ADHD Diagnoses Incline, Focus Declines

I remember hearing about the kids at school who had ADHD. It was the kids who would bounce their legs and tap the desk, and it was the kids who were always in the principal’s office. Later on in life, I realized that I was a kid with ADHD, except I didn’t bounce my leg and tap the desk, and I was rarely in trouble. Instead, I had trouble finishing large projects I started, and an internal, constant sense of nervousness or anxiety, which are both still present today. I have issues thinking before speaking and extreme issues with organization, both physical belongings and my own thoughts.

But these weren’t and still aren’t the common behaviors associated with kids with ADHD, so it wasn’t as recognizable. There’s another problem, too: I’m a girl. Statistically, it is more likely for boys to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD than girls, at 12.5% and 5.6% diagnosed, respectively. Research shows that girls tend to present their symptoms in different ways, as was previously mentioned, therefore leaving many cases in girls and women to go undiagnosed. 

“Being late to things was something I was notorious for last semester, and I’ve heard it’s a big thing for people with ADHD,” junior media and professional communications major Lexi Natale said when describing certain things she deals with on a daily basis because of her ADHD. 

Natale also mentioned that adjusting to watching professors on Zoom presented difficulties. Because she had been used to speeding up a lecture video to 2x speed to account for her focus issues, listening to a lecture in real time posed issues, she said.

Personally, I remember being on the phone with my past therapist last February and describing some of the issues I was having at the time. I had semi-recently gone back to school to begin the Spring semester, which is always most difficult for me due to seasonal depression. I stopped and waited for a response, in which he simply smiled behind the phone and said, “has anyone ever told you that you have ADHD?” I obviously told him no, and my first thought was, “don’t only little kids have that?” This misconception is, of course, incorrect.

He proceeded to send me a self-evaluation called the Amen Screening, titled, “Adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Checklist,” which went through 77 specific behaviors commonly associated with ADHD in adults. He said it was inclusive to women, as well, who usually exhibit different behaviors than men. A few of these behaviors include:

  • Lacks attention to detail, due to distractibility
  • Frequently misplaces things
  • Tendency to be easily bored (tunes out)
  • Has to be moving in order to think

“More than 20 items with a score of three or more indicates a strong tendency toward ADHD,” it says at the bottom of the document. When I calculated my score, it came to 37 having a score of three or more. Later, a doctor confirmed my past therapist had probably been right.

This was the first time I had thought about attributing any of my problems to having ADHD, or even experiencing behaviors of ADHD. I didn’t exactly have issues associated with hyperactivity, which was the main behavior I had commonly associated with ADHD. However, I quickly learned that “not being able to calm down” or “being crazy” were a few of the false assumptions I had about what ADHD was.

“I never realized I had it until a year ago whenever my friends would consistently ask me if I had it. Then I just started to notice it a lot more,” junior at Muskingum University Ryan McKee said in reference to his ADHD. “I used to think I was just a bad listener, or genuinely bad at learning.”

Over the past eight years, ADHD diagnoses are up more than 30%, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America report. This finding suggests that more than 10% of children in the U.S. likely suffer from ADHD, and that’s not considering those who go undiagnosed. According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9.4% of children in the U.S., or 6.1 million, have been diagnosed with ADHD. 

Dana Fishkin, a junior urban studies major, wasn’t diagnosed until she was 15 years old. 

“Time management is really difficult for me,” Fishkin said, “which also means I have a hard time with prioritizing tasks from anything like laundry and grocery shopping, to homework and self care.” 

Fishkin continued to explain the other aspects of her daily life that are hindered due to her ADHD and how the pandemic has also affected her.

“I think the pandemic made my attention span way shorter,” she said. “When things aren’t engaging my brain has learned to just tune out from [things like] Zoom classes, so when I’m trying to get things done that aren’t exciting I have an even harder time paying attention.”

Although those with ADHD may suffer more often than others from a term earmarked during the pandemic as “Zoom fatigue,” there are ways to increase focus and concentration when it may be difficult. I often find myself fidgeting and unable to stay still, so fidget toys and stress balls are a great alternative that can be easily used when conducting meetings over Zoom. 

Fishkin also mentioned a few things she does to increase her focus and attention at home. She said she uses reminders on her iPhone, as well as google calendar to remember her various responsibilities throughout the day. She also said she uses whiteboards “to make separate to-do lists in different colors. I also try to keep chores to a weekly schedule so that it’s almost second nature.”

Natale also mentioned that she’s been trying to improve her time management skills by getting ready “30 minutes to an hour before I actually have to be ready, that way I won’t be late.”

So what else can those who suffer from ADHD do to increase productivity and attention when it might be difficult? Using reminders and installing calendars on your phone/laptop to get alerts when something needs done is something that’s helped me a lot. These methods were also mentioned by both Fishkin and Natale as being helpful for them. For those with ADHD, as much organization as possible is key.

In our ever-changing and chronically-online world, it’s more important than ever for those who suffer from issues with inattention and/or hyperactivity to use advice such as this to improve daily struggles. Suffering from ADHD is something that a lot of people have to deal with. Getting a diagnosis can be a positive thing for many, and can mean gaining back that control we so desperately yearn for.