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How is ADHD Treated?

How is ADHD Treated?
June 7, 2020

Introduction to ADHD

ADHD is a complex issue to diagnose due to the number of symptoms that are shared by ADHD and other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse issues. The gold standard for diagnosis involves performing some cognitive testing in addition to getting a variety of other sources of information to help reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and the long history of overdiagnosis. Once testing is completed, your psychologist should have you return after they have scored the testing and written up a report. They will go through the findings with you and discuss what the outcome was. If you have a diagnosis of ADHD, they will likely talk with you about three potential treatment options.

Treatment Option One: Behavioral Management and Therapy

It is important not to leap to medication as the only option for treating ADHD. At IPC we provide a variety of behavioral interventions that can improve functioning and reduce symptoms for everyone diagnosed with ADHD. Often these include finding a clever workaround for the symptoms of ADHD. This often involves implementing strategies such as organizational aids, prompts, cues, planners, environmental adjustments, and modifications to work style. There are some psychologists who even brand themselves as “ADHD coaches” who meet regularly with clients to implement some of these strategies and make adjustments along the way until they agree that they are functioning as well as can be using these interventions.

It is important to remember that ADHD (inattentive, hyperactive, or combined type) all fall on a spectrum of severity: mild, moderate, and severe in terms of impairment and symptoms. Behavioral management tools can be helpful for everyone regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. That said, as the sole form of treatment these strategies are usually most effective for those on the mild end of the spectrum, especially if they are trying to avoid medications. Sometimes implementing these tools is effective enough for those with mild cases to function adequately in life. Those with moderate to severe levels of ADHD, often need some type of medication to get the relief they are seeking to function optimally in their lives.

Treatment Option Two: Non-Stimulant Medications

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of medications used to treat ADHD: non-stimulants and stimulant-based medications. Some clients and their parents are understandably reluctant to use stimulant medications. For many young developing children, stimulant medication has the side effect of reducing appetite. Many parents worry their children may not get enough nutrition and their child’s physical development may be hampered. Others worry about the potential for abuse of stimulant medications. There are some people who are in recovery who struggle with ADHD but are not interested in the temptation that stimulant medications provide.

There are a couple of anti-depressant medications that have some efficacy in treating ADHD symptoms. Wellbutrin has been used for decades to help treat ADHD and some clients find that it helps enough with attention and concentration for their needs. A newer anti-depressant that has been around for a while that is used to treat ADHD is Strattera. Similar to Wellbutrin, some client finds that it helps enough to suit their needs and use this medication which is taken daily so an effective dose remains in the bloodstream.

Treatment Option Three: Stimulant Medications

The treatment that most people are familiar with for treating ADHD comes from a class of drugs called psychostimulants. The most renowned medication is Ritalin and its use goes back decades. Newer brands include Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, and Provigil to name just a few. Like Ritalin, they all have an amphetamine base placing them into the stimulant category. Most stimulant medications kick in quickly after ingestion (15-30 minutes) and are out a person’s system within 4-8 hours. As noted above, stimulants do have the side effect of appetite suppression. For these reasons, many people elect to avoid taking it on days off, holidays, weekends, vacations, or summer break. These breaks generally bring back a person’s appetite to normal and the break reduces the potential negative impact on physical development.

Many people marvel at why doctors would give hyperactive children stimulants, which on the surface might seem like it would make symptoms even worse. What we know about ADHD is that a lot of the symptoms stem from inadequate firing, or stimulation, in the frontal lobes of the brain. As it turns out, the frontal lobes are largely responsible for attention, concentration, focus, impulse control, and higher-level functioning. The stimulant medication functions to get the frontal lobes operating properly which allows people with ADHD to keep their symptoms in check. Of the three treatment options, stimulant medications are probably the most effective and seem to help 90-95% of clients. In fact, stimulant medication even helps people without ADHD have better attention and focus.

If you need testing, or already have ADHD and are interested in talking with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists about treatment options, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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