The Ins And Outs Of ADHD And Addiction: Don’t Suffer Alone
Did you know that certain mental health conditions could affect someone’s likelihood of developing an addiction (as well as how they experience or recover from that addiction)?
One such condition is ADHD (or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). ADHD, while not a “curable” condition, may cause people to be more sensitive to different types of addiction. ADHD and sex addiction, love addiction, alcohol addiction, and drug addiction are all related.
But why would this be? What’s the connection between ADHD and addiction and what can you do to mitigate the issue?
We’re here to discuss it. Keep reading to learn all about the connection between ADHD and an addictive personality.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Not everyone experiences ADHD in the same way. At one point, ADHD was referred to as simply attention deficit disorder (or ADD), but psychiatrists now use the ADHD umbrella to cover all forms of the condition.
ADHD is one of the most common mental health conditions for children (at an estimated 8.4% of all U.S. children), but many adults receive ADHD diagnoses as well.
People who have ADHD are neurodiverse. They experience many of the same symptoms as people with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), but the cause of the symptoms is different.
People with ADHD struggle with focus, impulse control, and emotional regulation. ADHD can sometimes resemble bipolar or borderline personality disorder to the average person.
Research suggests that people with ADHD crave dopamine. Their brains don’t release or produce enough dopamine on their own. This causes a lack of focus and motivation.
People who take medication for ADHD, such as Ritalin and other stimulants, get a boost of dopamine which allows them to function and focus.
Why Can ADHD Influence Addiction?
Dopamine activates the pleasure center of the brain. People who have normal dopamine levels may still crave dopamine boosts, but people with ADHD have dopamine voids to fill so that craving is more frequent.
Substances, experiences, and activities that cause dopamine boosts are often addictive, even if many of them wouldn’t cause an addiction in the average person. These things include (among others):
- smart phones
- video games
Anything that causes a dopamine release can trigger addiction for someone with ADHD if they aren’t careful or attentive to their own bodies.
For example, the connection between ADHD and sugar addiction may be stronger than the connection between average people and sugar addiction. While sugar is addictive in general, someone with ADHD will have a harder time resisting it or cutting it out.
As someone continues experiencing the same substance or activity over and over again, the dopamine response will fade. This causes them to seek out more and more of the substance or activity of choice to fill that dopamine void.
Is ADHD Medication Addictive?
This is a tricky issue. People with ADHD often need medication to function, but because ADHD medication also influences dopamine production, it can be addictive.
People with ADHD often find that they need to continue increasing their dosage of medication because it no longer has the same effect. Eventually, people may be unable to stop using ADHD medication without help.
This isn’t only true for people with ADHD, however. Anyone that uses a stimulant medication may develop an addiction.
ADHD and Addiction: Prevention
People with ADHD should strive toward prevention. Because they’re more at risk for addiction, they should moderate their use of addictive substances and addictive experiences or activities.
This is difficult for several reasons.
Abstaining from excessive drug and alcohol consumption may actually be the easiest abstinence for people with ADHD. Most people are able to stop drinking or using substances because they already know about the dangers.
But what about other addictions?
Many people aren’t aware that video games, phones, the internet, sex, and love can be addictive. They immerse themselves in these experiences and activities as a normal person would, but they have more difficulty freeing themselves from them and returning to a “normal” state.
Some things are hard to avoid. Sugar, for example, is almost impossible to avoid in the United States. We’re the leader in added sugar consumption.
Love and sex, for most people, are also hard (and inconvenient) to avoid. People with ADHD often experience more emotional responses from break-ups or perceived rejection, not because of the rejection itself, but because of the addiction to the sex and love that came with the relationship.
People with ADHD benefit from therapists. Therapists can help them put their relationships and experiences into perspective and allow them to disconnect.
ADHD and Addiction: Healing and Recovery
So what if someone with ADHD already knows that they’re suffering from an addiction? Is recovery only for people with substance addictions, or can someone with ADHD and love addiction or ADHD and sugar addiction also seek recovery?
Most treatment centers focus on drug and alcohol addictions. These can include stimulants as well, making them helpful for people with ADHD who want to lower their dosages or cut out stimulant medications entirely.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t options for people who have other types of addictions. These people often benefit from psychotherapy and group therapy.
If you’re concerned about addiction, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional to discuss your options.
ADHD and Addiction Are Connected
Most people with ADHD won’t experience an addiction, but they are more likely than the average person to become addicted to substances and experiences. If you have ADHD and you find yourself unable to stop drinking, playing games, scrolling on your phone, or using drugs, your ADHD may be influencing your condition.
If you struggle with letting people go after break-ups or even brief flings, or you find yourself being impulsive with sex, you may be experiencing the connection between ADHD and addiction.
There is a path to healing.
At Comprehensive Wellness Centers, we understand how difficult addiction can be. Our experienced mental health professionals strive to provide the best possible treatment for people both with and without ADHD who are experiencing addiction.
If you’re ready to start your journey to recovery, contact us. We’re ready to help.
Medically Reviewed: August 17, 2021
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.