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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

A 21 yr old ADHD girl sinking into deep depression.

Hello Group Members,

My 21 yr old daughter was recently diagnosed with ADHD while in college and we are looking find the right medication and doctors for her.

She has seen two doctors both in WPB and Washington DC and both have prescribed her Strattera with different dosages but it is very expensive and she will not take it because she doesn’t like the way it makes her feel. She reads a lot of negative ariticles about ADHD medications and feels that she would prefer a natural remedy or meditation therapy. I find that the more time she spends looking inward the less connected to the real world she becomes.

It’s breaking my heart to watch her drop out of college, with no desire to work, or get involved in any activities. She sleeps all day and sit around angry and depressed at night..

I am truly concerned for her but her doctors will not discuss her condition with me.

Does anyone have any advice on helping a young adult and encourage and empower her to want to help herself?


I’m sorry for what you and your daughter are going through. I can only tell you what worked for my daughter, who was diagnosed right before starting high school and is 16 now. She did not like Strattera either, but she loves the effect and the help she gets from Concerta. She is currently also on Prozac, which seems to have helped with her bout with depression. Psychiatrists tend to know much more about getting the medications right than general practitioners.

She went through a rough period as well, and had to hit close to a rock bottom problematic period before finding the motivation to do better. A therapist she connected with was helpful, as was a caring teacher. She got a lot out of some books about ADHD and coping with it. I think she especially liked Delivered from Distraction, and You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy. Educating herself helped her to feel better and it was a relief to find out why she has always felt like she struggled, and what she could do about it now.

The first day on Concerta made her feel “smart” and like she could tolerate school and keep up. It also seemed to help regulate her sleep. Learning why she struggled socially and always felt “awkward” helped as well. Doing better in school as well as socially, has helped her tremendously overall.

She has discovered other things that help her, especially when feeling depressed (running, Omegas, hot yoga, her dog), and I’m sure there are many other things out there that are more natural remedies. Learning things like organizational and time management skills has helped as well. I think there is a book called Outwitting Clutter that helped her a lot.

The stimulant medication made the biggest difference for her. You can perhaps counter the anti medication materials she has heard/read with information about how it can be a lifesaver for some.

I can’t imagine not being able to be involved to assist her once she is 18. It is much easier when you have some control, and can be a part of the medical care. I think my daughter believes that I am overly involved, but does not really get how much she has actually needed my support. Hopefully some parents of young adults will have some words of support and wisdom for you. My guess is that there are books and resources out there for you. What about counseling and support for your daughter at the college? It really can be of such benefit if they are receptive to utilizing that support. I read somewhere that it is best to think of that support like a near sighted person benefitting from glasses.

I’ve gotten help from time to time from a local CHADD support group as well.

Good luck! Hang in there. She is not alone and can get through this. It sounds like this is all new to her, and will take some time to learn how to best deal with this.

Posted by mcat on Sep 12, 2013 at 7:42am

Hello Mcat,

My daughter was very active in high school and with strict guidance excelled as a gifted learner who ranked national in debate and graduated high school with 12 college scholarship offers. Once she left for school she found her independence and the ADHD symptoms multiplied while living on campus. She withdrew herself from school and moved home to live with he father who allows her to loaf because he doesn’t know how to encourage her.

We have sent her to a medical doctor and psychiatrists but as you can imagine she feels that she, not the doctors or I, knows what’s best for her and with her debating skills and political science background she feels that medical help and medicine are ploys to control her and not help her.

I will check out our local CHADD support group.

Thank you for the book recommendations. I will find them for her. She does enjoy reading, so maybe that will help.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 12, 2013 at 8:20am

Just remember that one med will be good for one and bad for another. We went through a few dosages and meds before we found the one that works for my 19 year old son. It happened to be Vyvanse.

Posted by Jodtam on Sep 12, 2013 at 5:44pm

I am wondering if the inattentive behavior she was showing when diagnosed with ADD was in response to an episode of depression?  Sometimes these two conditions present together and sometimes the symptoms are easily confused.  My child has a dual diagnosis of both depression and ADD inattentive type and also dislikes taking the stimulant medication.  Strattera was not helpful at all.  We have found it more helpful to use a more immediate, short term stimulant as then my child can control when it is taken and only use it when it is needed. If I remember correctly straterra has to be taken daily for some time in order to become effective.  We have also found that many of the stimulant meds can over time make the depression worse.  In addition to ritalin,my child takes zoloft and lamictal.  The lamictal has really helped to improve the symptoms of depression.  Our psychiatrist has also suggested the use of Vitamin D and Deplin (folate/folic acid).  Both of these have been very helpful and might provide some relief for your daughter.

