Anxiety & Depression
It is very common for anxiety and/or depression to be mistaken for ADD, especially when children are involved. Both conditions have a very dramatic impact on the ability to concentrate and on a person's memory. A depressed person not only has trouble with concentration and is forgetful, but may be too demoralized to do much about it. An anxious person may blank out in mid-sentence and worry a great deal about their failures. Both conditions affect sleep. An anxious person may have trouble falling asleep, being too keyed up. A depressed person might sleep too much, or perhaps wake up too early. Some researchers believe that if the condition is chronic, the brain may change permanently, affecting functions such as memory and the ability to learn.
Anxiety and depression often occur together and some people may have some level of one or the other most of their lives, if not treated. Anxiety and depression can also be induced by life experiences, especially in susceptible people. A child who is being shunned and teased by all his classmates is a prime candidate. A battered woman is another.
Technically, if ADD symptoms are caused by anxiety or depression, the condition should not be classified as ADD. In reality, there is not usually enough detective work done to rule out depression or anxiety. Moreover, ADD may be viewed as the CAUSE of the anxiety or depression. You may have read that most people with ADD suffer from anxiety and depression.
It is important to rule out anxiety and depression before being treated with stimulant medications because these medications can make both conditions worse, especially anxiety. In fact, stimulants alone can induce anxiety. If anxiety and depression are a major piece of the puzzle, then it is probably safer to start with medications such as the SSRs (Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, etc.).
If anxiety and depression have been caused by some sort of 'real world' situation, then by all means have the situation corrected if at all possible. Don't substitute medications. Parents should be alert to school problems -- some children are hesitant to tell adults about trouble they are having with peers. If there are serious problems, then by all means pull the child from school. Try another school if possible or homeschool. I have seen kids who were almost suicidal change overnight, without medications, after they were removed from a bad situation at school.
Anxiety often causes the following problems:
Again, do not take stimulants if anxiety is your problem! In fact, be sure to cut back or eliminate caffeine, decongestants and any other type of stimulant you may be exposed to. Caffeine alone can induce not only anxiety, but panic attacks in people. Leave it alone! Reactive hypoglycemia can also cause anxiety as blood sugar levels fall. If you suffer from "sugar crashes", a change in diet may be warranted.
Depression may cause any of the following:
Chronic anxiety and depression should be treated promptly! See a professional if this is your problem.
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