Exercise & Health

When Treating Comorbid Conditions Causes Side Effects

Four ways to address the side effects of medications for comorbid conditions in people with ADHD or ADD.

Gaining weight with ADHD

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that nearly half of all children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) also suffer from mood disorders, learning disabilities, or anxiety disorders — conditions that can often continue into adulthood. The treatment of these co-existing disorders — in both adults and children — often includes medications that can cause the pounds to pile on. For a teen or young adult already struggling with complex social issues, this can be devastating. What can you do?

  • Consult your physician about medication options, and be sure to note the side effects of any new medication, suggests Dr. Lisa Routh. Several mood stabilizers have lower metabolic impact. Sometimes the benefit of a new medication doesn’t outweigh the side effects. Weigh all the options before changing medication.
  • For both adults and parents: Be aware of what your family is eating. A medication may cause increased appetite, so it’s up to you to have nutritious foods on hand to feed any cravings.
  • Watch those eating habits. “Food should not be used as a reward,” says Carmen de Lerma, M.D., medical director of South Miami Hospital’s Child Development Center, in Florida. Also, both you and your child should practice mindful eating by dining at a table, not in front of a TV, computer, or video machine.
  • Encourage physical activity. Outside time releases pent-up energy, burns calories, and improves mood. Tips for parents: “Be creative in choosing physical activities so neither you nor your will get bored,” adds Dr. de Lerma. Adjust for different weather scenarios, time of day, days of the week, and solo versus group activities.”