By Rick Green,
There are many online quizzes and ‘tests’ for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. We have screener tests here at TotallyADD.com. (There are links at the end of this for you.)
But no quiz can be definitive. Diagnosing ADHD is a tricky process. That said, a good quiz will give you guidance and a sense of what ADHD actually is.
Like most people, I was afraid to find out if I have ADHD. Everything I KNEW about ADHD turned out to be nonsense, myths that are still being perpetuated.
For me, the diagnosis was a huge relief
I could finally see what was sabotaging my best efforts. It’s a shock to discover you have spent your life wrestling an invisible opponent. Worse, you had no idea you were even in a wrestling match.
Knowing what’s going on is huge. I am able manage the downside, but not lose who I am. Quite the opposite, actually! (Hard to be who you truly are when you’re constantly agitated, restless, distracted, forgetting things…)
Like most adults, I was really, really hoping I did NOT have ADHD.
So, to address this universal hope, I have created a quiz.
I call it…
23 Signs You Do NOT Have ADHD
This quiz is as scientific as I could make it. Which is to say, I put on the lab coat I used to wear when I was a teacher at a Science Centre many years ago.
It’s also based on what I’ve learned from interviewing the more than 70 experts who appear in our videos and PBS programs, and then I ran it by two well-known specialists who suggested a few changes. Then my wife fixed all the typos. So here we go!
You may NOT have ADHD if…
YOU ARE A MESS IN A CRISIS
Many folks with ADHD are brilliant when the adrenaline flows. That’s why so many of us succeed in the military, police, fire & rescue, emergency rooms, stock market, high tech, show biz, and sales. A few months back a Paramedic told me that his colleagues who have ADHD are brilliant at their job, “Those who aren’t end up at desk jobs, training, or in administration. They can’t handle it.”
- YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE LIVING UP TO YOUR POTENTIAL
So many adults with undiagnosed ADHD feel ‘I’m underachieving’ regardless of how much they have achieved. Despite co-writing, co-starring, and producing hundreds of episodes of TV and radio, I always felt like I was not living up to my potential. One reason we feel this way? Because it’s often true. It’s hard to achieve your best when you have the equivalent of 5 radio stations blaring in your head 24/7.
- YOU FINISH PROJECTS ON TIME
Wow, what’s that like?!
- SOMEONE TELLS YOU, “YOU SEEM LIKE YOU HAVE ADHD LATELY”
ADHD is driven by genes. It’s usually present in childhood. So, “I’ve been really scattered, confused, and overwhelmed… ever since my house exploded,” is probably a normal a reaction to your house exploding. Or to a divorce. Or losing a job. Losing a loved one. Basically any life crisis.
- WHEN SOMEONE ASKS, “WHAT DID YOU SAY A MINUTE AGO?” YOU ARE ABLE TO TELL THEMMe: “Uh… I dunno… Cherry pie? Winston Churchill? Socks?”
- WITHOUT TAKING YOUR EYES OFF THIS SCREEN, YOU CAN TELL ME WHERE YOU LEFT YOUR CAR KEYS
Thus the title of our book, ADD Stole My Car Keys.
- YOU’VE BEEN WITH THE SAME COMPANY MORE THAN 6 MONTHS
Okay, an exaggeration. But we can be restless, and thus have double or triple the risk of being fired. ( Then we may go off and start a new company. Adrenaline. Novelty! Our brain wakes up!)When we find the perfect career for our ADHD mindset, we can soar.I’ve written a LOT of sketch comedy, but could never finish a screenplay. Until I was diagnosed I didn’t understand why. Now, knowing movies take months to write, I am cool with the fact I’ll never do that. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. Even the Car Keys book is 155 short descriptions of ADHD symptoms. One to a page. Plus pictures. And humor.
