Impact of the ADHD brain pandemic

October 10, 2022

Social distancing and distance learning have largely disappeared. The same cannot be said for the pandemic’s challenges to mental health. In a recent ADDitude survey, 72 percent of caregivers said their child had experienced anxiety, depression and other mental health effects in the past two to three years. Many attributed this to the pandemic and cited new or aggravated challenges such as mood swings, sleep problems and anger.

Several parents report improvement in their child’s symptoms, which seem to subside with return to school and social activities. Others said they learned how to deal with long-term social, emotional and behavioral challenges. Yet many don’t know how to help their child adapt to the world, almost post-pandemic.

Below, ADDitude readers describe the continuing impact of the pandemic on their children’s daily lives. What are some of the challenges your child has faced over the past few years, and have you found effective interventions? Let us know in the comments section.

“My son’s anxiety has increased exponentially. He had always struggled in school, but distance learning for third and fourth grades—two very critical school years—made him fall even further behind, both socially and academically. He has come so far but has so much to make up for. He knows he is not like other children and this makes him anxious and depressed. — ADDitude reader

“My child avoids all relationships although he states how alone he feels. — ADDitude reader

“My son’s behavior was difficult, but it got worse during COVID. He became visibly depressed, stopped making an effort in school (even when he knew the answers), didn’t want to make any friendships, and was afraid of things that used to be normal for him (like his bedroom at night). A reduction in his medication helped, but a neuropsychological examination, which highlighted his anxiety and led to a new medication, changed the picture completely.’ — ADDitude reader

[Download: Friendship Guide for Kids with ADHD]

“When COVID hit, we had to stay home for over a year. now, [our son] prefers to stay at home most of the time.’ — ADDitude reader

“My son’s life changed dramatically in 2020 after an already difficult fifth grade year. He never recovered from the loss of math skills, lost many of his friends, used food as a comfort, and his picking disorder increased tenfold. This past year was the worst we’ve ever had and I’m hoping some changes made this summer will make his eighth grade year better. I hope for happiness, if nothing else.” — ADDitude reader

“We noticed that for the past two years our son has started and continues to chew and bite his nails and other non-food items to cope with anxiety. He has also developed anxiety about going to the doctor. His anxiety seems to be related to the need for tests, especially nasal swabs and injections.’ — ADDitude reader

“The lack of opportunity to communicate and the isolation are affected [my son’s] well-being during the pandemic. Since returning to class he has been doing much better and no longer has these concerns.— ADDitude reader

[Read: Safeguarding Youth Against Depression in the Pandemic]

“The pandemic and subsequent online learning have made my child even more depressed and anxious. After two years of trying to succeed in school and failing miserably, she finally takes a year off to rebuild his life through counselling. She is also being evaluated for ADHD, which would explain so many of the symptoms she has experienced since childhood. — ADDitude reader

“My daughter has always had symptoms of ADHD, but before the pandemic she was doing well in school and functioning relatively normally in social settings. After the pandemic hit, she was isolated and had to be homeschooled. She fell into severe depression and her ADHD symptoms became more apparent without the structure of school.— ADDitude reader

“[My daughter] is combative and easily angered by family. She stopped taking her anti-depressants and turned to smoking marijuana to deal with the anxiety. Now that she is 21, she buys herself alcohol. — ADDitude reader

“[My daughter] graduating college in 2020 and moving to a big city with a new job and new responsibilities. The inevitable overwhelm consumed her and increased her symptoms to the point of taking action. She was recently diagnosed with ADHD and started taking stimulants. The good news is that, like so many of us twice-exceptional women who were diagnosed late in life, the stimulants made a big difference for her. Challenges remain, but she has now discovered and embraced the tools that help her meet and manage them. I am thankful that she is finally on a “journey” now. — ADDitude reader

My child has unofficially dropped out of school due to his inability to leave his bed most days. He does not eat, does not take care of himself or personal hygiene, and has problems maintaining and keeping track of material possessions. As he becomes more antisocial, his OCD, autism and ADHD symptoms become more damaging and debilitating.’ — ADDitude reader

“[My son] had trouble sleeping at the start of the pandemic and struggled to adjust to virtual school work and online classes. He adapted after a few months and is much better now. He’s still worried and started biting his nails, but in general, he behaves much more normally than he did three years ago.” — ADDitude reader

“My son was homeschooled for five years and had a good social network in this community. COVID broke up our groups, some people left, and playmates went online. Friendships faded with struggles to resolve online gaming disputes remotely, disagreements over wearing masks and becoming a teenager with big changes during isolation. I am now trying to get back to work with higher living expenses and get our son into an early intensive developmental and behavioral intervention (EIDBI) program. Due to the shortage of qualified supervisory professionals (QSPs), it is still isolated and lonely.” — ADDitude reader

ADHD and youth mental health: Next steps

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