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Starting ADHD medication: The emotional reactions they don't tell you about

If you're thinking about starting ADHD medication, take note. You may already be aware of the potential side effects and what to expect in general. What we're about to describe is somewhat different. What doesn't often get talked about are the potential emotional reactions to medication.

Working with ADHD children and adults, we've heard about many personal reactions to medication. These are reactions that are not a direct result of the medication in your body. These are secondary reactions that could pop up, such as:

  • Starting ADHD medicationRelief or Happiness. Many people describe the effect of ADHD medication as "clearing the fog" in their brains. It doesn't change who you are, but it can help you see things much more clearly. As you can imagine, this can be a positive, exciting experience.

  • Grief or Regret. These feelings sometimes come in tangent with happiness. It's normal to experience some sadness when you feel the difference of medication. It can be easy to go down the path of thinking that you could have been feeling this way all along. Or grief for what "could have been" if only you had this support earlier in your life.

  • Disappointment or Impatience. Even if you're forewarned that it can take a while to find the right dose or kind of medication, you want it to work NOW. Or, you might feel disappointed that the medication hasn't "fixed" everything. You KNOW medication isn't the answer, but it can be hard to adjust your expectations at times.

  • Self-Criticalness. ADHD medication can help give you more clarity, which is great. But, sometimes this means becoming more aware of the negative things. You might become aware of areas of your life you didn't even realize were affected by ADHD. Because of this, you might be hard on yourself about it. First of all, try not to be! But if you are, know that others have experienced this as well.

  • Happiness that shifts into frustration. The initial happiness many people experience from medication can lead to many positive changes. People feel lighter, more productive, and so on. But, with time, that positive impact may even out, which can be frustrating for some. All of a sudden it feels like you're not making as much "progress" as you were before, and that doesn't feel good. But, in reality, it makes sense that things would balance out and feel less dramatic over time.

Starting ADHD medication is a personal decision. For many, it can be an effective part of a treatment plan after an ADHD diagnosis. Others may choose a different route. If you do choose ADHD medication as a potential treatment option, however, be sure to tell your prescribing doctor if you experience any negative side effects, including the above emotional reactions!

For more information about medication, check out ADHD Medication: A Letter from Dr. Gray

Also be sure to check out After an ADHD Diagnosis: Common Emotional Reactions

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