- NO ONE IN YOUR FAMILY – PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, OR SIBLINGS HAS ADHD
ADHD runs in families. It’s almost as heritable as height. Though a head injury and other risk factors can create these symptoms, for most of us, it’s genetic. Like many adults I was diagnosed after one of my kids was. Then I saw that my dad was like this, so was his father.When we made our first PBS documentary, ADD & Loving It?!, about comedian Patrick McKenna getting diagnosed, we were almost certain he has this mindset – other family members have it. Otherwise it would have been called ‘Not ADD & Loving It?!’
YOU HAVE YOUR TAXES DONE AND FILES AHEAD OF TIME
OMG! I cannot imagine. One ADHD strategy I finally embraced was to hire someone. Cause I am NEVER gonna develop an interest in doing my taxes. People with ADHD can focus when we’re interested. Paying someone else who loves paperwork, and is great with details has saved me a ton of time, frustration, and even money.
- THE TERM ‘HYPER-FOCUS’ DOESN’T RESONATE WITH YOU
Despite it’s name, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is NOT just a ‘Deficit’ of Attention. It’s uneven, unmanaged, unpredictable attention. Sometimes we can hyper-focus. When I’m interested, I can be laser focused, intense, and relentless.
- YOU HAVE NO TROUBLE READING THIS
40% of kids with ADHD have a Learning Disorder such as Dyslexia, and the majority of kids with ADHD become adults with ADHD. In fact, 70% of adults with ADHD have a second diagnosis too (Depression and Anxiety being the most common ones).
- YOU LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK
Almost every time I’m interviewed on talk radio, the host will admit that one or two of their kids have been diagnosed, “And I think I have it too.” They’re probably right. Luckily they’ve found the perfect job. The gift of the gab is great when I’m doing a live presentation about ADHD, but not so great when I’m with friends and family.
YOU SAW A LIST OF ADHD TRAITS AND WERE NOT ALARMED
More than a few specialists have told me that people most vehemently opposed to the idea that they might have this mindset sure do show a LOT of the symptoms.Their upset is understandable. They read a list of symptoms which describe their daily struggles and snort, “This is normal life.” Yes, it is normal… for them.
- YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF TIME, AND YOU RARELY GET LOST
‘Poor Time Management’ is a common challenge. We’re scattered. Then hyper-focused. But sometimes on the wrong things. Or at the wrong time.I’ve actually developed a good sense of time. But it’s meant building habits with ADHD-Friendly strategies.
- YOUR TO-DO LIST HAS FEWER THAN 493 ITEMS ON IT
We can be enthusiastic about new things. Like creating To-Do lists. Which then become epic documents of everything we can think of. I created a video about it.
- YOUR DESKTOP OR WORK SURFACE IS VISIBLE
‘Working memory’ can be a problem. As in, “My phone? Keys? Purse? Lunch?.. Got em!” It’s easier to remember stuff if we can see it. So we often have piles and heaps everywhere. (And we often know what is in each pile.)
YOU WALK INTO A ROOM TO GRAB SOMETHING, PICK IT UP AND LEAVE
Not me. “What did I come here for?” At the mall, “What did my wife ask me to pick up?” But I can recall the lyrics to every Alice Cooper song. Working memory. Sometimes I forget what I came for, go back to where I started, get reminded, go to fetch it again and forget AGAIN… “Darn, what was it I came in here to get?!” (Until I found out I had ADHD, I kept thinking I had Dementia.)
- YOU TEND TO NOT OVERREACT TO SMALL THINGS
ADHD affects ‘Executive Functions’ – organizing, planning, prioritizing, following through, finishing what you start, etc.. But’s also monitoring your emotions; as in ‘reacting appropriately.’ Which is why we can end up struggling with Depression or Anxiety. Or have sudden outbursts of Anger, that erupt and then pass in a flash.
YOU ENJOY SCARY MOVIES, BIG EVENTS, LOUD PARTIES
We can be oversensitive. ADHD isn’t just about managing focus. It’s about managing everything. Including all the messages your brain receives every second from your ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin. (And internal signals. “Am I scared? Or is it that Burrito?”)Managing the torrent of signals is done mostly by your Pre-Frontal cortex, and ours are not very efficient.The result? I avoid noisy parties, don’t watch scary movies, and snack on protein in the afternoon when I start to crash. (By the way, these are ADHD strategies.)
