Will taking ADHD drugs make me more socially adept?
May 17, 2011 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Will taking ADHD drugs make me more socially adept?

I've been recently diagnosed with mild ADHD (I suspected as much for years), and am wondering if medicating it might make socializing a little easier for me. I'm not the sort to run roughshod over other peoples' conversations or to talk a mile a minute--I'm more of the "inattentive" type. I have a hard time following conversations, I'm physically very restless, I sometimes struggle to come up with the right word or tell an anecdote. My personal vision of hell is a dinner party all a-sparkle with conversation. In these situations I retreat into a mental fog--I can't concentrate on anything, let alone witty repartee.

The problem is that the doctor who diagnosed me was reluctant to recommend typical ADHD medication, since I also have massive anxiety problems that might be exacerbated by it. However, I personally believe that much of my anxiety is due to a life spent struggling to keep up with others socially. I'm wondering if that problem were removed, my anxiety might follow.

Have any of you had comorbid social anxiety and ADHD that were relieved by medication? The dr. recommended I start with Wellbutrin. I'm reluctant to try this medicine, since I knew someone who had a massive seizure on it, but will give it a go if I don't have much choice otherwise.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, medication helped immensely.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:39 AM on May 17, 2011

I'm taking both Wellbutrin for depression and Adderall for ADHD, and have found that I am more social on the Adderall. (The Wellbutrin has less noticeable effects, so I'm not sure how that plays into the equation.) Adderall does help me focus more on the conversation at hand, and one of the keys to being a good conversationalist is just being a good listener.

As for the seizure concerns on Wellbutrin, I know it lowers your seizure threshold and can get worse with alcohol intake, but I've never personally experienced one with the medication. [mousover] Of course, YMMV.
posted by Rickalicioso at 10:46 AM on May 17, 2011

I had a very interesting - and good - experience with Wellbutrin. I have never been diagnosed officially with ADD or ADHD, nor depression, but I do know that my issues lie along those lines. I have had medical professionals mention anxiety. I do know what brain fog is, and I can really relate to what you're describing. I don't know exactly why or how or what it fixed, but Wellbutrin worked for it.

I would like to add that exercise and meditation have done more for me than any medication I have tried. It's a harder ball to keep aloft though - I have to exercise and meditate regularly, preferably every day, and when I'm in the bullshit zone, I tend to fall out of good habits. So if I were in a deep and confused fog-hole right now, I'd go for Wellbutrin, but with the aim of having it support the primary regimen: Exercise and meditation.
posted by krilli at 10:49 AM on May 17, 2011

Wellbutrin (bupropion) does lower the seizure threshold, clinically speaking, but unless you have a history of seizures, there's no special reason to worry that it will do that to you. Everyone's chemistry is different, after all.

Bupropion could be very helpful. It inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine principally, and dopamine very weakly (though there's a theory, I think, that its dopamine reuptake inhibition might be stronger than is immediately apparent). So your attention span could see marked improvement, and if it helps you to feel a greater sense of confidence, that could be very helpful in confidently holding your own in social situations that might be more intimidating otherwise.
posted by clockzero at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2011

Adhd medications (speed) can make you more out going socially.
the reason for reluctance is based on abuse primarily, but it could exasperate anxiety.
posted by handbanana at 10:55 AM on May 17, 2011

I find that ADHD meds (dexedrine) actually lower my anxiety - they calm me down, and let me feel more confident that I can pay attention and not miss stuff and screw things up that way, which is huge. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I've never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and don't think mine is really bad enough to warrant that.
posted by Eshkol at 10:59 AM on May 17, 2011

No one can tell you how a given psychoactive medication is going to affect your body and your life. We can only tell you what happened to us and people we know, but that may or may not be what happens to you.

Personally, when I took ADD medication, I became substantially worse at holding conversations, because when I was able to actually focus on one thing at a time, I became impatient with how slow and rambling most people's speech is. I developed a huge problem with interrupting people because, undistracted, I could usually figure out their point before they got there, and I had trouble waiting around for them to get there. I actually stopped taking the medication because it was making me a boor, to the point where my boss called me out for it. Now, I'm generally only half paying attention to what people are saying, but I get the gist of it, and I can let them finish their points before I speak.

My experience is one anecdote. Other people's experiences with ADD meds are also anecdotes. Your friend's seizure on bupropion is an anecdote. The only way to know whether a given medication is going to work for you or have side effects or do nothing at all is to try it.
posted by decathecting at 11:00 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Wellbutrin, I take it with Lexapro. For me, Lexapro is good at killing anxiety and Wellbutrin affects my sociability positively.
posted by thylacine at 11:24 AM on May 17, 2011

If you're thinking about taking Wellbutrin, consider trying Strattera. It does roughly the same thing without the seizure problems. For me it also just works better.

Don't be disappointed if you start taking medication and see no improvement in your social anxiety. Medication might improve your ability to follow conversations after a short time, but building up confidence in social situations will probably take longer.
posted by shponglespore at 11:37 AM on May 17, 2011

Be careful with ADHD meds. I'm not a psychiatrist or a doctor or anything, but I know that Concerta and Adderall (the two that seem to be the most common) are "uppers." Getting to dosage right is really hard; if you don't get it right, you're basically taking speed. If you don't have something else to specifically manage your anxiety (i.e. a "downer" medication to balance it out), then it's going to increase your anxiety. It'll make you have "racing thoughts," etc, etc.

thylacine -- I'm guessing Wellbutrin is considered an upper because almost all ADHD meds are. I know Lexapro is a downer. Therefore, they balance each other out.

