Can't Focus? How to Tell When It's Time to Try Medication
I really can't focus and constantly feel frazzled. Would it hurt to try ADHD medication?
Before you even think about drugs, it's important to get the correct diagnosis. Stress and lack of sleep, as well as anxiety or depression, can cause problems with concentration, and all these things require specific treatments. Look back to when your issues started. If symptoms began only recently, they're more likely due to increased stress or a lack of sleep. If they've been going on for a month or more and you're also feeling sad or hopeless, getting headaches or having trouble making decisions, you may have depression or an anxiety disorder.
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Many people think that ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is all about an inability to focus, but it actually involves much more than that. Other symptoms may include poor impulse control, restlessness, chronic disorganization and unstable relationships. If you do have ADHD, it's likely that you not only have trouble focusing on certain tasks or sitting still but also consistently miss work deadlines or meetings because of an inability to manage your time. You may also tend to have angry outbursts or find it difficult to wait in line or get through minimally stressful situations without feeling overwhelmed. Because of increasing news reports on the rise of adult ADHD diagnoses, another common misconception is that the condition can start in adulthood. In reality, ADHD always begins in childhood, though some people don't get a diagnosis until later in life.
So the best advice is to speak to a mental health professional about your current symptoms as well as patterns in your past. If you are diagnosed with ADHD, a psychiatrist may recommend stimulants along with targeted talk therapy. But this isn't a decision to take lightly. Medications used to treat ADHD can have side effects such as insomnia or irritability, and it may take some trial and error to come up with the right medication and dosage that helps without causing new problems. Even with drugs, most adults with ADHD still need targeted talk therapy to help them learn to manage time, prioritize tasks and get organized.
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Health's medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.