People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience difficulties maintaining attention or controlling their physical energy and movement.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental condition that affects around 9% of children aged 3–17 years and 4% of adults in the United States.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a number of challenges for many people. Those with ADHD may be particularly vulnerable to stress due to the pandemic and may therefore display increased behavioral problems.

Keep reading to learn more about ADHD and COVID-19, including how to take sensible precautions and other coping techniques.

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

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Setting time aside for certain activities may help people with ADHD cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on individuals and the global community alike. Practicing preventive measures such as physical distancing may lead to unforeseen consequences for children and adults with ADHD.

Many adults and children are working and learning remotely. This lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to feelings of boredom, isolation, and loneliness. In addition, an increased lack of structure can make it harder to accomplish tasks.

In one 2017 study, researchers found that adults who reported more ADHD symptoms had a higher risk of feeling lonely.

The findings of one 2015 study and one 2017 study suggest that social isolation can lead to poorer mental health outcomes in both children and adults.

Social isolation may be especially harmful for individuals with ADHD, as ADHD usually occurs with other mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Navigating life from home can also lead to major changes in a person’s daily routines. For instance, people with ADHD may have difficulty waking up and falling asleep at the same time when they do not have to leave their home.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, low quality sleep can exacerbate ADHD symptoms in children. In a recent study, researchers also found that adolescents with ADHD experienced more depressive symptoms and exhibited negative behaviors when they got only 6.5 hours of sleep.

Learn more about ADHD here.

The following sections will discuss how to cope with ADHD symptoms during the current pandemic.

Creating daily and weekly routines can help build good habits and may ease some ADHD symptoms. For example, according to Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD), structure and routine can help reduce stress and uncertainty.

Creating a routine can include:

  • scheduling regular times for sleeping, eating, and physical activities
  • setting time aside for work, homework, physical activity, relaxation, and hobbies
  • spending a few minutes in the evening to come up with a short list of tasks to complete the following day
  • scheduling chores, grocery shopping, and other household activities ahead of time

A person’s physical space can profoundly impact their mental state. For instance, a person may feel more focused when they do their work in a quiet, tidy room. Similarly, children may learn better without external distractions, such as a television playing in the background.

According to CHADD, the following may help create a calming environment:

  • practicing breathing techniques
  • having designated rooms and spaces for work, play, and relaxation, if possible
  • inhaling soothing scents
  • keeping a journal to write down thoughts and feelings
  • listening to relaxing music

Getting regular exercise may help alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD. In one 2017 study, for example, researchers found that children with ADHD showed improved impulse control and attention after a single 20-minute aerobic exercise session.

According to the authors of one 2019 review article, current research suggests that regular physical activity leads to structural changes in the brain that may reduce ADHD symptoms in children.

People can do aerobic and strength training exercises at home. Many workouts do not require equipment.

Walking and jogging outdoors are two effective forms of aerobic exercise. However, people should be sure to practice physical distancing if they exercise outside.

It is essential that people with ADHD continue their current treatment, which may consist of taking medication, attending behavioral therapy, or a combination of the two.

However, due to the pandemic, many people with ADHD may not be able to see their regular healthcare provider or fill their prescriptions as usual.

That said, people can still pick up prescription medication from pharmacies. People who either cannot leave their house or feel uncomfortable doing so may want to consider signing up for a pharmacy delivery program. However, for some ADHD medications, they may need to pick up the prescription in person.

One 2020 article states that people should avoid increasing or adding doses to manage stress related to the pandemic. People should also discuss any potential changes to their medication with their doctor.

A person can still contact their healthcare provider via telephone calls and emails. Also, many healthcare providers now offer telehealth services, wherein they perform health evaluations, consultations, and psychotherapy sessions via video chat.

People can also use video chat services to spend time with family members and friends. Loved ones can offer support during difficult times or simply provide a change of pace. Try scheduling these meetings ahead of time and use them as motivation to complete a project or task.

For families with children with ADHD, the European ADHD Guidelines Group recommend the use of behavioral parenting strategies. These techniques may help reduce disruptive behavior.

People should contact their healthcare provider if they experience any new or worsening symptoms of ADHD that interfere with their ability to function on a daily basis.

It is also important for a person to contact a healthcare provider if they or someone they live with develops symptoms of COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms are a cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

People with at least two of the following symptoms may also have COVID-19:

  • chills
  • fever
  • muscle pain
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • a headache
  • a sore throat

Learn more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how they compare with the symptoms of other conditions here.

Practicing the following measures can help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19:

  • cleaning and disinfecting household surfaces and items that see frequent use, including electronics, countertops, and doorknobs
  • regularly washing and disinfecting the hands with warm water and soap, or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, for at least 20 seconds each time
  • staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from other people in public places
  • wearing a face mask that covers the mouth and nose in public places
  • monitoring household members for symptoms of COVID-19

People with ADHD may be facing disruptive changes in their life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These changes may trigger new or worsening symptoms of ADHD or other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Practicing preventive measures, creating a routine and a calm environment, exercising often, and socializing digitally may help all relieve these symptoms.