Therapy, medications, and self-care strategies are just some of the many ways you can manage ADHD.
Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) isn’t one-size-fits-all. You may find that different levels and types of treatment work best for your symptoms.
A holistic approach to treating ADHD could include:
- lifestyle changes
ADHD medication can help with impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. Taking these medications as prescribed by your doctor could make it easier to focus, work, and learn.
But research has found that medication alone may not address every symptom of ADHD. That’s because, as the common saying goes, “pills don’t teach you skills.”
While medication can be important in helping many people manage ADHD, you might still find that other approaches, like lifestyle changes or therapy, make all the difference in helping you manage your day.
Therapy can help you better understand, accept, and manage the effects of ADHD. It can also help with other mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, that often come with ADHD.
Most therapies for ADHD tend to be:
Some types of therapy that can help adults and kids manage ADHD symptoms include:
- behavioral therapy
- coaching and skills training
Since there are several kinds of therapy for ADHD, you may end up trying more than one to find the best fit for you.
Behavioral therapies help people identify certain behaviors and learn to change them. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one popular behavioral therapy that helps many people manage ADHD.
In CBT, your therapist will help manage specific ADHD symptoms that are interfering with your day-to-day life. You might focus on:
- real-life tasks that give you trouble, such as paying bills on time
- real-life situations, such as being assertive at work
CBT for ADHD could support you in gaining skills like:
- emotional regulation
- managing stress
- reducing impulsive reactions
- time management
- organization, planning, and prioritizing
- building habits that support your overall health
Sometimes CBT involves psychoeducation, which means your therapist might teach you about the symptoms of ADHD and how ADHD works in the brain.
Psychoeducation can be an important part of therapy for ADHD because it can help you understand how ADHD works and where different behaviors come from.
Psychoeducation can also help you clarify myths and untruths about ADHD and about yourself. For example, you may learn that ADHD has nothing to do with laziness or willpower, and it’s not a lack of intelligence.
Parents and loved ones can also benefit from psychoeducation. For example, learning accurate information about ADHD and how it affects your child can help you know what kind of support is most helpful for them.
Coaching and skills training
There are several kinds of ADHD coaching, and these can vary widely. For instance, coaches may have different credentials, and they could offer services in-person, by phone, or over a video call.
Some benefits of working with an ADHD coach could include:
- more insight into how ADHD impacts your life
- help identifying solutions, strategies, and tools for managing ADHD that match your needs and learning style
- support building social skills
- insight into your natural strengths and talents (and how you can use them)
An ADHD coach
If you’re unsure how to find the right ADHD coach, here’s a quick tip: You’ll probably want to find a coach who has graduated from a recognized training program specifically for ADHD coaching.
It’ll likely be important for your coach to have specific knowledge and training related to ADHD for you to get the most out of working with them.
Some common types of medication for ADHD include:
Finding the right medication for you can take time. It’s a process of trial and error. This is why it’s important to speak up for yourself and let your doctor know about any concerns you have about the medication.
It’s a good idea to let your doctor know whether you think your medication is working and if you’re experiencing any side effects. Your doctor can help you reduce side effects or switch to a better treatment for you.
Medications called stimulants aregenerally the first-line treatment for ADHD. That’s because they can be very helpful in reducing symptoms, act pretty quickly, and come with few side effects.
A significant amount of research has shown that when taken as directed by your psychiatrist or doctor, this kind of medication is safe and effective in treating ADHD.
Some common stimulant medications for ADHD include:
- methylphenidate (known as Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin)
- amphetamines (including Adderall and Dexedrine)
The most common side effects of stimulant medications are:
- fast heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- reduced appetite (usually in the middle of the day only)
- sleep problems
- increased anxiety and/or irritability
- mild stomachache
- mild headache
- motor tic (a rare side effect)
If you have any side effects, your doctor can help you come up with a plan to manage them or try a different medication.
For example, sleep problems can be reduced by taking your medication earlier in the day. Learning good sleeping habits or working with a therapist who specializes in CBT for insomnia could also help.
Non-stimulants are another type of medication approved to treat ADHD.
Your doctor might prescribe a non-stimulant medication if:
- you experienced bothersome side effects with stimulants
- stimulants didn’t help with your ADHD symptoms
- you have an underlying health condition like a heart problem
Non-stimulant medications for ADHD include:
- atomoxetine (Strattera)
- guanfacine (Intuniv ER)
Nonstimulant medications take longer to work than stimulants — it can take 4 to 8 weeks to get the full benefits.
