Adult ADHD Treatment Options
It can be confusing to navigate the complex world of ADHD treatment options. Different treatment types are most helpful for different people, and it can feel overwhelming when you’re presented with all of the options.
At Focus Partners, we will walk you through every adult ADHD treatment option and recommend treatments that we think are right for you. In the meantime, here’s a simple guide that explains every ADHD treatment option, including different medications and therapies.
Medications for Adult ADHD
Most adults with ADHD can find relief through psychiatric medications. In broad terms, there are two types of medications used for ADHD: stimulant medication and non-stimulant medication.
Medications are helpful because ADHD affects the way your brain works — and it may not be working like it’s supposed to. For example, ADHD affects your executive functioning skills, like memory and task organization. This is why ADHD makes it so difficult to complete everyday tasks like starting on projects or keeping spaces organized. Medications interact with your brain to help it function like it should.
Most people start with stimulant medication, but may use other types of medication if stimulants don’t work for them.
Stimulant medication is used as the first-line treatment for ADHD. That means that treatment providers suggest that people with ADHD try taking stimulants before moving on to other medication options. This is because there’s a lot of evidence that proves that stimulants are helpful for most people with ADHD; research has found that stimulants help around 3 out of 4 people with ADHD.
Stimulants work by increasing levels of chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain. This decreases certain ADHD symptoms like impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity.
The two main types of stimulant medications that are used for ADHD are amphetamines and methylphenidate.
Specific types of amphetamine medications include:
Specific types of methylphenidate medications include:
Stimulants like these are considered to be controlled substances, and are often used recreationally in other forms. But the evidence so far suggests that they don’t increase your risk for developing an addiction. In fact, for adults who have ADHD, taking medication may actually reduce your chances of having substance use disorder.
If you’ve struggled with stimulant abuse in the past, then another type of medication might be a better option for you. You should be honest about your past history of addiction with your treatment provider.
If stimulants don’t work for you, then your care provider might suggest that you try other, non-stimulant medications. There are non-stimulants that are specifically used for ADHD, but sometimes, your provider may suggest you try other classes of medication, like antidepressants.
The only non-stimulant medication that is FDA-approved to treat adult ADHD is atomoxetine (sold as Strattera). This medication works by increasing levels of norepinephrine in your brain. There are other non-stimulants that are approved for treating ADHD in children, including:
Other medications, like antidepressants, are sometimes used “off-label” for ADHD. This means that these medications weren’t intended for treating ADHD, but research has found that it’s sometimes helpful.
Antidepressants that are used off-label for ADHD treatment include:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), like Marplan and Nardil
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), like Anafranil and Pamelor
MAOIs and TCAs are rarely used because of their risk for serious side effects. But your doctor might suggest them if other medications haven’t worked for you.
Therapy for Adult ADHD
Stimulant medication is the most effective treatment for adult ADHD. But there’s some evidence that suggests that psychotherapy can be helpful for people with ADHD, too.
You don’t need to choose between therapy and medication. Often, people take medication and receive other non-drug treatments to help them manage their ADHD symptoms. This is especially true if you live with other mental health conditions on top of ADHD, like depression.
Studies have found that people with ADHD are more likely to also have depression, and many people with ADHD also struggle with low self-esteem. Therapy can help boost your self-image and challenge the negative thoughts that often come along with ADHD.
The type of psychotherapy that is the most helpful for adults with ADHD is called cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT has been found to increase productivity for adults with ADHD, as well as improve their organization and self-esteem.
Especially if you didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, you may have lived with frustration and disappointment your entire life. Careless mistakes and an inability to focus leave many adults with ADHD feeling like they’re not meeting their full potential.
CBT helps people to notice, and challenge, their negative and unhelpful thoughts about ADHD.
For example, you may have had a thought like: “I made such a stupid mistake. Why am I so dumb and careless? I can’t do anything right.”
A CBT therapist can help you notice when you’re talking to yourself like this. They can help you challenge these thoughts and replace them with more helpful ones, like:
“ADHD makes it harder for me to focus, and so I may make mistakes sometimes. But I know that I don’t have to be perfect to be worthy. I’ll keep up with my treatment plan and learn more and more skills to stay on top of my work.”
Behavioral Intervention for Adult ADHD
We tend to think of behavioral therapy as something only for children with ADHD, but there are behavioral interventions that are helpful for adults, too.
When it’s used with kids, behavioral therapy strategies teach the whole family, along with other adults like teachers, ways to reward the child for positive behavior. For adults, there is no one to reward you but yourself. Behavioral intervention for adult ADHD usually focuses on strategies to help the adult with life skills like organization and time management.
Learning these skills is a reward in itself for adults with ADHD. These strategies make life with ADHD a lot easier, and can allow adults with ADHD to improve their careers and relationships. Knowing how to manage ADHD symptoms can also lessen feelings of frustration or incompetence.
Some adults are able to learn behavioral strategies on their own. Others may choose to work with an ADHD coach or therapist.
Some specific life skills that behavioral therapy for ADHD can teach you include:
- Creating a distraction-free working environment
- Time management skills
- Task organization skills, like using lists and calendars
- Home and space organization
- Setting up reminder systems
- Finding alternative, healthy behaviors for hyperactive energy
- Social skills (like how to have a conversation without interrupting)
A complete treatment plan for adult ADHD usually includes some type of ADHD education.
Knowing what ADHD is, how it operates, and how it affects your life can help you learn how to manage its symptoms, especially when you’re newly diagnosed. Of course, education alone isn’t typically enough as treatment. But when you are equipped with important knowledge, you can strategize ways to live well with ADHD.
For example, if you know in advance that ADHD makes it difficult for you to concentrate, you can choose the way you work or study wisely — like putting in noise-canceling headphones or facing toward a blank wall.
Having education about ADHD may also limit the ways ADHD affects your mood and mental health. Instead of blaming or labeling yourself for mistakes, you can recognize when ADHD has caused you to become forgetful. You may also be able to explain to loved ones how ADHD affects you so they can support you the best they can.
Get Online Adult ADHD Treatment Now
ADHD is a chronic condition, but that doesn’t mean your life is over. Far from it — with the right treatment, you can learn to live well with adult ADHD and even turn some of its symptoms into strengths.
Focus Partners provides effective online ADHD treatment for adults residing in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and New York. . We can provide you with a thorough medical assessment and help you navigate the treatment options that may be right for you. See if we can assist by taking our initial online ADHD assessment to start your ADHD treatment journey today.