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Mindfulness Therapy Could Help ADHD, Studies Suggest

Recent research suggests promising non-medication approaches for ADHD treatment.

A new pilot study published in the Journal of Attention Disorder suggests that mindfulness cognitive behavioral therapy could improve symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. Mindfulness cognitive behavioral therapy (or MCBT) is a structured, eight-week program that combines cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness approaches encourage one to pay focused attention to moments without judgment or criticism.

Researchers enrolled 31 participants in an adapted form of mindfulness cognitive behavioral therapy, obtained self-report questionnaires, and interviewed 24 participants. The pilot study found that mindfulness therapy significant reduced ADHD symptoms and improved areas of executive functioning, self-compassion, and mental health. Of note, about 16 percent of participants dropped out of the study. A larger trial is needed, but the small study is part of the emerging evidence that mindfulness therapies could play an important role in the treatment of ADHD.

Non-medication therapies are important to consider alongside and in combination traditional medication treatment of ADHD for several reasons. About 10 to 30 percent of adults with ADHD do not respond fully to stimulant medications, the standard first-line medication treatment for ADHD. Furthermore, people may experience uncomfortable side effects to stimulants, including dry mouth, jitteriness, worsened anxiety, or decreased appetite. Stimulant medications, while safe, do also carry the risk of overuse or dependence as well as cardiovascular risk. Many people for these reasons may prefer to consider a non-medication approach to manage their ADHD symptoms.

A review published in May 2017 found a significant clear benefit to mindfulness CBT as an adjunct therapy combined with standard medication treatment of ADHD in young adults. Of the 12 trials published in the last five years, the majority of evidence indicated a reduction in ADHD severity with the addition of mindfulness CBT to standard treatment.

While more research is needed in this area, these recent studies suggest a promising and emerging role of mindfulness in the treatment of ADHD.

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