A lot of adults with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) take stimulant drugs to manage their symptoms. But if you don't get better with those medicines, your doctor may suggest you try an antidepressant.
Stimulants like dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Ritalin) don't work perfectly for everyone. Your symptoms might not improve or you may get side effects like an upset stomach, problems with sleeping, or nervousness.
How Antidepressants Can Help With ADHD Symptoms
Like stimulants, antidepressant drugs raise your brain's levels of chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Doctors have found that these drugs can help people with ADHD improve their attention span. They also help keep a lid on behavior like being impulsive, hyperactive, or aggressive.
Types of Antidepressants for Adult ADHD
Although doctors prescribe antidepressants to treat ADHD, the FDA hasn't specifically approved them for that purpose. Your doctor may suggest one of four types:
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants like desipramine (Norpramin) and imipramine (Tofranil)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
The right antidepressant for you depends on your specific symptoms and other health problems.
Keep in mind that antidepressants take between 2 and 4 weeks to start working. It's important to follow your doctor's instructions on how often to take them, even if you don't notice any change in symptoms at first.
When it comes to improving your concentration or attention span, antidepressants usually don't work as well as stimulants and other drugs made specifically to treat ADHD. But how well they work is an individual thing. For some folks with ADHD, antidepressants can be a big help.
Some people shouldn't take antidepressants. For instance, they may not be right if you have a history of manic behavior from bipolar disorder. Also, it's not a good idea to take Wellbutrin if you have had seizures or a history of epilepsy.
Side Effects of Antidepressants
The side effects can depend partly on the type of antidepressant drug you're taking.
For example, tricyclic antidepressants can cause side effects like a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure, as well as some heart issues. Wellbutrin can cause anxiety, headaches, and rashes. MAOIs can cause problems like gaining weight and trouble sleeping.
Also, some antidepressants can cause withdrawal symptoms or other side effects if you miss a dose or don't take then exactly as prescribed. Make sure you follow your doctor's instructions when taking these drugs.