While there isn’t a cure for ADHD, there are several excellent treatment options. Many people find these treatments to be highly effective. They may not completely eliminate ADHD symptoms, but they can make them far more manageable than they would be without any treatment plan in place. Learn more about the types of ADHD treatment options to find a plan that’s right for you or your child.
Prescription medications are one of the most common treatments for people with ADHD. There are two classes of ADHD medications: stimulants and non-stimulants.
Stimulant medications for ADHD
Most people who take medication for their ADHD use central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, which have been around for decades and are incredibly effective. In fact, the right stimulant ADHD medications can improve symptoms for about 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children. These improvements typically begin quite quickly (often within an hour), which is great news for individuals who have struggled with their ADHD behaviors for years.
Adderall and Ritalin are two of the most widely known stimulant medications for ADHD. However, there are many other stimulants available as well, such as Concerta, Metadate, and Vyvanse. Many stimulants are available in short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting forms. A short-acting or intermediate acting formulation is taken two to three times per day, while long-acting formulations are typically taken just once per day.
Stimulants have several potential side effects, including:
- Dry mouth
- Increased blood pressure
- Upset stomach
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
In some cases, adjusting the dosage can help to minimize the side effects associated with ADHD stimulant medications. There is some potential for addiction with stimulant medications, so doctors often avoid this treatment option for people with prior substance abuse issues.
Non-stimulant medications for ADHD
There are also non-stimulant medications available for ADHD. This type of treatment is a newer option that was first approved in 2003. The effects aren’t as rapid compared to stimulant medications. When taking non-stimulants, it can take about two to four weeks to start seeing noticeable changes.
About 20% to 30% of people with ADHD don’t respond to stimulant medication treatment. In these situations, non-stimulant medications offer another option to help control ADHD symptoms.
Some people who have worrisome reactions to stimulants may find that non-stimulants are preferable since they generally have fewer side effects, which may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Drop in blood pressure
Non-stimulants medications can also be a great alternative for people who shouldn’t take stimulants due to certain health concerns, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, glaucoma, coronary artery disease, or severe anxiety.
Many people with ADHD benefit from some form of therapy. Two of the most common types of therapy recommended for treating ADHD are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavior therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps people with ADHD better understand their disorder and how it manifests in certain ADHD symptoms. During CBT, a therapist can help someone with ADHD recognize the ways in which their own thoughts affect their behaviors. In particular, people in CBT are coached in how to change negative thought patterns when it comes to how they feel about themselves and their ADHD.
CBT doesn’t directly treat the symptoms of ADHD like medications do. However, it does help people to better manage their symptoms in the long run by providing mental and emotional support. For example, CBT treatment can help someone identify when they’re comparing themselves to others unfairly and set more realistic expectations based on their own abilities, needs, and desires.
Stress management techniques are often taught in CBT since stress is such a common trigger for ADHD symptoms. A cognitive behavioral therapist can also help with certain types of conditions which often overlap with ADHD, such as mood disorders like anxiety and depression or addiction issues.
People who include CBT as part of their ADHD treatment plan often find that they are better able to cope with their ADHD symptoms by making improvements in executive functions like time management, planning, and organization. At the same time, they’re able to develop better emotional self-regulation and impulse control.
Behavior therapy is another type of therapy for people with ADHD. Unlike the type of treatment provided through talk therapy (such as CBT), behavior therapy is focused more on practical ways to improve one’s life.
In this type of therapy, a person with ADHD learns helpful skills that they can use at school or at home. Depending on what types of challenges a client has, their behavior therapist might work with them on the following types of skills:
- Organization and planning
- Time management
- Impulse control
Families are involved when a child needs behavior therapy to treat their ADHD. Sometimes, their teachers are involved as well. This helps to make sure the skills the child is learning are implemented in their daily life. For example, the child might learn helpful strategies for paying attention in class or completing daily chores at home. This is often paired with a system of rewards and consequences to help reinforce positive behaviors.
Behavior therapy isn’t common for adults with ADHD. Generally, CBT is recommended for this age group to better assess their needs.
Other types of therapy
The most common types of therapy for ADHD are CBT and behavior therapy. However, some other types of therapy may also be helpful, such as:
- Social skills training: Children who struggle with appropriate social behaviors can benefit from this type of therapy. It can help them to form stronger social bonds and experience less frustration both at school and at home.
- Parenting skills training: Parents who have a child with ADHD can learn helpful skills and better understand their child’s disorder in this type of therapy. In addition to educating parents about ADHD, it focuses on ways to support the child and encourage positive behaviors.
- Family therapy: If someone’s ADHD symptoms cause tension or stress with their parents or siblings, family therapy may be recommended. This type of therapy can help family members better understand their loved one’s behaviors and develop strategies for supporting each other through challenging experiences. For adults with ADHD, couples therapy may be helpful if their ADHD causes issues in their marriage.
- Art and music therapy: These types of therapy involve creative outlets to help manage ADHD. Both art and music therapy can be helpful for children in reducing hyperactivity and providing a calming social activity.
- Support groups: There are plenty of support groups available for people with ADHD. These groups may meet in person or online and offer a great opportunity to connect with people having similar experiences and challenges. Support groups can also be a good resource for coping strategies that help with ADHD behaviors.
People with ADHD are not limited to choosing just one type of treatment. It’s quite common to combine medication and therapy in order to gain the most benefits from what each has to offer. In fact, a 2010 Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital study reported that a combined treatment plan with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective at controlling ADHD symptoms compared to medication treatment alone.
One notable exception for combined ADHD treatment is children ages 6 and under. For this age group, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting with parent training in behavior management first before trying medication.
How to Find ADHD Treatment
You’ll need an official diagnosis before you can seek treatment for your ADHD. You can get an ADHD screening online or schedule an in-person appointment with your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist to discuss your symptoms and complete a screening.
After receiving a diagnosis, you’ll need to go over the available treatment options with your doctor. If you plan to take medication to treat your ADHD, it’s important to share any health issues or concerns you may have. This will help your doctor prescribe a medication that’s safe for you.
Most primary care doctors can provide good references for therapy options in your area. You can also find a therapist online if you prefer to meet virtually. If possible, try to find a therapist with expertise in ADHD. If you’re having trouble finding a therapist, consider joining a support group and asking other members if they have any recommendations to share.
If you’re ready to take that first step toward getting a diagnosis or managing your ADHD, reach out to us at Done. We make it easy to go through the screening process online, and you’ll be evaluated by a licensed ADHD clinician. We also offer ongoing ADHD care with online visits, medication prescriptions, and worry-free refills. Over 40% of our patients reporting improved symptoms during their first month with Done, so contact us to get the help you need today.