I have recently been doing research into gluten free diets and the impact of gluten on depression and inattentiveness.  If your daughter wants to avoid medication, maybe trying a gluten free diet might be of some benefit.

I hope your daughter can find some relief.  It is never easy as a parent to watch your child suffer through this.

Posted by samom31 on Sep 12, 2013 at 9:41pm

Hello Angelicmabd,

It appears that your daughter may be 2e (Twice Exceptional - see for resources,).  I believe that many kids with ADHD are also gifted in some ways.

You already know she is gifted, but you need to keep her giftedness in mind when trying to figure out the best treatment for ADHD, depression, etc.  Did her college experience facilitate and promote her gifts? 

My 21 year old son is 2e. Unlike your daughter, he never found his niche in high school and his 504 accommodations were ineffective.  When he turned 18, it was difficult for both him and me to carefully let go of the reins over a couple of years and let him manage his own treatment for ADHD, anxiety, and depression. For me, it was moving away from being engaged in his treatment to becoming a safety net. He is bright, but he is still immature in so many ways. He reads everything he can about meds for his treatment and he discusses his opinions with his psychiatrist about what mix is best.  The meds seem to help, but due to his anxiety, he refuses to seek help in improving his organizational skills, self-perception, and recognizing his anxiety triggers. And of course at 21, he knows everything and discounts his parents’ advice.

For now, the one thing he has going for him is his choice of a small rural college and its natural resources program. He is most happy when he is back at school.  He excels in his studies, especially in the natural resources classes and field practice, and his professors encourage him with praise and continually higher expectations.  He also found that regular exercise helps his moods and self-confidence.  His anxiety still pulls him down sometimes, but he is starting to learn from his mistakes.

So my role now is to respect his choices for treatment, praise him when he is doing well, advise him when I think he is getting off track, and be ready to catch him if he needs it.  Ten years ago I could not have imagined it would come to this. 

Every child and young adult is different and the right treatment is always a moving target.  I recommend you emphasize your daughter’s gifts and work with her to find an environment that will foster and praise her gifts.

Posted by MarkT on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:53pm

Jodtam -Thank you for the recommend! I’ll need to do some research on the side-effects of Vyvanse.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 13, 2013 at 5:22am


My daughter in unwilling to sign a release because she wants her therapy conversations to remain private. She states that she is not ready to have family counseling sessions until she has taking time to deal with her issues on her own. She is unwilling to take any medication because of the way that she said Strattera made her feel. She does ride her bike and take yoga for exercise when she is motivated, which is not often.

This past June, she convinced her father to pay for a 8 week long live in Yoga retreat but she dropped out 3-4 weeks in because would not follow instructions while in class and would often isolate herself away from the group in an attempt to do her own thing. 

She has recently been reading about ADHD and anxiety and now uses her knowledge of these diagnosis’ as a crutch to express why she will not or can not participate in activities, look for work, or do chores.

I have recently return from the islands and have tried to incentives her to join me on my next trip in Nov to help explore some family property by doing some mountain climbing. I told her that I would cover all travel cost except her airline ticket with the hope that she would at least look for a part time job. I can only wait and see how she chooses to move forward on this offer.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 13, 2013 at 5:46am

Hello samom31,

I also wonder if her ADD was in response to an episode of depression but in looking back at all of her school tests, IEP and her 2 grade psychological review, I found notes both from me and her teacher link directly to characteristics of ADHD.  However, I am truly concerned that she is now suffering with both depression and ADD inattentive type. Thank you for recommending Vitamin D and Deplin (folate/folic acid). She may consider taking this because it is a vitamin supplement. 

As an aspiring yogie, she has tried a vegan diet with no grains and we haven’t seen any changes.

