3 ADHD Strategies That Can Help You

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 12/28/2020

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is an impairing condition that affects millions of people in the United States. Still, there are ways to manage the condition and keep the symptoms under control. In this article, you will learn about the various approaches to treating ADHD so that you can have a more productive and fulfilling life.

  1. Medication

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Prescription medication is always the first-line treatment for ADHD because there are differences in biochemistry and brain processes in those who have the disorder and those who do not.

In the brain, your neurons are responsible for passing information through neurotransmitters, in a process appropriately known as neurotransmission.

In ADHD, it’s believed that a person’s neurons can be affected in a few ways: {1]

  • Not enough neurotransmitters are released
  • The neurotransmitters aren’t being attached to receptors
  • A neuron might consume a neurotransmitter before a connection can be made

It’s normal for neurotransmitters to be absorbed by sending neurons so that they can move onto the next receptor, which is a process called reuptake, but it can also be problematic.

ADHD is believed to be caused by this reuptake because it fails to relay the message and stimulate the site. When information isn’t being passed between neuron-to-neuron, it can cause the signature symptoms of ADHD, like inattentiveness and impulsivity. [1]

Reuptake is a common cause of various mental health disorders that people experience.

For example, the reuptake of serotonin is what is believed to be responsible for major depression and anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Medication to address these particular conditions is known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They work to prevent reuptake and allow serotonin levels to increase and become available for use.

However, unlike these disorders, which involve serotonin, ADHD is believed to be caused by a deficiency of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. [2]

Stimulants

Medication, such as stimulants, can help increase the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine so that messages between neurons can be transmitted more efficiently, and this reduces the symptoms of ADHD, like hyperactivity and inattentiveness, which means that people with ADHD can have an easier time focusing and being productive at school or work. [1] [2]

Stimulants are very fast-acting, and they also have a short half-life, which means they’re typically consumed so that it lasts the school day or a work shift, especially extended-release ones.

Non-Stimulants

In addition to stimulants, there are also slower-acting non-stimulant medications that can also be used for ADHD. These non-stimulants tend to be norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (NRI) and, like SSRI antidepressants, can take several weeks to take effect. In some cases, norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI) may also be used.

These are generally considered a second-line medical treatment for ADHD for this reason, and because stimulants have shown success in relieving the symptoms of ADHD in the vast majority of patients who have it.

Which One To Choose?

Stimulants are known to have side-effects, like dry mouth, reduced appetite, sleep difficulties, agitation, and dependency. This doesn’t mean that non-stimulants don’t have side-effects; rather, people might have fewer or less-severe ones instead.

This makes non-stimulants an option for people who find the side-effects unbearable or have other concerns.

Ultimately, finding what works for you or your child will require consulting a doctor or psychiatrist who can prescribe medication for ADHD, and the management of the disorder will be an ongoing process.

  1. Therapy

Along with medication, therapy is one of the most effective ways of coping with ADHD. Below, you will learn about some of the best therapy strategies that can be employed.

For Kids

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Behavioral issues are commonplace in those who have ADHD. While the medication is considered to be very effective in treating many of the condition's symptoms, it doesn’t give them the skills they need to cope with the challenges they’ll face every day, whether it’s at home, school, or work.

Behavioral therapy can help target various problematic behaviors such as disruptive ones and ones related to organization, planning, and staying focused and on-task.

To accomplish this, parents need to get involved. In techniques like Parent Training for ADHD, they will learn various strategies to help change negative and unhelpful behaviors into positive ones, such as ones that are more socially-acceptable or promote productivity. [3]

The primary way to do this is through positive reinforcement. By not rewarding or responding to bad behaviors, like tantrums or defiance, and only encouraging and praising good behavior, you can make a change. Of course, you will also need to show them that there are consequences for bad behaviors.

Oppositional behaviors can be very stressful for parents. That’s why a therapist's assistance is highly recommended to help you become better equipped to handle these kinds of situations when they come up and improve discipline.

In addition to correcting negative behaviors through positive reinforcement, therapy can also help parents provide structure to their child’s life at home and school.

