Editorial: The little student who cried ‘ADHD’

Editorial Board

Studying in college can be mind-numbingly exhausting.

We have all dealt with the desperate struggle to concentrate through the distractions of life, only compounded by the stress of deadlines that have been procrastinated until they can be procrastinated no more.

For many students, the mere sound of a roommate’s TV through the wall is enough to make it impossible to write, study or even contemplate the steps needed to begin a final project.

With the challenges of focusing playing tricks with a student’s already fragile mind, the option of blaming the difficulties on medical conditions — pre-existing or not yet diagnosed — can be tempting.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a nasty little problem students like to look to as a possible cause of their study problems. In the past 20 years, tools to diagnose ADHD have improved, and 4.4 percent of adults ages 18 to 44 experience some symptoms and difficulties from ADHD, according to an April 2006 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

With this in mind, don’t jump to the conclusion that ADHD is the controlling influence as to why you cannot study for finals. Stress and anxiety from the end of term are mounting, and those two things can easily make any study attempts into a Shakespearean cavalcade of misfortune.

When you get the urge to check with a doctor as to whether you need ADHD medication, remember that most of the time, you will be rejected because, unfortunately, people are given to exaggerating their symptoms in order to accommodate the list of symptoms they think a doctor needs to hear; even those who have ADHD are given to exaggeration.

These exaggerations, along with the number of students worrying about being able to focus in order to pass their load of classes, has caused a severe bout of “the boy who cried wolf.” Claiming to have ADHD or an undiagnosed case is almost a regular statement heard among the current college generation. A June 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Assessment indicated that feigning ADHD symptoms to obtain prescription meds is relatively easy. More commonly, though, these people are suffering from lack of sleep, depression or the aforementioned stress that has mounted up thanks — at least in part — to procrastination.

Another factor swinging against the prescription of the meds needed to combat ADHD are the folks out there looking to use the meds as performance enhancers. Like steroids for athletes, some students out there work themselves too hard and fill their schedules to the point where burning the candle at both ends is the only means of completing school work, extracurricular activities, jobs and philanthropic enterprises.

All of this has led doctors to become very hesitant to prescribe ADHD meds. It is frustrating to students who might actually need the meds, and even more frustrating to the already troubled students who ask for the meds and are told they are simply overworked.

So, as you finish your semester and your cram sessions mount up, try to think of the last time you slept comfortably for more than seven hours or had a day without a packed schedule. Remember that a drug that lets you study isn’t something you need or should take just because you feel like you’ve fallen behind. The semester is almost over, and that break you need is right around the corner.