Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can look very different depending on the individual. Treatment should also be tailored by an ADHD or adult ADD specialist to best address symptoms. Research shows that a holistic approach to treatment is often the best way to manage ADD and ADHD, which may include medication, nutrition, lifestyle coaching and therapy.
Medication is frequently the first step in ADHD treatment since it can help curb impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity. However, medication alone isn’t enough for most people. Taking a pill doesn’t teach the right skills to help manage the effects of symptoms or other comorbidities commonly found with ADHD, such as executive dysfunction or oppositional defiant disorder.
Working with skilled mental health professionals is the best way to develop a treatment plan that helps you or a loved one utilize the right skills, lifestyle changes and medications to manage ADHD for the long term.
Adult vs Childhood ADHD
What is ADD or ADHD? It’s a chronic condition that typically presents with hyperactivity, inattention or a combination of both. Although there’s some controversy about the childhood vs adult onset of ADHD, the diagnostic criteria currently include ADHD symptoms that:
- Are present in at least two settings (home and school, for example)
- Interfere with daily activities
- Aren’t associated with a different mental disorder
- Presented before age 12
While children with ADHD symptoms may go into remission after reaching adulthood, adults can also experience the onset or worsening of symptoms as they grow older. Some ADHD psychiatrists believe the social scaffolding surrounding individuals impacts their symptoms. For example, a child with parents who manage their schedule and help with organizational skills might create an environment that minimizes disruption from ADHD symptoms. When that child reaches adulthood and has no outside help with management, they may struggle. The reverse can also be true, where a child has severe symptoms due to a stressful home life and later develops relationships that help manage their condition. An example might be a person whose spouse handles all the financial planning or social scheduling.
Treatment is similar regardless of the age at which ADHD symptoms present and become a significant liability. In general, behavioral intervention and medications are the first methods used to manage symptoms.
Therapy With an ADHD Specialist
The type and scope of therapy used to treat ADHD often depend on the patient’s age. Younger children can’t be expected to manage their emotions and behaviors as well as adults. For children under 6 years of age, much of the therapy involves training parents on techniques that can help their child learn to better manage impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention.
Behavior therapy might focus on skills development and positive reinforcement for adults with a new diagnosis. Many adults must self-motivate, and treatment can help them develop ways to focus on positive rather than negative outcomes.
When Should You Consider Medication for ADHD?
For many, medication is the first response to the question of how to fix ADHD. When ADHD has a disruptive impact on your life, medication can be a critical part of your recipe for improvement. When ADHD negatively impacts you or a loved one’s social, emotional or work well-being, it might be time to consider medication.
What Are the Medication Options for ADHD?
ADHD medications typically fall into three broad categories: stimulants, non-stimulants and antidepressants. While 70%-80% of children experience a reduction in their ADHD symptoms with stimulant medications, adults with a new ADHD diagnosis may be hesitant to try stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin. Non-stimulants, such as Strattera and Catapres, may work well for those with ADHD who struggle with impulse control and concentration. Nonstimulants may be offered to patients who experience unpleasant side effects from the more common stimulant medications.
An ADHD diagnosis often comes with other mental health comorbidities, such as anxiety and depression. Antidepressants can help combat depression, while other medicines may be prescribed specifically to help control ADHD symptoms.
Finding the right medication or combination of prescriptions is a trial-and-error process. It may take trying several prescriptions to find a medication you tolerate well that also provides enough symptom relief.
ADHD Medication Side Effects
All medications can have side effects, including those used to treat ADHD. Stimulants may cause a loss of appetite, weight loss, crankiness and tics and may affect sleep. This class of drugs may also impact heart health and increase the risk for psychiatric illnesses. Nonstimulant ADHD medications may cause stomach upset, dizziness, dry mouth, low blood pressure and fatigue. When coming off nonstimulant ADHD meds, it’s important to note that you might have a sudden increase in blood pressure, which is why doctors may recommend gradually weaning off rather than ceasing a prescription suddenly.
Antidepressants come with their own risk factors, which can differ depending on the age of the patient. Teens may be at higher risk for suicidal thoughts when starting an antidepressant, while adults might experience an increased heart rate as a side effect. Other fairly common and relatively minor side effects include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth and stomach upset. Some medications in this category may also increase the risk of seizures.
When trying different medications and combinations to help control ADHD symptoms, the goal is always to find an option that gives you symptom relief with manageable and minor, if any, side effects.
Holistic Options for ADHD
When medication isn’t a viable treatment for an individual diagnosed with ADHD, there are holistic options that may help. Learning to set and meet small, realistic goals can help both children and adults develop better concentration skills. For example, teaching a child to sit at the table beginning with 10-minute increments may help to gradually increase self-control. Positive reinforcement for success can turn every milestone into a celebration rather than a chore.
Routines, particularly surrounding sleep, are an important part of creating an environment that’s helpful for those with ADHD. Research shows that up to half of ADHD patients also have a sleep disruption disorder such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Disruptions in sleep are directly linked to the severity and prevalence of ADHD-related symptoms. Treating a sleep disorder should be a priority for anyone with ADHD.
Incorporating regular exercise and movement into a person’s daily routine may help address hyperactivity. Taking a 10-minute walk between meetings or giving a child 30 minutes to run around between classes can help improve focus and reduce fidgeting.
To determine the best course of action for you, it’s advisable to work with a psychiatrist and therapist. At Restore, our services are personalized to provide the support you need and the mental health expertise to help you navigate a successful treatment plan for ADHD.
Support Groups for Parents and People With ADHD
At Restore, patients have the opportunity to connect with others who may face similar challenges. Support group members can share tips and techniques while empathizing with the challenges of caring for someone with or living with ADHD.
Tips for Living With ADHD
How Parents Can Help
When your child is diagnosed with ADHD, there are many ways you can help get their symptoms under control. Establishing routines and imposing organization can help reduce distractions and create successful habits. Don’t offer your child open-ended options. For example, don’t ask what they’d like for breakfast. Instead, ask if they’d like cereal or eggs this morning. The first question might lead to decision paralysis and confusion, so keep things direct and simple. Help your child set goals and plan tasks, and offer praise and rewards for successful completion.
Tips for ADHD Patients
Get help! ADHD can be very serious and negatively impact all facets of your life. With the right combination of skills, medication and lifestyle changes, you can learn to turn negatives into qualities that help you succeed. Working with a therapist and psychiatrist can be invaluable to help you develop coping skills for getting through your day.
Restore Can Help
No matter how old you are, you can get help with ADD/ADHD. At Restore, we offer several treatment modalities and holistic care tailored to your individual needs. As a primary mental health facility, we treat various mental health disorders and substance abuse.
Contact us at Restore to find out more about our ADHD treatment options. Call (844) 950-1070 today to talk with a mental health practitioner about your ADHD diagnosis or symptoms and start getting the help you need to feel better.