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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults and the role of Hypnotherapy as Treatment.

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What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Many people have heard of ADHD. It may make you think of kids who have trouble paying attention or who are hyperactive or impulsive. Adults can have ADHD, too. About 4% to 5% of U.S. adults have it. But few adults get diagnosed or treated for it.

Who gets adult ADHD? Every adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Some may have been diagnosed and known it. But some may have not been diagnosed when they were young and only find out later in life.

While many kids with ADHD outgrow it, about 60% still have it as adults. Adult ADHD seems to affect men and women equally.

There’s no cure for ADHD. If your doctor says you have it, you’ll work together to make a treatment plan just for you.

Adult ADHD Symptoms

If you have adult ADHD, you may find it hard to:

  • Follow directions

  • Remember information

  • Concentrate

  • Organize tasks

  • Finish work on time

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can change over time. They may cause trouble in many parts of life -- at home, at work, or at school. Getting treatment and learning ways to manage ADHD can help. Most people learn to adapt. And adults with ADHD can develop their personal strengths and find success.

Challenges People With Adult ADHD Face

If you have ADHD, you may have trouble with:

  • Anxiety

  • Chronic boredom

  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness

  • Depression

  • Trouble concentrating when reading

  • Trouble controlling anger

  • Problems at work

  • Impulsiveness

  • Low tolerance for frustration

  • Low self-esteem

  • Mood swings

  • Poor organization skills

  • Procrastination

  • Relationship problems

  • Substance abuse or addiction

  • Low motivation

These may affect you a lot, or they may not bother you much. They can be problems all of the time or just depend on the situation.

Hypnosis as a treatment for ADHD

Medications, often stimulants that enhance dopamine function are frequently employed in treating this condition. Although, usually effective in the first year of treatment, many researchers are reporting that the effects generally wane by the third year, if not sooner.[1] However, changes in diet, such as removing foods which contain certain additives, lifestyle modifications, exercise, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have all been shown to alleviate some of the effects of ADHD. There is some evidence that hypnosis can also aid the effectiveness of some of these treatments. Hypnosis excels in helping develop empowering resource states that can be utilised for positive effects. In this regard, patients are taught self-hypnotic strategies that they can employ for themselves. Although these strategies may seem diverse, there is a common thread, that hypnosis in general or self-hypnosis in particular can be thought of as form of attentional training, which with regular practise can help reduce attentional deficits.

For instance, developing a state of calmness can be brought about by sustaining focus on anything that a particular person associates with calm – along with liberal suggestions for relaxation and interest.

People with ADHD often have low self-esteem, usually thought to the experience of repeated failures and frequently told that they are not good enough and often leads to diminished motivation. There are many techniques of using hypnosis to create “believed in” content rich visualisations of future success that together with the development of an “Inner Starter” – a resource state of characterised by enthusiasm, can be powerfully motivating. Adaptations of these techniques can be also be used to develop problem solving skills. It can be surprising to find what effect suggestions to regularly check the time have on time management. Although the traditional use of hypnotic suggestion to facilitate memory recall has been in forensic fields, adaptions with behavioural rehearsal can be used to stimulate attention to detail and recall.

Outside of core ADHD symptoms, patients can also choose to focus on a particular area for treatment as part of the hypnotherapy, such as a fear of social situations, anger management or developing patience, or tolerating boredom both of which, if developed, reduce impulsiveness.

Does it work?

So, what of the results? Not surprisingly, there has been little research but what there has been is positive. Two recent small scale but well conducted studies by Maarit Virta from the University of Helsinki found that hypnosis was effective in the treatment of ADHD [2] and a follow up study found that treatment with hypnosis had a better outcome than CBT. [3] There has been much discussion as to whether there is an overlap between a type of consciousness that is termed Mindfulness and the “state” of hypnosis. Certainly, there are many similarities because both involve a heightened state of focus and detachment. Hypnotherapy often utilises suggestions to create inner experience and resource states whilst these are not given in most mindfulness practices.

Lidia Zylowska of the University of California and Los Angeles, in a feasibility study, found that mindfulness medication training is an effective treatment of ADHD in the small group of adults and adolescents she studied [4]. Another study by John Mitchell [5] examined the effects of mindfulness training on individuals diagnosed with ADHD. They compared their mindfulness group to a waiting list control group of diagnosed individuals already receiving medication. They found a strong effect for mindfulness training on symptom reduction and improved functional impairment, as well as clinician-reported improvements in executive functioning. These clinical findings build on basic science research that showed that mindfulness medication practice has increases in brain tissue [6], termed neuroplasticity, particularly in areas of the brain thought to be associated with ADHD.

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