CBT For ADHD: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps Treat ADHD

Cbt For Adhd - How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps Treat Adhd
cbt for adhd - how cognitive behavioral therapy helps treat adhd

ADHD is a condition marked by impulsive fidgety behavior where people are unfocused, unable to pay attention, and find it hard to be still. Cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD is an effective treatment that can help those with ADHD identify their thought processes and negative emotions for better management of the disability.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, from their relationships to their performance at school or work. While medication is a common treatment approach, ADHD can benefit from therapies like CBT that make it easier to manage the condition. The most common symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Excessive physical movement.
  • Excessive talking
  • Interrupting conversation
  • Poor mental focus and concentration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Carelessness
  • Forgetfulness
  • No sense of danger
  • Unorganized

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence based short term psychotherapy approach that focuses on how thoughts, emotions, and behavior is influenced by our perception of things and  environment. As an adaptable and flexible therapy CBT helps an individual identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors replacing them with rational and positive ones. CBT is well structured and , goal-oriented to achieve long term effects in conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and, more recently, ADHD.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help With ADHD?

CBT in ADHD focuses on areas of daily function employing techniques to modify behavior as much as possible. The therapy focuses on cultivating organizational skills, improving focus, social skills, task management and avoiding unproductivity such as ADHD procrastination. CBT sessions with a therapist will include activities that encourage exercise, hobbies, financial management, and  improve wellbeing including sleep. 

People with ADHD develop an extremely distorted view of themselves and life in general. Be it at home or the workplace, for such individuals, life is always a failure, and nothing that they do will ever turn out right. Self-criticism and pessimism take center stage in ADHD which is why  CBT helps an ADHD afflicted person change their negative thought process characterized by the following ways:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: For ADHD people, the inability to complete a task to perfection is perceived as failure. This is because everything is viewed as good or bad and nothing in between. This leads to procrastination if one is not successful as something.
  • Overgeneralization: In ADHD, you look at one single incident as part of a recurring pattern of failure such as forgetting to pay bills. This creates an exaggerated negative opinion of yourself.
  • Fortune telling: You predict that nothing will ever be right and things will always turn out badly for you.
  • Mind reading. You feel as if you know that people always think bad about you.
  • Should” statements: You keep focusing on how life should have been, a cognitive thought process leading to intense criticism of yourself and others.
  • Mental filtering: You are always fixated on small negative detail which leads you to keep viewing the negative side of every experience.
  • Personalization. You blame yourself for all the bad things that have happened, and downplay the role of others.
  • Emotional reasoning: You frequently assume how your negative perception reflects reality for example: you feel you’re not good at your job and will most probably be fired.
  • Comparative thinking: You frequently use social standards and the opinion of others as reference even when they are negative, distorted, or unrealistic.
  • Magnification and minimization: You exaggerate the negativity and minor problems while downplaying the positive experiences or achievements in your life.

How Does CBT Improve ADHD in Adults?

For a person afflicted with ADHD, a task like looking for keys might be a big thing which they feel isn’t worth the botheration. What CBT attempts to do is not treat the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness but help an ADHD person improve themselves, their behavior, and how to overcome daily challenges which for others are routine tasks in life. Is essence, CBT aims at altering the dysfunctional thought patterns that make the condition worse. Here are some of the ways a CBT therapist can help an ADHD afflicted person.

Understanding ADHD

Educating individuals about ADHD helps them recognize their disability is due to a neurological condition and not personal failings.

Identifying Distorted Thought Patterns

CBT helps individuals with ADHD recognize and challenge distorted thought patterns, such as self-criticism and exaggeration. Such thinking worsens the   or ADHD symptoms causing feelings of frustration and hopelessness.

Problem Solving, Time Management and Organization

Time management especially is a big problem in ADHD. CBT can help ADHD individuals employ practical techniques for managing time, setting priorities, be organized, and maintain a structured routine in daily life. CBT also CBT teaches problem-solving skills to individuals with ADHD who faced with challenges or setbacks.

Impulse Control

CBT helps individuals improve their impulsive behavior, such thinking before acting and considering the consequences of their actions.

Emotional Regulation

Managing emotions is one of the biggest challenges for individuals with ADHD. CBT helps ADHD people recognize, and identify the onset of such emotions and how to control or manage neutralize them effectively

Distractibility Delay

CBT for ADHD provides distraction delay techniques for individuals to manage their distractions, and stay more focused. It involves creating a distraction free plan to manage interruptions, identifying distractive thoughts, and setting task reminders to keep on track.

Social Skills

For children and adolescents with ADHD, CBT can focus on improving social skills and peer interactions. This helps reduce the risk of social isolation or conflict.

Mindfulness and Relaxation

CBT can teach mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help individuals with ADHD stay grounded and reduce stress and anxiety.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is an important part of cognitive behavioral therapy for any mental disability. It helps an individual identify negative thinking and replace an irrational mindset with a positive and productive one. While it might not be an inherent treatment plan for ADHD, it helps especially those additionally experiencing intense anxiety and depression.

CBT Complements Medication in ADHD  Adults

While medication is effective in ADHD, research has found how cognitive behavioral therapy can complement medication as part of the treatment. Medication addresses the core symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsiveness, and makes people calmer and composed. CBT on the other hand improves the skills needed for organization, management, and emotional well-being.

In children below six diagnosed with ADHD, CBT can be crucial as a treatment plan in the absence of medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy for children with ADHD will be as effective as medication with no side effects. Life with ADHD can be difficult and challenging. If you’re facing this mental problem, it would be wise to consider CBT for ADHD which will provide you all the tools to get it under control for you to lead a more fulfilling life.

Andrew Alpin

Andrew Kevin Alpin is a creative content specialist from Kolkata with several years of experience in content creation focusing on health and wellness. He possesses good insight on psychology and human behavior, including all all aspects of health. Andrew currently works as a Freelance Educational Content Director and Creative head at Enso Integrated Medicine, Bengaluru.