AHDH Treatment Plan: How Do You Find the Right Combination?
Plenty of different medications exist – stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, Focalin, Vyvanse, Dexedrine, or Daytrana, or non-stimulants like Kapvay, Intuniv, or Strattera.
Sometimes, though, just one pill doesn’t cut it – you’ll need a combination.
Perhaps you’ll need just one pill, but you’ll still probably spend a lot of time adjusting the dosage.
All in, when you consider the many different medications and their generic versions, the many different therapies and their separate emphases, you’ve got potentially hundreds of thousands of different combinations.
And maybe only a handful will work for you.
You can find it, but you’ll need a plan. We can help.
1. Find Your Plan with a Doctor
The first, and most obvious rule, is ‘see a doctor.’ What we mean, though, is ‘see a doctor a lot.’
The biggest part of your treatment plan is going to be some sort of medication. ADHD brains can be retrained into healthier habits, but no amount of training is going to make your brain alter its genetics.
Medication bridges that gap.
ADHD medication, unfortunately, isn’t like aspirin – you don’t get the same result each time. Because these medications interact differently with each person, you’re going to need a doctor.
You’re going to need to see him or her regularly, with updates about your or your child’s progress. Your doctor will adjust the medication, or recommend a different one, as you continue to visit.
The process helps, but it simply can’t be done in one visit. You have to keep going back.
Keep these in mind when seeing your doctor.
3 Rules for Doctor’s Visits
1. Always Schedule Follow-Ups, and Go to Them
You can’t find the right medication for you or your child all at once. Spend some time trying out different meds and dosages, and keep your doctor updated.
2. Take Notes, and Pay Attention to Side Effects
The more information you can give your doctor, the better. Take notes throughout the weeks between visits. Your doctor will know better whether to prescribe you a stimulant, a non-stimulant, or a combination, and how best to alter the dosage of each.
3. Never Go to the Doctor Without Taking Your Meds
The doctor is evaluating you as if you had a healthy mind – which the medicine is supposed to help with. If you forgot your meds, and you go to the doctor, it’s a waste of time for both of you.
‘Take your medicine’ is, in fact, a nice transition into our second rule:
2. Do Everything Your Doctor and Coaches Say
(Let’s expand that – find an ADHD coach, and then do everything the doctors and coaches say. Or, put another way, when people who are trying to help you tell you to do something, do it.)
The easiest way to sabotage your own treatment is to not do it.
As silly as it sounds, it’s the primary reason treatments don’t work – people get tired, or lazy, or frustrated, and they give up too soon.
Nothing’s going to work, of course, if you’re not doing it. There are, however, techniques you can use if you’re getting frustrated.
What to Do if You’re Having Trouble Following Through
Think of it this way – taking the right medicine is just as important as having the right medicine.
The same goes for therapy – doing it is as important as knowing it.
How do you convince yourself to do it when you’re distracted? How do you convince your child?
1. Talk to Coaches and Teachers Ahead of Time
Motivation, like ADHD medicine, isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Your ADHD coaches will have some good ideas, however. Turning things into a game will work for some. Building a pretend world around the task works for others.
In many cases, ADHD minds that find successful ways to motivate themselves will be more thorough about a task than any neurotypical mind would be. Put another way, once ADHD minds find the right gear, they drive faster than everyone else.
It helps, too, to know where you’re going once you hit that gear. Are you trying to finish school? Find good work-life balance? Restore a marriage? Your ADHD coach can help you identify what you want, and then help find the right gear to get there.
You won’t find that gear, however, unless you talk to people. Teachers and coaches can help.
2. Make an Alarm Clock out of a Support Group
Having trouble remembering to take your meds? Have a loved one give you a text or call.
That way, if you don’t feel like taking the medication, you’ll have to explain to that person why you didn’t.
3. Try Body Doubling
Body doubling is simple – ADHD minds have an easier time with important tasks if there’s a consistent someone with them as they work.
This doesn’t mean that someone else is also doing the work. It’s just the presence of someone else that’s needed.
For planning and executing a treatment regimen, it’s helpful to have someone with you. Does eating right help your ADHD?
Schedule consistent lunches with a friend. Does exercise help? Schedule gym visits, or morning runs, with a friend, and make sure they hold you accountable.
4. Be Patient
This one goes without saying – it’s also the hardest rule to follow.
Combining medications, therapies, and motivational strategies is going to be hard. You’ll find times when everything works perfectly, and times when nothing seems to work at all.
Take notes, bring them back to your doctors and coaches, and be ready to try again. Bring your body double if you need to. You’re going to be doing this tweaking for several months at least, so don’t get too discouraged for too long if something isn’t working.
If you’re losing patience, there are ways to keep yourself going.
Anyone can tell you, with or without ADHD, that it’s easier working on a long-term task if you find ways to reward yourself.
Consider going out to your favorite restaurant every time you complete a doctor’s visit.
Are you tired of your ADHD coach’s therapy? Give yourself an hour of video games once you’re done. If you need it, get your body double to help you get started.
5. Be Honest
This one is probably the second hardest rule to follow.
Some of the most effective medicines have the worst side effects – and some of those side effects are simply embarrassing.
You’re going to have to share them with your doctor anyway.
Suppose you’re taking Strattera, the brand-name of atomoxetine, a non-stimulant ADHD medication. In every respect, you feel great. You’re thinking clearly. And then, one day, you discover you have an erection that just won’t go away.
Embarrassing? Of course – but if you don’t tell your doctor, not only might you suffer permanent physical damage, but you wouldn’t know that you’re one of the exceptionally rare human beings for whom Strattera can cause priapism.
This medicine, in short, isn’t for you.
You’d never know if you weren’t being explicitly honest.
Some of these medications can cause feelings of suicide, in extremely rare cases. Some of these therapies will cause some initial friction with family and friends. Not telling your doctor or coach what is or isn’t working is the same as not taking your meds, or working your therapies.
Sometimes, silence is just dangerous.
Remember, no one is judging. They’re just trying to help, and they can’t if you don’t tell them what’s going on.
Remember, Be Patient
Yes, we covered this. It’s just terribly important.
It’s hard enough for an ADHD mind to keep focused on one thing, and harder still when frustration is the only reward for trying hard.
If it helps, consider writing down your hopes and dreams before you even begin addressing your ADHD. If you’re a parent, talk with your child, and ask him or her the same questions.
Things are going to be difficult for a while, and it helps to physically pull out a piece of paper and see your goals.
Remember, too, that the ultimate goal here is happiness and purpose.
Not every ADHD mind needs to prove itself by graduating from college. Some are just trying to be better spouses, parents, and friends.
Take your meds, listen to your doctors and coaches, be patient, be honest, and be patient. There’s a treatment plan that will fit you like a glove. You just have to put in the time.