Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I disagree with your response to "Needs Help Finishing Th ... " (Feb. 23), who can't complete her projects now that she has graduated from college. I could have written that letter, except that I graduated from college 30 years ago.

I have always had problems finishing anything that didn't have specific external consequences if it wasn't completed. Now that I'm in graduate school, this trait has become a real problem. I tried every mind game, motivation and organizational technique I could think of, while silently berating myself because no matter what I did, I could not finish writing my papers or complete my research projects.

Eventually, I was sent by student counseling to a psychologist who ran a battery of tests and found that I have the inattentive form (non-hyperactive) of attention deficit disorder (ADD). I am now on medication and making progress.

Not everyone who can't complete tasks has ADD. But for those who do, being told they are "self-indulgent" only adds to the despair and self-recrimination they already feel. "Needs Help" should read up on adult ADD/ADHD to see if some of the characteristics fit and then seek professional help.

— 50-YEAR-OLD GRAD STUDENT WITH ADD

DEAR GRAD STUDENT: While some readers felt that I was insensitive for telling "Needs Help" to "stop the self-indulgence," others, like you, shared helpful suggestions. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Didn't it occur to you that "Needs Help" might just be an idea person? I'm half of a creative team in advertising. I'm a writer, and I work with a designer to come up with cool new ideas for ad campaigns. We start those ideas and then pass them on to more designers, illustrators, developers, etc.

"Needs Help" should know that every negative has a positive. I, too, used to worry that I would never finish anything, but now I realize that I just have a passion for learning new things.

— CREATIVE, NOT LAZY IN KALAMAZOO

DEAR ABBY: Being disorganized and not a self-starter could be signs and/or symptoms of several psychological problems that interfere with personal growth and satisfaction in many areas of life. There could be a deep, underlying reason for that person's lack of motivation in getting on with life after graduation.

Talking to a therapist would get to the core of the problem. There are recognized disorders that prevent people from starting and finishing even the smallest project.

— PAULA IN ROCHESTER, N.Y.

DEAR ABBY: As a college professor, I often see students who thrive under the structure of formal classes have difficulty applying their talents to independent projects. The ability to conceptualize and complete unsupervised projects requires skills that can be learned and strengthened with practice. "Needs Help" recognizes that he or she has not yet learned these skills. A counselor who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful.

— PROFESSOR IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR ABBY: The disorganization of some creative people is often chalked up as a side effect of their creativity because they do not seem to have trouble in school. These students often gravitate toward the arts because the climate is more accommodating of their "difficulties."

Because I was an excellent student who was considered creative, people set aside the fact that I was disastrously messy and disorganized. It wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I was diagnosed with ADD. That diagnosis changed my life and provided immense relief.

— BEEN THERE IN HAMILTON, N.J.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.