Have you felt moody, exhausted or anxious without knowing why? Perhaps it could be due to a condition like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s not only for kids. In fact, the number of women treated for ADHD has skyrocketed more than 250% in the past decade.
- Distractibility: Your mind feels like it is being constantly pulled into many different directions, which makes it very difficult to concentrate.
- Impulsiveness/Restlessness: Feeling unpredictable and lacking inhibition compared to others.
Most adult women aren’t hyperactive like children who have ADHD. Instead they tend to be exhausted with all the worrying or anxiety. In fact, it’s very hard to accurately diagnose ADHD. Could you blame your anxiety and exhaustion on ADHD? Or could there be other reasons for your strife?
Adults with ADHD aren’t just older versions of ADHD-affected children; however, most of what we know about effective medications for ADHD come from studies of children. However, more and more physicians are using the same medications to treat ADHD in adults. The use of ADHD medications has increased by 90% from 2002 to 2005 alone! Some of those drugs include:
- Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall): These drugs increase levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, like norepinephrine and dopamine, which increases your focus and drive. However, because these drugs work to increase focus and drive in people without ADHD, you can’t use stimulants to confirm that you have it. Though they show great promise in kids with ADHD, studies have shown that they are sadly less effective in adults. They also come with a slew of side effects, including raised blood pressure and sleep disturbances.
- Antidepressants (Wellbutrin, Desipramine): These drugs also work to increase levels of activating neurotransmitters as well. While they work for depression, they have also been shown to help with the symptoms of ADHD as well.
- Atomoxetine (Strattera): Like the stimulants, it raises levels of norepinephrine; however, it’s a different class of drug than the steroids.
Though many physicians consider medications to be the mainstay of ADHD treatment (it works for 80-90% of people who try it), I would recommend talking about these issues with a licensed psychiatrist first. He or she can help you process your symptoms and figure out the best ways to push forward.
Because all medications have side effects, I would recommend against jumping into a prescription. Getting better requires work. With ADHD, getting better will require therapy and lifestyle changes. You have to want to change.
My guests on the show, Dr. Ned Hallowell and Dr. Sue Varma, shared a three-step plan to help all of us concentrate better.
- Step 1: Daily Digital Time Out – Because people with ADHD are constantly distracted by constant incoming e-mails, instant messages or text messages, turn off your phone and e-mail for large chunks of time during the day, so you can work without distraction. Try giving yourself two digital timeouts daily, one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.
- Step 2: Rethink Your Diet – If you do not eat properly, you can become more distracted, impulsive, and restless. Try eating protein for breakfast, which can provide you with hours-worth of brain food. Also, I recommend eating lots of vitamin C-rich foods, which help to regulate brain chemicals that are vital to brain function. You can find them in many fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers and kale. I also recommend taking a 2000 mg omega-3 supplement and a Super Blue Green Algae supplement, which helps with cognition and memory. Both can be found at your local health food stores.
- Step 3: Belly Breathing – This is a practice of mindfulness meditation, which is regularly practiced in my office. Put the “Do not disturb” sign up and sit down in a comfortable place. Spend 5 minutes focusing on the sensation of breathing in and out. You may notice that you’re thinking of something else, but try to refocus your attention on your breath. Do this at least two times daily. It can your stress and anxiety.