How To Treat ADHD

Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW

Published 01/08/2021

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a common disorder that typically shows up in childhood. In fact, over six million children in the United States have been diagnosed. That is almost 10% of all kids in America that are struggling with this disorder. But there are many ways to effectively address ADHD symptoms.

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What Is ADHD?

So, what exactly is ADHD? It is typically described as a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the ability to control certain impulses, focus or concentrate, and even make it difficult to sit still. If you are not sure whether your child has ADHD, an online test may be helpful prior to seeking an official diagnosis from a licensed professional. Also, take a look at these symptoms of ADHD your child may exhibit:

  • Biting their nails or chewing on the inside of their cheeks
  • Tapping feet or fingers, swaying back and forth and humming
  • Getting bored easy
  • Makes many careless mistakes
  • Does not pay attention to anyone or anything long
  • Does not seem to have organizational skills
  • Constantly seems to lose things.
  • Is very easily distracted
  • Forgets the instructions given to them by anyone
  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Running around or restlessness
  • Does not sit and play quietly like other kids
  • Yells out answers in class before the question is complete
  • Will not take turns well
  • Repeatedly interrupts others when they are speaking

What Are The Risk Factors For ADHD?

Although experts are still looking for precise answers, several risk factors may be related to ADHD. For example:

  • Family history of anxiety disorder or depression
  • Environmental factors like toxins in water or pollution in the air
  • Genetics
  • Having a low birth weight
  • Some types of brain injuries
  • Prenatal concerns such as using drugs, drinking, or smoking while pregnant

A professional diagnosis is important because other illnesses can mimic ADHD. Some of these include:

  • Brain injuries
  • Sleep disorders
  • Medical issues that affect thinking
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Hearing or vision defects
  • Seizure disorders
  • Mood disorders like anxiety or depression
  • Learning difficulties

Can ADHD Be Cured?

Although there is no ADHD cure, there are treatments that have been able to help thousands of children with the disorder.  Children with ADHD can live a happy and productive life.

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How Is ADHD Treated?

Psychotherapy is one of the most common and effective ways to address ADHD symptoms. There are quite a few different types of psychotherapy that can help. While medication is commonly used in the treatment of ADHD, other treatments can help also. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Also known as CBT, this form of talk therapy can teach children the skills to effectively manage ADHD symptoms.  They can learn strategies to improve their concentration and focus as well as managing disruptive behaviors that can be a challenge at school, home or with friends. CBT helps by teaching the child how to understand and change their actions by changing their thought patterns.

Cognitive Distortions

CBT can help you work with inconsistent motivation, impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, poor time management, disorganization, and procrastination. The therapist involves the parents, too, teaching them how to recognize cognitive distortions that may be causing problems in your child’s life. Some cognitive distortions include:

  • Comparative Thinking: When your child measures themselves against others.
  • Emotional Reasoning: Your child believes their negative feelings will reflect reality.
  • Mental Filtering: The child sees only negative aspects of all experiences.
  • Personalization: They blame themselves for all negative events that happen to them.
  • Should Haves: Your child focuses on how things should be or what they should have done.
  • Minimization And Magnification: Exaggerating minor problems and trivializing accomplishments.
  • Predictions: Your child predicts that things will end badly.
  • Mind Reading: They believe that others know everything about them and that they do not like them.
  • Overgeneralization: Seeing one negative issue as part of a pattern.
  • All or Nothing Thinking: Your child sees everything as all good or all bad.

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Parent Training Therapy

Another way to help your child with ADHD is with parent education and training. Learning how to help your child manage his or her behavior is essential.  Parent Training can provide the tools to increase appropriate behavior with rewards and decrease problem behavior with consequences and limits.

Social Skills Training

Since many children with ADHD have trouble with social interactions, social skills training can be helpful.  They will learn things like reading other people’s reactions and body language to help them communicate better.  Social skills training can help children with initiating and maintaining positive social relationships. 

Other Possible Treatments

It is not all about psychotherapy, though. There are other approaches to addressing symptoms that may be helpful. Some of these include exercise, diet, and vitamins.

Exercise

Because one of the main symptoms of ADHD is hyperactivity, regular exercise can be a big help. Your first notification that your child had ADHD may have started with a complaint from the teacher about your child not being able to sit still. Regular exercise helps encourage your brain to release endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine, some of the “feel-good” chemicals that help with anxiety and sleep regulation.

Some of the types of exercise that may benefit your child are those they do regularly, like martial arts, dance, gymnastics, and swimming. Or you can get involved by taking your child hiking or biking once or twice a week. Teach your child yoga for another way to destress after a hard day.

Diet

Although it is good for everyone to eat healthily, it is especially important for children with ADHD. Some studies have found that artificial flavors, colors, and other additives may increase ADHD symptoms in children. Some of the coloring agents used to make food “look better” can make your child more hyper. But before cutting anything out of your child’s diet, make sure you check with their doctor.

Vitamins And Supplements

In addition to eating healthy, your child may also benefit from certain vitamins and supplements. Always check with your child’s doctor before giving them any kind of vitamins or supplements. Although the results are still being studied, some vitamins and supplements may be helpful:

  • Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps promote sleep and relaxation.
  • Vitamin C is beneficial in helping boost dopamine.
  • Magnesium promotes relaxation, calm and decreases stress.
  • Iron is good for those found to have an iron deficiency, which is common in ADHD children.
  • Zinc is involved in reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity.
  • Omega 3 is found in cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines. These fatty acids help improve concentration, cognition, and behavior.

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Support Groups

Whether it is a support group of parents who have children with ADHD or a group for the children themselves, support groups can be amazing ways to cope with ADHD. Talking to others who have similar situations is an excellent way to learn what works and what does not. After all, therapy is good, but it is also good to talk to people who have already been through your situation. Getting tips and tricks from those in the know can be extremely helpful.

If you are looking for a therapist to talk to about your child’s ADHD or any other reason, you can find hundreds of them online and you will not even have to leave your house. As for learning more about whether you child may have ADHD, online tests can be helpful before seeking a licensed professional who is able to provide an official diagnosis.