Interested to know more about ADHD and neurofeedback? You know your child has ADHD, they are unfocused, can’t follow directions, and struggle with being distractible, but there's something about all this talk of medications that just doesn’t sit right with you. As you review the list of possible side effects and your pediatrician talks about tweaking dosage, there's a feeling in your gut that just won't go away.
Is your beautiful bundle of energy really going to spend the remainder of their life taking some high-priced chemical concoction? Is the only solution to controlling their emotional breakdowns, constant chatter, and random impulses contained in a plastic bottle chaining them to a regime of pills lest they suffer academically and socially?
Isn't there a better way in reducing adhd symptoms? The answer is… YES! There are natural and safe ADHD treatments that can improve symptoms related to ADHD in children and ADHD in adults too.
Brain training and specifically, neurofeedback therapy, is a medication-free therapy that is non-invasive and has been shown to improve focus, attention and impulse control.
What is ADHD?
The term ADHD refers to a chronic condition known as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is more than just not being able to stay focused. ADHD is a complex neurological disorder comprising a combination of issues that may include difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, as well as poor executive functioning.
ADHD symptoms include more than just distractibility. Many people assume that ADHD means a child can’t focus. What they don’t realize is that hyper focus is one of the symptoms of ADHD. When the ADHD child demonstrates a deep and intense concentration on an area of interest, parents think, “My child can focus when he likes something, so he doesn’t have ADHD!” Which prevents identification and in turn, denies the child much-needed ADHD treatment such as neurofeedback and supplements. These kids are often so verbal and bright that they often compensate at school with their communication schools.
ADD vs ADHD?
The terms Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are often used interchangeably. ADD most often reflects a child or person who struggles with inattention.
In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the manual reclassified ADHD into three subtypes, Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation, and Combined Presentation. This classification essentially makes ADD a subtype of ADHD that presents without hyperactivity and lack of impulse control. Paying attention while completing cognitive tasks is often a challenge for any individual with ADHD despite often having a higher than average intellect.
How Common is ADHD?
ADHD is the second most common children’s mental health issues. In 2016, according to the CDC, 6.1 million children have an ADHD diagnosis, and that number continues to rise. One out of every ten children is identified with ADHD. Data from 2017, shows a 42% increase in ADHD diagnosis over the past several years, with 4% of American adults dealing with ADHD daily.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a powerful non-invasive, medication-free ADHD treatment. Some people liken it to a gaming experience but proper neurofeedback is more like a good round of exercise. Think of it as a fitness workout for your brain. By using your mind during a neurofeedback therapy session and reinforcing your subconscious, you teach your brain to change its behavior. Understanding ADHD and Neurofeedback can help your child improve their mental health.
Unlike medication, neurofeedback side effects are few and largely benign. The most common side-effect is some mental fatigue, which makes sense. After a solid physical workout, you feel a bit fatigued. Naturally, if your brain experiences proper exercise, it will be tired as well.
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How Neurofeedback Helps ADHD?
Instead of using mind-altering medication, Neurofeedback acts as a personal trainer for your brain waves. The type of waves produced by your brain changes based on whether your mind is in a focused state or not.
Neurofeedback is designed to teach your brain how to shift into a state of concentration more efficiently by learning to produce the brain waves associated with focus. Your coach, so to speak, cheers you on as your brain learns to act in a healthy way that increases focus, motivation, distractibility, impulse control, which means fewer calls from the teacher and sibling brawls and better relationships at work or school.
Neurofeedback training is grounded in the principle that by helping the brain self-regulate over time, your brain becomes trained to produce a healthy combination of brainwaves. This results in lasting changes that make you feel calmer, more focused, and in better control of your whole self no matter what age you are.
How Do I Get Started With Neurofeedback?
The First Step to beginning Neurofeedback is to get a QEEG Brain Map or a brain check if you live far from our center are doing at home neurofeedback. A quantitative EEG (QEEG) Brain Map is a helpful diagnostic tool that looks at brainwave patterns within different regions of the brain. In very simple terms, QEEG is a computer analysis of the EEG data, which is a measure of the surface electrical of the brain by placing a cap on a person’s head that collects EEG data.
The EEG activity is recorded and statistically analyzed, and the data is compared against a database. It is a visual way to see brain functioning regarding brain waves. A QEEG gives information about the formation of brainwaves and certain brain waves are associated with certain conditions. Unlike traditional mental health treatments, which never “checks under the hood” and only relies on guessing, a QEEG brain map gives clear diagnostic information so you can get the right diagnosis and treatment.
What do I Need to Know About Neurofeedback Treatment for ADHD?
In our BrainBehaviorReset™ Program, whether in-person in our Connecticut neurofeedback center or doing neurofeedback at-home, we use EEG neurofeedback so we can directly target and treat adhd brain wave patterns. With ADHD, most of our clients do 40 more sessions but depending on the neuroplasticity of the individual's brain.
