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Help ! I don't know what to expect ?!

I’m a 47 year old high school teacher, who is having a hard time functioning with yet to be diagnosed ADD (It could be ADHD - but trust me it’s one or the other. I’ve just been able to mask it or, rather deny that it exists for such a long period of time.). I’m in the process of getting an appointment for testing/diagnosis. I teach children who have been diagnosed and medicated, not really seeing the impact that meds have on their performance. I’m just a little wary of what may happen if I need meds….. Will I still be me ? I just can’t quiet the noise that exists inside my head. I’m getting too old to run through the 3 & 4 different conversations/lines of thought/ musical diversions/ whimsical ideas, etc. that I always seem to have in my head simultaneously throughout the day. I do not have an OFF switch. There is no such thing as “relax and think about nothing”. I need Help!!! 

What should I expect during testing ? ... a barage of questions and surveys ? .....electrodes ? what ?????

Replies

It probably depends on who does your testing.  My primary care provider had me (41 yo female tested and diagnosed about 2 years ago) go to a psychologist for testing.  He had me do two ADHD surveys, take two personality tests, and we talked for about 30 minutes.  Then I did about 4 computer based ADHD tests for attention and executive functioning.  Some providers may be a little more thorough and some a little less.  So places will do a brain scan, others do not.

Posted by MollyMS on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:35am

It sounds like you have suffered long enough! Everyone gets diagnosed differently.

I did 3 online tests (easy to find) and it validated my suspicions.  I was 49 and was being treated for depression by my GP for a year with little success.  I told him I had taken the tests and totally related to the “non-stop” motor symptom.  I lived like the Tazmanian Devil for 49 years and never ever stopped which is why I also never slept and almost lost my mind!

He decided to try me on Ritalin and it changed my life. The beauty of taking a stimulant when you are already operating at the cruising speed of jet liners is that it CALMS you down in way that is profound…period.

Medication did not change who I was.  I am still outgoing, funny and inquisitive.  The major difference is that I am calm, grounded, and balance.  A true gift at 50 years old.

All I can say is educate yourself as much as possible.  Take the online quizzes to help give you a better sense of whether you are Inattentive, Hyperactive/Impulsive or Combined Type (though knowing your exact type is not necessarily important though it may help with picking medication).

The most important thing I learned is to be my own advocate.  You can’t totally turn your care over to another person.  Knowledge is power.  I learned the hard way that professionals don’t always have the answers. 

I saw the same psychiatrist for 17 years and he never suspected my ADHD; even though I presented with anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, insomnia, workaholic, spendaholic, sugar addiction, talked fast, had pressured speech, and was all over the place with my thoughts. 

ALL were symptoms of my undiagnosed ADHD.  Some symptoms disappeared and others have improved immensely with medication. 

It may take a few tries finding the right med, but it may be the best gift you ever give yourself.

Mitzi

Posted by Mitzi Maine on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:51am

.......Additionally, I’ve been depression symptomatic for at least the past 6 months (probably longer - if I really think about it). I just recently started seeing a counselor who suggested I have blood work done to check my vitamin D level (it is < 13) and get evaluated for ADD. My regular doctor suggests I follow up with an endocrinologist due to other lab findings. Does anyone else relate to this type of information??

Posted by JasCo on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:50am

It does sound like you are Vitamin D deficient and in need of a supplement.

Here are a few quizzes for ADHD to give you an idea

http://counsellingresource.com/lib/quizzes/adhd-testing/

It might be helpful to evaluate your own symptoms.

Mitzi

Posted by Mitzi Maine on Mar 18, 2014 at 5:23am

Have you been checked for malabsorption syndrome, kidney disease or heart problems?  I’ve heard Vitamin D deficiency can be connected to depression.  Heart disease can present as depression as well.

I got tested by a psychologist.  I don’t remember the specific details but it was something like this: repeat a sequence of numbers - only in reverse order,  make my pile of blocks match the shape of the sample within a certain time frame, circle all of a certain alphabet letter in a grid of letters in a timed exercise, do a timed connect the dots - exercised where I had to sustain attention. I also had to fill out questions and have an interview about my childhood (you are supposed to have symptoms from childhood or they won’t necessarily diagnose you - turns out I didn’t exhibit any, but when I explained I went to Catholic school, it became clear that the classroom was so structured and orderly there weren’t enough distractions to set me off, so we had to go by I was always in trouble for my motormouth.

I’ve tried few meds. Some I didn’t tolerate well, one (an amphetamine) gave me an actual allergic reaction - hives, flushing, itching) and one is working ok. I have both types inattentive and hyper.  Different drugs work better on one type or another sometimes. I’m not getting adequate coverage of both problematic types of neurotransmitters, but I’ll take what I can get for now - I’m not up for trying new meds at the moment as I have some other health issues I’m working on - one thing at a time sometimes.