For example, therapy can teach parents how to incorporate activities that promote organizational and planning skills that they can use to complete tasks at school or at home, such as ensuring homework or chores get done.

These skill-building exercises can also certainly incorporate positive reinforcement techniques as well. For instance, if your child wants to play video games, use the computer, or watch TV, they should complete their tasks first, and rewarding this behavior will encourage them to stay on top of the things they need to do.

However, this can also go beyond the home-life, and parents and teachers can also work together to achieve great results. Teachers can provide a report card for kids each day. If they meet certain goals like not being disruptive to the class, getting along with their peers, and completing assignments, they can receive rewards. [4]

Parenting strategies like these take practice and a lot of coaching, but on average, significant progress can be made for kids with ADHD within eight weeks.

For Adults

For adults with ADHD, cognitive-behavioral therapy is the recommended non-medical treatment method for coping with their symptoms.

Although they may be past the age where positive reinforcement tactics are most effective, cognitive behavioral therapy can help adults address the negative thought patterns that come with ADHD, such as a pessimistic outlook and distorted self-beliefs, which all affect their mood and self-esteem.

Recognizing these unhelpful thoughts, which can come in various forms, will allow you to take steps to challenge them and eventually replace them with positive and realistic thoughts through different behaviors, such as how you respond to the thoughts.

For example, it’s common for people with ADHD to compare themselves to others, blame themselves for bad events that come up, and emphasize minor issues while downplaying their achievements. [5]

Instead of accepting this as the truth, adults with ADHD can use logic and rationalize things. Eventually, they can realize that other people aren’t inherently better than them, not everything is their fault, and the good things they accomplish are meaningful.

Changing the thoughts and behaviors will be essential in improving the mindsets of individuals with ADHD and will help them become more optimistic about various aspects of their lives.

  1. Self-Care & Lifestyle Habits

In addition to the standard ADHD treatment protocols, medication, and therapy, there are many things that kids, adolescents, and adults can do to make handling the symptoms of ADHD easier.

Physical exercise is something that is highly recommended for anyone, no matter their age. People can enjoy participating in team sports, running, cycling, going to the gym - anything that can help consume excess energy and ease hyperactivity symptoms. It also provides an opportunity for people to create goals for themselves.

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Exercising also promotes the release of many of the important neurotransmitters discussed earlier in this article - norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which can help improve attention and focus. [6]

Getting an adequate amount of physical activity can also help promote better sleep quality. When combined with healthy sleep habits and patterns, this can make a significant difference in symptomatic relief.

In general, healthy dietary choices are also a great way to help manage energy levels. Instead of consuming fatty and sugary foods and beverages that can cause spikes in energy and crashing, a more sustained source is optimal.

Do You Have ADHD?

ADHD is one of the most common mental health conditions, especially among kids, but adult ADHD is on the rise because people who have had the disorder all of their lives didn’t receive a diagnosis during their childhood.

This diagnosis is important because it helps kids, teenagers, and adults get the treatment they need - without it, they can’t be prescribed medication.

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If you think you or your child may have ADHD, making an appointment to get diagnosed is essential, but while you wait, you can also take this free ADHD test. It’s brief, and the results can be the first step to getting the assistance you need and deserve.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by learning about some of the main options available for treating ADHD, you can have a solid plan for keeping it under control. The disorder creates significant challenges for people of all ages, but it can be managed effectively.

References

  1. Rawe, J. (2020, October 22). How ADHD Medication Works. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/medications/how-adhd-medication-works
  2. Silver, L. (2019, December 19). ADHD Neuroscience 101. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-neuroscience-101
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 4). Parent Training in Behavior Management for ADHD. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/behavior-therapy.html
  4. Miller, C. (2020, June 16). ADHD Behavioral Treatment: Therapy for ADHD. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/behavioral-treatments-kids-adhd/
  5. Sherman, C., Ramsay, J. R., Barrow, K., & Saline, S. (2020, February 26). How CBT Dismantles ADHD Negativity: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Overview. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-adhd/
  6. Robinson, L. (2020, September). ADHD Medications. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/medication-for-attention-deficit-disorder-adhd.htm