Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health and neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately 10% of school-aged children and 4% of adults worldwide. It is characterised by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can significantly impact an individual’s academic and social functioning. In this article, we will explore various non-medication approaches to treat ADHD symptoms.
While medications like stimulants and non-stimulants are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms, some individuals may prefer to try alternative treatments that do not involve medication. Managing ADHD without medication helps avoid potential side effects including insomnia, appetite loss, and mood swings. Some studies have suggested that long-term use of ADHD medication may have negative effects on the developing brain.
Treating ADHD Naturally Without Medication
Exercise and Physical Activity
Regular exercise and physical activity have been shown to improve attention, memory, and other cognitive functions in individuals with ADHD. Exercise increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which are neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in regulating attention, mood, and motivation.
In a study conducted by the University of Georgia, researchers found that children with ADHD who participated in regular physical activity had improved cognitive performance and behavioural regulation. Exercise also helps to reduce stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
Mindfulness meditation involves training the mind to focus on the present moment without judgment. It has been shown to be an effective non-medication treatment for ADHD in both children and adults. Mindfulness practices can help individuals with ADHD improve their attention span, reduce impulsivity, and manage their emotions better.
In a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that mindfulness meditation reduced ADHD symptoms in adults and improved cognitive control. Additionally, another study found that a mindfulness-based program improved executive functioning and quality of life in children with ADHD.
Behavioural therapy involves changing behaviour patterns through positive reinforcement and other techniques. It can help individuals with ADHD to develop new strategies for managing their symptoms and improve their social and academic functioning.
Behavioural therapy can take different forms, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or parent training. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviour, it has been found to be an effective treatment for ADHD, as it helps individuals learn how to better manage their symptoms and develop strategies for dealing with difficult situations. CBT can also help individuals identify triggers for their symptoms and develop coping skills to better manage them. While parent training helps parents develop skills to manage their child’s ADHD symptoms effectively.
Studies have shown that behavioural therapy can be an effective non-medication treatment for ADHD. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, researchers found that behavioural therapy improved ADHD symptoms in children and improved parent-child relationships.
Dietary changes can play a significant role in managing ADHD symptoms. Foods high in sugar and artificial additives can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, while foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates can help improve focus and attention.
A study published in The Lancet found that a restricted elimination diet (RED) reduced ADHD symptoms in 64% of children with ADHD. The RED involved removing certain foods from the child’s diet and reintroducing them one by one to identify which foods trigger ADHD symptoms.
In general, it is recommended that individuals with ADHD eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoiding sugary drinks and processed foods can also help to reduce ADHD symptoms.
Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating attention and mood, and individuals with ADHD often struggle with sleep disturbances. Sleep hygiene involves adopting healthy sleep habits that promote restful and restorative sleep.
Some tips for improving sleep hygiene include establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, and creating a relaxing sleep environment. Additionally, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake can also improve sleep quality.
In a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, researchers found that improving sleep hygiene improved ADHD symptoms in children.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that involves training the brain to regulate its own activity. It uses real-time feedback to help individuals with ADHD learn to control and regulate their brainwave patterns. Neurofeedback has been shown to be an effective non-medication treatment for ADHD.
In a study conducted by the University of Helsinki, researchers found that neurofeedback improved attention and behavioural regulation in children with ADHD. Another study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that neurofeedback improved attention and reduced impulsivity in adults with ADHD.
Individuals with ADHD often struggle with organisation and time management. Implementing organisational strategies such as creating a daily schedule, using reminders and alarms, and breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps can help individuals with ADHD manage their symptoms and improve their productivity.
Additionally, creating a designated workspace and minimising distractions can help improve focus and attention. Studies have shown that using organisational strategies can improve academic performance and reduce ADHD symptoms.
Art therapy involves using creative expression to improve emotional regulation and reduce stress. It can be an effective non-medication treatment for ADHD as it allows individuals to express themselves in a non-verbal way and reduce anxiety and impulsivity.
In a study published in the Journal of Child Neurology, researchers found that art therapy improved ADHD symptoms in children and improved their social skills. Additionally, another study found that art therapy reduced anxiety and improved overall well-being in adults with ADHD.
Yoga and Tai Chi are mind-body practices that have been shown to improve attention, mood, and overall well-being. Both practices involve breathing techniques, mindfulness, and gentle movements that can help individuals with ADHD improve their focus and reduce impulsivity.
In a study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, researchers found that yoga improved attention and reduced anxiety in children with ADHD. Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that Tai Chi reduced ADHD symptoms and improved cognitive functioning in adults with ADHD.
While medication can be an effective treatment for ADHD, there are various non-medication approaches that can also help individuals manage their symptoms. Regular exercise, mindfulness meditation, behavioural therapy, dietary changes, sleep hygiene, neurofeedback, organizational strategies, yoga and Tai Chi, and art therapy can all be effective non-medication treatments for ADHD.
It is important to note that not all treatments work for everyone, and individuals with ADHD should work with their healthcare provider to determine which treatment approach is best for them. Additionally, some individuals may require a combination of medication and non-medication treatments to manage their symptoms effectively.
Our ADHD Awareness Course enables attendees to understand attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) including ADHD symptoms, how to recognise it and how to support an individual who displays ADHD for both adults and children. We offer this course in multiple formats: face-to-face, virtual or you can choose to take our ADHD Awareness Course Online. For further information or to book, please contact us.