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This page was reviewed by Dr Samir Shah (MBBS, FRCPsych, MSc), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Priory Hospital Altrincham, in June 2022.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common behavioural disorders in children, characterised by excessive energy levels, difficulty concentrating and impulsive behaviours. It can also affect speech and actions.            

Treatment for ADHD can vary depending on what age the condition is diagnosed and how severe the symptoms are. After an initial ADHD assessment, a mental health professional will be able to discuss an individual treatment plan to manage personal symptoms.

How is ADHD Treated?

While there is currently no cure for ADHD, Priory’s nationwide network of hospitals and wellbeing centres offer specialist child, adolescent and adult outpatient services to help manage the symptoms of ADHD.

Highly experienced consultant psychiatrists and therapists can devise bespoke ADHD treatment tailored to individual diagnosis, with the aim of reducing associated symptoms of ADHD through a variety of evidence-based treatment methods.

Treatment plans for ADHD will often include medication, group therapy, family therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They can also include certain medications for other co-occurring conditions, depending on individual experiences and age. Children with ADHD may have slightly different treatment plans compared to adults.

Common Symptoms of ADHD
  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties in motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Mind wandering (inability to stop thinking, with many different thoughts going through your mind)
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Therapy for ADHD

Group Therapy for ADHD

Group therapy will involve a therapist and co-therapist working across groups of 6 to 12 people. The aim of group therapy is to provide valuable insight into the progress and coping mechanisms of others with the condition. This can help identify and allow individuals to understand their own ADHD, within an open and supportive environment. Group therapy will encourage someone to work on more positive patterns of thinking that can help to alleviate unwanted symptoms of the disorder.

Group therapy is an appropriate therapy method that can be used for both adults and children experiencing ADHD symptoms.

CBT for ADHD

Depending on age, an ADHD treatment plan may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a problem-solving talking therapy that can help manage thoughts and behaviours more effectively.

CBT can help you, in simple terms, to ‘re-programme’ your brain and change the patterns of negative thinking that are associated with the disorder, helping you to manage the symptoms of ADHD better. This type of therapy is not often used with young children, but can be used with teens and adults.

Family Therapy for ADHD

Family therapy helps the whole family unit come together to further understand ADHD and how symptoms can impact everyone’s lives. Family therapy will help explore ways in which you can support someone with ADHD as well as teach someone with ADHD about the thoughts and feelings of family members. 

For adults, family therapy may also include marriage counselling, discussing relationships and responsibilities. The therapy will aim to open lines of communication and improve ways of dealing with challenges. Sometimes, the ADHD symptoms women experience may differ to what a male might experience, so opening these lines of communication helps one another understand the condition more. 

ADHD Coaching

This is an approach to ADHD based on focusing on individual strengths and allows people to use them to overcome weaknesses. This is a highly practical approach to managing the challenges of ADHD in daily life.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing ADHD can be a difficult and lengthy process, so only mental health professionals who are experienced and trained in this area can assess and diagnose the symptoms.

To diagnose ADHD, you will have to undergo an ADHD assessment. 

Before the assessment, you and a family member, partner or close friend will usually be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your behaviours, some things you may struggle with, and how you go about daily tasks.

A mental health professional will look at your questionnaire to understand a little bit about you and then do a psychiatric assessment. These can sometimes be done in two parts before they come to a conclusive diagnosis, but it's nothing to worry about.

The assessment will focus a lot on your school years, as well as adulthood. It will look at how you function and process things, and look at how symptoms affect you day-to-day.

ADHD Medication

Depending on an individual’s symptoms, medication could be recommended to help manage ADHD symptoms.

There are mainly two types of medications used in ADHD – stimulants and non-stimulants. Both types of medications work by increasing dopamine levels in the frontal lobes of the brain.

Stimulant medications include Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, Equasym, Medikinet and others), Dexamfetamine (Dexadrin) and Lisdexamfetamine (Elvanse). Methylphenidate is available as short-acting and long-acting preparations depending on how long its effects last in the day. Most suitable medication is considered during treatment planning. Stimulant medications take effect quickly and within a few days to weeks, you would be able to assess its benefits. Stimulant medications are classed as ‘controlled medication’ due to their potential to be misused. However, these medications are generally safe to take under specialist care. Once treatment has commenced, your specialist will carefully monitor the benefits and side effects.

Atomoxetine is a non-stimulant medication and is used when stimulant medication isn’t effective or causes intolerable side effects. In some cases, Atomoxetine is the preferred choice in individuals who have ADHD and severe anxiety, tics or addiction concerns. There are a few other medications used for treating ADHD but less frequently. If necessary, your specialist can discuss this with you during treatment planning. Atomoxetine can take several weeks to show its effect on ADHD symptoms and it has to be taken daily.

When patients are started on medication, a mental health professional will prescribe the lowest possible dose and increase the dose so that you would take the lowest effective dose of medication possible. Typically, three or four follow-up appointments are required to establish a patient on medication.

What Medication is used to Treat ADHD?

When used alongside therapy based treatment, the addition of medication can help you to concentrate better, generally feel calmer, and maintain an attention span long enough to learn new skills and listen attentively.

The following licensed medication can be used in treating ADHD:

  • Methylphenidate - most commonly used for the disorder and increases activity in the part of the brain that controls attention and behaviour
  • Dexamfetamine - works in a similar way to methylphenidate and is taken as a tablet once or twice a day
  • Lisdexamfetamine - used in children over the age of 6, and can even be taken into adulthood
  • Atomoxetine – works differently to other ADHD medications in that it is known as a selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which helps concentration and controls impulses
  • Guanfacine – improves attention and reduces blood pressure, and can be used in children and teenagers

What Causes ADHD?

While the exact cause of ADHD isn’t yet fully understood, there are a number of factors that are believed to contribute to an individual developing the disorder, which include:

Genetics

Studies have indicated that family genetics may have a role to play in the development of ADHD, with patterns of the disorder sometimes found across generations. However, the complexity of the condition isn’t believed to be related to a specific genetic fault.

Brain structure

If your child has ADHD, it may be due to their brains operating differently to children without the condition, with research suggesting that it may take an average of two to three years longer for the brain to mature in children with the disorder than in children without ADHD.  

Birth and pregnancy complications

Circumstances around your child’s birth may also have an impact, with low birthweight and premature birth suggested as being factors of ADHD development, while substance abuse during pregnancy may also increase the chances of your child developing the condition. 

It's important to know that you don’t have to struggle with ADHD; expert, established treatment is available. To find out how Priory can help you to manage ADHD and return to a positive way of life, call our dedicated team today on 0800 188 4180 or make an enquiry.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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