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What do I do before taking ADD or ADHD medicine to not feel irritable?

What do I do before taking ADD or ADHD medicine to not feel irritable?

By William Schroeder, LPC

Many clients will come into therapy already on medications and very frequently they have questions. Lately I have had several clients as “What do I do before taking ADD or ADHD medicine to not feel irritable?” As a therapist who is not a prescriber, my first suggestion is to talk with your prescribing physician as there could be many reasons for this.

A few potential reason you might be irritable:

  • It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to also have sleep issues. As a therapist I frequently will hear from clients that they either do not get enough sleep, have trouble falling asleep, or have trouble staying asleep. All of this is a recipe for irritability. Then you throw stimulants into the mix and they may keep you up even later. Some stimulants are short acting and some can take up to 16+ hours before they wear off. Talk to your physician about this. Tests on people who slept less than six hours a night for a week revealed substantial changes in the activity of genes that govern the immune system, metabolism, sleep and wake cycles, and the body’s response to stress, suggesting that poor sleep could have a broad impact on long-term wellbeing. Lack of sleep has an effect over time. The changes, which affected more than 700 genes, may shed light on the biological mechanisms that raise the risk of a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress and depression, in people who get too little sleep.
  • You have to eat regularly. Stimulants can frequently act as an appetite suppressant and that can wreak havoc on your mood via your blood sugar. If you take stimulants make sure to have your normal number of meals per day and maybe even consider doing The Zone Diet as a way to keep your blood sugar levels in a good range.
  • Medications can affect people in different ways. This can be true for stimulants and mixing stimulants with other medications. Talk to your doctor about this.
  • A negative of hyperfocus from stimulants can also be that it’s hard to disengage from tasks. This might also increase mood volatility.
  • Stress can also affect mood. With a pandemic and a variety of other ongoing stressors, it can also cause irritability.
  • Meditation can help you to lower stress and gain more awareness of things that might be adding to your frustration.
  • The last thing I would suggest is doing something each day to exercise. Exercise is easily the greatest drug for ADHD and for your body. It increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. That’s a protein involved in learning and memory. It’s in short supply in people with ADHD. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which help with attention and clear thinking. People with ADHD often have less dopamine than usual in their brain. Also promotes neurogenesis which is useful for fighting depression naturally.

If you have any of these things happen, make sure to some accurate records of what you are doing each day with a chart. You can make a chart yourself or use a mood chart. I would make sure to chart your sleep, diet, exercise, medication, stressors, coping mechanisms, and anything else that you think might be relevant to discuss with your doctor. We also provide ADHD Counseling for those that live in Texas and have specialists in this area.

Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

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