Effective ADHD Therapies For Thriving Every Day

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated April 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders in young people, with roughly 6 million children and adolescents diagnosed in the United States alone. Those numbers rise to approximately 8.7 million for adults. 

Though adults and children can both have ADHD, some experts posit that it is most often diagnosed before adulthood because children have frequent contact with people like parents, teachers, and mentors who may be more adept at recognizing the disorder. 

That said, ADHD can be challenging to diagnose at any age. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorders, depression, and substance use disorders share many of the same symptoms. Some types of learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, and sleep disorders may be misdiagnosed as ADHD, too. 

While ADHD can have severely negative impacts on an individual's ability to function in daily life from childhood to adulthood, — there are many effective treatment options available to help people of all ages manage the disorder and move forward productively. In this post, we'll explore some of those options. We'll also outline potential causes and symptoms of ADHD to help you better identify and understand this challenging condition. 

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Getty/Luis Alvarez
ADHD symptoms can be challenging to live with

Causes of ADHD

Causes of ADHD are typically linked to an individual's physiology, with factors like genetics, brain development, and neurological functioning being the most commonly cited. Risk factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD include: 

  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Prolonged Exposure To Toxins
  • Nutritional Deficiencies In Childhood
  • Conditions In Utero
  • Chronic Stress, Poverty, Trauma
  • Brain Infection

Symptoms of ADHD

While symptoms of ADHD typically manifest differently between people, there are some core symptoms. These include, but aren't limited to:

  • Trouble with focus and concentration.
  • Frequent distraction or difficulty organizing tasks.
  • Disruptions in memory and forgetfulness.
  • Excessive, frantic, or uncontrollable talking.
  • Frequently interrupting others during conversation or when they're engaged in something else.
  • Difficulty coping with everyday stressors. 

Common ADHD treatments

It's important to note that treatments for ADHD may vary depending on the individual's age, physical health, and lifestyle needs. A qualified mental health professional can assess the specific challenges an individual is facing and tailor the therapeutic approach accordingly. Additionally, collaboration with other healthcare providers, such as physicians prescribing medication for ADHD, may be part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Below are a few of the most common ways healthcare professionals approach ADHD treatment. 

ADHD medications

Medications, particularly stimulants, are often the front-line treatment for ADHD symptoms in both adults and children over six years. They work by increasing levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. SBecause some people can't tolerate the side effects of stimulants; for these people, there are non-stimulant types of ADHD medications available. Though they aren't technically approved to treat ADHD, doctors might prescribe antidepressants to help manage symptoms and comorbid conditions like anxiety and depression. 

Behavior therapy

Behavior therapy is often a helpful approach to managing symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. It focuses on changing specific behaviors associated with ADHD through reinforcement, rewards, and other behavioral techniques. 


Here are some common behavior therapy strategies for ADHD:

  • Behavioral modification techniques (BMT)— Utilizing a reward system and establishing clear rules and consequences regarding specific behaviors can help children with ADHD connect their actions with outcomes. 
  • Behavioral parent training (BPT)— Parent/child interaction therapy is essential for teaching parents specific skills to manage their child's behavior. This may include learning how to set clear expectations, use rewards for positive behaviors effectively, and effective discipline strategies.
  • Classroom behavioral intervention plan (BIP)— For children with ADHD in school, a BIP can be developed to address specific behaviors. It includes strategies such as providing regular feedback, breaking tasks into smaller steps, and using a reward system to reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Social skills training— Although more research is required to determine its level of efficacy, many professionals use social skills training as a common supplement to other types of behavioral therapy. Teaching specific social skills through role-playing, modeling appropriate behaviors, and providing constructive feedback may help children manage challenges associated with social interactions. 
  • Self-monitoring and goal setting— Setting realistic and achievable goals is essential to ADHD treatment. Behavioral therapy may include "homework" assignments for patients to monitor their own behaviors and set achievable goals. This can promote awareness, cultivate confidence, and encourage self-regulation. 
  • Time management and organizational skills training— Behavioral therapy can assist individuals with ADHD in developing effective time management and organizational skills crucial for sustained attention and planning. 
  • Problem-solving skills training— Behavioral focus as an ADHD treatment can help individuals identify and solve problems systematically. This can be applied to challenges commonly faced by those with ADHD, such as difficulties with impulse control or managing distractions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Although it's typically used in conjunction with medication or other types of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a beneficial approach for individuals with ADHD. CBT is rooted in the idea that our conscious and unconscious thoughts influence our feelings and behavior. During the therapeutic process, clients work with their therapist to recognize and challenge the negative or irrational thought patterns that contribute to emotional distress. Eventually, this process can help individuals better understand their emotions, modify problematic behaviors, and develop healthier coping skills.  

