Coping with adult ADHD

Adult ADHD can be managed successfully with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.
Adult ADHD can be managed successfully with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

Adult ADHD can be managed successfully with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. If you can, find a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in adult ADHD. In fact, child psychiatrists are often the most knowledgeable.


The medication is similar to that prescribed for children: stimulants such as Ritalin and Concerta, the non-stimulant Strattera and sometimes medications that are both anti-depressants and stimulants, such as Wellbutrin. These help improve concentration and fight hyperactivity. Cape Town psychologist Peter Collis says one of his patients, a chartered accountant, took work home every night and worked until after 10 pm until he started taking Ritalin. On the medication he finished work by 4.30 pm.


Therapists help you overcome stress and anxiety. Your self-image may also need rehabilitation because many people with ADHD blame themselves instead of their condition for failures. Learning skills such as conflict management, anger management and organisation are helpful.


Healthy eating habits and exercise are a vital part of ADHD management. A low-GI diet as well as omega-3 supplements are recommended. Half the battle is won once you are informed about your condition. “There’s no reason why a person with ADHD shouldn’t lead a normal life,” sufferer Kim Coppen says. “But you must understand the condition. Then you’ll also understand the patterns, recognise the symptoms and manage them on the spot.”

Survival tips for sufferers

• Choose a career that really stimulates your interest. People with ADHD are often very creative and talented and can be very successful if their ADHD is controlled. Celebrities with ADHD include actor Woody Harrelson and swimmer Michael Phelps.

• E-mail programmes and cell phones have all the functions necessary to organise your day. Make lists, set up a daily planner, send yourself SMSes, make notes on your phone and set an alarm if you need to remember commitments.

• Before you overreact, learn to count to 10.

• If you have too much energy look for an outlet in the form of a hobby or exercise.

• Be aware of substance abuse and the risks of selfmedication.

• Scale down on perfectionism. Don’t aim for gold, silver is fine, psychologist Peter Collis says.

• Explain ADHD to your colleagues and family so they can understand your behaviour better.

Visit the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of Southern Africa website for more advice.

(This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in YOU Pulse)

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