Exploring The Benefits And Drawbacks Of ADHD Treatments

Updated April 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Millions of people worldwide live with the symptoms and effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), managing their impact with various treatment methods. While medication is helpful for many, it isn’t an option or a desirable choice for some. Read on to explore the benefits and drawbacks of various ADHD treatments and how they can help children and adults with the condition manage symptoms. 

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

According to mental health experts at the American Psychological Association, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting inattention and impulsivity, with or without a hyperactivity component. While the condition is often associated with childhood, symptoms persist into adulthood for many people. Adults are frequently diagnosed with ADHD as well.

Are ADHD Symptoms Interfering With Your Child’s Life?

ADHD Subtypes

  • Predominantly Inattentive— Symptoms center on inattention.

  • Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive— Symptoms center on hyperactivity and impulsivity.

  • Combined— Symptoms involve inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

How Common Is ADHD?

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control published statistics about ADHD prevalence in children and adults.

  • In the United States, approximately 9.8% (6 million) of children ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD.

  • Boys are more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, with 13% displaying symptoms, while roughly 6% of girls are diagnosed. However, a 2013 study shows that ADHD presents differently in females and is consistently under-identified and undiagnosed.

  • Other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders are seen in 6 of 10 children with ADHD

  • 62% of children with ADHD in the US take medication, 47% receive behavioral treatment, and 23% receive no treatment.

  • Approximately 4.4% of current adults have ADHD, with lifetime prevalence estimated as high as 8.1%.

Recognizing ADHD Signs And Symptoms

Mental health experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say symptoms can vary from one person to another and by ADHD subtype. Researchers said hyperactivity symptoms are almost always apparent by age seven and often much younger. Other ADHD symptoms may not become apparent until a child reaches elementary school. 

  • Trouble focusing and short attention span, especially at school

  • Difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors and resisting temptation

  • Frequently loses or forgets items

  • Trouble following through with commitments

  • Often disorganized

  • Frequent mistakes due to carelessness

  • Easily distracted

  • Difficulty taking turns with others

  • Often takes unnecessary risks

  • Fidgets, squirms, or generally has trouble sitting still

Standard ADHD Treatments

According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, typical treatment plans for ADHD involve psychotherapy, medication, and behavior modification. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, medication is not recommended for children under age six. 


For many people with ADHD, stimulant medication can be a life-changing treatment, allowing them to effectively manage symptoms—particularly in the school environment. Recent research shows that many parents avoid ADHD medication for various reasons, such as guilt, concerns about treatment risks, family pressure, and misunderstanding about how the disorder and medication work. Speak to your doctor or mental healthcare provider to learn more about ADHD medication and if it may be a good fit for you or your child. 

Drawbacks include that finding the proper medication and dose can be a complex process, and there can be significant side effects. Stimulant medications can increase blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk of heart problems. In rare cases, stimulant medications can increase the risk of psychiatric problems.

ADHD Medication Side Effects

  • Decreased appetite

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Mood swings

  • Heart problems

  • High blood pressure

  • Decreased self-esteem

  • Headaches

  • Hallucinations

  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation—This requires immediate treatment. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.


Various talk therapy approaches are used to treat ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common treatments. CBT focuses on identifying harmful or negative behaviors and thought patterns and replacing them with healthier, more productive habits. Therapy can teach children and adults with ADHD how to recognize and understand their emotions, build a repertoire of practical coping skills, and learn communication methods to express their feelings and needs effectively. 

Behavior Modification

ADHD treatment often involves active, ongoing, and evolving behavior management to help modify behaviors and teach appropriate reactions to various social situations. This strategy is one of the most common ways to treat ADHD without medication. Behavior management training teaches parents practical ways to connect with their children while explaining appropriate and acceptable behaviors. Children can receive support while they learn to self-correct behaviors for a given situation. 

Natural ADHD Treatments

If medication isn’t a fit or an option for your situation, various natural ADHD remedies don’t require a prescription from a healthcare provider. Natural remedies can be used instead of pharmaceutical approaches or in combination with them as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Before trying alternative treatments, you should speak with your physician or mental healthcare provider. 

“The use of any medication, including supplements, carries some risk. In particular, children should not take any supplementary or complementary medications without their doctor’s approval. Additionally, most supplements do not have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, there is no control or recommended dosages regarding their contents.” — Medical News Today

Elimination Diets

One theory about ADHD suggests that eliminating foods thought to increase hyperactivity may help reduce symptoms. Foods like sugar, artificial food coloring, additives, and common allergens, like wheat, milk, and eggs, are believed by some to affect behavioral symptoms in people with ADHD. One of the most popular elimination diets is the Fiengold Diet, which removes several synthetic additives and ingredients to reduce ADHD symptoms.

Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain requires essential fatty acids to function correctly. Researchers are currently investigating whether fats such as omega-3 oils can improve ADHD symptoms.  

Dietary Supplements

While some people use vitamin or mineral supplements to help treat ADHD, researchers at the Mayo Clinic said there is no evidence to suggest that these remedies help. They warn that exceeding recommended daily allowances can be harmful. 

Herbal Medicines

According to several recent clinical trials, various herbal medicines show promise as treatments for ADHD. However, researchers said large-scale studies are required to determine whether the natural remedies are effective and safe. Proper dosages and interactions also need to be studied, further emphasizing the need to discuss alternative ADHD treatments with your healthcare provider. 

  • Bacopa: Traditional Indiana or Ayurvedic herbal treatment derived from the Brahmi or water hyssop plan. According to studies, this herbal medicine may reduce restlessness and improve self-control. 

  • French Maritime Pine Bark Extract: Potentially increase visual-motor coordination and reduce symptoms related to hyperactivity and inattentiveness.

  • Ningdong: A Chinese remedy believed to help with the reduction of ADHD symptoms.

  • Ginseng: A Chinese herb that may reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness.


An emerging non-medication treatment for ADHD is neurofeedback training, which uses electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback to help a person focus on specific tasks while monitoring brain wave patterns. 

Alternative Natural ADHD Treatments

  • Yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help teach discipline, which can make it easier to manage ADHD symptoms. 

  • Regular physical activity

  • Healthy sleep hygiene and regularly getting enough sleep

  • Brain games such as reading aloud and rapid mathematical calculations to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex.

  • Consistently adapting coping skills

Reach Out For Help

From managing ADHD behavior problems to building communication skills and practical coping strategies, reaching out for professional support and guidance can be helpful. A qualified therapist can be an excellent addition to your support network, helping you to manage emotional reactions and behaviors. 

How Therapy Can Help Manage ADHD Symptoms

Whether you choose to utilize medication or not, a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan often includes psychotherapy with a licensed therapist. Thanks to online therapy platforms like BetterHelp and TeenCounseling for kids from 13 to 19, you can connect with a qualified therapist online from the convenience of your own home. With flexible appointment formats through phone, video call, or online chat, it’s simple to fit therapy into your busy schedule. 

According to recent studies, internet-based parenting interventions like parent-child interaction therapy and parent training can help you find ways to help your child manage their ADHD. A 2022 study showed that online cognitive behavioral therapy could deliver similar results to treatments in the traditional in-office setting. Many families said the convenience of internet-based therapy made it possible to attend more sessions, which increases the duration and effectiveness of treatment outcomes.


ADHD can significantly impact your life, whether you are diagnosed as an adult or are the parent or guardian of a child with the disorder. The information presented in this article may offer insight into the various treatments for ADHD and the pros and cons of each type. 

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