How to Treat Adult ADHD

Four Methods:Making Lifestyle ChangesAdjusting Your DietWorking on Organization SkillsUsing Medication

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can cause a wide range of symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, impulsivity, mood swings, and disorganization.[1] Treating adult ADHD often requires a combination of multiple treatment strategies. For example, you can improve feelings of restlessness by exercising more, but you may also need to develop strategies for managing your time and keeping your home organized. Medication might help you to stay focused on a task, but you may also need to make sure that you get enough sleep to avoid becoming overwhelmed by what you need to accomplish. Make sure that you work with a mental health professional, such as a therapist, to develop the best treatment strategy for you.

Method 1
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Talk to a therapist. Before you start making any major lifestyle changes, you should meet with a therapist. Talk therapy is an effective way to treat ADHD and to deal with the frustration that often accompanies this disorder. With talk therapy, you will work one-on-one with a therapist to develop strategies that can help you deal with your ADHD symptoms.[2]
    • A therapist can help you to determine what you need to work on and guide you through your treatment for ADHD. For example, you and your therapist may find that you struggle the most with time management and organization. Your therapist could then teach you about strategies for improving these skills.
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    Exercise every day. Getting regular daily exercise may also help to improve the symptoms of ADHD. Some studies have shown that you can get even more benefits from exercising if you do your exercise outdoors, but keep in mind that this may not work for everyone. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day or at least on most days.[3] Some good options include:
    • riding a bike
    • hiking
    • running
    • swimming
    • skiing
    • dancing or taking an aerobics class
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    Include relaxation techniques in your daily routine. Practicing relaxation techniques on a daily basis can also help to reduce symptoms of ADHD.[4] Try to set aside at least 15 minutes for relaxation activities every day. Some good relaxation exercises include:
    • Yoga. Yoga may improve symptoms of ADHD by helping you to rebalance your mind. This can be especially helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed or restless.
    • Meditation. Meditation shows more promising results than other treatment methods, such as dietary changes.[5] Meditation relaxes you and increases your ability to concentrate over time. It can also help to control impulsivity and your ability to plan things.
    • EEG Biofeedback. Although more studies are needed, this relaxation training method has shown some promising results for those with ADHD.[6] During an EEG biofeedback session, you would have sensors attached to your scalp and you would practice controlling your stress levels with the aid of a video that represents your brainwaves. Over time, these sessions can help you identify the best ways to control your stress.[7] Keep in mind that EEG biofeedback has to be conducted in a clinical setting.
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    Sleep more. Not getting enough sleep can make your ADHD symptoms worse. Getting plenty of quality sleep each night may help you to function better the following day by increasing your ability to concentrate and deal with stressful situations. However, keep in mind that this treatment method does not help everyone and it probably will not be enough to treat your ADHD on its own. Make sure that you consider other treatment options as well. Some strategies that may help you get more sleep include:[8]
    • avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening
    • sticking to a bedtime routine, such as taking a bath, brushing your hair and teeth, dimming the lights, and then listening to some soft music in bed
    • going to bed at the same time every night (even on the weekend)
    • keeping your bedroom dark and cool

Method 2
Adjusting Your Diet

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    Get your diet evaluated by a dietician. Certain foods may make ADHD symptoms worse, so following a special diet can also be helpful for some people with ADHD. However, you should talk to a dietician or physician before making major changes to your diet.[9]
    • Keep in mind that studies on the effects of diet on ADHD symptoms are mixed. Some have shown improvement while others have not, so make sure that you look at other treatment options along with making dietary changes.[10]
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    Keep a food diary. It is possible that some of the foods that you eat on a regular basis may be contributing to your ADHD symptoms. Keeping a food diary can help you to determine whether there might be a link between certain foods or beverages and your ADHD symptoms.[11]
    • Start keeping a log of everything that you eat as well as how you feel after eating. If you notice an increase in symptoms after eating a certain food, then try eliminating that food from your diet for a while.
    • For example, if you notice that you start to lose focus about 30 minutes after eating a bowl of pasta, then you might eliminate pasta to see if that helps. Another option is to switch to whole wheat or gluten free pasta and see if there is a difference.
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    Reduce your intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates. Eating lots of sugar and simple carbohydrates can make symptoms of ADHD worse, so it may help to avoid these foods. However, keep in mind that this approach does not work for everyone.[12] Some examples of these foods include:[13]
    • anything with added sugar
    • white bread, pasta, or rice
    • baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pies
    • sodas and other sugary beverages
    • sugary cereals and cereal bars
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    Include more protein. Eating more protein may help to reduce symptoms of ADHD by helping you to focus and sustaining your energy, but remember that making dietary changes does not work for everyone. You should discuss dietary changes with your doctor first and consider other treatment options as well.[14] If you also decide to include more protein, make sure that your diet includes plenty of lean, high-quality protein such as:[15]
    • skinless chicken and turkey
    • seafood such as shrimp, salmon, crab, and cod
    • beans
    • tofu
    • eggs
    • Greek yogurt (plain, without added sugar)
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    Consider taking an omega-3 supplement. Some studies have shown that taking a daily omega-3 supplement can improve ADHD symptoms, but more research is needed to determine if this treatment is actually effective.[16] Try taking a daily omega-3 supplement to see if it helps you.[17]
    • It is important to find a supplement that contains both DHA and EPA, but you should look for a supplement that contains two to three times more EPA than DHA. This is the best blend for treating ADHD symptoms.[18]
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    Reduce your alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol can affect your glucose levels, which may also increase ADHD symptoms such as by affecting your ability to concentrate. To reduce the symptoms of ADHD caused by drinking alcohol, try to avoid drinking as much as possible.[19]
    • Do not exceed more than one drink per day if you are a woman and no more than two drinks per day if you are a man.
    • Controlling glucose levels does not help everyone with ADHD. Make sure that you consider other treatment options as well.[20]

