Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders that affect children and adults(1).
The uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic leaves many people vulnerable, including individuals with ADHD. As a result, they may experience distress and increased behavioral problems.
Providing care for those with ADHD can be more challenging at this time due to the new restrictions in place. Here are some of the best alternatives for ADHD and valuable tips to help you manage the situation.
How COVID-19 May Affect People With ADHD
People with ADHD may suffer from the consequences of preventive measures, such as physical distancing and quarantine.
Social isolation may lead to poorer mental health and other disorders(2). A study found that adults with more ADHD symptoms are at an increased risk of loneliness(3).
The lack of social support may also be disadvantageous to those with ADHD, as the condition usually occurs with mental health issues, including depression and anxiety(4).
Now that most people are currently studying or working from home, those with ADHD may need help as they go about their daily routines without the regular visits to their therapists, as individuals with ADHD may not be able to cope with changes in schedule and activities.
Individuals with ADHD may also have trouble falling asleep or waking up at a regular time as they do not have to leave their houses. The low quality of sleep can make ADHD symptoms worse, especially in children(5).
Below are some helpful ways to manage ADHD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Create Structure and Routine
The lack of structure may be stressful and unsettling for an individual with ADHD. For that reason, following weekly routines help build good habits and manage ADHD symptoms.
You can create some of these routines and incorporate them into your daily living:
- Schedule regular times for all your activities, like waking up, eating, exercising, and sleeping.
- Set aside time for work, schoolwork, physical activity, hobbies, and relaxation.
- Set limits on screen time to promote healthy technology habits.
- Schedule and prioritize personal time, family time, or outdoor time.
- Spend a few minutes in the evening to make a short list of tasks you need to accomplish the next day.
- Create a schedule for household chores, grocery shopping, and other home projects.
Stay Active and Healthy
Proper nutrition and physical exercise are essential components of staying healthy, especially for children and adults with ADHD. During this challenging time, you should make health a priority.
It was found that staying active may help reduce some symptoms of ADHD. For instance, children with ADHD showed improved attention and impulse control after a single 20-minute aerobic session(6).
Healthy food choices can also support the overall health of children with ADHD. A balanced intake of proteins and carbohydrates with proper meal timing can improve the effectiveness of ADHD medication(7).
Create a Calm Environment
Taking care of your mental health is now more important than ever. One of the factors that can impact your mental state is your physical space.
For example, you may concentrate on your work better when you are in a quiet, tidy room. Children may also feel more focused on their schoolwork when there are no external distractions, like the television.
Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD) recommends the following activities to help create a calming environment(8):
- Practice mindfulness and meditation
- Do breathing exercises
- Have a quiet time
- Listen to relaxing music
- Consider a bath or use soothing scents
- If possible, have designated spaces or areas for work, play, and relaxation
- Keep a journal and write down thoughts and feelings
Continue ADHD Treatment
Children and adults with ADHD need to continue their current treatment. It may consist of taking prescribed medication, attending behavioral therapy, or a combination of both.
However, due to the pandemic, those with ADHD may not be able to fill their prescriptions or visit their healthcare provider regularly.
As an alternative to office visits, many doctors, psychologists, and health professionals continue to serve their patients using “telehealth.”
Like “telemedicine,” telehealth uses videoconferencing and other secured communication tools to provide health services(9). Telehealth is one of the ways that help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Contact your healthcare provider via telephone call or email and ask if they offer telehealth services for ADHD.
Seek Professional Advice and Support
You should contact your healthcare provider if you or your child experience any worsening or new symptoms of ADHD. These symptoms need immediate attention as they can interfere with the individual’s ability to function every day.
Observe any possible adverse reactions to ADHD medications. Follow-up assessments with your healthcare provider can help you monitor the effectiveness and tolerability of medications.
Find support from a qualified, licensed health professional to help you determine the appropriate care for people with ADHD.
You should also notify your healthcare provider and discuss whether continuing ADHD treatment is advisable.
- CDC.gov. What is ADHD?. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
- Bhatti, A. B., & ul Haq, A. (2017). The pathophysiology of perceived social isolation: effects on health and mortality. Cureus, 9(1).
- Stickley, A., Koyanagi, A., Takahashi, H., Ruchkin, V., & Kamio, Y. (2017). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms and loneliness among adults in the general population. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 62, 115-123.
- What is ADHD?. op. cit.
- SleepFoundation.org. ADHD and Sleep. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/adhd-and-sleep
- Ludyga, S., Brand, S., Gerber, M., Weber, P., Brotzmann, M., Habibifar, F., & Pühse, U. (2017). An event-related potential investigation of the acute effects of aerobic and coordinative exercise on inhibitory control in children with ADHD. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 28, 21-28.
- CHADD.org. (May 2019). Food Choices for Children with ADHD. Retrieved from: https://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/food-choices-for-children-with-adhd/
- CHADD.org. (December 2018). Create Calm: It Really Matters!. Retrieved from: https://chadd.org/attention-article/create-calm-it-really-matters/
- CHADD.org. (July 2019). Telehealth for ADHD?. Retrieved from: https://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/telehealth-for-adhd/