4 Lifestyle Changes to Help With ADHD Symptomsby Hilary Thompson
No one likes a long meeting at work, but for most adults, enduring such a meeting is simple (although perhaps boring). For adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), however, a routine meeting can become a painful challenge. ADHD makes it difficult to concentrate, stay seated, recall information, and listen quietly — all skills that are necessary to navigate a routine meeting at work. Fortunately, some promising lifestyle changes may help alleviate the symptoms of adult ADHD.
ADHD is more common than you think
Recent research suggests that more and more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD, with estimates suggesting that more than 4 percent of adults in the United States are affected, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Many adults with ADHD may have been diagnosed as children, as ADHD symptoms can continue beyond adolescence. Others, however, may not have experienced ADHD symptoms as children. Recent studies suggest that adults may develop ADHD later in life.
So what’s behind the rapid rise in ADHD cases? Technology has become a common scapegoat, but science suggests that smartphones or the internet don’t cause ADHD, even if they can cause symptoms that mimic it. Instead, most ADHD research focuses on genetic causes (environmental factors are also being explored).
In fact, some experts believe there probably aren’t that many more cases of ADHD today — we’re just better at diagnosing it. More people know about ADHD now, meaning that patients who may have previously dismissed their symptoms now know to get help. Likewise, health care professionals have gotten better at identifying ADHD, so more people are getting a correct diagnosis and proper treatment.
The treatment status quo
At present, the most common treatments for adult ADHD are medication and behavioral therapy. Most ADHD medications are stimulants, like methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, and other brand names) and amphetamines (Adderall, Eveko, and other brand names), though there are other options available. Many people find these medications successfully alleviate ADHD symptoms, particularly when used in combination with therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for adults with ADHD often focuses on managing the everyday difficulties of dealing with ADHD. CBT can help adults with ADHD improve their time management, organization, and other essential skills. It can also help treat problems that often exist alongside ADHD, such as anxiety and depression.
Treating adult ADHD with lifestyle changes
Medication and CBT may be the current treatment standard for adults with ADHD, but there is promising research about alternative ADHD treatments and lifestyle changes. Practices such as meditation along with changes in exercise, diet, and sleep could very well be the future of ADHD treatment.
Mindful meditation, for example, has been shown to reduce symptoms of hyperactivity and inattentiveness in adults with ADHD. Participants in the study practiced mindful meditation in addition to continuing their usual treatment. More than half of the meditating group reported a significant decrease in their symptoms, and the vast majority of participants planned to continue with meditation. While more research needs to be conducted, adults with ADHD may want to consider learning to meditate.
Likewise, exercise has been proven to help mitigate symptoms of adult ADHD. Exercise has stress-relieving and focus-enhancing benefits that make it a great fit for adults looking to relieve ADHD symptoms. Experts suggest that adults with ADHD can benefit from a variety of exercises — yoga to promote calmness and focus, for example, or aerobic workouts to promote neurotransmitters.
While there isn’t much conclusive research on diet yet, some adults with ADHD find that changing their diet helps them naturally manage ADHD symptoms. A typical diet for ADHD features foods that nourish the brain, like protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Some people with ADHD also avoid certain artificial colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners.
Finally, quality sleep could prove to be another natural treatment for ADHD. Recent evidence suggests that ADHD could be a misunderstood sleep disorder. Even if that’s not the case, ADHD can cause or exacerbate other sleep problems that can, in turn, make ADHD symptoms worse. Either way, adults with ADHD may find that practicing good sleep hygiene can help them to naturally manage their symptoms.
Of course, if you have been diagnosed with or believe you could have ADHD, you should work with your health care professionals to determine the best course of treatment for your personal situation.
What to do if you think you have adult ADHD
Keep in mind that being occasionally absentminded or antsy in a long meeting is not necessarily an indication of adult ADHD. On the other hand, consistent difficulty concentrating, staying organized, managing your time, and completing tasks could be cause for concern. Try completing an ADHD self-evaluation, which will ask you to evaluate certain behaviors. Based on your self-screening, you may want to see a professional for a formal diagnosis.
Remember, adult ADHD is very much a diagnosable and treatable condition. Proper treatment can help control symptoms and make everyday living easier, and meditation and lifestyle changes are a more promising option than ever before. If you think you might have adult ADHD, don’t wait — get help today!