Types of ADHD & ADD

Dr. Amen on “Healing the ADHD Brain”

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan for ADHD. But there is also no shortage of helpful, healthy interventions worth investigating. Here, Dr. Daniel Amen explains the options he recommends most.

An illustration of a brain with ADHD, or ADD as Dr. Amen calls it.
Blue cartoon brain
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Optimizing Your Brain

People with ADHD have many wonderful strengths. They are bright, creative, spontaneous, and often very successful — as demonstrated by public figures like Justin Timberlake and Terry Bradshaw. But when the condition is left untreated, it can create challenges including a higher incidence of school or career failure, alcohol abuse, mood disorders, divorce and incarceration. To heal your ADHD brain, you need to understand what makes it tick, what makes it struggle, and the seven best ways to help.

The word "facts" circled in red marker, representative of Dr. Amen's approach to healing ADHD
Choosing Facts instead of Myths. Facts selected with red marker.
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Myths About ADHD

There are many misconceptions about ADHD. People say it's a fad; it's overdiagnosed; kids will outgrow it; adults should try harder. The reality is that the collection of symptoms comprising the condition have existed for more than 100 years, and it's often underdiagnosed — especially in women and girls. Fifty percent of kids will continue to have symptoms as adults, and trying harder can actually make symptoms worse by overtaxing the unique brain system of a person with ADHD.

Multicolored heads of people with ADHD that can be healed using Dr. Amen's techniques
Multicolored rainbow spectrum heads
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Causes of ADHD

The exact cause of ADHD remains unclear, but experts agree there is a genetic component. The condition often runs in families. Scientists suspect that brain trauma, food allergies, lead exposure, oxygen deprivation, and infections can also contribute to increased ADHD symptoms. ADHD diagnoses becoming more and more common, possibly because of a decline in physical activity at school, overuse of technology, increased exposure to toxins, and a highly processed diet — making it all the more important to learn how to effectively treat the condition.

Two people using smartphones in front of a TV to seach for Dr. Amen's healing ADHD tips
Smartphones in front of TV
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What Makes ADHD Symptoms Worse?

Before making a plan for healing ADHD, think for a moment about what makes your symptoms worse: watching too much TV, playing too many video games — generally a sedentary lifestyle. Sleep deprivation exacerbates symptoms, and a diet filled with processed, pesticide-laden foods with lots of sugar doesn't help!

Pin on the word ADHD in a book that covers some of Dr. Amen's healing techniques
Orange pushpin on the word ADHD
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Step 1: Do You Have ADHD?

The hallmark symptoms of ADHD are:

  1. A short attention span for routine, everyday tasks
  2. Easily distracted
  3. Problems with organization (especially time and space)
  4. Poor follow through
  5. Impulse control issues

If you recognize three or more of these in yourself or your loved one, ask, “Do I have ADHD? And if I do, what type might I have?” Remember ADHD runs in families, so if one person has it, chances are good that more evaluations are needed.

A x-ray of a brain undergoing Dr. Amen's healing techniques for ADHD
Brain model xray look isolated on white background
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Step 2: Know Your Type

There are seven variations in ADHD symptoms, and the type you have impacts how you should treat it. Each shows up differently in brain scans and has a different impact on behavior. Before you can optimize your treatment, you need to know your type. A brain scan is the best way, but you can begin with helpful quizzes from the Amen Clinics and in Healing ADD

The number 7, representing the number of types of ADHD in Dr. Amen's healing program
Red number 7 on wood
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The 7 Types of ADD

ADHD affects many areas of the brain — the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum primarily, but also the anterior cingulate, the temporal lobes, the basal ganglia, and the limbic system. The 7 types of ADHD are based around three neurotransmitters — dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.

  1. Classic ADHD
  2. Inattentive ADHD
  3. Over-Focused ADHD
  4. Temporal Love
  5. Limbic ADHD
  6. Ring of Fire ADHD
  7. Anxious ADHD

Learn more about each type from Dr. Amen here.

Supplement capsules used by Dr. Amen to heal ADHD
Cod liver oil omega 3 gel capsules
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Step 3: Use Targeted Treatment

The goal here is to achieve your best functioning. Use targeted supplements or medications for your type. For example, classic ADHD is often treated with changes designed to boost dopamine including supplements like green tea, L-tyrosine, ginseng, or stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, Focalin, and Concerta. Other supplements that can make a difference include: probiotics, omega-3s,  a multi-vitamin with zinc, vitamins D and B, B6, B12 and folate.

A doctor discussing with a patient about healing her ADHD
Portrait of an African American doctor communicating with his patient
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Step 4: Create a Custom Treatment Plan

There are four main ways to treat ADHD:

  1. Biological Treatments: medicine, supplements, diet, exercise, and neurofeedback
  2. Psychological Treatments: dealing with negativity
  3. Social Interventions: individual therapy, parent training
  4. Spiritual Interventions: looking for meaning and purpose

Start with the least toxic, most effective treatments and build from there until you've created an environment that minimizes your symptoms.

Healthy foods recommended by Dr. Amen for healing ADHD
Family of three preparing healthy meal together
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Step 5: Optimize Your Diet

Your brain uses 25 percent of the calories that you consume. A poor diet equates to a poorly functioning mind. A diet that is low in carbohydrates, high in proteins, and high in fat can be helpful for all types of ADHD. Cut back on sugar and drink more water. Reduce the number of high sugar, highly-processed foods in your diet. When making a plate, aim for 70 percent plant-based foods, 30 percent high quality protein, and lots of healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds and fish. Eliminate noxious ingredients where you can, and add foods that help brain health. If your family can’t buy all organic food, try to eliminate foods that have the most pesticides.

Cartoons of healthy foods recommended by Dr. Amen for healing ADHD
Cartoon foods, fruits
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Try an Elimination Diet

For more extreme symptoms, more drastic dietary changes may be required. An elimination diet for 3-4 weeks can help. Cut out anything that might be an allergen or toxic for kids with ADHD by restricting food to recipes with a small number of ingredients that are not typically harmful. These often include lamb, turkey, vegetables, rice, and pear juice. Common things to cut out include gluten, corn, soy, dairy, and chocolate. Work with a dietitian to ensure your family gets proper nutrition.

Two women discussing their strategies for healing ADHD under the guidance of Dr. Amen
Shot of two friends stretching together before a run through the city streets
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Step 6: Use Behavioral Strategies

Limit TV and video games. They can impact school or work performance. Add exercise! Consistent movement, especially in activities that hone coordination like dance and table tennis is one of a important way to help ADHD symptoms. Avoid sports that have a risk for brain injury.

Focus on sleep. Learn why it's important and practice good sleep hygiene. Ban gadgets at night, keep bedrooms dark and cool, and block out noise with earplugs or a fan. Avoid drugs and alcohol including caffeine, nicotine, and marijuana. They may seem to alleviate symptoms at first, but in the long run, they're bad for the brain.

A dart flying at a target, representing Dr. Amen's specialized strategies for healing ADHD
Dart flying at target red and white
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Step 7: Involve Your Family

Ask yourself and your kids what you want. It can be at school, or in relationships with siblings or friends. Ask, “What’s your goal?” Then you can use that to help figure out behaviors that fit goals and don’t fit goals. For example, if kids are avoiding doing their homework, ask if it moves them closer to their goal of doing well in school. Remember love is a drug. If kids are in a class with a teacher they love, they will do better. If adults are in a career that interests them, they will do much better than choosing a profession for a certain income.

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