The side effects of nonstimulant medications include:
- decreased appetite
- upset stomach
- mood changes
You may find nonstimulant medications work better for you. Unlike stimulants, nonstimulants don’t cause agitation or sleeplessness, and have a longer-lasting effect.
Sometimes, doctors will prescribe antidepressants for ADHD, like:
- norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (such as bupropion)
- serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (such as venlafaxine)
- tricyclic antidepressants (such as desipramine or imipramine)
But not all medications for depression work for ADHD.
ADHD also commonly co-occurs with other conditions, such as:
- bipolar disorder
- anxiety disorders
- substance use disorders (SUD)
Treatment typically starts by targeting the most severe condition first (for example, psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, or SUD).
For example, if you also have bipolar disorder, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat those symptoms. After your mood has stabilized, your doctor may then prescribe an ADHD medication. And you might keep taking both medications, depending on your symptoms.
With co-occurring conditions, it’s also important to be careful about mixing medications. For instance, some ADHD medications don’t mix well with antidepressant medications. They can cause:
- racing thoughts
- trouble sleeping
- serotonin syndrome
Another kind of treatment that may help manage ADHD is neurostimulation. This therapy works by stimulating parts of the brain that show irregular activity in people with ADHD.
There are several kinds that may work for ADHD, including:
- transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
- deep brain stimulation
- vagus nerve stimulation
Still, more medical research is needed to confirm that neurostimulation helps.
Whether you’re working with an ADHD-focused professional or not, self-help strategies may help you better manage your symptoms.
Here are several ways you can incorporate self-care for ADHD into daily life.
The more you know about ADHD, the better equipped you’ll likely be to take care of yourself. Reading up on ADHD and how if could affect day-to-day life for you or your child can help you develop strategies that work for you.
Here are some questions you might want to ask (if you haven’t already!):
- What’s the latest news and research on ADHD?
- What causes ADHD?
- Where do ADHD symptoms come from?
Consider small changes that could make a big impact
We’re often instructed that to be healthy, it’s necessary to have a routine for everything: sleep, food, exercise, you name it.
In reality, even small lifestyle changes can make a difference when it comes to managing your ADHD symptoms — it’s definitely not necessary to change everything at once. Since what works is different from person to person, this could take some trial and error.
Some areas to look at when considering what lifestyle changes to make include:
- an exercise routine that boosts your mood or helps reduce stress
- a routine that makes quality sleep a priority
- choosing foods that don’t make your symptoms worse
The right routines for you can help with things like planning, memory, and clear thinking. They can also help keep your energy levels more stable throughout the day.
Harness the power of technology
If you have trouble remembering plans or appointments (or keeping track of time), remembering doesn’t always have to be on you.
Using technology to stay organized can free you up to focus on what you need to get done. For example, you might:
- use alarms or reminders to keep you on track throughout the day
- set alarms or timers to remind you when it’s time to finish a task or leave the house
- keep a list of current top priorities on your phone so it’s easy to access
Using tools to help you stay organized can be a great way to reduce the stress associated with running late, missing appointments, or forgetting to do something important. Here are some more ways to stay organized.
Channel your creativity
Creativity can help you come up with strategies and shortcuts to navigate regular challenges and make daily tasks easier to finish. For example, turning laundry or cleaning into a game.
You might also set up systems and a place for everything in your home. This can be key to simplifying your days and reducing stress. For instance, keeping a small basket by the door for things you need when you go out, such as your keys, wallet, and phone could help.
Lean on your social supports
This might mean surrounding yourself with supportive family, friends, and acquaintances. For someone else, it’s letting loved ones know what you’re going through.
You can also study with a close friend or accountability partner when you’re working on a project. For example, you might email them after you’ve completed a task or worked for 30 minutes.
ADHD is a common mental health condition, and it’s possible for adults and children to manage symptoms well. A variety of treatment options can help.
But if you’re not sure where to start, talking with your doctor is likely a good first step.
You may also want to let them know how any treatments you’re using right now are working. One way to do this is to keep a journal to write down any side effects or symptoms.
There are also plenty of opportunities to connect with other people who live with ADHD. You can: