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Navigating College with ADHD

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WSU chapter.

Navigating College With ADHD

(Disclaimer: not meant to diagnose anyone but purely bring awareness)

According to The National Institute of Health, 5.6% of American college students reported having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Due to the complexity of getting diagnosed, there is a high chance that the number would be greater. In addition, those who do struggle with attention disorders will not receive the help and encouragement they deserve and may feel as though they could not attend college. Other studies estimated the rates are between 2 – 8% of students that could have ADHD. Lastly, 25% of all students with disabilities are diagnosed with ADHD. This is all to say, it isn’t a massive majority who have been diagnosed with ADHD, but it is a prevalent minority who have their own obstacles that they must learn to manage. I want to tell you some ways I have struggled with ADHD and how I traverse my mental illness.

To be specific, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by many different symptoms. Most notably it is explained as an inability to stay focused on tasks, impulsivity, and struggles to stay still due to being involuntarily overly active. It’s important to say, you may experience these issues and not have mental illness as the condensed symptoms are things that a neurotypical person can experience. ADHD has sub-types that can depend on the person; there is predominantly hyperactive presenting, predominantly inattentive presenting, or a combination. This means that, for instance, you can have ADHD and not be hyperactive but still have the mental illness. For me, I have a combination as I struggle to stay focused and I am hyperactive which, as you can guess, makes for a very fun classroom experience.

I struggle in my day-to-day as a Washington State University student in many different ways that I have had to learn to battle even since high school. I struggle with time management, issues with remaining still for long periods of time, object permanence, and disorganized thought, just to name a few. In real life applications, my time management problems make me a massive procrastinator and struggle with assignments that don’t have hard deadlines. My hyperactivity mixed with my focus issues make lectures feel like a full-blown punishment some days. On my bad days, I find it feels physically impossible to keep my focus on the professor and whatever they’re teaching, which is so frustrating. My unorganized thoughts often leave me with a brain that works against me. As well, it leads to unintentional self-sabotage in the form of daily productivity and in relationship upkeep.

In the spirit of transparency, I will preface that I take daily medication that has helped me tremendously. It doesn’t cure my mental illnesses, but it makes my ADHD manageable for everyday life. This of course isn’t the correct choice for everyone, but it was for me, and it could be for you. There are some things I still have no idea how to improve or make easier for myself. What I will share is the few ways that I monotonously manage my ADHD issues so I can do well in school.

1. I Set an Extreme Amount of Alarms– It’s so I can stay on track much better, since I struggle to remember things that I don’t have a basic reminder of. I would miss 75% of my responsibilities if I relied solely on my brain.

2. I Have Three Different Calendars or Written Schedules– I use them to better manage my time. When I write out every assignment and task expected of me, I find it easier to not let them slip the cracks. I personally love my whiteboard with my whole month written out.

3. Time Budgeted for My Mental Overwhelm– In the mornings, I will wake up earlier or leave sooner for my classes, so I have time for hold ups. When I say hold ups, I mean the situations where I start walking circles because I can’t pick a task to finish. Alternatively, I stand completely still as I become overwhelmed with what I should be doing at that moment.

4. Create A Perfect Environment– This one is important to me, as I struggle with object permanence and executive dysfunction. Object permanence is when you forget something, or someone, exists once it’s out of sight. Executive dysfunction is when your brain struggles to initiate tasks or manage thoughts. The way I manage these is by making my dorm in a way that works to my benefit. Some people will call it cluttered but everything is out and within sight for my benefit. Similarly, I will craft an environment that encourages me to complete tasks by creating rewards, the atmosphere of the room, and even doing what I can to initiate my productive periods. The periods are where I will do every single task I’ve been putting off for a week and do them all in 30 minutes.

5. A Support System– I understand that I am blessed in many ways to have people who care about me, but I find they still help me despite being over three hours away. I practice openness with my mom and sister as they help me when my mind is massively cluttered, and they listen when I want to vent. Often, it’s less venting though and one long yap session with them.

At the end of the day, everyone struggles and copes with ADHD in their own way. One person’s tips may not help you but that’s just because every person and their brain are unique. For those of us who don’t struggle with mental illness, I hope you learned a bit more about what people with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder struggle with on a day-to-day basis. For those of you who are learning the ropes of mental illness in any form, just remember you are not alone, and you have potential that demands to be recognized in all the amazing things you will do one day!

Celia Lyon is a writer for Her Campus for the Washington State University chapter. She enjoys writing monthly articles about current world events, topics of female issues, and entertainment. She has a passion for writing and is excited to write articles for you to read as a creative outlet for her. Beyond writing for Her Campus, Celia is a Junior with a major in Nursing. Her future plans are to attend graduate school and be a Nurse-Midwife. When it comes to writing, she doesn't have formal experience but she has had work published in other campus magazines. More importantly, she's fostered a life long love for writing fictional stories beginning even before she could formulate a proper sentence. She loves hanging out and spending time with her friends and attending Creative Writing club. Celia's most favorite things to do in her life are Minecraft, writing her fantasy novel, and watching movies.