Thriving With ADHD: Helping You Find the Right Treatment

Thriving With ADHD: Helping You Find the Right Treatment

This article is for adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or their care partners, as well as others who want to learn more about ADHD. The goal of this patient education activity is to help patients to engage in shared decision-making with their doctor about treatment for ADHD.

You will learn about:

  • What ADHD is

  • How ADHD can affect your daily life

  • Treatment for adults with ADHD

  • Making a plan with your doctor

  • Questions to ask your doctor

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What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that affects how the nervous system develops and leads to changes in how the brain works. ADHD can happen in children, teens, and adults.

ADHD symptoms include:

  • Inattention, or a hard time paying attention

  • Impulsiveness, or acting before you think

  • Hyperactivity, or restlessness or too much activity

The exact cause of ADHD is not known. Several factors may be involved, such as genetics (ADHD that runs in families), your environment, or the way that your nervous system works.

Having ADHD As an Adult

ADHD can be diagnosed any age, and can last throughout your life. ADHD symptoms may change over time, but even adults often need treatment to manage them.

ADHD symptoms in adults can appear as:

  • Getting distracted easily and having trouble concentrating or focusing

  • Trouble relaxing

  • Poor organization, planning, or time management

  • Trouble doing more than one task at a time

  • Problems following through or finishing tasks

  • Trouble coping with stress

  • Getting frustrated or angry easily

ADHD and Your Everyday Life

ADHD can affect adults at home, work, and school. Symptoms often make it difficult to listen and communicate, follow directions, and stay motivated. You may be forgetful, frequently late, feel bored, or put things off (procrastinate).

Because of this, adults with ADHD can have problems with:

  • Work or school

  • Relationships

  • Money or finances

  • Car, or other, accidents

  • The law or authorities

  • Alcohol or drugs

  • Low self-esteem or poor self-image

Getting the right treatment and learning ways to manage ADHD can help. Adults with ADHD can develop their strengths and be successful.


ADHD and Other Conditions

People with ADHD often have other conditions. Be sure to tell your doctor about all your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Knowing the whole picture is important -- it helps you and your doctor find the best treatment.

Your doctor can check for conditions such as:

  • Depression, or sadness that won’t go away or a loss of interest

  • Bipolar disorder, or extreme mood swings

  • Anxiety that causes overwhelming worry or nervousness

  • Certain personality disorders

  • Alcohol and drug use disorders

  • Learning disabilities

ADHD Treatment

There’s no cure for ADHD, so the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Treatment can include medicine, therapy (counseling), education, skills training, and getting support. A combination of these usually works best.

Adults often need to manage their ADHD 24/7. If your doctor recommends medicine, they will find the one that lasts long enough to cover your symptoms, while having the fewest side effects.

Medicine to Treat Adult ADHD

There are 2 main types of medicine for adult ADHD -- stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulant medicines include:

  • Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine mixed salts

  • Dexmethylphenidate

  • Lisdexamfetamine

  • Methylphenidate

Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine mixed salts and methylphenidate also come in longer-acting, or extended-release, forms.

Non-stimulant medicines -- such as atomoxetine -- may be used either on their own or with a stimulant. Your doctor may recommend other medicines to help treat your ADHD as well.

Other Treatments for Adult ADHD

Other treatments to help manage ADHD include:

  • Therapy such as:

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that teaches skills to manage behavior

    Counseling alone or with your spouse, partner, or family to help understand how ADHD affects you and others

  • Relaxation training and stress management to lower anxiety

  • Life coaching to help you with time management and being organized

  • Job coaching to help you have better relationships at work and improve job performance

Making a Plan With Your Doctor

You’ll work with your doctor to find the treatment plan that’s right for you. A combination of different treatments often works best for adults with ADHD.

Be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Also mention all medicines you take -- including those you get without a prescription -- how much caffeine and alcohol you use, and whether you use drugs or smoke.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Speak to your doctor regularly and be sure to keep your appointments. Don’t skip or change treatment without checking with your doctor first.

Questions you can ask your doctor about your ADHD can include:

  • What symptoms should I look for?

  • What types of treatment would be best for me?

  • What medicines are available and what are their side effects?

  • What’s the best way to manage other conditions I may have?

  • Are there lifestyle changes I should make?

  • What should I do if I feel stressed?

  • Are there options for appointments if I can’t visit in person?

  • Are there resources, tools, or other support available that you can recommend?

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View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD

Senior Director, Learning & Development, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Senior Scientific Content Manager, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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