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Feeling Scattered? Expert Help for ADHD   
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Somehow you forgot to pay the electric bill and you’ve missed that dentist’s appointment twice. You’re feeling overwhelmed and depressed, but your spouse doesn’t seem to understand. You’re not just forgetful – it could be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Learn more about the condition, including possible causes, treatments and how to get help for ADHD…

Life’s everyday tasks, like paying bills on time, finishing paperwork at the office or listening to your spouse, fail to grab your attention.

But you can focus just fine on stimulating diversions, such as scary movies or spin class.

“Short attention span is the key symptom of ADHD, but it’s not short for everything,” says Daniel G. Amen, M.D., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based psychiatrist and author of Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain’s Maximum Potential (Three Rivers Press).

Because many people with ADHD have no trouble focusing on tasks they enjoy, family members, employers, teachers or even doctors may overlook the disorder.

“They just think you’re lazy,” Amen says.

Once diagnosed, however, you may feel excited, because now you’ve identified a biological condition for something that’s probably held you back for years.

“Generally, my patients are relieved that it’s not just them and that it might have something to do with how their brain functions,” Amen says.

About two-thirds of ADHD cases are genetic. So chances are your siblings, parents or grandparents may also be disorganized and tend to procrastinate.

The remaining third of those with ADHD acquired it after sustaining a brain injury either during pregnancy or at birth.

Because ADHD often mimics other conditions, doctors will need to know about your childhood and personal history.

“Concentration difficulties can also be a hallmark of anxiety and depression,” explains J. Russell Ramsay, an associate professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

They will often confirm your ADHD diagnosis by asking you what your teachers said about you and how well you studied (or didn’t) in school. (About two-thirds of those who had the condition as a child carry it into adulthood.)

Researchers are also investigating the relationship between ADHD and other mental conditions. And they’re looking more closely at how ADHD affects all aspects of a patient’s life, including career and marriage troubles.

In Treatment
Doctors agree that for most people, medication is the most effective tool to treat ADHD. Conventional treatments include stimulants that increase dopamine levels, a chemical in the brain that works to heighten attention and motivation.

Frequently prescribed stimulants include Concerta, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Strattera and Provigil. But they can cause powerful side effects, including aggression, addiction, rashes, reduced appetite, nausea and trouble sleeping.

It’s rare, however, for patients only to be diagnosed with ADHD. About 95% of Amen’s ADHD patients also wrestle with other mental disorders, such as depression, which require him to tweak their medications to treat those symptoms.

Depending on the patient, Amen may use a combination of drugs, including stimulants, antidepressants and antiseizure or antipsychotic medications.

These lifestyle strategies also can provide help for ADHD patients:

* Take fish oil. Although results have been mixed, some studies (mostly done with children) suggest that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may improve ADHD symptoms.

Adolescents who ate a diet higher in fish and other healthful foods were less than half as likely to have ADHD than those who ate more processed foods, according to a 2010 Australian study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders. And parents who rated their children’s ADHD symptoms saw significant improvement when kids took fish oil-supplements, according to a separate Australian study from 2007.

Eating fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines provide the same benefits as fish-oil capsules, but supplements are usually filtered for impurities and free of mercury and other toxins.

Amen recommends 2,000 milligrams-4,000 milligrams (mg) daily for adults. (Most fish oil capsules contain 1,000 mg.)

* Eliminate caffeine and nicotine. These interfere with sleep and other adult ADHD treatments.

* Exercise. Alternate strength-training with intense cardio activity to build lean muscle mass and lower the risk of obesity. As weight increases, the size and function of the brain goes down, Amen says. He points to a 2009 study in the journal Human Brain Mapping showing that overweight people over 70 had 4% less brain tissue than others; obese people’s brains were also 8% smaller.

* Turn off the TV. This is a thoughtless activity that weakens the ability to focus, Amen says – and the more time you spend in front of the screen, the less you’re likely to exercise.

* Eat a high-protein diet low in simple carbohydrates. According to Amen, this is the best kind of diet for people with ADHD.

Also, determine if certain foods worsen your symptoms by eliminating items you might be sensitive to – such as wheat and additives – from your diet and slowly adding them back in while monitoring your symptoms. (A nutritionist can offer help for ADHD.) When kids with ADHD were put on an elimination diet, 64% showed significant improvement, according to a February 2011 study in the journal The Lancet.

* Keep a diary of symptoms. This will help you track whether ADHD meds and lifestyle strategies are helping.

* Find a support group. Whether you’re receiving treatment from your internist, a psychologist or psychiatrist, they can refer you to organizations that bring ADHD patients together to discuss adult ADHD treatment options and other strategies for managing symptoms.

* Research options at school. If you’re in school and decide to disclose to professors that you’ve been diagnosed with the condition, they may be able to provide help for ADHD. For example, some schools offer ADHD students more time to take exams.

ADHD Caregiving
Is your ADHD causing trouble in the relationship? Are you struggling to explain your lateness or other symptoms to your spouse?

“Someone with ADHD shouldn’t be thought of as a patient,” says Edward Hallowell, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York who has the disorder himself. He has written a number of books on ADHD, including Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder (Ballantine Books).

A spouse can be an ally to help you stay on time and organize tasks with which you struggle.

“People with ADHD tend to be bad at organization, planning and follow-through,” Hallowell says.

To keep deadlines or appointments, ask your loved one to help you create a master list of all events, chores and activities in an MS Word document. Then you can prioritize these tasks and break them down into simple steps.

After completing the master list, sit down with a cell phone or digital calendar and enter all the items according to time and date. Next, schedule any daily chores.

Once these responsibilities are in place, you can prioritize your days. It’s also helpful to write a daily action plan and revise it as things change or new appointments crop up.

Other steps you can take to secure help for ADHD:

* Identify strengths. Take advantage of online tools and systems to stay atop things. Scheduling automatic bill payments online can avoid missed payments, for example, while reorganizing your office can eliminate time-sucking distractions.
Source: Lifescript

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