Living with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopment (development of the nervous system) psychiatric (mental illness) disorder. What causes this condition is unknown, and it appears in childhood, although some were not diagnosed until they were an adult. People with this impairment of their brain or central nervous system show some of the following symptoms:

  • Inattention. The person may procrastinate, and tends to leave tasks incomplete, moving from one activity to another. As adults, they change jobs frequently and perform poorly.
  • Hyperactivity may manifest in constant movement or excessive talking.
  • Impulsivity appears as impatience and difficulty waiting to talk or react.

Adults tend to have numerous driving violations, such as speeding and have their licenses suspended.

There are more treatments now available for ADHD. Finding the appropriate treatment may take some time. There are medication and non-medication therapies available.

In the past, the typical type of medication prescribed for treatment was stimulants, specifically, Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall, an amphetamine. The side effects of stimulants include:

  • Headache
  • Reduced appetite
  • Feeling “jittery.”
  • Irritability
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal upset

These stimulants are not addicting, and they do not cause a person to become “high”. They also do not overly stimulate the person with ADHD. A significant amount of research shows that when taken as directed by the physician, stimulants are safe and effective for most people who take them. It is unknown why stimulants don’t help everyone with this condition. They help curb hyperactivity and impulsiveness and increase the ability to focus, learn, and work. Besides the two drugs mentioned above, some other medications include:

  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Daytrana (patch) (methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Strattera (atomoxetine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)

The newer drugs, Strattera, and Vyvanse give benefits that are similar to stimulants, but they work differently in the brain.

Psychotherapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy) and medication have demonstrated effectiveness in children and adults. Some choose psychotherapy without medications. Both approaches are clinically acceptable. This therapy helps the patient to:

  • Talk about thoughts and feelings
  • Explore self-defeating behaviors
  • Learn alternative ways to handle emotions
  • Identify and add to their strengths
  • Cope with everyday problems
  • Control their aggression
  • Learn to pay attention
  • Become more self-aware
  • Boost their self-esteem

The behavioral component of psychotherapy helps to focus on dealing with immediate issues such as:

  • Thinking patterns
  • Coping patterns
  • Organizational skills
  • Emotional habits

Social Skills is another training that is available for the person with ADHD. Usually, these skills are learned by watching others, but those with ADHD have more difficulty noticing, learning and using the skills appropriately. The training teaches:

  • How to see the perspective of others
  • The importance of eye contact
  • How to listen

Support groups are also available for individuals and their family members.