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Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder

ADHD can take quite a toll. It is tough for the individual who must cope with daily frustrations. It is rough on family members whose lives are regularly disrupted by outbursts, temper tantrums or other misbehavior.

It’s normal for parents to feel helpless and confused about the best ways to handle their child in these situations. Because kids with ADHD do not purposely decide to act up or not pay attention, traditional discipline—like spanking, yelling at, or calmly trying to reason with your son or daughter—usually does not work. Fortunately there are treatment options that can help alleviate the symptoms of ADHD and arm families with the tools needed to better handle problem behaviors when they arise.

These interventions include:

  • psychosocial interventions
  • medication
  • a combination of these two approaches

Psychosocial interventions

Research has shown that medication alone is not always sufficient. For more than two decades, psychosocial interventions such as parent training and behavioral modifications have been used for children with ADHD. A key goal is to teach parents and educators methods that equip them to better handle problems when they arise. In this approach they learn how to reward a child for positive behaviors and how to discourage negative behaviors. This therapy also seeks to teach a child techniques that can be used to control inattention and impulsive behaviors.

Preliminary research has shown that behavior modification is also effective for children with severe oppositional problems. Such an approach may lower the number or severity of oppositional behaviors, although the underlying condition—ADHD—remains.


Used properly, medicines such as methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin) and other stimulants help suppress and regulate impulsive behavior. They squelch hyperactivity, improve social interactions and help people with ADHD concentrate, enabling them to perform better in school and at work.

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These medications also may help children with co-existing disorders control destructive behaviors. When used with proper medical supervision, they are considered generally safe and free of major unwanted side effects. (Some children may experience insomnia, stomachache or headache.) They rarely make children feel high or, on the flip side, overly sleepy or out of it. Although not known to be a significant problem, height and weight should be monitored with long-term use of these medications. These medications are not considered addictive in children. However, they should be carefully monitored in teenagers and adults because they can be misused.

Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder

Psych Central Staff

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APA Reference
Psych Central. (2020). Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.