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Can I Have ADHD If…

An ADHD diagnosis can bring a flood of different feelings, from relief at finally having an explanation for your symptoms (“now things are starting to make sense”) to a sadness over lost time (“what if I’d been diagnosed earlier?”).

But another feeling that doesn’t always get talked about enough can be doubt over the diagnosis in the first place.

One reason this doubt can crop up is if you don’t meet the image of a stereotypical ADHDer – which many if not most people with ADHD don’t.

QuestionThe hallmark of this kind of doubt is asking yourself questions like “can I really have ADHD if [insert some way you aren’t a walking stereotype of ADHD here]?”

For example, can I really have ADHD if I graduated from college?

Yes. The requirement for an ADHD diagnosis is generally that your symptoms interfere with multiple aspects of your life, including work, school, relationships, home, and so on.

That may or may not mean your symptoms actually prevented you from receiving a college diploma. Although ADHD does decrease their chances, someone with ADHD could still graduate from college if they have a the right support, find an area of study they’re enthusiastic about, or get lucky in some other way.

Can I really have ADHD if I’m able to focus on my favorite hobby for hours on end?

Again, yes. Having an “attention deficit” doesn’t literally mean that you can’t ever concentrate on anything.

The issue is more that ADHDers have a highly variable ability to concentrate that depends on how rewarding they find the activity at hand, so they especially struggle to force themselves to concentrate on tasks they don’t find very stimulating. But in the “favorite hobby” scenario, they could easily go to the opposite extreme and experience hyperfocus.

Can I have ADHD if I’m not very talkative?

The answer is … wait for it … yes. The popular stereotype of ADHD is a little kid who’s all over the place and won’t stop talking, but actual ADHDers run the full gamut from “talk your ear off” to “exceptionally quiet.”

That’s due to the fact that individuals with ADHD are, you know, individuals with individual differences. Plus, there are many ADHDers without hyperactive symptoms at all, and people with ADHD often have comorbid anxiety disorders (including social anxiety), all of which means it’s quite possible for someone with ADHD not to be talking constantly.

No doubt there are plenty of other “can I have ADHD if …” questions that can be asked. If you can think of some more, feel free to post them below!

By now, though, you’re probably getting my point: as long as you have ADHD symptoms, there aren’t any life accomplishments or personality traits that preclude an ADHD diagnosis. When someone asks whether they can still have ADHD despite [fill in the blank], more often than not the answer is yes.

Image: Flickr/Noelia

Can I Have ADHD If…


Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.


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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2020). Can I Have ADHD If…. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-millennial/2020/06/can-i-have-adhd-if/

 

Last updated: 2 Jun 2020
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