Many of us with ADHD who were diagnosed in adulthood thought, “if I just get this ADHD thing under control, I’ll be so much better.” And so we got on a stimulant or non-stimulant medication that was supposed to fix us. And with some people, this works.
However, there are many of us who get a some relief, and then realize that something else is going on. According to ADDitude magazine, 80% of all people with ADHD have some other co-occurring disorder. These can be anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, learning disorders, conduct disorders and tic disorders. They may be secondary to ADHD, but can be just as disruptive in someone’s life. In most cases, these co-morbid disorders don’t respond to ADHD medicine. The symptoms may call for some other medical treatment. Some individuals may try to psychotherapy. Others choose to add another medication to what they are already taking.
Most often, doctors will prescribe SSRIs for the symptoms of depression. SSRIs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Scientifically, they “inhibit the inactivation of serotonin by blocking its reuptake by presynaptic nerve cell endings.” (Google). This allows more serotonin to be available as a neurotransmitter in the brain. These drugs can be very effective in lessening symptoms of anxiety as well. Examples of SSRIs are Prozac, Celexa, Pristiq and Effexor. They are considered fairly safe, non-addictive, and for many people, work very well..
Anxiety and depression are considered comorbid conditions. They occur simultaneously with the primary condition of ADHD. Some forms of anxiety are situational. For instance, when one is preparing for a big exam. Other forms are more chronic and can lead to a more generalized feeling of being fearful all the time. The DSM 5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) might label this as a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It can be a very uncomfortable feeling, and can have a profound effect on someone’s life.
How do you know you have a co-morbid condition?
You know you have a co-morbid condition if your first-line treatment for ADHD does not have any positive effect on your mood, You seem to feel “blue” all the time. This circumstance can be alleviated with medication.
Another co-mordid condition can show up as a learning disorder. often displayed in childhood. When this us present, treatment can include accommodations at school and extracurricular coaching.
The symptoms of a co-morbid condition are not situational. They are pervasive throughout a person’s life, and should be taken seriously. Consultation with a doctor is recommended to get the proper treatment.