Which ADHD symptoms are helped by Medication?

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I have been working on this post for a very long time. Medicating ADHD is a divisive topic to begin with, and then the combination of millions of unique ADHDers using a wide variety of medications meant that writing a post like this would need a very thoughtful approach.

I originally began this as a discussion on Twitter back in January. If you prefer hearing about what specific people have experienced using specific medications, this is a great thread to get you started:

But as good as that thread was, it didn’t feel like something I could really turn into a blog post. So last summer I introduced the #ADHDmedsMegaPoll on Twitter, in which I asked for ADHDers who have used medication to treat ADHD to rate the effectiveness of their medications on 20 common ADHD symptoms. I received over 850 responses to each question, up to 1300 on the highest! If you’d like to read the original poll and see the responses for each symptom, you can see it all here:

What we can learn from the data

I am so excited to finally have data that I believe I can share in a way that will be meaningful for just about everyone! For each symptom, I asked folks to determine if their medication 1) Helped significantly, 2) Helped a little, 3) Didn’t help, or 4) Made the symptom worse. I converted all responses to a numerical equivalent, and created a scale to rate the totals. What follows is a summary of the data that tells you and me which symptoms of ADHD we can reasonably expect meds to help with.

The Near-Guarantee! | 1.25 or higher

These symptoms had overwhelmingly positive responses, with greater than 88% of respondents reporting positive impact from medication. When you find the right medication and dose, you can have a high degree of confidence in seeing improvement with these symptoms.

Maintaining attention on boring tasks – 1.46
Concentrating on conversation – 1.37
Follow-through and finishing projects – 1.34

The Good | 1.0-1.25

With these symptoms, most respondents saw some improvement, but with a much smaller percentage claiming significant improvement. When you find the right medication and dose, you should be able to expect some improvement with these symptoms.

Avoiding/delaying tasks – 1.19
Leaving your seat – 1.08
Distracted by activity/noise – 1.05
Impulse control – 1.02
Organization – 1.01
Making careless mistakes – 1.00

The Okay | 0.60-0.99

In this range, more respondents saw improvement more often than not, ranging from 52 to 66% positive responses. While the results stayed overall positive, there were a significant number of responses indicating no improvement. Even with the right medication and dose, you won’t necessarily see much improvement with these symptoms.

If you’re not having success with some of these, you may try another medication, or it might be a great opportunity to build some positive routines to support yourself, like carrying a notebook where you write down things to remember or keeping a fidget in your pocket so you can pull it out when needed.

Remembering things – 0.86
Regulating emotions – 0.85
Waiting your turn – 0.73
Misplacing things – 0.72
Feeling restless/fidgety – 0.72
Fidgeting/squirming while sitting – 0.69
Feeling driven like a motor – 0.66
Interrupting others while busy – 0.63

The Bad | 0.59 and below

These were the worst rated in the bunch, with the majority of the responses being negative, indicating that medication ether did not help, or actually made the symptoms worse. My best recommendation with these is to find a good friend who can help give you a good nudge when you need it. If you have any great tips for working with these, please let us all know in the comments below!

Finishing others’ sentences – 0.51
Talking too much – 0.44
Difficulty relaxing – 0.35

So now what?

Please remember that we are all different, and each medication is also different. Some folks had marked improvement even on the lowest rated symptoms on this list, while others struggled to find relief with the highest. Take this for what it’s worth, simply a guide for what you might hope for. My meds journey is far from over, and it’s terribly frustrating at times. But I don’t want to waste hope on improving symptoms that aren’t likely to be improved through medication, and that’s what I wanted to pass along. Where you can most likely find hope.

What do you think? Does this list reflect your experience? Has it been different for you? Please share in the comments below or add to our conversations on Facebook or Twitter.

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ADHD Voices: Jasmine

Photo courtesy of Jasmine @ADHDwithJayDee

Hello! I’m Jasmine. I am a 32-year-old mom to a 17-month-old daughter. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive, literally like 6 weeks ago.

My experiences with school

As a kid I was in the gifted program but always did poorly. My backpack was a mess and I often lost my homework, if I even did it at all. I got in trouble constantly for talking and being a distraction. I remember always doing so poorly in standardized tests in school because I couldn’t sit and focus on such a long test so I would just fill the bubbles in randomly and then daydream.

