Treatments for ADHD can be very effective. Once the underlying causes are recognized, several strategies can diminish both the attention and hyperactivity components of the condition, and improve overall functioning.
Both medications and psychotherapy are helpful, and are often used together.
Multiple studies have shown that stimulant medications (psychostimulants) improve attention and decrease hyperactivity in patients with ADHD.
These medications increase and balance the levels of various brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Examples of these types of drugs include:
• Methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin)
• Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
• Dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall XR)
• Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
Psychostimulants come in short-acting forms, which need to be administered several times each day, as well as long-acting ones that are administered less frequently.
If patients can’t take stimulants because of health problems or a history of substance abuse, other medicines — such as atomoxetine (Strattera) or the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin) — can be used. It may take a few weeks for patients to respond to these drugs, but they can be effective.
When beginning medication for ADHD, patients must work closely with their doctors to determine the right medicine and the correct dose.
Patients must keep their doctors informed of any side effects they experience so that dosages can be adjusted or medication switched.
In addition to medication, psychotherapy and education are helpful for patients with ADHD. Counseling often allows them to better manage their time and organize their lives.
A psychotherapist can also teach a patient to control potentially destructive and impulsive behaviors, and to develop more effective problem-solving strategies.
In addition, psychotherapy can teach people to control their tempers and better cope with disappointment, which in turn can improve their self-esteem.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a structured form of counseling that helps patients with ADHD learn specific skills to manage negative thinking patterns and shift to more positive attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors.
Marital and family counseling can provide insights into the patient’s ways of dealing with stress, improve their communication skills, and strengthen their relationships.
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