What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
In many cases, medication is just like using a band-aid for a cut. It is a temporary solution and not a cure. Many people equate ADHD treatment with medication. But it’s important to understand that medication for ADHD doesn’t work for everyone, and even when it does work, it won’t solve all your problems or completely eliminate symptoms.
In fact, while medication for ADHD often improves attention and concentration, it typically does very little to help symptoms of disorganization, poor time management, forgetfulness, and procrastination—the very issues that cause the most problems for many adults with ADHD.
Every adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Some may have been diagnosed and known it. However, some may have not been diagnosed when they were young and only find out later in life.
While many kids with ADHD outgrow it, about 60% still have it as adults. Adult ADHD seems to affect men and women equally
Medication for ADHD is more effective when combined with other treatments. You will get much more out of your medication if you also take advantage of other treatments that address emotional and behavioral issues and teach you new coping skills.
Everyone responds differently to ADHD medication. Some people experience dramatic improvement while others experience little to no relief. The side effects also differ from person to person and, for some, they far outweigh the benefits. Because everyone responds differently, finding the right medication and dose takes time.
ADHD medication should always be closely monitored. Medication treatment for ADHD involves more than just taking a pill and forgetting about it. You and your doctor will need to monitor side effects, keep tabs on how you’re feeling, and adjust the dosage accordingly. When medication for ADHD is not carefully monitored, it becomes less effective and riskier.
If you choose to take medication for ADHD, that doesn’t mean you have to stay on it forever. Although it isn’t safe to bounce off and on any drug repeatedly, you can safely decide to stop treating your ADHD with medication if things aren’t going well. If you want to stop taking medication, be sure to let your doctor know your plans and work with them to taper off your medication slowly.
Treatment is not limited to medication. Any action you take to manage your symptoms can be considered treatment. And while you may want to seek professional help along the way, ultimately, you are the one in charge. You don’t have to wait for a diagnosis or rely on professionals. There’s a lot you can do to help yourself—and you can start today.
Regular exercise is a powerful treatment for ADHD
Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in adults and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity burns off extra energy that can lead to impulsivity.
It also immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise and medications for ADHD such as Ritalin and Adderall work similarly. But unlike ADHD medication, exercise doesn’t require a prescription and it’s side-effect-free.
Try to exercise on most days. You don’t have to go to the gym. A 30-minute walk four times a week is enough to provide benefits. Thirty minutes of activity every day is even better.
The importance of sleep in ADHD treatment
Many adults with ADHD have sleep difficulties. The most common problems include:
Trouble getting to sleep at night, often because racing thoughts are keeping you up.
Restless sleep. You may toss and turn throughout the night, tear the covers off, and wake up at any little noise.
Difficulty waking up in the morning. Waking up is a daily struggle. You may sleep through multiple alarms and feel groggy and irritable for hours after getting up.
Poor quality sleep makes the symptoms of ADHD worse, so getting on a regular sleep schedule is essential. Improving the quality of your sleep can make a big difference in your attention, focus, and mood.
Eating right can help you regulate ADHD symptoms
When it comes to diet, managing ADHD is as much of a matter of how you eat as what you eat. Most of the nutritional problems among adults with ADHD are the result of impulsiveness and poor planning. Your goal is to be mindful of your eating habits.
That means planning and shopping for healthy meals, scheduling meal times, preparing food before you’re already starving, and keeping healthy, easy snacks on hand so you don’t have to run to the vending machine or grab dinner at Burger King.
Schedule regular meals or snacks no more than three hours apart. Many people with ADHD eat erratically—often going without a meal for hours and then binging on whatever is around. This isn’t good for your symptoms of ADHD or your emotional and physical health.
Make sure you’re getting enough zinc, iron, and magnesium in your diet. Consider a daily multivitamin if you’re unsure.
Try to include a little protein and complex carbohydrates at each meal or snack. These foods will help you feel more alert while decreasing hyperactivity. They will also give you steady, lasting energy.
