Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also known as ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children and adolescents. The major characteristics seen in people suffering from Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Children suffering from these experience disabilities in their daily lives as a result of their restlessness and impulsiveness. They find it difficult to relate with others and to learn effectively due to their condition. This may reflect in a low social life and poor academic grades. It is estimated that about 3% to 19% of children are suffering from ADHD. The treatment commonly used for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the drug methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is a powerful stimulant, it has been shown to improve the core symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness – but it does not really improve the academic and social performance of the children. To do this, conventional therapy recommends the use of cognitive behavioral therapy which aims at retraining the child. Experts are continually becoming dissatisfied with methylphenidate because even though it is proven to work, it does not improve general function. Some experts also think that Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may also be a condition that is over diagnosed. They think some doctors put children who do not really need methylphenidate on this drug. It is estimated that about 9 tons of Ritalin which are a brand of methylphenidate is consumed in a year. What’s worse is that though ADHD seems to get better with treatment, it degenerates back to the former condition when methylphenidate is stopped, however. These along with other shortcomings which include adverse effects of anorexia, insomnia, possible misuse of stimulant drugs by older adolescent children and others have led people to search for alternative methods of treating Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We are going to focus more on hypnosis in the treatment of ADHD.
One of the reasons why hypnosis is being considered as a complementary method in the treatment of ADHD is due to the fact that hypnosis has the ability to alter the state of attention. According to some of the practitioners of hypnosis, hypnosis can improve focus and reduce distractions in the subjects. According to a series of studies done by Barabasz et al., hypnosis was done on several healthy subjects both in the military and on civilians. Barabasz used a type of hypnosis intervention they called instant alert hypnosis. In their tests on pilots in the military, they noticed that hypnosis improved their vigilance and awareness of situations in the cockpit. They also extended this test to young adult civilians with notable effects of hypnosis on their attention. However, it would be best to note that for hypnosis to work, the subject has to be prone to hypnosis. Unfortunately, some people are less prone to hypnosis than others. But for people with the average potential to be hypnotized, this method should work well. All the subjects used in this study were treated with methylphenidate before but did not seem to see any improvements.
Typically to perform instant alert hypnosis, the clinical hypnotist may tell the patient to try to roll his/her eyes up as if he/she is trying to look at his/her forehead. While doing this the hypnotist puts his/her thumb about 10cm away from the patient’s nose and slowly moves it away to about 15cm away from the patient’s nose while moving the thumb up to the middle of the patient’s forehead to redirect the eye. This procedure may require patience especially in children with the attention deficit hyperactive disorder. They may also need some verbal encouragement like saying something like “that’s good” to encourage them. If the eyes wander away, the hypnotist may have to repeat the process again until the patient is hypnotized. When the hypnotist notices the signs of hypnotization which requires practice. The hypnotist may then tell the patient to lift an arm while touching the opposite arm. If the patient is successfully hypnotized, the patient will be calm throughout the procedure. On noticing this the hypnotist begins to give special suggestions on alertness. When the hypnotist has finished giving suggestions on alertness, the patients would then be told to let their eyes roll down and enjoy their new calm alert feelings.
The developer of instant alert hypnosis; Barabasz et al., however, noted that it is not a stand-alone method. It has very significant effects when used as a complementary therapy to a process called neuro-therapy. Neuro-therapy is also known as neurofeedback and was formerly called electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback. It involves the use of electroencephalogram monitors (EEG) to monitor the activities of the brain. They do this by monitoring brain waves. Beta waves indicate attention to the environment while theta waves indicate lack of attention and daydreaming. Electrodes are placed on the head to measure brain activities and then the patient is trained in a way to enhance beta waves and reduce theta waves. One way they do this is through the use of computer games which are designed in such a way that it gets harder when the patient stops paying attention and much easier when the patient pays attention. The drawback to this is that as much as 40 to 80 sessions may be required to see any improvement. Although, studies have shown that it not only improves the symptoms of people suffering from ADHD like attentiveness, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity but also improves social relations of the children. An internationally-recognized authority on Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder called Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) has stated that there is a probability that neuro-therapy is effective though more studies are needed in this area. Although the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) seem to be more receptive to neuro-therapy in the treatment of ADHD. Barabasz et al. showed that when neuro-therapy is complemented with instant alert hypnotherapy, it is more effective and it takes a lesser amount of sessions to achieve a good result.
In conclusion, one can say that hypnotherapy is likely to be a good complementary therapy in the treatment of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is especially true if it is used as an adjunct to neuro-therapy. Although more studies are needed to verify the effectiveness of both, experts are beginning to recognize the potentials of these treatment options. In combination, they may be good for people who may not have had enough luck using stimulant medications like methylphenidate. Book an appointment with Dr. Tsan to discuss if hypnosis is the right treatment approach for you.