Thank you for all of your recommendations.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 13, 2013 at 6:05am

Hello Mark T

Thank you for recommending article 2e (Twice Exceptional - see for resources,).  In 2nd grade my daughter was labeled a gifted under-acheiver, simply put a child who does not fulfill her full gifted status.  As a parent, I hated this label because it made many teachers believe that she could do the work but she just chose not to. I worked hard with her to stay on task, complete and turn in assignments and to take activities that she enjoyed. I rewarded her with travel and other incentives that she loved and it worked for the most part.

As a debater in high school she often traveled for weekend debate tournaments and remained on task and completed her work unmonitored; perhaps because she would have lost club status if her GPA dropped. She even traveled one summer in high school, alone to England, to study debate at Oxford University. All of which leaves me at a lose for words because I watched her excel and then fall so hard, to where now she doesn’t even what to do anything productive.

MarkT, I too feel like school would help my daughters’ self esteem. Can you share how you motivated your son to go to and stay in college?

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 13, 2013 at 6:35am

Hello Ireneyumi,

Thank you for your feedback. It is insightful to hear how an adult person with ADD perceives parental assistance. Unlike you, my daughter does not take medication and will not work or pay her own bills.

Can you tell me what ultimately made you get a job and support yourself without parental intervention? Also, what made you go on and stay on medication?  I would love to just stay out and not pry in my daughters’ life and I would, if she would get a job and become self sufficient- that’s all most parents want for their children.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 15, 2013 at 1:28am


I got really sad when I read this. I recognize a lot of what you write about your daughter. I can understand your concern, when my parents had the same concern for me.
I am now 25 and have just got my ADHD diagnosis. Like your daughter, I dropped out of school, I’ve been depressed for more than a year. During the year I was depressed so I isolated myself almost entirely from my surroundings.
Your daughter is lucky to have you as a mother, you seem to care about your daughter very much.

It would be good if your daughter got in contact with a psychologist who specializes in ADHD. The psychologist may be able to talk to your daughter and give her advice on how to manage her ADHD. To drop out of school are unfortunately very common for us with ADHD. It is important that your daughter gets proper care and comes in contact with the right people. She needs motivation and help to get back on track again. I truly believe that medication like Concerta or Ritalin can be good for your daughter. Many people with ADHD are helped by it. I do not know how expensive it is with medicine in the U.S., here in Sweden it´s almost free.

Good luck now. And remember that your daughter will be better =)

Posted by AHedmark on Sep 15, 2013 at 6:14am

Hello AHedmark and Ireneyumi,

Thank you both for taking the time to provide some insight as to how young ADHD adults successfully manage living with ADHD and the negative pressure that you faced from parents or the pressures of just managing adult life with ADHD. I am so encouraged by both of you.

You seem to both have such a strong internal drive to succeed and goals for personal independence, which is very commendable.  I know that this is a continual fight but keep your heads up, even if you’re having 1 bad day. As a parent this is exactly want I would like for my daughter.

Ireneyumi, from your message, I can see that you still have a lot of anger towards your parents. I understand your anger and although I do not agree with taking anyones personal rights way, ( unless they are physically harming themselves or others) please keep in mind that parents are human and no parent is perfect, and we as parents should not control a child or adult’s life or the decisions that they make but be here as a guide to help you when you need help walking down an unfamiliar path, such as ADHD. Ireneyumi, now that you have found your path, I hope that one day you can rebuild your relationship with your parents, if even only to show them that you are strong and in control of your own life.

To all the parents out there, it is our job as parents to find resources and tools to help our young adults become independent and encourage them to find their own paths, which are supported by their strengths; and also help you find tools: such as, counseling,  medication, ADHD College Counselors, exercise, nutrition, books, and activities to help overcome certain challenges that kids and young adults face day to day with ADHD.

  I’d like to thank everyone for all of the help and hope that you have provided over the last week. Through this discussion and site I have learned, so much, about what I can do to encourage my daughter. I informed her last night that I found a local ADHD peer group mentored by peers with ADHD and she is considering attending a meeting. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that perhaps she will also take the step toward taking medication once she’s spoken with her peers about the benefits of medication and success some meds have been for people with ADHD.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 17, 2013 at 5:40am

She’s 21, living at home, not working, not going to school, right? I know many adult children who are doing this. Not because they are ADHD and not because they have any particular issues. It’s because the parents do not make them accountable for anything. Why would you need to work if your parents pay all the bills for you, provide free internet, cable, probably a car, spending money, cell phones, etc? I mean maybe I’d have started home longer if I’d had those provided to me.
It’s time to start making some rules and defining some boundaries. Give her goals that she’s expected to meet and consequences for not meeting those goals ( like no longer providing cell service). I have a teenager and I’ve already established these boundaries. Luxuries are earned only in my house. If he wants something he has to work for it. I have to let him try and let him fail, but he’ll never know he can do things himself if I never let him try.
Your daughter is an adult. You need to start making her behave like one.

