Hey everyone, this is Braden from ADHDNerdDad.com with the Men’s ADHD Support Group! For many with ADHD, whether we are diagnosed or not, we discover pretty early on in life how different we are from others. Our day-to-day struggles cause us to form our own individual coping mechanisms for common activities such as socializing, learning, or staying on task. As we deal with these day-to-day struggles, many of us begin to build what Brendan Mahan of ADHD Essentials calls our “Wall of Awful.” The proverbial wall is formed out of the bricks of our day-to-day struggles, failures, guilt, and shame from not being able to perform the same as our neurotypical peers. Eventually, the wall becomes so high that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to climb.
Our Wall of Awful can quickly become the basis for depression and anxiety, which are both very common comorbid conditions associated with ADHD. Because we begin to develop these conditions fairly early on, we begin to become numb to them, and eventually it just seems like a normal part of everyday life to be anxious and depressed.
As people with ADHD grow up, we can become desensitized to the presence of depression and anxiety. These conditions can persist over time, leading to a sense of resignation or acceptance, and we may come to think of them as normal. This normalization can occur because the symptoms of depression and anxiety may have been present for so long that they are viewed as integral aspects of our identity or experience.
It's important to note that while depression and anxiety are common comorbid conditions in ADHD, not everyone with ADHD will experience them to the same extent. The severity and impact of these mental health issues can vary from person to person.
For some of us, depression and anxiety grow throughout our lives to the extent that they seem far more prevalent than our ADHD, and because of this, many get diagnosed and treated for depression and anxiety long before they ever get diagnosed with ADHD. Oftentimes, in these cases, symptoms only end up getting worse because doctors are unknowingly treating the symptoms and not the cause of the problems.
This makes the eventual diagnosis of ADHD even more eye-opening for people who have been suffering for so long and thought they had something else going on. All at once, so many different things start to make sense. As it turns out, ADHD was actually the root cause of all of these issues.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have depression and anxiety, however. In fact 16.8% of people diagnosed with ADHD are also diagnosed with depression, and about half of the people diagnosed with ADHD also get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder according to [https://chadd.org](https://chadd.org).
It makes sense that people who live with the various struggles that ADHD brings throughout their lives might end up with some form of anxiety or depression. Especially those people who weren’t diagnosed until they were adults. Just imagine growing up and constantly being told that you weren’t living up to your potential and always disappointing people by forgetting things or getting distracted when they were telling you something important. Each time one of these things happens, it adds a new brick to your wall of awful. Eventually, you have so many that you begin to doubt yourself and wonder if you are just plain broken. This can start to lay the foundation for depression and anxiety later on.
How we Normalize Anxiety and Depression
As some of us with ADHD continue to experience anxiety and depression, we may begin to normalize these feelings and see them as a part of our daily lives. This normalization can occur because the constant stream of negative feedback, criticism, and disappointment from the people around them reinforces the belief that they are not good enough. As a result, we may start to internalize these messages and view ourselves as flawed, defective, or inadequate. This negative self-talk and self-blame can lead to a feeling of hopelessness, where we start to believe that we will never be able to overcome our challenges.
Over time, the normalization of anxiety and depression can lead to a situation where we start to ignore our feelings altogether. We may stop seeking help or talking about our struggles with others because we believe that this is just a normal part of our lives. This avoidance and denial can serve to strengthen the hold that anxiety and depression have on us over time.
Ignoring anxiety and depression can lead to a vicious cycle where people avoid situations that make their symptoms worse, which can make them think they can't handle anything. As a result, they may stop going to social events, avoid trying new activities, and stop pursuing their goals and interests. These actions can lead to a decreased sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life, further reinforcing the cycle of negative emotions and behaviors.
People with ADHD need to recognize that anxiety and depression are not normal and seek help. We can break the cycle of negative thoughts and actions by learning how to cope, taking care of ourselves, and getting help from mental health professionals, family, and friends.
When we learn how to better manage our ADHD, we often feel more confident in ourselves and our ability to handle things. As a result, we may notice that our depression and anxiety improve, and our ADHD symptoms seem to go away too. This can make us wonder if we ever had ADHD to begin with, and we start to worry that people will think we're pretending or lying about having it.
Sometimes, we start to doubt our ADHD diagnosis because we're doing better and our symptoms are less noticeable. We might think that our difficulties were just because we lacked discipline or weren't trying hard enough, rather than having a real condition. This worry gets stronger when we see that our depression and anxiety are also getting better.
The fear of being seen as a fraud can be really upsetting and make us doubt ourselves. We worry that people will think we made up our ADHD or used it as an excuse for our problems. This fear can affect our self-esteem and how we feel about our progress.
To overcome these fears, it can help to talk to doctors or mental health professionals who can confirm our ADHD diagnosis and provide support. Being part of ADHD support groups or communities can also be beneficial because we can connect with others who have similar experiences and get validation and advice.
It's important to remember that ADHD is different for everyone, and symptoms can change over time. Improving symptoms doesn't mean we don't have ADHD; it shows that our strategies and treatments are working. By facing our fears and focusing on our progress, we can build confidence, resilience, and a positive outlook on living with ADHD.
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