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How Does Attention Deficit Disorder Affect Daily Living?

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/23/2010

Attention deficit disorder is a neurological condition that impacts a person’s ability to pay attention in school or at work. It makes it easier for momentary distractions to sidetrack them as they go about their day and they find it more difficult to resist impulsive, possibly dangerous behaviors.

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    Attention Deficit Disorder and How it Affects Daily Living

    Attention deficit disorderr presents with three main symptoms -- impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention. While knowing what the symptoms are is helpful, understanding attention deficit disorder and how it affects daily living is vital. I asked my son, Travis, to write down some of his thoughts about having ADD and how it affects his life every day. He was diagnosed with ADD when he was in elementary school. Here is what he had to say:

    "I am Travis and I was diagnosed with ADD in the fourth grade. I’m in college right now and, while some of my classes aren’t hard, paying attention in economics, Math Appreciation or Spanish is what hurts me. If I don’t feel an interest in the topic, my mind wanders. I want to do well in school –– I want to earn good grades and understand everything my professors are talking about.

    "My mom refers to my distractibility as the “Oh, look a shiny . . ." tendency. If I’m studying and I hear a song I like, my attention is immediately diverted to that song. Mainly, that’s because music is such an important part of my life, but also because ADD makes it easier for me to get distracted.

    "When I was little, my mom affectionately nicknamed me “Taz." She tells me I would wake up in the morning, already revved up and going, as if I had a little engine inside me. I remember feeling as if I had to be moving all the time. I could be sitting on the floor watching TV and I had to be moving. I wouldn’t stop until after I went to bed and finally fell asleep.

    "I’m 20 now, but ADD still affects my life every day.

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    Travis and ADD

    "I’ve learned about my ADD from talking with my mom. She won’t let me think of this as a “disability." I didn’t find out that ADD is classified as a mental condition until I was maybe 18 –– and I was mad. I like how I think with ADD. Even though I have lots of thoughts running through my head, I feel alive. When I took Dexedrine or Ritalin, I felt like I was a zombie. Mom would give me my pill and I’d sleep through the first class of the day, which is not a good way to learn and get good grades.

    "I decided to stop taking medication after my dad and I researched how the medications can affect my health, particularly my liver. (I remember my mom taking me for blood work every year and, when I found out how the medications could have affected my health, I decided it wasn’t worth taking them.) We argued about it and I told her I’d try to control my symptoms with will power. Some days, I’ve done well and other days, I haven’t.

    "When I am enrolled in an interesting class at the university, it’s easier to focus on the instructor and what’s being discussed. I won’t say that I focus completely 100 percent of the time –– I don’t. But it’s much easier than when I’m in a class like economics or math appreciation.

    "I used to be really impulsive. I still have my moments, but nothing like when I was a junior in high school. I was out on the front lawn with my friends and we were playing hacky sack. The sack belonged to a friend and I accidentally kicked it onto the school roof. I felt bad, so I climbed up a mulberry tree right by the building. I got the sack and moved back to the branch, grabbed it and tried to swing my legs up so they wrapped around the branch. Didn’t make it. My body weight pulled me down and I fell 18 feet and landed on the hard ground. I landed on the side of my face, front of my body and left hand.

    "I woke up at Memorial Medical Center after being transported by the ambulance. Everything hurt. My wrist, the side of my face, everything. The medical staff cut my jeans and shirt off so they could examine me and get x-rays.

    "I had a concussion and a broken wrist, so I missed semester finals –– and my mother’s graduation from New Mexico State University. I took the semester finals right before the spring semester started. What really hurt was that I couldn’t play my violin. That’s what impulsivity gets you.

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    Continuing Travis's account of his life with attention deficit disorder.
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    How ADD Has Affected My Everyday Life

    "I like who I am with ADD –– I have personality, I think fast and I catch onto things quickly. Still, ADD has had an impact on how I complete things. Because my organizational skills are so bad, I have a really hard time estimating how long it will take me to complete something, like a long-term assignment. I procrastinate on just about everything, except violin and mariachi practice. If I have a long-term assignment, mom tries to show me how to plan ahead and break the assignment down into smaller pieces. I’d much rather do it myself, but, like I said, I procrastinate.

    "I hate using calendars or planners. I try to keep everything in my head, but that doesn’t always work. Even though my professors give us a copy of the class syllabus and a schedule of when assignments are due, I forget to use them. That’s made my time in college rough.

    "I’m a member of a mariachi group here in our hometown. The director uses Facebook and texts to let us know when he’s scheduled practices, sectionals and gigs. I don’t forget about those because I can refer to the texts on my cell phone or I can look it up on my Facebook wall.

    "Mom and I have been talking about using current technology to help me keep up with school and class commitments like study groups, when assignments and readings are due and when I need to hand in completed research for long-term papers or group assignments. She was thinking of getting me a used PDA, but I’m way past her on that. I qualify for a free upgrade on our family phone plan, so I’ve got my eye on a smartphone. That’s a computer in my pocket that I can use to improve my organization. I have gotten control of my ADD to the point that, when I plan to take a shower or get ready for a gig, I’m more aware of the time passing than I used to be. (Mom still gives me verbal reminders, but that’s not as necessary as it used to be.)

    "My problems with organizing my schoolwork are my biggest issue right now. I’d rather watch television, play guitar or be on Facebook, so I also need to learn to ignore them or leave them alone until my homework is done. I have to keep in mind my attention deficit disorder and how it affects daily living.

    "ADD makes it hard for me to fall asleep much before 1:30 in the morning. Because of that, I have a really hard time getting up in the morning. (It doesn’t help that I like watching the late-night programs on TV, either.) Even though I have a hard time falling asleep and getting up, I’d rather rely on a cup of coffee than a chemical that could harm my health.

    "Because of my sleep issues, I try to schedule my classes for later in the day. I can wake up feeling more alert, get ready for class, take off and participate in class discussions. Even if my classes run into the late afternoon, I can schedule homework for evening, after dinner and go to the library or a coffee shop.

    "My hyperactivity isn’t a problem like it was. I still find myself full of energy, playing rough with our cats or picking my mom up. Now, though, it’s easier for me to sit down and focus on a show or session on Facebook without having to jiggle my legs."

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    References

    http://www.ncgiadd.org/online_book/intro.htm

    ADD Friendly Living: What is ADD (ADHD)?