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Hypnosis and ADHD

2020-02-24 08:59:16

I wonder whether any of you have tried using hypnosis to help a sufferer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?




I wonder whether any of you have tried using hypnosis to help a sufferer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? There is a small literature on the topic, principally using it with adults, but at first sight one might wonder how on earth it could possibly work! In case you have little knowledge of the condition, I will begin with a brief overview. ADHD generally appears in childhood and often improves, at least partially, in adulthood. A sufferer tends to find it hard to sit still and concentrate, and has difficulty trying to take in, retain and carry out instructions. Needless to say, the condition plays havoc with education.


Although ADHD includes the hyperactive element, counterintuitively the standard treatment is to use a stimulant (Methylphenidate, trade name Ritalin). The reason for this choice is that the patients seem to exhibit an under-reactive left hemisphere; a stimulant ‘gees it up’ to come into line with the right. The latter is probably stimulated somewhat too, but it is assumed to be performing at near ceiling levels, so cannot speed-up much more. Since the left hemisphere is the principal processor of language, it is easy to see why under-performance here will impair language processing, such as taking in an instruction.


Now, I am going to digress a little, to draw attention to some interesting parallels – not just interesting, but I believe significant. First, one of the theories to account for the symptoms of schizophrenia suggests that a patient’s left hemisphere is not sufficiently active to be able to exert a stabilising influence on the right. In the absence of that control, so the theory goes, the right hemisphere can generate its own psychotic world, sometimes far removed from reality. Some ADHD patients also report psychosis-like experiences. As you are probably aware, people who are highly hypnotically susceptible tend to score quite high on scales of schizotypy, in other words, they spontaneously have an occasional experience which does not map onto reality.


PTSD sufferers also have unreal experiences – they are called flashbacks of course. These comprise the vivid re-experiencing of the trauma that brought on their condition. There is ample evidence that these unfortunate people have more activity in their right hemispheres than in the left, and they tend to be highly hypnotisable. We also know that many people who are hypnotic ‘highs’ report having suffered trauma in their childhood. One more parallel: many adults with symptoms of ADHD also report having traumatic experiences as children. Finally, as a number of researchers have now shown, hypnosis seems normally to involve a rightward shift in activity levels in the brain.


So, although we see ADHD as very much the opposite of hypnosis, with its focussing of attention, ‘switching off’ and relaxation, all the parallels I have listed suggest that ADHD sufferers will be hypnotisable. Moreover, as with PTSD victims, it is likely that they will derive a good deal of help from a hypnosis-based programme of therapy.


Peter Naish



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