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Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Four ways hypnosis can be used to improve ADHD.

Key points

  • Many children with ADHD have co-morbid mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders.
  • A child’s environment plays an essential role in whether ADHD causes major life disruptions.
  • Treatments for ADHD include behavioral therapy, some of which parents can implement.
Billion Photos/Shutterstock
Source: Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) presents in children with various symptoms, including frequent daydreaming, forgetting or losing things, restlessness, talking too much, making careless errors, taking unnecessary risks, difficulty resisting temptations, trouble taking turns, and difficulty in getting along with others (Felt, 2014).

While genetics play a role in whether a child develops ADHD, the child’s environment plays an important role in whether the symptoms of ADHD cause major life disruptions. For example, children prone to ADHD may thrive in a structured and supportive environment. On the other hand, children who are left to their own devices may struggle academically and socially, leading to anxiety and depression.

It is estimated that nearly 10 percent of children in the United States have ADHD, and boys are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with this condition. More than half of children with ADHD have been diagnosed with at least one additional mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. In decreasing order of prevalence, these include behavioral or conduct problems, anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and Tourette syndrome (Danielson, 2018).

The relationship between ADHD with these other disorders is a complex one. For example, an inability to focus can lead a child to become bored and act inappropriately in a classroom. On the other hand, a child dealing with behavioral issues, anxiety, or depression may have difficulty focusing, which can exacerbate existing ADHD or lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD.

Treatments for ADHD include behavioral therapy, instruction in anger management, and often stimulant or cognition-enhancing medications (Felt, 2014). Behavior therapy that parents can implement includes creating a routine, providing limited choices, helping the child manage distractions, and making plans regarding how to tackle projects. Offering rewards for improved behavior can be very helpful.

Hypnosis for ADHD

In an experimental study, suggestions that the brain can heal itself, along with instruction regarding calming, focus, and confidence, have been shown to help children with ADHD (Thibault, 2018). Thus, it can be expected that suggestions given as part of hypnosis therapy can also be effective. This has certainly been the case in my clinical practice. The following techniques also can be useful in adults who deal with ADHD.

Calming suggestions are helpful as anxiety can lead to difficulties with attention. A child can learn to become calmer with hypnosis by imagining being in a calm environment of their choice. Alternatively, they can be instructed to become calmer by using slow, deep breathing.

By becoming calmer, children with ADHD can allow themselves more time to process information that comes their way. Calming also allows their minds to rest for a few moments from their wide-ranging thinking, after which they can better focus.

Focusing on suggestions has helped my patients stay on task. Enhanced focus can be achieved through entering a hypnotic state at the beginning of a class period and giving the self-suggestion of “be calm” or “focus.” Metaphors suggestive of focusing can also be helpful, such as imagining "tuning" a focusing dial, adjusting the focus of binoculars, or smoothing the waters of a turbulent ocean.

Alternatively, children can be coached to imagine being in a classroom environment and remaining focused and calm as a form of rehearsal.

Ego-strengthening suggestions (with or without hypnosis) can help boost children’s confidence in themselves, leading to improved academic performance. Such suggestions include discussing how children’s mastery of previous challenges (e.g., learning how to ride a bicycle) demonstrates their capacity to overcome present challenges.

People with ADHD benefit from appreciating the strengths provided by their divergent thinking, making it easier for them to come up with novel ideas.

Finally, discussing how positive self-talk can help children achieve their goals often dramatically enhances confidence.

The subconscious can be recruited to help improve focus. For example, once the subconscious is defined as a helpful part of the brain of which they are usually unaware, children can be taught to ask their subconscious to help them focus. If a child's subconscious tells them, it can focus well. The subconscious can be invited to teach the child what it knows. Sometimes, this kind of suggestion leads to an immediate improvement in their ability to pay attention.

Another method involves asking the subconscious for advice regarding how the patient can deal better with their ADHD.


Self-therapy for ADHD with hypnosis can be taught rapidly. As there is no side-effect to using hypnosis, I believe that children should be offered this alternative before they are prescribed medications to treat ADHD.

Copyright Ran D. Anbar

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Danielson, Melissa L., Rebecca H. Bitsko, Reem M. Ghandour, Joseph R. Holbrook, Michael D. Kogan, and Stephen J. Blumberg. 2018. “Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016.” Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 47 (2): 199-212.

Felt, Barbara T., Bernard Biermann , Jennifer G Christner, Param Kochhar, Richard Van Harrison. 2014. “Diagnosis and Management of ADHD in Children.” American Family Physician. 90 (7): 199-212.

Thibault, Robert T., Samuel Veissière, Jay A. Olson, Amir Raz A. 2018. “Treating ADHD With Suggestion: Neurofeedback and Placebo Therapeutics.” Journal of Attention Disorders. 22 (8): 707-711.

More information about hypnosis and how it can be used to help decrease anxiety and improve focus can be found in the 2021 book, "Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center," by Ran D. Anbar, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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