Adult ADD, Comorbid Depression and Anxiety

A subscriber sent in this question: “when I was a child I was diagnosed with ADD. Although I was never on medication I didn’t actively seek much help. I’m beginning to realize that perhaps now at age 26 it is related to my depression and anxiety issues as well as motivation. I’m still struggling to get through a degree and not quite sure where to turn. I think I should go see someone about this but I’m not sure who the best person to turn to is”.

This question is a very important one. This is an adult who is describing having been diagnosed with ADD early in life and now has depression and anxiety issues. It sounds as if the depression and anxiety are the main concern – however, let’s remember that this person sent his/her question in to The ADHD Doctor! So, obviously there is some concern there about the impact of the ADD or ADHD as well.

This question is very important along the lines of comorbidity of ADD and ADHD, particularly in adults.

I’m going to assume that the individual who diagnosed the ADD early on was accurate, and that a thorough and complete assessment was done.

Is ADD still a problem for this individual?

I don’t have a lot of information to go on, but it seems that it likely still is. He or she is struggling with motivation, and completion of a degree. That said, this could be completely related to the depression and anxiety that is going on.

It would be important for this person to have a thorough assessment with a psychiatrist with expertise in adult ADD or ADHD. The problem is that they can be hard to find. Also, often it is the child psychiatrist who are better at ADD or ADHD. All child psychiatrists train in adult psychiatry first, and we learn about ADD and ADHD, and how it can change through the course of the lifespan.

Comorbidity in adult ADD is very common. Only 14% of adults with ADD don’t have a second disorder. In other words, comorbidity is the rule, not the exception.

It is very common for an adult with ADD or ADHD to have comorbidity with depression and anxiety.

Sometimes, it is minor depression or anxiety – somewhat of a self esteem issue. This can relate to all of the years of people saying:
“you would do better if you would only live up to your potential, or try harder or keep more organized, I know you can do better etc.”

Eventually a person with ADD can start to feel, “well I must be that kind of loser that everybody’s talking about.”

Then, depression and anxiety can develop.

Coming back to the specific question, the main issue for this person is figuring out if the depression and anxiety are the main problem, or whether the ADD is still active and is the main problem.

If the depression and anxiety are the main problem (or the dominant problem, even if ADD is still there), then they have to be treated first, with therapy plus or minus medication. After these are more stable, it would be important to review if ADD is still there and if it needs treatment.

If the ADD is the main problem, then it will need treatment – with therapy, coaching, plus or minus medication. If the ADD improves, most likely minor depression and anxiety would improve as well.

It can be very complicated for adults with ADD or ADHD, because there aren’t that many doctors who are comfortable and competent in adult ADD.

Start with your primary care doctor (family doctor), ask questions, and seek referrals until you have the answers you need. Also, consider a psychologist who may be able to help with the diagnosis and therapy, though he or she couldn’t prescribe the medication.

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Comments

  1. Hi

    I wonder if someone with ADD feel quite often bored or nervous it migth be due to its ADD or due to anxiety and depression.

    Because about me with ADD, depression and anxiety when I start to use Ritalin at begining I became more relaxed and calm and my concentration improved alot.

    but now after one year taking medicine my situation some how change it seems that sometimes after the effect of medicine gone I start to feel more nervous.

  2. I have the opposite problem. For 20 years I have been being treated for severe depression. In the last 5 years or so I have been hospitalized 6 times, 1 suicide attempt, ECT treatments, and an endless list of anti-depressants that for some reason I am not responding to at an acceptable level. I have been on “cocktails” of combinations of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics and tranquilizers. Needless to say my life has been a mess.

    I recently for the first time went to see a different psychiatrist for a second opinion after the first one told me he was stumped and didn’t know what to do to help me anymore. The new doctor has suggested that I have a combination of sleep apnea and ADD, and that perhaps once these conditions have been treated I may find I have little or no depression at all, and if I do it would be easily treatable.

    This blows my mind and I’d love to hear from anyone who has had the “reverse” experience.

    Thanks!

  3. Regarding this person, congratulations on fighting your way through your degree! Good work! Sometimes, you have to be water over stone; going over and over the hard places until they wear down.

    It also may be more that you aren’t in love with your major. That happens with younger students. Someone else is paying your bill, so you go in the direction they want.

    In my case, after abandoning my bachelor’s, I went back at 37. Because of all the general degree requirements I had soldiered through, I could concentrate on my major.

    Water over stone, like in a stream, requires each pass to wear away only a little bit at a time. One class at a time still equals a degree, just not in the usual time frame. :-)

    Regarding depression/anxiety, that’s what I was dx’d with for twenty years. The ADD was recent. I’m taking Strattera, brutal on the guts, but it seems to address all three versus Ritalin.

    Yes, it’s very painful to have these disorders. I can never fully trust what I feel and think because it may be distorted. Counseling for me, helped when I found a therapist who had a master’s and had been practicing for 25 years. I did poorly when I worked with people with less training.

    Either way, your brain is still growing. It really does get better as you get older. Some of this is just waiting out the symptoms as medical professionals can only help so far.

    The rest is you choosing to be the leader in your care and accepting any recommended exercises and doing them even if they seem to not work. The discipline is preparing you for the day when your brain becomes better.

  4. I actually have anxiety and attention problems. Surprisingly I have found that adderall can reduce my anxiety. Usually in the morning is when my anxiety is the highest. It seems, though, immediately after I take my adderall, my anxiety levels decrease. I suspect it may have something to do with lower levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Increasing dopamine may reduce anxiety levels for some people. Increasing norepinephrine on the other hand seems to increase anxiety.

    I think I have a lot of other comorbid disorders as well, so it is interesting that only 14% of people with ADD/ADHD don’t have other problems.

  5. When my depression and anxiety were at there worst I was a total scatterbrain. I couldn’t focus on anything for more than a minute or so no matter how hard I tried. I don’t know if that classifies me as ADHD or not but it sure felt like it. As I gained control over my anxiety, the clarity returned to my thinking.

  6. I think your post is fantastic, well thought-through and delivered well.

    Sound advice for those who are literally smashing their heads on the wall with a diagnosis that may not even be correct.

    I’ve unfortunately seen many patients that have lived for years in pain and agony due to a well-meaning practitioner and a misdiagnosis.

  7. A very good friend of mine recently broke up with her boyfriend after a long term relationship and im sure she’s going through a severe depression phase. However, she seems to be distracting herself on a daily basis, trying to block thoughts of her boyfriend, and instead going out every night, drinking, then going to work the next day. If she was doing this once per week, I’d think that she’s just trying to get over it, but every night….is this ADHD?

  8. Thanks for the great article! I was diagnosed with a hybrid of depression, anxiety and ADHD years back and have been receiving treatment with therapy and medication. It’s assuring to know that comorbidity in adult ADD is very common. I know I’m not the odd one out! Thank you so much!