I hope the terms "upper" and "downer" don't offend anybody. I know they're used for describing recreational drugs, and I know the writer of the question isn't intending to use it like that. I just haven't found any terms that better describe the overall emotional effects.

Back to the question -- Yes, it does help you focus. That's why kids in college (and high school now) are abusing the hell out of ADHD meds. Granted, they're usually taking more than the recommended dosage, but the effects are similar (if not the same). They help you stay up late, decrease your appetite, increase your intensity about everything.

On the other hand, they can sometimes make you be impossible to be around. If you're laser-focused with mile-a-minute speech, your friends may wish that they had the old, disinterested you back. Just keep that in mind.

Sometimes, medication actually helpful, but make absolutely sure you check with psychiatrists (plural, preferably). I've watched it do a lot more harm than good to some people.
posted by hypotheticole at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2011

Stimulants can increase anxiety in some people, often people who were prone to more panic-type symptoms (i.e., more anxiety about physicial sensations like being out of breath or something like that that can then induce a panic attack). Others find that their anxiety is signficantly reduced because of exactly what you pointed out, you're not worrying about missing important information, being too distracted, forgetting things, etc.

Other classes of medications can be helpful, too in managing symptoms of ADHD and the other things that can sometimes go with it as several others have pointed out above. The website for CHADD has a wealth of really objective information about different medications as well as other treatments for symptoms of ADHD.

If you are not totally comfortable with your physician's response here, getting a second opinion can't hurt. Talking to a psychiatrist who has expertise in treating ADHD will provide you with more information to help you make your decision.
posted by goggie at 12:03 PM on May 17, 2011

Will taking ADHD drugs make me more socially adept?

I find they make me much more able to have a two-way conversation that last more than a few minutes.
posted by empath at 12:22 PM on May 17, 2011

Adderall will make you talkative as hell. Whether you'll have anything to say is up to you
posted by MangyCarface at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2011

My husband takes Concerta, and while he does not have social anxiety, I can definitely say that the medicine does help him in social interactions. I can tell when he is on drug holiday when I am talking to him and he can't concentrate on what I am saying or properly follow the conversation. I've been known to tell him, "I need to talk to you about ___, so please go take a pill."
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:44 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you female? The presentation of ADHD in women is often very different than in men; anxiety and depression are typically part of the package. The drugs can make a difference.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 PM on May 17, 2011

It will help with anything that requires you to control your attention, so, yes.

Needless to say, it won't do much on its own - it will be a matter of, you put the effort in and, holy shit!!! Results!!! Look at this cause and effect working!!!

You may never become a coruscating raconteur if that's not your nature, and you may never be fully interested in the sparkling wit of your dining companions, but you would at least be able to smile and nod and go "ohyeah, ohyeah, tellmemore" in a manner convincing enough to make people think you're a great listener. In other words, you might not benefit from your newfound social eptitude as much as your dinner companions might.
posted by tel3path at 3:41 PM on May 17, 2011

Oh, and - yes, a lot of your reasons to be anxious diminish a lot with the stimulants. Physiologically, the anxiety might still be there. I take beta blockers for mine, which is nice because there's no clash with the CNS drugs. So, if you're still having an anxiety problem after a while, that's an example of something you can try to manage it.
posted by tel3path at 3:46 PM on May 17, 2011

I have ADHD and have been on Ritalin and Concerta at different and I don't find much improvement. I used to find it very helpful when I was around large groups of people, but as I matured I find them less so, certainly not worth the side effects it gives me to take them on non-work days.

Also, if he is worried about mixing them either listen or talk to a specialist: I've had bad experiences mixing concerta with caffeine (rage) and alcohol (very out of it and drowsy after one drink when it was mostly worn off, another time the same plus several hours of odd depression and images of suicide.) Needless to say I'm now careful not to mix them.
posted by Canageek at 7:01 PM on May 17, 2011

Very interesting. I'm not diagnosed(but I identify very strongly with experiences of others in some of the other threads and have pretty much no doubt that I would be diagnosed) but I have always sort of thought I was hard-of-hearing because if I'm in a crowded area someone can be speaking to me, and I can hear them but I can't make out their words. For some reason I remember a lot of this in middle and high school, sitting in a classroom with people chattering around and me having to ask someone to repeat things 3 or 4 times until I finally just started smiling and nodding even when I had no idea what was said. I also can't hold a conversation in bars. I've been tested many times and my hearing, as measured, is fine. Yep, people thought I was weird. I didn't realize that was a symptom of ADD/ADHD.

I also have a problem where if I'm not prepared to chat with someone(and at my current job people randomly walk up to chat with me a lot), someone might say "hey how's it going?" and I will be thinking of two different replies at the same time - it could be as simple as thinking "i'm great" and "i'm fine"...and then what I actually say comes out as a mixture of the words.

Obviously I'm not medicated, but I also find that sometimes I just feel like having a conversation is a lot more work than it should be, mostly because the words don't always flow(as above)! It isn't quite as bad if I've had enough sleep, but when I'm sleep deprived and stressed...wow...I get a lot of "are you ok??"
posted by fromageball at 7:01 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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