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When Depression Is Really Untreated ADHD

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If you live with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you might know what it’s like to struggle with accomplishing all you set out to do. For some people, ADHD affects focus, making it hard to meet deadlines at work. For others, ADHD might increase hyperactivity, making it easy to create to-do lists, but hard to follow through on them.

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Those who have been diagnosed with ADHD know that with proper treatment (usually therapy and/or medication), it’s possible to live well with ADHD. But sometimes, folks who may not realize they are living with undiagnosed ADHD can experience mental health ramifications they don’t understand. This may lead to feelings of shame or self-condemnation. If you can relate, you’re not alone.

About the ADHD Comic

Illustrator Pina, who lives with ADHD, knows what it’s like to struggle with her mental health due to untreated ADHD. In her comic, “How Untreated ADHD Causes and Traps You in Depression,” Pina explained how her previously untreated ADHD symptoms led to depression.

“The incorrect and negative beliefs we can get from years of negative feedback not knowing we have ADHD or how it affects our lives,” Pina tweeted. “While not everything is solely caused by ADHD, it can affect us and our comorbidities in many, many ways. Good news is, treating ADHD can do wonders.”

What Is ADHD?

For those who aren’t familiar, ADHD is a condition often marked by inattention, hyperactivity, and sometimes impulsivity. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, adults with ADHD are likely to have a co-occuring mental illness like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Though we typically associate ADHD with children, it affects adults as well (Pina was diagnosed later in life at age 28!).

Pina’s alien-themed comic, split into two sides — untreated ADHD and depression — shows how untreated symptoms of ADHD can feed into feelings of depression. For example, one pairing begins on the untreated ADHD side with, “This time I’ll do it right! I start planning my days, sometimes even excessively…” followed by the depression side: “But I can’t prioritize, everything becomes too overwhelming. It feels like too much to handle.” Below you can see the full comic.

ADHD alien comic

ADHD alien comic

If you can relate to not being able to accomplish all you set out to do because of untreated ADHD, you’re not alone. To learn more about the comic, we spoke with Pina, creator of the ADHD Alien comics. She shared what inspired her to create this comic, what she wished other people understood about ADHD and more.

Here’s what she told us:

Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

What was the inspiration behind your comic?

I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 28 after a lifetime of not knowing what was “wrong” with me and why I just couldn’t do things I really wanted to do, even if I planned them. Once diagnosed, I started noticing how many misconceptions there were about ADHD, how little people really knew about it and how many people deny its existence entirely. I felt the need to do something — to be heard and share what I have experienced. So I woke up one night at 4 a.m., in rage that others also had to go through this, and drew the first comic.

What has the response to your comic been like? Are people walking away with the message you hoped they would?

I hadn’t really intended to send out much of a message, other than wanting to talk about things I don’t usually see anyone talk about. If there is anyone out there like me — and there must be — I don’t want them to feel as bad and ashamed as I did. I wasn’t really expecting any attention, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People write to me saying they can understand themselves better through my comics, and I couldn’t ask for more. 

What do you wish more people understood about ADHD? 

I wish more people knew that ADHD isn’t all just about inattention and hyperactivity. There are even inattentive ADHD-ers, who don’t have any visibly physical hyperactivity! Other issues related to ADHD can also hold us back from living the life we want — like executive dysfunction, which so often doesn’t let us get started with our day. Emotional dysregulation in ADHD can also be a huge topic, yet no one ever talks about how ADHD can affect our emotions. 

What are your go-to coping strategies when you’re struggling with your mental health?

Because I was diagnosed so late and am only now figuring out how to deal with my ADHD, I still have a lot of negative coping strategies, like constantly overeating or overworking. I have learned to reach out to friends, which was one of the biggest improvements of my life. Also, planning dedicated “me time” into my days has helped a lot. No matter how much I procrastinate and should be doing other things — there should always be enough time in the day to get a tea, brush my hair, and wash my face. Writing down what I want in life and making lists for it, without the need to fulfill them, makes me feel better too.

What word of encouragement would you offer someone struggling with untreated ADHD or depression?

If I could talk to myself a year ago, I would say, “It does get better.” With each little thing you figure out about yourself, it does get better. You might not have all the solutions — or hardly any at all — but that’s OK. With every bit you can understand and accept yourself more, you are starting to heal. Even if you don’t notice it actively. There are so many people out there who have been told the same horrible things and have the same, seemingly invisible hurdles they can’t overcome. There is nothing shameful about it and you are not alone. I write my comics as I try to figure out my ADHD and mental health, and I hope people going through the same can feel less alone.

For more ADHD Alien comics, follow Pina on Twitter, Instagram and Patreon.

Header image via ADHD Alien

Originally published: April 14, 2023
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