Medications are the gold standard of treatment for ADHD and have a high success rate. Most children and adults with ADHD respond well to medications, specifically stimulant medications. Other non-medication treatments are typically used alongside medications for best results.
If you have ADHD and have been wondering about treatments besides medication, here are some things you need to know. Non-medication treatments for ADHD can be less effective than medications and are necessary but often not sufficient to treat ADHD symptoms.
Situations in which these treatments are considered solely include-
· Several medications for ADHD were tried without good results
· Problematic side effects on medications
· Personal preference to not take medications
Some non-medication treatments for ADHD:
Standard rewards and incentives do not seem to have the same effect on people with ADHD. ADHD brains respond better to ‘interest’ rather than ‘incentive’. Thus working with an expert to find an individualized set of tools, rewards, and strategies that work for an individual is essential. One-size fits all strategy does not work for ADHD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A large number of people with ADHD also have anxiety and/or depression and symptoms of anxiety and depression are common in people with ADHD. Negativity, feeling overwhelmed, feeling powerless, inability to make changes, and low self-esteem are common symptoms. CBT targets both problematic thoughts (cognitions) and behaviors. It can help replace excessively negative thoughts with more rational thoughts; help one feel empowered, and able to change behaviors.
Being active is good for mental health in general. Exercise specifically helps with improving focus and attention. Research shows activities that improve balance also help with ADHD e.g. yoga, ballet, and martial arts.
Meditation based treatments
These include mindfulness practice, meditation, yoga etc. The physical and mental health benefits of these activities are well known, specifically for stress reduction, managing pain, improving depression and cardiovascular health. Research has shown that these activities can also help improve attention and are particularly helpful for those with inattentive type of ADHD.
Diet has a direct effect on symptoms of ADHD. Sugar laden foods can worsen hyperactivity; carbohydrates make one feel sluggish and drowsy while proteins can improve alertness. A low fat diet rich in protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is ideal for ADHD.
There is an existing body of research that shows omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil), Zinc, Vitamin C, and Iron are beneficial for managing ADHD symptoms. Studies are ongoing to further establish these positive correlations. It is important to consult a doctor before taking these supplements, to avoid unintended harmful effects.
If you have been diagnosed with ADHD, consult an expert to learn more about your treatment options, medications and otherwise.
Stay mindful and centered.
Dr. Sayanti Bhattacharya MD, MS