Method 3
Working on Organization Skills

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    Consider working with a professional organizer. Some people with ADHD have a hard time staying organized at home, at work, and in other areas as well. A professional organizer can help you to develop strategies for staying organized.[21]
    • An organizer can visit you at home and help you develop strategies for dealing with clutter.
    • An organizer can also help you learn how to manage your time better and stay on top of important dates and responsibilities.
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    Write everything down. Writing things down can also be a great way to keep track of important dates and things you need to do. Try recording the things that you need to do each day in a planner, notepad, or even just on a sticky note. Keep the list someplace where you can see it and check off items as you complete them.[22]
    • Learn to prioritize. People with ADHD sometimes struggle to prioritize tasks, so learning how to prioritize might help. Every Prioritize your “to-do” items so that the most important or pressing things come first. Consider which items are time sensitive and which ones are not.
    • If you have trouble managing your money or keeping track of when bills are due, then writing bill due dates on a calendar or setting up bill-pay reminders on your phone may help you to stay on top of your bills.[23]
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    Minimize distractions. If you have trouble concentrating because of your surroundings, then making some simple changes may help you to stay focused. Some good ways to minimize your distractions include:[24]
    • sitting in the front of the room during lectures or meetings
    • wearing noise canceling headphones when you are working or studying in a noisy place
    • facing a wall rather than a window when you are working or studying
    • choosing the work environments that are most comfortable for you, such as in a coffee shop, at home, or the library[25]
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    Divide large tasks. If you have something big to accomplish, then you may find it hard to know where to start. Instead of looking at the big picture, try to break the job down into a series of smaller tasks that you can work on one at a time.[26]
    • For example, if you need to develop a presentation, you might feel overwhelmed by the task. To make it more manageable, you might break it into small tasks such as 1) brainstorm 2) research and take notes 3) make an outline 4) create a PowerPoint 5) practice the presentation.
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    Try color coding. People with ADHD tend to benefit from color coding because it makes ordinary text more interesting. You can also use color coding to help you separate different types of information.[27]
    • For example, when reading a textbook, you could use a red pen or pink highlighter to help you identify really important information. Or, you could color code information by subject and use a different highlighter for each subject to help you keep track of it all.

Method 4
Using Medication

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    Visit a psychiatrist if you think you might need medication. A therapist cannot prescribe medications for your ADHD. If you think that you may need to be on some sort of medication, then make an appointment with a psychiatrist.[28]
    • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating mental health disorders.
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    Ask about your options. There are several medications available for those with ADHD, so you will need to discuss these options with your psychiatrist. Most of the medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants, but there are also some non-stimulant options as well.
    • For example, Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD medication. This drug may also help if you are dealing with depression or anxiety symptoms as well.[29]
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    Combine medication therapy with other therapies. Medication alone will not treat your ADHD. It will just minimize some of your symptoms. In order to get the most benefit from taking ADHD medication, you will need to use other therapies as well, such as talking to a therapist, getting regular exercise, or making dietary changes.[30]
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    Watch for side effects. Medications for ADHD can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects. Make sure that you monitor your physical and mental state closely and tell your doctor about any side effects that you notice.[31]
    • Stimulant medications have the most severe side effects, including insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, anxiety, and heart complications. Tell your doctor right away if you experience any negative side effects from your ADHD medication.
    • You may also have to try different medications if you have unpleasant side effects or if the medication does not seem to be helping.[32]
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    Talk to your physician before stopping your medication. If you decide that you no longer want to take your medications, talk to your prescribing physician or psychiatrist first. You may need to taper off of the medication to avoid withdrawal symptoms.[33]


  • Try to be patient as you treat your ADHD. Some people will notice a difference right away, but it can take a while to see a difference in your symptoms.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Attention and Developmental Disorders