Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 11, 2019

Lack of Exercise

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If your memory is hazy, your ADHD may be to blame. And if you don't exercise much, you aren’t doing your brain any favors. However, physical activity can improve your memory. It can also help you make decisions, learn, and pay attention. Time to dust off those sneakers!

Eating Out Often

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Making dinner may not be rocket science, but it takes a lot of mental effort if you have ADHD. You have to plan, prep, and follow steps. Sure, it’s easier to go out, but you should do so rarely. Healthy food can help you manage ADHD, but it’s hard to get on the go. Restaurant food is packed with calories, sugar, salt, and fat. You won’t get enough fruits and vegetables, either.

Too Much Junk Food

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So far, science can’t answer the question of what, if any, foods make ADHD worse. But research suggests that added things, like food coloring, can make some children’s symptoms worse. You’ll find this stuff in junk foods like soda and candy. Scientists don’t know if it affects adults too, but it can’t hurt to nix junk food. Try it, and see if your symptoms get better.

Skipping Breakfast

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If you blow off that morning meal, your symptoms could get worse. Breakfast can make it easier to handle social situations. It can also help you think and keep you focused longer early in the day. Even if your meds zap your appetite, try to eat a little something. A hard-boiled egg or carton of yogurt will do the trick. 


Messy Homes and Offices

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Some people say clutter is a sign of genius. Research suggests it may signal creativity. But a messy nest could make some symptoms worse. Those piles of papers, books, or laundry remind you of all the stuff you need to do. Sometimes it can be too much. On the flipside, clearing the clutter can make you more productive and ease your worries. 

Too Much Stuff

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Shopping can be fun, but a nonstop habit can lead to hoarding. If you have ADHD, you may find it easy to get too much stuff and hard to let it go. The good news: There’s a way to stay calm and shop on. Follow the “one in, one out” rule. If you bring in a new item into your house, you have to donate an old one.

The Wrong Meds

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When your doctor diagnosed you with ADHD, were you honest about your life and symptoms? If not, you may be on the wrong treatment -- and you could be worse off. Why?

  • ADHD meds don’t always work well if you have substance abuse problems. 
  • Drugs for major depression can make ADHD worse. 
  • Some ADHD medications can make anxiety worse. 

Lack of Sleep

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Sleep problems and ADHD often go hand in hand. For some, the cause is a stimulant medication. For others, anxiety, depression, and other conditions that come along with ADHD are to blame. Lack of sleep doesn’t just make you tired. It can also worsen symptoms like lack of focus and problems with motor skills. Your doctor can help. Let them know what’s going on.

Quitting Therapy

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If you’re doing well with therapy plus medication, stick with them. You might be tempted to quit therapy once you feel your ADHD is under control. After all, taking a pill is so much easier and therapy costs money. But research shows it really helps ADHD -- especially when paired with meds. Skipping it could make your symptoms worse. 

Too Much Screen Time

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Could your gadgets make your symptoms worse? Maybe. Doctors have found links between ADHD and excess screen time. Internet addiction can also lead to more severe ADHD symptoms. However, we don’t yet know which problem fuels the other. What we do know: Screen time before bed can disrupt your sleep -- and that will make ADHD symptoms worse. 

Not Enough Caffeine

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If you have ADHD, your coffee or tea habit may make your symptoms better. So it stands to reason that kicking the habit could make you feel worse. The caffeine in tea could make you more alert, help you focus, and help your brain work better. It can also give your working memory a boost. If your doc says it’s OK to have caffeine, enjoy it! 

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