Meditation helps with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity). ADHD has three subtypes:

  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
    Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories.
    Fewer than six symptoms of inattention are present, although inattention may still be present to some degree.
  • Predominantly inattentive
    The majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree.
    Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.
  • Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive
    Six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present.
    Most children have the combined type of ADHD.

Researchers are developing more effective treatments and interventions, and using new tools such as brain imaging, to better understand ADHD and to find more effective ways to treat and prevent it.

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

Children who have symptoms of inattention may:

  1. Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  2. Have difficulty focusing on one thing
  3. Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
  4. Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  5. Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  6. Not seem to listen when spoken to
  7. Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  8. Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  9. Struggle to follow instructions.
    Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:
  1. Fidget and squirm in their seats
  2. Talk nonstop
  3. Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  4. Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  5. Be constantly in motion
  6. Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:

  1. Be very impatient
  2. Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
  3. Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
  4. Often interrupt conversations or others' activities.

Benefits of meditation in ADHD

A study conducted in Australia, at the Natural Therapies Research Unit, at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, and in collaboration with the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK, showed significant improvement of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a disorder that develops in childhood and is characterised by problems of attention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.

The treatment of choice in ADHD is the administration of stimulant Medication. However, there are side effects, there is concern about the unknown long-term effects of stimulants on brain development and there is evidence for limited effectiveness that wanes after a few years. For these reasons parents prefer non-pharmacological treatment and there is a search for effective alternative non-pharmacological treatment options.

26 children with ADHD, aged between 4 and 12, were treated for 6 weeks with Sahaja Yoga Meditation adjunctive to their usual treatment (i.e.  some of them were receiving stimulant Medication) and then compared to a waiting list control group who received no treatment.

Children with ADHD who learned how to meditate compared to the waiting list control group showed a significant reduction of the main symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattention.

Other, secondary benefits were an improved child-parent relationship and enhanced self-esteem in children.

Furthermore, of the children who were treated with stimulant Medication, over 50% either discontinued or reduced their stimulant medication but still improved in their symptoms.

This pioneering study suggests that Meditation is clearly a promising non-pharmacological treatment option for children with ADHD that needs to be further explored.
Harrison, L., Rubia, K., Manocha, R. (2003) Sahaja Yoga Meditation as a Family Treatment Program for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Children. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9 (4), 479-497.