VIDEO: Living with Attention Deficit Disorder is Harder Than You Think
Some students tell Erin Hindalong that her ADD is fake. They blame her inability to focus on some unfocused personality that doesn’t come close to defining her. Hindalong deals with ADD everyday and some of the stories do seem like a typical college student’s lifestyle: forgetful and fast paced. However, when Hindalong forgets that she’s had the stove on for over an hour it isn’t because she’s “faking.” It stems from her brain’s chemical problem to organize thoughts. This is known as ADD.
High School Realization
Hindalong always had trouble finishing tests in high school. During her junior and senior year she realized that it was becoming a huge issue, especially with the ACT. She started to feel that her problems were different from other students when she could barely finish answering a question during the ACT exam.
Hindalong’s lack of focus plus her dad’s personal history with ADD made her think she may have something in common with his brain chemistry.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is commonly defined as a syndrome that causes short attention span, impulsivity, poor concentration, and in some cases, hyperactivity (ADHD). Hindalong’s dad chooses to dismiss his ADD symptoms. It was her sister and mom who pointed out the possibility of having the disorder when there were so many reasons to compare Hindalong’s behavior with her dad’s.
The initial wakeup call that made Hindalong believe she had ADD happened while she was picking out a
Christmas present for her dad. She was looking for a book and found Driven to Distraction which contained a checklist to determine if the reader has ADD or not. Hindalong completed the checklist with all twenty survey boxes checked.
Hindalong came to the realization before college and now tries her best to manage her focus while treating her ADD.
Managing Unorganized Thoughts
Hindalong along with many other people who have ADD struggle with everyday routine because they are focusing on everything at once. Adderall prescriptions have been a common drug that help those with ADD focus and stay on track with their day.
Instead of taking the drug, Hindalong sees a therapist twice a week that helps her with organizational skills in her college life. Her room is filled with post it notes that will hopefully grab her attention about an assignment that needs to be completed or a phone call that needs to be made.
“Most people say, ‘Oh, every college student is like that. You’re just all over the place.’ Personally I don’t think people understand how much I struggle with daily things.”
Webster University has proved to be helpful in helping Hindalong with her needs as a student with ADD. Her horrible test anxiety leaves her distracted and nervous when she takes exams in the classroom with everyone else. The Testing Center at Webster University has been able to help Hindalong by giving her a quiet room to complete exams.
“Sometimes I go to the Testing Center but other times I have to just deal with the classroom and take it with everyone else. The Academic Resource Center’s Testing Center is very helpful. Also their Writing Center is a great way for me to double check my papers. I tend to forget certain facts or research sometimes.”
Dealing with ADD without Adderall
It’s estimated that 1 in 4 college students abuse Attention Deficit Disorder drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin. Today, students use these drugs to get through long nights of studying and to finish assignments at a faster pace. Hindalong refuses to take Adderall because she felt like a zombie whenever she would take them. For people who don’t have ADD, drugs like Adderall and Ritalin can cause harmful affects to the individual’s health.
Dr. Ron Gaddis from Webster University’s Biological Sciences Department understands that the drugs affect the central nervous system in a way that helps individuals with ADD to focus and live a comfortable life. However, Gaddis shared that students who use the drug as an energy supplement have many risks to be aware of.
“For a normal person to take these medications, there are many risks. They can have heart attacks, arrhythmias, and elevated blood pressure. These things by themselves are significant but if they already underlying conditions, it manifests them worse.”
One student who wishes to remain anonymous said that he uses Adderall without a prescription. The student claims they can focus better on school work after taking Adderall to help their attention span. The student was introduced to Adderall by a friend he/she met while studying abroad. They take the drug because it helps them speed through assignments and stay up for longer hours.
“I don’t think I’m reliant on it. I’ll probably stop taking it once I’m out of college.”
Hindalong chooses not to use Adderall even with ADD.
“I took Adderall and hated it. It made me be a zombie. I didn’t have any personality at all and I didn’t know how to talk to people. One of my favorite things to do is talk to people and be all over the place.”
Using Humor to Deal
Hindalong has experienced problems with other students dismissing her ADD and saying it’s nonsense. In order for Hindalong to keep a smile on her face, she and her friends find that making her forgetful situations into a joke helps relieve some of the stress.
Hindalong continues to use her unique organizational skills to cope with her distracted mind. She says that you’ll understand her ADD if you just go on a road trip with her. You will get lost, but at least you know why.