ADHD Treatment

It may be hard to learn that there is no cure for ADHD. But, the symptoms can be successfully managed and treated.

Without appropriate treatment, you can expect to see improvements in your school or work performance and you may notice your relationships, confidence, and self-esteem improve as well.

Though ADHD treatment is often associated with prescription drugs, that's not the only treatment available. Therapy, special accommodations, social skills, and lifestyle changes can also help reduce ADHD symptoms.

In fact, studies have found that the most effective way to treat ADHD is with a combination of medication and behavioral interventions.

Medication

Medication is the most common treatment for ADHD. If you or your child is prescribed medication, it is important to monitor your symptoms and report any side effects. With this information, your doctor can adjust the prescription until the right therapeutic dose is found.

The two main groups of medication for treating ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants

It might sound counterintuitive to prescribe someone who is hyperactive a stimulant. However, stimulants reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, and increase attention.

Common stimulants include:

Non-Stimulants

While stimulants are usually the first medication prescribed to treat ADHD, sometimes a non-stimulant might be used instead. This may be chosen if you or your child experienced negative side effects with stimulant medication, or there is a history of addiction. Sometimes your doctor might prescribe both a stimulant and non-stimulant.

Examples of non-stimulant medication are:

Behavioral Strategies

The environment plays a big role in managing symptoms of ADHD. An unorganized and unstructured setting can worsen symptoms. A structured, uncluttered, and predictable environment, on the other hand, can help greatly.

Here are some examples of behavioral strategies that work children and adults with ADHD:

  • Establishing routines - Having simple, predictable routines throughout the day means necessary tasks get done without last-minute panics. A healthy morning, afternoon, and evening routine may outline the necessary steps to accomplish tasks.
  • Creating checklists - A checklist can be made for any multi-step process that seems complicated or stressful. It acts as a memory aid and helps you or your child feel organized. For example, you might tape a checklist to the front door listing all the things you or your child needs for the day.
  • Using timers - To help you or your child pay attention to homework or a work project, set a timer for 15 minutes (indicating a dedicated time of focus). When it rings, have a mini break and then set your timer again.
  • Setting alarms - You can set alarms to remind you or your child to take medication or leave the house. Alarms can be empowering because it reduces the need for reminders from others.
  • Creating charts - If there is a behavior or habit you want to include in your day, make a chart with the days of the week. Every time you do the behavior, for example clean your teeth, you get a star. Both children and adults find this rewarding, and it acts as a reminder and a motivator to do the task.
  • Using planners - Using a planner helps with understanding the passage of time and what is planned for the day, and marks deadlines, like when assignments need to be handed in.

Behavioral Parent Training

Some parents feel they have somehow "failed" as a parent if they need training, but this is not the case. Parent training teaches parents of children with ADHD the skills to manage their children’s behavior in the home.

Parent training offers emotional support while also teaching specific discipline techniques that are proven to be effective in reducing behavior problems in children with ADHD. Parents often learn how to establish clear rules, follow through with consistent consequences, and create more structure in their child's day.

Parents also learn behavior modification strategies, such as how to use reward systems to motivate kids do to chores and homework. And, they learn how to apply natural and logical consequences in an effective manner.

Social Skills Training

Social skills can often cause problems for people living with ADHD, as ADHD symptoms can result in behavior that looks rude.

Examples are not noticing subtle nonverbal cues, impulsively interrupting a speaker, or looking out of the window when someone is speaking. Another example is crossing physical boundaries by standing too close to people.

None of these behaviors are done to be intentionally rude, and family and close friends understand this. However, it can be hard to make friends, do well at work, or date without developing new social skills.

Social skills training might be as part of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), either in a group or with an individual therapist, or an ADHD coach may teach the skills.

Counseling and Psychotherapy

Research has found cognitive behavior therapy to be effective for people living with ADHD. It helps to develop new ways to behave in the world. Importantly, it also helps with the shame and low self-esteem that affects many people with ADHD.

Working with a counselor or therapist can be a helpful way to address issues that result from living with ADHD, including job losses and relationship issues. It can also be helpful for people who are living with coexisting conditions like depression and anxiety.

It can be extremely beneficial to speak with a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about ADHD in order to find the best coping mechanisms for you.

ADHD Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Mind Doc Guide

Coaching

Creating more structure in your life could help manage your symptoms. But, it's hard to establish a consistent routine and to get organized when you have ADHD.

ADHD coaches can provide accountability as you are creating this structure. They might also help you or your child set goals, develop new habits, learn new skills, and work to get these integrated into your life.

The coach might also act as a ‘body double.’ A body double is a person who keeps you company while you perform a difficult task.

Many people who have ADHD struggle with boring, mundane, or multi-step tasks like housework, decluttering, and filing taxes. They might procrastinate starting or get side-tracked and leave a project half completed.

A body double sits in the same room with you while you carry out these tasks. Their physical presence helps you to keep focused on the task and reduces any anxiety you might be feeling.

Support Groups

Support groups offer education, emotional support, and encouragement to parents of children with ADHD and to individuals who have ADHD. Being with people who understand your struggles, without you even having to explain them, can provide great comfort and a feeling of belonging.

Support groups are also a great place to learn about resources in your area, such as a particularly knowledgeable ADHD doctor. Sometimes support groups have guest speakers, and other times you can simply share your experiences.

Accommodations

When a person has been officially diagnosed with ADHD, he or she is eligible for accommodations. This means a child can receive accommodations at school, and an adult can have them in the workplace.

Some people feel shy asking for accommodations because they do not want to draw attention to themselves, or feel like they are making a fuss. However, accommodations are there to support you. They create the most helpful environment so you can get the grades you are capable of and do your best work.

Examples of student accommodations include getting help writing notes in class, recording lectures, and being able to take an exam in a quiet room. Speak to the teacher at school or the student disability center for more information on making these arrangements.

Examples of workplace accommodations include wearing noise cancelling headphones or working flexible hours. Another is to put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign, even if this is not office policy. Speak to your boss or human resources about workplace accommodations that may help you.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help ADHD symptoms. These include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing stress reduction techniques.

A good way to incorporate these lifestyle changes into your life is to make them as enjoyable as possible, as motivation is a big part of ADHD. For example, pick an exercise that is fun for you and does not feel like another ‘to do’ on your list.

Education

Learning as much as you can about what ADHD is and how it affects you or your child is possibly the most important part of the treatment process.

Difficulties with regulating attention, and controlling impulses and hyperactivity are the core symptoms of ADHD, but how do they play out in your child’s or your life? For example, does your child daydream and miss instructions, or is your child impulsive and likely to run out into the street without looking? When you are specific about the biggest ADHD challenges, it can help you navigate the treatment options.

Luckily, there is more information about ADHD available than ever before. You can learn from websites, books, and podcasts. Consider attending classes held locally, or national conferences like the CHADD annual conference. And always remember to keep an open dialogue with doctors.

Complementary Treatment Approaches

There are a variety of complementary treatments that may offer some benefit. It's important to discuss any of these complementary treatment approaches with your doctor and mental health professionals before starting them.

Here are some complementary treatments for ADHD:

A Word From Verywell

Your treatment plan should be customized to fit your needs and your lifestyle. It's important to monitor your symptoms and your progress so you can continue to work on finding the strategies and treatments that help you live well with ADHD.

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