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What Is Behavioral Therapy for ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with symptoms that can disrupt your daily life. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for those living with ADHD to make these symptoms more manageable. One of these treatments is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In this blog, we’ll talk more about CBT and how it may be able to help manage your or your loved one’s ADHD symptoms. Read on to learn more.

A Brief Introduction

As mentioned, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of children and adults in the U.S. alone. While symptoms can vary from person to person, common struggles that ADHD sufferers deal with include inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, difficulty staying organized, difficulty focusing and more. 

There are several paths to treating ADHD, and cognitive-behavioral therapy is a promising option. Many individuals have achieved positive mental health outcomes from CBT, and it’s worth considering when developing a treatment plan with your doctor. With that being said, what do we mean by cognitive behavioral therapy? Let’s briefly define this form of therapy.

What is Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychological treatment that seeks to change specific behavioral patterns or thinking patterns that may be affecting your mental health, relationships, work or other areas of life.

For ADHD specifically, CBT can be used to identify unhelpful behavior patterns and learn problem-solving skills to cope with the symptoms of ADHD. In short, it allows those with this disorder to recognize behaviors that affect their lives in negative ways and learn to replace them with more positive behaviors. 

CBT can be used alone to address ADHD, or it can be part of a treatment plan that includes other lifestyle changes or prescriptions when medically appropriate. When the patient actively engages in CBT, it can lead to long-term positive behavioral change that allows them to manage their symptoms outside of controlled therapy sessions.

Overall, when those with ADHD have the tools they need to manage their symptoms on their own, they can achieve better self-esteem and find greater success in their daily life.

Understanding ADHD and its Symptoms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that can be present in both children and adults. Typically, its symptoms will first appear in childhood and can continue into adulthood. 

ADHD symptoms can vary for each individual, but they commonly include the following:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty staying organized
  • Time management difficulties
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty maintaining social relationships
  • Low self-esteem

ADHD can have a significant impact on someone’s daily life, affecting performance at work, school and social relationships. It’s also worth noting that the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but it’s thought to be some combination of genetics and exposure to environmental risk. Certain birth factors or brain injury may also contribute to ADHD.

While these symptoms can be difficult to deal with, the right interventions and support can help individuals with ADHD effectively manage their symptoms and lead productive and fulfilling lives.

The Goals of Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

Cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD will seek to address specific symptoms that are causing problems for the patient. Depending on the symptoms the individual exhibits, these goals may vary. But generally, they will include enhancing attention and focus, reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity, developing organizational and time management skills and improving social interactions and relationships. Let’s take a look at each of these.

Enhancing attention and focus

Inattentiveness and difficulty maintaining focus are two of the most common ADHD symptoms. This can affect academic or work performance, impacting an individual’s daily life.

CBT aims to address these symptoms by teaching patients strategies to manage their symptoms. For instance, they will look at ways for patients to create a distraction-free workplace or learning environment for themselves. They may go over thinking patterns or behaviors that cause the patient to lose focus and learn ways to restructure those behaviors to be more productive.

Reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity

For those with ADHD, impulsivity and hyperactivity can be two of the most challenging symptoms to manage. However, CBT can help manage these symptoms as well.

A common approach to reducing these symptoms is to learn how to regulate emotions. Impulsivity and hyperactivity can be brought on by intense or sudden emotions. CBT can help patients recognize these triggers and redirect them away from impulsive and hyperactive behaviors, allowing them to react to them more healthily.

CBT can also teach individuals with ADHD meditation and relaxation techniques, which can also help lessen these symptoms.

Developing organizational and time-management skills

Another key area of focus in cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD is developing organizational and time-management skills. When individuals with ADHD have trouble staying organized or managing their time, it can lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem.

CBT can help teach individuals with ADHD coping skills to handle their time management and organizational difficulties. This can mean creating structured routines to help them stay on track daily. CBT can help improve their planning skills and give them strategies to complete their tasks more efficiently.

Improving social interactions and relationships

People with ADHD may struggle with social interactions and relationships due to difficulties with impulse control, communication and attention. They may interrupt others, speak before thinking or struggle to focus during conversations. 

CBT can help those with ADHD curb these symptoms and learn more effective ways to manage their social lives. This may include focusing on areas like social skills, emotional regulation techniques and communication practice. Focusing on these areas can help individuals with ADHD gain more confidence in their social interactions and improve self-esteem.

Common Behavior Modification Techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based approach that involves a range of behavior modification techniques to manage ADHD symptoms. Here are some of the most common techniques that may be used in CBT for ADHD:

  • Time management training — CBT therapists may help patients learn how to manage their time and plan ahead for daily activities. For instance, they might have the patient keep a planner where they can track their activities and their progress for daily tasks. This can help the patient manage their time effectively, be more productive and stay more organized.
  • Cognitive restructuring — Cognitive restructuring is when the therapist will help the patient identify negative thoughts and behavior patterns that create challenges for them and worsen their symptoms. Once the patient recognizes these negative patterns, they can redirect them and restructure them more positively.
  • Positive reinforcement — A positive frame of mind can help a patient maintain their self-esteem and feel more positive about their progress. This means teaching patients to be compassionate with themselves and focus on the positives rather than putting themselves down in negative ways.
  • Problem-solving — CBT can teach individuals with ADHD to address common problems that are brought on by symptoms. For instance, breaking tasks down into more manageable steps or lessening distractions by learning to prioritize certain tasks over others that may distract them.
  • Relaxation techniques — CBT can teach individuals deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and other techniques that can help reduce stress and anxiety brought on by ADHD.

These techniques may be used alone or in combination with other approaches, such as medication and other lifestyle changes. Your therapist will work with you to determine which techniques are most appropriate for your individual needs and preferences.

How To Get Started With CBT Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with ADHD and you are interested in pursuing CBT as a treatment option, there are several steps you can take to get started. These steps include:

  • Speak with your primary care provider — If you have a primary care provider that already has an ADHD treatment plan in place, it’s a good idea to talk to them about CBT. They know your medical history and can help determine if this is a good path for treatment. Additionally, they may be able to refer you to a quality therapist in your area. If you don’t have a primary care provider, it’s a good idea to talk with one about ADHD to get an official diagnosis and start a treatment plan. 
  • Find a therapist — Once you’ve determined that CBT is right for you, seek a qualified therapist that specializes in CBT for ADHD. 
  • Schedule a consultation — An initial appointment or consultation can help you determine if you’re comfortable with the therapist and if they’re a good fit. You may not always find the right therapist right away.
  • Attend therapy sessions — If you’ve chosen your therapist, you can begin therapy sessions. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your therapist may recommend weekly or biweekly sessions.
  • Monitor progress — Monitor progress on an ongoing basis to ensure things are moving in a positive direction and see if your treatment needs adjustment.

Keep in mind CBT can take time. It is meant as a long-term strategy for managing ADHD symptoms over time. Those who stay committed and dedicate themselves to the process often find CBT to be effective and have a positive impact on their symptoms.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder today!

ADHD treatment often starts with speaking to your primary care provider. An online provider like Circle Medical can provide you with an assessment for ADHD from the comfort of your own home. Depending on the results of the assessment, your online provider can provide an official diagnosis and design a treatment plan specifically tailored to your symptoms. If medically appropriate, your telehealth provider is also able to prescribe medication.

Circle Medical offers same-day appointments for ADHD for your convenience. Schedule your same-day appointment today to get started.

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