Exploring the Benefits of Replacing ADHD Medication with Alternative Therapies

If you live with ADHD, there are a number of medications that can vastly improve your quality of life. But when medication isn’t an option, or you’d just prefer to take a more holistic route to recovery, try alternative solutions like Mindfulness Meditation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and diet plans that take your ADHD into consideration.

Even in simple conversations, you find yourself overwhelmed by the information you’re taking in. You constantly jump from project to project at work, and hobby to hobby at home. It seems like you can’t get more than 15 minutes invested into something before your thoughts are already drifting off to something else. And this isn’t an occasional occurrence—you feel this way all the time, and it’s overwhelming and exhausting. You feel like you’ve been thrown into a library, only there is absolutely no organizational system—just you, left to fend for yourself.

When you live with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there’s no such thing as downtime. You’re always thinking about something, and it’s different from minute to minute. You can take medications like Adderall or Ritalin to find focus within the chaos—but medications aren’t for everyone. For some, ADHD medications can cause side effects that outweigh their usefulness, and they can also be habit-forming, which makes them unsuitable for those with co-occurring substance abuse disorders. For others, it’s a personal choice: they’d simply rather be free of medications entirely. Ultimately, neither choice is wrong or right; it’s about making the choice that’s right for you.

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Alternative Solutions to ADHD Treatment

Although there’s still research to be done on ADHD medications, the research that we have suggests that over time, their effectiveness begins to wane. That’s a problem for people who live with ADHD because it means they may try to take more of the drug to get the same effect, and for some, that’s the first step towards addiction.

If there’s one thing you can bank on for certain, it’s that holistic therapies aren’t going to lose their effectiveness over time. That’s really the benefit of holistic treatments in any situation: you won’t develop a tolerance to them. In addition, they come without side effects (aside from the occasional yoga injury), and they’re therapies that tend to focus on the whole person—rather than the illness. Instead of targeting your ADHD, holistic therapies take overall wellness as their objective, with the hope that helping you be mentally and emotionally well will alleviate the symptoms that come from your ADHD. And they’re helpful for people who live with ADHD and also struggle with addiction because they can help bring their focus back without the added risk of dependence.

Mindfulness Meditation

When you have ADHD, it can feel like the core of your problem lies in your inability to control your attention. Your thoughts bounce off the walls of your mind, and you feel like you have no control over their motion. Mindfulness Meditation helps you learn to pay attention to your attention by taking a step back from that tidal wave of thoughts. There are typically two components: an aspect of orienting your attention “purposefully to the present moment,” and another of approaching your experience in that moment “with curiosity, openness, and acceptance.” What you’re doing, essentially, is manually taking the reins in those moments when your mind begins to drift. It’s easier said than done, certainly, but it’s a practice supported by research: one study showed that people with ADHD who practiced it saw reductions in inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, as well as an overall increase in their ability to deal with stress and emotions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

When using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat ADHD, three core modules form the basis of treatment. The first addresses organization and planning, the second focuses on dealing with distractions, and the third on promoting adaptive thinking. It’s a very practical, moderated approach to the treatment of ADHD, one that trusts that you have the ability to learn how to do these things when you’re supported in the right kinds of ways. (Perhaps by a trusted therapist who guides you compassionately through the process.) In that sense, it’s a therapy that gives you a lot of agency, because it expects that you’ll let your therapist know when you’re struggling with something in particular, or when something isn’t working for you.

Therapists will also use CBT to help you develop a plan to prevent relapse, which can cause all of your impulsive and hyperactive symptoms to resurface. The main cause of relapse is nonadherence to treatment, and that’s why it’s crucial that you maintain your relationship with your therapist and continue to use what you learn during your CBT sessions to maintain a structured schedule. By doing this, you’ll be prepared if symptoms resurface, because you’ll have a bevy of coping skills at your disposal—like a planner you’ve used to structure each of your days. With coping skills like this one, you’ll have something to turn to for structure and guidance if you feel your mind slipping back into chaos.

Diet Plans

Everything we put into our bodies can have an effect on our mental and emotional state. If you live with ADHD, you might consider a controlled diet, one that moderates your consumption of refined sugars, food additives, and fatty acids—which have all been linked to ADHD. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine is also essential. Sugar and caffeine are probably the worst offenders, as they increase both hyperactivity and distractibility. Even something like seafood, which often contains small amounts of mercury, can cause hyperactivity. One way to take advantage of a controlled diet is through residential treatment: there, you’ll have access to a team of nutritionists that can create a diet tailored specifically to your needs, one that aims to reduce your ADHD symptoms and help you find the clarity you need in your everyday life.

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Clarity Through Wellness

While some people simply can’t take stimulants because of side effects or substance abuse problems, others prefer holistic treatments for the long-term benefits they can provide. Regardless of reasoning, it’s important to find an individualized program so that you can ensure that your therapies are chosen based on how effective they are for you. That’s the most important thing: that your needs are at the center of whatever treatment you enter into. If you’re living with ADHD and you’d prefer to be treated without medication, there are plenty of holistic therapies that could work for you. Using one or more of them, you can learn to close the floodgates in your mind and find a place of calm in even your most chaotic moments.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive mental health treatment to people who live with ADHD and are looking for treatment they can undergo without medication. Contact us today to learn more about available alternatives that can help you find focus and clarity.

Lead Image Source: Unsplash User Evan Kirby