In college, I got through classes by eating snacks and obsessively taking aesthetically pleasing notes because it helped keep me engaged with what was being taught. Procrastination was my specialty. I always told myself next time I would start earlier so I wouldn’t be stressed but night after night I’d find myself at midnight with a Redbull ready to take on my next all-nighter. For my senior thesis I had 6 months to work on my paper, I of course wrote it in a very panicked 2 week period right before it was due. My grades were okay and in 2018 I graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.

Parenting struggles

That year I became pregnant with my daughter. When she was born is when things with my ADHD got REAL. I really struggled when she was a baby. The things I struggled with were things I had always struggled with but now they were multiplied by 100. As I have now come to learn, parenting requires A LOT of executive function, and I had none.

Doing everything was hard.

I was lucky because from an early age my daughter slept really well. But I somehow always felt so exhausted. I couldn’t get myself to want to do anything. Taking care of myself and my daughter became so difficult.

In December 2019 I was put on Lexapro for postpartum depression. The medication helped with my strong feeling of overwhelm, but I still felt unmotivated and distracted. I had once described to my partner that I hated how messy my room was and that I wanted to clean it but I could never get myself to do it, and maybe I was just lazy. My room was a disaster, my car was a mess, my work life was struggling, and I still had no energy.

Getting closer

One day I came across a Facebook article that was talking about executive dysfunction and everything just clicked. I spent the next week reading everything I could about it and it all resonated with me so much. That’s when I began to suspect that I had ADHD. I read books, listened to podcasts and joined Facebook groups and everything that was mentioned about ADHD just felt like it was me. Everything felt as though I had written it myself. I had finally found my people and it felt good.

Then I began the process of getting a diagnosis. I spoke with a psychiatrist and told her everything I had been experiencing…and…she said I had anxiety and prescribed me anti-anxiety medication. I felt a bit discouraged and like I hadn’t really emphasized what I was experiencing. A week later she did a follow up and I told her that the anti-anxiety kind of worked, my mind was still in a million places but now I was less stressed about it being all over the place.

Finally…the right diagnosis

She then referred me to a nurse practitioner that specializes in ADHD. That is when I received my diagnoses and I was prescribed Adderall XR. I was concerned about starting a stimulant medication especially with my history of anxiety. However, the medication has been life changing. I actually have experienced less anxiety since taking the medication. Although I still have stress at work, it feels as though my mind is better able to process all the things I need to do.

Around the time of my diagnoses, I began working with an ADHD Coach. My coach has worked with me in different areas in which I have struggled in. I definitely recommend a coach to anyone that asks about one. My coach has been able to teach my techniques that work specifically with how I think. Social media has also been amazing for support. I’m part of a few Facebook and Reddit groups. But my Discord ADHD family is my biggest support. It’s amazing being able to share struggles and triumphs with this group of women. We have a channel dedicated to body doubling which has helped a lot of days when I am struggling to get work done.

Right now my main focus is finding more and more information that I find helpful and finding ways to share what I have learned with others. I’ve been active on twitter with the ADHD community and have also begun writing articles for things that have helped me. ADHD is hard but with the right community we can build and learn from each other. 

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If you’d like to connect with Jasmine,
she can be found on Twitter and on Medium.

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ADHD Voices is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of folks like you and me who have ADHD. Posts in the series are written by guest authors, sharing windows into their lives and struggles, written by them, for you and me. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me on social media or through my email, ADHDsurprise @ gmail.com

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Video: Masking ADHD Symptoms

What is ADHD masking? How do we mask our ADHD symptoms? Why is it important to recognize when we are doing it? In this video I try to answer of all of these questions.

This video was originally shared as a Camp ADHD presentation on 11 July 2020. For more on Camp ADHD, see my previous post where I reflected on the impacts of the event!

Special thanks to Pina, @ADHD_Alien for giving permission to use some of her artwork in my presentation!

Still looking for more? Here’s a post I wrote about how masking my symptoms while I was still undiagnosed.

If you liked this video, please click to subscribe to the ADHDsurprise YouTube channel and share the video with others!

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