Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that most often affects children, but can continue into adulthood. ADHD is characterized by these behaviors:
While no definitive cause has been established, many scientists hypothesize that the causes of ADHD are genetic. Researchers are studying environmental factors, food additives and brain structure in an attempt to find out why many children develop this condition (National Institute of Mental Health, 2008).
The choice of ADHD treatment depends on an individual’s specific symptoms. Because no cure for ADHD currently exists, treatments revolve around minimizing the symptoms to improve quality of life. The most common method for treating ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy.
Medications for ADHD affect neurotransmitters in the brain and appear to balance out brain chemicals that affect behavior. Stimulants are the most common type of medication for ADHD. These include:
In some cases, selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as atomoxetine may be used.
Different medications tend to work better or cause side effects of varying intesity for different people. ADHD patients may have to try a few medications before finding one that results in the greatest reduction of symptoms with the fewest side effects. As your physician attempts to find an effective ADHD medication, keep in mind that some side effects subside within a month of starting the medication. You doctor can best monitor the effectiveness of the medication when you provide accurate reports of its benefits and side effects.
Therapy for ADHD
Those who wish to focus on treating ADHD naturally, without medication, rely on psychotherapy. Therapy teaches children to monitor and modify their behavior and to develop social skills. Patients can develop routines and learn self-control techniques, resulting in appropriate responses to everyday challenges and increasing self-esteem.
Therapy for ADHD can be individual or it can involve meeting with a therapist and a group of other individuals with ADHD. Family therapy is often recommended to help family members deal with emotional and relationship challenges and to learn how to provide support.
The common therapeutic models for ADHD include:
- Behavioral therapy/behavior modification
- Meta-cognitive therapy
- Social skills training.
Dietary Changes and Supplements
Scientists have found no hard evidence that any type of diet causes ADHD, and no specific “ADHD diet” has been designed to reduce symptoms. Some research suggests that food additives may exacerbate hyperactivity but results have been inconclusive. Speak to your doctor before limiting your child’s diet in any way.
Parents and families of children with ADHD find that changing the home environment can help prevent ADHD symptoms from worsening. The following may help with ADHD symptoms:
Being patient and keeping realistic behavior expectations Keeping a schedule for meals, bedtimes and naps Making sure the child gets enough sleep and avoids stress Showing the child a lot of affection Working to increase the child’s self-esteem and sense of discipline.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved August 15, 2010, from http://mayoclinic.com/health/adhd/DS00275.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). ADHD diet: Do food additives cause hyperactivity? Retrieved August 15, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/adhd/AN01721.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2008). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved August 15, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml.