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Mindful : April 2016
Medication Prescription medications are by far the most popular treat- ment for ADHD in children and adults, and research shows that the medications—usually stimulants such as amphet- amines or methylphenidate (brand name Ritalin)—can help about 80% of those diagnosed with ADHD. But the downsides include possible side effects, such as insomnia and loss of appetite, on top of risks of dependence and abuse. Exercise I occasionally take prescrip- tion stimulants, and tend to mainline coffee, but my drug of choice is exercise: usually a swift hike, swim, or yoga class. Substantial research con- firms that exercise revs up our brains, while releasing natural pain-relievers (endorphins) and antidepressants (sero- tonin). That’s why John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author of Spark: The Revolu- tionary New Science of Exer- cise and the Brain, says that for some people with ADHD, intensive exercise may actu- ally substitute for stimulants, while for most, it is a helpful complementary tactic. What You Can Do about It Let’s assume that a psychologist or psychiatrist, or even, as is increasingly the case, the family doctor, has diagnosed ADHD. Now that you know you’ve got it (or a friend or family member has told you they have it), what—along with mindfulness—can help? Here are a few of the most promising approaches, which can of course be combined. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can yield benefits in as few as 12 one-hour sessions. In CBT, you learn to recog- nize and avoid destructive thoughts and beliefs. Such toxic thoughts—“I’m stupid,” “I’ll never succeed”—are common among people with ADHD. Research indicates that medication combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is more effective than meds alone. There is also the eight-week Mind- fulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program. Neurofeedback Neurofeedback, or biofeed- back for the brain, has been drawing considerable atten- tion recently as a potentially helpful, drug-free therapy for ADHD and especially for the stress and anxiety that so often accompanies it. The underlying theory is that people can learn to alter their own brain waves through practice and repetition. You do that practice with elec- trodes attached to your scalp, which send information to a computer program that pro- vides rewarding or discour- aging feedback. Some recent studies show positive results, but the scientific consensus is that more “gold-standard,” peer-reviewed research is needed. Moreover, neurofeed- back is expensive, since most therapists recommend 40 sessions or more, at an aver- age of $100 per session, and the field remains so unregu- lated that it can be hard to find a qualified practitioner. By Katherine Ellison health