Strategies To Help Adults With ADHD

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated June 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health disorder frequently diagnosed in childhood, although many people live with the disorder without ever receiving a diagnosis or treatment. ADHD may cause individuals with the disorder to experience difficulties with focusing, keeping on task, staying organized, sitting still, and demonstrating impulse control. For some people, ADHD isn’t diagnosed until adulthood.

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Are you or a loved one seeking treatment for ADHD?

Some adults may experience more of the “inattentive” aspects of ADHD such as difficulty paying attention in conversations, for example. Others may experience more “hyperactive” components of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which may include fidgeting or talking too much. People with ADHD may experience problems with school, work, or relationships. Moreover, research indicates that ADHD tends to occur with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

ADHD can range from mild to severe, but treatment is available. Keep reading to learn more about how ADHD symptoms can be improved through interventions such as counseling, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Therapy used for ADHD

The types of therapy and counseling utilized for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children versus adults may differ. For example, children with ADHD may be taught organizational skills, and parents might work with the counselor to help their child during behavioral therapy sessions. Conversely, adult ADHD counseling may target the individual’s core symptoms and address problem areas such as time management, coping strategies, and emotional control, for example.

Modalities used in adult ADHD treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of counseling that focuses on the way our thoughts can shape our beliefs, emotions and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely used therapeutic modality for many mental health conditions, and studies show that CBT can be an effective treatment for ADHD. Someone with ADHD may learn how to reframe negative thoughts, shift unhelpful behaviors, problem-solve, and develop more confidence. 
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): MBCT combines principles of CBT with mindfulness and meditation. This type of therapy can help individuals bring nonjudgmental awareness to their thoughts and emotions and then replace negative thought patterns with positive ones. The emphasis on mindfulness and meditation can be particularly helpful for ADHD symptoms since studies indicate that mindfulness meditation can help with attention control and emotional regulation.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy is an intervention that aims to help people break down the barriers that are preventing them from doing the things they want to do. For people with ADHD, the barrier may be executive dysfunction, which involves issues with time management, memory, and completing tasks. In occupational therapy, people of all ages can learn new strategies to improve their self-confidence, independence, and ability to manage their time and emotions.

Benefits of seeing a therapist

Working with a counselor to address attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms can be an effective way to increase well-being and fulfillment.

Whether an individual opts to utilize therapy in combination with medication or attend therapy without medication, research shows that therapy for ADHD can lead to improved symptoms. 

Some of the benefits of professional treatment include:

  • Improved personal relationships.
  • Improved time management.
  • Decreased negative emotions associated with past failures.
  • A clearer understanding of ADHD and its effects.
  • Increased self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Improved problem-solving skills.
  • Reduced impulsive behavior.
  • Improved ability to control emotions.

ADHD coaching versus therapy

Both counseling and coaching can be effective interventions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Various types of therapy and counseling for adult ADHD can offer improvements in thought processes and behaviors and relieve symptoms of ADHD like time management issues and impulsivity. 

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An ADHD coach can offer assistance that is goal-oriented and ongoing (versus counseling such as CBT, which tends to be short-term). Working with ADHD coaches may allow individuals to cultivate self-acceptance, develop greater self-awareness, and build confidence in their unique talents and capabilities. ADHD coaching can be a long-term partnership, or it can take place as needed. Those who are looking for motivation to reach personal or professional goals may benefit from working with a coach who specializes in ADHD.

Other ADHD interventions

Although counseling and coaching can be effective options for treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are other interventions to treat adult ADHD that may be worth investigating. These include:

  • ADHD medication: Stimulant medications are frequently prescribed to treat ADHD. These medications can work well for some people, whereas others may notice less of an improvement in their symptoms. People who take ADHD medications may experience side effects and tend to be closely monitored by their doctors while they use the medication. While ADHD medication can be a beneficial tool, it is not a cure-all, and it may be most effective when paired with other treatments, such as counseling. Always consult a doctor before starting a new medication, as side effects could become problematic.
  • Exercise: Studies demonstrate that regular exercise can lead to an immediate improvement in ADHD core symptoms as well as executive functioning. Exercising for as little as thirty minutes each day can lead to significant improvement in ADHD symptoms. Additionally, individuals may be more motivated to get into a regular exercise routine if they find a type of exercise they enjoy such as swimming, hiking, biking, or playing a sport.
  • Sleep: Most of us have heard of the numerous benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, but not everyone is aware of the foundational role sleep can play in improving ADHD symptoms. Not getting enough sleep or not getting high-quality sleep can make ADHD symptoms worse. If you have difficulty sleeping, you may want to consider cutting down on caffeine, adopting a consistent bedtime routine, and avoiding screens before bed. Ensuring that you get a full night’s rest can help minimize ADHD symptoms such as impulsivity and executive dysfunction.
  • Diet: Like sleep, diet can play a significant role in the management of ADHD symptoms. Though ADHD symptoms such as poor planning and time management can make it hard to prepare healthy meals, it can still be important to eat mindfully and avoid consuming too much fast food or junk food. An unhealthy diet may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can worsen ADHD symptoms. Ensuring you are getting enough zinc, magnesium, iron, and omega-3s can be a beneficial start.
  • Meditation: The benefits of mindfulness meditation may be countless, but some include improved mood and sleep, clearer focus, and decreased anxiety. When it comes to ADHD treatment, meditation can be a useful activity because it can decrease one’s reactivity to their emotions, thereby reducing impulsivity and improving emotional control. 
  • Yoga: Yoga is a type of exercise that combines specific poses and stretches with mindful breathing. It can be a calming and grounding activity like meditation, but it may be more feasible for those who experience hyperactivity since it combines deep breathing with physical activity. Yoga can also be an effective tool for calming intense emotions and strengthening the body.

The importance of counseling

If you or a loved one is experiencing ADHD symptoms, help is available. Whether you’re interested in trying lifestyle interventions such as changing your diet or incorporating exercise into your daily routine, or you’re ready to connect with a counselor, you can be proud of yourself for taking the first step toward improved well-being. 

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Are you or a loved one seeking treatment for ADHD?

If you’re new to counseling, you may be questioning if it’s right for you. Studies show that behavioral therapy can effectively manage symptoms in children, teenagers, and adults with ADHD. With online counseling platforms like BetterHelp, you can connect with a counselor who specializes in ADHD. Moreover, you can discover which counseling modality is right for you, whether it’s cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, coaching, or another type of counseling. Instead of worrying about leaving on time for an in-person session or getting overwhelmed by traffic along the way, you can connect with a counselor from the comfort of your home using video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging. 

Online counseling may be useful for managing and treating a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD. 

Likewise, other studies have shown that internet-delivered counseling interventions for ADHD can be effective in improving attention deficit and social function in both adults and children. 

Takeaway

Adult ADHD symptoms can be challenging, but counseling, therapy, coaching, and other interventions may make the disorder more manageable. Treatment for ADHD in adults can include interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, and more. Some individuals may prefer ADHD coaching, which often involves a more goal-oriented approach. Individuals might also feel empowered knowing that adjusting certain lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, and exercise can lead to significant improvements in ADHD symptoms. Being able to connect with a therapist who has experience with the complexities of ADHD doesn’t have to be difficult.

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can make it easy and convenient to match with a therapist who has skills and training in treating ADHD. To get started with online therapy, reach out to BetterHelp.

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