ADHD/ADD: It’s not an excuse … it’s an explanation

People with ADHD have less activity in areas of the brain that control attention. –
People with ADHD have less activity in areas of the brain that control attention. –

College is well known for being a stressful academic environment, but imagine trying to pursue school while also having ADD or ADHD.

“College is stressful no matter what, especially when you are dealing with a learning disability,” said WCC mental health counselor Karla Silva. “You got more hurdles that you have to jump over of course naturally. And so you are looking to reduce those hurdles, and being able to reduce them means being (able) to tap into your resources.”

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a chronic condition that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and behavior. These brain operations can collectively be categorized as “executive function skills.” The disorder is characterized by having problems with things such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation, effort, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization and social skills.

ADHD has been known by different names since the late 1700s when it was first recorded medically, which is why it is common for people to use the terms ADD and ADHD interchangeably. The disorder wasn’t officially recognized until 1968 when it was included as Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that many health professionals use to identify, describe and code various conditions. A big reason for the fluctuation of the name, along with description, is due to the new research and information that has been found.

There are over 11 million people in the U.S. who have ADHD. While often associated with children, the disorder also affects adults and both genders. About two-thirds of the children diagnosed with it continue to struggle with it to adulthood.

Although there are subtypes for ADHD, no two cases are the same. There is Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, in which primary symptoms are hyperactivity-impulsivity but no inattention were present for the past six months. The second subtype is Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, in which mainly symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months. The third subtype is Combined Presentation, in which symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past six months. Each person who has ADHD can show different combinations of symptoms, and the intensity or the manner in which those show are very different.

Often Silva said that a student might tell her, “I’m having a hard time focusing on school, taking notes, taking my test, what can I do?” So then she focuses on how to support that individual student.

“The diagnosis isn’t necessarily the focus. It’s more of ‘I need some support, let’s work on this together.’ So it really depends more of what the students is looking for … ”

If students want to be diagnosed, Silva suggests they see a medical doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

“But it’s not the definitive end all to end all, because you can see another provider who says ‘Oh, I don’t think that is it, you know I think we are dealing with a different disorder or no disorder or maybe it’s a trauma that’s going onʻ … I think for the most part, we are really genuinely looking for those that have difficulty concentrating, difficulty completing things,” Silva explained.

For those with ADHD, some tips to help increase focus include identifying what distracts you, breaking up your study times into chunks and moving around. For more information, go to Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s website at


by Itzel Contreras Mendez, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter