The journalist, age 40, said she may have suspected that she suffered some kind of attention impairment. Ling said she often had problems with focusing in school, and in high school could often zone out for entire periods.
Ling would later go on to drop out of college at USC.
“I have always had a bit of a difficult time focusing on things that aren’t interesting to me, and I get really, really anxious before taking any kind of test or having any kind of evaluation,” Ling said in a video from the episode.
For the show, Ling underwent an initial evaluation with Dr. Craig Liden, an expert on both ADD and ADHD. Afterward she was sent to a room that allowed Linden to watch through a two-way mirror as she completed a series of tasks.
“There’s really two or three key things that came out of this,” Liden told Ling. “The one that really sticks out at the top is any part of the testing that demanded focused, sustained attention, you had much more struggle with.”
Linden even went so far as to suggest a course of treatment for Lisa Ling.
“My belief is that if you’ve got a biologically based problem with your ability to pay attention, then you’re a candidate for using medication,” Liden said. “I don’t see the medicine as being the sole treatment. We’re going to help refine the strategies that you do have right now and develop some new ones to help you function at a much higher plane than even where you are right now.”
Despite living with the symptoms of the disorder, the actual diagnosis of ADD was still a shock, Ling said.
“My head is kind of spinning,” she said. “But I feel a little bit of relief because, for so long, I’ve been fighting it and I’ve been so frustrated with this inability to focus.”
Lisa Ling added that she still feels the effects of ADD today, especially when she does not have a task to occupy her time. Ling noted that she can have a “laser focus” when she is working on a story, but other times feels her mind go “in every direction but where it’s supposed to go.”
“I’ve been like that since I was a kid,” Ling said.
Lisa Ling shared more about her surprise ADD diagnosis on Our America With Lisa Ling, which airs Thursday at 10 pm ET on OWN.