  9. Regarding Depression’s comments:

    Not to pidgeonhole people, because so many things influence us beyond just biological, but it sounds like a basic broken heart.

  10. ive taken a huge variety of psych meds from anti depressants to moodstabilizers to antipsychotics for my long term depression and anxiety and none of them seemed to work. i was recently diagnosed with add, a condition which i feel ive had for awhile due to my utter inability to focus at work or school. this comorbid situation in my head has made my life a living hell for right over a decade. amazingly enough by treating my add with adderrall nearly all of my negative symptoms are gone. ive been told i was bipolar by one Dr. and have been told i was borderline by another . i am glad to finally have the correct diagnosis of comorbid add with depression and anxiety. i also was a substance abuser for years,pouring alcohol and drugs on this problem, now i know what it is and how to treat it
    my only hope is that this reaches someone and lets them no they are not alone
    if you can relate i love you and pray for you

    • did the adderrall make your anxiety sky rocket?
      i have tried a couple of meds. focused for awhile
      but the anxiety kicked in. i have add and anxiety
      and suggestions?

      • Linda,
        In my case, the Adderall was the best thing for both the ADD as well as the anxiety. As the ADD is treated, the comorbid anxiety retreats.
        Ritalin (methylphenidate) was the worst for my anxiety, and I have found nothing better than the Adderall.
        Hope that helps.

        • wow thanks for repying my son is 27 and trying to deal with this and figure out what is going to work for him. but it makes his anxiety go crazy! he is so frustrated what is a mom to do?his doctor told him the next step is to see a specialist and he said no way!!! but he has tried all of the 3 meds i do believe but it is his anxiety keeping him from the focus. i know I wrote it was me if my son knew i did this he wouldn’t like it to well. he will get over it!

          • Hi again Linda,
            I am a 58 year old man who, as a child even at my earliest memory before school age, suffered from tremendous anxiety and later, undiagnosed ADD.
            I never knew, until I came across this great website, that others suffer the same way I did, from one of the hallmarks of this syndrome, that being “severe loud noise hypersensitivity”.
            I was always told that I was just “being a baby” or “less than a man”. And I was pushed away by my mother and father, and being shamed.
            I just want to say, and I will not belabor the point, that I grew up in an environment where I was despised and abused by a drug addicted mother, and lived with a father with about as much emotionalism and support as a bar of soap.
            I had to fight for myself and went undiagnosed with the anxiety and the ADD. And I suffered and suffered until well into my adult life.
            Unfortunately, in my early 20s, I thought I had found my cure, and that “cure” became a 25 year addiction to barbiturates (aka “butalbital” found in the commonly prescribed headache medication called Fiorinal and Fioricet). I thought it was my cure. I felt calm, collected and a bit more focused. i finally had guts.
            To make a long story short, I was in rehab many times. I lost jobs, girlfriends and family relationships. I finally got clean and sobered up on August 3, 1999 after being in rehab for a year. Upon entering rehab that day in 1999, I was taking upwards of 40 Fioricet tablets a day. Yes 40!) You want to talk about a “hell on earth detox experience”, this WAS hell on earth!)
            I tell this story only so those who are afflicted by this terrible constant anxiety state not to even DABBLE in the benzodiazepine (Valium like) tranquilizers. These drugs are terribly physically addictive. You will find a hell far greater than you can imagine.
            To all parents:
            Listen to your children and take seriously what the say when they speak of anxiety and ADD.
            Keep trying to help them and understand that if they get into a drug problem, to find a doctor who can treat the underlying causes of the addiction as well as the addiction itself.
            Again for me, I find that the Adderall 10mgs 3x per day is what works.
            I hope this helps.

          • JON Wow what a story! but You have won and conquered it!!! My son is still trying his meds and I think he has finally giving it time so it may be working for him!!
            I was reading something about strattera?? it is not suppose to mess with your anxiety I need to tell him about it. You take care of yourself and hopefully I will hear from you soon.

    • Thank you so much. I really needed to hear that I’m not the only one who struggles with these types of diagnosis daily. It’s so hard to even find proper words to describe what I’m feeling and why I can’t “just snap out of it”. I was diagnosed with ADD incognative subtype when I was 20. It sounds crazy, but I was watching a movie, Charlie Bartlett, and all the symptoms one character described were so ME dead-on. It was a complete wake up call, and epiphany. Finally!! There was a Name for what I’d been struggling with my whole life- and I wasn’t crazy. And even more so than ever- After reading this article, and what others have posted before me, I am so hopeful for finding peace with my health. I dont feel such a loss for words, in trying to put my “symptoms”. Because now I am certain: My Problems have a Name.

  11. David,
    My case sounds just like yours, I’m sick of trying all different meds., can you tell me what cocktail you are on, I am sick of the whole psychiatric thing. My Dx is
    Severe depression, add, anxiety and panic attacks. I would appreciate any input, from anyone with similar diagnosis that is happy with their med combo.

  12. Hi Wendy,
    There comes a point where we (and western medicine) have done all we can. If I take Ritalin, Strattera or Wellbutrin, I have higher anxiety and better concentration. If I take anti-anxiety meds (Lexapro, Effexor, Zoloft) with them, I gain 50 lbs.

    It’s a grieving process to accept the long term issues of this disorder. There are no magic medications.

    The bottom line is to do what you can, but understand your symptoms will never be completely gone. That’s actually a very liveable place.

    I have a lot of anxiety at times. I don’t do this perfectly, just have been at it for 21 years. Learning to just ride the waves of icky and let them flow over me has taught me I won’t drown in them. They’re only feelings.

    If they’re at a point where I can’t fully control my behavior, I get some short term help. I talk with a counselor as well.

    One positive point of having so much anxiety is that I tend to have more courage. Everything scares me so much anyway that I’m more willing to take risks!! How’s that? :-)

  13. It took me years to find a doctor that I was comfortable with that actually helped me. Finding the correct medication was a long term prospect as well…I believe I tried 4 different anti-depressants before I found one suitable in terms of minimal side effects and efficacy.

  14. Great post. Some natural anxiety remedies to look into are St.John’s Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Tryptophan. There’s also cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and programs like Panic Away and The Linden Method, to name a few. Hope this helps!

