Managing ADHD during adulthood can be an incredible challenge. Although medications for treating ADHD are very effective and considered the first step of treatment, researchers have found that the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy drastically improves symptoms and quality of life. In their new study, researchers aim to substantiate the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for one of the most widespread and distressing neurobiological disorders among American adults.
Already having conducted a successful pilot study on cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD treatment, researcher Dr. Steven Safren from Massachusetts General Hospital’s department of psychiatry and colleagues decided to perform a long-term investigation. The researchers sought to evaluate the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy for adults with ADHD who are currently being treated with psychostimulants, such as the stimulant medication Ritalin, but are still experiencing symptoms. For the larger study, the researchers conducted a controlled, randomized trial involving 86 symptomatic adults with ADHD who were already taking medication for their condition. Some of the participants were randomly selected to receive 12-session cognitive behavioral therapy, which taught participants task-management techniques and cognitive control exercises. Other participants were selected to receive relaxation training with educational support. Throughout the study, the participants’ ADHD symptoms were measured at baseline and post-treatment using an ADHD rating scale, as well as 6 months and 12 months following treatment in self-reported follow-ups.
Of the 86 participants, 79 completed treatment, and 70 completed the follow-up reports. Researchers found that the participants who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy had lower scores on ADHD rating and clinical scales following completion of their treatment than their counterparts who had received relaxation and educational support. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy patients reported significantly greater relief from their ADHD symptoms during their treatment process, and responded better to clinical testing. These patients even maintained relief from their symptoms in the 6 months and 12 months following treatment.
Adults with ADHD suffer from persistent symptoms such as difficulty focusing or concentrating, impulsivity, restlessness, disorganization, trouble with completing tasks, frequent mood swings, anger or aggression, and trouble coping with stress. Adulthood ADHD is often accompanied with other social and mental problems for the individual, including troubled personal and professional relationships, depression, or anxiety. These chronic symptoms may be challenging to cope with in everyday life, yet the new study evidences that cognitive behavioral therapy is greatly effective in alleviating the problems.
The real challenge, however, is getting adult ADHD patients to adhere to psychological therapy. Many studies have shown that the majority of Americans with mental disorders fail to seek psychological treatment for their conditions, most commonly due to stigma. Instead, most Americans with mental disorders are relying solely on pharmaceutical therapies to treat their conditions. Yet long-term treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy combined with effective medications has shown to produce the most success in treating disorders like ADHD.
Aside from simple talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy also equips patients with the coping and self-management skills they need in order to overcome their disorders and maintain success overtime. The use of cognitive behavioral therapy also provides hope for those individuals who cannot tolerate some medications. The researchers hope that their findings will help support the implementation of cognitive behavioral therapy in standard ADHD treatment and influence individuals with ADHD to consider this effective treatment.
The study was published online in the August 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Source: HealthDay News, Cognitive Therapy Helps Adults With ADHD, August 24, 2010