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ADHD Doesn't Have to Run Your Life - Start Managing it Today

by Colleen Stinchcombe - April 2 , 2018


Photo Credit: by Fitness Go Flickr.com
Photo Credit: by Fitness Go, Flickr.com

Hyperactivity. An inability to focus. Not being able to sit still. These are the symptoms most commonly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. It’s characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity, but symptoms vary from person to person.

Although the average age of diagnosis is 7 years old, there is no shortage of adults with the diagnosis, and experts believe that as many as 75 percent of adults with the disorder haven’t been diagnosed. This is in part because in the 1990s, there was a common belief that children “grew out” of the diagnosis. More re-cent studies have suggested that about 50 percent of children continue to have ADHD symptoms into adulthood.

As an adult, it can often be difficult to find a specialist who takes health insurance to diagnose the condi-tion. Adriana, a wellness coach in New York, suspects she’s been struggling with ADHD since she was 12. She started to see symptoms in herself about a year ago and has been seeking diagnosis, but has been on a waitlist for months to see a specialist. “I've always been a space cadet, but I didn't link it with ADHD because I've never been hyperactive,” Adriana said. “I didn't realize there's a type called ‘inattentive’ that's more common among women and doesn't involve hyperactivity.”

Diagnosing and finding a treatment plan that works for people with ADHD is important. “ADHD is an all-encompassing disorder which means it affects all areas of life,” Dr. Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, an ADD/ADHD counselor told me. “They struggle with losing items frequently, difficulty with organizing, difficulty with following through on multi-step directions, they get bored easily even on tasks that they find interesting.” People with certain types of ADHD can struggle with inner restlessness that makes it difficult for them to sit still.

Shockingly, research shows up to half of people with ADHD don’t seek treatment.

If you’ve been diagnosed and are looking for ways to manage your symptoms, here are some ways to help.

1. Medication

“The most effective treatment is stimulant medication,” Sarkis said. Sarkis pointed to the most well-known medicines, Adderal and Ritalin, both of which “help increase the dopamine and norephrenephrine in the brain,” she said. That change improves focus and helps with motivation. “When you have ADHD your motivation is lacking,” she added.

Concerta and Vyvanse are also two other medications that are becoming more well-known for ADHD, she said.

Because ADHD affects every part of your life, most people take the medication on a daily basis to help control their symptoms. But, she said, you’ll absolutely want to talk to your doctor to figure out the treat-ment plan that works best for you.

2. Try cognitive behavioral therapy

“Cognitive behavioral therapy has been showing a lot of effectiveness in research,” Sarkis said. Cognitive behavioral therapy tends to be most helpful when it’s focused on reducing impulsive behaviors and creat-ing long-term good habits, and it’s worth seeking out a psychologist who specializes in ADHD.

3. Get regular exercise

“Any type of exercise is good,” Sarkis said. “Even exercising for about a half hour has been shown to at least temporarily improve some executive function problems.” It also benefits people with ADHD by re-ducing stress, enhancing working memory and increasing dopamine.

This has certainly been true for Adriana. She’s been using exercise, particularly in the mornings, to work on her symptoms. “The more intense the workout, the more stimulated my mind, and the more alert I am at least through the morning,” she told me. “But even yoga helps.”

4. Consider vitamin supplements

“Omegas have been found to be somewhat helpful,” Sarkis said, as in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. But she highly recommends talking to your doctor, as they can act as an anti-coagulant, and these supplements aren’t regulated in the U.S., which means “you don’t really know what you’re getting,” she said.

Although the effects are still being studied, some research has shown improvements in attention problems for people supplementing with omegas.

5. Build regular breaks into your work day

“Set a time for half an hour, take a fifteen minute break, get up and walk around,” Sarkis suggested. The time away, especially if you can step outside, help to reset the brain so you can focus again later.

Adriana has been using a similar technique. “I do that Pomodoro thing where you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break,” she said. She also finds it helpful to break her assignments down into smaller chunks and give herself a set time to do them.

6. Spend 15 minutes before bed tidying up — or get a cleaning service

“When you have ADHD there’s difficulty paying attention to detail and getting organized, so cleaning your house can be really difficult,” Sarkis said. The trick she recommends to people with ADHD is to spend 15 minutes — just 15, she stressed — before bed tidying around the house. Over time, you’ll have a significantly cleaner living area.

Also, if you can afford it, get a cleaning service. “That really cuts down on the stress,” she added.

7. Move while you read or work

“Sit on a pilates ball while you work,” Sarkis said. “It stimulates the cerebellum with movement.” She also recommended reading a book while walking around (safely, of course) or riding a stationary bike.

8. Set your surroundings up for success

Just like having a regular cleaning habit can help eliminate some of the struggles of ADHD, setting your home or office up in a way that supports you can be a huge help, too. Think of it almost as being a super-organizer — figure out where you most often struggle and see if you can set up a system that allows you to create a routine. “Have a basket near the front door where you put everything that you take with you so your keys, your wallet, with everything in one place,” Sarkis recommended.

9. Ask for support

For people who love someone with ADHD, Sarkis encouraged them to do their best to be supportive. Don’t take things personally, she said, and try to be non-judgmental. It can also be useful to remind your-self that some of the thing that you love about a person with ADHD is part of the ADHD itself — sponta-neity, for example, or creativity or fun-loving. “There’s a flip side to it and that’s the impairment,” she said.

Whatever treatment you pursue, it’s worth investigating your behaviors and tendencies. Whlie she’s still waiting to speak with a specialist, Adriana has found a lot of insight from looking at her behaviors and trying to support her impulses. “Understanding myself and why I do what I do has been a huge help in managing everything,” she said.

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Colleen Stinchcombe is a writer living in Phoenix, AZ. She writes for publishers, brands and individuals. Her work can be found on SheKnows.com, Green Living AZ, the Brandless blog, Canadian Pharmacy Blog and elsewhere.


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