Each individual has a custom treatment plan that addresses their unique brain activity. So while many recommend 30 sessions or less, we find that the sweet spot to improve ADHD symptoms is 40 sessions. After reviewing the QEEG or brain check data and in our a strategy session with Dr. Roseann, we determine the protocol and the best treatment options to address ADHD symptoms and other needs.
Will Neurofeedback Be Hard for My Child With ADHD?
Parents of children with ADHD may wonder if neurofeedback will be too difficult for their child to manage. However, neurofeedback is often a positive experience for children with ADHD and can even help them learn to sit still and focus in multiple settings because it calms and regulates the brain.
During a neurofeedback session, the child sits in front of a computer screen with sensors placed on their scalp that detect their brainwave activity. While watching a movie or show, the child receives feedback on their brain activity in real-time, with the goal of improving their attention, focus, and self-regulation. That reinforcement works to calm the brain, which is reflected in more regulated behavior.
In everyday life, children and teens with ADHD may struggle with sitting still and maintaining focus, but neurofeedback is designed to be engaging and rewarding. The interactive nature of the movies used in neurofeedback can help hold their attention and motivate them to participate in the training. As they learn to produce more of the desired brainwave patterns, they can improve their ability to sit still and maintain focus.
While some children with ADHD may find it challenging to stay still and focused during the initial neurofeedback sessions, this is a normal part of the process. Our team is trained to work with children who may have difficulty sitting still or who struggle with attention whether working with us in our CT neurofeedback center or working fully virtually with us at home. We can adjust the training to meet the child's needs and help them become more comfortable with the process.
Through brain training can lead to improved attention and behavior outside of the neurofeedback sessions.
Can Neurofeedback Help ADHD?
Neurofeedback has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment option for individuals with ADHD. Thousands of research studies conducted over the last five decades have demonstrated the efficacy of neurofeedback for ADHD symptoms (Arns et al., 2009; Heinrich et al., 2007; Sherlin et al., 2011). Research has consistently shown significant and long-term improvements in attention, impulse control, and distractibility after neurofeedback training (Arns et al., 2014; Bakhshayesh et al., 2011; Steiner et al., 2014).
In fact, as much as 90% of individuals with ADHD who undergo neurofeedback training show improvements in symptoms (Gani & Birbaumer, 2014). Neurofeedback is a non-invasive and natural therapy that is suitable for both children and adults, and it has been proven to be a safe and effective alternative to medication for managing ADHD symptoms (Arns et al., 2009; Arns et al., 2014; Heinrich et al., 2007).
What ADHD Symptoms can Neurofeedback Improve?
Neurofeedback has been shown to be an effective treatment for a wide range of ADHD symptoms. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of neurofeedback for ADHD, including a meta-analysis by Arns et al. (2014), which analyzed the results of 13 randomized controlled trials and found significant improvements in inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, executive functioning, and emotional regulation.
Other studies have reported similar findings, including a study by Sherlin et al. (2011) that found improvements in attention and behavioral symptoms in children with ADHD after neurofeedback training, and a study by Steiner et al. (2014) that found improvements in executive functioning and emotion regulation in adults with ADHD after neurofeedback training. These findings suggest that neurofeedback is a safe, natural, and effective treatment option for ADHD, with potential benefits for both children and adults.
Here are some of the ADHD symptoms that neurofeedback can help improve:
Inattention and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback can help increase focus and attention, allowing individuals with ADHD to stay on task for longer periods of time. By training the brain to produce the brain waves associated with focus, individuals with ADHD can learn to sustain attention and stay focused on important tasks (Arns et al., 2014). Improving focus can have a tremendous positive impact not just academics, it at home and with relationships.
Hyperactivity and Neurofeedback
ADHD brain training can reduce hyperactivity by teaching the brain to produce brain waves that promote calmness and relaxation. This can lead to a reduction in fidgeting, restlessness, and other hyperactive behaviors (Arns et al., 2014). By improving attention and impulse control, a child or teen can be more connected and regulated enough to complete tasks.
Impulsivity and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback can help improve impulse control by training the brain to produce brain waves associated with self-control and inhibition. By improving impulse control in the brain, this can lead to a reduction in impulsive behaviors, such as interrupting others, acting without thinking, or engaging in risky behaviors (Arns et al., 2014).
Executive Functioning and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback has been shown to enhance executive functioning, which is the set of mental skills that help us plan, organize, and complete tasks. By training the brain to produce brain waves associated with executive functioning, individuals with ADHD can improve their ability to prioritize tasks, manage time effectively, and complete tasks more efficiently (Arns et al., 2014).
Emotional Regulation and Neurofeedback
Emotional regulation is the foundation of learning. Neurofeedback can improve emotional self-regulation by teaching the brain to produce brain waves associated with calmness and emotional stability. This can lead to a reduction in emotional outbursts, mood swings, and other emotional dysregulation symptoms that are common in individuals with ADHD (Arns et al., 2014).
By training the brain to produce specific brainwaves, individuals with ADHD can learn to improve their focus, reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, improve executive functioning, and regulate their emotions more effectively (Arns et al., 2014). Behavior therapy once the brain is regulated is an important part of the treatment plan to give a child or teen the tools they need.
