ADHD Treatment

It may be hard to learn that there is no cure for ADHD. That said, it can be successfully managed and treated. ADHD symptoms are usually reduced so that improvements can be seen in all aspects of life, including school and work performance, relationships, confidence, and self-esteem.

Though ADHD treatment is often associated with prescription drugs, therapy, accommodations, social skills, and lifestyle changes can all help ADHD symptoms. Rather than choosing either medication or behavioral treatment, studies have found that the most effective way to treat ADHD is with a combination of both.


Medication is the most common treatment for ADHD. For many children and adults, it is a central part of their treatment plan. The two main groups of medication for treating ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants.


It might sound counterintuitive to prescribe someone who is hyperactive a stimulant. However, stimulants reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, and increase attention.

Common stimulants include:

It is important to work closely with your prescribing doctor to find the right medication and dosage. Report the effectiveness of the medications and any side effects you experience. If your child is the one with ADHD, observe him and ask specific questions about how he is feeling. With this information, your doctor can adjust the prescription until the right therapeutic dose is found.


While stimulants are usually the first medication prescribed to treat ADHD, sometimes a non-stimulant might be used instead. This may be chosen if you or your child experienced negative side effects with stimulant medication, or there is a history of addiction. Sometimes your doctor might prescribe both a stimulant and non-stimulant.

Examples of non-stimulant medication are:

Some family doctors are knowledgeable about ADHD and can prescribe ADHD medication. Others feel more comfortable referring you to experts in their network, for example a child or adult psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD.

Behavioral Strategies

ADHD is not caused by environment factors, but it is influenced by them. An unorganized and unstructured setting can worsen symptoms. A structured, uncluttered, and predictable environment, on the other hand, can help greatly.

Here are some examples. They work for children and adults with ADHD.

Routines:Having simple, predictable routines throughout the day means necessary tasks get done without last-minute panics.

A morning routine might be getting up at 7 a.m., getting dressed, eating breakfast, taking medication, and leaving for work or school.

An evening routine might include eating supper, packing a bag for the next day, and watching a favorite TV show before bed.

Checklists: A checklist can be made for any multi-step process that seems complicated or stressful. It acts as a memory aid and helps you or your child feel organized. For example, you might tape a checklist to the front door listing all the things you or your child needs for the day.

Timers: To help you or your child pay attention to homework or a work project, set a timer for 15 minutes (indicating a dedicated time of focus). When it rings, have a mini break and then set your timer again.

Alarms: You can set alarms to remind you or your child to get up, to go to bed, or to leave the house. Alarms are particularly empowering for your child to use. He or she may feel more independent not having to rely on reminders from grown-ups.

Charts: If there is a behavior or habit you want to include in your day, make a chart with the days of the week. Every time you do the behavior, for example clean your teeth, you get a star. Both children and adults find this rewarding, and it acts as a reminder and a motivator to do the task.

Daytime Planners: Using a planner (whatever your age) helps with understanding the passage of time and what is planned for the day, and marks deadlines, like when assignments need to be handed in.

Behavioral Parent Training

Parent training teaches parents of children with ADHD the skills to manage their children’s behavior in the home. Some parents feel they have somehow "failed" as a parent if they need training, but this is not the case.

It can be very stressful parenting a child with ADHD. The training offers emotional support to the parents. It also teaches specific techniques to manage a child’s behavior. There are many benefits. Children feel happier as they enjoy and thrive with structure, while parents and other siblings enjoy a calmer home life.

One aspect of the training might be clear rules and consistent consequences. For example, if the child pulls the cat's tail, he cannot play with the pet for a duration of time. These consequences will always be the same, no matter how tired Mom or Dad is, or how many tears the child sheds. Another example might be to track certain behaviors on a wall chart and offer clear rewards.

Training can take place in groups with other parents, or privately with a psychotherapist.

Social Skills Training

Social skills can often cause problems for people living with ADHD, as ADHD symptoms can result in behavior that looks rude. Examples are not noticing subtle nonverbal cues, impulsively interrupting a speaker, or looking out of the window when someone is speaking. Another example is crossing physical boundaries by standing too close to people. None of these behaviors are done to be intentionally rude, and family and close friends understand this. However, it can be hard to make friends, do well at work, or date without developing new social skills.

