Mindfulness significantly improves attention for adults with ADHD

I recently came across a 2016 paper from  Germany reviewing the impact of MBCT for the treatment of ADHD in adults. The paper demonstrates how a mindfulness intervention makes functional changes in brain areas that are suggested to be impaired in adults with ADHD; and in addition, patients readily accept mindfulness meditation. The researchers concluded that:

There is promising preliminary evidence that mindfulness meditation employed as a neurobehavioral intervention in therapy can help ADHD patients to regulate impaired brain functioning and thereby improve self-regulation of attention and emotion control.

[See Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and the Adult ADHD Brain: A Neuropsychotherapeutic Perspective ( 2016 Bachmann et al)  here  https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00117/full  ]

Bit  let’s step back – what is ADHD and how many adults are impacted by this condition?  Well,  ADHD is a neurobiological disorder described by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. According to the U.S. CDC, 7.8% of children aged between 4 and 17 years have been diagnosed with ADHD; and the National Comorbidity Survey says that, 4.4% of US adults aged between 18 and 44 years have matched the DSM-IV criteria for ADHD.  So it’s an issue for about 1 in 20 adults.

So I dug a bit further and found a meta review (i.e. a review of published trials of Mindfulness intervention to treat ADHD)  – “The effectiveness of mindfulness-based intervention in attention on individuals with ADHD: A systematic review” (2017 by Clara et al published in the  Hong Kong Journal of Occupational Therapy).

This review identified six studies investigating the impact of mindfulness based interventions for adults with ADHD. The results all “showed significant improvement in attention” in this age group.  Moreover, three of the studies were randomized control trials, providing strong evidence that the positive results were due to treatment effect.  The researchers said:

“For adults with ADHD, mindfulness-based intervention improves attention deficits significantly.”

Note also that it was found that mindfulness based intervention was popularly in adults with ADHD – previous studies have shown the reluctance to follow pharmaceutical based regimens.

So ADHD is significant problem for some adults – yet mindfulness is a very effective, low cost and low-risk treatment – so wouldn’t it makes sense to try it?

Finally, let me just add that the research on childhood ADHD is less clear – I wonder if this is a problem with the terminology and delivery of MBCT – there is a Chinese study that demonstrates the effectiveness of a mindfulness intervention specially designed for such children: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-016-0660-3