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In the medical world, ADHD and stimulants go hand-in-hand. But with some patients experiencing a range of unpleasant side effects from these medications, many wonder if there are ADHD alternative treatment options that actually work.
So are there ADHD alternative treatment options? Yes, but do they work? That remains to be seen.
The Current State Of ADHD Treatment
Before looking at potential ADHD alternative treatment options, let's cover the most popular medications available today. In ADHD treatment, the main goal is generally to reduce hyperactivity and improve focus.
Most of these medications include stimulants like amphetamine and methylphenidate, but some also use non-stimulants like atomoxetine or kapvay. In most patients, stimulant-based drugs work faster and more effectively, but can also wear off faster and trigger more negative side effects.
For most ADHD patients, whether young or old, treating ADHD means taking a daily (or almost daily) pill. Some patients do choose to take days off from their medication, such as weekend where they don't need to be as productive. But others find this practice counter-productive.
Treating ADHD With Alternative Therapies
After diagnosis, many ADHD patients and their loved ones search for alternatives to traditional medication. This desire for an ADHD alternative treatment might come from the presence of nasty side effects or not wanting to rely on a daily pill to function.
Regardless of the reason, countless different alternative treatments and therapies exist for ADHD. But few, if any, of these alternatives have clinical evidence to back them up.
Diet And Supplements
In the world of natural and alternative medicines, diet is one of the most popular things to blame for both physical and mental cases. In many cases, dietary allergies, sensitivities, or deficiencies actually are to blame for these symptoms. But is this true for ADHD?
Maybe. On the one hand, there's no evidence that eliminating sugar, preservatives, or other substances from your diet will help treat ADHD.
On the other hand, some patients, especially younger children, display ADHD symptoms as a result of an undiagnosed food allergy or sensitivity. For these individuals, eliminating the offending food can alleviate ADHD-like symptoms. However, we could argue that these patients don't actually have ADHD.
Hypnotherapy, or hypnosis, is a popular alternative treatment for a range of mental disorders. However, there's no clinical evidence that hypnotherapy works for many of these conditions (including ADHD).
If you suffer from anxiety or insomnia because of your ADHD, though, hypnotherapy could provide some relief for these symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Of all the non--chemical treatments for ADHD, cognitive behavioral therapy is the most promising. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of verbal therapy that works to develop new mental habits and ways of coping with symptoms. While CBT won't cure ADHD, it can help train the patient to better manage and live with symptoms.
CBT is pretty much present in all forms of one-on-one psychotherapy. But if you'd like to see results from this ADHD alternative treatment method, your best bet is to work with a therapist that specializes in CBT and ADHD.
As far as ADHD alternative treatment options are concerned, CBT is the most likely to be prescribed by a licensed doctor. In fact, many patients use a combination of prescription drugs and CBT to control their ADHD symptoms.
One of the newest ADHD alternative treatment options to gain traction in the medical world is biofeedback therapy. But while there is promise, clinical studies are largely inconclusive at this point.
Biofeedback therapy involves monitoring your bodily functions so that you can acknowledge and eventually control your body's response to stimuli. This might seem confusing, but you've probably practiced biofeedback without even realizing it. For instance, slowly breathing to lower your heart rate when anxious is a simplified version of biofeedback therapy.
In clinical settings, though, biofeedback can become much more involved. Patients might be asked to watch real-time scans of their brain activity and learn to control it as a form of biofeedback therapy. This therapy is still in the experimental stage, but we wouldn't be surprised if it gains popularity in the coming years.
Deciding If An ADHD Alternative Treatment Is Right For You
As with any medical condition, you should be careful when changing your current treatment methods. Failure to use caution when changing up your treatment regimen could mean an unexpected increase in symptoms or unwanted side effects.
For the best results when trying out different ADHD alternative treatment options, we recommend adhering to the advice below:
Consult With Your Doctor
Before making any changes to your ADHD medication regimen or introducing a new therapy to your routine, get in touch with your overseeing doctor. Not only will they be able to advise for or against certain alternative therapies, but they'll also be able to monitor your symptoms as you experiment with different options.
