According to some stats, up to one in five Americans has ADHD. Statistically, this means someone you know probably has ADHD. This could be your partner, parent, child — or it could even be you. Unfortunately, diagnosing remains a pretty difficult challenge — and treatment is even more difficult to pinpoint.
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The old and the new in ADHD
While many consider ADHD to be a new discovery, it was first recognized relatively early in history, although it was given a different name. The first example of a disorder that appears to be similar to ADHD was given by Sir Alexander Crichton in 1798. Crichton was a Scottish physician who practiced in hospitals in Paris, Stuttgart and Vienna, where he became interested in mental conditions and described what is probably the first clinically diagnosed ADHD case.
Treatment for ADHD is not that new, either. Medication has been prescribed to treat symptoms of ADHD since the 1930s and is still a very common method of treatment. However, ADHD medication does not work for all patients. In addition, ADHD medication sometimes has side effects that include irritability, headaches, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping.
Understandably, many people feel disincentivized to seek treatment, even when such treatment is recommended (which does not always happen).
From what clinical studies show so far, treatment for ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all approach. While medications like stimulants (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin) are often prescribed and can be effective for many people, they aren’t the only option. Behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments are also available and can sometimes be used effectively on their own or in combination with medication.
Benefits of therapy for ADHD
The way we view ADHD has evolved enormously over time. We no longer consider it a burden that can be cured, especially not through archaic methods of discipline and treatment. Many modern patients embrace their neurodivergence — although ADHD still poses some specific challenges.
Many people with ADHD experience poorer time management, disorganization, hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, difficulty focusing, memory problems, depression, learning disability, anxiety, boredom, mood swings, executive dysfunction, and a number of other behavioral and cognitive symptoms.
There is no magical cure for all of these struggles. Everyone experiences ADHD differently and everyone will find a different method of treatment that works for them as an individual. But, with the help of a qualified professional, many people with ADHD have been able to manage symptoms one at a time through therapy.
With millions of people being diagnosed with ADHD in the United States, there are a lot of people seeking therapy. That means no shortage of jobs for those who seek to become a therapist, and it’s a relatively easy field to get into as well. An online counseling degree can qualify you to help those who need it most through therapy, although getting better at this specific task can take years or decades.
How Does Therapy Help Those with ADHD?
By focusing on the individual struggles rather than trying fruitlessly to “cure” the patient. Many people with ADHD, for example, have sleep issues. A qualified counselor can work with the patient to educate them on sleep hygiene, make practical suggestions, and support them in their journey to getting a good night’s sleep.
A counselor may also guide a patient in relaxation techniques and exercises to ease anxiety, teach them coping skills and how to manage their emotions, give them a safe space to express themselves, talk through anything that is bothering them, and give them practical advice when appropriate.
ADHD can mean carrying around a lot of emotional baggage. For instance, people with ADHD are more likely to be fired from their jobs, more likely to have complicated relationships, and more likely to use drugs. These problems are not ubiquitous, but they are statistically relevant. Counseling can become a safe space to talk it out, discuss what went wrong, and vent. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen and truly hear you.
Therapy isn’t just about talking and listening. A good counselor can help individuals with time management, impulsivity, organization, problem-solving skills, getting into a routine, money management, self-esteem, depressive thoughts and feelings of shame or resentment.
A counselor can even help a patient come to terms with their diagnosis. Many people with ADHD go undiagnosed for a long time, even into adulthood. Females in particular often go undiagnosed as their symptoms present differently from males. Getting a diagnosis as a teenager or adult can be a massive relief- but it can also be overwhelming. It’s like entering a whole new world.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling can change the life of someone with ADHD- as can other forms of counseling if necessary. Marriage and relationship counseling, family counseling, substance abuse counseling, financial counseling and academic counseling as well as anger management treatment can all be life-changers and life-savers.
Other things that can help with ADHD
As mentioned, there’s no silver bullet for ADHD and no one-size-fits-all approach. So here are some general things that can help:
- Medication: ADHD medication, such as Ritalin and Adderall, can be a helpful tool- but it isn’t a cure that will completely eliminate symptoms. It may, however, improve focus and productivity. It is more effective when combined with other treatments. These medications can present certain side effects, and it is up to the individual and their doctor if the positives outweigh the negatives
- Hiring a professional organizer: It may not be a form of medical treatment, but it can make things a lot easier. Adults with ADHD often have difficulty organizing, decluttering and managing their time. A professional can implement systems and make your space a lot easier to keep tidy and make your environment work for you.
- Mindfulness and Meditation. Mindfulness techniques and meditation can also be useful in managing ADHD symptoms. These practices focus on paying full attention to the present moment, which can help in reducing impulsivity and increasing focus.
- Exercise! Exercise is a powerful thing. For one thing, burning off energy reduces your chance of doing something impulsive and increases your chances of a good night’s sleep. For another, exercising is known to boost mood, motivation and even memory. Furthermore, certain forms of exercise, such as jumping on a trampoline or swimming, can be a joy to your senses- ideal for sensory-seeking individuals.
- Switching up your diet: We all love snacks and coffee- but sugar and caffeine may be worsening the symptoms of ADHD. Eating a diet where you’re getting plenty of zinc, iron and magnesium may be beneficial, as will scheduling regular meals. Many adults with ADHD eat erratically or forget to eat for long periods of time.
- Combination Treatments. Often, a combination of these treatments is the most effective way to manage ADHD. Medication may be useful for some situations, like a high-focus work environment, while behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms in a broader context.
Therapy and ADHD
ADHD is as complex and varied as the individuals it affects. From its early recognition in the 18th century to our modern understanding of it as a neurodevelopmental disorder, the way society views and treats ADHD has undergone considerable change. Treatment options, too, have evolved and expanded over time. Today, we recognize that a multifaceted approach often works best, incorporating everything from medication to behavioral therapies, lifestyle changes, and even alternative treatments where appropriate.
It’s important to note that ADHD is not a “deficit” or a “disorder” in the stigmatized sense of the word. It’s a different way of thinking and behaving that comes with its own unique challenges and advantages. Whether you’re an individual dealing with ADHD or you know someone who is, remember that the path to managing symptoms is not a straight line but a journey of ups and downs. Therapy can offer valuable skills and coping mechanisms, medication can provide focus, and lifestyle adjustments can bring about holistic well-being.
Therapy is not the only tool for managing ADHD symptoms, but it may be the most effective and risk-free way to lead a more productive, anxiety-free, and most importantly happy life.
Therapy can be used in combination with any number of other ADHD treatments. But is therapy enough on its own? Only you can decide. Everyone with ADHD will find different methods that work for them. When used, whether on its own or in combination with other methods of treatment, it is a powerful tool that can change the life of an individual.