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Thinking of withdrawing from a class and not accepting a research position

  1. Sep 21, 2012 #1
    Is it really that bad to withdraw from a class? I am taking 18 credits and I am taking the following classes:

    Computer Based Experimentation
    Classical Mechanics
    Multivariable Calculus
    Linear Algebra
    Computing for math & science
    Students in Transition Seminar

    I'm going to drop 1 class, computer based experimentation which will drop me down to 14 credits. I have previously talked to a professor about getting a research assistant position for the fall/spring semester and he had agreed, but I think I will decline that as well.

    I can't focus. I don't know what is going on with me the past week -- no focus (literally almost no focus), no motivation. I can't handle 18 credits if my brain isn't wired to pay attention to class or to sit down for homework -- and I will not settle for anything less than As in all of my classes (I'm sort of a perfectionist I suppose and I obsess about it). I'm not sure what it is, I have ADD but I usually managed to stay focused by some techniques (because I am very passionate). I feel stressed, and very discouraged -- like I said its very hard to focus lately. I'm not sure what is going on, maybe I'm burnt out, maybe my ADD is catching up with me because I don't have that burning passion inside of me at this present moment (which is what keeps me focused).

    I think I'll go get medicated for ADD (something I always resisted). But I don't think I'm going to take that research position -- I am not feeling good about myself right now. I know I have a lot of potential but I'm not able to reach it at this moment. I've worked as much as 70 hours the first week (completely voluntarily and with a burning desire) with complete passion, then my stupid brain shut off randomly. I can't function with those periods of high passion followed by a period of low motivation/focus (something perpetuated by ADD). This is stupid, I'm quite resentful.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2012 #2
    what research can you really do if you are currently enrolled in classical mechanics, multivariate calculus, and linear algebra? Those are pretty basic courses, you know.
  4. Sep 21, 2012 #3
    I was referring to a research assistant position. I'll edit my original post to clarify.
  5. Sep 21, 2012 #4


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    Education Advisor

    Doesn't really sound like an ADD problem per se, but what do I know. I do believe that you are going through something that a lot of people go through after they spend a lot of time thinking about one thing and that's just eventually being overwhelmed and need a break. Sadly, you're in the middle of a semester and a break isn't an option.

    I do say though 70 hours a week is a lot of time and energy to focus on one thing. I would advise to just step back, take a day or two to just 'ignore' your obligations and take time for yourself to do something you enjoy doing that isn't science rated. I find physical activities to work best for me.

    I can't advise you to drop a class or not drop a class, but I can say this. If your success depends on passion and passion alone, you're setting yourself up for failure. A lot of time, passion isn't there and what you need is just gut wrenching motivation to push pass the boredom, the suckiness, and the overwhelming tiredness you may feel and get the job done, and while it may not be your best work, this attitude will probably, in the long run, benefit you more than simply working at stuff you love and then falling at the wayside when the love is gone.

    When I was in the Army, we would go on some very long road marches, and there was a saying , "You're heart quit 8 miles ago but your body went on." Everything thing in you told you that the weight on your back was to heavy, your legs were to tired, your feet to blistered to ever take another step, but somehow, you did and eventually the 20 some odd miles were over, tired and worn out, hungry beyond belief, it was over. In much the same way, your mind seems tired and worn out, and it's up to you to push through it or not. I have a feeling that if you do find the strength to go on and complete these classes and take that Research assistant position, you'll feel much better about yourself overall for overcoming the difficulty before you.
  6. Sep 21, 2012 #5
    drop the class. i was in your situation and crumbled the first time. no shame in knowing your limits.
  7. Sep 21, 2012 #6
    I've already took days off..

    I am a very hard working individual. You wouldn't believe the type of determination that I have. I know personally and I have never used ADD as an excuse. However, I can't barely focus on the things that I usually enjoy doing right now-- like solving problems. That is a common misconception, it is not a behavioral or a lazy problem. I am not lazy one bit -- I will avoid any type of distractions (hanging out with friends, video games, visiting the forum, the list goes on and on) just to do what I have in goal.

    I have the attitude where I will stop at nothing to accomplish what I have in mind. I am very persistent and I am one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet. Listen if I almost failed algebra in high school, only to turn it around and self study ODEs and classical mechanics in the summer all while having a research internship than I can certainly tell you that I am not lazy. Please don't tell me that, ADD is a neural anatomy issue in (if I recall correctly) the prefrontal cortex and dopamine levels. You have a harder time controlling your attention even if you know something is really important.

    I've sat down for 5 hours trying to do a two page lab report (and I wasn't even done). I've had to stretch and walk a couple of times from the build up of stress on my body. This is not a behavioral issue! There are many more examples but I will end this here, and trust that you will do some research rather than push the stigma that ADD is laziness.

    Edit: For example, I can start doing a problem (and I love solving problems) but my brain will jump in 5 directions just like right now, which brings me back here even though my homework is due in an hour and 20 minutes.

    I have did many sports in my lifetime, including wrestling for 4-5 years. I know what your talking about -- that moment where everything in your soul tells you to give up but you keep on. It is a bit different with ADD, the more you push on the more you will find it almost impossible to focus. I try to force it, but it becomes overwhelming after a while.

    Yea i am going to withdraw. But this isn't my limit, I know it isn't. I've done similar study loads.

    The thing that bothers me is that nothing pushed me to work so hard in the beginning. Absolutely nothing. I was obsessed, I HAD to do it. Something inside of me just burned and pushed me. Then nothing, for little to no reason. I'm still determined, I'm still passionate, I know I can easily finish this semester with A's with an 18credit workload (it is not my limit) -- but not in this state. /bitter
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012
  8. Sep 21, 2012 #7
    If you were hard working you wouldn't be coming on forums and wasting time telling us how hard working you are. We've all bit off more than we can chew and hard workers usually buckle down and give it their all..
  9. Sep 21, 2012 #8
    You're attending RU? I instantly recognized it when you said Students in Transition, that god awful class that everyone is forced to take when they first transfer in; i finished it last Spring. Looks like we're in the same Mechanics and Lab course this semester. PM me and we can meet up sometime. I'm not particularly social by nature and coming in as a junior hasn't helped either. Would be nice to make some friends here.
  10. Sep 21, 2012 #9
    It could be burn out, but you seem to be denying. Even though you worked 70 hours last week with "burning desire", your brain could still be exhausted If you still don't think it is burn out, maybe you are going through the same thing I am.

    Lately, I've felt the same way you have (roughly 2 weeks). I'm bored in class, my homework feels mundane and pointless (mentality = I won't be using this ever), my research is now just a job that pays. I now seek research, TA, and other jobs of that sort as a means of earning extra money as opposed to doing it for the sake of doing it (i.e. passion).

    My perspective of life has changed. I no longer want to go to graduate school. I would much rather get a job and have free time on weekends. I've really been cherishing what little free time I have to do things I like to do. Things I would rather do than anything physics related in fact. Many things of this nature is what I really look forward to.

    I'm slowly becoming happier by coming to terms with leaving behind goals I once had. My feelings still oscillate back and forth, but they slowly lean towards to what I have described. I don't know if this is the case for you, but I had similar feelings as you and this is what I realized was the cause. Something to take into consideration.
  11. Sep 21, 2012 #10
    Your post confuses me. Can you be a bit more explicit on what your trying to convey? I'm not coming to a forum to say that I am a hard worker. I was simply telling Marnemath that ADD isn't a behavioral issue. There is a stigma that those who have ADD are lazy.
  12. Sep 21, 2012 #11
    Research assistant positions are usually awarded to graduate students? Are you a graduate student? If yes, isn't multivariate calculus an undergraduate course?
  13. Sep 21, 2012 #12
    There is a purpose for every homework that I have that has to do with solving problems. I don't ever have a negative mentality towards homework actually, I think that the skills you gain in solving problems in general are very important.

    I have questioned if it really is just burn out. But I don't see how I can burn out just after 2 weeks. I made sure I took a long break after my research internship and independent study this summer, something like 30 days till school started.

    See thing is, I can't see myself doing anything else than physics. Graduate school is all I want to do. I don't really care about much else at this point. I'm driven for this one goal, and it is what I have centered my life around it. I find it very hard to believe that I am burnt out. But I don't know the exact science behind being burnt out either.

    You want to know what "burns" me out, not being able to focus. I've had a bad experience the past week and a half that I don't have much motivation to go back and do some of my homework.

    You realized that you couldn't focus because you burnt out?

    Thing is, I don't feel burnt out. All I want to do is math and physics, its weird. I am however very discouraged from my inconsistent focusing ability -- I can't always rely on being deeply engrossed in an assignment to be able to focus because there will always be lots of grunt work.
  14. Sep 21, 2012 #13
    Well not this one and no I am an undergraduate student. I suppose the usage of the word "research assistant" is arbitrary, institutions can use it to their own judgment.
  15. Sep 22, 2012 #14

    Stephen Tashi

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    Science Advisor

    I have a theory of "burn-out" that intelligent internet strangers widely reject - but here goes, anyway:

    When you do intellectual work, appreciating the rewards primarily involves "higher brain functions". When you work hard at it, you are punishing yourself in simple ways that "lower" brain function detects ( and which intellectuals dismiss as trivial). You have less time for immediate pleasures. You may spend a long time in a seate posture. You may not get enough sleep. I think that elementary Pavlovian conditioning can set in and cause you to fell an aversion to mental concentration.

    Intellectuals don't like to admit that something as simple as repeatedly sitting in a slightly uncomfortable posture could train them not to think about the Riemann Hypothesis. There are usually reactions to this theory along the lines of "Why i only sleep 6 hours a night and I have no trouble concentrating for 14 hours a day". I'm not saying that's impossible, but I don't think it typical behavior and I don't think such behavior shows any kind of superiority in "passion" for a particular subject.

    A suggestion based on this theory is that you try to make associate elementary pleasures with your higher mental work and avoid minor unpleasant things when you are concentrating.
  16. Sep 22, 2012 #15
    Well I always get 8-9 hours of sleep so we got that out of the way. Part of it could be your theory as you posited, but I have no knowledge of the science behind it all so I'll refrain from making any judgements.

    Edit: If I'm interpreting correctly, your positing that if one experiences pain or is uncomfortable while studying then one will associate studying with negative emotion and will thus hinder their concentration due to "un-motivation" (for lack of better words)?

    That seems plausible. But I wasn't uncomfortable though.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012
  17. Sep 22, 2012 #16
    This may not be the case for you, but I have a bit of experience with such commitment. Being so narrowly focused is a pretty dangerous thing. Up until the start of 2013 I was pursuing a professional athletic career and all I did was eat, sleep, and breathe my sport. That was ALL that I cared about and all I thought about. I would not say that I burned out work-wise (I loved and would still love to go out and train 8+ hours per day)... but I mentally burned out from this mind-set. It is hard on your mind to do and think nothing else. I ended up quitting because I don't think it is healthy (and I also did not want to drop out of school or compromise my grades to have a short-term pro career). You should find some other smaller interests, hobbies, etc. to take your mind off of school/physics when it is not time to be working on it. Or, at the very least, find things to do that incorporate physics or mental stimulation which are solely for fun.

    I know physics is fun, but you need to give your mind a rest. That kind of mental commitment, putting your all into something, is taxing. It's a lot of pressure and you're constantly bombarded with expectations from yourself. I don't think you have burned out... I think you need to balance your life a bit.
  18. Sep 22, 2012 #17


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    This may be an unwelcome series of questions, but here goes.

