ADHD is an Executive Functioning disorder often treated with stimulant medication. In extreme circumstances, medication is the only tool that works to reduce a patient’s severe ADHD symptoms. However, the medications available to treat ADHD often have many side effects. Some can become severe and so debilitating that many patients with mild or moderate symptoms choose to stop taking their medication. As a result, most people with ADHD are searching for ways to treat their ADHD without necessitating medication. Scroll to learn more on how to manage ADHD without medication.
Here are the ATTN Center’s 5 Tips for Managing ADHD Without Medication:
Tip 1: ADHD-Focused Therapy
Benefits to Psychotherapy
There are many benefits to Psychotherapy, especially when you have ADHD. In addition to helping you get organized so you stop patterns like losing your keys and credit cards, ADHD-Focused Therapy is the most effective tool to manage your ADHD without medication. In fact, it is still highly recommended to participate in ADHD-Focused Therapy even with medication. No pill can teach you organizational skills, nor can a pill teach you how to keep your anger from boiling over. The medication also doesn’t help with overthinking, overanalyzing, and over-perceiving threats, all of which most people with ADHD still find themselves dealing with after they have been on medication. ADHD-Focused Therapy helps you overcome your Inner Critic, through the power of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Pulsating Thoughts Related to ADHD
We all have lots of thoughts pulsating through our brains every second. Some of those thoughts are positive and some are negative. Those with ADHD often ignore the handful of positive thoughts they have each day. This can be because they are too distracted by the sea of excessive, negative, and intrusive thoughts bombarding them. This phenomenon is built up over years of living with unregulated and repressed frustration and self-criticism. This loop of inner critical thoughts creates a shame cycle that your inner critic is masterful at facilitating. Becoming aware of this stream of thoughts and addressing them can greatly improve your success. This is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD
Cognitive Behavior Therapy for ADHD is a goal-directed therapeutic modality. It focuses on increasing awareness around the interaction of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This awareness allows you to gain control over your thoughts and feelings, rather than watch helplessly as they continue to control you.
An ADHD-Focused Therapist can help you create a structure for your life. From supporting you to creating and maintaining a daily routine, to mapping out longer-term life, career, and relationship goals. In addition to the traditional psychodynamic benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ADHD-Focused Therapy helps you get the most important aspects of your life organized, such as your email, calendar, and to-do list.
They have many strategies and tools to get you on track in a way that works for you, compassionately supporting you to hold yourself accountable to the agreements and goals you set out for yourself during the therapy.
Tip 2: Managing ADHD With Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback)
Types Of Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback and is sometimes referred to as brain-biofeedback. Biofeedback is defined by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) as “a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance.”
Unlike other types of biofeedback, Neurofeedback targets your central nervous system, specifically cortical brain waves. Neurofeedback provides your brain with spontaneous feedback. This feedback targets brain waves that are too strong or too weak, which can be the source of AHDD symptoms.
Using qEEG-guided Neurofeedback, your brainwaves can be retrained toward a more functional state. Multiple training sessions can increase your brain’s retention of a new way of operating. Your progress will be measured in various ways, including subsequent qEEG and brain maps, your self-report, and possibly other psychological questionnaires.
In numerous studies, Neurofeedback is found to work as well as medication for many people with ADHD. While it is still a somewhat costly and time-intensive form of treatment, the results are said to last forever once the treatment has been completed after four to six months and 40 or 50 sessions (on average) of re-conditioning the brain. Compared to a lifetime of taking stimulant medications, with their multiple side effects, Neurofeedback has a clear advantage because it works more effectively than medication – by affecting the wiring of the brain – without the side effects.
Tip 3: Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep
Nutritional Tips For Managing ADHD
What we put into our bodies makes up who we are. A nutrient-dense diet is an important step to addressing ADHD without medication. Quality proteins, healthy fats rich in omega 3s, fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed grains provide the ideal nutrition for both adults and children with ADHD. Many go-to breakfast foods are laden with sugar, processed carbohydrates, and artificial preservatives. Unfortunately, this is the least stable source of fuel and can send even a neurotypical brain into an energy spiral. Limiting sugar and carbs is essential to a healthy ADHD diet. Many people with ADHD have difficulty maintaining a healthy diet. Not so much because they don’t know how to eat well, although that can be a factor… but more so due to poor planning. Many adult ADHD patients find themselves missing meals due to Time Blindness and missing meals, which they then fill in with unhealthy snacks.
