Mindfulness Training Shows Promise for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
A number of studies show that mindful techniques can help reduce the problems associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Research is still in the early stages and more is necessary to draw strong conclusions. However, this early research is promising in showing that mindfulness training can improve attention and behavioral control among those with ADHD.
A study that examined mindfulness training for adults with ADHD showed not only improved ADHD symptoms but also a comparison with medication indicated that mindfulness training can be just as effective as medication for controlling the symptoms. Measuring biomarkers (amplitudes of event-related potentials on the EEG) in the brain associated with ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention showed that mindfulness training improved the neurophysiological indicators for motivation, awareness of errors, and inhibiting impulsivity (Schoenberg, et al., 2014).
Another study showed that attending two 50 minute Tai Chi classes with a mindful emphasis twice a week for 15 weeks improved ADHD indicators in healthy young adults showing the possibility of Tai Chi training to aid with managing the symptom of inattention (Converse et al., 2014). From my own training in Tai Chi, I understand that 15 weeks is a relatively short time that only allows learning the fundamentals and that if changes are noticeable in that time period additional practice will only enhance the control over the symptoms. When I say it is a relatively short time, I mean it is the difference between learning how to play a game such as baseball and becoming proficient at it. A person can learn the fundamentals in a few months but have not mastered the game.
Again, it needs to be stressed as with other techniques, mindfulness is not something you do for a few months and expect the changes to last if you quit. Similar to exercise or even taking medication, you need to continue mindfulness as a lifestyle practice for it to continue to assist with controlling symptoms.
To begin your mindfulness training, listen to the Understanding Mindfulness
Converse, A.K., Ahlers, E.O., Travers, B.G. and Davidson, R.J. (2014) Tai chi training reduces self-report of inattention in healthy young adults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8:13. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00013
Schoenber, P.L.A., Hepark, S., Kan, C.C., Barendregt, H.P., Buitelaar, J.K. and Speckens, A.E.M. (2014). Effects of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy on Neurophysiological correlates of performance monitoring in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Clinical Neurophysiology, 125, 1407-1416.
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