Updated 16 October 2019

Coping with adult ADHD

Adult ADHD can be managed successfully with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

Adult ADHD can be managed successfully with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. If you can, find a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in adult ADHD. In fact, child psychiatrists are often the most knowledgeable.


The medication is similar to that prescribed for children: stimulants such as Ritalin and Concerta, the non-stimulant Strattera and sometimes medications that are both anti-depressants and stimulants, such as Wellbutrin. These help improve concentration and fight hyperactivity. Cape Town psychologist Peter Collis says one of his patients, a chartered accountant, took work home every night and worked until after 10 pm until he started taking Ritalin. On the medication he finished work by 4.30 pm.


Therapists help you overcome stress and anxiety. Your self-image may also need rehabilitation because many people with ADHD blame themselves instead of their condition for failures. Learning skills such as conflict management, anger management and organisation are helpful.


Healthy eating habits and exercise are a vital part of ADHD management. A low-GI diet as well as omega-3 supplements are recommended. Half the battle is won once you are informed about your condition. “There’s no reason why a person with ADHD shouldn’t lead a normal life,” sufferer Kim Coppen says. “But you must understand the condition. Then you’ll also understand the patterns, recognise the symptoms and manage them on the spot.”

Survival tips for sufferers

• Choose a career that really stimulates your interest. People with ADHD are often very creative and talented and can be very successful if their ADHD is controlled. Celebrities with ADHD include actor Woody Harrelson and swimmer Michael Phelps.

• E-mail programmes and cell phones have all the functions necessary to organise your day. Make lists, set up a daily planner, send yourself SMSes, make notes on your phone and set an alarm if you need to remember commitments.

• Before you overreact, learn to count to 10.

• If you have too much energy look for an outlet in the form of a hobby or exercise.

• Be aware of substance abuse and the risks of selfmedication.

• Scale down on perfectionism. Don’t aim for gold, silver is fine, psychologist Peter Collis says.

• Explain ADHD to your colleagues and family so they can understand your behaviour better.

Visit the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of Southern Africa website for more advice.

(This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in YOU Pulse)


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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