There can also be a tendency for those with ADHD to self-medicate with caffeine, either to overcome poor sleep or enhance attention and focus. Unfortunately, too much caffeine causes anxiety, increases distractibility, and worsens insomnia. Children and adults with ADHD should begin their day with a high-protein breakfast and then eat frequently throughout the day. Meals and snacks should always be balanced while prioritizing protein, healthy fats, and minimally processed carbohydrates. Take an inventory of what you are eating. Try to gradually decrease sugar, caffeine, and carbohydrate intake. Consider carrying pre-packaged, portion-controlled, and protein-rich snacks such as natural peanut butter, natural cheese sticks, or nuts.
Make Exercise A Priority
Exercise is a very powerful and necessary intervention for people with ADHD. Research suggests that even a few minutes of physical activity a day can help children with ADHD ignore distractions, stay focused on tasks and boost their academic performance. In a study published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics, the authors had 40 kids spend 20 minutes on a treadmill or quietly reading. Whether they had ADHD or not, the children performed better on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising. The exercisers with ADHD were better able to slow down and avoid repeat mistakes while playing a computer game.
Spending time outside is also an effective tool for treating ADHD without medication. Studies show time spent in green spaces improves focus and attention and decreases impulsivity in children with ADHD. Making it a priority to spend time outside benefits not only your physical health but your mental and cognitive function as well.
Get Extra Sleep
Sleep is another no-cost intervention for ADHD without medication. The research concludes that even just a half-hour of extra sleep can keep kids with ADHD from being restless at school and improve their behavior. Conversely, cutting back on sleep can result in tears, tantrums, and frustration. In a paper published in Pediatrics, the authors studied sleep’s impact on 34 children ages 7 to 11. The parents of half the kids were told to give their children an extra hour of sleep; the others were told to cut sleep time by an hour. The extra-sleep group ended up sleeping only an extra half-hour on average, but that small increase was enough to produce noticeable results.
According to teacher ratings, behavior improved among the kids who got more sleep and deteriorated among those who got less. Past studies have shown that children with ADHD tend to be hypo aroused, and often manifest fatigue by getting hyperactive. From the outside, they may look very energetic, but really it’s the opposite. People with ADHD often experience shorter sleep times, and problems falling asleep and staying asleep. They often also wake up still feeling tired or groggy. Because you feel tired, your ADHD symptoms get worse, and that makes it even harder to sleep the next night. Going to bed at roughly the same time each night and having a healthy nighttime routine can help you fall asleep easier.
Tip 4: Managing ADHD With Meditation & Mindfulness
Could this natural remedy help you better control your ADHD symptoms? For many adults and children, the main two persistent daily challenges are paying attention and maintaining self-control. So it would seem logical that some kind of attention training, which also improves self-control, would be an invaluable tool for those with ADHD. Meditation and Mindfulness for ADHD does just that.
Use Mindfulness Techniques
Mindfulness is a scientifically-observed phenomenon and is not necessarily intertwined with any spiritual or religious practice. It involves paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations; in other words, developing a greater awareness of what’s going on with you from moment to moment. It can be used as a tool to foster wellness and psychological well-being. Similar techniques have been used for centuries to lower blood pressure and manage chronic pain, stress, mood disorders, and more.
Mindfulness improves your ability to control your attention by helping to strengthen your ability to self-observe, train your attention, and develop different relationships with stressful experiences. It teaches you to pay attention to paying attention, especially regarding your ever-changing emotional state. Improving this emotional awareness is key to regulating impulsivity. It’s often the feeling the person with ADHD is having that causes them to act impulsively, and once they build the skill of mindfulness, they can have more time to regulate their emotions with tools like positive self-talk or disputing intrusive thoughts.
