Treatment for ADHD can be varied. There are behavior modification programs, counseling/therapy and medication. In addition, if you have co-existing conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder, you may have treatment plans for them as well. How then, can you determine if a treatment is working for you?
Before beginning any type of treatment, you should create an overall treatment plan with your medical professional. Because ADD/ADHD symptoms appear differently in each person, this plan should be individualized to target the symptoms that are causing you the most problems in your life. Treatment plans often have a combination of medication, behavioral strategies and for some, counseling or coaching is helpful.
Medication also reacts differently, and what works well for one person may not be effective for another. Many times finding the correct dosage and medication is a matter of trial and error. Physicians will often begin with low doses of medication and increase only if needed.
The existence of co-morbid conditions is also a factor when creating a treatment plan. Generally, disorders such as depression or bipolar are treated first. Once you have learned to manage these conditions, the ADD/ADHD is treated. Some doctors prefer to treat all conditions simultaneously, feeling that you will not be able to function optimally unless all disorders are treated at one time. However, a good rule would be that you should begin treatment on the condition that is causing the most disruption to your life. You will need to discuss this with your doctor when beginning any type of treatment.
If you do choose to take medication, carefully read the insert that comes with your prescription. Learn about the possible side effects. You should know which side effects are common, which should disappear after a few days or weeks and which side effects require you to contact your doctor immediately. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions with other medications (including over the counter medications) or food that you should be aware of. For example, citrus fruits can slow down the absorption of some medications and should not be eaten (or drank) within one hour before or after taking the medication. To get the best results from your medication, be sure to follow the instructions for your specific medication.
Before talking with your doctor about a treatment plan, make a list of symptoms that you want to see improved with treatment. An example would be:
- Being able to focus for longer periods of time
- Being able to sit still when needed
- Being able to accomplish things during the day
- Improving frustration level
- Getting along with co-workers, friends and family
- Improving handwriting
- Being able to get a good night's sleep
- Being able to get up in the morning
- Being able to get to work (school) on time
Creating this list and discussing it with your physician will help you to focus on what type of treatment plan will work best for you. Once you have completed this list, you will have a goal in mind for treatment. You can even rate these items as "Important" or "Not so important" to get a sense of what areas you want to work on first.
As you begin your treatment plan, keep your list handy. Each week, rate each item on a scale of 1-10 (ten being the best). You will be able to see quickly which areas have improved and which areas still need to be worked on. Bring your weekly checklists with you to your next doctor's appointment. This will help you and your doctor determine if the current treatment plan is working, or if you need to make some changes.
This method will work best if you begin with one specific treatment. By keeping track you can determine how well it is working before adding additional treatments or increasing the dosage of your medication.
Remember, when beginning any type of behavioral strategies program, choose one or two behaviors to work on at first. You will overwhelm yourself if you make a list of all your shortcomings and decide you are going to change them all at once. Once you have improved in those areas, you can add additional behaviors and work on improving those. Patience and consistency are important in beginning any type of treatment plan.