Reply To: Teen with ADHD/Anxiety mix

Penny Williams

You son does have a lot of change to acclimate to. I have social anxiety and I remember being terrified in every social situation, even going to school everyday from middle school on. It was traumatizing. I can tell that he’s really trying from what you’ve shared, and that’s a great sign. The issue comes when you try with all your might and still don’t succeed. That is a catalyst for so much self-doubt and anxiety. Does he get involved in anything else socially? When my son started attending robotics club after school in 7th grade, he finally made friends. They all had similar interests and so they really clicked. Your son needs a similar experience — participating in something he really enjoys and meeting like-minded kids that way. Of course, that’s super hard as a kid with anxiety — to try something new and something where you don’t know anyone — but it can really help him build social connections.

Social Smarts: The Teen Years

Going from trying one SSRI to prescribing Risperdal does seem like a big leap, but I’m not a doctor.

My son is extremely sensitive to “mental health” medications. He had rage episodes that almost looked like seizures on Prozac and nearly tore our family apart. He is a truly sweet and loving kid and became a violent rager overnight. It was really frightening (he was on 1/2 of the lowest dose). That’s after trying several SSRI’s which caused anything from increased hyperactivity to hallucinations. I’m not sharing this to further scare you, I’m sharing it to illustrate that some individuals are super sensitive to these meds and experience side effects that are super rare. Mind you, all of those anxiety med trials were in addition to his stimulant.

What I learned after all of that was that people on the higher end of the autism spectrum are often sensitive in this way — even to supplements (yes, we had side effects from a lot of supplements too, like anger from taking a calcium tablet). I’m not suggesting that you son is on the spectrum necessarily, but I can’t tell you how much I wish someone had recognized this and suggested autism screening in the 6 years between ADHD diagnosis and additional ASD Level 1 diagnosis. Would have been monumentally helpful, so I always mention it.

So, you are not alone. And you are right to do your due diligence and not just follow a clinician’s recommendations blindly. That said, Risperdal could be the medication that changes your son’s life. But, you can always go back to his clinician and let them know you’re not ready to make that leap yet and want to try different medication that’s more commonly used for anxiety first. That is absolutely your right, and a good physician will hear you and respect where you are in the process.

My son did take Buspar for anxiety pretty successfully for several months. It’s strictly for anxiety and doesn’t have all the potential side effects. He stopped taking it when we stopped seeing benefits after several months. The negative to Buspar is that you have to take it multiple times a day.

I’ve probably confused you more than I helped, and I’m sorry if I did that. I find it helpful to know the experiences of others, sometimes there are clues for us in the experiences of others. 😉

ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism