasks like counting out loud? Are there any tasks you can perform while not on Ritalin and if so, what kind of tasks are they? Does Ritalin affect your performance of these tasks, and if so, how? -- AndyPierce

I like to play real time strategy games like Warcraft, Starcraft, Dark Reign and the like. Those games I play better when I have not taken any medication. I think there are two reasons for that - first, I can switch focus faster without meds, and second, things that I am highly motivated to do get done faster without medication. The tasks that are easiest for me to do have a very small feedback loop, on the order of two or three seconds, and switch focus, context, etc., very quickly.

For the opposite example, try to stop reading this Wiki when high on ritas. It's an enormous amount of work. I've traded a many good nights of sleep for Internet drifting because of this. All the reading was fascinating. Waking up at 8, on the other hand, was a mess. -- Anonymous Abuser.

Rereading this, I sound like child labor.

I think ADD really is as difficult as it appears to be. But you learn to work around it. If you hear me say 'uh' in a conversation, it means I'm taking a second out to reload the conversation. I carry a palm pilot with all my appointments and things to do. I have a fifteen second mental scrollback buffer for the things I've heard just in case I miss something. My fiancée does all my paperwork (THANK GOD!). And yet there's the synergy of hanging out with other very ADD people where the conversation has an oblique lateral reference every sentence and the topic changes every two sentences to handle the four or six topics being discussed at the same time. It's different, it's hard, and it's fun. If you don't ask me before a deadline, I'll tell you I like being this way. -- ShaeErisson

That "uh" thing could also be considered a "flashback" thing. Information overload? :)

I've suspected for years that ADD is the opposite of epilepsy. I view thought as the equivalent of sound waves in a gas. From what I've read about epilepsy, a self-reinforcing standing wave is created that doesn't allow any other wave to propagate. This is supposed to be caused by a hardware flaw of some kind. I think ADD is a similar hardware flaw with the opposite effect, in which a standing wave of thought is almost impossible to propagate. -- ShaeErisson
I've heard it explained that attention deficit disorder people don't do anything different; they just do it all the time. We all daydream during boring situations; ADDers are more prone to. We all get into the MentalStateCalledFlow every now and then when we're doing something engaging; ADDers are more prone to that as well. We all shift our weight every so often; ADDers often fidget and rock. -- NickBensema

How people react to having ADD is rather interesting. It is possible for somebody, with the right influences, to develop mental patterns to hide their ADD, like carrying a pad of paper around all of the time. They come off as bright but perhaps a little quirkier than the norm and nobody notices. They probably won't even be diagnosed with the condition.

The problem with diagnosis is that they are now talking about there being several different related conditions that are all masquerading as ADD and they are all reacting to Ritalin. ADD also does not exist as a simple on/off condition. ADD is a spectrum. Some people have relatively minor cases of it and nobody notices except that they forget things from time to time. The big question becomes, at what point is somebody outside of the societal norm and needs to have ADD.

It has come up recently in research that people with ADD who are medicated with RitalinDrug and AdderallDrug are less likely to take up substance abuse later on in life compared to both "normal" people and non-medicated ADD folks.

Having ADD is not all peaches and cream, medicated or not. You have people who will not believe that ADD exists and figure that it's a cover for laziness. Because all of the myths that are out there about it, they feel that they are justified in this belief. As a result, I have found myself being excessively careful about sharing my diagnosis of ADD with others, lest the negative stereotypes be associated with me. I have no association on the public web, nor do I mention it when I was on my job hunt, because I didn't want that coloring their assessment of me. Sure it explains my more annoying personality quirks, but it also makes it seem like I'm a hypochondriac, wanting to sue them, or lazy.

In California, the state that legalized marijuana, it requires a special prescription form to receive it, plus the various regulations make it annoying for the local drugstore to carry it. Can somebody explain that to me?

