14 Traits Of The ADHD College Student
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Health and Wellness

14 Traits Of The ADHD College Student

14 Traits Of The ADHD College Student
Canisius College

ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders. It is primarily divided into subtypes: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined type. Symptoms include lack of ability to focus, impulsivity, disorganization, hyperactivity, and procrastination. ADHD is not a made up disorder to sell mass amounts of medicines or an excuse for poor parenting. ADHD is a very real and biologically based condition, which can be seen when analyzing SPECT images of the human brain.

A brain with ADHD has very little activity in the region of the brain that is responsible for acting like our mental "secretary" that keeps us on task. When those with ADHD try to focus, the activity in the prefrontal cortex actually decreases instead of increases like it does in a balanced brain. So the harder we try to perform better or focus harder, the worse our concentration becomes! Untreated ADHD ruins lives and results in poor performances in work and school, family conflicts, drug and alcohol abuse, chronic stress, depression, and even legal difficulties. If you have concerns about your brain's health, talk to your psychologist and your medical doctor for help. Only doctors can help you or diagnose you, so stay away from online "tests." This article not a list of symptoms for a speculative diagnosis.

It’s important to note that this list below would be a little different for each individual with attention deficit. Symptoms manifest themselves differently in every individual. This was generated based on my own unique experiences, but has themes that other ADHD people also highly relate too. This list is just the tip of the ice berg describing what it is like to be in college and have ADHD!

1. We want to be involved in as much as possible on campus because we are hyperactive.

Sign me up for all the things! During my freshman year at the club fair in August, I put my email down on more than 20 club email lists (the quidditch team, Potter Watch, Ballroom Dance Society and many other things I had never even done before). Annoyingly, I’m still on many of those club email lists to this day and have stuck with absolutely none of them. Instead, I now have two jobs, an internship, a leadership role in a sorority, involvement with a campus ministry, and I’m the president of a sport’s club. I get so bored if I don’t have things to look forward to; plus, being busier helps me manage my time more efficiently then if I have too little to do. Those with ADHD seek external stimulation to activate the underactive parts of their brain.

2. No matter how much we try, our life is pretty much always kind of a mess, just like our trains of thought.

Luckily, most college student’s lives are a mess! Notice I said trains, plural. We don’t have one train of thought; we have 20.

3. We organize our papers, notebooks, and pretty much everything else in messy piles.

Don’t know where to put stuff? Just make piles. Piles for days. Our drawers have piles. Our file bins have piles. There are piles under our beds. There are piles in our piles. We think we can remember what is in which pile, but time and time again, we are proven we just can’t.

4. We often forget where we parked our car or bike on campus.

This is not only embarrassing, but also sometimes makes us late for appointments or important dates. I can’t even count how many times I have forgotten the location or deck number on which I parked my little Corolla (and I do not have an automatic key to press a button and hear it). I have to spend ten minutes walking around looking for it sometimes, and I will admit that on more than one occasion I have started crying before when I can’t find it. Hint: I put a big sticker on the center of my trunk so I can spot my car better from a distance.

5. We always leave something important like laundry, textbooks, keys, laptop chargers, or prescription medicine behind when we are traveling.

I do this nearly every break, no matter how many hours I spend trying to pack all of my stuff and checking off a mental list. It means we have to drive all the way back to campus or to our house just to get that one forgotten item. It sucks. And we feel really stupid, but we know it’s just because of our poor working memory.

6. We accidentally, and often, leave on the oven or our hair straightening iron.

Yes, roommates, always check the kitchen when we leave. I cannot count how many times if I’m not sure or not if I’ve left an electrical appliance on after leaving my house.

7. We have an intense love-hate relationship with Adderall or another stimulant medicine.

It allows us to focus like nothing else, but it unfortunately can have adverse effects including shaking, nausea, headaches, and sweating. Nothing is worse the having body hemorrhaging diarrhea in the bathroom in a quiet library. Adderall can also cause mood swings and many feel as though it mutes their personality (it takes away our sparkle and our friendliness). We especially experience an amphetamine crash and withdrawal if we stop taking it for a few days. These fluctuations can be scary, so it’s important to take the medicine as prescribed to avoid these shifts. At the end of the day, we know we can’t get very much done without its help to boost our brain activity, reduce external stimuli distractions, and sustain concentration. It helps calm the brain down by stimulating the communication between neurons.

8. The following things freak us out infinitely: papers, especially long papers, presentations, group projects, research papers, class debates, discussions, did I mention papers, and pretty much every single word printed on our classes’ syllabi.

The first days of classes can be terrifying as we look ahead to all that is expected of us (especially papers, which require several hours of intense concentration). These anxieties are further exacerbated by ADHD-related problems. ADHD students struggle in some way or another in the classroom. If we can’t follow the class lectures and discussions very well, it only makes sense that the quality of our notes as well as our comprehension of material is less than that of others. This is when the intervention of stimulant medicine (such as Adderall and Ritalin) and effective customized study techniques are crucial to learning.

9. We are the kings and queens of procrastination and running late.

No one can top our abilities to put off work until the last possible hours before it’s due. The last minute rush triggers our adrenaline pathways and helps us focus more. We can work under pressure very well, in a variety of settings. This does result in us cutting corners on occasion when we don’t give ourselves a) enough time to complete the entire assignment, b) we turn it late, or c) we turn in low-quality work due to lack of time.

10. We have experienced other mental health turbulence throughout our life.

ADHD is often comorbid with other mental disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. I have been formally diagnosed with both of those during different times in my life, as well as ADHD. These “big three” are interrelated for some. The worse one of them is, the more severe the ADHD symptoms can be and vice versa. They fed and fuel one another. Anxiety cat understands...

11. We have mood swings and we are sensitive people.

This happens not only due to one’s individual biochemistry and the external environment but also due to hyper-focusing on negative thoughts. When those negative thoughts win an argument in our minds, they sometimes keep winning them. Luckily often times we can feel very confident, happy, spontaneous and carefree.

12. Some environments put our brain on cognitive overload and make us very irritated while others are under stimulating.

I work at a very popular fast-food restaurant, for example, and it is mentally taxing for me to work in the dining room (although I would never let on to that to anyone by my actions because I love my job). The lunch line is out the door, its headache-inducingly loud from the 60 different humans and their screaming kids, there’s people walking all around you or running right into you as you’re cleaning and delivering trays to tables, and there’s so much going on that it makes you crazy. Other environments, such as a drab chemistry lecture, are very underwhelming and you find it deeply boring. We check out. In those environments, we usually cannot concentrate. Some of us play computer games to improve our listening skills. While others have several zoning out moments, like Raven had those flashing, albeit distracting, visions of the future in "That’s So Raven."

13. We have a sparkling personality and incredible reserves of creative energy, and we can’t help but attribute some of our best charms to our ADHD.

I’m witty, smart in my own ways, highly creative, I love laughing and making others laugh, I’m very sarcastic, and the things I love I give one thousand percent to. In a way, it provides me with some of my best and charismatic strengths and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What’s not to love?!

14. We’re completely no different than someone else who does not have ADHD.

We are not our “deficit.” Just because particular areas in our brains might not be as active as the average brain is, we are humans too -- and some very lovable, intelligent, and funny ones. We didn’t choose to have what society deems as an atypical processing system, just like you didn’t choose to have brown eyes or freckles. Love us for who we are. Every day with us is, without question, a spontaneous adventure!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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