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 a significant role in whether the symptoms of ADHD cause major life disruptions. For example, children who are 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, which can lead them to develop anxiety and depression.
It is estimated that nearly 10% of children in the United States suffer from ADHD, and boys are twice as likely than 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 of ADHD with these other disorders is a complex one. For example, inability to focus can lead a child to become bored and therefore act inappropriately in a classroom. On the other hand, a child dealing with behavioral issues, anxiety or depression may have difficulty in focusing that can exacerbate existing ADHD or can lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD.
Treatments for ADHD include behavior therapy and often medications (Felt, 2014). Behavior therapy that can be implemented by parents includes creating a routine, providing limited choices, and helping the child manage distractions and making plans regarding how to tackle projects. Offering rewards for improved behavior can be extremely helpful.
Hypnosis for ADHD
As suggestion has been shown to help children with ADHD (Thibault, 2018), it can be expected that suggestions given as part of hypnosis therapy will be effective as well. 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 through use of slow, deep breathing.
Focusing suggestions have 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.” 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 can help boost children’s confidence in themselves, which can lead to improved academic performance. Such suggestions include a discussion of how children’s mastery of previous challenges (e.g., learning how to ride a bicycle) demonstrates their capacity to overcome present challenges. A discussion of how positive self-talk can help children achieve their goals often enhances confidence dramatically.
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 subconscious states that it can focus well, it can be invited to teach the child what it knows. Sometimes, this kind of suggestion leads to an immediate improvement in the ability to pay attention.
Take Home Message
Self-therapy with hypnosis can be taught rapidly. As there is no side-effect to the use of hypnosis, I believe that children should be offered this alternative before they are prescribed medications in the treatment of ADHD.
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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.