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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Do I Have ADD?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 29th 2009

frustrated child studyingRecently,a male adult, lets call him Mr. T., asked for a consultation to determine whether or not he had ADD. He was clear in stating that he did not suspect ADHD. So,  we set an appointment and met.

What made this man ask if he had ADD?

For one thing, during childhood, no one ever suspected ADD. Both in school and at home, the question of any type of learning disorder was ever raised, neither by teachers nor his parents.

His grades throughout elementary, middle and high school were always somewhat below average. Generally, his scores ranged between B and C. There were no symptoms of hyper activity that might have brought him to the attention of teachers and school officials. Like so many capable youngsters, he caused no trouble, passed all of his classes and went unnoticed.

However, once in college, he began to ask himself why he was not doing a lot better in his classes. He began to realize that it was difficult to focus attention on lectures. His mind would drift far away. Once aware of this, it was often too late, as the class was over. He attempted to compensate by going online and copying the study notes posted by the professors. Textbooks were of no help because, when attempting to read and study those, his mind once again wandered away.

Typical of many readers who have ADD, he would read a page of any book, suddenly become aware that he had no memory of that he had just read, go back to the beginning, and begin all over again.

Socially, he was plagued by the same types of difficulties. He could hang around with a group of friends, both male and female and realize that he did not hear 90% of what was said. Being a bright person, he invented ways to make it seem as though he was fully part of the conversation. As a result, when he asked friends about ADD, they told him that the very idea of his having that disorder was ridiculous. He did a great job of masking his problem.

For the sake of providing a complete picture of someone with ADD, he was notoriously late or forgetful of appointments. Attempting to remember the the things he had to do each week, it was impossible for him to remember. Medical, dental and personal appointments were frequently forgotten.

Mr. T also reported some feelings of depression and mild anxiety. He also admitted that he became over whelmed fairly quickly when confronted with too many tasks at the same time. Studying, taking examinations, completing term papers and meeting other deadlines, were daunting task. Mr. T. stated that he often procrastinated and, like Charlie Brown, worked best under pressure and, by delaying his work until the last minute, experienced lots of pressure.

Along with the anxiety associated with procrastination came irritability and a short tempered nature in this otherwise mild mannered man.

By the end of the session, there was no doubt in his or my mind that he did, indeed, have ADD. In addition, it was clear that he was functioning far below his abilities not due to laziness, which he feared he had, but due to ADD. "Laziness" is often mistakenly applied to those with ADD. That is due to the fact that they either condemn themselves or are accused by others for being too lazy to work harder and score better grades.

Presented with the options for treatment, it was unfortunate that Mr. T. opted for medication without psychotherapy or coaching for this condition. Like so many Americans, he wanted a "quick fix" of medicine despite the fact that he was informed of why that was a mistake.

It is hoped that he will get the helps he needs to that he can function at his full capacity.

I want to reiterate that it is both interesting and troubling that nobody from his childhood noticed this person's need for help and assistance in school. This was not due to ignorance on the part of the parents, both of whom are highly educated and professional people. As for teachers, they allow many gifted young people escape notice because they are quiet and cooperative, even if they are performing below expectations.

Pay attention to your children. If you notice something is not quite right, ie. grades, behavior, complaints from school, or, from others, investigate and ask for help.

I was one of those under performing cooperative youngsters who escaped notice even though I had ADD.

Your comments, questions, and experiences are encouraged from parents, other adults and, yes, kids and teenagers.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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