  15. Anxiety disorders are a unique group of illnesses that fill people’s lives with persistent, excessive, and unreasonable anxiety, worry, and fear. They include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and specific phobias. Although anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions, they are treatable.
    An anxiety disorder and a co-occurring chronic pain disease can make a person’s health more difficult to treat. But a variety of treatments and lifestyle changes can offer relief. Possible health complications are noted below:
    • Increased disability or reduced functioning
    • Poorer quality of life
    • Poorer response to treatment
    • Poorer treatment adherence
    • Increased perception of disease severity
    Source: chronic-anxiety.com

  16. I am so grateful that I just stumbled upon this site after doing a search for the relationship between ADD and anxiety. I was never treated for the ADD as a child, because I was told that my “only problem” was that I was lazy and “should just buckle down”. As an young adult, I first obtained treatment in college after having received a (no longer on the market) migraine headache medicine, Daprisal by SKF, in the 1970s. It contained stimulant medication.
    THIS WAS AN EPIPHANY! I couldn’t believe how much better I was able to concentrate, and how much better overall I felt. When it was taken off the market in the late 70s, my medication was switched to Dexamyl, which was soon after taken off the market as well. I then was put on Dexedrine, or Ritalin (made me too jittery) and I have since tried other stimulant medication with success.
    As a child, I was anxiety ridden, and now I know that it probably was compounded by the undiagnosed ADD. I wasn’t lazy…I just couldn’t concentrate, and all of this PLUS an abusive home life compounded it all.
    These days as a 56 year old man, a few years older, perhaps wiser, but definitely not cured of either the anxiety nor the ADD, I find most doctors hesitant to prescribe stimulant medication because (and “almost” understandably so) they believe that stimulant medication exacerbates the anxiety.
    Yes, generally for those who don’t have the co-existing ADD.
    I therefore have learned to keep my mouth shut about the anxiety, and just talk about the ADD. The minute one mentions anxiety these days, all these doctors want to do is prescribe those useless antidepressant medications (i.e. Lexapro, Cymbalta, Zoloft, etc.). In my case, they made the anxiety markedly unbearable, and I felt terrible. (Treatment worse than the disease!)
    I am currently on Adderall XR 30 mg each day and it works, kind of.
    When I moved up here recently from out of state, I told my new doctor here that I had been very successfully treated with the Adderall 10 mg 3x per day. He refused to prescribe that saying there is much more of an addiction potential than with my current 30 mg extended release.
    I do NOT find anywhere near as good result with the extended release capsules as I did with the 10 mg dose because I was able to titrate the times I took it.
    That’s the medical profession today, and frankly I find it very frustrating and maddening.
    I would love to hear anyone’s comments, similar, or dissimilar.
    Thank you.

    • Jon,
      Thanks for sharing your story.
      As a doctor (albeit in Canada) – I know that what you’re saying is true.
      This is one of the reasons that I have this blog and my sites, because of the fact that people often have to manage their own treatment.
      It seems absurd that you would have to leave out the anxiety issues to make sure that you actually get the care that you need…
      I don’t know that I have anything specific to help you out… sorry…

  17. Thanks Dr. Handelman.
    I went to college in upstate NY and have visited Canada not a few times.
    I often fantasized about moving to Canada (not sure there is a need for Spanish teachers there) because it seems you folks don’t have all the hang ups that American doctors and out society have.
    Rightly so, there is concern. There IS a drug problem in this country – BUT, the rest of us suffer and go under-treated by a medical profession that is more concerned with the state medical boards than with effective patient care.
    I appreciate your concern.

  18. I would like too add my two cents into this because it might help someone. First, please over look my spelling for i didn’t do well in school. I am a 52 year old male who for over the past twenty years has had severe depression with severe anxiety. I am also a drug abuser. I have been going to the same Dr for the whole time, have taking all of the anti-depression/anxiety meds that are out there. My Dr said i had OCD, PTSD, depression and so on and so on. I am now on medadone to help control my drug use and it has help with that part. Around three years ago I started to hear about ADD in adults and I started to read about it. I saw a study that said over 70% of the kids with ADD that didn’t get help would likely have drugs/drink problems with they grew up. It also said people who had ADD and didn’t get treatment would also likely have problems with depression and anxiety. When I was a kid they didn’t know about ADD, so I was veiw as a trouble maker and a slow learder. I started thinking about my life, that maybe the problems i was having as a adult was because i had ADD as a kid. I talked this over with my DR who said that it may well be the case, but because i was a drug abuser he coundn’t treat me with the meds that worked the best for ADD. During my reseach into ADD i came across a Dr in ATL GA who worked with adults with ADD DR Darvin Hege and I made a appointment to see him. This has turn out to be the BEST phone call i have ever made. He looked at my whole life and felt like I had had ADD as a kid and was still having the same problems. He gave me a new drug vyvanse and trusted me enought not to take more than what he said. Vyvanse is a form of speed, but the way it is made it has low abuse problems. I was very afaid of taking it because i didn’t want to add to the problems that i aready had, but felt very good with this Dr that he knew what he was doing. I have been on vyanse for about four months now, and yes at first it was a little like speed but after time that went away but the drug is still doing its job. In my whole life I have begun to feel nomal, I can sit still and read a book or paper and not get my mind going off in left field. You can not began to know how great it is to be able to read and study stuff. I had aways felt like i was dumb. To be able to set and wait for a red light has made my and your life safer. My depression is going away, and i don’t understand how taking a drug that is call a upper/speed (can’t spell the name or class of drug but you know what i am taking about) could have such a calming affect on me. It has had a MAJOR affect on helping my life. I will soon start to college and have began a life long dream of playing the guitar. In the past i could never set still long enough to lean how to play, now i am setting down and playing for two or more hours. This has been a complet 360 for my life. I pray each day that the vyvanse will keep working, i feel like i have 50 years of learing to catch up on. They say 70 is the new 50, i hope so. If things keep going like they are now, by the age of 70 i will have a college education and playing in a band. I think I will name the band Vyvanse.

  19. i am a 37 year old woman i have had problems with my mental health since i was a child and have always felt different. at school i couldnt concentrate and found all the lessons boring i found it hard to relte to others and im socially clumsy and awkward i would start acting silly and doodling when i found it boring my homework suffered as i never understood properly what had been said because i found it boring and at home it would take so long i would be too distracted and go and play instead i was asked to leave eventually the thought of exams and how far behind i was scared me as i had too many deadlines etc.. after a troublesome time at home with a depressed father and a mother with anxiety i tried for the first time to take my life since then my life has been a big muddle and i am in dept because i constantly forget to do things, normally because i get distracted. i had been sleeping rough doing drugs etc,when one day i read a book about add it was like reading about me.. so i then asked my doctor for a referal to a psychiatrist to test me, i was diagnosed with anxiety i didnt have any tests done tho it was just one meeting where the doctor took notes. since then ive had a psychological evealuation to test both my memory and my iq my working memory was found to be borderline of 78 whilst my iq was found to be above average of 110 i do not stress over the small things others do as to me most things are a struggle as my brain is so disorganised and hardly worry about anything and i still find social situations uncomfortable as it takes me a while to adjust to new people coming in or out.. i have so many different hobbies and i am far braver than most i tend to speak my mind and am honest my timekeeping is lousy i cannot hold down a job i find it hard to finish things ive started and if i get distracted i get really irritated as it means i have to start again or ive lost track of everything wheras most women can multitask i find it hard as i seem to only be able to focus on the one thing and when i do i kind of get enveloped into that one thing and everything around me seems to blur out… i am wondering if anyone thinks i may have been mis-diagnosed or am i being anxious and mis-diagnosing myself. my life has been a mess to be truthfull homeless forgetting rent payments or because im jobless being kicked out because im late for work everyday as it takes me so long to wake up in the morning or if i find it too boring i just leave… i would really appreciate some advice from someone. my daughter jasmin was diagnosed with borderline traits of adhd, she is always in trouble at school for forgetting answering back talking too much, joking around, not paying attention not putting her hand up being late for school etc and our relationship is voletile she answers back is cheeky she never stopps talking fidgeting and she can be very noisy and disruptive…we both have extremely vivid imaginations though my friends say i think differently to other people.. if anyone has any thoughts on this please help?( sorry about the essay i know it went on abit lol)

