Creating a Treatment Plan for ADHD

Health Writer

The traditional treatment approach for ADHD consists of a combination of medication and behavior modification, however, because ADHD shows up differently in each person, your treatment plan should be tailored to target your symptoms and how those symptoms interfere in your daily life. In addition, if you have any co-existing conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder, treatments for these conditions should be taken into consideration when deciding on the best course of action for treating your ADHD symptoms. Before beginning any type of treatment, you should create an overall treatment plan with your doctor.

When deciding on medication, it is important to remember that each person reacts differently; what works well for one person might not be effective for another.  Many times finding the correct dosage and medication is a matter of trial and error. Your doctor might begin with low dose of medication and increase only if needed.

The existence of comorbid 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, if necessary.  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 is 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 foods 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 and help you determine if a treatment is working. 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 can then quickly see which areas have improved and which areas still need work. Bring your weekly checklists with you to your next doctor's appointment. This helps 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.  It is easy to overwhelm yourself if you make a list of all your shortcomings and decide you are going to change them all at once.  Instead, when you improve in one area you can add additional behaviors and work on improving those.  Patience and consistency are important in beginning any type of treatment plan.

For more information on ADHD treatment plans:

Treating ADHD: When Stimulant Medications Don't Work

Self-Advocacy When Dealing with Medical Professionals

How Do You Know if a Treatment is Working?

When Treatment Isn't Working - The Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

What is Multimodal Treatment and Why is it Important?