How to control ones ADHD
October 13, 2007 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Help controlling ADHD?

I was diagnosed at about the age of 11 with ADHD and was perscribed to Adderall for a brief period. Due to my lack in diet, and anxiety increases I stopped. I have since been in a battle with my ADHD. I'm in my second semester of college now and it's really taking its toll on me. I am not as bad as I used to be (read: I can usually make myself sit down and do homework) but it takes a lot of my energy.

My question is: Are there any natural NON PRESCRIPTION drugs or techniques to help and develop my ability to focus?
posted by alexplainlater to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Try googling neurofeedback and ADD.
posted by TorontoSandy at 12:15 PM on October 13, 2007

I tried Neurofeedback and did not notice any permanent results.

I hate to tell you this, but the only thing I have ever found effective is prescription medicine. Really. The difference between me on and off medication is startling.

The good news is that, partially as a result of the recent ADHD "fad", there are a *lot* of ADHD medications on the market, many of which probably will work better than Adderall.

For example, I have always had good results with Ritalin or its varients. I've had the best results from Concerta but it's expensive if you don't have insurance. You can probably try a generic Ritalin alternative and see if it works for you.

There are also more recent non-stimulant drugs for ADHD such as Stratera.

Again, as I said I've had no success with alternative techniques but I have had friends who found Qi Gong meditation very useful. Since the focus is on training the mind and body to be more alert, this may be useful to you *if* you can actually focus on the meditation to begin with.

There are hundreds of books out there suggesting ADHD diets and techniques. In my opinion these are geared towards children who are merlely hyperactive (and indeed many of these books refuse the believe that ADHD exists as a distinct condition and instead will refer to it exclusively as hyperactivity). I do not believe they will work for adult ADHD "enjoyers".

In my experience, the medication helps you perceive the world better so that you can process it more effectively later on, with or without the medicine. I am much better now off medicine than I was 10 years ago (I'm now 30 and was diagnosed with having "something" since I was 10 or 11. I most certainly beat the ADHD curve by a few years).

Even though your question specifically asks for natural remedies, I urge you to consider prescription medicine. Believe me, it can definitely be worth it. Best of all? If you really are ADHD, you will not become addicted to it, something that is a real danger for "normals".
posted by Deathalicious at 12:35 PM on October 13, 2007

I think you have to identify exactly what is happening when you are trying to study and do homework. I do take medication for ADHD, after a long period of avoiding it and trying to manage it otherwise; but then when I tried medication, things clicked in a way they had not before and I stuck with it. You might consider that as an adult, you might react differently to medication now than you used to; also, I found that with medication I had to drastically cut sugar and caffeine to overcome anxiety. But yeah, I can understand not wanting to go that route in the first place--as long as you can still keep it in perspective that the problems coming from it have a physical cause and not simply a personal failure in willpower or motivation, thus staying out of the cycle of self-downing/self-blame and such.

My main issues with studying (and my efforts in trying to handle them):

(1) Distracting thoughts, being unable to focus on something without having my attention sucked away by anything else that would pop into my head. I like the idea in 'Getting Things Done' that you can manage this by keeping lists (basically, as soon as you have the distracting thought--once you learn to identify when it's happening as it happens--you write it down somewhere to check back on later--basically, downloading it for storage somewhere outside your brain.) I think this works for many people, but I found that I wasn't consistent about going back and reading and working with those lists, so I didn't trust their usefulness and was back to square one.

(2) Not feeling compelled to study because the threat of not doing so was not immediate. This isn't eliminated with medication for me, as it is more related to the initial push to get started on homework/studying; where the medication helps for me is that I can trust that if I can just give the first five minutes to something, it will engage me and hold my attention for much longer. I heard an ADHD lecturer describe it once that it's very hard (more so than with people typically) to get motivated to do something if the resulting gratification or punishment is not close enough to compel you to carry it out. I would figure that the best strategy is to find a way to make the immediate task important in your mind and maybe over-prioritize it a bit; this has worked for me in some cases, before and after using medication.

I spent a lot of time trying to hang a lot of it on time management issues, but this was a dead end for me personally. Not that they don't help for general organization, but to me it just added a layer of complexity that seemed more a hindrance. I've read of studies that people with ADHD do not necessarily have a false perception of time in the moment, though there is a tendency to overestimate the time available to you in the future (putting things off because you think you'll hit a period of a lot of free time).

Also, I didn't realize until after I started medication how much I used caffeine (diet soda) to settle me down to focus on things. I don't know if it is connected at all to the paradoxical response in people with ADHD to stimulant medications (that allows it to slow the mind down in order to concentrate, rather than making you feel sped up). I've read that kids on ADHD medications will have a soda (perhaps for both the sugar and the caffeine) to ease the daily transition as medication wears off. Anyway, if it's not something that would affect your sleep (I used to be able to drink caffeine right before bed and still sleep fine), you might give that a shot.
posted by troybob at 1:08 PM on October 13, 2007 [5 favorites]

...also, when it comes to school...don't be afraid to discuss it with the appropriate department (perhaps Disabled Student Services or such). They might have advice on non-medication strategies, but also it's a good idea to let them know about it before potential problems come up (a particularly bad semester, for instance), and they can help minimize the effects on your grades/ability to continue with school. Offices like that are usually aware of ADHD as a legitimate physical condition and would tend to view school-related consequences just as they would any other kind of physical restriction. Also, finding a counselor or someone in a mentor-ish or coach-ish capacity might help you out as well...someone who in your mind you are accountable to, someone who can help identify if you're starting to get behind.
posted by troybob at 1:21 PM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Step 1: figure out what kind of services your college offers that relate to this. They should have on-staff counselors/therapists who can help you work out behavioral regimes, or can recommend a local psychiatrist who would be able to talk about the pros and cons of different medicines. They should also have a department for students with learning disabilities, physical handicaps (like deafness) and anything else that affect classroom + study experience. "Student Academic Support" or "Disability Services" or something along these lines. Get yourself registered with them, they will know how to get all the help you can from the school. Seriously, just go do this. It can only help. They will know lots of strategies you can try, they will know who the service providers are in your area, etc. Lots of people at your school probably have the same problem, so hook yourself up with the people who are experienced in helping with it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:14 PM on October 13, 2007