I have noticed that programming is one of the tasks that appeal to people with ADD behavior patterns, much more so than most other fields. I'm not sure if I can explain that, other than to note that being an open source developer is close to the professional dilettante tactic of dealing with ADD.

-- AnonymousDonor (Posting without a name for reasons given above)
Moved here from VideoAddiction:

I know that well respected authorities on the subject deny it, but I can't help but wonder if AttentionDeficitDisorder is caused by TV watching. Real life does not move at the pace of television cartoons. And real life requires infinitely more planning and human interaction than TV. Wouldn't one naturally wonder if massive amounts of visual stimulation, combined with a reduction in real human interaction would cause young viewers to have problems dealing with the slow pace of everyday life?

I know it doesn't prove anything, but can one find any mention of "AttentionDeficitDisorder" symptoms in children that have *NOT* been exposed to long hours of TV viewing, over a number of years?

This is purely an opinion piece, not based on any scientific knowledge or relevant experience.

Sure. How about Thomas Edison? -- EarlJenkins

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, I had all the symptoms of ADD, and I seldom saw moving pictures (thanks to parents lack of TV). I was never formally diagnosed because the school I went to believed in working with the kids rather than drugging them. So my wise teacher would send me to a cubicle in the library to do my work, where there was so little distraction that there wasn't anything to do but finish the work.

I have ADD kids, and they were that way when we didn't let them watch TV. We let them watch some now, and it hasn't changed them up or down. All you have to do is watch me for 5 minutes to understand where they got it from :-). I grew up in India, certainly without a TV, and watched very little TV (still don't, but that doesn't seem to help).

At the same time, they learn a tremendous amount from TV - especially all the science series. From age 6 to 10, they keep showing up with the most amazing information and I ask them, "Where did you get that?" And they say, "Bill Nye, the SCIENCE Guy!" or "The underwater movie." Did you know some fish hatch their eggs in their mouths? And the parasitic catfish have learned to drop their eggs into those mouths, so the baby catfish hatch in the same mother fishes mouths? How did they learn to do that, being just dumb fish? My 8-year-old is doing a report on 4" long blue-ringed octopuses that have a lethally poisonous bite - don't pick one up on the beach. We have a heck of a time locating the same information in books that he remembers from the TV show.

At the same time, TV is compelling, and we have to work to keep the hours down. And there are people I simply hate to visit because they keep the TV on all the time, as wallpaper.-- AlistairCockburn

I'm an ADD kid who's nearing thirty... I didn't watch TV as a child, and still don't as an adult, so I doubt that has anything to do with it. One good point of ADD is that TVs are way too boring; movies are too slow once you can read fast. You lose so much detail when watching a movie that you get out of books in half the time. -- ShaeErisson

At first, your comment about movies being 'too slow' for ADDers didn't seem to fit with my experience. However, when watching movies with friends, I cannot resist making wisecracks (even when it gets me scolded). At home, I rent DVDs from NetFlix? but don't watch them until weeks later (not very cost-effective! =) ... often I abandon the linear narrative and end up skipping around to analyze the actors, sets, commentaries, etc. -- A CluelessWikiNewbie

I get confused about ADD. I used to have a prescription for RitalinDrug when I was in high school, but I was one of those kids who sold it to make a quick buck. (I was and am amazed that people would pay for it, but I stubbornly refused to try it myself, so what do I know?)

Large parts of this page ring incredibly true for me. For example, the part about unenjoyable tasks being incredibly difficult. I work from home right now on a project that is relatively interesting to me... but for the past 4 months I have never been able to make myself work more than 15 hours a week. However, when I'm working on a project I'm /really/ interested in, everything else in the world seems to disappear, so that doesn't really fit with the ADD persona? (And then when I'm 90% of the way done with the aforementioned really interesting project, and just have to track down the final issues, etc, I drop it and finish it months later, or (more commonly) never).

The not standing still thing also is amazingly familiar. I do not stand still. Ever. I sit still for periods of a minute or three, before shifting. TV is really, really boring to me.

