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Two for One: Treating My ADHD Helped Me Control My Diabetes

The most important side effect my ADHD medication was one I didn’t expect — managing my type 1 diabetes.

I was diagnosed with ADHD at 24, just over a year ago. I was prescribed Adderall to treat my symptoms, and it has helped me a lot. Finding effective ways to manage my ADHD symptoms, both through taking medication and developing routines to help me focus, has made a positive impact on my life. I have been able to work on my writing at levels I had never experienced before my diagnosis. I also no longer feel anxiety when facing tasks like cleaning my room.

The most important change, however, was not one that I expected — managing my type 1 diabetes.

I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was seven years old, and managing this condition hasn’t been easy. Many times I struggled to control my blood sugar. Sometimes, I was burnt out and didn’t want to deal with the daily grind of diabetes. Other times I forgot to check my blood sugar levels. I blamed myself, and felt that I was doing a bad job at the things that keep me alive. It was discouraging.

Looking back, it’s shocking that nobody suggested that I had ADHD. There were signs. Managing my diabetes was one and struggling in school was the second. I did well in classroom discussions and finishing large projects when I was given long periods of time to work on them, but I had trouble remembering to do small assignments on time.

After I treated my ADHD, I was better able to treat my diabetes. I had better blood sugar levels more consistently than I had had in a long time. The additional focus that came from treating my ADHD symptoms made it possible for me to stick to the routines and habits that are necessary for managing my diabetes.

ADHD and diabetes are usually thought of in isolation. But they are connected. I can’t manage one without also taking care of the other.

Controlling my blood sugar levels depends on my treating ADHD properly, but it goes the other way as well. My blood sugar levels have a big impact on how my body and brain function. If my blood sugar levels are erratic or not where they should be, my Adderall may help with ADHD symptoms, but it won’t be nearly as effective as it is when those levels are normal.

Whether it is ADHD, diabetes, or another medical condition or mental disorder, most conditions come with their own misconceptions and stigma. For me, the stigma attached to ADHD was a big reason I didn’t get diagnosed until adulthood. And my untreated ADHD led to my troubles managing my diabetes.

We need to overcome misconceptions about medical conditions that might discourage a person to get a diagnosis and treat the condition. In my case, avoiding an ADHD diagnosis because of stigma wasn’t good for my brain or my overall health.

[Ask the Expert: How to Treat Diabetic ADHDers]