ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting both children and adults. It is described as a “persistent” or on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development. Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function (or the brain’s ability to begin an activity, organize itself and manage tasks) and working memory.
Neurofeedback: Treating ADD and ADHD without medication
Because people with ADD/ADHD have a problem within the neural networks in the brain, they are often treated with medication. Unfortunately, there are many problems with medication treatment. These are as follows:
- Medications are not a long-term solution as they do not teach a person how to deal with their issues.
- Children with more significant ADD or ADHD may not gain much benefit from medications (or even behavioural interventions).
- Medications are accompanied by nasty side effects such as appetite suppression, weight loss, sleep disturbances, potential cardiac risks and personality changes.
- People can also develop a tolerance to medications over time, resulting in increased dosages, additional medications, and potentially more side effects.
- The long-term effects of ADD/ADHD medications are largely unknown. Ritalin, very often prescribed for the treatment of ADD and ADHD, has been used to treat ADD/ADHD since the 1960′s but still has not been studied for long-term effects. In fact, the Canadian Medical Association asserts:
While research has conclusively proven R* short-term effectiveness, little is known about the long-term efficacy and safety of a drug that some children take for many years. In fact, the average duration of randomized trials of the drug is 3.3 weeks…. There aren’t long-term studies, and that’s of some concern because we don’t know whether the initial positive effects… might diminish over time. Moreover, we don’t know what happens to the side-effects… whether those got worse or maybe they diminish too – we don’t really know.
Neurofeedback training is a safer and more natural alternative.
Unlike medication, neurofeedback actually retrains the brain, resulting in significant improvement in ADHD/ADD symptoms. With neurofeedback, people learn to make long-term improvements in self-control and attention because their brain learns to make healthier patterns. Training the brain with neurofeedback helps to address the root of the difficulties without medications by helping create a more optimally functioning brain.
Why is neurofeedback so effective for ADD/ADHD?
In a person with ADD or ADHD, the areas of the brain that control attention and concentrate may have too much slow activity, which can also lead to depressed feelings, worry, and lack of motivation. Unconsciously, people with ADD/ADHD increase body movements to stimulate and “wake” their brains. Stimulants help ADD/ADHD sufferers by increasing brain activity without increasing body movement. The problem with this strategy is that people with ADHD may already be experiencing too much fast activity in other areas of the brain. This can lead to other problems such as aggression, impulsivity and anxiety. A person’s brain can race so fast that it is nearly impossible for them to sit still or listen. In fact, because people with ADD are often quite intelligent, they understand concepts quickly. Their fast mental pace may cause them to move ahead before all the instructions are given, causing them to miss crucial details.
Neurofeedback allows people to work directly on the problem by training the brain to become calmer, more focused, and less impulsive. By discouraging the slow brainwaves that occur in the brain of someone with ADD or ADHD, neurofeedback allows the person to take control.
This image compares a normal qEEG brain map with a typical brainmap seen in a child with ADHD. It shows an underactive (red colour) frontal lobe.
According to health professionals who use neurofeedback in their clinics, over 85% of clients with ADD or ADHD learn to increase focus, reduce impulsivity, and manage their behaviour when they train with neurofeedback on a consistent basis.
Research shows that neurofeedback is a successful alternative for treatment of ADD/ADHD.