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Nonmedication Tools and Skills (Compensatory Mechanisms) for ADHD

Once thought to be a temporary childhood problem, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is now better understood as an issue that affects both children and adults.

Undiagnosed and untreated, ADHD disrupts your life by making it difficult to succeed in school, maintain a job, nurture a relationship, and run a household.

Fortunately, Matthew Goldenberg, DO a double-board-certified psychiatrist, in Santa Monica, California, specializes in effectively diagnosing and treating ADHD in people of all ages, and he can help you regain control of your life despite your disorder.

Dr. Goldenberg’s treatment methods vary depending on your unique symptoms and co-occurring conditions, but he always recommends the most conservative options first. Here’s a look at the traditional treatments for ADHD and how you can complement them with behavioral strategies known as compensatory mechanisms.

Recognizing the signs of ADHD

ADHD often goes undetected because people simply do not recognize the symptoms or do not realize that there are effective treatments and therefore never seek help. It’s common for sufferers to mistake the signs of ADHD for personality quirks or idiosyncrasies. Every person manifests ADHD differently, but some classic symptoms include:

These problems, of course, influence behaviors and emotions. Some people with ADHD suffer from anxiety and depression, anger issues, impulsiveness, and frequent frustration, which, in turn, affect every aspect of life, including school, work, and relationships.

Getting help for ADHD is critical to controlling the symptoms, and several options are available. Often, a combination of treatments is more effective than just one.

Nonmedication treatments for ADHD

Whenever possible, Dr. Goldenberg uses a nonmedication approach to treating ADHD. This may involve any of several methods.

Behavior modification

This technique is a strategy that helps you recognize your ADHD behaviors and what triggers them, so you can learn to change those behaviors. Here, Dr, Goldenberg teaches you how to stay organized and prioritize tasks to combat your ADHD. 


Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy provides a forum for you to explain your symptoms and receive Dr. Goldenberg’s feedback so you can understand your ADHD better and learn to cope with it. Dr. Goldenberg often can make an individualized referral to a local therapist or coach who specializes in ADHD. 

One type of psychotherapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), helps you change your cycle of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), is another option that can be helpful for ADHD sufferers who can’t control their emotions. DBT helps you learn to accept the discomfort of your ADHD, practice mindfulness in the midst of your symptoms, replace negative responses with positive ones, and may help you stay on course with your other treatments. 

Compensatory mechanisms for ADHD

In addition to these psychiatric and behavioral modification approaches, you may be able to significantly improve your ADHD symptoms with a little self-help or from guided assistance from a coach trained to help patients with ADHD.

Many ADHD sufferers already employ these tactics and may not even be aware they’re doing it. Studies show that adopting these techniques can make a big difference in the severity of your ADHD symptoms. Techniques include:

While any or all of these may be helpful, some compensatory mechanisms may lead to isolation or substance abuse. For example, avoiding social engagements for fear of offending others, or turning to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or drugs to self-medicate, can create new problems in addition to your ADHD. 

Dr. Goldenberg helps you identify which coping strategies may address your unique symptoms and teaches you how to put them into action to improve your functioning and mental wellness. 

Dr. Goldenberg can also provide referrals to ADHD coaches who can walk you through the behavioral changes, assist you with new skill development and who can provide the accountability you need to succeed. This can be a great compliment to medication treatment. Even for those who are not interested in medication, ADHD coaching can be life changing. 

Medications for ADHD

In many cases, medications are an excellent tool to address ADHD symptoms, and they’re often used in conjunction with other therapies and strategies. If Dr. Goldenberg determines they can help you, he typically begins with a non-stimulant option. These are non-addictive, non-habiting forming and are not controlled substances. You may also be a good candidate for a nonstimulant medication, especially if you suffer from other mental health conditions as well. In some cases, these medications can treat multiple conditions simultaneously. 

Stimulant medications are another option. Dr. Goldenberg generally starts with a conservative initial dose and then works up to the lowest effective dose for you. Each patient is unique and there are many options that can be considered for your specific symptoms and goals. Dr. Goldenberg works with you to develop a treatment plan that includes the best options for you.

If you or someone you love suffers from ADHD, help is just a phone call away. Call our office at 424-257-3680 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Goldenberg, or book an appointment online, and get started on your ADHD evaluation and treatment right away.

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