ADHD with/or SPD?

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    • #78668

      Hi everyone! I’m in the process of diagnosing and I’m not entirely comfortable with how it’s proceeding. I first suspected ADHD for myself when I began researching issues my 8YO was struggling with (very common story, I know!). I’ve been treated off and on, pretty much unsuccessfully, for depression and anxiety for 20+ and my strong suspicion is that they are a result of a lifelong struggle with ADHD, SPD or something similar.

      The issues that cause me the most day-to-day struggle are executive function, hypersensitivity, and fatigue. The doctor I’m working with seems competent and listened closely to what I had to say, but I was a bit put off when he said that he was not familiar with sensory issues being a part of ADHD — I thought they were relatively commonly seen together with ADHD? At any rate he said he’d research it, but it made me uncomfortable since, as I say, my sensory issues are a significant part of my problem. I’m not finished with my formal diagnosis yet but EFD in some form is definitely going to be part of it.

      If it were more common I’d almost believe that my sensory issues were the root cause of executive issues/fatigue — constant bombardment from my senses makes it impossible for me to think critically and clearly, and the physical and emotional strain of always guarding against sensory input is exhausting. But it’s my understanding that SPD/SID/Sensory Defensiveness/whatever is widely believed to be a symptom of something like ADHD or ASD rather than a stand-alone diagnosis, and I think it’s unlikely that I would be able to receive treatment or find educated and sympathetic health care professionals to guide me, esp. because I live in a rural area where anything outside of the very ordinary is difficult to find support and treatment for. I basically really, really had to fight to not just continue to be told in so many words “diet and exercise, antidepressants if those don’t work or if you’re too lazy to do them”.

      I’ve only recently realized how debilitating my sensory issues are and taken some steps to relieve them — previously I thought of them more as a personal failing and something to “gut out”, and I was worried about looking foolish with things like ear protection and dark glasses. But it’s gotten bad enough that I’m ready to try.

      So, that’s my backstory. My questions would be: Is it common to have sensory defensiveness be one of the MAIN, or at least most debilitating, symptoms of ADHD? Should I be looking harder at other possible diagnoses that would include executive function disorder and sensory defensiveness, such as ASD? Has anyone out there had any success getting OT or other therapy for sensory defensiveness as an adult and if so, how did you go about it? Has anyone used OT-type techniques for sensory defensiveness outside of formal OT and found it successful? What other questions should I be asking?

      I’ve struggled for so long with this, being told that I just have depression (or anxiety, or maybe OCD) and if the pills don’t help nothing will and now that I believe I’m finally discovering what’s wrong I’m just SO READY to do something to feel better.

    • #78669

      Hi, I feel the same, both my children have been diagnosed with Verbal Dyspraxia, i suffer with anxiety & depression & I have done a lot of research on autism, ADHD & ADD. No doctor will see me and just tell me to carry on with the antidepressants. It upsets me because I want to be taken seriously!

    • #78697

      “…constant bombardment from my senses makes it impossible for me to think critically and clearly, and the
      physical and emotional strain of always guarding against sensory input is exhausting.” (Laura1974)

      Frequent, if not constant, bombardment by thoughts not related to the task at hand, being very distracting and even disruptive to functioning, is a very common symptom in ADD, as is impairment of executive functioning, cognitive functioning, etc.

      It is also not uncommon for those with ADD/ADHD to have some symptoms of OCD (or depression —see below) also!! With adequate treatment of the ADD/ADHD, many of the OCD symptoms and the depression disappear or greatly decrease. If the depression is because of the ADD/ADHD, the antidepressants won’t really ‘fix’ it, because the cause of the depression is still there, until that is treated! (see below)
      The gold standard for treatment of ADD/ADHD is trials of the central nervous system stimulants, which come in various release forms (immediate release, extended release, capsules, tablets, liquid, patch, etc., etc.), in the 2 major central nervous system medicine groups (methylphenidate —like Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate; and dexmethylphenidate – Focalin; and several dextroamphetamine – like Vyvanse: and mixed salts of amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Mydayis). There are many different ones out there, many generic now, some only brand name, each with some differences in length of action, and other differences.

      You (Laura) didn’t mention what the specialty is of the doctor you see. It’s worth just keeping in mind that until about 10-15 years ago, ADD/ADHD was considered “a children’s disease” that kids “grow out of” (NOT!!) and even psychiatrists who did not also subspecialize in child and adolescent psychiatry, but only treated adults, were not even taught about the presence of ADD/ADHD in adults!! Ten years ago, I knew a mom who took her 16 year old daughter to her pediatrician’s appointment to get her ‘regular’ refill of her ADD medicine, as they had been doing for years with successful results, and the pediatrician shocked the mom by saying he could no longer prescribe the ADD medicine for her daughter, because she was “now an adolescent” and kids grow out of ADD/ADHD once they reach adolescence!! Mom was panicked, frightened for her daughter, found a child psychiatrist, and the girl’s medicine was continued, and her grades went back up, mood improved, etc.!!

      It’s very common for the major complaints of college students and adults being referred for evaluation, to be “depression and anxiety” or “anxiety and depression.” For many of those, they are found to be struggling for years with undiagnosed and untreated ADD or ADHD!! Their depression was “due” to their struggling to succeed, knowing they are capable of doing better, but not knowing “why” they continue to do poorly, not knowing what’s “wrong” with them, whether in school or at work, becoming increasingly hopeless and feeling they are a failure, and the anxiety increased because they become increasingly afraid they will fail the exam, and the next, and the next, not get the project (or homework) done in time, etc., or mess up at work and get reprimanded or fired, etc., because they couldn’t perform as well as they ‘knew’ they should be able to. For those who end up actually having undiagnosed ADD/HD, these symptoms disappear or become greatly reduced once they are on the right dose of the right ADD/ADHD medicine, and they then become ‘functional’! (and very often do not need to continue taking the antidepressants)

      Laura, if your doctor isn’t knowledgeable about how to diagnose ADD or ADHD, or how to treat it, it might be worth making a trip “to the big city” to see someone who is experienced and knowledgeable about ADD and ADHD in adults. Once diagnosed and started on an effective medicine, perhaps you local doctor would be willing to follow you and prescribe your refills, etc.

    • #78775
      Penny Williams

      While sensory issues seem to be part of ADHD for most individuals with the diagnosis, it isn’t part of the diagnostic criteria and isn’t on the radar of most doctors because of that. The same with emotional sensitivity and intensity. SPD is one of the symptoms listed in the ASD diagnostic criteria, I believe.

      If you’re not seeing someone well-versed in diagnosing ADHD, they likely would not think of sensory issues as belonging to ADHD.

      Who Can Diagnose ADHD?

      In the end, it’s mostly about knowing strengths and weaknesses and getting treatment. ADHD seems to have the broadest treatment opportunities.

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

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