For a long time you wondered why you didn’t seem to fit in just right. Everyone you know seemed so much more organized and well kept – and you just felt like a wrecking ball with no direction. Then your doctor diagnosed you with Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Surprised? Relieved? Scared? These are all normal emotions (and with ADHD, you might even feel all of them!)
ADHD, like many Psychiatric disorders, is not curable, the cause is unknown, and the medications used to treat it are still some-what of a mystery. However, the treatment options can be effective, but you may need to adjust your lifestyle just a tad. The treatment that you are receiving is much different depending on who is treating you. If you see a therapist, they will focus on behavioral therapy, managing your symptoms and ways to improve your daily life without the use of medications. A Psychiatrist, however, will most likely want to treat you using the various medications that are out there and widely accepted in the medical community.
Some of the medications for Adult ADHD include: Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Dexedrine and Strattera. The latter is the only one listed that doesn’t belong to the family of drugs known as “stimulants”. The stimulant drugs are seemingly most effective for adult ADHD: they show effectiveness the very first day, they improve cognition, clear those racing thoughts, and can even motivate you to do your daily duties. Strattera, and other secondary treatments, usually take a couple of weeks to start working.
An important part of your treatment with medication is effectively communicating with your physician, so that your dosage can be altered correctly and your treatment can be ideally administered. With Psychiatric medications, there’s no “lab sheet” or “blood test” for the doctor to read off of. He or she is probably not going to be able to prescribe you the perfect dosage the first time, because it is usually different for everyone. What works for one person won’t be effective for the next.
Your doctor will want to follow up with you one to four weeks after your initial prescription, to monitor your progress and see if any changes need to be made. Here are four tips for communicating your symptoms to your doctor:
1. Be 100% honest! While rare, it is possible that medications for ADHD can cause side effects that are difficult to live with, including sexual dysfunction, insomnia, and more. Read the manufacturer’s sheet that your pharmacy gave you with your medication, and report any of the side effects listed there to your doctor promptly. Immediately stop using your medication if you have any of the listed rare but serious side effects, including: shortness of breath, chest pain, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
2. Don’t think you’re out of line. While your doctor is the doctor, and knows more than you about medicine, you’re the only one that knows how you’re feeling. If you think you have an idea of what will help your treatment, such as increasing your dosage, feel free to tell him. He or she will most likely be happy to oblige. If not, he or she will simply explain why that isn’t a good idea.
3. Describe your symptoms as much as possible. Compare them to something else; use words like “it feels like I am…” etc. It might sound crazy, but telling your doctor “it feels like elephants are sitting on me!” is actually extremely helpful!
4. Explain to him the “before and after” of your productivity. He or she will want to know if the medication is making you more productive at work: does it keep you on task? Do you get more done? Is school easier for you now, and are you still missing deadlines? What about your test scores? These are all indicators of how well your medication is working.
On the other side of ADHD treatment is therapy. That is, non-medication based treatment for your ADHD. You and your therapist will work through various exercises together, and formulate a plan of action for how you are going to get passed your pitfalls and live your day. You will find that your ADHD is not a curse, but a gift. Once you learn to manipulate your thoughts, channel your energy and focus on something, you can be extremely creative, productive, original, and intelligent all at once. Some of the great geniuses of past and present had ADHD, whether they knew it at the time or not, and you will unleash this potential once you learn to manipulate your ADHD to work for you.
Some therapists will simply ask you questions, or have you discuss things with them. Others will rely on your responses in exercises, and your behavior during certain “tests”. Some therapists even have medical equipment that can scan your head and monitor electrical activity in your brain while certain topics are brought up. All of these can be used in conjunction to learn more about yourself and how you can manipulate your ADHD.
Understanding adult ADHD can be a difficult endeavor. People with Psychiatric conditions are still scapegoats in societies’ eyes, and people judging you just makes living your daily life that much harder. There are numerous treatment options available for adult ADHD: if you know you have it or you think you have it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t seek treatment. At the very least, you can learn more about who you are, why you act the way you do, and how to get passed your racing thoughts, forgetfulness, and mind-clutter to learn to make your creativity work for you instead of vice versa. Whether you seek treatment by medication or treatment by cognitive-behavioral therapy, or both, is up to you. Don’t be intimidated by your medical providers: they are there to help you.