ADHD is a neurodevelopmental type of psychiatric disorder. Because the brain, including areas of the brain that have been indicated as significant in ADHD, stops developing by the end of the third decade of life, ADHD in adults is a permanent disorder.
Many children diagnosed with ADHD will grow into adults with ADHD.
Treatment for ADHD is effective and valid. While medicinal therapy is effective only while it is ongoing, other forms of treatment have the potential to affect longer term change. Therapies that seek to offer effective approaches to life situations that are impacted by ADHD offer longer term positive advantages. No therapies are available that remediate Adult ADHD, it is a permanent disorder whose symptoms will persist, making treatment an ongoing necessity.
Medicinal therapy offers the greatest potential effect on the most obvious symptoms of ADHD. It is short acting and once the medication have worn off, no symptomatic benefit, or other effects are realized. This means that cessation of medicinal therapy is highly likely to leave the adult patient with no long term effects, either positive or negative.
There is some evidence that suggests that medicating people with ADHD during the three developmental decades with stimulant medication does improve development and thus reduce long term impact of the disorder. In fully developed adults older than 30, however, the advantages of medication are immediate and available only while medication is being used.
This is not to suggest that medication is not recommended. In fact, as stated above, it offers the greatest advantage of any of the therapies listed here and can be used in concert with other therapies to maximize benefits.
Not everyone is a candidate for medication. Some people experience negative side effects that outweigh the benefits and some experience no benefit from the medications.
EEG Biofeedback or Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback uses the theory that the person with ADHD might be able to train themself to focus their attention by offering feedback to remind them to pay attention. This therapy requires the measurement and interpretation of the electrical energy that the brain emits.
There is no potential for adverse effects from this therapy. Limited research has been done with studies usually being considered of low quality. The best of these studies, ones that are blinded properly, suggest that there is little or no advantage to EEG Biofeedback and that any positive results are little or no better than the placebo effect causes.
Green Therapy is the application of outdoor activity. Some studies have shown that people who get regular exposure to the outside world enjoy a reduction in ADHD symptom impact.
Brain Training Therapy
Brain Training Therapy is the idea that computer gaming may have a positive effect of the ADHD brain, however, there is little evidence to back that theory and some of the evidence that does exist suggests that there may also be negative impacts on time management skills. An inability to disengage, it has been suggested, may also negate any potential benefits that this so called therapy might have offered.
Behavioral Therapy is a therapy that, as its name implies, deals with behaviors and their modification. Sometimes the thoughts and feelings that cause those behaviors are also considered.
The benefit of Behavioral Therapy is that ADHD symptoms are often manifested in behavior. The drawback would be that the thoughts and feelings that cause these behaviors and the medium in which those thoughts and feelings occur, are not as likely to be addressed in this therapy. In other words, this therapy might be viewed as masking symptoms rather than addressing symptom causes.
For people with ADHD, this might be enough, since the greatest negative impact of ADHD symptoms on the life of a person with ADHD is usually the result of their behavior and its impact on them and their surrounding social and physical world.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a therapy that looks to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior by addressing erroneous thinking that is common in the ADHD mind. Such thinking is usually made up of magnification of negatives sometimes to the point of creating catastrophies, and minimizing positives. CBT works to replace thoughts like this with more effective and reality based thoughts in order to diminish the stress and distress that makes many ADHD behaviors more effectively self defeating.
Talk Therapy, or Psychotherapy involves, as its name implies, discussion with a mental health care professional. This discussion facilitates the exploration of thoughts, feelings, moods, and behaviors, and attempts to teach the person with ADHD methods to reduce the impact of ADHD on their lives and on their relationships with family and in other social groups. In detail, psychotherapy looks to facilitate improved problem solving and create a ability to function on a higher level and an awareness of one’s own self worth.
Group Therapy can be a formal group that is run by a mental health care professional for the purpose of psychotherapy in a group setting, or it can be an informal group of people with ADHD meeting for the purpose of supporting each other, a support group. The benefits of attending such a group are the ongoing reassurance that the attendant is not alone in their symptoms. The realization of the validation that this imparts is often an emotionally charged moment, an epiphany like awakening.
Structured group psychotherapy sessions have the advantage of being directed, and including a resource in the form of the mental health care provider to answer questions that might come up.
Unstructured groups such as casual support groups that are attended by people who have ADHD have the advantage of feeling like a “secret society.” The support of other members in these groups seems a bit more valid because they are there to be with the group, not to get professional therapy.
Either types of group therapy are valid and are not mutually exclusive. A person with ADHD might easily be a member of both types of group. There is also no reason why a mental health care provider who is also a person with ADHD might not facilitate a group whose structure might be in between these two types.
Not all therapies are created equal
By far the greatest success in therapy for ADHD is realized with medication, however, as stated earlier and elsewhere, not everyone can avail themself of medicinal therapy. Additionally, medication alone is not a recommended way to approach ADHD management. Education and support in the form of other therapies is always an advantage worth the effort and investment.
Which therapy to choose?
The great thing about these therapies is that they are not mutually exclusive. They may be combined. Try the ones that you feel might work best for you and find the combination that fits your needs.
Since ADHD does not manifest in any two people the same way, don’t simply assume a therapy regimen that works for one or two others will be the best one for you. ADHD therapy is like clothing, find the style you like, and then find the size you need. To extend the analogy further, remember that your ADHD therapy has to both work with your life style and protect you from the elements, it needs to fit your life and help you deal with your ADHD.