While ADHD is a condition most often associated with children, it is also a challenge faced by more than 4% of adults in the United States. ADHD has no cure, but medications and behavior strategies can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning.
The mainstays of treatment for ADHD are medications, psychotherapy, and various forms of coaching and coping techniques. While medications are considered first-line treatments for ADHD, some doctors are hesitant to prescribe ADHD medications to adults because of a greater risk of drug interactions.
If you are hav¬ing trouble with everyday functioning because of ADHD, then trying drug treatment makes sense. If the impact of ADHD is minor and you've figured out coping strategies without a formal diagnosis and treatment plan, your doctor may instead advise treatments that don't involve medications.
Doctors often prescribe medications for ADHD, though it is also important to get regular counseling and develop strategies to help with increasing attention and tamping down impulsive behavior. ADHD medications can reduce hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and attention problems, allowing you to perform better at home, on the job, and in school, and to function with more consistency and success in your daily life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
One widely used approach to ADHD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of psychotherapy helps people change negative thought patterns into positive, healthier ways of thinking. The idea is that if you change the way you think about a situation, your feelings and behaviors can change, too. For example, CBT may help change "all or nothing" thinking, in which in many people with ADHD tend to think that their accomplishments must be either perfect or a failure.
CBT is very focused on giving you tools to help deal with stresses and chal¬lenges in life. Working on self-esteem is also an important aspect of ADHD treatment.
ADHD can lead to frequent emotional ups and downs. Just waiting in line can make a person with ADHD quite irritable. As can minor setbacks, such as a project not turning out quite right or a boss who changes deadlines.
It's also common for adults with ADHD to have other mental health con¬ditions. An estimated 50% of adults with ADHD, for example, also have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Having ADHD along with another condition can severely interfere with daily functioning.
If you experience emotional symptoms of ADHD, it may help to find a psychiatrist or another type of therapist to discuss how psychotherapy can help with challenges in your life.
For more information on finding an effective solution for you, check out Confronting Adult ADHD, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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