If you haven't already read it, the book "Driven to Distraction" by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey may be helpful.
posted by winston at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2007

And after you read "Driven to Distraction" read "Answers to Distraction" by the same author(s).
posted by cooker girl at 5:10 PM on October 13, 2007

Pick up Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I sent an email to David Allen Company and one of their executives contacted me. Turns out she was a ADHD therapist for 12 years and she joined David Allen Company after a patient of hers had success with the GTD methodology when nothing else worked.
posted by slavlin at 5:21 PM on October 13, 2007

In terms of non-prescription options, rigorous exercise (not just jogging lightly, or walking) on a very regular basis is supposed to be helpful as well.
posted by sock it to me monkey at 9:18 PM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm ADHD myself and in the equivalent of my junior year at a very high pressure and accelerated program art school. This place is notorious for making people sick during and after attending.

Having said that, the best book I have ever read regarding the subject (besides Driven to Distraction) is "You Mean I'm not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?!?!". The authors themselves are ADHD and do a great job of letting you know you're not alone. They give you a pretty realistic view of what it's like that a lot of the books written by PH'D's can't.

When I'm trying to cope without medicine (Ritalin, in my case), I find that keeping a calender of some sort with my class schedule and corresponding assignments helps a great deal. I use my iCal program on my Powerbook. I have it set so that it emails me a day before each event and thus reminds me to have a look at the calender. This helps remind me what all will be due the next day. It also helps because I usually figure that since I'm having a look already I might as well refresh my memory on what else is due. This has saved my ass more times than I care to remember.

I also find that breaking down tasks in little increments helps. If I look at it as having to read 4 chapters of The Iliad (or whatever else), I am instantly turned off and will delay as much as possible. Then I end up putting it off until 3 am of the night before. Not good in the long run. So I then break it down to, say, one chapter every day. Then I don't dread it as much because I know it's just a small chunk. It's slower process than all 4 chapters in one sitting, but it gets things done nevertheless.

I could yammer on for a while, but I have homework to do myself. :-)

Email's in the profile if you'd like any more tips or just need to someone to commiserate with.
posted by arishaun at 9:47 PM on October 13, 2007

I also find prescription meds really helpful; they don't do my work for me, but they do allow me to focus well enough to do it. There are a lot of other meds out there than Adderall, and you might be able to find one that works for you. That said, here are some other suggestions.

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life is an awesome book with tons of useful suggestions. Seriously, I can't recommend it enough.

I tend to forget stuff, so I find that writing everything down and using a combination of online calenders and reminder services has helped me a lot. I've had particularly good luck with Google Calendar for events and Remember The Milk for things I have to do. I just discovered Skoach, which was designed for ADHD people by the folks who wrote the aforementioned book, but I haven't played with it yet. The key, for me, is having it send me text messages and emails to remind me to do things when I need to do them; it's harder for me to forget things when I'm being beeped at. It also helps to do things I need to do right away when I hear or think about them, because otherwise I'm likely to get distracted and they might not get done.

Taking Omega 3 oils is supposed to help a little. My doctor recommended OmegaBrite. And I used caffeine a lot when I wasn't on meds, which helped a little, although not as effectively as prescription meds do.

Also nthing disability services at school. The accommodations they can give you can help a lot. is a good place to go for support and questions. Good luck!
posted by streetdreams at 11:24 PM on October 13, 2007

One of my best friends is an adult dealing with ADD/ADHD. He uses a homeopathic product called "Cerebrum Compositum" which has aided him immensely.

It comes in tablet or liquid (drops) form; he uses the liquid version and takes about 6-8 drops in the morning and about 2-3 in the evening.

I sometimes have to remind him to take them; because I can easily tell the difference between when he has taken them that day or not. It helps him to focus much better and he also describes it as helping "to slow down the world" when it gets "too fast" for him to comprehend and cope with.

He also let a co-worker with ADD try it one day when he was practically freaking out at work one day because he could not cope with anything. By the end of the day; the co-worker was absolutely raving about how he had never had *anything* help him so dramatically.

My friend obtains his Cerebrum Compositum bottle from a local pharmacy for about $20 Cdn. here in Montreal, however it seems to also be widely available through various web suppliers.

It would probably would be worth looking into, as it should be relatively easy to obtain and you'll know within a day or two if it helps you.

I would also second the recommendation above of contacting your student advisor/disability services to see how they might also be able to assist you with coping with ADHD during your school term.

Good luck!
posted by Jade Dragon at 2:07 AM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Homeopathy is absolute junk science. Save your money and dismiss everything Jade Dragon has recommended.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:21 AM on October 16, 2007

Yeah, and if it's junk science, then it can't possibly work. Science is god, and what they say is the be all, end all to empirical results. Matter of fact, the only people that should be able to post here should be scientists.

I've had good luck with a new drink Brain Toniq. It has root and plant extracts in it that help with focus. No caffeine, all natural. I couldn't find it locally, but their site has it for sale. Works for me.
posted by swooth at 7:45 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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