Treatment for ADD/ADHD

Two main types of medications are used to treat ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants. 

Medications used to treat ADHAD

Central nervous system stimulants are the most commonly prescribed ADHD medications. These drugs increase the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate, Daytrana, Concerta) and amphetamines such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, or Vyvanse or dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn) or dextromethylphenidate (Focalin).

Non-stimulant medications also increase norepinephrine levels in the brain.  This includes atomexetine (Strattera). Although Strattera is generally less effective than stimulants, it is also less addictive.

Antidepressants such as notriptyline (Pamelor) aren't officially approved by the FDA for  ADHD, but can be an effective treatment of ADHD in adults. Antidepressants are especially useful when ADHD is complicated by other disorders. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) increases brain dopamine. Guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv) and clonodine (Catapres) help regulate the ability to pay attention. They can also be useful for patients with anxiety or involuntary tics. Clonodine is also used to treat Tourette's Syndrome.

Using talk therapy to treat ADHD

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help clients with ADHD become better organized. Therapy will enable clients to develop time management skills, ways to restrain impulsivity, and strategies for building improved social interactions. Therapy for children with ADHD can help them learn to wait their turn, ask for help, share toys, avoid becoming frustrated, and complete tasks. Talk therapy can help both adults and children learn to manage stress and triggers, such as being in a crowd. consuming caffeine or sugar, or being exposed to too much stimuli. By recognizing and dealing with their triggers, clients with ADHD can begin to manage their condition.

Causes of ADHD

ADHD affects about 5% of children in the U.S. Despite how common ADHD is,  we still do not know what causes it. Research ties  ADHD to a reduction in the brain chemical dopamine. This chemical helps signals move from one nerve to another and plays a role in emotional responses. Other research has shown structural brain differences in  children and adults with ADHD. There is a strong genetic component, because ADHD is likely to run in families. Also, there may be a connection between ADHD and exposure to organophosphate pesticides. Exposure to alcohol and drugs while in the womb has also been linked to ADHD. 

Types of ADD/ADHD

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are three basic types of ADHD.

Inattentive ADHD

This form of ADHD is characterized by distraction, trouble focusing on a task, difficulty organizing thoughts, and losing items. Children with inattentive ADHD may seem to be daydreaming and may have trouble learning. It is more common in girls than boys. Inattentive ADHD was once known as ADD, but ADD has become an outdated term.

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD

The predominant symptoms of this form of ADHD are restlessness, difficulty sitting still, constant talking, impatience, and trouble engaging in quiet time. Children with this form of ADHD are disruptive in the classroom. It affects boys more than girls.

Combination ADHD

People with combination-type ADHD have symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsiveness. This is the most common form of ADHD.

Diagnosing ADHD in children

ADHD usually appears before the age of 7, which is the average age of diagnosis. It is a pervasive condition, disrupting life at home and a school. To qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, at least six of the nine major symptoms must be present. A qualified psychiatrist or psychologist must diagnose ADHD because it shares symptoms with other disorders.

Diagnosing ADHD in adults

ADHD can and does change over time. An adult diagnosed with one form of ADHD as a child may exhibit a different form as an adult. Approximately 40% of children diagnosed with ADHD outgrow it by their mid-20s and no longer display symptoms. But ADHD can remain a lifelong problem for some people, which is why qualified medical diagnosis is important.

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