My meds (Concerta) do not change my personality. When I first started taking it (after trying other things) I thought it wasn’t working, but realized that on the next visit after I started, I didn’t get lost on the way to my psych nurse practitioner who prescribes my meds.  I had been going there for months trying the other meds - the place was only a few miles from my house on a main road with a few business park type complexes with a lot of similar looking units.  I missed that turn EVERY time and walked up to various wrong buildings EVERY time until I took the Concerta. I was also on time for the appointment for the first time ever. I didn’t feel different, and until it was pointed out, didn’t realize the absence of “noise” in my head.  I tell people this who are having trouble wrapping their heads around taking a stimulant when their brain is already hyper:  Most people when they take a stimulant it supercharges their acceleration system. Think of YOUR brain as having a malfunctioning brake and clutch system. When people with ADD/ADHD take a stimulant, it doesn’t go to the gas pedal, it fires the brake fluid, so you can slow down.  It also engages the clutch. Our brakes and clutch neurotransmitters aren’t sending enough messages to allow us to engage brakes and shift our gears. This is why I don’t worry that I will become “addicted” (this is different than being dependent - I do depend on my meds like people depend on their alarm clock or car or anything else that is a tool) - I don’t get a “charge” out of my stimulant - it slows me down.  My teen takes one too. We talk about drug abuse. Kids in school bring in drugs from their family medicine cabinets. Some of them talk about ADD meds in context of abuse. My teen came to me and said there are stupid kids in school who think ADD meds will give them energy and make them feel wild.My teen can’t comprehend why they would think such a thing as for us, that is so far from the experience we have.

Read all you can. Try to keep track of what things you try as sometimes only a small tweak can make a big difference. Try to make sure your provider gives things a fair chance. I had a doc who tried things willy nilly and it was useless - try to be systematic in your approach.

Oh- I was diagnosed in my mid 40s too - a few years ago - after I couldn’t consistently find my car in the parking lot - I actually went to rule out altzheimers or a tumor.

Posted by Juggler on Mar 18, 2014 at 6:32am

I can’t give you any advice, but can relate to how you feel JasCo because I’m in a similar position. I’m 42 with undiagnosed ADHD. I also feel like I’m worn out with managing my symptoms all these years. I’m finding it harder to manage at the moment. Looking back over the years it seems to be times of high stress or change in my life and times of changing hormones that seem to aggravate it.

Posted by Janeybee on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:16pm

I self diagnosed myself with Sari Solden’s book Women with ADD when I was about 35. I got an official diagnosis at 49.  I talked to a psychiatrist at a teaching hospital.  I’m on a low dose of Ritalin.  Like Mitzi said above, if you are ADD or ADHD a stimulant will calm you.  My body doesn’t tolerate very much, but it does help with thinking and focus.  I like the way I think on Ritalin.  Each body is different.  You may have to do some trial and error to find the right med at the right dose and when to take it.  Good luck, I think you’ll like what’s to come.

Posted by whizinc on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:40pm

First of all, don’t worry about whether you have ADD or ADHD. Most people are some combination of the different types, it can change over time, no matter what type you are, it is never the same for any two people. The important thing is to understand how YOUR mind works.

What to expect with a diagnosis will vary by where you live and what kind of professional you go to. I suspected I was ADHD around age 22, but I didn’t see the point in getting diagnosed (dumb of me) until I was 28. By that time I was living in NC and it was very expensive and time consuming for a diagnosis—insurance wouldn’t cover it, I would have to go to a special clinic, and the diagnostics were still centered mainly around kids. A couple years later I moved to MA and I started seeing a clinical psychologist for some anxiety issues. I was diagnosed in the course of that and it was extremely easy and informal and everything was covered by insurance. There were two main parts: 1) I filled out a test with like 100 questions and 2) the psychologist asked me several questions about how felt at the time and what different experiences were like for me (elementary school, college, work, family, friends, etc.). She had no doubts I was ADHD and I just had to make an appointment with her MD colleague to discuss medication.

I was afraid of taking stimulants, I thought they would do something to my personality. The MD suggested Wellbutrin instead. I tried it for a while and it worked a little, especially at first, but it made me anxious and was more like a coffee rush than really helping on a deeper level. The doctor then convinced me that there was nothing to be afraid of with Adderall. I started with a low dose, gave it a chance, and I have been on it for six years. It definitely works for me. I have some small side effects like appetite loss and I can often talk too much, but otherwise it has not changed me and it just makes me feel better overall.

The key with the meds is just to find the one and the dose that is right for you. My boyfriend takes Concerta, but I didn’t like how that felt at all. It is very individual. You also have to give them a chance. Sometimes you don’t notice the change right away, and the side effects are usually worse when you first start. I definitely would not be afraid though—they leave your system if you don’t take them for a day, so I don’t think they cause any long-term damage. Just be careful to only ever take them as prescribe and always make sure to keep the doctor informed of any side effects.

Also a book I have found really helpful is Delivered from Distraction by Hallowell. I think it has a slightly different take from some of the other books, but definitely worth a read.

Posted by LLB827 on Mar 28, 2014 at 10:05pm

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