Avoid junk food. While a connection hasn’t been proved, many experts believe that food colorings and additives often found in junk foods and sodas may trigger or exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
Cut back on sugar and caffeine. Many of us drink caffeine or eat sugary foods for a quick energy boost, but that can soon lead to a crash in mood, energy, and focus. Cutting back may help to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day and improve your sleep at night.
Add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. A growing number of studies show that omega-3s improve mental focus in people with ADHD. Omega-3s are found in salmon, tuna, sardines, and some fortified eggs and milk products. While it’s more beneficial to get Omega-3s from food, fish oil, and algae supplements are easy ways to boost your intake.
Relaxation techniques to treat adult ADHD
Many of the symptoms of ADHD can be mitigated by relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga. When practiced consistently, these calming therapies can increase attention and focus and decrease impulsivity, anxiety, and depression.
Mindfulness meditation is a form of focused contemplation that relaxes the mind and the body and centers your thoughts. Researchers say that in the long run, meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for attention, planning, and impulse control. In a way, meditation is the opposite of ADHD.
The goal of meditation is to train yourself to focus your attention on the goal of achieving insight. So, it’s a workout for your attention span that also might help you understand and work out problems. As well as helping you to better resist distractions, lower impulsivity, and improve your focus, developing mindfulness through meditation can also provide more control over your emotions, something that many adults with ADHD struggle with.
Yoga and related activities such as tai chi combine the physiological benefits of exercise with the psychological effects of meditation. It can be especially effective if you find you’re too hyperactive to mediate. You learn deep breathing and other relaxation techniques that help you become centered and mentally aware.
By holding different postures for extended periods, you can cultivate balance and stillness. When you feel overwhelmed or out of control, you can turn to yoga techniques to refresh you and put you back in mental balance.
Therapy for adult ADHD can teach you better-coping skills
Treatment for ADHD can also mean seeking outside help. Professionals trained in ADHD can help you learn new skills to cope with symptoms and change habits that are causing problems.
Some therapies focus on managing stress and anger or controlling impulsive behaviors, while others teach you how to handle time and money more effectively and improve your organizational skills.
Talk therapy. Adults with ADHD often struggle with issues stemming from longstanding patterns of underachievement, failure, academic difficulties, job turnover, and relationship conflict. Individual talk therapy can help you deal with this emotional baggage, including low self-esteem, the feelings of embarrassment and shame you may have experienced as a child and teenager, and resentment at the nagging and criticism you receive from people close to you.
Marriage and family therapy. Marriage and family therapy addresses the problems ADHD can create in your relationships and family life, such as conflicts over money problems, forgotten commitments, responsibilities in the home, and impulsive decisions.
Therapy can help you and your loved ones explore these issues and focus on constructive ways of dealing with them and communicating with each other. Therapy can also improve your relationships by educating your partner and family members about ADHD.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy encourages you to identify and change the negative beliefs and behaviors that are causing problems in your life. Since many individuals with ADHD are demoralized from years of struggle and unmet expectations, one of the main goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to transform this negative outlook into a more hopeful, realistic view. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also focuses on the practical issues that often come with ADHD, such as disorganization, work performance problems, and poor time management.
Symptoms of Adults with ADHD
If you have ADHD, you may have trouble with:
- Chronic boredom
- Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
- Trouble concentrating when reading
- Trouble controlling anger
- Problems at work
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Low self-esteem
- Mood swings
- Poor organization skills
- Relationship problems
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Low motivation
No two people with ADHD are exactly alike. If you have ADHD, you may be able to concentrate if you’re interested in or excited about what you’re doing. However, some people with ADHD have trouble focusing under any circumstances. Some people look for stimulation, but others avoid it. Plus, some people with ADHD can be withdrawn and antisocial. Others can be very social and go from one relationship to the next.
How Is Adult ADHD Diagnosed?