I can, with effort, count to 30 on a stopwatch. I got bored after that, so who knows how far I could've made it.

Oh, another thing that makes me ADD suspicious: one time I needed to look up a phone number. The phone book was within sight just across the room. But I walked across the room, forgot what I was doing, and walked back to the couch. Remembered what I needed, headed back, forgot again, and went back to the couch. Repeat at least 5 times. And of course, when I finally did get the phone book, I totally forgot what I needed it for. This stuff happens to me CONSTANTLY and is the main type of stuff that makes me think I have ADD.

Anyway, the problem I have with it is that I often have a hard time believing everyone else in the world doesn't feel the same way as I do. Do I have ADD? I dunno. A large chunk of this stuff makes me feel like I do, but doesn't EVERYONE have a hard time completing unenjoyable tasks, etc? How am I supposed to know if my world is that different from everyone else's? How do you know, Shae?

I give up.

-- AnonymousDonor

A few questions for you (bear in mind that I am not a health worker): is your workspace very untidy? Is your living space untidy? When you've stopped using something do you just put it down in the nearest place and then forget all about it until the next time you need it? Do you have a prodigious memory for facts? Are you quick at working things out from first principles? Are you slow to acquire new skills, especially new motor skills? Do you have a large vocabulary, and great technical skill at deploying it, but often find that you have little to say? Do you specifically find unfocused small talk and random social pleasantries difficult? Do you sometimes feel, in social situations, that everyone else is playing some intricate game that you don't know the rules of? Do you have hobbies or interests that consume your attention from time to time, but that you may not touch for weeks in between? Do you often seem to find yourself talking at cross-purposes with people? Do you often seem to say the "wrong thing"? Do you have a very few, very intense friendships?

The answer to most those questions is yes (a lot with a more definitive "HELL yes") but there are some anomalies. For example, my vocabulary is not especially large. In social situations, I generally feel like I do understand the game, I am just (alternately) unable or unwilling to play along. I don't understand the question about "cross purposes", and I don't feel like I say the "wrong thing" especially often. Well, I often say things I probably shouldn't, but it's usually wrapped in enough humor that it's not a big deal. The rest get, for the most part, a resounding yes. I guess it might be worth my time to see a psychologist?

It might, or it might not. These questions are not aimed so much at ADD as at high-functioning AspergersSyndrome. Asperger's is a complicated thing, and requires a long and involved diagnostic process to be sure of it. Based on my own experiences I believe that it is quite common amongst technical folk. The strengths of high functioning Asperger's behavior are sometimes of benefit in technical jobs, and the weaknesses likely to be overlooked.

Slashdot mentioned a San Francisco newspaper story a few months back that discussed a sharp rise in the number of autistic children in the Bay area, and one of the hypotheses was that computer people show a higher incidence of AspergersSyndrome and other near-autism syndromes, and Silicon Valley is/was basically the mother lode for geek breeding over the past 20 years; the upshot is that we geeks are more likely to have it, and second-generation geeks more so -- PeteHardie

I laughed out loud (at myself) when I read that story about the phone book; I do that sort of thing a tremendous amount. If you'd like to compare notes, drop me an email. -- KeithBraithwaite

I've been discussing the possibility that I've got ADD with my doctor recently. I didn't know much about ADD until several years ago when I read a book call Shadow Syndromes that had been recommended on SlashDot; reading the chapter on ADD was an eye-opener for me, suddenly making some sense of my personality. I'm working on getting an official diagnosis right now.

My doctor seemed a bit skeptical when I broached the subject with him, mostly because I mentioned that I'm a programmer; his view was that the detail-oriented nature of the work would make it harder for someone with ADD to be successful. Now, I consider myself to be a pretty good programmer, so I spent some time thinking about this. What I've worked out is that coupled with an over-developed sense of responsibility and work ethic, the hallmark ADD trait of a low tolerance for frustration explained a lot. In essence I've taught myself over the years to make the annoying details of programming disappear by whatever means possible (most of my work is in C++). It just happens that this works well for me in developing high-quality software (automating the annoying stuff, which is usually error-prone anyway) in that I can concentrate on the interesting things; just don't ask me to write much in the documentation...

I've been of two minds regarding meds. Right now I figure that anything I can do to make myself more productive is a good thing. I can't say whether they would make life more enjoyable or not; if they have any affect on my ability to maintain relationships with people, I'd suspect life would become *more* enjoyable... Better living through chemistry, I guess.

Matt and Shae's comments above are quite interesting. The comments about TV were amusing; I actually learned how to read by deciphering the TV guide - I didn't believe my dad when he would tell me what was on... But I don't think TV had much to do with my brain; my dad seems to be very similar to me.

-- AnonymousDonor

Heh. I have one kid who learned to read by watching Wheel of Fortune on TV. -- MarkSchumann

Hi all. Consider my self the specimen under the scope. Age:26, Sex:Male Status:Loner. I watched TV for less than 2hrs a week during my pre-teen years; during my teen years it went up to about 10-12 hrs a week and some times up to 30 Hrs a week. And there was corresponding decrease in my grades at school. When my parents locked the TV in a room, I took up novels. Now, I watch TV for at least 3hrs a day and up to 15 Hrs on the weekends. I try not to but it's like an addiction. Do you think I should take meds to fight this? Although I feel miserable at the end of the TV watching session I seem to lack the resolve to stop doing it. The relevance being I think I suffer from ADD and, from my experience, I believe that during the part of life when I was not watching TV, I had a higher level of concentration and TV sowed the seeds of ADD in my head. -- Nat

Kids with ADHD (and I suspect adults with the condition) would not be able to sit in front of the TV for more than 10 minutes. As for ADD diagnosed, I'm not sure.

I don't think AD(H)D is solely environmental or genetic, I believe it is a combination of both. My brother has diagnosed ADHD but i would say we are very similar, I too exhibit minor symptoms such as restlessness, easily bored, etc, but I think the system helped me wheedle these into my personality so they actually help me do what I love (Computer stuff and Youth Work). But people like my brother, with severe symptoms that have such a bigger medical hurdle to cross, that 'labelling 'and medicating helped him get back to 'normal' but then his beliefs became part of his diagnosed problem. I know my brother has a medical condition, but I know that he also USES that medical condition to explain his behaviour, rather than trying to help himself out and supposedly 'get better'. That's my 2 cents anyway. (I'm not blanketly saying that everyone with AD(H)D is in this same situation, but rather that if we teach our kids it's good to be dependent on medicine and blame our problems on our medical conditions, they are never going to really want to live beyond their prescription and their condition!)

I've heard that RitalinDrug is a stimulant; that somehow the increased stimulus helps the brain to settle into sustainable patterns that ADD would normally interrupt. Perhaps the high incidence of caffeine (MountainDew) abuse among programmers could be related to milder ADD? -- ChrisFay (An almost certain sufferer of mild ADD).

Chris, that seems to be the case. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Self-medicating with caffeine (or in my case, Ephedra) is apparently common. Recent drugs like Strattera provide some of the same effects as Ritalin without the stimulant (and the resulting rollercoaster). Seems to be working for me...

Just a remark: the effects of Ritalin when taken vs. snorted are *quite* different. A friend once described the snorting effect as cocaine-light, minus all the crap. If you look into the chemical compose, it makes a lot of sense. The mucose absorbs the drug almost instantaneously, going directly to the bloodstream. I'd recommend anyone taking Ritalin to try it at least once, for the sake of science :) -- AnonymousDonor.

(new wiki user here, sorry if I misplay "the rules of the game") The Phone Book Thing, absolutely (see above). I am back in school finally, and recently I feel that I have to look into the possibility that I have ADD. I had no idea until I started looking it up on the internet that ADD covered the spectrum of my difficulties with not just concentration on schoolwork, but with time (always late) and also with irritability. I have been self-medicating for about three weeks with sudafed. The difference is pretty significant. From the very first day I was suddenly the person in class with answers instead of sitting in impatient confusion. I can study all day on sudafed (although I still don't set up these all-day marathons until the day before the test), as it cuts right through the frustration. I can also stay awake to take a test now. So now I am getting better grades. I do not necessarily think self-medicating is a good idea. I have always been able to deal with school by skimming, cramming, and dragging myself through frustration and forgetfulness to do things that probably should not be so hard, like even getting to class. How much more successful could I be if I did not have this thing that seems a lot like ADD, so that I could be using my intelligence to be a stand-out student, instead of just to survive? If a B in physics is not too hard for me, despite the fact that I miss class, space out when I am there, don't do most of the homework, etc., (I guess I am good at extrapolating from first principles?) what would it be like if I got the ADD-like symptoms under control? -- signed, no user name yet, C.P.

The problem with self-medicating with caffeine is that it doesn't twiggle (based on current understanding of neurotransmitters related to stimulants and ADD) the right bits of the brain. Caffeine and RitalinDrug enhance the functioning of two completely different neurotransmitters. As somebody who has taken both substances, I can assure you that the two have completely different effects, at least with my brain.

No, the real problem with self-medication is crystal meth. That's a quick way to leave the human race. And, from ADD-suffering tweakers I've talked to, it makes your ADD worse, permanently.

-- AnonymousDonor

Just wanted to add my story to an already excellent page about ADD. Ever since I started school that required focus and concentration, I've been doing poorly at it. I can focus on something uninteresting for maybe 10 minutes, if I'm lucky. I always thought (until just a few months ago) that I was just lazy and undisciplined. This, I'm sure, contributed significantly to fairly severe depression. During high school I was put on ritalin but at the time I was convinced that ADD was an imaginary disorder, and after not noticing any effect I asked to be taken off the ritalin. A few months ago (I am now 26) I took the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) and the results seemed to indicate that I might have ADD. The psychologist I was working with read the diagnostic criteria to me, and I was shocked and beyond thrilled to discover that not only were these things not normal (i.e. I wasn't just a lazy bum,) but that they could be treated. Today I am on Adderall and so far, aside from the weight loss, I love it. -- DanCrookston?

Hey Dan, I am starting another wiki page called AdderallDrug (wiki already has RitalinDrug). I thought it would be cool to have your post above copied onto it, but I did not want to overstep by doing this myself. -- C.P.

AADD (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder), AADHD (Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) These personalities have always been a part of human life. In fact, studies have shown that these people are traditionally the explorers and adventurers of the world. Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? Who can say, because there are benefits with and without. What it looks like is going on, is pretty much a portion of the brain falls into a sleep-like state if not stimulated by something new or interesting. Things that are constantly changing and are also exciting, draw the attention of these people. Many become thrill seekers and/or self-medicators by legal and illegal means.

What causes it? There are many things that seem to suggest that they contribute to this condition: i.e. Chemicals in the environment and foods; drug use of parents; etc. But, none is more striking then the much higher incidence of this condition as more parents are working and not at home taking care of their children. These children are raised by others, and this seems to cause restlessness and a certain nervousness that lead to the symptoms of ADD. The early stages of this condition can be reversed depending on age and quality of attention the child receives. We have witnessed very large improvements in condition and behavior, some to nearly normal, and some to above normal. Certainly, some of the most important factors are: truly bonding with a parent/caregiver; having a complete trust of the parent/caregiver (the child must be taught that no matter what they do (or not do) the love of the parent/caregiver is unshakable. Behavior does not affect true, pure, total love for the child.). It is also very remarkable, how that if these children are put into an environment where that they have the total and complete attention of the parent/caregiver at all times, ADD symptoms fade as the child learns that this new situation can be trusted to be there always. The rest involves very careful attention to teaching and interacting with the child. Lots of holding, hugging, personal and hands-on all the way, once the original barrier has been broken.

