Recent Research on Mindfulness and ADHD

Last month we reviewed the benefits of developing regular mindfulness practices. This month we take a look at the science that proves it. But first, let’s review mindfulness.

Mindfulness simply means having full awareness of your thoughts, feelings and actions in the present moment. The more you practice mindfulness exercises, the easier it can become to notice your thoughts and to bring yourself back from a distracting thought to the task at hand. The main idea is to pause, observe your body and surroundings, and bring your attention back to the present moment. It really is that simple. So, let’s take a look at the evidence…

While there is a growing body of research on this topic, we are going to review two studies in particular that have demonstrated the benefits of mindfulness training for ADHD.

1) The two studies (Edel, Holter, Wassink, & Juckel, G., 2014; Mitchell, et al., 2013) used different approaches to mindfulness training:

  • Mitchell, et al. used Zylowska’s (2008) mindfulness training program (MAPS), similar to the often cited material in her 2012 book The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD, to teach mindfulness to a study group.
  • Edel and colleagues used a combination of mindfulness techniques to teach mindfulness to study participants. Their approach was derived from John Kabat Zinn’s well-known Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment approach modified for use with ADHD. DBT-based mindfulness techniques for ADHD treatment have been gaining recognition in parts of Europe.

2) Both studies used a comparison group in examining benefits of mindfulness training:

  • The Mitchell study used a comparison group of individuals on a waitlist for ADHD mindfulness training who were not using mindfulness techniques at the time of the study.
  • The Edel study compared the outcomes of mindfulness training with the outcomes of a DBT skills group that trained members in mindfulness as well as other coping and emotional management strategies.

3) Both studies demonstrated a reduction in ADHD symptoms with mindfulness training, at least in some study participants.

  • The Mitchell study found a strong effect of mindfulness training on ADHD symptom reduction in a majority of mindfulness training participants as well as improvement in overall level of functioning in a majority of mindfulness training participants. This study also found improvements in self- and clinician-reported executive functioning (EF) symptoms and self-reported emotional regulation. Improvements were found in the mindfulness group but not for those who were not trained in mindfulness. No improvement was found in neuropsychological test scores.
  • The Edel study found benefits for approximately 30% of mindfulness trainees. In comparison, training in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which included a limited mindfulness component, led to benefits for a smaller percentage (11%).
  • As an interesting side-note, the Edel (2014) study found that greater improvement in symptoms occurred in both groups for individuals treated with methylphenidate (stimulant).

Taken together, and in conjunction with Zylowska’s (2008) study that showed numerous benefits of mindfulness training for ADHD, it is clear that empirical evidence is strengthening for the use of mindfulness training as a beneficial intervention for management of ADHD symptoms. Generally speaking, research indicates that practicing mindfulness improves emotional regulation, attention and executive functioning skills, and overall level of functioning.

The bottom line is that cultivating awareness of a wandering mind and bringing yourself back to the present moment can make life with ADHD a bit easier. Learn more HERE >>

References:

Edel, M-A., Holter, T., Wassink, K, & Juckel, G. (10/9/14). A comparison of mindfulness-based group training and skills group training in adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders (published online before print).

Mitchell, J.T., McIntyre, E.M. English, J.S. et al. (12/4/13). A pilot trial of mindfulness meditation training for ADHD in adulthood: Impact on core symptoms, executive functioning, and emotional dysregulation. Journal of Attention Disorders (published online before print).

Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D.L., Yang, M. H., at al. (2008) Mindfulness meditation in Adults and adolescents with ADHD: A feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 237-246.

Zylowska, L. (2012). The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD. Boston: Trumpeter.

Elizabeth Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC – Pathways Ahead: ADHD Coaching
Dr. Ahmann’s approach to ADHD coaching combines evidence-based strategies and years of experience. She partners with each client, focusing on individual needs and goals, to mindfully build on strengths and manage ADHD to more fully enjoy life. Visit her website,
www.lizahmann.com.

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