Taking ADHD Symptom Management Seriously

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can significantly improve ADHD symptom management. Have you considered adding CBT to your ADHD treatment plan?

A reader recently e-mailed us, and her words painted a splattered but accurate portrait, a Rauschenberg if you will, of hyperactivity and insecurity:

“I feel like such a failure. Why can’t I do this job? And why do I always get in trouble for asking ‘Why?’ I was excited about the job at first. Now I can’t seem to focus on it for more than a second. I’m having such a hard time staying on task. I wanna cry, I wanna run. I can’t stand sitting here in my cubicle. I want to push buttons, spin in my chair, adjust my clothes, and run, but I don’t have time cuz I’m late again, so far behind. I want to hide under my desk from everyone who will come to get me for being such a failure. I need to work, damn it!”

I have questions. Is she taking medication? Is she working with a coach? Is she pouring out her worries to a counselor? Is she meditating her anxiety away before work? Is she exercising after work? Is she trying neurofeedback or working memory training? Is she doing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)? And if she isn’t doing some — or all — of these things, why not?

Ask an expert about treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and their first words are predictable but oh so true: Make sure you fully treat all of your symptoms. You can manage life with ADD/ADHD but only when you take serious aim at managing its symptoms.

Which brings me back to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is not mentioned nearly enough in ADD/ADHD circles. An important study published by Steve Safren, Ph.D., and Massachusetts General Hospital during the summer showed that participants with ADD/ADHD who used the technique — picking up skills for handling life challenges and/or challenging and overcoming negative thoughts — saw a 30 percent improvement in ADD/ADHD symptom management. That is significant.

CBT could teach our insecure, defeated friend above how to use calendars and lists effectively, problem-solve, and deal preemptively with distractions before they had her spinning in her chair.

If you haven’t considered adding CBT to your treatment menu, read ADDitude‘s story about the technique. It might change your mind.