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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is an increasingly common issue facing college students today. AD/HD symptoms show up in various situations, such as in the college classroom, and may create difficulties getting work done. Symptoms may also affect relationships with friends and family. While AD/HD symptoms are frequently present prior to 7 years of age and are most commonly diagnosed in children, AD/HD often goes undiagnosed until adulthood. This can have a negative effect on an individual's sense of self-worth. For example, those with misunderstood AD/HD symptoms may have taken in negative perceptions of themselves as "lazy," "dumb," or "slow." To complicate matters further, men may be over-diagnosed and women may be under-diagnosed. The hallmark symptoms of AD/HD include:

  • Difficulty focusing attention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

It is not unusual for university students to experience some symptoms of AD/HD at some time in their college careers. For instance, at some point in their schooling, university students may find that they have difficulty focusing on schoolwork or make impulsive, poorly thought-out decisions; these characteristics alone are not reflective of AD/HD. Rather, symptoms must be present in two or more settings including school, home, and work and interfere significantly with daily functioning. Further, symptoms of depression or anxiety may be mistakenly understood as AD/HD. If you have questions about AD/HD or any other distress you may be experiencing, assistance is available at the Counseling Center.

Signs of AD/HD include:

  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks
  • Being easily distracted or forgetful in daily activities
  • Making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • Lack of follow through in completing homework, chores, or responsibilities at work
  • Losing things necessary for tasks or activities
  • Fidgety or difficulty remaining still
  • Talking excessively or not seeming to listen when spoken to
  • Interrupting others or blurting out answers before questions have been completed

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder affects an estimated 6% to 8% of the general population according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA). Those who go undiagnosed with adult AD/HD may struggle to keep a job, stay in a marriage or stay out of trouble in school, at home or with the law. Sometimes the simplest things can end up getting them in trouble do to a lack of impulse control. It is important to seek an appropriate diagnosis for AD/HD. There are a number of diagnostic tools available to make an appropriate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options available which should be discussed carefully with a mental health provider. If you are diagnosed with AD/HD, you may find the suggestions below helpful in managing this disorder while attending school.

Pointers for College Students

  • Get a professional diagnosis and ask for information about the disorder. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder represents a real challenge for college students.

  • Develop a close connection with a physician, a psychologist, and other qualified professionals. A professional can answer your questions and inform you of any progress in the treatments for AD/HD.

  • Meet with the Office of Disability Services on campus. They can assist you in securing reasonable accommodations to meet your AD/HD needs.

  • Educate yourself. Read books and other educational material about AD/HD. Learn from other AD/HD persons and share your experiences with them.

  • Educate your family. The more your family understands AD/HD the better they will be able to understand and help you.

  • Join a support group. Connect with national and local organizations for children and adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This will give you an outlet to relieve stress while at the same time learning ways to help yourself deal with AD/HD.

  • Have a positive attitude. Encourage yourself to overcome AD/HD challenges on a daily basis.

  • Practice smart scheduling. Schedule your classes to fit your personal characteristics. If you are more motivated in the morning sign up for morning classes or if you are more motivated in the afternoon sign up for afternoon classes.

  • Consider scheduling a break between classes so that you can get outside for a while or clear your mind before your next class.

  • Set goals for yourself. Write down short-term and long-term goals and keep them some place you can look at them daily. This will help you stay focused. Reward yourself when you achieve your goals.

  • Manage your time wisely. Keep daily to-do lists visible throughout the day and try to maintain a consistent schedule.

  • Follow a daily routine. It will be easier to deal with AD/HD on a daily basis if your routine is clear and consistent.

  • Use bite-size tasks. Break up lengthy assignments into smaller portions. Larger assignments seem impossible for AD/HD persons. If they are broken down into manageable portions you can set realistic goals for completion. Provide short breaks as goals are completed.

  • Monitor your progress. Keep daily records of school homework, grades, and attendance. Ask for help in taking corrective measures in problem areas. Reward yourself for jobs well done.

  • Take care of yourself. By maintaining the proper balance of exercise, rest, and a good diet you will be more in control of your AD/HD.

  • Discourage negative self-talk. Talking down to yourself will only make matters worse. It will also prevent you from learning from your failures. Change your perspective on problems. Treat problems as challenges to be met.

  • Learn how to control your emotions. Depression, low self-esteem, discouragement, and anger can overwhelm students with AD/HD. Be prepared with coping strategies to deal with negative emotions.

  • Participate in rewarding activities that will boost your self-esteem and confidence level. In other words, spend a good amount of time on positive things at which you are good.

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.