If you find that your doctor is resistant to trying out alternative therapies, you have two choices: heed their advice or find a new doctor. Depending on your existing relationship with your doctor, either choice is valid.
Consider Your Lifestyle
Going off of your current medication can hurt your productivity and focus at school, work, or home. So if you're about to tackle a huge college project or accept a major promotion, you might want to hold off on trying an alternative ADHD treatment.
Some ADHD patients might feel ashamed that they need to rely on their daily medication to function properly. It's important to be realistic with yourself and remind yourself that your ADHD is not a weakness. Instead, think of taking a pill for your ADHD as just like using an inhaler for asthma or taking aspirin for a headache.
Prepare For Trial-And-Error
When it comes to treating disorders of the mind, no matter how mild or severe, the first medication or therapy rarely works perfectly. The same is true for testing out ADHD alternative treatment options.
You should expect and prepare for your chosen alternative treatment to not work right away. Or perhaps not work at all. There's also always a possibility that you could try out every ADHD alternative treatment available and decide that prescription meds are your best option.
ADHD Treatment Q&A
Here are some other common questions related to ADHD alternative treatment options:
How Does ADHD Medication Work?
Stimulant ADHD medications like Adderall rely on compounds that mimic neurochemicals in the human brain. While surprisingly little is known about the way these chemicals affect our brains, we do know that the stimulants in Adderall mimic dopamine and norepinephrine.
In medically normal brains (if there is such a thing), adding chemicals that mimic dopamine and norepinephrine would result in excess energy, obsessive thoughts, and other side effects.
But in brains that might be deficient in these neurochemicals, like those of ADHD patients, the addition of these chemicals can actually improve brain function.
In practice, non-stimulant ADHD medications work much like stimulant ones, but you won't notice changes for several days after your first dose. Under the surface, though, non-stimulant drugs mimic different neurochemicals than their stimulating counterparts. In short, your individual neurochemistry will determine which medication is right for you.
Is Traditional ADHD Medication Safe?
Of course, Adderall and other drugs aren't just used by ADHD patients. They're also used recreationally by students, professionals, and other people who want a mental boost. Unfortunately, many of these recreational users become addicted to these drugs.
If you take your ADHD medication as prescribed, there is very little risk of addiction. Your doctor will also ensure the dosage is appropriate for your needs and help limit your chances of becoming addicted to your prescription drugs.
There are some health risks to taking traditional ADHD medication, though. But these risks are few and often far outweighed by the side effects of untreated ADHD. The most serious side effect associated with ADHD medication is cardiac arrest. However, your doctor will check for any existing heart issues before prescribing Adderall or a similar drug.
What Type Of Doctor Should You See For ADHD Diagnosis Or Treatment?
ADHD, especially in children, can be a tricky diagnosis. And the diagnosis can be even more confusing if you don't know what type of doctor to consult. Fortunately, you have several options.
While ADHD is largely a mental disorder, it also manifests physically. ADD and ADHD are common enough that most general physicians are familiar with the condition. But for the most thorough diagnosis, you might want to request a referral to a psychiatrist.
You can also visit a psychologist for an official diagnosis. However, psychologists (unlike psychiatrists) are not able to prescribe medication. Keep in mind, though, that psychiatrists are often much more expensive than your family doctor or a psychologist.
Discover The Best Way To Manage ADHD Symptoms Today
Whether you've just received your ADHD diagnosis or have lived with it through most of your life, navigating medical and alternative treatments can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you're not alone.
ADD and ADHD are extremely common among patients of all ages and demographics. And there is a thriving online community offering a wealth of knowledge on traditional and alternative treatments. If you're ever unsure about a potential ADHD alternative treatment, we recommend reaching out to a local support group or your online community of choice.
Of course, your physician should be your main source of information when it comes to treating your ADHD symptoms. But there's no harm in reaching out to other patients for a little camaraderie and personal advice.
Have you tried any of the ADHD alternative treatment methods discussed above? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!