Support groups

Support groups allow people with ADHD to connect and share their experiences. It can be beneficial for individuals with ADHD to learn others' perspectives and stories to understand they're not alone in coping with the disorder. Groups can also be helpful for family members or others caring for an individual with ADHD as a source of emotional support and a resource for tips and coping strategies.  

Healthy lifestyle strategies for living with ADHD

There are lifestyle adjustments that one can make to cope effectively with coping with ADHD when used in conjunction with therapy and, in some cases, medication. People often experience the disorder in their own unique ways, so finding the best strategies may involve trial and error. However, the following suggestions can apply to both adults and children with support from caregivers. 

Here are some everyday strategies for people living with ADHD:

  • Creating a structured routine can help manage ADHD symptoms. Establishing consistent wake-up times, meal schedules, and bedtime can provide predictability, reduce impulsivity, and improve time management.
  • Creating a clutter-free environment can help minimize distractions. Keep your work and living spaces organized and clutter-free. This can help improve focus and reduce sensory overload.
  • Reminders and timers can help you stay on track with tasks and appointments. Set alarms to remind you of significant activities and appointments. This can help manage time and reduce the likelihood of forgetting important events.
  • Identifying and prioritizing tasks based on their importance can help you stay organized. Focus on completing high-priority tasks first and break down larger projects into smaller, more achievable goals. This can make it easier to focus on one aspect at a time and reduce feelings of overwhelm.
  • Breaking larger tasks into smaller steps can make them more manageable. Divide a task into smaller, more achievable steps. This can help you focus on one aspect at a time and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Using organizational tools like planners, calendars, or task management apps can help you keep track of assignments, deadlines, and appointments. Color coding and labeling can enhance organization
  • Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help improve attention and reduce stress. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can be beneficial for managing hyperactivity.
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ADHD symptoms can be challenging to live with

  • Regular exercise can help manage ADHD symptoms by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Even daily walks can be beneficial.
  • Lack of sleep and ADHD symptoms are often closely linked, so prioritize getting enough quality sleep each night. To ensure adequate rest and manage ADHD symptoms, maintain a consistent sleep schedule.  


A multimodal approach is often recommended for ADHD treatment, combining behavior therapy with other interventions such as medication, educational support, and lifestyle adjustments. Strategies should be tailored to the individual's needs and preferences. This is why it's essential to collaborate closely with mental healthcare professionals to explore various treatment options. 

Despite the importance of therapeutic intervention, ADHD treatment may come with barriers for some. For example, stigmas surrounding ADHD and mental health issues might deter some people from seeking help. Others may not have access to treatment or have scheduling difficulties. Still, others might feel they can't afford therapy or that it won't work for them.

In some cases, virtual therapy can provide a solution to some of these treatment obstacles. Online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp offers access to licensed therapists experienced in helping individuals manage ADHD from the comfort of home. With online therapy, you can speak to a therapist at your convenience via video chat, online messaging, phone, and text. 

Virtual therapy is often as affordable as traditional treatment without insurance, and a large body of research indicates it's just as effective for treating disorders like ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. 

With the proper treatment, it is possible to manage ADHD symptoms and live a more balanced, productive life. If you're ready to explore treatment options, BetterHelp can help you start the journey to recovery and better mental health.

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