Living With ADHD: Tools For Success

Updated November 21, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurological disorder that is very common yet underrepresented in today's world. Many popular (albeit ill-informed) theories on how laypeople who do not understand ADHD think it can be "fixed." There is a common misconception that people with ADHD lack discipline or drive. Another disparaging yet commonly-held belief is that the disease as a whole is largely made up just so pharmaceutical companies can sell drugs.

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Only those who have experienced ADHD can truly understand what a struggle it can be. It is natural for most people to have occasional trouble with self-control, but in the case of ADHD, it is not a "bad habit" that can be unlearned. There is no question that ADHD has its roots in our brain chemistry, and it does cause one to have trouble with various aspects of life, especially those concerning cognitive functions.

If you think that you may have ADHD or have been diagnosed by a professional with ADHD, you can employ tools and methods to make life easier for you. These can be used to help keep things in order and perhaps help you navigate your world more effectively. Read on to learn more about some of these "ADHD tools" and determine which ones would work best for you.

Tool #1: Keeping Busy

A great way to cope with ADHD is to keep busy - but not just with anything. "Busy work," as it were, can be highly demotivating for someone with ADHD. Menial tasks such as filing papers, washing the dishes or cleaning the house when bored can be beyond irritating.

Instead, busy yourself with something that truly interests you and positively stimulates you. It is a vast and beautiful world we live in, and the potential adventures that surround us are endless. Nothing is more certain to induce a rush of rewarding dopamine than a novel and exciting experience that one finds challenging.

To identify what things would be best for you to keep busy, first, take some time for introspection. What activities do you have the most fun doing? Some people may prefer extreme sports; others enjoy playing solitary board games or reading a book. These are quite clearly on two opposite sides of the spectrum, but they can be equally effective for different people.

Next, you will want to look for things similar to what you enjoy but have something that makes the activity seem completely different. Perhaps you're someone who likes extreme sports, and you like to bicycle motocross (BMX) nearly every day - but maybe you haven't tried skydiving or parasailing. These are all activities for adrenaline junkies, but they also have their differences. By doing any of these things, you can still get the rush of adrenaline you crave, but it will come from a completely unfamiliar place, and that novelty can feel rewarding and exciting.

Of course, not everyone with ADHD likes extreme sports. If your hobby of choice is playing chess (with friends or against a computer), perhaps it would be worth looking into another game of strategy, like backgammon. Perhaps you feel a rush when you are ruminating about strategies or trying to read your opponent. There is a path for everybody - once you find yours, you are one tool closer to managing your ADHD and putting your energy towards something of genuine interest to you.

Tool #2: Medication

Medication is not for everyone - in some circles, medication for psychological disorders is somewhat taboo. Before you shut the idea down completely, though, do take the time to consider medication prescribed by your medical professional after you've been properly diagnosed as an option for managing your ADHD.

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There are non-medication strategies that you can employ to make your ADHD more tolerable. But for some, medication can be the most impactful, especially as it relates to time in school or at work.

Have you ever felt like you can't control your thoughts, or they seem to snowball into one another? Perhaps you're excited to learn a new skill, but you can't seem to focus, even though you're genuinely interested in the topic at hand? If you feel like you can't do it yourself, medication might be the answer for you despite how hard you try.

There are valid concerns about fear of dependence on medication or misuse of medications for those that may not need it. However, if you've identified that medication can be a tool for you to manage your symptoms, and you use it specifically to get better, it can be a viable option.

Be sure to take your medication the way your doctor instructs you to, and maintain an open dialogue with your health care professional while taking medication. Your doses may need to be adjusted as you start on the medication prescribed. One medication may prove to be more helpful to you than another. Be mindful of how you feel when you're on your medication, and openly communicate with your healthcare professional if you feel that what you've been prescribed is not working for you.

It's important to use ADHD medication responsibly for best results rather than for recreational purposes. Misuse of any psychiatric medication can come with unwanted results. Staying in touch with your mental healthcare provider can help you avoid misuse of ADHD medication so that it works as effectively as possible.

Tool #3: Therapy

There is no alternative to a licensed expert when it comes to treating a disorder. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed mental health professionals, including some specific types of therapists and counselors, have completed years of school and have been licensed by their state boards to be able to bring you relief. There are also ADHD coaches who can help you gain skills and learn strategies to better cope with your ADHD symptoms.

Like with medication, many people actively try to avoid therapy because of the negative connotations and stigma that society has attempted to attach to it. All through history, people have been afraid of what they do not understand. This is completely natural, but sometimes it can hold people back from getting the help they need. When you have been diagnosed with ADHD, therapy can be an essential ADHD tool.

When searching for a mental health specialist, be sure to look at their credentials, licensure, specialties, and experience. Any practicing mental health professional will be happy to tell you where they went to school and what kind of experience they have. Many PhDs and MDs have elected to specialize in certain disorders, and many do indeed specialize in ADHD.

You might find more than just a service provider in your therapist. You could find and receive treatment from someone who empathizes with you, has treated many people with the same feelings and struggles as you, and perhaps may even have struggled with ADHD themselves.

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Another common concern is that you will have to attend therapy to manage your symptoms for the rest of your life. This is an understandable objection, especially if your budget does not allow regular therapist visits or if your insurance barely covers these services or flat out refuses to cover them. While one should see their therapist regularly, it is worth attending as many sessions as possible if it means you will see progress. Perhaps you can only afford two sessions this year on your budget. That will be okay - it is certainly better than not attending at all.

Make the most of your time with your therapist, and take notes in your sessions when you can. Perhaps your counselor may give you worksheets or other tools to take along with you so that you can continue to practice what you've learned in your sessions without having to see them as often.

Some therapists are willing to work with your budget on a sliding scale or low-cost services that may be available locally in your area.

Keep in mind that there are many different types of therapy that people living with ADHD can find helpful. These include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Brain Training, Music Therapy, and others. Consider trying a few different types of therapy to see which is the most effective for you.

While the ADHD above tools can certainly be effective for some people, an experienced ADHD mental health professional is more likely to know better ones that suit you specifically. If you find the right counselor or therapist for you and do your best to follow the advice they give you, therapy can give you results that no other ADHD tool can.

In Conclusion

By reading through all this, you may be able to add three ADHD tools to your metaphorical toolbox. These may serve you well, and as you put them to the test, you're likely to see your life improve in a major way. Through your experiences, you might even discover a few unique tools of your own, and you can even share them with others and pass on your knowledge to improve others' lives.

If therapy heightens your curiosity, BetterHelp is a great place to start searching for a professional. Therapy can certainly make a difference in managing ADHD, and you might find that it helps you with other things, too. While ADHD is a lifelong condition, it is very manageable. With the right person to help you, you can make the most of your situation and reach the heights you always knew you could.

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