Treating Adult ADHD
How Long Should I Take the Medication?
That depends on your particular case.
"With kids, we recommend they stay on it throughout the school year. It helps them learn better. That's true for college students, too. Post-college, it's going to depend on the situation, the stressors, how they're handling them. Will you always stay on medication? It's an individual decision," says Angela Tzelepis, PhD, a psychiatry professor at Wayne State University who also runs a clinic in Grosse Pointe, MI.
"Our focus is now on assisting patients in maintaining these improvements and continuing to make meaningful, positive changes in their lives," Adler says.
When It's Not Just ADHD
Most adults with ADHD don't just have ADHD; 75% to 80% also have disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse, according to a study published in BMC Medicine.
Depression and anxiety are often what brings an adult with ADHD into a therapist's office, Tzelepis says.
"Honestly, most adults who are going to seek treatment aren't going to seek treatment for just ADHD," Tzelepis says. "My approach, and this is supported in the literature, is this is a neurobiological problem. The best treatment is going to involve a combination of medication and the therapy, or other nonpharmacologic interventions.''
For some people, the baggage that comes with ADHD is part of the problem.
"Some of the emotional issues you see have to do with not feeling good about themselves, feeling that they aren't capable and competent, because things they do take more effort and they internalize that," Tzelepis says. "The kind of feedback they get from others -- that they're lazy or if they worked harder they'd do better -- they constantly get the message they aren't good enough.''
Should I Try Psychotherapy?
Yes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or talk therapy, seems especially helpful for adults with ADHD, mainly to help develop organizational skills. And if you have other mental health issues, you should think about trying talk therapy.
If ADHD seems to be the patient's primary disorder, Tzelepis says she'll help a patient focus on "executive functions" including time management and planning.