The Facts about ADHD
ADHD is one of the most commonly misunderstood mental disorders. While it’s often associated with children, many adults live with ADHD, including entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson.
Living with ADHD is challenging, but there are numerous treatment options and strategies. We spoke with two ADHD experts about how patients can manage ADHD.
The Symptoms of ADHD
Those with ADHD suffer from patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. Those with inattentive symptoms are easily distracted and may struggle with tasks they’re not interested in, while those with hyperactivity-impulsivity often seem as if they have a lot of energy. In children, this may manifest itself as a constant need for physical activity, but in adults it manifests verbally.
If some of these symptoms are affecting you in your life, consider seeing a medical professional as soon as possible. They will speak with you about your medical history; this review will go all the way back to childhood, since a crucial component of the diagnosis criteria for ADHD is whether the symptoms were present before the age of 12.
Undiagnosed ADHD can lead to complications in your mental health, including anxiety and depression, and it’s crucial to seek treatment if issues arise, ADHD coach Laurie Dupar says. “Anxiety is a very common co-existing condition of ADHD,” Dupar says. “About 50% of people with ADHD have anxiety. What we're finding is that a lot of adults who have not been diagnosed with ADHD and have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression actually have underlying ADHD.”
Treatment Options for ADHD
Medication is a common form of treatment for both children and adults with ADHD. However, there are other methods of support, such as a variety of therapy and consultation services.
While we often associate the treatment of mental disorders with individual therapy sessions, mental health therapist and author Tonya Lippert says the unique nature of the symptoms of ADHD means individual therapy isn’t always the best course of treatment. “One-on-one counselings are unlikely to be effective for most,” she says. “The ideal [treatment] is that they have someone who is right there with them when they are facing their challenges.”
It can be difficult to find treatment of that nature, but that doesn’t mean there are no options. Lippert says therapy groups (in the cognitive-behavioral category) for those with ADHD are an incredibly effective form of treatment.
There’s also a growing field of therapy through ADHD coaches like Dupar. She says that unlike traditional forms of therapy, coaching is a more individualized, collaborative form of treatment. “We come as a partnership rather than sort of an expert and a client,” Dupar says. “The questions [coaches ask] are about encouraging the client to explore, come up with new ideas or try on different perspectives within themselves, rather than the answer coming from someone else.”
How Lifestyle Changes Can Help with ADHD
There are multiple lifestyle and behavioral changes you can make to manage ADHD:
- Get good sleep and regular exercise. Chronic sleep deprivation is a symptom of ADHD.
- Practice mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or yoga. Lippert opens her group sessions with mindfulness exercises. “It’s training your attention,” she says. The more people practice mindfulness, she says, the better able they are to sustain their attention and weed out distractions.
- Put thought into your diet. Diet can play a crucial role in managing the symptoms of ADHD. Nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate the symptoms, and are commonly found in those with ADHD, particularly a lack of omega-3’s. Lippert also recommends getting your iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin B levels checked, as these can affect ADHD.
However, there’s no one prescribed change that will work universally. Those with ADHD will ultimately have to rely on self-reflection to better understand themselves and how their illness affects them. “Everybody’s different,” Dupar says. “Because of not only how [ADHD] affects us personally, but also how we compensate that with our own strengths or personality.”
But the effort to know yourself better will pay off, she says. “Only when you know that will you start to be able to create those structures or systems that work for you,” she says.