  20. Thank you Dr. Handelman for responding personally to my above post on April 10, 2010. I am urgently looking for help/advice with a worsening condition severely impacting my ADD and concomitant anxiety. Despite my being on Adderall XR 30mg time release capsules, I am having a big problem with extreme daytime sleepiness. I saw a sleep specialist last month and had a sleep study done just two weeks ago. (I was already diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea two years ago and was given a C-PAP machine to aid in breathing during the night. Although a follow sleep study that year showed that the C-PAP improve the quality of my sleep, it did nothing for the daytime sleepiness.)
    I tried Provigil (modafinil), a prescription medication specifically prescribed for apnea patients, and it did nothing but give me headaches. But at least at that point the Adderall was doing a sufficiently good enough job at staving off the daytime sleepiness.
    But here we are, more than 2 years later, and the situation is markedly worse.
    My point specifically for this website is, along with my ADD, my anxiety has gotten markedly worse as the daytime sleepiness worsens. My fear and concern (as addressed in my previous post) is that I cannot find any doctor here in the US that understands this whole issue of the co-morbidity of ADD and anxiety. I don’t even feel comfortable discussing it with my current doctors simply because, when brought up, their immediate response is to discontinue the stimulant medication. Bad idea. That only makes a difficult situation worse.

    Question:
    Dr. Handelman, what would you do for a patient in my position? You understand more than any doctor here in the US, my concerns. I mentioned in my previous post that my neurologist who prescribes my Adderall won’t even understand that the Adderall 10mg 3x/day works better than the extended release capsules. He really believes that there is a less chance of becoming addicted if the extended release capsule are used instead of the 10mg 3x/day immediate release tablets. Frankly I don’t agree with that.
    So, if I can’t get a doctor to understand that, how can I expect to get proper treatment for this newest wrinkle of this excessive daytime sleepiness issue.
    I feel that a higher dose of the Adderall might help, but I just avoid the whole issue and just try to live with it.

    All my labs are normal, except for my testosterone, and have been on replacement therapy with Androgel. Although my levels are now normal, it’s done nothing for the fatigue.

    I thank you so much and look forward to hearing from you Dr Handelman, and anyone else who may have advice.

    • Jon,
      In your circumstance, I would likely go to higher doses of the stimulants – i.e. up to 40, 50 or even 60 mg of the Adderall XR. You will need to talk to your doctor about it – because of course I can’t prescribe on a blog! If this is a big enough issue for you, maybe you could find an ADD specialist who is within driving distance to you (within a 3-4 hour drive) and go there for a consultation to get a recommendation that will make a difference for you. I hope that helps.
      Regarding higher dose Adderall – you would need monitoring for heart rate and blood pressure. The CADDRA Guidelines do list that the medicine can be given in higher doses to adults. It used to be online, now you’d have to order them via http://www.CADDRA.ca

  21. Sir,
    WOuld you be so kind as tove been help me find a specialist in the FortWalton Beach or Pensacola Florida Area. I have been diagnosed by a doctor hear and the physciatricst has me on adderall after concerta did nothing for me. I have been diagnoxed withe GAD in the past and now i seem to be having worsening anxiety issues. Everything is amees in my life no oragnisation and it is affecting my job severly. The Doctoctoger just takes my lead in prescribing whatever. I truely do not get a feel that they are diging deep into my condition, Just seems like i am thowing away money. At any rate ia m desperate for help. Please let me know if there are any true experts in the panhandle of Florida. I can be eached at sah1831@gmail.com

    Thank you in addvance for any help you may give.

  22. I have a 20 yr old son. When he was young I noticed signs of add but never wanted him labeled in the schools. I was highly attentive to his needs and he did very well until high school. He always played sports and this kept him focused. He was a phenomenal football player but grades were slipping. His dynamic personality is his greatest assets. This is how he graduated. He went through great deal of emotional highs and lows after graduation. Death of family members, loss of family business, loss of girlfriend and an introduction to drugs. He was already a marijuana smoker but found the world of pills. College has been u successful. He is good at getting jobs, but not keeping them. He has no motivation,cannot stay focused and it’s getting frustrating. We went to our pcp and he admitted to depression and highs and lows in his moods. He was given zoloft. He didn’t take correctly and has stopped and lost his job once again. I feel as though there is nothing I can do. I know you can’t help someone unless they want to help them selves….but this is my middle son and I cannot wAtch him struggle like this. When he is focused,he is amazing and has such potential. He did get some rehab,but Did not stick it out..when He goes through his highs,it’s all good, when he is low, well I say no more.

  23. Hi again Dr. Handelman,
    Jon here, the 56 yr old gentleman in the US whose doctor refuses to prescribe the Adderall 10mg IR tabs instead of the 30 mg XR caps because he believes there is less chance of addiction.

    I have written to you twice (please see above) and I deeply appreciate your responses. I most appreciate your insight, honesty and speed of responses.
    Makes me wish I lived in your area!

    My question is to you and to any other reader of this excellent blog site:
    Have you ever heard of the “Neurtrax” computer program that alleges to diagnose ADD/ADHD,
    and if you have, could you please tell me what I can expect from participating in the test. This is a test that the doctor has (as software) on his computer in his office. I am supposed to take it on October 22, 2010, next Friday.
    All of a sudden, after 1 1/2 years, my current neurologist for the Adderall for my adult ADD, now wants me to take this new test. Apparently he just got it installed.

    FYI: I have been diagnosed by at least 10 different doctors over the course of my adult life, since my mid 20s, that I indeed have ADD (not ADHD).
    Go figure!

    Any validity to it? Or is it just an insurance money maker for the doc’s practice?

    Here is the link to their website, but it doesn’t tell me as a lay person very much.
    http://www.neurotrax.com/

    I would really like to hear from you soon or from anyone who has experienced this “test”.

  24. Hello Dr. Handelman,
    Here is my dilemma,
    I am a 38 yr old male from Virginia in the US, I don’t know if I have ADHD/ADD or not, I have read a lot of reviews on what people have said and am thankful to all of them to have given me a certain perspective about the fact that I might have a problem,
    I have been diagnosed by 2 doctors from being mildly depressed to highly depressed to having an anxiety disorder, have been prescribed all kinds of anti depressants, from Prozac to Xanax to Zoloft and more. Nothing seemed to have helped me at all, on the contrary they increased my anxiety and made me sick. I know I am depressed and anxious, but why am I Depressed and Anxious, I was not always like this, ok I had some issues as a kid growing up seemed to me like I had ADD or ADHD as a kid and was not given attention to, I never was checked for these problems back in India in the 1970′s. But am I wrong in seeking some help now, either I have a mental disease that cannot be fixed or the doctors are not educated enough or scared to diagnose some1 with ADD or ADHD, Here are some of my symptoms:
    • Trouble Concentrating
    • Feel Restless all the time, have to be doing something, always something on my mind
    • Feel compelled to do something when I am working on something, will leave one task in the middle to jump onto the next one, every mundane thing seems to have a priority
    • Feel very conscious about myself
    • Forgetting the basics, life forgetting to wear my watch, forgetting to switch off the iron, forgetting to lock the doors etc
    • Get irritated with everything and everyone
    • Trouble expressing myself and sometimes trouble finding words
    • Trouble reading paragraphs and words, sometimes trouble understanding what is written, have to read and read a few times
    • Trouble writing words, most of the time forgetting the difference between the Lower case “b” and “d”
    • Trouble differentiating between Left and Rite
    • Very poor sense of direction and
    • Making a fool of me by interrupting a conversation by saying something completely unrelated
    • Can’t focus on the same thing for a long time, get distracted very easily and loose complete thought on what I was doing or supposed to do
    • Completely lose my thoughts and start thinking about something else
    • Zoning out into something completely different, while in the middle of a conversation or doing something, Watching TV, Listening to Music etc
    • Having a two person conversation with myself
    • Say wrong things at the wrong time
    • Start multiple projects and then can’t prioritize and procrastinate
    • Mind wandering off all the time
    • Trouble keeping conversations going with people and forcing myself to concentrate or look at them while talking or listening
    • Multiple thoughts, popping up in my mind
    • Extreme difficulty remembering things most of the times, have to constantly remind and remind myself (Keep forgetting the basics)
    • Start one thing, and my mind is thinking something else and I will start on another and another, everything seems to be a priority and needs to get done right away
    • Impulsive spending, without thinking of the financial implications, have changed 6 cars in 7 years.
    • Obsessively compulsive, have to do things and have things a certain way, any changes and I get upset, angry and frustrated
    • Getting distracted
    • Very Low Self Esteem (Think everyone else is better)
    • Lack of Motivation
    • Getting bothered by or looking for faults in almost everyone
    • Hate Social engagements and avoid being with and meeting people
    • Having a conversation with myself
    • Lack of Willpower or self control
    • Impulse control (Have to verbally and with written notes, tell myself what to do, what not to do and how to do it and still not being able to control)
    • Get provoked very easily into getting angry and upset
    • Feel Tired all the time
    • Disrupted Sleep feel sleepy and tired all day
    • Body aches and pains
    • Feel very slow and very lethargic
    • Mood Swings
    • Over eating, like snacks right after a heavy dinner
    • Almost complete lack of Memories from childhood and the ones I have seem to keep fading constantly
    • Get Late to work and other engagements
    • Feel Sad & Depressed
    • Lack emotional connection (Never had any real close friends)
    Always trying hard not to be a misfit and be more social (have to force myself to be there)

    • Sunny,
      I suggest that you talk with your primary care doctor or psychiatrist about this. It can be quite complex, and you will need a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure that you get assessed by a doctor who is comfortable with adult ADHD.
      Good luck!

  25. i was diagnosed with add about two years ago. i had my first anxiety attack last year in october. im only 18 years old, just graduated from highschool but anxiety is ruining my life… i cant go one day without feeling anxiety. i now stay away from malls and places with crowds now because that makes me anxious. i cant enjoy myself now cuz im constantly worried im going to have an anxiety attack… it really scares me. and on ma long weekend this year i had my first episode of depression.. or i think it was depression.. i would jsut sit there and cry for no reason and feel like giving up on life. like my life wasnt worth living… i havent gotten help with this yet, im going to the doctors soon tho i hope.. but does anyone have any advice for me?? words of wisdom?? im glad im not the only one tho i do feel like i am alone alot of the time.

  26. I was diagnosed with AADD when I was being treated for depression, unfortunately sometimes this comes “hand in hand” with each other. I also feel that I’m the only one who has this AADD.

