Does a person with ADHD have more difficulties dealing with chronic pain than a non-ADHDer?

Q: I have been diagnosed with ADHD and I also have a chronic pain condition.  My question is this: do you think that a person with ADHD has more difficulties dealing with chronic pain than non- ADHD?  It seems like the pain makes it hard to concentrate or focus on tasks that I already struggle with, ie paperwork, organizing, time management and so forth.  Also, the pain causes frustration.  Just when I think I can get to work on a task I’ve been putting off, the pain flares up and I lose any focus I had.  What do you think?  Thanks

From what I understand chronic pain changes the brain. ADHD is also a brain-based difference.

So the combined frustration when you have both must be unbelievable.

My first thought is that it would be easier to do the inner work required to deal with ADHD after you get the pain under control.

All of the EF challenges we associate with ADHD are actually separate from how we view ourselves – so if pain is getting in the way of you seeing yourself as a whole and capable person it will impact any treatment you put in place for ADHD.

One of my favorite lines is, “You can deal with the day-to-day stuff if you haven’t handled the emotional stuff.”

I’m not a physician, but my thinking is to work on the pain first, the ADHD stuff later when you have the bandwidth to deal with it.

Let me know what you think.



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      • Sue Kelly
      • May 15, 2020

      I also have add and chronic pain,fibromyalgia. There really isn’t anyway to deal with the pain . I found the “brain fog” and fatigue from fibro was more debilitating than the pain and the medication made it worse. I was taking cymbalta, the withdrawal from the cymbalta is something I would not wish on my worse enemy. I have been dealing with this for about 8 years. I just found out about my ADD about 1 and 1/2 years ago at age 63., and realized from reading that at least some of the “fibro fog” is probally add. Anyway my reason for the comment is that dealing with the pain first is not always an option for everyone.

        • Matthew Wong
        • May 28, 2020

        I agree with you, Sue, TOTALLY. That is not always an option, in fact, it is probably a better plan to do both simultaneously as some of the pain therapy is very relaxing and coincidentally addresses mental conditions through massage and/or relaxation. Even if it is chemical relaxation. This is a big help for ADHD, I imagine.
        I am newly diagnosed at 47 and have multiple chronic pain conditions. I am just now learning that things I was doing in my earlier life, albeit unmonitored and recreational, was helping/masking my ADHD all these years. From nicotine, to exercise, to martial arts and meditation, chiropractors, good supporting friends, and even dance club life. All of this helped both conditions simultaneously and I never knew it. I stopped everything for many years, and I am now feeling it …. badly.
        I should have gotten a diagnosis and made smarter, healthier choices so that I would not be where I am now. But hind-sight is 20/20, and all we can do is move forward learning from our past. So my opinion is to tackle both at the same time. I bet you will see profound results.
        Good Luck.

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