Mental Health & ADHD Comorbidities

When Depression and Anxiety are Really ADHD

If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, your symptoms may actually be due to untreated ADD.

sad woman in a red sweater representing someone whose adhd has been misdiagnosed as depression or anxiety

More often than not, when a person over the age of 10 is diagnosed with ADHD, he or she complains of feeling anxious, depressed, or sad. Sometimes the complaint indicates a co-existing anxiety disorder or depression, but often, symptoms of anxiety and unhappiness arise because of untreated ADD.

Treat the Cause of Your Anxiety: ADD

If you are walking around wondering what you’re going to forget next, who’s going to call you out, which appointment you’re going to miss, you’re feeling anxious.

When you live in this anxious state year after year, you train yourself and your neurophysiological system to live in a state of hyper-vigilance. You might say you have ADD – induced anxiety disorder. But you shouldn’t treat the anxiety, you should treat the ADD.

The same thing may apply to symptoms of depression. If you’ve underachieved for a long time, if people with less talent than you have done better than you, if others who don’t work as hard seem to get more done, it’s depressing.

But it may not be depression. You don’t need SSRIs, hospitalization, ECT, or some other adjunctive treatment. You need to get your ADD treated so that you can perform at a higher level, gain confidence, feel better about yourself and life, and restore the spring to your step.

[Take This Test: Do You Have Anxiety Disorder?]

Undiagnosed ADD Can Lead to Self-Medication

Since most people do not understand what ADD is, including many medical professionals, ADD often goes undiagnosed, prompting many people to self-medicate their related conditions like anxiety and depression. Of those who do consult a professional for their anxiety or depression, many are put on an antidepressant (usually an SSRI) or an anti-anxiety agent (usually a benzodiazepine), leaving the ADD undiagnosed and untreated.

I’ve seen hundreds of adults who have been on an SSRI or benzodiazepine for a decade or longer. Their ADD was never diagnosed. They are underachieving, plodding along, believing this is the best they can do. They feel pretty much like Peggy Lee, who sang, “Is That All There Is?”

Once these people get the right diagnosis, once they understand that the underlying issue is ADD, once I tell them that they have a ton of talent, it’s just been buried under the fog of ADD, they cry first and then they get mad and ask, “Why didn’t someone tell me this sooner?” But then they jump for joy. Life, here I come!

ADHD Stimulants and Coaching Can Turn Your Life Around

Often a person who is diagnosed with ADD is tapered off anxiety or depression meds and given a trial of stimulants. Eighty percent of people find that a stimulant helps them focus, with no side effects other than appetite suppression without weight loss. Other patients seek coaching or make lifestyle revisions. A better life often emerges.

The process begins with education. That’s why it is important for everyone—the general public, teachers, medical and mental health professionals—to have an understanding of ADD in its diverse presentations.

The stakes are high. Missing the diagnosis of ADD can cost you years of sadness, low esteem, and hopelessness. Getting it right can turn your life around.

[Get This Download: Stimulant Medications for the Treatment of ADHD]