Tips for Treating ADHD When You Have No Insurance

Being without insurance doesn't have to mean you can't make progress against ADHD.  Here are some specific ideas to keep the cost of treatment as low as possible:

  1. The two least expensive ways to get diagnosed are either through a primary care physician that you are seeing for another reason or, sometimes, through a research study (these are hard to come by).  In the former case, make sure the physician prescribes generic medications, if you are going that route, to minimize cost.
  2. Sleep deprivation is a huge factor in the severity of ADHD symptoms.  Create a sleep routine that gets you 8 hours of sleep a night.  Tricks for this include: turning off all computers, televisions and interactive electronics an hour before bedtime; making sure you stop all stimulants (including coffee and tea) early enough in the day; listening to soft music; reading a book; create a routine that your body can adapt to.  This is FREE and very effective.
  3. Exercise also helps ADHD symptoms such as focus and mood stability (for a distinct period of time after exercising).  It has also been shown to be very effective in managing depression.  Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of sweat-inducing exercise a day (or at least 4-5 times a week)
  4. Fish oil pills improve focus for those with ADHD.  There are less expensive brands - just make sure to get one that is pharmaceutical grade to avoid Mercury.  Dr. Hallowell recommends up to 5,000 mg a day for adults and up to 2,500 mg a day for children.  Check with your pharmacist or doctor for interactions with other medications (fish oil and blood thinners don't go well together, for example)
  5. There are many books to help you establish new structures to help manage ADHD.  You can get them from your library for free or used on Amazon for a few dollars.  Two of my favorites include ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life and More Attention/Less Deficit.
  6. Invest in an organization system that works for you.  Paper planners are fine if you can keep them with you (carry in your purse, perhaps).  Many people use their smart phones.  The reminders you can set and lists you can keep are an important tool for managing ADHD issues.  Inexpensive kitchen times can also help you manage time around the house.
  7. Get a (non-spouse) organization or exercise buddy to help keep you on track with your goals.  In the first case, perhaps someone who loves to organize and can help you with your closet, garage or other organizational issue (i.e. help you set up a system that will help you - perhaps with labels).  Scheduling regular exercise with a companion can help you stick to it, as well as be fun.
  8. There are many online resources where you can learn more about ADHD.  The best include ADDitude Magazine which also offers a quarterly magazine and forums; which has an extensive and good seminar series that you can access in real time for free (and historically for a small fee); and the ADDA seminar series and website.  Education about ADHD is critical to improving your situation.  The more you know, the better decisions you can make.
  9. If you can't afford therapy but need some couples work, my course might be a good alternative.  It's available in both a recorded and live format and information is here.  It's not free, but it's a good value for what it provides.


Finding a primary care physician

This is a great list, and I appreciate you posting it. However, how do you find a primary care physician that is knowledgeable enough or willing to diagnose and/or treat ADHD? It can be nearly impossible to find psychiatrists that specialize in it (because a specialty in ADHD really = child psychiatrist in most directories), much less MDs. I've asked specifically before making any appointments, does this doctor have experience with adult patients with ADHD. They always say yes, but they clearly do not have that experience.

This has been a big issue for my husband. He is already diagnosed, around six years ago, and he had a wonderful doctor at the time that worked with him to find the right dose, and it has worked well ever since. But, we have moved a couple of times and have yet to find a primary care physician who is "comfortable" prescribing him the medication he has been using so successfully. We are again having to find a new doctor (as the one he just started seeing decided he didn't want to treat him without another diagnosis), but I have not had any luck finding a resource or directory to find a doctor who 1) believes ADHD doesn't just "go away" into adulthood (my husband, by the way, was diagnosed at age 30) and 2) won't try to convince him to try another medication or stop taking medication altogether. I've even tried asking psychiatrists who do specialize in ADHD if they can make recommendations for primary care physicians, but they haven't been able to. It is costly enough to find a new doctor without insurance, but to go through the process only to find out the doctor may not be willing to treat this condition and have to find yet another doctor? It can be extremely costly and very stressful.

resources for finding physicians

The resources I usually recommend focus on therapists, typically, such as CHADD, the Psychology Today website and  If you live in a town with a large hospital, you might try them to see if they can give you some ideas.  Or, try calling your local special ed support group (if you have MA we have local SEPACs - don't know what that stands for, but google your town and special ed or support group and see what comes up) or the local middle school resources group.  If you have friends with kids who have ADHD they may also know of doctors in the area - children's physicians may be affiliated with adult physicians in the same group, for example...

Value of the course

I think the course is an exceptional value. 

We don't have a lot (ok really any) disposable income, but signed up for the class as an investment in our well-being so we could get to a more peaceful place in our marriage. my husband has been out of work for an extended time; the economic and Adhd related stress made me feel like I was losing my mind. 

What I like about the class is that it is scheduled and structured and offers concrete ways of managing behaviors and expectations. So far I am using a couple of the tools on a regular basis to change my own behavior as the non ADHD spouse. The sense of empowerment is really making me so much happier and less stressed. Even on bad (=non medicated husband) days, I have more options of how to deal -- from the course. 

Between meds, counseling and the cost of the mental stress, ADHD is costly, period. The course is worth the investment because of the pathways to more peace of mind amid the chaos. Thanks Melissa.