The Joys of Internet Self-Diagnosis

At Ascot House, Jamie’s suggestion that I might have ADD started a mad scramble through my behaviours looking for things that could simultaneously prove the suggestion true, and that would be excused by the suggestion.

A quick glance at the NHS website turns up LOTS of interesting, possibly self-validating, information. Here is the full list of “Symptoms in Adults”:

  • carelessness and lack of attention to detail (Yes, that’s me)
  • continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones (Oh my God, Yes! All the time!)
  • poor organisational skills (Absa-bloody-lutely!)
  • inability to focus or prioritise (Yes!)
  • continually losing or misplacing things (Hmm…I guess so, but who doesn’t?…)
  • forgetfulness (My memory is non-existent. It’s one of the main reasons why I feel so cast adrift in the world.)
  • restlessness and edginess (Yes, a bit, and much worse when I was younger.)
  • difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn (Yes, definitely.)
  • blurting out responses and often interrupting others (Yes.)
  • mood swings, irritability and a quick temper (Not the mood swings, really, but I’m highly irritable and occasionally quick-tempered. But, again, who isn’t?)
  • inability to deal with stress (Oh, yes, indeed!)
  • extreme impatience (Yup.)
  • taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously (This one is more complicated. I’m probably kind of anxious and risk-averse, but I also don’t think through the consequences of my actions.)

“Related Conditions” suggested include depression (perhaps, probably, maybe…), OCD (Hmm…again, maybe? Mildly?) and dyslexia (as previously discussed). Most importantly of all, though, “The behavioural problems associated with ADHD can also cause problems such as difficulties with relationships and social interaction”.

This is all brilliant stuff. I’m like the proverbial anorexic in a bakery: I want (and don’t want) everything, every symptom, every associated condition.

However, “In adults the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define…hyperactivity tends to decrease in adults, while inattentiveness tends to get worse…Adult symptoms of ADHD also tend to be far more subtle than childhood symptoms.”

ADHD is a pathology: it exists in the manifestation of its symptoms, rather than being a definable condition with symptoms, like cancer or heart disease. These symptoms exist on a continuum with perfectly normal behaviours. If you can have the condition without strongly manifesting the characteristics of the condition, if a diagnosis is so easily purchased, you can have a character-altering affliction without really having it. Everything dissolves into a vague and uncertain mist.

This does nothing to allay my sense of anxiety and uncertainty, my sense of the insubstantiality of identity. How can I tell if I’m a charlatan? A fiction? How much reality can there be in the world?

And beyond this is the unknowability of other people, because I don’t know if the way my brain works is the same as the way yours does. I don’t know if my thought structures are normal or abnormal.

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