Social skills training can take many forms. It might be as part of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), either in a group or with an individual therapist, or it might be a skill an ADHD coach helps with.

Social skills can be learned and the quality of life improves as a result.

Counseling and Psychotherapy

Working with a counselor or therapist can be a helpful way to address issues that result from living with ADHD, including job losses and relationship issues. It can also be helpful for people who are living with coexisting conditions like depression and anxiety.

Research has found cognitive behavior therapy to be effective for people living with ADHD. It helps to develop new ways to behave in the world. Importantly, it also helps with the shame and low self-esteem that affects many people with ADHD.

One of the most important factors in determining the effectiveness of counseling, therapy, or coaching (see below) is your relationship with the practitioner. If your personalities or styles do not match, do not give up on therapy. Instead, find another professional to work with. It can be extremely beneficial to speak with a healthcare professional who is knowledgable about ADHD in order to find the best coping mechanisms for you.

ADHD Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Mind Doc Guide


Even though structure and organization are very helpful for ADHD symptoms, they can be hard to set up when you have ADHD. ADHD coaches can provide accountability as you are creating this structure. They might also help you or your child set goals, develop new habits, learn new skills, and work to get these integrated into your life.

The coach might also act as a ‘body double.’ A body double is a person who keeps you company while you perform a difficult task. Many people who have ADHD struggle with boring, mundane, or multi-step tasks like housework, decluttering, and filing taxes. They might procrastinate starting or get side-tracked and leave a project half completed. A body double sits in the same room with you while you carry out these tasks. Their physical presence helps you to keep focused on the task and reduces any anxiety you might be feeling.

Support Groups

Support groups offer education, emotional support, and encouragement to parents of children with ADHD and to individuals who have ADHD. Being with people who understand your struggles, without you even having to explain them, can provide great comfort and a feeling of belonging.

Support groups are also a great place to learn about resources in your area, such as a particularly knowledgeable ADHD doctor. Sometimes support groups have guest speakers, and other times you can simply share your experiences.


When a person has been officially diagnosed with ADHD, he or she is eligible for accommodations. This means a child can receive accommodations at school, and an adult can have them in the workplace.

Some people feel shy asking for accommodations because they do not want to draw attention to themselves, or feel like they are making a fuss. However, accommodations are there to support you. They create the most helpful environment so you can get the grades you are capable of and do your best work.

Examples of student accommodations include getting help writing notes in class, recording lectures, and being able to take an exam in a quiet room. Speak to the teacher at school or the student disability center for more information on making these arrangements.

Examples of workplace accommodations include wearing noise cancelling headphones or working flexible hours. Another is to put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign, even if this is not office policy. Speak to your boss or human resources about workplace accommodations that may help you.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help ADHD symptoms. These include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing stress reduction techniques. A good way to incorporate these lifestyle changes into your life is to make them as enjoyable as possible, as motivation is a big part of ADHD. For example, pick an exercise that is fun for you and does not feel like another ‘to do’ on your list.


Learning as much as you can about what ADHD is and how it affects you or your child is possibly the most important part of the treatment process.

Difficulties with regulating attention, and controlling impulses and hyperactivity are the core symptoms of ADHD, but how do they play out in your child’s or your life? For example, does your child daydream and miss instructions, or is your child impulsive and likely to run out into the street without looking? When you are specific about the biggest ADHD challenges, it can help you navigate the treatment options.

Luckily, there is more information about ADHD available than ever before. You can learn from websites, books, and podcasts. Consider attending classes held locally, or national conferences like the CHADD annual conference. And always remember to keep an open dialogue with doctors.

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Article Sources
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  • Jensen, P. 2009. Methylphenidate and Psychosocial Treatments Either Alone or in Combination Reduce ADHD Symptoms. Evidence-Based Mental Health 12 (1): 18.
  • Solanto, M.V., D.J Marks, J. Wasserstein,K. Mitchell,H Abikoff, J.M Alvir, and M.D Kofman. 2010 Efficacy of Meta-Cognitive Therapy for Adult ADHD. American Journal of Psychiatry 167 (8): 958-968.