Before ADHD treatment can begin, a full assesment is needed to determine if ADHD is the cause of the symptoms. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that occurs in academic, occupational, or social settings.
ADHD should be recognized as a chronic condition, one that requires a treatment program. The goal of any ADHD treatment should be to create an individualized program with the aim of maximizing function to improve relationships and performance at school or work, decrease disruptive behaviors, promote safety, increase independence and improve self-esteem.
Studies show that more than 75% of patients will improve on one kind of stimulant medication as a form of ADHD treatment; among children this number goes up to as high as 80%. If one or two medications have already been tried without positive results, a third might be tried. Only under very few circumstances will the diagnosis of ADHD need to be revisited or co-existing conditions looked for, if the medication continues to have no effect.
ADHD Treatment Options:
- Medications: Stimulant medications such as methylphenidate (Biphentin®, Concerta® or Ritalin®), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®), amphetamine mixed salts (Adderall XR®), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse®) and atomoxetine hydrochloride (Strattera) are commonly used as part of the program of ADHD treatment. These medications vary in how often they need to be taken during the day, as well as in their side effects.
- Behavior Strategies and Intervention: People are often products of their environment; as part of the program for ADHD treatment make the environment ADHD friendly. For children, consider placement in a specialized classroom, more supervision, increased consequences and rewards, making work and chores more interesting, avoiding difficult situations (such as the mall or birthday parties) and finding other activities that lead to success (such as a sport or computer skills). For adults, this might mean finding an ADHD-friendly job, delegating organizationally challenging tasks and paperwork, using reminders, post-it notes, applications on smart phones, computers or other memory aiding devices.
- Counselling: ADHD often goes hand-in-hand with broken friendships, poor relationships, and a plummeting self-esteem since many of the symptoms, although involuntary, are ineffective and frustrating to live around. Counseling and/or psychotherapy as part of the ADHD treatment program presents the individual with the opportunity to explore and process those feelings, and develop strategies for dealing with the effects of ADHD.
- Support Groups: In the words of Albert Schweitzer, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Support groups as part of an ADHD treatment program not only hold out the opportunity to work through some of the frustrations and difficulties that come with ADHD and create strategies for how to get through those, but they also present the chance to meet and connect with those who are struggling with the same set of challenges.
- Exercise: According to John J. Ratey, clinical association professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “Exercise almost immediately elevates dopamine and norepinephrine and keeps them up for a period of time so that it acts like a little bit of Ritalin or Adderall. It also helps to still the impulsivity and still the cravings for immediate gratification as it works to wake up the executive function of the frontal cortex, which in turn allows for delay, better choices, a bit more time to evaluate consequences.” And, it’s free, thus making it an integral part of any ADHD treatment program.
Co-occurrence of Other Disorders
In most cases, co-occurring conditions are “secondary’ to the ADHD: they are the result of the frustration of dealing with ADHD symptoms on a daily basis. Lack of close friendships, isolation and rejection from peers may result in a secondary condition of depression or anxiety. Typically these secondary conditions will improve when the ADHD symptoms improve in response to ADHD treatment.
In other cases, conditions separate and distinct from ADHD co-occur, called “co-morbid conditions.” These could include, but are not limited to Anxiety, Disruptive Behavior Disorders, Mood Disorders, Tic Disorders, Learning Disabilities, and the list goes on. A well-qualified professional can look for the presence of these co-morbid conditions and recommend treatment in addition to the program of ADHD treatment.
The Good News
ADHD does have its challenges, annoyances and setbacks. However, it is a disorder that we are learning more about every day. With proper diagnosis and ADHD treatment you or your child can have a rich and meaningful life!