Proper medication allows people diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder) to reclaim control of their lives despite the challenges. Over time, as new information emerged, the medical community has also found non-medical alternatives to address the condition. Can an ADHD treatment without medication for adults also work? What about for those in the high-paced circumstances of San Diego?
“Medication helps a lot, but it’s not the only answer,” says Ryan Thebo, DNP, PMHN, FNP. Thebo and the team of experienced ADHD specialists in San Diego who have developed options for holistic, non-medical ADHD treatment without medication for adults.
Some may find holistic treatment a rather vague term, but the team offers a clearer view of this as you read on.
What is ADHD? An Overview
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a mental disorder. According to the World Federation of ADHD, 2.5 percent of adults are affected. The common signs include:
- Poor attention span
- Difficulty coping with stress
- Mood swings
Adults with ADHD can live a challenging life. You feel the brunt no matter the environment. At work, you may find it hard to focus on tasks, meet deadlines, and deal with pressure. The same thing can happen at home. ADHD manifests in different ways depending on the person. You may lack the ability to plan, struggle with organization, cannot sit still, and be hyperactive. Individuals with ADHD have their own deficits.
What are the Root Causes of ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD has not yet been determined despite continuous research, but there are possible factors:
- Genetics (Neurobiology) – The condition may run in the family.
- Environment – Research suggests that lead exposure is a risk factor in developing ADHD. Other environmental problems may also play a role, although the exact conditions are not yet established.
- Development – Mental problems may have occurred during a child’s development stage.
The lack of resources also plays a big role and failure to diagnose and treat ADHD immediately can worsen the condition.
What Are the Common Treatments for Adult ADHD? Medicine Tends to Be the Go-To Option…
A misconception is that all adults with ADHD are hyperactive because they are overstimulated. It is true for some, but not for all, which is why medications are prescribed after assessment. Medications used for treating ADHD fall into two categories: non-stimulant (medications like Strattera and Wellbutrin) and stimulants (Adderall and Ritalin) being the most well-known.
A lot of ADHD patients are actually “under-stimulated” or underactive. Because they lack the stimulus, they fall behind in their activities. Some struggle to keep up with the daily tasks at work or at home and they find themselves rambling, pressured, and stressed. Taking stimulants increases the blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, planning, and organizing. Stimulants can often serve as a “light switch” enabling them to perform executive functions.
But Is ADHD Treatment Without Medication for Adults Possible? How is Non-Medical ADHD Treatment Even Possible?
The good news is that ADHD treatment without medication for adults is possible, but each case must be approached differently. And often, it is a combination of medication and non-medicated treatment that has the best overall outcome.
Think of ADHD as a spectrum. It’s a condition with subtypes and manifests in different ways depending on the person. Some lack the ability to plan, some struggle with organization, some could not sit still, and some are hyperactive. A person can have all common ADHD traits and the other only have half of them. It all comes down to the specific deficits of an ADHD patient.
These factors and observations are where non-medication treatments are based. When Ryan Thebo, DNP, PMHNP, FNP, and their team of experienced psychiatric providers are assessing ADHD, it is important to spend as much time with the patient as needed to draw a sound assessment. And then, they will sometimes recommend adjustments and activities for treatment that is uniquely tailored to meet individual needs.
Below are some options for ADHD treatment without medication adults in San Diego really should consider:
1. Dietary Change
Quite simply, what we eat affects our mood. Different foods contain various substances that induce chemical reactions in the body including the brain, which affects our thinking process. For example, it is believed that carbohydrates are carriers of tryptophan, which synthesizes serotonin in the brain, leading to a happier mood.
For individuals with ADHD, the diet must be more specific. Because of their special needs, some people can be more sensitive to processed foods, carbs, sugars, and typical food items deemed unhealthy.
In certain individuals, a gluten free diet may also be recommended to help decrease hyperactivity symptoms. A good example is a modified version of the Wahls Protocol Diet, which is based on Mediterranean and Paleo diet plans. With the Wahls Protocol, you eat some meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, and fruits while avoiding certain foods such as grains, sugar, legumes (beans and lentils) This means ditching processed foods, grains, legumes, and sugar.
2. Since ADHD Medications Are Stimulants, Can Caffeine Be a Substitute?
Caffeine in moderation is fine but can be bad if overdone, and this holds true even for people without ADHD. Consuming high amounts of caffeine may worsen adult ADHD symptoms over time. The team has seen this happen in many adult ADHD San Diego patients in different circumstances (including, successful high-level executives drinking 8-9 cups per day).
Caffeine is known to increase alertness, but it also works by blocking a chemical known as adenosine, which is a brain chemical that makes you feel tired. At the same time, adenosine can cause the release of adrenaline which can trigger a “fight-or-flight response” leading to increased anxiety.
When working with patients with ADHD, Ryan Thebo, DNP, PMHNP, FNP will often develop an individualized plan with patients to help patients decrease their caffeine consumption. And when necessary, their plan will include helping to optimize their sleep.
3. Clearing the environment and improving habits
Decluttering, although a minor action, can also have a positive effect. A chaotic environment can contribute to the person’s inability to focus. It also adds to the stress. Cleaning up the surroundings, removing the distractions, and organizing things will lessen the tension and encourage the mind to stay on one subject at a time.