Look for a psychiatrist who has experience with diagnosing and treating people with ADHD.
The doctor may:
- Ask you to get a physical exam to make sure there aren’t other medical problems causing your symptoms
- Take some blood from you and run tests on it
- Recommend psychological testing
- Ask you questions about your health history
While experts don’t agree on an age at which you can first diagnose ADHD, they do agree that people don’t suddenly develop it as an adult. That’s why when a doctor sees you they will ask about your behavior and any symptoms that you may have had as a child.
They may also:
- Look at school report cards. They’ll look for comments about behavior problems, poor focus, lack of effort, or underachievement compared to your potential.
- Talk with your parents to see if you had any symptoms during childhood.
People who have ADHD may have had trouble getting along with others when they were kids or had a hard time in school. Teachers may have had to work with you. For example, maybe you had to sit at the
front of the class.
They’ll also ask if anyone else in your family has ADHD. This can be helpful information because it does seem like ADHD runs in families.
How Is Adult ADHD Treated?
If your doctor says you have ADHD, you’ll work together to make a treatment plan just for you.
Treatment plans can include medicine, therapy, education, or learning more about ADHD and getting family support.
Together these things can help you find new ways to do things that can make day-to-day life easier. That can make you feel better in general and feel better about yourself.
Making sure you get fully checked by a doctor is important. That’s because people with ADHD often face other conditions, too. You may also have a learning disability, anxiety, another mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or a dependence on drugs or alcohol. Knowing the whole picture can make sure you get the best plan for you.
Medications to Treat Adult ADHD
Adults with ADHD are often offered stimulant medications. Studies show that about two-thirds of adults with ADHD who take these medications have big improvements in their symptoms.
Examples of stimulant medications include:
- Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
- Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
- Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR)
- Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Quillivant XR)
However, stimulants are not always ideal. Why? They can be:
- Addictive. Stimulants are controlled substances. That means they can be misused. Some adults with ADHD have substance abuse problems or had them in the past.
- Hard to remember to take. Short-acting types of stimulants (versus long-acting) may wear off quickly. Since people with ADHD can have trouble with forgetfulness, remembering to take them
several times a day can be a challenge.
- Hard to time. If people choose to stop taking them in the evening, they can have a hard time focusing on doing housework, paying bills, helping children with homework, or driving. But if they do take them later in the day, they may be tempted to use alcohol or other things “to relax.”
Non-Stimulant Medications. Doctors may also recommend a non-stimulant medication for you to take, either on its own or with a stimulant.
Herbal Remedies for ADHD
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is an ideal remedy for alleviating the symptoms of ADHD in adults and children. According to experts, a deficiency of polyunsaturated fatty acids can lead to psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD. Thus, you should choose a fish oil supplement that is rich in EPA (omega-3 fatty acids) and DHA (omega-6 fatty acids).
It can help reduce symptoms of ADHD. Other than that, fish oil supplements are helpful for improving memory and concentration. For the best dosage, consult a doctor. Besides, it is best to eat trout, salmon, sardines, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, etc., because these foods are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Ginseng And Ginkgo Biloba
These two herbs are essential components to the list of natural home remedies for ADHD in adults and children. Ginseng is an herbal remedy that comes from China. It has a reputation for increasing energy and stimulating brain function. The “red ginseng” consists of some potential to soothe symptoms of ADHD.
Ginkgo biloba, on the other hand, is perfect for improving focus, cognition, memory, knowledge retention, and perception. A study showed that symptoms improved for individuals with ADHD who used a ginkgo extract. Besides, it also helps to protect the brain from toxins.
How to use:
- For children or adults, dosages of ginseng are about 200 mg daily.
- Dosages of Ginkgo Biloba can range from 120 to 600 mg a day for adults and 30 to 100 mg daily for children.
Children who have ADHD have problems such as difficulty waking up in the morning, sleeping soundly, and falling asleep. A cup of herbal tea may be helpful. Herbal teas containing chamomile, lemongrass, spearmint, and other flowers and herbs are one of the safe options for adults and children. They can help encourage sleep and rest.
