ADHD, Dopamine Deficiency and Depression – An unexpected impact of Lockdown?

Lockdown number three + health issues = anger. For me at least. I feel constantly wound up, like a tightly coiled spring. The slightest thing can set me off. Be warned!

I’m completely underwhelmed by life. My patience is wafer thin and frankly, anyone within 10 feet of me (or on a screen watching me) should beware. I am about as much fun to be around as a pissed off wasp.

I’ve been like this for weeks now. The year didn’t get off to the best start. In my last post I talked about my health and the fact that over Christmas I was told I might have bowel cancer – I don’t. But I have to be honest and say it was the weirdest, saddest and scariest Christmas I’ve ever had.

January therefore required not one but two colonoscopies (google at your peril). Honestly, I have never felt so well-acquainted with my colon and I never want be as well-acquainted again.

I am now locked in a state of uncertainty over having no answer to explain the pain I get, but am also now facing a very serious dip in my mood and general ability to tolerate anything or anyone.

Then this morning, it hit me. Dopamine. I miss Dopamine.

I’m just not getting any…from anything. Life is just an endless round of monotonous, dull, uninspiring crappitude. I get up, I work, I walk my dog, I watch TV, I go to bed. Repeat.

There is nothing to get my Dopamine-juices flowing. I eat bad food which I guess is self-medicating the issue but there is nothing to look forward to. No holidays, no days or nights out, nowhere even to drive for a change. This lockdown is probably the hardest because the restrictions feel tighter somehow.

And then my health sucks so that pulls me down even further and creates an even bigger Dopamine gap.

So how does a chick in her mid-40’s, stuck in a lockdown actually get any Dopamine?

That’s not a rhetorical question!! I need to know! I’m lost!

There is a ton of research that supports the Dopamine deficit in ADHD and our infinite and endless quest to get the biggest hit we can as often as possible. For many, things like extreme sports, big social lives, moving between relationships, driving recklessly are how we keep ourselves calm and focussed.

What do we do as a community when all of those “control mechanisms” are temporarily taken away? Has the impact of the pandemic been particularly challenging for ADHDers? Is this something that we need to understand and increase awareness of?

I’ve been feeling pretty awful for weeks and giving myself a really hard time when I’m even more unfocussed in Zoom meetings than even my favourite fidget toy can fix. When I lose my patience with someone I feel guilty, when I can’t focus on my university work or when my husband says something and I have no idea what, I feel like the lowest form of useless life. Its a downward spiral into a depression for sure.

Realising this morning that I may be suffering Dopamine starvation has made me feel a bit less low and useless. Suddenly there is context. Im not lazy or unfocussed or rude on purpose. The stuff I usually use to manage my ADHD has evaporated into a pandemic.

If understanding that has helped me then maybe by writing about it, it might help someone else.

This pandemic has been shitty. There isn’t a soul in the world whose life hasn’t been affected in some way. There will always be millions of people who will suffer much worse than we do as people with ADHD, but even so, we do deserve to understand the extra challenge that we have to deal with on top of the baseline of awfulness that each nation is enduring.

Knowing I am starved of the chemical I need to stay focussed has been liberating and depressing in equal measure. Liberating because now I understand why I feel so rubbish but depressing because I also understand that the stuff I need to feel better is off the menu until…well…who knows when!

But all knowledge is power and I will now hunt down any (so far elusive) Dopamine-rich activities within my reach. Probably won’t be easy but I’m going to try. And in the meantime, I am going to try and be much kinder to myself.

7 Replies to “ADHD, Dopamine Deficiency and Depression – An unexpected impact of Lockdown?”

  1. I’ve been doing zoom classes learning art and craft skills, but I’m lucky to have the time to do that. The learning and practically making new things has helped my brain a lot. Also I’m attempting to make myself join some fun dance exercise classes when I can. It’s hard to motivate myself, but I feel good afterwards. You need to find something new to be excited about, something to learn maybe. It’s hard, I’m feeling the monotony too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for commenting Debbie! I’ve started singing in the bathroom and crazy as it sounds, it’s really helping me (I’m not certain the people that live with me find it very helpful or pleasant to listen to though!!!!). Sounds like you have a great ability to motivate yourself to me 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have done things I never thought I would be interested in just to get out of the house and interact with people, even in a socially-distant manner. Online courses are so much worse for those of us with ADHD and I am so excited when I will be able to attend my college courses in-person again. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In typical ADHD style – I am only picking this up now!!! Thank you so much for commenting and well done for pushing hard to get yourself out there on your quest for dopamine!

      Liked by 1 person

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