Current treatments typically involve medication, psychological counseling or both. A combination of therapy and medication is often the most effective treatment.
Stimulants (psychostimulants) are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, but other drugs may be prescribed.
- Stimulants appear to boost and balance levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Examples include methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, others), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall XR), and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse). These ADHD medications help treat the signs and symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity — sometimes dramatically. Stimulant drugs are available in short-acting and long-acting forms. One long-acting form is available as a patch that can be worn on the hip.
- Other medications used to treat ADHD include atomoxetine (Strattera) and antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin). Atomoxetine and antidepressants work slower than stimulants and may take several weeks before they take full effect. These may be good options if you can't take stimulants because of health problems, because of a history of substance abuse or because of a tic disorder or if stimulants cause severe side effects.
The right medication and the right dose vary between individuals, so it may take some time in the beginning to find what's right for you. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of medications. And keep your doctor informed of any side effects you may have when taking your medication.
Counseling for adult ADHD can be beneficial and generally includes psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and education about the disorder. Psychotherapy may help you:
- Improve your time management and organizational skills
- Learn how to reduce your impulsive behavior
- Develop better problem-solving skills
- Cope with past academic and social failures
- Improve your self-esteem
- Learn ways to improve relationships with your family, co-workers and friends
- Develop strategies for controlling your temper
Common types of psychotherapy for ADHD include:
March 07, 2013
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. This structured type of counseling teaches specific skills to manage your behavior and change negative thinking patterns into positive ones. It can help you deal with life challenges, such as school, work or relationship problems, and help address other mental health conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. This therapy can be done one-on-one or in a group.
- Marital counseling and family therapy. This type of therapy can help loved ones cope with the stress of living with someone who has ADHD and learn what they can do to help. Such counseling can improve communication and problem-solving skills.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Stimulants and nonstimulants for ADHD. Psychiatryonline. http://psychiatryonline.org/content.aspx?bookid=27§ionid=1332352#228315. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- ADHD factsheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/index.shtml. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Michielsen M, et al. The comorbidity of anxiety and depressive symptoms in older adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A longitudinal study. Journal of Affective Disorders. In press. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Brook JS, et al. Adolescent ADHD and adult physical and mental health, work performance and financial stress. Pediatrics. 2013;131:5.
- Skirrow C, et al. Emotional liability, comorbidity and impairment in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders. In press. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Goodman DW, et al. Assessment of physician practices in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. In press. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- What we know: Succeeding in the workplace. National Resource Center on AD/HD, http://www.help4adhd.org/en/living/workplace/WWK16/. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- What we know: Coaching for Adults with AD/HD. National Resource Center on AD/HD. http://www.help4adhd.org/en/living/coaching/WWK18. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- What we know: Interacting with others — Tips for adults with AD/HD. National Resource Center on AD/HD. http://www.help4adhd.org/en/living/relandsoc/WWK15S. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Bader A, et al. Complementary and alternative therapies for children and adolescents with ADHD. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2012;24:760.
- Searight HR, et al. Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 7, 2013.
- Jensen PS (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 31, 2013.
- Swintak CC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 21, 2013.
- Lindstrom K, et al. Preterm birth and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in school children. Pediatrics. 2011;127:858.