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Alternatives to Medication: Brain Training for ADHD As An Option That Actually Works

Brain Training for ADHD


Did you know that ADHD is one of the most over-diagnosed mental health conditions in modern day mental health care (PGHR.org)? Adult ADHD is a mental health disorder that can be difficult to diagnose and treat and therefore has mixed reviews in results for care. This can be both frustrating and deflating to an individual struggling with symptoms of ADHD.

One of the most promising tools for diagnosing and managing adult ADHD is neurofeedback therapy and utilizing a qEEG brain map to understand what parts of the brain are over functioning and under functioning, leading to symptoms of ADHD. This type of brain training for ADHD can provide insight into the underlying causes of the disorder, as well as the treatment options that can help improve the quality of life of those affected by it. Below, we will discuss how qEEG brain mapping can be used to better understand adult ADHD and how to get the best results in brain training for ADHD mental health care.


What is Adult ADHD?


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that can cause difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and distractibility. ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, but still affects adults.


Adult ADHD may manifest as difficulty paying attention, trouble staying organized, restlessness, lethargy, irritability, lack of motivation, and trouble with executive functioning tasks. It can be difficult to manage adult ADHD because symptoms often overlap with depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder.


According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), Adult ADHD symptoms must be persistent over 5 months in 2+ settings throughout the individuals life. The symptoms must also be showing to have negatively impacted academic, social, and/or occupational functioning (aafp.org). Some, but not all, of the symptoms associated with ADHD are:


"Hyperactive Symptoms:

• Squirms when seated or fidgets with feet/hands

• Marked restlessness that is difficult to control

• Appears to be driven by “a motor” or is often “on the go”

• Lacks ability to play and engage in leisure activities in a quiet manner

• Incapable of staying seated in class

• Overly talkative Impulsive Symptoms:

• Difficulty waiting turn

• Interrupts or intrudes into conversations and activities of others

• Impulsively blurts out answers before questions completed"

(aafp.org)


Strategies & Self Compassion for ADHD from a Therapist


If you have been recently diagnosed with ADHD - welcome, you are not alone and the push for adequate mental health care in treatment for ADHD is growing by the day. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, there are a few key points I work on with my Adult ADHD clients:

  1. Remember, you are not your diagnosis!

A diagnosis is not an identity, it's simply information to help you understand yourself better. And information is power! Understanding how the symptoms of distractibility, hyperactivity, and staying on task have impacted your social and relational life will be important to unpack. I recommend a therapist specializing in neurocounseling (they understand your brain's unique functioning) to get started or an ADHD specialist.


2. Self Compassion is Key


When we see ourselves as different than the "normal" population, it is difficult to harness self compassion in the face of struggles. I encourage my Adult ADHD clients to remind themselves of the positives that can also come from this diagnosis. Frequently, I find these clients strengthen the muscles of intentional action and language, and are also quite bubbly, which are both huge strengths!


3. Ask for Help


We understand how scary it can be to start counseling for the first time, we've been there! However, consistent counseling (such as CBT, see below) paired with a secondary form of treatment, such as Neurofeedback Therapy (see below) are incredibly powerful forms of treatment that have proven clinical results. Not only that, but the long lasting effects of Neurofeedback Therapy are proven to be long lasting.


4. Consider an ADHD Planner


Many of our clients use ADHD planners, like the one seen here, to help them organize their daily tasks. Not only does this keep you accountable, but as your behavior changes, new neuropathways start to strengthen that over time help work on symptoms of ADHD.


Neurofeedback as ADHD Drug Alternative


Stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are commonly prescribed for individuals with ADHD. For most clients, though, it is difficult to understand the difference in Adderall vs Ritalin and other stimulants. The options for medication and what is right for you can be downright overwhelming. For those who are interested in understanding alternative forms of care to ADHD, Neurofeedback Therapy is a great place to start.


Neurofeedback Therapy, which is a form of brain training for ADHD, uses qEEG technology to measure brainwaves and how the brain is functioning. It helps people become aware of their brain patterns and how they can control them. This can be especially beneficial for adults who experience ADD or ADHD symptoms such as trouble focusing, brain fog, distractibility, and trauma responses. Neurofeedback has been proven to help reduce symptoms of adult ADHD by helping the person gain control over their focus and behavior...and the best news is, it's safe and risk free since it works within the natural function of the brain!


Understanding Neurofeedback


According to Michela Parisi, a Denver based Neurofeedback Specialist and Licensed Professional Counselor, Neurofeedback is essentially operant conditioning for your brain. It is helpful in alleviating dysfunctional patterns contributing to symptoms such as anxiety, PTSD, depression, OCD, ADD and more. Over the course of your program, the brain learns to let go of old, "stuck" patterns that no longer serve you and create new electrical patterns that influence new neuropathways.


In session, a licensed clinician places electrodes at specified sites on the head associated with overactive or underactive brain functioning and measures electricity in these locations. While the client trains their brainwaves will naturally fluctuate. When the brain does what the protocols are encouraging, for example bringing down high beta in a frontal site, the client hears a sound. The brain is designed to like stimulus, and therefore learns through repetition that if it continually brings down high beta to lower and lower micro voltages, it will continue to be offered a stimulus.

Over time this type of conditioning teaches the brain to operate efficiently outside of session and has relatively permanent effects. While all of this is happening behind the scenes, the client watches a show of their choice on Netflix or trains with their eyes closed listening to meditation music with the stimulus layered in the background. The process is painless, non-invasive and efficient!


Learn more about Neurofeedback Therapy in Denver here


Other ADHD Drug Alternatives


Another option for adult ADHD care is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a modality used by your therapist that involves identifying and addressing problematic thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to symptoms of adult ADHD. The goal of CBT is to help the individual recognize their triggers, understand how their reactions contribute to the problem, and develop strategies to better manage them.


CBT is a buzz word in therapy that is often helpful, but usually is best utilized when combined with a multi modal approach. Not only is Neurofeedback a great addition to CBT Therapy, but lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthy eating can also help with the management of adult ADHD.


Exercise can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, while eating a nutritious diet provides the body and brain with essential nutrients that can improve focus and overall mood.


No matter what type of treatment you decide to pursue, it's important to consult a qualified healthcare professional first. With the right combination of therapies, medications, and lifestyle modifications, adults living with ADHD can find effective ways to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.


Let's Get Started


If you're ready to get started with ADHD therapy in Denver, reach out to Connected Brain Counseling here for a free 20 minute consultation to see if Neurofeedback Therapy and CBT Counseling is right for you.

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