Wednesday, April 17, 2013

ADHD & Depression: Distraction As Therapy

Homemade ramen filtered by Percolator

I have the comorbid conditions of ADHD and Depression. And may I say that I despise the word "comorbid". What a gruesome, ghoulish word to hang around people's necks. Leave it to psychologists to come up with terminology that depresses depressives. Because "coinciding" and "overlapping" weren't descriptive enough.

But I digress…which is the point of this quick post after all.

I have often found my ADHD to be very helpful in treating my Depression. This is because sometimes I can forget I am depressed if the distraction is engrossing enough. In fact, when I discover that I am depressed, I will seek out distractions as the first coping strategy to get the depression under control. Sometimes, the depression is a wave that passes. What a perfect way to sidestep it by finding something else to think about for a short time until my mind & body regulate themselves.

I had originally stated here that ADHD and Depression were not common coinciding conditions (See? That sounds so much better), but a reader pointed out to me this study (Table 3) that showed a nearly one in five occurrence of either Major Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia (mild depression) with ADHD. That seems high compared to my experience where people search my blog for one or the other—not often both. Also, I have been told by psychologists that having both conditions was unusual, but then I've also had psychologists who believed in the healing power of crystals. So there you are. Regardless, I have both conditions, and I know I am not alone. That is why I wrote this article in the first place. I just never realized that I was in such good company.

Whether you are the one in five or the other four, you have likely encountered a side-effect of ADHD usually referred to as Depression After Success. That is the state of mind that we can find ourselves in when we come out of hyperfocus mode. We flounder as our minds lose their laser focus after the task is done and the bombardment of emotions, thoughts, and impulses begins.

Some of us with ADHD also deal with Depression as a constant and tone-deaf companion who sings over ADHD in the arena of our mind. Together, they make quite a racket. Fortunately, long bouts of Depression are hard to have because the ADHD side gets bored and demands action, but it can be a seesaw effect that takes up considerable amounts of energy to overcome. That is why when ADHD and Depression overlap, I let the ADHD side free.

Altering a mood with Decim8

One distraction that is a favorite of mine is to take photographs with filter-effect apps on my camera. I've been doing this since the first iPhone camera filter apps were released in late 2007. Often, I will take a selfie and either heighten the feeling of sadness I'm feeling with filters, or force myself to take a cheerful photograph then filter it until it looks convincing. These tiny projects don't take a lot of time and often are very effective at funneling my attention away from being depressed and into doing something creative—my number one coping strategy for fighting Depression.

Making myself smile with Percolator