  27. Hi, I’ve been having problems for years. My brother was severely ADHD (bad enough he was institutionalized for 5 years) during our childhood and I was also ADHD but was able to maintain a normal life compared to my brother, so the dr’s said, don’t label her, so I wasn’t treated or helped. I’m now 40, approx 15 years ago I started having troubles in college and went to see my family physician. I couldn’t concentrate and would focus on stupid things, like the click click of someone walking down the hallway out side the classroom or the tap tap of someones pencil. Well my family physician put me on something, cant remember what it was but he stated he didn’t think I was adhd but if I was that this med would fix me…The med didn’t help, took it 3-4 months and he wouldn’t put me on anything else so I’ve dealt with the issues. Since then, I’ve been put on numerous antidepressants with Celexa 40 daily finally being what has worked, tried to get off them after the ’6 month’ period and then a yr period and always had a initial period of being able to feel more and then not being able to sleep and being really short and ‘bitey’ with my family so I’ve always went back on the medication. Well approx 2 years ago I noticed that I seemed to be getting more anxious (have always felt really self conscious, the feeling that when I enter a room, that all eyes are on me, every move I make is noted and discussed and put down by others, this has caused me to do two things, be really loud and obnoxious at times in public, to ‘give them reason to stare’ and to really be self consious and to repeatedly ask my husband/family are they looking, is my makeup/hair/clothing/school work whatever the issue is correct/straight/whatever I might be fussing about at the time) so I’ve just dealt with the anxiety until last fall and the Dr started adding/adjusting dosage on antidepressant, no most recently he took me off the celexa and put me on wellbutrin 300 (have a weight problem too, really ‘helps’ with the self conscious problem) and I don’t know if it’s working. I still have problems related to ADHD, can’t focus, never organized, always late even if ‘planned’ for being late, trouble studying, having to spend excessive hours to leave simple concepts (still in college), always hyperfocused on whatever my certain fascination is at the time (like I’ve done crafts, Mary Kay business, saving money, going green etc, and whatever project I’m currently working on it takes all my time and energy to the detriment to my house/family/health/job), always have big plans for losing weight/doing exercise/getting organized/whatever and start but cant finish, can’t stay motivated, can’t keep the same job for more than 2 years (longest length of employment anywhere throughout 22 years of employment), etc etc etc…Now the depression/anxiety is really messing with my family life in addition to the ADHD stuff that I had dealth with throughout life. My family doctor won’t put me on any other ‘drugs’ as he calls it for ADHD, he won’t put me on anything for anxiety, won’t put me on a diet pill (says I’m not a good candidate), talks to me about life change/portion control/organization etc and if I ate any less I would die but I can only maintain, not lose weight, I have to take benedryl to be able to sleep sometimes and then feel groggy the next day for hours. I’ve got to therapists and they always want to work with talk therapy, lifestyle modification etc. I’m 40 years old, if it hasn’t worked by now, It’s not going to… I just need some help with something to calm this down. For the last 4 months I’ve been feeling like I’m on the edge, I’m very emotional, I ‘fly off the handle’ at the drop of a hat, my family relationships are strained and I feel that I won’t have my family if too much more happens, already my husband and I can’t have any conversations where I don’t cry through it and my daughter doesn’t want to spend time with me because we always fight (she’s older than the typical teenager who definately doesn’t want to spend time with her family…) and thats another thing, she is ADHD and I listened to my mother and didn’t have her treated as a child and now Dr’s state that it’s hard to diagnose ADHD in adults and she is having LOTS of trouble in college, I at least have been able to finish classes and obtain degrees etc she has dropped so many times that She is on the verge of losing her financial aid because she starts each semester strong and then loses it throughout the semester and then ends up dropping to prevent F’s because she has procrastinated so long, and she’s pregnant and I want to STOP this CYCLE before another child is brought into the world and he has ADHD and we screw up his life too….I KNOW i realy rambled through this posting and I hope you can understanding some of it. I’m not looking for drugs but I am, if you understand, I just want life to be less crazy because I feel like if I don’t do something then Crazy is where I’ll be and I don’t feel like I’m too far off….I don’t know what is worse or if one has cause the other, but ADHD, depression and anxiety is ruining my life!!!

  28. It was strattera I was on…Sorry about the above post, I did ramble…I can hold complete thoughts but the above is how my brain works sometimes and its driving me insane.

  29. As a child I was diagnosed with ADD. Later in my teens I was diagnosed with acute depression and anxiety disorder. On and off through my life I have been on and off medication for ADD, depression and anxiety. As an adult I was also diagnosed with migraines which I take birth control pills to keep from getting the migraine headaches.

    The last two years I have found myself very distracted and moody. Where my art has taken off, my ability to stay focused on detailed oriented tasks like keeping track of other peoples schedules.

    Is there a medication that would address all those issues, instead of taking multiple drugs?

    • Bast – buproprion is an antidepressant that may help the depression and ADD, but it doesn’t help the anxiety.
      The short answer is not really.
      Just like in heart disease, people have to take multiple pills to deal with the multiple symptoms.

  30. Good morning all and good morning Dr. Handelman,
    I last posted on October 14, 2010 and my question concerned the use of the “NEUROTRAX”, (neurotrax.com) to diagnose ADD/ADHD. My idiot neurologist, after a year and a half of prescribing Adderall XR 30 mg, all of a sudden decided I needed to be tested. This neurologist had refused to give me my next prescription until I had taken this test. Unfortunately, due to logistics and other concerns, I was unable to get to his office to take the test until well after I had run out of the previous month’s Adderall supply. I go in, “unmedicated” as it were, and I couldn’t concentrate on most of the test questions on the computer screen. Every sound, every look out the window, every itch in my body was more appealing to “concentrate” and focus on, as opposed to the tasks in the Neurotrax test. I got very frustrated, and did the “best” I could.
    The next day, I go back in for my results and the doctor was quite “perturbed” at my results. He said he never saw such bad results and then proceeded to (subliminally) accuse me of faking the test. I told him that I was without the medication for a week now, and I just couldn’t concentrate.
    He wrote out my new Adderall prescription and said I should retest in about 6 months. I walked out of his office shaking, literally. As I was sitting with the receptionist to make the next month’s appointment, even SHE saw I was upset.
    Combine all this with the fact that this doctor REFUSES to give me the 10 mg Adderall 3 times per day (because he thinks it more addictive [BALONEY!!!]), and I said to myself, “It’s really time to find better help”. I was too frustrated with my treatment from him for way too long now.
    I had my regular checkup with my family practitioner and I asked her if she would prescribe my Adderall for me and she said yes. I have now been on the Adderall 10mg 3x per day and am in much more control. It has been a life changing experience to be on my ADD meds that I have been on, virtually all my adult life. Because that moron neurologist, who incidentally had the personality of a moldy sponge, refused to prescribe the dosing I needed – convinced me to do something about it. In America at least, and I know Dr H, that you’re in Canada, we here need to be proactive in a medical sense and realize that in the USA, medical help is no different than going into the corner deli and ordering a pastrami sandwich. If you don’t like the service or the pastrami, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE.
    My anxiety state without the correct ADD treatment is bad enough (and so much better with the Adderall) that at least with me, at the tender age of 57, and as a paying customer, I have the right to find better than adequate treatment.

    Attention all ADD sufferers:
    Whether in the USA, Canada or wherever, you have right to proper treatment.
    If you can’t find relief in one place, do the best you can to find better care with someone else!!! It’s probably out there.
    It is a shame that there are not more doctors with the insight and depth of experience that Dr Handelman has. A big shame.
    There is no reason to suffer with the combined anxiety and ADD like I did for so long. We all have the right to get good care, be it with insurance or as a cash paying customer.

    Take charge of your medical life and much else will fall into place.

    Thank you Dr Handelman!!!

    Best wishes,
    Jon

    • Jon,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story.
      I agree with you so much. It is really important to be an advocate for yourself when it comes to your ADD/ADHD treatment. In Canada, people are able to take their insurance card (from the province) and go to other doctors for an assessment. The main issue – in the USA and Canada is the relative lack of doctors who assess and treat adult ADD/ADHD. So – there are often people like you who know that they need a particular treatment who just can’t find another doctor to help them.
      The main takeaways in my opinion?
      1) You need to be educated about ADD and its treatment- because often your doctor doesn’t know enough – and you have to educate your doctor!
      2) You need to be an advocate for your own health. In the same way that you wouldn’t keep going to a restaurant that didn’t treat you well, you need to find better medical care if your doctor doesn’t treat you well!
      Thank you for the compliment – and remember – there are many caring and capable doctors out there who know how to treat ADD effectively. You’ve just got to find them!

