adhd and the brain

Many of my clients, understandably, will be concerned about taking medications. 

Who wants to put medications into our body if we don't have to? 

I want to explain ADHD in a simplified manner. I actually learned this from an article I received yesterday in my email, so I want to give credit to the ideas from the original poster. How ADHD Medication Works by Julie Rawe in Understood.org.

ADHD, THe Brain, and Neurons


The way that our brain works is by sending messages throughout our body using neurons. Neurons use neurotransmitters to send messages to one another ( you have probably heard of  the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin). This messaging is called neurotransmission. 


Neurotransmission doesn't work properly in someone who has adhd


The process of neurotransmission is disrupted in a person who has adhd. There are three main reasons this happens.

  • The sending neuron doesn't release enough of the neurotransmitter to get the message across
  • The receiving neurons landing pad or receptors aren't working correctly or getting activated
  • The sending neuron is sucking up the neurotransmitter before it can be sent.



When the information process gets disrupted, it is disrupted because the neurons cannot send information across the synapses. Neurotransmission is not working smoothly.

What we see on the outside is a result of this. It may be the person has difficulty with reward, focus, planning, attention, shifting between tasks, or  movement. The brain is responsible for orchestrating all of these things. 

Why does this happen in a person with adhd? Currently, we believe a big part of this is  disrupted neurotransmission. All research points to brain networks, and brain development differences in people who struggle with adhd. Some differences seem to be good, like creativity and hype focus. You may have experienced these yourself, if you have adhd.

A non adhd person may experience attention problems due to lack of sleep or hunger or stress or trauma or various other reasons, however the solutions to their attention problems are different than the solutions to the attention problem of an adhd person.

For an person who struggles with adhd, medication is what fixes this problem with neurotransmission. Medication is helpful in 8 out of 10 cases. 


Now, this is an oversimplification of the understanding of the biology of adhd.

Every person is different because adhd occurs on a spectrum. Our knowledge of exactly why the neurotransmitters aren't working, which part of the brain is impacted the most, and exactly how to correct these issues so your life is optimized is completely imperfect.

Additionally thinking of yourself as a problem that needs fixing is not helpful, Although I am a big advocate for medication, it still remains a personal choice. I really enjoy this video and this young mans discussion of his journey and his ideas about medication, even thought they differ from mine. His is a lived experience. 




If you find yourself struggling with these ideas, or with medication in general, you aren't alone. 


Some people for whatever reasons cannot take the medicine available to treat adhd. You may have side effects that are unmanageable, or the medication may not work for you. Perhaps you choose not to take it because your life is manageable as it is. 

It is important to remember that as a person or a parent with adhd you may fall victim to people trying to sell you ideas for alternative solutions to your adhd symptoms please proceed with caution as there is not great evidence for any vitamins, herbs or natural remedies for adhd. 

In that case leading a healthy stress free lifestyle where you are choosing a high interest career, finding outside support, getting enough sleep, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and decreasing your stress as much as possible is ideal. There are studies supporting biofeedback and neurofeedback that you may want to investigate as well. 

Learn more about adhd in these pages:


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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.