Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What is ADD/ADHD?1

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is also commonly known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) — but without the hyperactive component or symptoms. A good understanding of the condition is essential in coping with an ADD diagnosis. Educate yourself by talking to health care professionals and to others who have ADD, as well as by using other resources such as published books and pamphlets.

ADD is a brain-based disorder that affects all aspects of one’s life. It is characterized by inattention and/or hyperactivity that is more frequent and severe than typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development. Unless properly treated, ADD could interfere with one’s academic achievement, self-esteem, and professional and personal relationships.

Who Has ADD?

People with ADD tend to be of average or above-average intelligence. About three to five percent of the general population has ADD, indicating that approximately one to three percent of college students might have ADD. Moreover, it affects three times as many males as females.

Adult HDHD case example (4:39)

Helpful Interventions and Accommodations for College Students with ADHD2

Addressing ADHD Symptoms

Consequences of ADHD at the college level include procrastination, poor organization and time management resulting in academic underachievement, poor self–esteem, and difficulty keeping current with assignments and reading. Problems also arise in personal relationships and mood stability. Distractibility and difficulty focusing can lead to problems with reading comprehension, note–taking, and completing assignments and tests in a timely fashion. Impediments to success at the college level include issues that are both academic and/or personal.

Academic issues may include:

  • Poor organization and time management skills
  • Reading problems resulting from difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Poor note–taking or writing skills

Personal issues may include:

  • High frustration levels or poor self–esteem
  • Inappropriate social skills or too much time socializing
  • Confusion about goals and the future
  • Lack of perseverance or procrastination
  • Lack of sleep and difficulty getting up in the morning

A common pitfall for students with ADHD is the feeling that they are instantly cured upon graduating from high school and no longer require support and/or treatment at the college level. Unrealistic expectations may also lead a student with ADHD who has been successful in high school to take on too heavy a load at college, failing to take into consideration the multiple demands upon his or her time. Poor time management may lead to a "crash and burn syndrome," with the student staying up all night and sleeping all day after studying or partying or both.

There are several ways that a student with ADHD may address these issues. Some of the most effective include seeking accommodations (such as note–takers, extended time for tests, and the use of the writing center), developing supportive strategies (e.g. practicing good self–care, getting enough rest and exercise, and learning ways to reduce stress), establishing supportive relationships (e.g. working with a coach or a peer study group), taking medication for ADHD, and setting appropriate goals and priorities. Success is insured when a team of professionals including a physician, counselor or coach is available to assist in addressing needs, setting goals and priorities, and developing a plan to carry them out. This process should lead to a new way of thinking and dealing with ADHD symptoms with the student eventually taking responsibility for his or her medication and other daily life activities.

Additional Resources:

  • CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is the nation's leading non-profit organization serving individuals with ADHD and their families. CHADD has over 16,000 members in 200 local chapters throughout the U.S. Chapters offer support for individuals, parents, teachers, professionals, and others.
  • The National Resource Center on AD/HD: A program of CHADD, is the nation's clearinghouse for evidence-based information about all aspects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NRC provides information on this disorder which affects how millions of children and adults function on a daily basis. The NRC was created to meet the information needs of professionals and the general public.
  • Follow this link to read a short article about Helping the College Student with ADD/ADHD Manage Stress by Patricia O. Quinn, MD and Nancy Ratey, Ed.M. ABDA.
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