Can You Do Neurofeedback While on ADHD Medication?
A common question among parents and individuals with ADHD who are considering neurofeedback as a natural ADHD treatment is whether they can continue taking their ADHD medication while undergoing treatment. The short answer is yes, it is possible to do neurofeedback while on ADHD medication. In fact, many individuals choose to combine neurofeedback with medication or use it as a treatment to discontinue medication with the help of their prescribing physician.
While medication can be helpful for managing ADHD symptoms, it does not address the underlying brain dysfunction that is often present in individuals with ADHD. Neurofeedback, on the other hand, targets the root cause of ADHD by training the brain to produce optimal brainwave patterns. By doing so, neurofeedback can help individuals with ADHD reduce their reliance on medication over time.
That being said, there are some factors to consider when combining neurofeedback and medication. For example, some medications can affect brainwave patterns and may interfere with neurofeedback training. Additionally, it is important to work with a highly experienced mental health practitioner such as Dr. Roseann who has experience working with individuals who are on medication.
One study by Arns et al. (2013) investigated the effects of medication on neurofeedback treatment for ADHD. The study found that medication did not have a significant impact on the effectiveness of neurofeedback, and that individuals who were taking medication during neurofeedback training showed similar improvements in ADHD symptoms as those who were not taking medication.
While medication can be helpful for some when managing symptoms in the short-term, neurofeedback targets the underlying brain dysfunction that is often present in individuals with ADHD safely and effectively. And with the dangerous side effects that ADHD medication poses, parents need safe alternatives that can help their child do better in school and home.
Why We Do What We Do… HOPE!
If you have heard me speak, then you may know the story of why I even began using neurofeedback with my patients… it all began with a little boy named Alec.
There I was sitting in my office in Ridgefield, CT, tapping my pen on my desk wondering how I was going to help this boy that was struggling so hard with ADHD. If I looked away, Alec literally would be climbing the walls and contorting his body to the point that he looked like he was having a seizure. At the tender age of eight, he got in trouble practically every minute at school. His mother came to me out of desperation looking for a way to help her bright, blue-eyed boy.
Even though I was personally holistic, my traditional training was psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, so I recommended a consult with a psychiatrist thinking that I was going to help this little cutie pie and his worried family. He was unfocused, couldn’t put his thoughts down on the page, and was always on the red light on the behavioral chart. Alec began a course of treatment with several ADHD medications that resulted in frightening side effects. His heart rate increased His energetic personality went flat. He no longer enjoyed anything. The drugs made him cranky and reduced his eating which was worrisome since he was already a wiry kid. Then there were so many sleepless nights to boot.
His parents were beside themselves, but they were determined. In those early days of the internet, they found neurofeedback and were elated at the possibility of something natural with decades of research behind it. Off they went, seeking treatment. Within a few months, Alec’s best features began to shine – not only was he focused but he was able to put his thoughts together, connect with others, and joyous laughter came for the first time! He was happy that he wasn’t in trouble all the time. The impulsive, unfocused Alec was gone and I was a believer! Neurofeedback became my passion too. My eyes were opened to the deep healing that happens with natural therapies that support the brain and body.
And ever since I got to meet Alec, I made it my mission to help thousands of children and families. At my office, that is just what we’ve done! Every day, we use evidence-based holistic therapies to cultivate happiness, hope, and change in children, individuals, and families.
If you're a worried parent, and you want to see your child go from a stressed out mess to a happy and focused kid, then you are ready for our BrainBehaviorReset™ Program or other solutions we have.
Arns, M., de Ridder, S., Strehl, U., Breteler, M., & Coenen, A. (2009). Efficacy of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD: The effects on inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity: A meta-analysis. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, 40(3), 180-189. https://doi.org/10.1177/155005940904000311
Bakhshayesh, A. R., Hänsch, S., Wyschkon, A., Rezai, M. J., & Esser, G. (2011). Neurofeedback in ADHD: A single-blind randomized controlled trial. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 20(9), 481-491. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-011-0208-y
Gani, M., & Birbaumer, N. (2014). Not all minds that wander are lost: The importance of a balanced mind-wandering state in learning and development. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 00530. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00530
Heinrich, H., Gevensleben, H., & Strehl, U. (2007). Annotation: Neurofeedback – train your brain to train behaviour. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(1), 3-16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01665.x
Steiner, N. J., Frenette, E. C., Rene, K. M., Brennan, R. T., & Perrin, E. C. (2014). In-school neurofeedback training for ADHD: Sustained improvements from a randomized control trial. Pediatrics, 133(3), 483-492. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-2059
Sherlin, L. H., Arns, M., Lubar, J. F., Heinrich, H., Kerson, C., Strehl, U., & Sterman, M. B. (2011). Neurofeedback and basic learning theory: Implications for research and practice. Journal of Neurotherapy, 15(4), 292-304. https://doi.org/10.1080/10874208.2011.623089
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.”
She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.