When you think of caffeine and the way it generally affects a person, you probably think of someone encountering a burst of energy or even jitteriness. However, many people with ADHD say that coffee, or caffeine in general, helps them focus and feel calm. This take is frequently seen on online forums and other similar spaces, and it differs from the experience that many other people have when consuming caffeine. So, what does the research really tell us about ADHD and caffeine?
What Is ADHD?
First, let’s go over the basics of ADHD and what it means to have a diagnosis of ADHD.
ADHD stands for “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” It is considered a very common condition, and statistics say that about 6.1 million children in the United States alone are diagnosed with ADHD. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD can affect anyone, including people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. That said, it’s often diagnosed in childhood, and although it is by no means impossible to get diagnosed as an adult, it may be more difficult to get a diagnosis of ADHD if you are an adult.
ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattentiveness and hyperactivity or impulsivity. That said, it doesn’t always show up the way that stereotypes indicate, and it’s not synonymous with being hyperactive, quirky, or having trouble concentrating from time to time. Instead, someone with ADHD will experience an ongoing pattern starting in childhood of inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning or development. It can pose a number of challenges, and it can impact a person’s life in serious ways.
New research on ADHD is emerging all the time, and some of that research is indeed focused on the way that caffeine and ADHD interact. Now, what does that research say?
Research On Caffeine And ADHD
Experts have made a number of different findings related to ADHD and caffeine. Although the research is limited, what we know is that:
- Caffeine can help adults with ADHD boost their focus in some cases.
- Experts say that caffeine can boost a sense of calm for those with ADHD.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, and since ADHD is often treated using stimulants, it makes sense to hypothesize that caffeine may help some people in moderate doses. Why does it work? Caffeine boosts dopamine, which is too low in those with ADHD.
That said, learning to navigate life with ADHD takes more than caffeine, and everyone is different, ADHD or not. Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine and can’t drink it, where others find a reasonable amount of caffeinated foods or beverages both enjoyable and beneficial. The bottom line? Caffeine can be advantageous in moderation for some, but it’s not wise to rely on caffeine alone, and it cannot replace professional treatment for ADHD.
How much caffeine should you consume? Experts recommend that you keep your caffeine consumption under 400 milligrams to avoid adverse impacts. Make sure that you contact your doctor before you change your caffeine consumption or if you have any concerns about caffeine.
Support For ADHD
With it in mind that caffeine isn’t a treatment for ADHD, you might wonder, “what can I do to get support if I have ADHD or think that I might?” Again, ADHD is not simply a lack of focus. Executive dysfunction, difficulty with time management, trouble focusing, periods or bursts of hyperfocus, irritability or a low tolerance for frustration, mood swings, and restlessness are all common symptoms. If you think that you might have ADHD, it’s important to see a medical or mental health professional who is qualified to provide an assessment and formal diagnosis. If you’re an adult seeking a diagnosis, the best course of action may be to find a provider who has worked with adults who have ADHD before.
As for accepted treatments, ADHD is often treated using a combination of medication* and therapy. People living with ADHD may feel misunderstood due to the symptoms they face, especially if they aren’t around people who understand ADHD or the true nature of ADHD symptoms. This is part of why finding support can help. You might be able to find support in the form of a digital support group, other people with ADHD in your area, or a mental health professional who provides talk therapy and works with clients who have ADHD.
*Please consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options.
Find A Therapist Whether you’re struggling with concerns related to ADHD or something else that’s affecting your life, a counselor or therapist can help. Therapy is a safe space to talk about anything that’s on your mind in a confidential, supportive setting. To find a therapist, you can contact your insurance company to see who they cover, ask your doctor for a referral, or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform with licensed providers like BetterHelp. Online therapy is often more affordable than traditional in-person services are without insurance, and the BetterHelp platform allows you to access a broad range of providers with different specialties who are licensed in your state. Regardless of how you find a therapist, we all need support from time to time, so don’t hesitate to start your search today.