One of the most common mental health diagnoses in America is ADD/ADHD. Though it’s especially prevalent in children and adolescents, it’s possible to face a diagnosis at any time of life. Indeed, ADHD diagnoses in adult Americans are growing four times faster than they are in children, and the condition is still believed to be underreported in adults.
Once you have a diagnosis, it’s time to figure out your next steps. These conditions don’t have a definitive cure, but there are long-term treatments that are known to be effective. Here, we’ll explore how to determine the best options for going forward, as well as some of the therapies for ADD and ADHD that are available to you.
The Most Effective Medication-Free Therapies for ADD/ADHD
Determining what the most effective ADHD treatment program is — or the best option in treatments for ADD — depends on the person involved and the age at which they’re diagnosed. Adults with these disorders tend to have more severe symptoms than those diagnosed in childhood, but on the other hand, over 30% of childhood ADHD cases will last into adulthood.
Before deciding on a therapeutic approach, expert mental health professionals will get a complete picture of your specific needs. Based on the picture that emerges, if a medication-free approach is viable, they’ll have several options to recommend.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is actually a set of therapies focused on a specific change in thought processes. It’s designed to address negative self-image and self-defeating thoughts that tempt patients to blame themselves for their condition and become discouraged, frustrated or depressed when they experience setbacks.
CBT gives people the tools to recognize those negative thought patterns and take control of them. A counselor works to help ADD and ADHD patients understand their condition, how it can impact their daily life and how they change their thought patterns to alter outcomes on a day-by-day basis.
It can be tempting to try holistic therapies to address the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. Where these involve supposed herbal remedies or essential oils, it’s important to be aware that these substances have no proven therapeutic value and can even be actively harmful. The holistic therapies that professionals at Sunlight Recovery would recommend are centered on fitness and nutrition.
One-on-one and group therapies have proven success at helping patients understand their ADD or ADHD and develop ways to approach them in order to be productive in a work or school setting. In one study involving children, these forms of traditional counseling were shown to produce better results than medication alone.
Triple-P Emergent Therapy
The Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) is a kind of emergent therapy that’s shown medication-free results for children with ADD or ADHD. This is a program that teaches parents how to provide positive encouragement and reinforcement for their child in managing their disorder. The approach showed measurable dividends for the participants’ performance in school.
Medication Options for ADD/ADHD
There was a time when ADD and ADHD were heavily overmedicated, and backlash against that phenomenon — along with simple fears about a drug’s side effects and impact on general quality of life — can lead people to be wary of medication options.
Still, the reality is that when working out what the most effective ADHD treatment program is, the most effective approaches will often involve some combination of medication and therapy, and there will be cases when only medication can deliver results.
Three classes of medication are commonly used for treating ADHD.
The most common brands of stimulant are Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse (for short-term use), and Adderall XR and Vyvanse XR as longer-term options. They’re preferred for being fast-acting and generally effective, but they can also have a larger impact on the user’s personality.
Less commonly prescribed, non-stimulant medications have a less noticeable impact on personality but require more time to take effect. Examples include Strattera, Catapres and Tenex.
Treating ADHD is not part of the normally directed usage of antidepressants, but drugs such as Wellbutrin can be employed by adult patients who are managing co-occurring mental health conditions at the direction of a health professional.
Side Effects of Medication
Common concerns about side effects can be exaggerated, but they’re still valid: Using medication to change the functioning of the brain can have an impact on a person’s personality. There can also be physical side effects such as high blood pressure, dizziness, fatigue or headaches.
The Effectiveness of the Right Medical Treatments for ADD & ADHD
Side effects notwithstanding, medication has a proven level of effectiveness for many people with attention deficit disorders. Stimulant medications, for example, have an effectiveness rating as high as 80% for adults when taken as prescribed by a doctor. Many patients attest to the difference that correctly prescribed daily medication can make, with one reporting that “It was as if someone had flicked a switch.”
The key is that it’s important to continue taking medication regularly once it’s been prescribed and to give your body time to adjust to the medication for it to fully take effect, which can be a period of up to 4 to 6 weeks.
Living With ADHD
Life with ADD or ADHD can be challenging whenever it’s diagnosed. For children, it can have an impact on their self-confidence, socialization and ability to learn in school. Adult sufferers — who often go unrecognized because of the prevalent belief that attention deficit disorders are a children’s disease — can struggle at work, losing out on income and taking a hit on their capacity to handle daily tasks.
Recent research has found that mindfulness techniques offer promising possibilities for treating ADHD symptoms. Awareness of your thoughts and feelings can be an important tool in addition to other forms of therapy and, where necessary, the right choice of prescribed medications.
High-Quality Treatments for ADD & ADHD
You can count on the compassionate team of experts at Sunlight Recovery to deliver effective, high-quality treatment strategies for attention deficit disorders for both children and adults. If you or a loved one is struggling to function with this kind of condition, contact us today and find out how we can help you live a normal, healthy life.