I have one particular friend, whom I took on as a personal project around 34 years ago. He was headed for a life of drug-abuse and crime. Today he is a successful business owner, has a large thriving family, and a loving and devoted wife.

I have family members with this condition (I do not have it). I understand this condition, and yes, it is most definitely real. I have watched the progress of this condition in adults, both treated and untreated. It is real, it can be devastating, but it can also be used to advantage by some personalities.

The big question: Is it a bad thing, or is it a good thing, for society? To some extent, it seems to be a natural response that creates a natural condition, that seems to lead to natural behaviors, that seem to be aimed at fixing societies problems at some point down the road i.e. exploration and pushing the limits of things which can lead to new discoveries that benefit mankind. I can say, that on an individual bases, the condition can be absolutely devastating if left unaddressed or untreated. One particular interesting little but powerful tool, is simple awareness. Many people find that their condition greatly improves when they become aware of the condition, then learning to recognize it in their own behavior and correcting it on-the-fly. There are those, that the condition seems to be progressive, despite all treatments and medications, and sadly they progress into serious mental and physical conditions. ADD, being one of those catch-all categories, being an umbrella that covers a broad range of symptoms, really includes many physical, psychological, and emotional conditions. Nobody really truly knows what is what.


When my son was diagnosed with AttentionDeficitDisorder about 5 years ago, I shared many of the prejudices that other PeopleWhoKnowNothingAboutADD volunteer so willingly on pages like this. That was until I read the book Driven to Distraction ISBN 0684801280 . It was like reading my own life story. The author thinks (like some of the commenters on this page) that ADD is a mixed blessing, but others, like, think this is nonsense and that ADD is pure handicap. Looking at my own life, I can see some potential upsides but I would gladly trade them for a cure. For my son, there are no upsides at all. He cannot function without medication. With medication he is on the honor roll. Without, I think he might end up in prison.

I share pretty much all the symptoms people have described on this page. My variation on the count-to-thirty exercise (from way before I had heard of ADD) was "If you asked me to list the days of the week, I would forget Wednesday".

I have learned to cope with my ADD on a day-to-day basis but some of the tales of adventurers ring true: left school at 16, joined the navy, left to travel the world, emigrated 4 times. I have lost count of the pet projects that consumed all of my midnight oil for months on end but did not get finished when there was just one mundane thing left to do.

This is the first anonymous posting I have left in many, many years in any context because I believe the acronym ADD translates to Do Not Hire in the minds of most PeopleWhoKnowNothingAboutADD. -- AnonymousCoward

I thought that what is labelled ADD is often not a disorder but the result of an inappropriate environment and the shortcomings of our society (including inexperienced parents). But maybe at the end of the spectrum of attention and interest scale there really are cases that have to be considered ill. But surely not 5% of the population. 5% of a population are not ill but rather 5% are incompatible with the society as it evolved without asking them.

I don't think that I 'have' ADD. I did get remarks in my school report for not being attentive to school topics (like playing with pens and reading other chapters in the school books). I was much more focussed on topics that interested me. Indeed my trick always has been to modify any problem until it became interesting or search out interesting problems (like in math, physics and computer science) in the first place. I am known for getting so immersed into task so often and so quickly that I don't notice people entering or leaving or even calling my name. But only for tasks that gain my interest (of which there are plenty). I do have problems paying attention to the emotions of people. And I don't get subtle cues they may send.

On a side track I recently noticed that my son can change his AngleOfVisualPerception like I can. I wonder if this is a normal thing or something special.

-- GunnarZarncke

Attention Deficit Disorder? It's an exaggeration. I don't think people's attention suddenly just


View edit of April 13, 2010 or FindPage with title or text search