Hyperactivity-impulsivity is one of three types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD). It is a neurological disorder that begins before the age of 12 and continues on into adulthood, although it may change or grow less intense. There is no cure for ADHD, but there are several treatments that can be used to help manage it.
Stimulants are often used to treat ADHD and hyperactivity. When someone with a normal brain takes a stimulant, it can increase energetic feelings, make it difficult to focus on particular tasks, or make it difficult to switch concentration back and forth between tasks. For someone with ADHD, however, it is just the opposite. Their alternative brain structure means that stimulants help control hyperactivity and make focus and multitasking easier. Amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta) work because of the neurotransmitters that are increased and balanced; additionally, these medications begin working very quickly.
Stimulants are not appropriate for everyone. They can repress appetite, which can result in a failure to thrive in some children. They can also result in cardiovascular issues and other side effects. Additionally, it can take some work to find the best dose for each individual. Alternative medications include Atomoxetine, Bupropion (and similar antidepressants), Guanfacine, and Clonidine for children and adults in whom the risks of stimulants or body’s response to stimulants are unacceptable. Atomoxetine and Bupropion-like medications can take a few weeks before they begin to take effect.
Counseling and therapy can be another great method of treating ADHD, alone or in tandem with medication. This is particularly helpful because ADHD commonly appears alongside other psychiatric disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD), learning disorders, depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation resulting from difficulty interacting with peers. In fact, about 50% of children with ADHD that seek counseling have a comorbid (co-existing) condition. Likewise, using Bupropion and related medications to treat the ADHD can help manage depression.
Behavioral therapy is one of the more effective approaches for managing ADHD through psychotherapy. The goal of behaviorism, unsurprisingly, is to change behaviors. Essentially, clients of behavioral therapy are taught to learn ways of monitoring their behavior and creating a reward system for when those behaviors are controlled. It is important for parents and teachers to be aware of such systems, so that they can provide input and positive feedback. This type of therapy may also help improve social relationships, by teaching children to take turns, finish speaking, and learning to control unfiltered flows of chatter.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is another method of therapy that is great for ADHD patients, particularly those with inattentiveness issues as well; the goal is to be mindful of the thought process and work on concentration and focus. Both of these therapies can improve general behavior as well as social relationships and school or occupational abilities.
For families that have trouble making things work or understanding ADHD, family counseling can be a great means of not only learning to understand the different way someone with ADHD’s mind works, but ways to help the ADHD patient better manage their own disorder. For adults with ADHD that has never been diagnosed or gone unmanaged despite a diagnosis, this can improve relationships significantly.