ADHD from cognitive-behavioral psychology

12.08.2020

ADHD, an acronym that refers to the term "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder", is a psychological phenomenon that often gives rise to controversy. In fact, many people today believe that it is a simple invention of the pharmaceutical industry, created to sell stimulant-type drugs such as methylphenidate.

However, the truth is that ADHD is a reality , and in fact its existence is not as linked to the dynamics of Big Pharma as is often believed. It is true that it is probably an overdiagnosed disorder (that is, it tends to be assumed that people without ADHD have developed this disorder), and it is also true that the use of medications is often recommended in its treatment.

But the truth is that the existence of ADHD has evidence both in the field of clinical psychology and in that of neurosciences, and that the fact of having received this diagnosis does not imply the need for the use of psychotropic drugs. Typically, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy works best, and it is often enough. Let's see what it is and how it is applied in this disorder.

What is ADHD?

Let's start with the basics: what is ADHD? It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is usually detected during childhood in some boys and girls , and which gives rise to three main types of symptoms:

  • Trouble staying focused on a specific task or stimulus
  • Impulse control problems, and impatience
  • Hyperactivity, restlessness and constant search for stimuli in the environment

One of the main consequences of ADHD is that if it is not treated properly, it tends to significantly limit the school progress of children, leading to school failure and all that it entails in adolescence and adult life. In addition, it also gives rise to problems of coexistence and family dynamics.

From what is currently known, ADHD symptoms do not normally disappear completely in adulthood , although it is true that after adolescence we have better tools to put our thoughts and priorities in order. While it is true that those who have developed ADHD during childhood do not continue to maintain the classic childhood behavior based on impulsivity and high activity, statistically they are more likely to develop addictions and other problems related to difficulties in repressing impulses.

How is ADHD treated in cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychological intervention that, as its name suggests, aims to help the person seeking support to modify their behavior patterns and cognitive patterns. That is, their way of behaving from an objective point of view and observable by everyone (moving, talking with others, and interacting with what they have around them in general), and their way of thinking, feeling and holding beliefs .

This dual course of action, which is not as parallel as it seems, given that observable behavior and cognitive processes are constantly influencing each other, is very effective in offering psychological assistance to a wide variety of problems, some of the which do not even have to do with psychological disorders.

How is cognitive behavioral therapy applied in the case of ADHD? In summary, the main forms of intervention in this class of cases are the following.

1. Training in emotion recognition

From the cognitive-behavioral model, people with ADHD are helped to correctly identify the emotions they feel at all times.

In this way, for example, it is avoided that they use forms of "relief" of emotional discomfort that can lead to recurring habits , or even addictions, from actions that lead to cover that discomfort with specific moments of well-being that "cover" the anguish, sadness, frustration, etc. Doing this makes it more likely that the person will intervene correctly on the true source of the problem that makes them feel this way.

2. Structuring behavior patterns

Psychologists who work with the cognitive-behavioral model train people with attention problems and impulsivity to adopt action sequencing strategies .

This makes it less likely to start a task and leave it halfway, or to direct the focus of attention towards other stimuli, since emphasis is placed on those lines of thought and action that lead us to finish what we started and move on to the next task to do.

3. Anxiety management techniques

Anxiety is one of the psychological phenomena that most predisposes to disorganization and the search for external distractions . For this reason, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches people to manage it better without falling into its traps.

4. Communication guidelines

Do not forget that many of the symptoms of ADHD facilitate the appearance of conflicts and problems with coexistence. For this reason, in psychology guidelines are given to prevent these kinds of problems, and give them a constructive solution once they have occurred .

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