    • Jon,
      I found this site and have read your questions and comments with special interest…maybe because of our similar ages and histories. If you still participate in this blog, please respond. I just want to pick your brain. I promise not to take up too much of your time. Thanks

      • Hi Flowerdot,
        I just came across your request to correspond with me.
        No problem. I’m sorry I didn’t see your request until today, May 5, 2012.
        You surely can pick my brain.
        Jon

  31. Dr. Handelman,
    I posted earlier in your blog, April 15 and you haven’t responded to date.. Could you provide a name or two in south central Missouri of ADHD/ADD specialists for adults because my family physician refuses to treat me..

  32. Dr. Handelman for your work on this subject.

    I was diagnosed with ADD just over a year ago as a 35 woman. After just barely graduating college, I began waiting tables. I stayed ‘stuck’ for about 10 years. I spiraled through life drinking daily and using cocaine often, every couple of years I would attempt to apply for a teaching position. However, in typical ADD form, never followed through.

    Eventually I gave in and put myself in rehab. This was my first visit with a psychiatrist. He diagnosed me with depression and GAD, in addition to the ‘alcoholic’ label. I attended AA and remained sober for over 3 years, I learned a lot while in AA, mainly how to forgive myself. During this time I was prescribed a few anti-depressants, finally finding that Effexor worked the best, and Trazadone for sleep. Fast forward another couple years and a move to a new city. I had to wean myself off of Effexor, WAY too expensive for me at the time. Effexor is HELL to come off BTW.

    I finally got into teaching, and went back to school for my masters. Stable enough and insured, I went to a new psychiatrist, as I was struggling with keeping up in school and at work. I had begun drinking again a couple years before but no longer ‘alcoholically.’ I chose not to tell my new doctor about the alcohol/rehab issues. I told him I was diagnosed with depression and GAD, and was currently taking prozac, prescribed by my gyno. I tended to have extreme anxiety during menstrual times, about 4 anxiety attacks a year, My new dr asked me to describe my ‘depressed’ thoughts. I told him I am constantly beating myself up, for being lazy, disorganized, messy, feeling like I was never living up to my potential. He asked me to fill out a questionaire. Turned out I scored ‘highly likely’ ADD. Suddenly everything started to make more sense! He asked if I had ever used any drugs, and I said yes, admitting that I miss cocaine the most. He explained that is common for ADDers,

    He then went on to explain that the prozac is probably making my ADD worse, as the prozac can give me a more laid back, ‘oh, well…whatever,’ way of thinking. This encouraged the ADD in not getting things done. He also explained that I probably have lower than normal dopamine levels, which is why I liked cocaine, and why Effexor worked well for me. He got me to go back to Effexor (now have a generic) but after 2 months, sadly the generic wasn’t much cheaper so I went back off of it, Adderall has been the ADD med that works best. Luckily, he is willing to give me 3 20mg short release per day. I never end up needing that much, and I also enjoy the flexibility of managing it on an as needed basis. He also prescribes me 2 .5 xanax to aid in the anxiety, and back to trazadone for sleep.

    I have a whole new outlook on life. Just learning that ADD was my problem all along has also helped me manage the symptoms better, The anxiety is still tough at times, but I no longer really have depression. In my ‘perfect world’ Effexor would be best but I just can’t afford it. I had the least anxiety when on that. Looking back on my childhood I can see signs of anxiety, ALWAYS had problems falling asleep, but I always kept my emotions bottled up and a smile on my face. I was always in the ‘smarter’ classes but was always frustrated, and struggled. I knew I was smart, but just couldn’t study well, finish papers on time etc. I also had a lot of ‘stomach aches’ for unknown reasons. Now that I have been teaching, I feel that was all due to anxiety, just couldn’t identify that feeling at such a young age.

    Another term I have discovered being a symptom of ADD is hyperfocusing. I was/am very prone to that, unfortunately the focusing was usually on stuff that was not on my ‘need to do’ list. But give me something I am interested in or enjoy doing and I would immerse myself for HOURS, conveniently procrastinating/avoiding other responsibilities.

    Anyway, that’s my story. Hope it can help someone out there. It has DEFINITELY helped me to see that I am not alone, and not crazy, or a lazy slob, etc. I have always been my hardest critic, but am learning to cope and manage life more like those crazy ‘normal’ people out there in the world do, lol.

    • Teach,
      Thanks very much for taking the time to share your experience. I believe it will be very helpful for others.
      One quick comment – Cymbalta is a newer medication in the same group as effexor. If the finances work better, maybe that could help you.

  33. Hi, Learning lots from this board!

    I’ve just been diagnosed for ADHD and am now taking dexedrine, klonopin (taking this for years) and Bentyl (Irritable Bowl medication), been taking Lexapro but found it useless and gonna stop it shortly.

    Anyway, I have the usual anxiety, panic disorder, severe depression, social anxiety and severe noise sensitivity which have all affected my ability to copy with stress at work. The combo of the above drugs appears to be really working. The dexedrin has done wonders for my depression, my confidence and my ability to deal with people. In fact, since taking dexedrine I’ve cut down on the klonopin and bentyl. I do find it’s a bit unpredictable, but 20mgs a day seems to be the highest I can go. Took 30mg two days in a row to help depression and started to hyperfocus on Youtube to the point of physical illness, like an engine was pushing me.

    In researching the hyperfocus issues of ADHD I can’t but wonder if this, and maybe all the ADHD symptoms, were developed in childhood as survival tools to self-medicate against stressful events. My childhood was gross but I survived by spacing out into my own world. Does this type of behavior eventually turn into hyperfocusing? Any opinions on this?

    • elanore, I’ll try to explain hyperfocus the way I know… Hyperfocus occurs when the adhd-er experiences intrinsic motivation… I’ll share my experience on this…When I had physics on my school, I found the material on the book boring, I couldn’t focus on the material, the material was hard to understand anyways… Note that adhd-ers are more inquisitive that non-adhd people… Eventually I would download physics university e-books, to motivate myself, & it was pretty good, they got my attention, & at school I learned the extra material ( had them copied to my mobile phone)… of course I was prepared & started to read the material prior to my class, & I left my teacher astounded the way I was able to explain the topic it was given….. Hyperfocus may be the best way to circumvent the problem of adhd students, by giving more stimulation… the problem is that you might be too much focused on a given field so much that you become oblivious to other stuff (friendship… your daily basis), & you might leave off other subjects in school so you don’t succeed at them… that’s why you need to make an efficient plan (that includes spending more time on different subjects) & to devise some great mechanisms…..

