Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:57 pm

Learning to live with ADD, ADHD


He went 39 years believing it was something everyone suffers from, and now that he knows he has it, he said he’s not ashamed.

David Harris, department chair for the media studies department and assistant professor of communication, didn’t know he was living with Attention Deficit Disorder, a behavioral disorder including symptoms such as poor concentration and distractibility, until about three weeks ago.

“I always thought growing up, until about three weeks ago, that it was just something everyone struggled with,” Harris said. “I thought everyone had issues with completing things that were boring or being distracted by things easily.”

Harris didn’t see his diagnosis of ADD as a problem. He said he looked at the diagnosis more like something he was just dealing with instead of something he had to live with.

Harris said he struggled in high school with completing tasks like homework and going to class. He said he eventually realized that he wasn’t going to graduate unless he learned “workarounds” to make school and other tasks more interesting and challenging.

“If it’s not challenging, if it’s not hard, if it’s something that I think is uninteresting, then I would have a hard time doing it,” he said.

A “workaround” is a strategy Harris said he would use in school when he was realizing he was drifting off or not paying attention in class, and then he would bring himself back to the situation and focus again by doing some cognitive thinking. He said he would also try and make things more challenging for himself by going the extra mile with a task or completing it at a faster pace.

Even though some people say lifestyle changes can be an important factor in learning ways to live with a mental disorder, there are resources available, especially for students in college.

Beverly Clark, assistant director of disability resource center at Dixie State University,  said there are resources available to students who live with ADD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is like ADD, but it includes hyperactivity — constantly feeling restless — and impulsivity.

Clark said resources depend on the level of the disorder, which is determined by a diagnosis from a physiologist who performs testing for the disorder.

Some resources available for students diagnosed with ADD or ADHD include receiving extended time on a test, getting a quiet room for a test so it’s distraction free, checking out a voice recorder or being eligible for the Disability Resource Center’s note-taking service, Clark said. The note-taking service is where the staff from the center will hire someone who is in the same class as the student who has ADD or ADHD to take notes for that student. The person will not know who they’re taking notes for due to privacy issues, Clark said.

Another resource available is taking medication. Harris said although medication isn’t a fix-it-all, it’s been beneficial for him to take it, and others shouldn’t be ashamed if they take medication.

“The idea that people shouldn’t even think of medication to me (is) that same sort of [idea] like ‘it’s all in your head, you should just try and fix it,'” Harris said. 

Clark said people have to be careful when labeling someone who has ADD or ADHD.

 “I think [people] would be very surprised a lot of people that you might meet that possibly have [ADD or ADHD]; you would never know,” Clark said.