YOU’VE EVER SAID “NO MORE COFFEE FOR ME. IT’S AFTER 4:00PM!”
Caffeine is a stimulant. Half the planet uses it. Many ADHD medications are also stimulants. So some adults with undiagnosed ADHD drink coffee at night because it actually helps them fall asleep. Their mind stops jumping around. Until I was diagnosed I didn’t understand why I could have three colas after dinner and still fall asleep. (BTW: Getting Good Sleep is a big challenge for us, and requires specific strategies.)
- YOU CAN TELL WHO MADE YOUR SHIRT BY THE TAG ON IT
When we ordered T-Shirts for our shop, we made sure they either came without tags or removable tags. Customers thanked us. Why? ADHD is means we can be overwhelmed. By bad news, emotional events, trivial frustrations, and sometimes even physical sensations. Noisy rooms, bright lights, certain fabrics, even clothing tags add to the workload for a brain overwhelmed by too much input.
- YOUR CLOSET IS TIDY AND NEAT
Your home is NOT jammed full of old scuba gear, musical instruments, exercise equipment, and the leftovers of a dozen hobbies?The clutter in our house is not ‘Hoarding.’ We can be curious and enthusiastic, novelty wakes up our brain. We say yes to everything. But we soon grow bored and move on to the next new passion. (Did I mention we suffer double or triple the rate of divorce?)A lot of standard organizing systems don’t work for us. The best ADHD-friendly organizing strategies tend to be interesting, visual, colorful.
YOU READ THROUGH THIS LIST IN ORDER, TAKING A MINUTE TO CONSIDER EACH POINT, NOT SKIMMING OR SKIPPING TO THE END
Again, I have to say, “Wow! Good for you!” I can never do that! I used to get mad at myself for reading books in chunks, skimming, reading things out of order. Now I realize that this is how I operate. Two keys to mastering ADHD are: ‘Bend The World To You,’ and ‘Figure Out Your Particular Flavour.’ Do what works for you. Work on the symptoms that are the most disruptive for you. My biggest issues: Taking on too much, not finishing what I start, procrastinating.
HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS!
If you do have ADHD, you’re not alone. Everyone struggles with these issues, but for about 1 in 25 adults, it’s really interfering with our lives. And it’s affecting more than one area of life. It’s not just a little quirk, it’s impairing you. THAT is what makes it a disorder.
Every person with ADHD is unique. The severity of symptoms varies. (Like height, intelligence, and skin color, the symptoms fall on a spectrum.) Up until now, you may have had successes, but not consistently. You may have assumed you’re lazy, weak-willed, weird, or dumb. Or been told that you are.
In your heart, you sense you have such potential. And you believe, as all your elementary school teachers kept telling you, “You just need to try harder.” As Yoda said, ‘There is no try, either do or do not do.’
The turning point for me?
I kept trying harder and harder, until I realized, “I am trying as hard as I can!” It is not about willpower, or gumption, or commitment. It’s low levels of certain neurotransmitters.
There are a lot of very successful people who have the ADHD mindset. They’ve succeeded in large part because they figured out what’s going on.
Understand that you are NOT crazy. This is NOT a mental illness that you cure. It’s how you are wired. New brain imaging technologies show our brains are different from most. It’s biology not morality.
Just ask the thousands of adults who share their stories and struggles in our Forums. Every person is unique, but they all have much in common.
It really can be a “Good news diagnosis”
A proper ADHD diagnosis is tricky, but knowing will make sense of a lot of your challenges and struggles, and give you insight into what to do about them. (Other than, ‘Try harder.’)
You may also come to see why, in some areas of life, you soar. The diagnosis can unleash a tornado of emotions, (regret and sadness were big for me) but if you keep moving forward, you’ll feel relief, then hope as you develop your own collection of tools, tricks, and tips to succeed at whatever it is that lights your fire.
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