Life with adult ADHD can be tough. ADHD symptoms can affect every aspect of your life -- undermining your performance at work, your relationships, and your self-esteem.
The good news is that adults with ADHD have a lot of effective treatments options, including ADHD medications. But if you've just been diagnosed, you probably have a lot of questions about treatment. Which approach will work best? What are the risks? Here are some answers that every adult with ADHD needs to know.
Understanding Adult ADHD
While often thought of as a childhood condition, ADHD affects about 10 million to 12 million adults in the U.S. Most are never diagnosed, and at least 75% of them aren't receiving any treatment.
What are some adult ADHD symptoms?
- Poor attention
- Tendency to lose things
- Trouble finishing tasks
ADHD can have severe consequences. Without treatment, adults with ADHD are more likely to:
- Be unemployed or underemployed
- Earn a lower salary
- Abuse substances
- Get in serious car accidents
- Get divorced or separated
While there is no cure for ADHD, treatments can keep it under control.
Medication is a standard adult ADHD treatment. Here are answers to some important questions about ADHD drugs.
- What drugs are available? The FDA has approved five medications for adult ADHD. Four are stimulants: Adderall XR, Focalin XR, Vyvanse, Quillivant XR, and Concerta. There's also one approved non-stimulant medication,Strattera. In some cases, doctors may use other medicines that are not specifically approved for ADHD. These include ADHD drugs that are used for children, as well as some antidepressants and blood pressure medicines.
- How well do they work? Very well, experts say. They also work very quickly -- within a few days you should see an effect.
- What are the side effects? Side effects are generally mild and includeinsomnia, upset stomach, and irritability. Most symptoms will fade over time. ADHD medications also pose a small increased risk of more serious problems, especially to those with underlying health issues. People with heart problems,high blood pressure, a history of psychological issues, or any other medical condition should discuss the risks with their doctors before starting ADHD medication.
- What if ADHD drugs don’t help? There are a number of things your doctor can try. He or she will probably change the dose first. If that doesn't help, you could go onto a different ADHD medication. For reasons that can’t be predicted, some people do well on one medicine but not another. Finding the best fit can take some trial and error.
- Are there other options besides ADHD medications? Talk it over with your doctor. Just keep in mind that many studies have shown that drugs are by far the most effective ADHD treatment.
It's possible you may need other medicines. As many as 40% of adults with ADHD have overlapping psychological issues, like anxiety disorders or depression. These conditions may need treatment with medications, too.
Psychosocial Treatments for ADHD
As effective as medications can be, they’re not always enough. Psychosocial treatments, such as therapy, can be key for treating ADHD in adults.
- What will I get out of therapy? Psychosocial treatments for adult ADHD tend to focus on improving how you function at work and at home. Often, you'll learn practical skills to change your ADHD behaviors. Your therapist will help you learn ways to better manage your time and organize your life. He or she may also help you cope with the psychological impact of life with ADHD.
- What kind of therapist should I see? Therapists can include psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. Many will use a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy, which studies have shown to be effective in treating ADHD. ADHD coaching is another approach. Although coaches aren't necessarily therapists, they help people with adult ADHD learn skills to manage their condition.
- Can I get therapy without medication? Talk to your doctor. Usually therapy is used in combination with medication, not in place of it.
Self-Care Tips for Those With ADHD
While any person with adult ADHD needs the help of experts like doctors and therapists, there's still a lot that you can do on your own. Here are some tips.
- Set aside time for organization. Organization doesn't come naturally to people with ADHD. You'll need to work at it. So take some time each day or week to keep your life running smoothly. Use a daily planner and check it regularly. Use wristwatch or cellphone alarms to jog your memory. While to-do lists are important, people with adult ADHD don't do well with big, open-ended lists. Instead, choose a few things on your list for each day of the week. Then schedule them into your calendar at specific times of the day. You'll be much more likely to get them done.
- Get support. Right now, you need the help of your family and close friends. Explain the condition to them and how it affects you. Then work together. Maybe your spouse can help you make changes around the house that will help you be more productive. Another option is to join a support group for adults with ADHD. Meeting other people grappling with the same problems that you are can be a great relief. You might learn more about your condition, too.
- Go with what works. Keep using any tricks you've developed to cope with your ADHD, even if they seem odd to others. If you need to plaster the bathroom mirror with Post-It notes in order to remember things, that's fine.
- Don't forget the basics. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Get regular exercise. Aim to sleep seven to eight hours a night. While these suggestions may not have any special benefit in people with adult ADHD, they're important for all-around good health.
- Don't be hard on yourself. Some adults with ADHD have low self-esteem. But remember that many of your problems were likely symptoms of a medical condition that's not your fault. The important thing now is not to dwell on the past, but to look toward the future. Don't beat yourself up. Focus on your treatment instead.
Getting Help for ADHDIf you think you may have ADHD, don't ignore the symptoms. Even if they may not seem like a big deal to you, adult ADHD may be holding you back in ways you don't even realize. It may also be having a profound impact on the people around you, especially your family.So get help. ADHD is a condition that needs treatment. And fortunately, treatment is very effective -- it can open up your life in ways you never imagined.