Taming the Wild West: The Effect of Transcendental Meditation on Adult ADHD

In the May 2023 issue of The Atlantic, an article called “Adult ADHD Is the Wild West of Psychiatry” stated:

“Nearly 5 percent of adults are thought to have the disorder, but less than 20 percent of them have been diagnosed or have received treatment (compared with about 77 percent of children)…. America has no standard clinical guidelines for how doctors should diagnose and treat adults with ADHD—a gap the CDC has called a ‘public health concern.’” 

Children are still the main focus of testing, diagnosing, and treatment, likely because of the demand for their care by their parents. However, girls, as compared to boys, are underdiagnosed and proportionately undertreated. This is also true of grown women.

Psychiatry only recently officially addressed adult ADHD in around 2013, partly because ADHD sometimes appears differently in kids than in adults. Only a small percentage of adults find that ADHD symptoms lessened as they grew up although symptoms can change: According to The Atlantic, “Physical hyperactivity tends to decrease with age as opposed to, say, emotional or organizational problems.” Most psychiatrists haven’t been formally trained in treating ADHD in adults and rely heavily on potentially inaccurate self-reporting.

So adult ADHD, and possibly more so for women than men, is still unmapped for medical professionals, akin to the pioneers moving into uncharted territory in the American “wild west.”

The science behind Transcendental Meditation and the reduction of ADHD symptoms

The TM technique is effortless—even children with ADD or ADHD symptoms have no trouble meditating. The settled physical and mental states experienced spontaneously during the technique carry over and are retained in the day and evening after the meditation periods—a little bit at first and then increasingly over time.

ADHD researchers have reported that the TM technique can dramatically reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Published research on the benefits of the TM program shows:

  • Improved attention
  • Improved behavior regulation
  • Improved emotional control
  • Improved memory
  • Improved organizational skills
  • Reduced stress and anxiety

In contrast to individuals with ADHD who show a reduction of blood flow in the brain, during the practice of the TM technique there is increased blood flow to the brain. According to research published in Brain and Cognition in June 2018 on fMRI during the practice of the TM technique, researchers found that:

“During Transcendental Meditation practice, blood flow patterns were significantly higher in executive and attention areas (anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices) and significantly lower in arousal areas (pons and cerebellum). This pattern supports the understanding that Transcendental Meditation practice requires minimal effort. This pattern of heightened blood flow in attentional areas and decreased blood flow in arousal areas has not been reported during other meditation practices.”

Research published in The Journal of Psychiatry in 2011 indicates that TM improves brain function and reduces symptoms among students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Averting and reducing adult ADHD

To help avert adult ADHD in the future of children who have symptoms, the sooner a child can learn the TM technique after turning the age of ten, the better. A study published in 2008 online in Current Issues in Education demonstrated that the Transcendental Meditation instruction course seemed to affect children with ADHD by increasing their attention, reducing their stress and anxiety, improving their behavior, and strengthening their ability to think and concentrate.

But it’s “never too late.” Any adult with ADHD symptoms can benefit from taking recourse to the improvement of brain function and physiological balance by learning Transcendental Meditation at any age. Welcome to the new frontier.

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About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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