Whether you’re the parent of a child with ADHD or an adult dealing with your own ADD symptoms, there are many treatment options available that will help you minimize the effects of this disruptive disorder. There is no known cure, and, while there is medication that will control some of the hyperactivity and create better mental focus, medication is only part of the answer. Therapy, when combined with medication, will help both children and adults with ADHD/ADD to learn coping skills and live more productive lives in the face of this condition.
The most common class of medications used to treat ADHD/ADD are stimulants. Methylphenidate (available as Ritalin and Concerta) or amphetamine (available as Dexedrine and Adderall) are used to help both children and adults with ADHD/ADD control their behavior and have better mental focus. These stimulants, rather than “speeding up” the individual with ADHD/ADD, have the opposite effect.
In some cases, side effects include stomachaches, sleep difficulty, decreased appetite, weight loss, and headaches. If you or your child decide to take stimulants to treat an attention deficit disorder, it’s important to monitor the effects of the medication. A new, non-stimulant medication known as atomoxetine (Strattera) was most recently approved for treating ADHD in both children and adults. In rare cases, antidepressants are used as well.
Along with medication, it’s important to seek some type of therapy. Therapy teaches the child or adult with ADHD/ADD ways to deal with a lack of mental focus, social difficulty, and behavior problems associated with the disorder. Different types of therapy that may be used include:
Behavioral therapy teaches the child or adult with ADHD/ADD techniques to change their behavior. The therapist and the parent will offer rewards, encouraging the desired behaviors and discouraging unwanted behaviors through consequences. In adults, behavioral therapy might teach behaviors that will make living with ADD easier, such as how to set a routine, the importance of scheduling, breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, and effective use of time.
Cognitive therapy helps to change the way the child or adult with ADHD/ADD thinks. The focus in cognitive therapy is on building healthy self-esteem, reducing negative thoughts, and learning problem-solving skills.
Social skill training
Behavioral problems associated with ADHD can make it difficult for those with ADHD to make and maintain friendships. Social skill training teaches the child or adult with ADHD/ADD how to have healthy relationships.
Parent education and training
If your child has ADHD, you’re an integral part of their support system. Counselors, training classes, and support groups are available to help you cope with the effects of your child’s ADHD and teach you how to help them learn to deal with their behaviors and thoughts.
Parents, teachers, and counselors also work together to create a school environment that helps the child with their educational experience. It is often ideal for the child to have a specific plan for learning, and certain adjustments to their schedule (i.e. more time to take tests, less distractions in their environment, and a plan for behavioral disruptions) might be made to make learning easier. Adults can also make similar changes to their environment that will help them complete necessary tasks more effectively.