  34. I am a college student in my senior year. I come from a conservative family that does not believe of ADHD or ADD. When I was a child, I had a hard time reading because I had a hard time focusing and retaining information. It was a struggle for me to learn how to read. In middle school, I had good grades, but had to work twice as hard as the kids my age to achieve those. That meant staying in my room for numerous hours of just trying to understand everything. I only started to notice of signs and symptoms of ADD in high school, when numerous friends continuously mention that I am not paying attention or that I tend to “space out a lot”. I don’t do it on purpose. From high school to my senior year in college… I am not able to focus the way I used to in middle school. I noticed in class/ lecture… I get distracted easily, have a hard time focusing in class, and more importantly retain the information that was just stated. It is getting extremely frustrating and I find nights that I am just crying or hitting my own forehead because I cannot focus or remember things. When it comes to test day, I get very anxious because I can only remember bits and pieces of information, plus I also have this problem of not being able to finish one problem at a time. I jump around and panic. My tests grades are always awful and I am starting to become depress over my performance at school.

    There is more to my story. Bottom line is, I went to my GP and he referred me to a psychiatrist. I went to a psychiatrist, he did an evaluation…. I feel like he did not believe me though. He called my parents to ask about my childhood. Thing is, my mother was the only one that knew I was going to a psychiatrist. He asked my father how I was as a child and my father said I had good grades and always went to school. He did not know what was really going on. So he told me to have my mother call his office and then he can further determine what I have. My mother has been calling the office and has been having a hard time reaching the doctor. The office even hung up on her twice when she repeatedly called.

    What should I do???

    I feel like no one believes me.

    • Kris,
      This is all too common. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles.
      My advice: persist.
      It sounds like you are high functioning, so that works against you (i.e. the ADHD isn’t jumping out at people). At the same time, your symptoms sound real. Try to get your mom to connect with the doctor, and hopefully that will help the doctor to understand what is going on. You probably know that ADHD symptoms start in childhood, so the doctor wants to be sure that you truly did have symptoms when you were younger. Hopefully your mother can help to explain what you were like to the doctor.
      I hope this helps…

      • Kristine emailed back:
        Dr. Handelman,

        What do you mean by “high functioning ADHD” ? Can you please briefly explain this? or provide any links regarding high functioning ADHD? I’m afraid to see another psychiatrist because I’m afraid of the same poor treatment that I have received from the first psychiatrist that I saw.

        Thanks,

        Kristine

        The answer to this lies in the fact that the DSM asks doctors to find symptoms of impairment. The fact that you are a senior in college suggests that you have a pretty high level of functioning. If the doctor isn’t tuned in enough to how you can function at the level you do, and still have symptoms of ADHD, then your ADHD could be missed. That’s what I mean. For a long time, many doctors thought if someone got through university, then they couldn’t have ADHD – which of course is wrong…
        Good luck!
        (p.s. please reply to comments on the blog itself)

      • Thank you for you advice Dr. Handelman!

        Does this mean my chances of getting treatment is very minuscule? Although I am a senior in college, I was in denial of having the possibility of ADHD because I was told that everyone had it. Instead of seeking help at first or even admitting about my ADHD, I attempted different methods of “focusing”, but it is STILL not effective. It is starting to affect my school and relationship with friends, family and leading me to random episodes of crying due to frustration. Your advice was very helpful and will continue to seek help from other psychiatrists in the Las Vegas area!

        • Hi Kris,

          I am high functioning ADHD and was diagnosed by a psychiatrist when I was 40. I have a graduate level education and a good job, but have always struggled with procrastination, focus, motivation, and feeling like a “fake” because my work habits were so terrible. I couldn’t keep track of money, which put stress on my marriage. I kept taking on more projects and work than any human could possibly complete, because I was always underestimating the time/money/effort cost of carrying through with things. This is a lifelong pattern for me, and it finally broke when I was diagnosed with a major illness.

          When I finally went to a psychiatrist with severe depression and anxiety – I was suicidal – he gave me a “Might you have ADHD?” questionnaire and we went through my school records. Well, long story short – he put me on small doses of adderall and suggested I get a coach to help with time management, organization, work habits, and decision making.

          Anyway, three years later, I am happier, healthier, and no longer feel like a fake in my professional or personal life. In fact, I look back on how I used to feel and wonder how I managed to stay as sane as I did.

          My point is this: If you have ADHD, even if you are very intelligent (my psychiatrist says I’m lucky to be above average in that regard), you will have a terrible time focusing and it’s incredibly frustrating and exhausting. I know what it’s like to have to explain to disbelieving people about this condition, so I empathize, but you have to set that aside and advocate for yourself. This is eminently treatable with small amounts of medication and coaching to build supportive habits. You’re fortunate to be intelligent, sensitive, and self-reflective – you have the tools to address this. Get good psychiatrist, now, and don’t wait until you’re 40 years old and suicidal, like I did.

  35. Hi Kenny, I have a question about the issue of comorbid depression and anxiety with ADD. In your article, you stated that “Comorbidity in adult ADD is very common. Only 14% of adults with ADD don’t have a second disorder. In other words, comorbidity is the rule, not the exception.”

    I was diagnosed with ADD when I was a child and have been experiencing a number of symptoms of anxiety and agitated depression. I’m interesting in whether you can refer me to a specific reference for the statistic of 14% of adults with ADD who do not also have a second disorder – I would very much appreciate this, since I’d find it useful to further inform myself of the relationship between ADD and depression and how ADD contributes to it.

    Regards,

    Simon

  36. This sounds exactly like me. I was diagnosed as having ADD as a child, but being the stubborn person that I am, refused treatment and wouldn’t even believe that I had a disorder. Luckily, due to high intelligence and a hard work ethic, I managed to get through High School and college. Now at age 28, I have realized that I am still suffering from this disorder and that it has had a severe detrimental effect on my entire life (school, job, social, relationships). I could never reach my potential in terms of grades in HS or college, have been fired from numerous jobs, and just can’t seem to find my place in this world (jumping from one thing to the next). I have developed severe depression and anxiety (mostly in social situations), and am pretty much at rock bottom. I am unemployed, have zero motivation to do anything and don’t even know what to do with my life. I attribute pretty much all of my problems with having untreated ADHD all my life. I tried therapy with little success, and am now working with a psychiatrist and taking Wellbutrin for depression. Although my depression has lifted somewhat I am still struggling with my ADHD and anxiety symptoms. My pdoc seems unwilling to treat my ADHD with stimulants and I’m not even sure if he believes that I have ADHD (despite him having my childhood diagnosis in his files). He also has still not given me a diagnosis for any of my other symptoms. Is this normal, or should I get a second opinion? At this point, I just feel desperate to feel better so that I can move on with my life. After struggling with this for 28 years I can’t take it for another second! I would greatly appreciate any advice.

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