Posted by adhdmom2000 on Sep 17, 2013 at 7:20am

You asked how others got themselves out of situations like this.  The same thing happened to me at about the same age.  I decided not to go to university when all my friends did, got a good job (performing arts), but then lost it.  I did not know about AD/HD (in general or mine) until many years later.  I would like to be able to say there is a magic formula, but there isn’t.  After some months of despair, depression and a couple of dead-end jobs I managed to find another performing arts job and gradually turned it into a successful career.  A few years after that, I quit, went back to school, got two professional degrees and have now had a professional career of more than two decades

So there is hope and a way out.  I would not try to force the issue or put extreme pressure on your daughter.  My father tried that and it just made things a lot worse.  If she is like I was she already feels worthless and isolated, and the last thing she needs is to have that reinforced by parents trying to make her be just like them. One of the biggest problems I had was isolation and a feeling that there was no place for me.  Another was the lack of structure in my life, and with this the lack of motivation.  So the more you can do to help her get involved in something, the better.  It need not be anything profound or enormous, but activities that she can take an interest in (this helps overcome the AD/HD focus and motivation problems) and connect with others and maybe have others depend on her will help her make contacts and build self-esteem.

One thing she has that I didn’t was awareness of her AD/HD, and I’d encourage her to read some of the more positive books on the subject.  I’d have been a lot further ahead if I had known then what I know now.  I did not succeed despite my AD/HD but because of it - the AD/HD when combined with reasonable intelligence produces creativity that I use every day.  It is a part of who and what I am and it is only a “disability” to the extent that people expect me to think and act like them and I don’t. In any line of work that requires creativity, AD/HD represents cognitive diversity - she has an advantage and needs only to figure out how to use it.

Learning about AD/HD also includes learning about the various medications.  Taking them and getting them right requires medical advice, but ultimately it is about figuring out what works best for you and taking control.  It is also important to be persistent and persevere with meds.  Stimulants like Ritalin and Concerta take a couple of weeks to stabilise even after you get the dose right, and SSRIs (Buproprion) take about a month.  Try to encourage her to be systematic and keep at it until she finds something that works.  Things like exercise can help alleviate symptoms, but there is no substitute for medications that tweak neurochemical levels in the brain.

Engage her as much as you can and try to get her to see herself as a person who has value and something to contribute.  You can provide opportunities and support, but at the end of the day, she has to take responsibility.  You can facilitate that, but she has to do it for herself.

Posted by Cedar on Sep 17, 2013 at 8:39am

Hello ADHDmom2000,

Thank you for your reply; however, I believe that you may have missed the section of this discussion where  I explained that my daughter does not live at home with me. In fact she lives 40 miles away with her father because, unlike him, I will not allow her to stay home all day and not participate in college, activities, or work. Neither he nor I pay for her cell phone, entertainment or other luxuries. She has recently sold her car and has been using that money and the money she received when she withdrew from her college classes.  She uses his home more like a hotel and comes and goes when she pleases or when we try to encourage her to work, become active in a hobby or even go back to school. I recently spoke to her able her friends and family who enable her by allowing her to either hang out at their homes or apts. And trust me I have tried to offer her rewards in many ways. She has been financial cut for me for more than a year.  I will say that she is resourcefully in engaging  many  people (friends and family) to offer her money or other types of support. She is a smart and pretty girl but she has lost so much of her self esteem that she has even posed as a nude figure model for artists, when she needs money.  I still try to encourage and tell her that she has so many abilities and employable skills and that the nude modeling will only lower her own self worth but she doesn’t agree. 
As a mother who has instilled some many values in her, this breaks my heart.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 18, 2013 at 4:34am

Hello Cedar,

As an adult living with ADHD your life story serves as an encouraging example to young adults, adolescents and their parents. Thank you for the advice and information about how long stimulant medication takes before effects are seen.

Posted by Angelicmabd on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:30am

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