What's Next After Being Diagnosed With ADHD

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If you or your child have recently been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’re not alone. Approximately 5% of people around the world live with this condition.

ADHD is a health condition that affects the brain’s development. As a result, it can cause symptoms such as:

  • Having difficulty focusing on tasks 
  • Getting distracted easily and leaving tasks incomplete
  • Having trouble staying organized
  • Forgetting or misplacing things
  • Being unable to sit still
  • Feeling impatient and having trouble waiting 

This article explores the next steps after being diagnosed with ADHD, including treatment options and coping strategies.

Coping With an ADHD Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with ADHD can cause you to experience a range of emotions. You may experience shock if you weren’t expecting the diagnosis and were caught by surprise. You may feel sad or angry at the prospect of living with a mental health condition and be scared of what that means. You may worry about how to tell others or what they might think.

On the other hand, you may also experience relief, since there’s finally an explanation for all the difficulties you’ve been facing. The symptoms of ADHD can cause difficulties with work or school, everyday life at home, as well as relationships. As a result, you may have often felt frustrated with others or yourself felt guilty about your actions, or felt ashamed. Others may have perceived you as lazy, incompetent, rude, or unreliable. Having an explanation for your struggles can be validating.

If you have been diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager or adult, you may feel regret at not having been diagnosed earlier. You may wonder how the condition has affected your personal and professional life in the past, and the treatment and support you could have benefited from if you had discovered it earlier.

These are some steps that can help you cope with the diagnosis:

  • Give yourself time to process it: Being diagnosed with a mental health condition can leave you shaken. You may feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster—one moment you may feel acceptance, and the next you may feel angry or anxious. Take the time you need to process your emotions.
  • Learn about the condition: Educating yourself about ADHD can help you understand what you’re experiencing and why. It can also help you understand what to expect in the future. It can be helpful to explore educational resources and ask your healthcare provider any questions you have.
  • Seek social support: Confide in your loved ones and share your feelings with them. Their support can be a source of comfort to you and help you cope. Let them know how they can help you.
  • Face the diagnosis: You may wish you had never received the diagnosis or find it easier to pretend it didn’t happen. However, it’s important to face the diagnosis and take steps to manage and treat your condition. 

Treatment Options for ADHD

While ADHD cannot be cured, the symptoms can be treated so that you can function better on a day-to-day basis. The treatment options for ADHD include medication and therapy.

Medication

The medications for ADHD are classified into two categories:

  • Stimulants: Stimulant drugs like methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, and lisdexamfetamine dimesylate are the most widely used type of medication in the treatment of ADHD. They work by influencing the parts of the brain responsible for attention, concentration, and behavior. While they have a stimulating effect on most people, they have a calming effect on people with ADHD.
  • Non-stimulants: Non-stimulant drugs like clonidine, atomoxetine, viloxazine, imipramine, and bupropion work by increasing the amount of a brain chemical known as norepinephrine, to help improve attention span and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine which type of medication is the most appropriate for you, based on factors such as your symptoms, your medical history, any other health conditions you have, and any other medication you’re taking.

Medications cause different effects and side effects in people, so you may have to try different medications and doses before you find the one that works best for you. Your healthcare provider will likely start you on a low dosage and increase it from there, depending on how you respond to it.

Therapy

A counselor or therapist can help you understand your condition better and equip you with coping skills to manage it. These are some of the forms of therapy that can help with ADHD:

  • Behavior therapy: Behavior therapy aims to reinforce positive behaviors and minimize unwanted behaviors. It can help you monitor and correct your behaviors so that you are able to wait your turn, or stay seated when you need to, for instance.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): This form of therapy helps you improve your awareness of your thought processes and how they affect your behaviors. For instance, CBT can help you identify that you’re putting off doing a project because you think it’ll take forever to complete. It can also offer solutions, such as breaking the project into parts and tackling them one by one.
  • Family therapy: ADHD in children or teenagers can affect their whole family. Family therapy can help family members learn how to support each other and cope with the condition together.
  • Coaching: Coaching can help you be more productive and meet your goals. Coaching can also help parents of children with ADHD be more helpful, encouraging, and supportive of their child.
  • Support groups: Support groups can help connect you with others who are facing similar experiences. They can be a source of support, advice, validation, and inspiration.

It can be helpful to seek therapy from a mental healthcare provider who has experience working with people who have ADHD, or has ADHD themselves.

You can get a referral from a friend or family member, a pediatrician or primary care physician, or your current mental healthcare provider. Many schools also offer resources for children with ADHD.

Living With ADHD

These are some coping strategies that may be helpful if you have ADHD:

  • Maintain a fixed routine: Try to stick to a fixed routine every day, to help promote consistency. Keep things in designated places so they’re easy to find.
  • Minimize distractions: When you’re working on a project, sit at a tidy workspace, switch off the television, and limit other noises and distractions.
  • Plan your tasks: It can be helpful to plan your day and break it down task-wise. You may also find it helpful to break down time-consuming tasks into smaller chunks, with activity breaks in between. 
  • Focus on your goals: ADHD can make it difficult for you to complete tasks, which can keep you from achieving your goals. Stay focused on your goals and reward yourself when you complete steps along the way.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising regularly can help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
  • Pursue positive opportunities: Pursue activities in areas you enjoy, such as sports, art, music, dance, theater, or tech. Finding other things you’re good at can help improve your confidence and create positive experiences.
  • Take your medication regularly: It’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions regarding dosage and timing, and take your medicine as prescribed. This can help prevent side effects. For instance, some ADHD medications can result in reduced appetite, so your healthcare provider may ask you to take them after your meals, instead of before.
  • Screen for other health conditions: People with ADHD often have other mental health conditions as well. Screening for other health conditions can help ensure you get treated for them.

A Word From Verywell

While being diagnosed with ADHD can be upsetting and scary, getting the right treatment and support can help you manage your symptoms and feel better. Managing ADHD takes time, effort, patience, and kindness.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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