Treat Your ADHD Brain Like a Race Car and Get on the Road to Better Focus.


By James Wiley, MD, FAAP

ADHD brains are like race cars. I don’t know who coined the metaphor, but I use it frequently with my patients. ADHD brains are fast; they are powerful. Some of the most creative and successful people on the planet drive one. But here’s the flip side: the steering is difficult and the brakes are lousy.

Like any car, a race car requires maintenance. Things like oil, gas, a clean windshield and air in the tires are all essential regardless of the type of car—whether it’s a Ferrari or a Yugo from back in the day. It’s the same situation with the brain. Good nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep, fresh air and sunshine are all important for any brain to function well, and these are even more important for ADHD brains. But like any high performance vehicle,  an ADHD brain requires much more than typical maintenance.

Here are some strategies to tune up your ADHD care, race car style:

Medication. A race car can go nowhere without the motor being fueled effectively. An ADHD brain lacks the right chemistry for attention, motor and impulse control, so it usually needs medication to enhance those chemical connections. Think of medication as a necessary fuel additive that helps the brain run smoothly. Most of us need medication to operate more efficiently and without it, some of us won’t even make it out of the garage.

Skills. It takes skill to drive a high performance vehicle. Getting medication optimized to the just right dose of the just right medication is often the first part of acquiring the skills needed. Another key is being in the right academic or work setting. With the medication and environment tuned, some ADHD brains are able to flourish and develop the needed executive function to be less frustrated. But for others, more help is needed.

A team. No race car gets to the finish line without a pit crew. And ADHD patients often benefit from a pit crew of their own—supportive people who understand ADHD mentality and play specific roles in the patient’s life. Putting together that pit crew—whether it’s adding an ADHD coach, a nutritionist, a behavior therapist or someone to help with organization skills— and getting them to work in harmony can be difficult for families.

At Focus-MD we don’t pretend to offer the pit crew, but we work every day to be the best in the world at providing a careful diagnosis and evidence-based medical treatment for our patients. We help patients go from frustration to focus by getting diagnosis and medication right, then connect the individual to additional trusted resources for building social skills, academic skills, and organization skills according to his or her needs. Our goal for our patients is a healthy, well-maintained and more attentive brain to help them navigate their lives.

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