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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you might routinely have severe patterns of thoughts and beliefs that disturb your concentration and focus, make you de-motivated, and decrease your productivity as they come in the way of your tasks and become a hurdle for accomplishing them. 

You don’t need to worry as multiple therapy options are available which use different techniques to improve your mental health and make you a productive member of society. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of these which can help you deal with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This therapy does not just rely on your past experiences but work on your present thoughts and patterns that are creating difficulties for you to have healthy behavior. You will learn several strategies that let you tackle your unwanted thoughts and beliefs and ultimately make positive changes in you.  

Let’s first learn a little more what is cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The basis of this therapy is the concept that your unwanted automatic beliefs, thoughts, and emotions disturb your daily actions and choices related to your work, school, home, or relationships which can give you emotional distress and even anxiety and depression. 

For example, too much focus on your imperfections and the point that you will make a mistake if you do any particular task will make you believe that you can’t accomplish anything right although you have made several achievements in the past. This belief will stop you from even trying and the delaying approach will make the task even harder for you raising your anxiety levels. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you to identify these distorted thoughts and beliefs of yours and rectify them by making them more realistic so that they don’t disturb your daily working and you start giving your best for the tasks assigned to you. 

This therapy teaches you some problem-solving strategies, relaxation techniques, and skills that help you not only regulate your emotions but also make you empathic enough to understand better how others think and feel. 

What Is The Role of CBT To Help You With ADHD Symptoms?

Individuals living with ADHD use medication to reduce their symptoms and enhance their quality of life but this medication is just a temporary solution as it can’t help them to adopt new skills that will make long-term changes in their life. To get life-long skills, you have to go to therapy. 

What Are Some Components of CBT For ADHD?

The primary components of cognitive behavior therapy related to ADHD are:

  • Psychoeducation helps you understand your symptoms better and this ultimately leads you to address them better. The therapist will explain to you clearly about ADHD, and how it is affecting your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. 

It also involves organizing and planning, navigating any distractions, developing adaptive thinking skills, and reducing procrastinating behaviors. 

You will share the reason why you started this therapy which can be that you were finding it difficult to start your tasks or accomplish them, you forgot or kept on delaying your important appointments or plans, you noticed unusual tension in your relationships, or you just had a hard time managing your emotions when you were stressed. 

The therapist will look at your issues and offer guidance according to your challenges. 

  • You will start gradually and have a plan to accomplish SMART goals related to your challenges. SMART means that you will have specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals that make your present life more practical. 
  • You will explore the tools and strategies to boost your motivation for beginning and carrying on your necessary tasks.
  • You will learn to stay mindful and have acceptance skills that let you challenge your irrational emotions getting in the way of your tasks and rectify negative behaviors such as avoidance. 

Is CBT Effective for ADHD?

Yes, indeed it is as several research studies have already found its effectiveness. According to a 2016 study, CBT was found better than medication for improving the mental health of 46 teens with ADHD as it can give long-term improvements that were not possible with medication. 

Similarly, another 2018 study showed that CBT helped 88 college students reduce their ADHD symptoms and even the associated anxiety and depression. A review study based on several research studies also highlighted that CBT could decrease hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. 

So medication along with this therapy is an effective approach for reducing symptoms of ADHD improving your day-to-day functions and having long-term improvement in mental health rather than just going for medication. 

What Are Some Techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For ADHD?

The techniques used in CBT to make positive changes in the behavior of individuals with ADHD include: 

Restructuring Cognitive Patterns

In this technique, you will learn to explore the challenging negative thoughts that are disturbing your work or relationships. You can have the problem of: 

  • Mind Read: You tend to read other people’s minds and make assumptions about yourself such as you think that you interrupt people by jumping into conversations and others must be thinking that you are so annoying. 
  • Generalizing Too Much: You lost something official or weren’t able to fulfill your one responsibility and started to say things like I can never be trusted for anything. 
  • Catastrophize: This is also something like reading other people’s minds after making some blunder. You think that you have done something wrong multiple times so others won’t allow you to do it again. 

The therapist helps you identify these thought patterns and guides you to change them to more realistic and constructive ones like I can’t do anything wrong can sometimes I go wrong because of my impulsive choices but taking more time can help me to make better decisions. 

Planning and Organizing Activities

In this technique, your therapist helps you with: 

  • Planning your activities and responsibilities
  • Organizing your daily routine
  • Managing your time effectively

You will learn strategies to easily implement these skills if you find it hard to make written plans or keep track of them, your therapist will guide you to use apps for this. 

Distractibility Delay

Those with ADHD easily feel distracted while doing their tasks such as when doing something they don’t enjoy, they might move to some other task that they feel appealing but is not as urgent at the moment as the other one they were already doing. 

In this technique, you will learn to identify all these distractions that are hindering the completion of your primary task and make it easy for you to not indulge in these distractions. 

The therapist will help you: 

  • Make a distraction-free workspace
  • Use reminders to make sure you stay on task
  • Take out time for regular breaks
  • Reframing perfectionist beliefs

After the therapy session, you will be given some homework for bringing these skills into your life and your progress will be tracked in the next session. 

Guided Discovery

In this technique, first, your therapist will learn deeply how you approach situations by knowing about your beliefs, thoughts, and self-perceptions. When negative self-beliefs are found, they will guide you in considering alternate perceptions by challenging your beliefs

For example, if you say that you can’t do anything right because you failed, your therapist will try to move you from there and remember some day when you do something good and this will give you the feeling that yes you can get things done right. 

Successive Approximation

Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by a task as it is a lengthy one and you don’t know where to start from which keeps delaying your task. In this technique, you will learn how you can break your task into small manageable pieces. You will also set small goals with time limits and have regular breaks which helps you carry on with your task till you complete it. 

For example, shifting your house seems a huge task to you but if you divide it into small portions and have small tasks for each day like based on each room, you will find it easy to do this work. 

Positive Self-Talk

You can consider it as part of restructuring your cognitive patterns. When you fail to do a task, you are prone to feel depressed and have feelings of self-hatred. But with this therapy, you will learn to be more self-compassionate and have more positive self-talk which keeps you motivated to complete your goals and also make you better able to decrease negative emotions in case of any challenge. 

How to Find the Right CBT Therapist for Yourself?

First, make a decision that you want to go for in-person or online therapy based on your preference. You can easily find information about therapists who have CBT specialization for ADHD in your area through search engines. 

You can try some therapists to choose which one is working best for you as you must have a good and comfortable relationship with your therapist to get the maximum benefits. 

The Key Takeaway

Individuals with ADHD can effectively benefit from CBT for identifying and reframing their distorted cognitive patterns and behaviors which are decreasing their productivity in daily life and also badly impacting their mental health. 

Cognitive behavior therapy enhances your overall mental and emotional well-being, not just the one aspect of improving your motivation and focus. 

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