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Adult ADHD Treatment Without Medication

Updated on July 15, 2011

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects adults as well as children. In fact, 60-80% of children affected with ADHD will have the condition in adulthood as well.

Adults with ADHD exhibit many of the same symptoms as children. These include:

  • short attention span
  • difficulty paying attention to details
  • easily distractible
  • disorganization
  • procrastination
  • forgetfulness
  • failure to complete tasks
  • hyperactivity
  • rapid mood swings
  • impatience
  • anxiety
  • aggression

These symptoms may cause problems for adults with ADHD both in their home life and relationships and at work.

There are a number of medications that are effective in treating ADHD. However, some people find the side effects objectionable, and drugs may not even be necessary to treat mild cases. Both mild and severe cases benefit from certain types of behavioral therapy.

Here are some natural adult ADHD treatments:

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps struggled with ADHD as a child. Source:
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps struggled with ADHD as a child. Source:

Take Up a Sport

Physical activity is one of the best ways to wear off excess energy. Exercise also produces endorphins and other chemicals in the body that help reduce stress and anxiety, elevate mood, and prevent insomnia.

Some adults with ADHD may find the social stimulation of team sports helps them maintain interest, and the strategic element of many team sports may improve organization and planning skills, while solitary sports such as long distance running, biking, and swimming may improve concentration skills.

Nature Therapy

Photo by Olof S
Photo by Olof S

Spend Time in Nature

One of the best sports for adults with ADHD to take up might be hiking and backpacking. There is growing evidence that spending time in a green setting can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Studies suggest that even looking at a natural setting can improve concentration, relieve anxiety and stress, and aid relaxation. Although it focuses on children, Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods provides a thorough overview of the research relating to the treatment of ADHD with "nature therapy."

The greatest relief is provided by the most pristine settings, but even a bustling city park is enough to have an effect. The important factor seems to be the presence of green growing things. Oceans and lakes provide some of the same benefits.

If you have ADHD, spend as much time outdoors as possible: gardening, hiking, strolling, or even simply sitting on a park bench. Inside, decorate your home or apartment in relaxing earth tones such as green, blue, and brown, and consider acquiring houseplants or wall art depicting pristine natural settings. When possible, choose homes and apartments that offer views of natural settings.

More Nature Therapy

Don't go through life looking like him. Photo by N_Creatures.
Don't go through life looking like him. Photo by N_Creatures.

Limit Media Consumption

There is strong evidence that large amounts of time spent watching television, playing video games, and surfing the internet may shorten attention spans due to the high degree of visual and auditory stimulation. Loud music and blaring radio announcers may have the same effect.

If you are an adult with ADHD, limit the amount of time you spend doing these activities and avoid leaving televisions, radios, and music players on for extended periods of time as "background" noise.

Instead, incorporate quiet activities that build attention spans and encourage concentration into your daily routine, such as reading, chess, crossword or sudoku puzzles, and certain hobbies. Try to give yourself at least an hour every day of quiet time, with no background noise and limited distractions.

If the level of environmental noise in your neighborhood is high, consider investing in ear plugs, a white noise machine, or other noise blocking aids. Thick carpets and wall hangings can also reduce background noise in homes or apartments.

Eat a Balanced Diet

There is significant scientific evidence that diets high in sugar, caffeine, and processed foods worsen the symptoms of ADHD.

If you have ADHD, pay careful attention to your diet:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and high quality meats, seafood, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Eat plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in high quantities in olive oil, coldwater fish, grassfed meat, eggs, and dairy products, and other sources.
  • Limit consumption of refined sugars (including table sugar and high fructose corn syrup), refined grains, fried foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat organic produce and organic, grassfed animal products whenever possible. There is some evidence that pesticide and hormone residues on food may worsen the symptoms of ADHD.


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    • SpecialKids profile image


      7 years ago from Miami Beach and Jerusalem, Israel

      While I've looked at alternative treatments for ADHD, you managed to write about some I hadn't heard of. Thanks for the ideas.

    • Disturbia profile image


      7 years ago

      I have lived with the challenges and joys of ADHD my whole life and this hub is right on target. I have found all these things to be effective and have been doing them for many years now.

    • Gyro77 profile image


      7 years ago from Pau France

      Very interesting, altho I get bored in the gym, I love the outdoors, pity about the weather tho.

      Do you think in countrys with temperate climates people suffer more from ADHD?

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      9 years ago from Holly, MI

      This is an excellent Hub!! I was on Adderall prety much my entire adulthood and on Ritalin when I was younger. Finally just fed up with being so dependent and having to increase dosage what seemed like every year and take "drug vacations" for effectiveness that was just horrible withdraws I decided to quit medicine. Which was probably one of the hardest things ever. I'm glad that you put to take up a sport, this was when I really started running and it is about the same time I became a Vegan and started practicing yoga. I do feel that I'm still "all over the place" sometimes but it is much more controlled and I would never be dependent on medicine again. I will recommend any of your Hubs to anyone on this topic! Very well written.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Great hub! Excellent advice...sounds like me at times. I have grandchildren with it.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 

      9 years ago

      beginning to think I have this even though I am now a grandma. How do you get a diagnoses...

    • KCC Big Country profile image


      9 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for the information. I recognized many of the classic symptoms in my husband. He was first upset, then relieved, once he realized how many years have been wasted with so much hositility and frustration, but now so many things began to make sense. He no longer felt stupid or lazy like so many assume people are that exhibit those symptoms. We're still working on how to proceed. He doesn't want to take the medication he's been prescribed. We'll have to try some of the ideas you mentioned. Thanks!

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image


      9 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Excellent advices. These people just have excess of energy which should be properly focused, and nerves calmed.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Great hub!  So many adults have this and never know why they seem to fail at so many things.  For me, I embrace that part of me and one of the reasons hubpages works for me, is that I can write a little and do something else and come back to it again and again until I'm done with a hub.  Perfect for my short attention span.

    • RVilleneuve profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Great ideas. Also look into VisionTherapy. I have seen many children helped with VT.


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