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The Mindful Prescription for Adult ADD/ADHD

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

When people hear the term ADHD, they mostly associate it with kids bouncing off the walls. Over 4% of adults in the US are diagnosed with ADHD  (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). ADHD is often times misdiagnosed in adults because there is a difficulty with self regulation and people see this as depression or anxiety (even though these could be co-occurring issues). These challenges can you lead to be frazzled, frustrated, and feeling hopeless about managing life which could then mix with feelings of anxiousness or depression.

Lidia Zylowska, M.D., is a Psychiatrist who is leading the wave of integrating mindfulness into ADHD treatment. Her newest release is The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals.

One of the practices in this book is built off of the acronym R.A.I.N to deal with the difficult emotions surrounding ADHD. 

Here’s how it works:

Bring to mind a difficult situation, one you may be experiencing right now, perhaps an argument with your spouse, a disappointment or a hurtful conversation, perhaps a time in which you forgot or lost something and thought harsh, judgmental thoughts about yourself... calling yourself stupid or a failure.... 

As you think about the situation, check in with yourself  in this present moment...noting your mood or your body .... see if there are any feelings or emotions present right now. 

  1. Recognize the emotion by giving it a name... using words like "sadness', ‘anger', ‘hurt', ‘embarrassment'....  Or perhaps there is a feeling of numbness or disconnection.  Or just a neutral feeling....Whatever you notice, with courage allow yourself to fully have the experience.

  2. Accept the reality of this feeling in the present moment. There is no need to criticize yourself or thinking something is wrong with you, simply noting, ‘oh, there is anger', ‘oh there is sadness'. As much as possible, welcoming the experience.

  3. Investigate this feeling a little more.  With a sense of beginner's mind or curiosity, drop your attention deeper into the body and notice any sensations present there. Perhaps there is some tensing up in the chest, feelings of clenching in the stomach or maybe a sinking feeling. 

    You may even notice some reaction to the difficult emotion or the thought itself? There may be feelings of anger or shame for even having this emotion. As you go through the steps of recognizing, accepting and investigating, you may notice that the emotion or the thought feels less personal, simply an emotion...simply a thought.

  4. Not identifying or not personalizing the feeling. Stepping back from the experience and seeing it for what it is, a set of reactions and sensations. As much as possible just witnessing them without getting caught up in them. 

In doing this process with difficult emotions, we practice strengthening our attention and regulating our emotions as we relate to them different with greater openness and clarity.

Bringing mindfulness to adult ADD/ADHD can be a great help.