    You say youthink add is an anatomical issue, not behavioral. Ok. What anatomical tests are done to confirm it. Are there MRIs? Blood tests? How do they know someones dopamine levels are low? Does the APA not define it behaviorally in the DSM?

    Im not saying you dont meet the criteria, but i am under the impression the criteria is behavioral. This is a science forum, i think we should be careful to recognize the state of infancy the fields of neuroscience and human behavioral biology are in.

    I meet the supposed criteria as well. I have never been officially medicated for it and im not sure itwould improve anything. 18 credit hours of new material is a lot. It is difficult to do justice to learning all of it at a high level. There is no shame in realizing youd learn more from less.
  19. Sep 23, 2012 #18
    Nano Passion,

    I would advise you to drop the class if it isn't too late. Also, dont stress about this. You've hit a wall and it happens to everyone. Getting stressed about it and wondering why its happening will just make it worse. What you need to do now is essentially tough the rest of the semester out. If you need some motivation in the "toughness department" watch some John Smith or Dan Gable talks, as you said you've wrestled. Those are some tough dudes who can make you wanna work through almost anything. Good luck!
  20. Sep 23, 2012 #19
    8 hours a day? That is SUPER intense. What training did you do and for what sport?

    I do have some other smaller interests and hobbies actually, such as chess, reading, watching documentaries and an anime called Naruto. I also enjoy going out with friends every once in a while, just not every day either. I do enjoy playing some sports as well, I'm particularly good at Table Tennis myself actually. I used to be on the wrestling team for 4 when I was younger, I played soccer and basketball -- but that is the past though.

    Thanks, will do.
  21. Sep 23, 2012 #20
    On an individual level, there aren't any tests that uses such techniques. However, there are several studies that shows ADD is an anatomical issue and it has been widely studied. See for example:






    "www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=Search&term=Neuropsychopharmacology[ta [Broken]

    Yes, a lot of people fit the criteria for ADD. However, the difference between an ADD diagnosis and a person who has ADD like symptoms is the amount that it interferes with someone's life. In any diagnosis, there is always a spectrum of how strong/prevalent the symptoms are, sort of like the electromagnetic field. Once you get to a certain tipping scale, you are deemed an "x-ray." It has to come to a point where it interferes with your life.

    Another criteria for the diagnosis is that it has to be prevalent in one or more areas of your life. It can't only be in a classroom setting or only in X setting, there has to be a series of symptoms in one or more areas of your life to show that you have an anatomical issue. I'll give myself as an example -- I get bored very easily, including social settings that doesn't interest me (such as small talk) and will have a strong impulse to leave, I daze off during conversations and everyday tasks, I have songs playing in my heads or a "brain chatter" that makes it hard to sleep, I forget things that needs to be done and even when I write it in my notepad I tend to forget to look at it, I tend to either be completely engrossed in an activity or completely detached from it, I run in spurts -- periods of great motivation and periods of low motivation. I'll just end the list here though, no need to list everything.

    A good theory about ADD is that it isn't an attention deficit disorder, it is more of a attention regulatory disorder. To make more explicit, that means it isn't that you can't pay attention, but that you have a harder time regulating your attention to things that you know have to be done.

    If you have any question or counterargument then feel free to share. I should tell you though that this is coming from a person who did not believe in ADD and lived most of his life skeptical of it. It was only after very careful introspection of myself and the disorder that I started to come to terms with it, particularly around 2 years ago (when I was more informed about the anatomy of the brain).

    I have a good grasp of calculus, multivariable calculus is simple in itself because it is the same concepts, same algebra, and more or less same techniques applied to multivariables. Classical mechanics is tougher, I did however study a bit of classical mechanics in the summer so I knew what to expect. That leaves computing for math and sciences which is really easy since I have all of the programming background for it, computer based-experimentation however is a bit more time consuming (and a torture to someone with add if they don't enjoy it.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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