Guilt About Taking ADHD Medication – Pill Shaming

Woman listends to advice

Whether you’re an adult or child taking ADHD medication, you’ve likely experienced guilt, and pill shaming. Pill shaming happens when someone expresses negative opinions about you taking medication. They may say things to you like “Anyone who takes Adderall will develop psychosis”, and “Adderall is just a legal form of meth”. 

Statements such as the ones above can prevent people from doing research, and seeing the benefits of taking medication for ADHD. They make it seem as if these medications and the professionals prescribing them do more harm than good.

I’m not saying prescription drug abuse doesn’t happen, and isn’t a serious issue. I’m saying  that people need to realize ADHD medications have also helped millions of individuals live happy, full lives.

I remember the first time my aunt asked me if she could help get me tested for ADHD. I always knew I may have it. I kept thinking that my parents and friends would mock me for taking medications like Dexedrine and Ritalin if getting tested meant taking medication.

How Pill Shaming Affects Mental Health

My perceptions of how other people viewed these pills made me hesitant, and nervous when I first started taking them. Other peoples’ opinions are a big reason why it took me years to come to terms with having ADHD

Another reason pill shaming hurt me had to do with how people reacted when I opened up about having ADHD. As an example, my parents reaction to my diagnosis was “Great, she’s pushing meds on my kids now. You know those things are just an excuse for being lazy right?!” Even though my parents came to terms with me taking medication, their initial reaction was really hurtful.

Those statements, and similar ones, chipped away at my self-worth for years, which led me to believe I was less than other people and I developed anxiety. Low self-esteem, anxiety, and undiagnosed ADHD affected me for a good part of my life. And it didn’t need to be that way.

Young man teaches older man

4 Tips to Move Past the Guilt

Thankfully, I eventually changed my own mindset. I went from feeling less than others, to understanding that there’s nothing wrong with taking a scientifically proven treatment for a medical condition. 

I did this by keeping the following things in mind to help me focus on the things in my control, and to cope with what wasn’t in my control, like other peoples’ negative opinions about ADHD medications:

1)  If you’re nervous about medications, educate yourself abut how ADHD medication works

This TotallyADD video does an amazing job explaining how ADHD meds work. In addition to medication, remember that other portions of your treatment are important as well such as building healthy habits, relationships, and therapy. It’s about balance, and even though medication plays a part it’s also important not to ignore the other aspects of your treatment.

2)  Acknowledge your own beliefs about ADHD medication

One way to play an active role in your treatment is to make a list of your beliefs about ADHD and medication. Then take  your list and questions to your doctor therapist to help you get a better understanding of ADHD treatments.

In addition to medical professionals, if you look for things online make sure the sources are reliable! When I personally look for information about ADHD, the following pages are the ones I trust: TotallyADD, HowToADHD, and ImpactADHD

3)  Be aware of unsolicited mental health advice

If you’re like me, during your ADHD journey, you’ve likely heard a lot of unsolicited advice. I know I have more times than I can count. I rarely found unsolicited advice to be helpful. Most times I find it frustrating, or demeaning, or both. 

So how do you deal with it without losing your sanity? Boundaries.

4) Understand what works for you, and set healthy boundaries

The Canadian mental health association defines boundaries in the following way: Boundaries are the limits you set between yourself and others due to your values, preferences, thoughts, opinions and things that you know are not in your best interest.

Setting boundaries isn’t easy, and it can make you feel like the bad guy at times. Here are my rules for healthy boundaries when it involves my mental health.

  • Don’t be afraid to not engage in certain conversations or simply walk away
  • If someone gives you unsolicited advice simply say, “This is something I discuss with my doctor, pharmacist, or therapist, thanks.”
  • Don’t feel like you’re a bad person for taking healthy measures for supporting your mental health
  • Have a good understanding of your needs, and the things that are important to your mental health
  • If you need help creating boundaries, don’t feel bad about seeking professional support such as peer support workers, and therapists – Asking for help takes strength and courage and it isn’t a flaw

These tips are guidelines for helping you focus on the things that matter most in your treatment, while giving you an understanding of what isn’t helpful in your treatment. After doing all of this, I can tell you that I know first hand how important it is to take the time, with the help of a professional, to figure out what works best for you. It’s your journey!

About Sandy Pace

Sandy Pace Headshot
Sandy Pace

In 2015, I came across two advocates who changed my life: Rick Green at TotallyADD, and How to ADHD’s Jessica McCabe. I honestly can say they’ve changed my life in ways I never thought possible. Through inspiring me to become an author/advocate and help others in their journey.

Since then, I’ve been featured in: Thought Catalog, Libero Magazine, Mediums Invisible Illness & Beautiful Voyager, plus SOS Safety Magazine.

In addition to writing, I’m in the process of becoming a certified peer support worker, so I can empower others living with a mental condition. I’m additionally diagnosed with ADHD, and proud to be a passionate advocate who does everything in my power to eliminate the stigma attached to ADHD and medication.

You can find more of my articles at Medium

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