How to do:
Boil a cup of water and later turn off the heat. Let it cool for one minute or more. After that, add three teaspoons of dry chamomile flowers, lemongrass, or spearmint to it. Cover and steep for around ten minutes. Finally, strain and sip this herbal tea before hitting the bed.
Massage is another effective remedy for people having ADHD. According to a 2003 study, twenty minutes of massage two times weekly has a positive effect on behavior and mood. Apart from that, regular massage is also beneficial for increasing serotonin levels, which helps to modulate elevated dopamine levels occurring in children having ADHD.
6. Yoga And Tai Chi
Regular practice of yoga or tai chi is one of the excellent home remedies for ADHD in children and adults. The physical postures, deep relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises used in yoga are useful in calming and strengthening the central nervous system. Yoga can help children learn discipline, thereby managing ADHD symptoms.
Tai chi is also perfect for improving the symptoms of ADHD. A 2013 study indicated that children who enrolled in tai chi classes two times weekly improved conduct and displayed less anxiety, less hyperactivity, less daydreaming behaviors, and less inappropriate emotions.
Brahmi is used as a natural alternative treatment for ADHD in Ayurveda. It also improves the mental balance in ADHD patients and brings hyperactivity under control to keep normal activity levels. Additionally, it is also potent in improving word recall memory and reducing depression and anxiety. Other than that, it rids the brain of free radical damage and enhances cognitive function.
How to do:
- Use Brahmi powder or capsules for daily consumption. Consult a doctor for the proper dosage.
- Add Brahmi powder to the milk or normal cold drinks and consume one time a day.
- Mix one teaspoon each of organic honey and Brahmi powder. Then, take this mixture two times daily.
9. Grape Seed Extract
Grapeseed is abundant in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals that disrupt normal body functioning and cause premature aging. In particular, grapeseed extract helps to remove the harmful effects of toxins from the brain.
It also strengthens the blood flow system of the brain and makes sure it receives enough amount of nutrition. You can use a grape seed supplement or add its extract to your daily food. Alternatively, eat fresh or dried grapes. You can also use grapeseed oil to help calm the mind. Just inhale the vapors and soothe the mind instantly.
10. Green Oats (Avena Sativa)
Green oats wild oats or Avena sativa is considered as good food for reducing ADHD in both adults and children. It has a sedative impact on the nervous system and functions as a brain tonic. Many studies show that green oats are beneficial for boosting concentration and attention. It additionally calms nerves and treats stress and anxiety. You can use green oat extract after consulting your doctor.
Diet Plan For ADHD
Lack of certain types of foods may worsen symptoms of ADHD in adults and children. Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet with a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is beneficial for everyone, particularly people suffering from the problem of ADHD. Diet plays a crucial role in curbing the symptoms of ADHD.
- Eat foods rich in protein such as eggs, beans, nuts, fish, soy, and dairy products. These foods increase dopamine production, helping an individual stay focused.
- Add magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, cashews, black beans, and soybeans to the diet. Magnesium is effective at decreasing irritability, increasing attention span, and minimizing mental confusion.
- A lack of zinc is related to ADHD, so add foods rich in zinc to the diet. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, cheese, liver, sesame seeds, peanuts, and squash.
- Foods high in vitamin B6 will help combat irritability. Vitamin B6-rich foods are avocados, spinach, bananas, sunflower seeds, nuts, and prunes.
- Complex carbohydrate foods low in sugar and high in fiber, help to stabilize blood sugar levels, thus managing ADHD symptoms.
- Remove foods with artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, preservatives, and flavorings from your diet because these foods can lead to learning disabilities and hyperactive behavior.
Although all the above home remedies are helpful for managing ADHD, it’s better to seek a doctor’s advice before using any of these. You can share your experience with other readers if you know other natural home remedies for ADHD in adults and children.
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