How therapy can help attention deficit disorder

I’m 13 years old and in the eighth grade. I was diagnosed with ADD in the third grade, and I took a medication called Ritalin. I was OK in school, but when I got home I was so out of control it wasn’t even funny. After the third grade, they took me off Ritalin. But now I’m on medication again, and I also have to go to a therapist and a psychologist. I know that I get a little unfocused, but I just don’t understand why I have to take medication and go to a therapist!

It sounds like you have pretty good insight into your diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, or ADD. This is a condition that is caused, we believe, by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that causes children and adults to have trouble paying attention, to become distracted easily and to act impulsively (that is, without thinking). Some people with ADD also suffer from hyperactivity. Many children are able to manage their behavior for short periods of time, as you did during the school day. But it takes so much energy that they have nothing left to control their behavior once they are in the safe environment of home. ADD is a disorder that you don’t outgrow, so you have to learn ways to help you live with it. That is why you need medication as well as a therapist.

Medicines that are used to treat ADD, like Ritalin, are stimulants. It probably sounds weird that there are given stimulants to people who already have so much energy, but it helps in some way to coordinate the chemicals in the brain. This helps people with ADD to stay more focused and to pay attention better. While the medication is helping, you need to learn certain behaviors so that someday you may not need medication.

The therapist and your parents and teachers will help you learn skills that are harder to learn because of your ADD. They will help you learn to be organized, which is very difficult for people with ADD but is even more important because the smallest thing can distract them and make them disorganized. The therapist will help you and your parents develop routines, such as packing your backpack at night and putting your homework into a special folder so you always know where it is. They’ll help you break big projects down into smaller ones so you don’t get lost trying to get started. They will help you make lists as reminders of things you need to do every day.

One of the other ways a therapist helps is by allowing you to talk about your feelings. Many kids your age don’t want to be different, and taking medicine makes them feel different. Some children with ADD have trouble in social situations, making good and safe choices of friends and activities. Your therapist will help you with that. She will also let you know when she thinks you might be able to try to stop taking your medication.

Because many people think ADD is a behavior problem, they don’t understand why medicine is necessary. But ADD is a real disorder with real chemical imbalances. If you had asthma and had trouble breathing, you would always take medicine to help you, and you would stay away from things that made it worse. So because you have ADD and cannot concentrate, you take medicine and see a therapist to help make it better. I hope this helps you feel like you and your parents are doing the right thing.

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