Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a relatively common mental health issue that causes high levels of impulsivity as well as attention and concentration issues. It’s commonly first diagnosed in children that begin to show signs of the disorder in school. However, ADHD can affect teens and adults, too, making it difficult to complete tasks that are important in school, work, and at home. There are several prescription medications that are used to treat ADHD, including amphetamines like Adderall and Ritalin.
However, because ADHD affects so many young children, parents and doctors sometimes look for other ways to treat the disorder without the use of potent prescription drugs. While ADHD medications that are approved for children are usually safe and well-tolerated, there are some side effects to these stimulants, and some cases of ADHD can be effectively addressed without the medication. Plus, amphetamines may need to be avoided in people that are hypersensitive to it and people with medical issues that may be complicated by the drugs.
There are several treatment options and lifestyle changes that may be able to help address ADHD effectively. Some may want to explore these options before deciding to use prescription medications. Learn more about treatment options, lifestyle changes, and supplements that may be able to help treat ADHD.
Lifestyle and Nutrition
When it comes to treating mental and behavioral issues in a natural way, your lifestyle and nutrition may be the first place to start. This is especially true in children, that can sometimes be difficult to diagnose and may be sensitive to issues like a lack of sleep or poor nutrition. Your doctor can walk you through some things that can cause attention problems in yourself or your child and things that may worsen ADHD symptoms.
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also one of the most commonly neglected aspects of health in Americans’ lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of American adults don’t get the sleep they need each night. Sleep can also be tricky when it comes to children and teens. A lack of sleep can have several effects that can worsen ADHD symptoms. Even people without ADHD may experience a lack of focus, difficulty concentrating, and lower cognitive functioning after a poor night’s sleep. Chronic sleep issues can lead to other problems like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Adults need around eight hours of sleep each night, and children need even more depending on their age. Healthy sleep involves both getting enough sleep and having a consistent sleep schedule.
Exercise is an extremely underrated aspect of a healthy lifestyle. We’re aware that it can help keep us physically fit. But getting daily exercise can also boost your mood, relieve stress, increase energy levels, improve mental alertness, and improve sleep. Children can also benefit from getting enough physical activity each day. Exercise and sleep can benefit each other when you’re on a healthy schedule that includes both. Sleep gives you the energy to exercise, and exercise improves the quality of your sleep.
Hydration is another important factor in a healthy lifestyle. The brain is 73% water, and it can be negatively impacted by a lack of hydration. Most people drink enough to avoid serious dehydration just through satisfying thirst. But not drinking enough can also cause mood swings, fatigue, and concentration issues. Increasing the amount of water you drink each day may show some improvements in ADHD, especially when combined with other lifestyle factors.
Nutrition is important in almost every aspect of your health, including both physical and mental factors. Eating the right amount of calories each day can help you avoid calorie deficits or excessive eating that can lead to physical and cognitive problems. However, getting the right nutrition is also important. There are several mental health and cognitive consequences of malnutrition. Not getting enough vitamins, proteins, and food-based energy can cause you to feel fatigued, depressed, and unable to focus.
Address Mental Health Factors
Issues like depression and anxiety are extremely common in the United States and they can even affect children. Mental health issues like these can significantly affect your ability to focus and avoid distractions, which can worsen mental health issues. They can also affect the above aspects of a healthy lifestyle by affecting your appetite, sleep quality, and energy levels. Addressing these mental health problems can improve your ADHD symptoms.
Mental and Behavioral Therapies
Mental and behavioral therapies are first-line treatments for ADHD. Learning how to deal with the disorder and its symptoms may be instrumental in living life without being significantly hindered by attention problems and impulsivity. Despite the importance of therapy, around 3 out of 4 children with ADHD receive treatment, and as much as 30% are only treated with medications. Here are some therapy options to help treat ADHD.
General Talk Therapy
People, especially children, often feel isolated because of ADHD. They may feel different or that they struggle with things that should come easy to them. Talk therapy with a counselor or therapist can help you deal with ADHD and find ways to cope with some of the deeper issues that might come with it. Parents may also attend talk therapy to better understand how they can help children with ADHD.
Behavioral therapies are a large category of individual therapy approaches that are designed to examine how thoughts and coping responses can influence behaviors. One of the most widely used and effective of these therapies is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you learn better ways to respond to situations that may trigger symptoms. It was first developed to treat alcoholism, but it has been adapted to treat a wide variety of mental health issues. CBT can be essential in helping you learn how to live with ADHD and manage symptoms successfully.
Social Skills Training
People with ADHD, and especially children, often struggle with social problems that are related to ADHD. Hyperactivity and attention problems may make it difficult for children to listen to others, wait their turn, share their toys, and ask for help. Social skills training can build up their abilities to deal with social situations that may be more difficult for them.
Children and adults with ADHD, as well as the parents of children with ADHD, may benefit from ADHD support groups. Support groups and group therapy can help overcome feelings of isolation and may help someone with ADHD feel normal. Support groups can also be a way to get practical advice and support in dealing with some of the common problems of ADHD.
Supplements and Nootropics
Nootropics and brain supplements have been used since the 1970s for a range of functions. They may be used as remedies in a variety of brain issues like narcolepsy and ADHD. It’s important to approach these supplements and substances with caution. Some have proven effects on the brain and body that can be both positive and negative. Others aren’t yet proven to have significant effects at all. Still, nootropics are popular as cognitive enhancers, which is of interest to people with ADHD and attention problems.
Citicoline has been used in medicine since the 1970s. It’s a naturally occurring substance in the human body, and it may affect dopamine receptors. Dopamine is a significant chemical in treating ADHD, and traditional ADHD medications are used to increase dopamine levels. A 2015 study examined the effects of citicoline supplementation and found that healthy adolescent males did see some improvements in attention and psychomotor speed. It also seemed to improve the performance of attention-based tasks and reduced impulsivity.
Pycnogenol is the brand name for an extract that comes from pine bark that’s used as a natural supplement. It’s used to treat a variety of issues, including ADHD and dry skin. A study in 2006 examined the effects of the supplement on 61 children with ADHD. The study found that the children showed significant decreases in hyperactivity and improved attention and concentration. A month after the children stopped taking Pycnogenol, they experienced a relapse of ADHD symptoms.
Ginkgo biloba is a tree that’s native to China, and it’s been used for a long time as a remedy for dozens of issues. However, it has also piqued the interest of researchers looking for ADHD alternatives. A 2014 study found that the plant may have some benefits in children with ADHD, but they concluded that the subject needed more research to be conclusive.
Methionine, or S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine, is an amino acid that you may encounter on a daily basis since it can be found in meats, fish, and dairy products. Like other supplements on the list, it’s used to treat a variety of ailments, including viral infections and liver disorders. A study on adults with ADHD found that 75 percent of participants that were using the supplement showed improvements with minimal side effects.