Female mental health professional talks with patient
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD is to provide adults and children with strategies and skills to help cope with the symptoms of ADHD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

People with ADHD can find it difficult to stay on top of their day to day tasks, whether it be work, studies, or simply keeping themselves organized. For many people, this can lead to feelings of low self-esteem or inadequacy, as well as anxiety or depression.

While medication can help with the core symptoms of ADHD such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, it does nothing to relieve the emotional distress that can accompany this complex condition.

However, one therapy that can be really helpful for people with ADHD is cognitive behavioral therapy, more commonly known as CBT. Read on to learn about what CBT is, and the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD adults and children.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a type of talking therapy much like counseling. However, it differs from counseling in that it focuses on finding solutions to specific problems which arise from what are known as automatic thoughts.

Automatic thoughts are patterns of thinking which we all develop over the course of our lives. These thoughts often pop up in response to a particular trigger or situation and they affect the way we perceive the world around us. However, these thoughts do not necessarily reflect the truth.

Some examples of unhealthy automatic thoughts include believing that everything that goes wrong is your own fault or only focusing on the negative aspects of life. Over time, these thoughts can begin to influence the way you feel about yourself and others, which can lead to a pessimistic view of the world.

CBT works by identifying these negative thought processes and finding ways to change them. Making these changes can take a long time as automatic thoughts are often deeply embedded in your mind. However, with a little time and patience, you should begin to see real improvements in the way you think and feel.

Although CBT was originally designed to help people with conditions such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, in recent years more and more people have been using it to help them cope with ADHD. CBT is not a substitute for ADHD medication, but it may work in a complementary fashion by addressing some of the aspects of ADHD that medication cannot help.

Benefits of CBT for ADHD Adults

Adults with ADHD can struggle with issues such as organization and planning, punctuality, procrastination and meeting deadlines. This can make it difficult to hold down a job and may also have an impact on personal relationships.

All of this can lead to a poor self-image, with ADHD sufferers often blaming themselves for past mistakes or feeling inferior to others. CBT can help to change this negative way of thinking and build coping strategies, as well as developing ways to make everyday life a little easier.

Some of the practical ways that CBT can benefit adults with ADHD include learning how to prioritize and break down tasks so that you will not feel so overwhelmed.

For example, your therapist may suggest that you learn to use a planner to organize your days, remember important jobs and arrive on time for appointments. They might recommend that you improve your time management skills by doing something a simple as wearing a watch every day. While these habits may seem difficult at first, if you keep repeating them, they will quickly become a familiar part of your daily routine.

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Benefits of CBT for ADHD Children

Many children with ADHD have problems at school and find it difficult to learn in a regular classroom environment. While CBT may not be able to help with core ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity, it can help children learn to control them better.

CBT can also benefit children with ADHD by teaching them skills, such as time management, planning and organization. Doing this at a young age will mean that they are equipped with the tools they need to cope with the responsibilities of adulthood when the time comes.

Using systems, such as planners and reward charts, can also be a helpful way to achieve goals such as finishing homework or helping with household chores.

CBT may also benefit the families of ADHD children. Having a child with ADHD can make life more challenging for parents and siblings alike, and put a serious strain on your home life. By learning how to praise good behavior and avoid unnecessary criticism, you can help your child to grow up with a more positive image of themselves and their abilities.

Successfully Treating ADHD With CBT

Using CBT to treat ADHD takes both patience and persistence. Your therapist is likely to give you homework to carry out between sessions, and it is important that you make time to do any exercises that they recommend. With CBT, you are working to change the way that you think and act, and that can take a lot of practice. Don’t be disheartened if you do not see dramatic changes right away.

Every person with ADHD has different needs and you should work together with your therapist to find the best approach for you. If you feel like something is not working then tell your therapist so that they can try something different next time.

It is not unusual for people to have more than 12 CBT sessions before they notice a big difference in the way they feel. However, if you are willing to stick with it, cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD can teach you skills and coping mechanisms that you can draw on for the rest of your life.