Neurofeedback Treatment: Can It Help Treat ADHD?

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It typically presents during childhood and continues throughout one’s lifespan, though some folks receive their diagnosis as adults.

ADHD is characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that becomes so severe, it impairs daily functioning.

Neurofeedback is a type of somatic therapy that stimulates the brain. It is designed to enhance self-control of maladaptive brain functioning. In turn, this can provide relief from challenging brain activity.

This article will explore neurofeedback therapy as a treatment for ADHD. Read on to learn more. 

What Is ADHD?

ADHD can be very challenging to live with since it can impact interpersonal relationships, academic and work performance, and daily functioning. For those who experience inattentive symptoms, they may experience the following signs, amongst others:

  • Lack of attention to detail resulting in mistakes during school, work, and daily activities
  • Struggles paying attention both during play and during necessary duties like work and communicating
  • Challenges finishing work tasks or chores due to issues sustaining focus
  • Problems with meeting deadlines and timeliness
  • Losing essential items like wallets, keys, and cell phones
  • Avoiding activities that require attention and focus
  • Easily distracted and forgetful in necessary daily activities

Some may experience hyperactivity-impulsivity, which can include the following:

  • Inability to sit still when needed, for example, in the classroom or the workplace
  • Consistent feelings of restlessness
  • Excessive talking, frequently without a filter
  • Frequent interruption of others during conversations
  • Inability to maintain enjoyable activities quietly

To receive a diagnosis of ADHD, one doesn’t have to present both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity, though it isn’t uncommon to struggle with each of these issues. However, the individual must be experiencing some of the above symptoms chronically, and they must be so severe that it is impacting their daily functioning. These symptoms cannot be otherwise explained by any other mental or physical illness. 

Children can begin expressing symptoms as early as three years old. Adults may have lived with symptoms of ADHD their whole lives but may not receive a diagnosis until they are an adult. Therefore, it is important to visit a mental health professional to receive a full screening for ADHD.

ADHD Treatment

Once a diagnosis has been received, treatment options can be explored. ADHD often requires a holistic approach, meaning a mix of psychotherapy, medication, psychoeducation, and lifestyle changes can reap the best benefits.

The recommended psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This therapy helps individuals bridge the connection between their feelings, thoughts, and actions. In turn, this can help folks begin to control some of their symptoms of ADHD. In addition, children may be referred to behavioral therapy. This type of therapy focuses on learning how to regulate behavior and emotions.

It isn’t uncommon for behavioral therapy to be a collaborative effort that involves teachers, parents, and family members. By involving teachers and family members, routines and skills learned in behavioral therapy can be reinforced in the classroom and at home.

Medication is recommended in the treatment of ADHD. Stimulants are often the first recommended medication. Through different mechanisms both inside the neuron and in the synapse, stimulants increase the availability of dopamine, which is very important for motivation and overall cognitive function. However, stimulants can have harmful side effects and aren’t a fit for everyone. In the event that stimulants aren’t working out, non-stimulants may be prescribed. They can be just as effective as stimulants, but they can take longer to kick in and begin working.

Learning more about ADHD, joining a support group, and having workplace or classroom accommodations are also part of a well-rounded treatment plan.

What Is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy is a form of biofeedback. Biofeedback is a technique that bridges the connection between the mind and the body. Neurofeedback can help enhance control over the way our mind works by providing feedback directly to our brain.

This is achieved through positive audio or visual feedback for properly functioning brain activity, while negative audio or visual feedback is used for inefficient brain activity.

How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work?

Neurofeedback therapy is a unique process in which a trained professional measures brainwaves while delivering neurofeedback.

The device used is called an electroencephalograph (EEG) which measures the different frequencies of the various brain waves. Electrodes from the EEG will be attached to one’s head. Note that the electrodes do not deliver an electrical current; therefore, they don’t produce any negative sensations.

The brain waves most commonly impacted in ADHD are theta and beta waves. Typically those with ADHD present with high or low theta power and high theta and beta rations. The neurofeedback works to level out the theta and beta power. In turn, this can decrease symptoms of ADHD.

Will Neurofeedback Therapy Effectively Treat ADHD?

Neurofeedback is a promising treatment for ADHD. Research recently proved that as little as 30 sessions of neurofeedback treatment could be as effective as popular stimulants in reducing ADHD symptoms.

It isn’t unheard of for someone to no longer need ADHD medication after substantial neurofeedback treatment. If you’re interested in exploring neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD, reaching out to your medical provider is the first step in seeing if it is the right fit for you.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

  2. Marzbani H, Marateb HR, Mansourian M. Neurofeedback: a comprehensive review on system design, methodology and clinical applications. Basic Clin Neurosci. 2016;7(2):143-158. doi: 10.15412/J.BCN.03070208

  3. Enriquez-Geppert S, Smit D, Pimenta MG, Arns M. Neurofeedback as a treatment intervention in adhd: current evidence and practice. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019;21(6):46. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-1021-4

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.