You can’t cure ADHD, but you can take steps to manage it. You may
be able to minimize your symptoms by identifying your individual trigger
points. Common triggers include: stress, poor sleep, certain foods and
additives, overstimulation, and technology. Once you recognize what triggers
your ADHD symptoms, you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to better
For adults especially, stress often triggers ADHD episodes. At
the same time, ADHD may cause a perpetual state of stress. A person who has
ADHD cannot successfully focus and filter out excess stimuli, which increases
stress levels. Anxiety, which can stem from approaching deadlines,
procrastination, and the inability to focus on the work at hand, can raise
stress levels even more.
Unmanaged stress aggravates common symptoms of ADHD. Evaluate
yourself during periods of stress (when a work project is coming to a due date,
for example). Are you more hyperactive than usual? Are you having more trouble
concentrating than normal? Try to incorporate daily techniques to relieve
stress: Take regular breaks when performing tasks and engage in exercise or
relaxing activities, such as yoga.
Lack of Sleep
The mental sluggishness that results from poor sleep can worsen
ADHD symptoms and cause inattention, drowsiness, and careless mistakes. Inadequate
sleep also leads to a decline in performance, concentration, reaction time, and
comprehension. Too little sleep may also cause a child to become hyperactive in
order to compensate for the lethargy they feel. Getting at least seven to eight
hours of sleep each night may help a child or adult with ADHD control negative
symptoms the next day.
Food and Additives
Certain foods can either help or worsen symptoms of ADHD.
In coping with the disorder, it’s important to pay attention to whether
specific foods exacerbate or alleviate your symptoms. Nutrients such as
proteins, fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B help to properly
nourish your body and brain and may diminish symptoms of ADHD.
Certain foods and food additives have been thought to exacerbate
ADHD symptoms in some individuals. For instance, foods laden with sugar and fat
may be important to avoid. Certain additives, such as sodium benzoate (a
preservative), MSG, and red and yellow dyes, which are used to enhance the
flavor, taste, and appearance of foods, may also aggravate symptoms of
ADHD. A 2007 study
linked artificial dyes and sodium benzoate to greater hyperactivity in children
of certain age groups, regardless of their ADHD status.
Many people with ADHD experience bouts of overstimulation, in
which they feel bombarded by overwhelming sights and sounds. Crowded venues,
such as concert halls and amusement parks, may trigger ADHD symptoms. Allowing
adequate personal space is important for preventing outbursts, so avoiding
crowded restaurants, rush hour congestion, busy supermarkets, and high-traffic
malls may help diminish troublesome ADHD symptoms.
Constant electronic stimulation from computers, cell phones,
television, and the Internet may also aggravate symptoms. Although there has
been much debate about whether watching TV influences ADHD, it may intensify
symptoms. Flashing images and excessive noise do not cause ADHD. However, if a
child is having a hard time focusing, a glaring screen will further affect their
A child is also much more likely to release pent-up energy and
practice social skills by playing outside than by sitting for long stretches in
front of a screen. Make a point to monitor computer and television time and
limit viewing to set time segments.
There are currently no specific guidelines for how much screen
time is appropriate for someone with ADHD. However, the American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children under two years
of age never watch television or use other entertainment media. Children over
two years old should be limited to two hours of high quality entertainment
Avoiding things that trigger ADHD symptoms may mean making many changes in your
routine. Sticking to these lifestyle changes will help you manage your