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adhd medication

How to Help ADHD Without Medications

adhd all blogs Aug 03, 2022

If you’re an active listener to my “Living Beyond ADHD” podcast, you’ve often heard me say: “There are no skills in pills!” And while that statement is true, I don’t want to imply in any way that I’m for or against ADHD medications. These medications are intended for helping to treat the three core symptoms of ADHD: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. 

With medication, your brain may function better. You may find you can concentrate better and regulate your impulses more easily. Those are what I call ‘wins’ for sure! But maybe you’re still suffering to gain control of your life at home, at work, and in your relationships. And maybe you’re having medication side effects, like insomnia, or your depression, anxiety and overwhelm are on overdrive.  What can be done about those things?

So therein lies the problem with relying solely on medication: your daily struggles do not necessarily stem directly from the three core ADHD symptoms. Your struggles are often a result of something else, and perhaps you’re expecting your ADHD medication to solve your challenges, or to even cure you.  It’s not that simple. 

 

Here’s a quick update on the current state of ADHD diagnoses and treatment: 

ADHD diagnoses among U.S. adults are growing four times faster than are ADHD diagnoses among children (26.4% increase among children compared to 123.3% among adults.) 

Also, according to some sources fewer than 20% of adults with ADHD are currently diagnosed and/or treated. 

 

Regardless of whether or not you have been diagnosed and are being treated, here’s what you need to know about treatment:

Doctors are reporting that more effective and safer treatments need to be developed to alleviate the burden for adults with ADHD!

 

A chart review study, released by BMC Psychiatry in June 2022, shows that adults with an ADHD diagnosis spend a lot of time evaluating and changing their treatments. Their top reasons for changing treatment plans are lack of efficacy and ADHD/treatment-related complications. 

The data, collected on 320 United States adult patients by 152 physicians (40% psychiatrists, 25% pediatricians, 21.7% primary care practitioners, and 13.2% internists), showed one in five of the participating doctors (19.8%) were very dissatisfied, moderately dissatisfied, or neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with current treatment options for ADHD in adults. 

The study reviewed a five-year period of treatment of nearly 55% newly diagnosed patients seeking to discover the reasons why patients sought changes in their treatment for ADHD. 

The variety of treatment regimens included stimulants (79.1%), nonstimulants (14.7%), and combination therapy (5.6%) for an average duration of almost two years. 

Among patients with treatment discontinuation, the most common reason was linked to “suboptimal symptom management (55.9%), occurrence of ADHD/treatment-related complications (25.4%), and patient attitude/dislike of medication (25.4%).

And over 40% of patients had greater than one documented ADHD/treatment-related complication, irrespective of whether they led to a treatment change…”

The collective conclusion of the study was this: 

“Our findings highlight the importance of developing more effective and safer treatments to alleviate the individual and societal burden of adult ADHD.”

 

How to deal with ADHD without medication?

Whether you choose medication or not, the first thing I suggest is to take a survey of your life–to study yourself as you are right now at this moment. 

If you’re currently taking medication, recognize what’s working or not working based on the three core symptoms of ADHD. It’s time to figure out what’s associated with your ADHD and what’s not.

 

Ask yourself the following questions according to each of the core symptoms:

 

Attentiveness: 

  1. In what ways am I inattentive in my daily life? How does it manifest? 
  2. Am I able to focus on the tasks in front of me?
  3. Am I able to give my attention to someone when they’re talking to me, or am I thinking of how I want to respond, or of something else entirely?

 

Hyperactivity:

  1. Am I able to sit still or resist the urge to constantly fidget when I need to be still?
  2. Is my mind quiet or are my thoughts always racing?

 

Impulsivity:

  1. Am I able to slow myself down to think before I act? 
  2. Do I overreact in such a way that doesn’t appropriately match the situation?

 

Next ask yourself about these things which are NOT related to the three core symptoms of ADHD:

  1. Am I able to set and keep a daily routine for myself that’s beneficial for my wellbeing?
  2. Am I able to plan, schedule, initiate and follow through on tasks and goals at home and at work?
  3. Do I have a realistic sense of time and how to manage time to accomplish what I need to on any given day?
  4. Do I have a tendency to put things off until the last minute because I don’t know how to start or get stuck in the process?

If you answered honestly to the above questions and discovered that you are not achieving these things in your life, it’s NOT ADHD related! It’s your underdeveloped Executive Function skills derailing you. . Developing your skills is one of the best ways to manage ADHD without medication. 

 

5 Medication-Free Alternatives to Manage the Coexisting Symptoms that Come with ADHD

  1. Let go of outdated identities and limiting beliefs

  2. Train your brain by developing your Executive Function skills 

  3. Adopt quality self-care practices– get outside, be creative, practice mindfulness

  4. Get enough restorative sleep–about 7-8 hours per day

  5. Eat delicious, healthy food to fuel your brain and body

 

These 5 natural strategies are such simple solutions; yet they can seem impossible to even imagine for yourself when you have ADHD, along with the variety of symptoms that accompanies it. 

My ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills Program provides the tools and strategies needed to study yourself honestly, so that you can release the beliefs and identities that aren’t helping you move forward, while training you to develop your Executive Function skills. These tools and strategies give you the skills to make time for self-care, restorative sleep, and prioritizing good nutrition.

I’ve seen these 5 medication-free solutions make such a huge difference in the lives of my students and others I’ve worked with. It’s not a quick fix that isn’t sustainable; it’s transformative work that builds upon small steps, done steadily over time within a supportive community and environment. 

The only way to deal with ADHD with or without medications is to take an honest inventory of your symptoms and get the help you need to live your best life yet. 

Managing your ADHD doesn’t have to be difficult; you just need to be consistent, with the right tools, used in the right way. That’s why I always say, “No skills in pills!” Skills are what’s missing in the treatment of ADHD. 

My ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills Program offers you a medication-free alternative for managing your ADHD. There's no judgment or shame that should ever be attached to whether or not you choose to take ADHD medication. It’s always your choice and your responsibility to discover the best treatment for yourself.