According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental illnesses are more common in the United States than many people may realize. Moreover, NIMH estimates “that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (57.8 million in 2021).” This includes a significant number of people struggling with adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The good news is that there are many effective ways to treat adult ADHD, specifically highlighting the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Further, the bad news is that there are too many cases of untreated ADHD in adults.
What Exactly Is Adult ADHD?
According to the Journal of Global Health, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a clinically heterogeneous neurodevelopmental syndrome that comprises developmentally inappropriate inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and increased impulsivity, is the most common psychiatric disorder in childhood.” Now, while this definition specifies “childhood,” it is now widely understood that ADHD also currently affects over 100 million adults worldwide.
The Journal of Global Health continues, stating, “ADHD significantly impairs multiple aspects of life, leading to educational underachievement, unemployment, unsuccessful marriage, and criminality, etc. Moreover, ADHD shows significant correlations with a wide range of comorbid psychiatric disorders, including affective disorders, defiant, antisocial personality disorder, self-harm, and substance misuse, placing a considerable burden on society and family.” One of the treatment modalities that has been shown to help with these impairments is psychotherapy, specifically CBT.
Understanding Cognitive -Behavioral Therapy
Whether people may know it or not, when they picture what a “traditional” therapy session looks like, there is a good chance that they are picturing a session of CBT. It is now one of the most common forms of therapy used to treat mental illness around the world, and there is a good reason for this is to be highly effective in treating many disorders in many capacities.
According to the publication Cognitive Behavior Therapy, authors Chand, Kuckel, and Huecker explain, “Cognitive behavior[al] therapy is a structured, didactic, and goal-oriented form of therapy. The approach is hands-on and practical wherein the therapist and patient work in a collaborative manner with the goal of modifying patterns of thinking and behavior to bring about a beneficial change in the patient’s mood and way of living his/her life.” It is the “goal-oriented” nature of this therapy that can make it so highly effective for many people.
Human beings are motivated by having an end goal in sight. Thus, knowing that there is a light at the end of the CBT tunnel can be very uplifting and encouraging. This includes individuals needing to treat adult ADHD.
Utilizing Cognitive -Behavioral Therapy for ADHD
CBT works by focusing on the relationships that exist between cognition, emotion, and behavior. Utilizing the understanding of the interconnectedness of these factors, CBT can help individuals get to the underlying emotions that often cause their negative thoughts (cognitions) and actions (behaviors).
In other words, for individuals struggling with adult ADHD, CBT can help them better understand the emotions that are often associated with such symptoms as racing thoughts, lack of focus, and the inability or difficulty to sit still. Once these emotions are uncovered, then the individuals can work with a therapist to create tools and techniques to adjust their thinking and behaviors when these emotions pop up.
CBT can also help individuals better detect ADHD-related emotions as they manifest, so not only can the associated behaviors be mitigated, but can be avoided altogether. However, while CBT is a highly effective therapeutic tool, it can be made even more effective when it is implemented as part of a broader more comprehensive recovery plan.
Utilizing Cognitive -Behavioral Therapy as Part of a Broader Recovery Program to Treat Adult ADHD
While therapy is one of the most utilized treatment modalities for adult ADHD, it is not the only effective option. Another treatment option that many people with adult ADHD also use is medication therapy.
Medication, such as Adderall and Ritalin, has been shown to greatly reduce the negative symptoms of adult ADHD. These medications can help increase focus, reduce restlessness, and help with concentration. Ultimately, when used in tandem, psychotherapy and medication can be highly effective in the fight against adult ADHD.