ADHD and College Students: Experiencing an Illness Career

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rebecca L. Conway (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Julie Brown

Abstract: This study examines one particular example of an illness career in a sociologically important yet understudied population: university students who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and certified as eligible for support services by a university clinic. Most adults in America have visited a physician at least once in their lifetime. In our culture this is a regular, taken-for-granted activity for those who feel sick. But how does someone arrive at the decision to seek expert medical help? Sociological researchers have demonstrated that this process is actually quite complex, involving a series of decision-making steps that together can be analyzed as stages in an "illness career." Using qualitative interviews, I examined the experiences and processes that ADHD students pass through. I use the ideas of the sick role, illness career and gatekeeper to inform my results. Through my analysis, I have created a model for the illness career that contrasts with the traditional linear stages by viewing the different aspects of the career as intertwined. Regarding ADHD, I discovered that this disorder shifts from being other-diagnosed to self-diagnosed as a student progresses through the educational system. I also add insight to structural responses, and to the living experience of the ADHD diagnosed individual.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
ADHD, College Students, Illness Career, Sick Role
Attention-deficit-disordered adults--Education (Higher)
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder--Psychological aspects.

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