You can actually practice mindfulness at any time, even during conversations with others. Turning on the mind-awareness state at any time during your day, even if only for a few minutes, is great training. It’s essentially letting go of the busyness of your thinking and bringing your attention to what’s happening in the present moment in everyday life.
Meditation sessions are important to practice, but the key is to use mindfulness throughout your daily life, always being aware of where your attention is focused while you are engaged in routine activities. For example, you might notice while you drive that your attention wanders to an errand you must run later that day. Lots of people practice mindfulness while eating. Once you get used to checking in with yourself and your body, you can apply the technique anytime you start to feel overwhelmed.
The best part is… it’s free and you can teach yourself. Just sit down in a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed and spend five minutes focusing on the sensation of breathing in and breathing out. There’s no wrong or perfect way to do it. Just pay attention to your breath and be aware of your thoughts. Try not to judge them as good or bad or useful or dumb, etc. Label these thoughts as “thinking,” and refocus your attention on your breath. Thinking is “doing”, and meditation is the practice of “being”.
We still have our thoughts and feelings, but we don’t get hooked by them and spiral. Do this mental training daily. Every couple of weeks, increase the length of time you spend on the exercise — 10 minutes, 15, up to 20 or more if you feel you can. Try the same thing throughout each day, focusing on your breath for a few minutes as you walk from place to place, or when you’re stopped at a red light or sitting at the computer.
Tip 5: Ask Others For Help
Control Your Internal Motivation
People with ADHD often have difficulty with Internal Motivation; meaning that it is difficult for them to self-motivate to get things done. If they don’t “feel” like doing something, it is highly unlikely it will get done in a timely manner. They face difficulty being a “self-starter” because they aren’t in control of this “feeling”. Conversely, External Motivation, having others expect them to do something, can be highly effective for motivating someone with ADHD. One way to treat ADHD without medication is to set up ways to get External Motivation from others. This involves asking friends and family for help, which isn’t the easiest thing for most people to do. However, asking for help from people you trust will help externalize motivation. This can make you much more likely to follow through with your goals.
Find An Activity Partner
One example is finding an Activity Partner. An activity partner is having someone that you do a task, to help you stay on task and motivated. Some people with ADHD join online groups where the sole purpose is to meet up to accomplish tasks. These tasks could be cleaning the house or packing for a trip. Being a part of a group where everyone is doing the same thing helps those with ADHD to stay on task.
The same can be said of going to the gym. People with ADHD are much less likely to exercise alone. Because they have difficulty with Internal Motivation, they can get easily discouraged after becoming distracted while working out. Ultimately they quit their exercise routine. Getting them in an exercise class where they can see other people exercising, encourages them and they feel more motivated. This is due to the external factors to stay engaged with their exercise.
Use External Motivation
Another useful tool for using others for External Motivation is to tell your goals to your partner or friend. You can ask them to help you hold yourself accountable. Set up a morning family business meeting where you and your partner. This way you can game plan the structure of the day and what’s most important to get done. Or tell your friend you’re quitting drinking for the month. Then ask them to check in with you weekly about your progress. Knowing that someone else is watching can often have a positive effect on follow-through. Include others in your To-Do list, and check off items in front of them for some extra external reinforcement. Having ADHD can be overwhelming, so asking for help regularly will make a big difference. This will help your ability to follow through on daily tasks. When in doubt… ask for help!
Start Managing Your ADHD Without Medication in NYC
Managing your ADHD without medication at the ATTN Center is unique. It offers traditional therapy practices to address the psychological and emotional impacts of having ADHD. It offers Neurodivergent individuals practical support for organization and structure.
- Learn more about our team and the services offered here!
- Reach out to us through our convenient online therapy contact page here!
- Begin the journey to managing your ADHD symptoms and living your best life!
Other Services Offered By The ATTN Center in NYC
We not only offer ADHD therapy, but also other services related to the treatment of ADHD and its side effects. This includes ADHD-Focused therapy, neurofeedback, and ADHD testing options. At ATTN Center in NYC, we do everything in our power to help manage ADHD without the use of medication. However, we understand in some severe cases additional measures may be needed.