According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11 percent of children in the United States ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Individuals struggling with this neurobehavioral disorder have traditionally been prescribed stimulants, such as Adderall or Ritalin, to manage their symptoms. Recent research on the effectiveness of mindful meditation on adolescents and adults diagnosed with ADHD suggests that these practices can have more long-term effects benefiting the population.
The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) has worked with teenagers and adults with ADHD to determine whether practicing mindfulness helps with focus, attention and impulse control. Dr. Lidia Zylowska, founding member of MARC with a private practice in Silicon Valley, has dedicated her career to exploring the relationship between ADHD and mindfulness. Ongoing research conducted by MARC involves mindfulness classes, called Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs), given to individuals diagnosed with the disorder, including meditation and visual aids. For instance, since those with ADHD are typically visual learners, a picture of the sky was shown to participants with the comparison that the blue sky is the open space of awareness and the clouds are any thoughts or feelings that come to be.
Another major component of the work at MARC is to reduce the self-criticism and negative emotions often expressed by individuals with ADHD. Class participants are asked to passively observe these negative thoughts and feelings “without identifying with them.” This is the first step to combating the harsh self-judgment that often comes as second nature to people struggling with ADHD. As Zylowska explains, “[It] is feasible to teach people with ADHD mindfulness. On the surface it looks like a contradiction, but if you look at it, if you look at the nature of self-regulation, it’s not.”
This ongoing research and further exploration of mindfulness as an effective method of managing ADHD symptoms is supported by other specialists nationwide. This movement was prompted, in part, by the increasing concern over the past decade regarding the potential overmedication of children and adolescents with ADHD. James M. Swanson, a psychologist based at University of California, Irvine (UCI), states, “There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking ADHD medications. But mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in ADHD.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with ADHD and is in need of mindfulness practices and/or further coping skill development, help is available. Sovereign Health Group is a facility that specializes in treating individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 to speak with a professional today.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer