Alternative ADHD Treatments for College Students

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been the subject of much controversy and skepticism in recent years, mostly due to the medical treatment of this disorder with stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin. There is much concern over a growing number of individuals being diagnosed with ADHD in universities across the country, perhaps improperly, and that stimulants are in fact being sought out and abused. The tragic outcome of this problem is that students who honestly have ADHD and require treatment are often met with skepticism, leading some to avoid treatment they truly need.

One solution to this dilemma lies in alternative treatments. While young children have the options of trying dietary restrictions and intensive behavioral therapy, college students may also need to consider alternative treatments which are self-motivated. Three life changes that can greatly aid college students with ADHD, as well as college students in general are:


One of the best ways to combat ADHD in young adults is through exercise due to the extensive benefits it has on overall brain function. Simple exercise (walking, biking, running, etc.) will flood the brain with nuerochemicals that sharpen focus, while programmed exercises (martial arts, yoga, dance, etc.) promote organizational functioning by concentrating the higher centers of the brain to act out a specified pattern of activity. The most effective exercises for the treatment of ADHD are those which necessitate paying close attention to body form and special location, such as yoga. Yoga requires an individual to focus not only on form and location, but also requires controlled breathing, meditation, and posture. All of these skills work together to lower and individual's stress level and improve attention. The effectiveness of exercise can also be heightened if done outdoors.

Go Outside

Symptoms of ADHD will be worsened by overstimulation and “attention fatigue.” In fact, some evolutionary psychologists believe that ADHD was an adaptive behavior of early man, whose life “required hypervigilance, rapid-scanning, quickness to move, hyperactivity and response-readiness” (source).  In today’s environment, constantly being indoors and surrounded by sources of stimulation, this becomes disadvantageous and a burden. Breaks from activities which require heavy concentration, such as studying, by spending time outside in the naturally adapted environment can soothe symptoms of ADHD and allow for extended sessions of focus.

Behavioral Changes

The human brain is very powerful, but also easy to train. Using some of the basic principles of behavioral psychology, it is possible to  condition the brain to function in different ways in different places. For example, students, especially those with ADHD, should only study a location they have designated for only studying, such as a desk. It works like this. A student will sit down at the desk to study, and once their focus becomes distracted, they must get up and do something else, returning to the desk only when they are ready to focus again. This makes the desk a stimulus for focus, and the brain is trained to associate the desk, or other study area, with studying, and nothing else. This also works for beds/sleeping (watching tv/working in bed can lead to sleeping problems such as insomnia) and tables/eating (eating in multiple locations can worsen snacking by making all of those areas stimuli for hunger, eating only in designated locations helps relieve this).