When making healthy changes, it may be tempting to focus on as many habits as possible to change whether it be study habits, work habits, organization, or wellness. Instead of focusing on making profound changes all at once, consider making small changes over time that become habits that can have a large cumulative effect over time leading to a greater sense of accomplishment.
4. Mindfulness and meditation help, too!
In a 2013 study, scientists observed that individuals with ADHD have higher dopamine transporter density (DTD). This causes a decrease in dopamine levels in the brain. Although this finding does not conclude that a higher DTD is a determining factor for ADHD, the information serves as a useful screening tool. Aside from that, it also helps formulate an ADHD treatment without medication for adults.
Research suggests that meditation and other mindfulness activities like yoga raise dopamine levels in the brain and thicken the prefrontal cortex. It’s the part of the brain involved in impulse control, planning, and focus. This is why Ryan Thebo, DNP, PMHNP, FNP, and other psychiatric providers may recommend that patients engage in mindfulness activities, as well.
Mindfulness can be approached in many ways. Meditation, yoga, a simple hike, or a short vacation can be done in pursuit of mindfulness. During your daily activities, you can incorporate mindfulness throughout the day to help you to improve inattentive symptoms while also improving adaptive responses to everyday stressors that may arise.
The point of mindfulness exercises is being present in the moment. People, especially those who have ADHD, can be occupied and future-oriented to compensate for “executive dysfunction” (a term to describe getting things prioritized, organized, done, etc). Mindfulness can help bring balance into their lives and correct executive dysfunction.
Various applications can also help with learning to incorporate mindfulness in everyday life such as Calm and Headspace. Various other types of meditation techniques may also sometimes be recommended to patients by Peak Wellness such as Transcendental Meditation through referring patients to TM.org.
5. Assigning Different Priorities Help with Focus and Organization
Because people with ADHD have difficulty focusing and organizing, Peak Wellness’ treatment plans include assigning different priorities. Prioritization encourages patients to determine the things that matter and accomplish each one at a time.
ADHD Treatment Without Medication for Adults as Part of a Holistic Approach—Does It Really Work?
Is there a holistic approach for ADHD treatment in San Diego that works for everyone? According to Peak Wellness, holistic varies in definition, but in general, it is about treating the whole person rather than simply treating the symptoms of an illness.
When it comes to wellness and ADHD, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every patient varies in their individual needs, unique physiology, nutritional needs, environmental health, and individual goals.
Peak Wellness’ team of psychiatry practitioners and ADHD specialists will often use motivational interviewing to help patients understand their ambivalence towards solving their own challenges and moving the patient towards developing their own personal solutions. The purpose of this is to know them in-depth and find out what the best treatment plan suits them. This system works more effectively than simply advice-giving.
“Holistic is a term that can be used loosely and it may mean something to different people. But one of the problems that I find with a holistic approach is that someone may recommend a patient to change their diet without getting at the approaching aspect of change theory – what is it that causes someone to change and why they want to change,” explains Dr. Thebo.
Does holistic mean 100% medication-free?
When it comes to treatment, our San Diego psychiatry practitioners say there is no one-size-fits-all program for ADHD. While other ADHD treatment San Diego plans remain bare-boned and only consider one method, the team employs a blended approach if needed. The principle is: “One should not be a substitute for the other.”
They believe that for the holistic approach to work, each ADHD treatment should be individualized because of the nature of the multi-dimensional disorder. There are instances where one-layer surfaces after treating another. A good healthcare professional must take into account the patients’ symptoms and address their unique needs.
Some patients respond to medication alone, and some show improvement if combined with non-medical activities. Others wish to ditch the medications and go non-medical all the way.
How do I know if ADHD treatment without medication is really working?
- Some signs can help you determine whether the treatment is working for you:
- Improved ability to focus
- Having a more calm and relaxed feeling
- Normalized sleep hours
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time
- Getting things done
- Better mood especially after meditation
- Increased intuition, creativity, and improved problem-solving skills
- More resilient and responds better to stressful conditions
Basically, it becomes evident that the treatment is working when the quality of life improves. You will find that you complain less about the things that used to annoy you and you become more effective at home or work.
How can I find a good holistic psychiatrist in San Diego that provides ADHD treatment without medication for adults?
Medications help but ADHD treatment without medication for adults is another option for people seeking a lasting solution. Either way, you should consult a good clinic with a comprehensive program for ADHD treatment in San Diego.
Psychiatrists San Diego Psychiatric Care NPS has a trusted group of practioners authorized by Peak Wellness Psychiatry, A Professional Nursing Corporation. They specialise in ADHD treatment in adults here in San Diego and California. For its ADHD treatment San Diego’s psychiatric care providers’ approach is individualized and focused on addressing a patient’s unique needs, which distinguishes them from other clinics.
Ryan Thebo, DNP, PMHNP, FNP says: “A lot of practices are quick – 10-15 minute appointments. This is not enough to address the whole person. This kind of approach is like herding patients like cattle, and a lot are fed up with that.”
The team believes that spending quality time with the patients on initial, and even in succeeding appointments if needed, helps them connect with their patients and understand their specific needs. After all, you can’t change someone’s perspective in 10 minutes. This also allows them to make better recommendations in terms of treatment plans.
If you have ADHD and looking for a high-level ADHD treatment near you, Peak Wellness Psychiatry, A Professional Nursing Corporation (which heads Psychiatrists San Diego Psychiatric Care NPS) is the place to go. Get started now to schedule an appointment!