Understanding the relationship between ADHD and ACT

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. One approach that has gained significant attention in recent years for treating ADHD is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on accepting one’s thoughts and feelings while committing to actions aligned with personal values.

Here we explore the relationship between ADHD and ACT, examining how ACT can be a valuable tool in managing the challenges associated with ADHD.


What is Acceptance and Commitment therapy?

ACT is a modern form of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) that emphasises acceptance and mindfulness strategies. The primary goal of ACT is not to eliminate or suppress unwanted thoughts and emotions, but rather to develop psychological flexibility and enhance overall well-being. It encourages individuals to accept their internal experiences and take committed action towards living a meaningful life.


The core components of ACT and how they can relate to ADHD

Acceptance: ACT encourages individuals to acknowledge and accept their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, including those associated with ADHD symptoms. By fostering a non-judgmental attitude towards these experiences, individuals can reduce their struggle with them, allowing for greater psychological flexibility.

Cognitive Defusion: Cognitive defusion techniques help individuals detach from unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. People with ADHD often experience negative self-judgment and self-criticism. ACT offers strategies to observe thoughts as passing events rather than absolute truths, enabling individuals to distance themselves from unhelpful thinking patterns.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices are a central aspect of ACT. By cultivating present-moment awareness, individuals can develop a greater understanding of their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness helps individuals with ADHD increase attentional control, reduce impulsivity, and enhance self-regulation skills.

Values Clarification: ACT emphasises identifying an individuals’ personal values and aligning their personal actions with those values. By clarifying what is truly important in life, individuals can set meaningful goals and take steps towards living a fulfilling and purposeful life, despite the challenges associated with ADHD.


What are the benefits of ACT for ADHD?

  • Enhanced self-awareness: ACT helps individuals with ADHD develop a deeper understanding of their internal experiences, enabling them to recognize and manage their symptoms more effectively. By cultivating self-awareness, individuals can make conscious choices rather than reacting impulsively.
  • Improved emotional regulation: ADHD is often accompanied by emotional dysregulation. ACT equips individuals with mindfulness and acceptance techniques to regulate emotions, reducing reactivity and impulsivity. By learning to accept and observe emotions without judgment, individuals can respond skilfully to challenging situations.
  • Increased focus and attention: Mindfulness practices in ACT can enhance attentional control in individuals with ADHD. By training attention to the present moment, individuals can reduce distractions and improve their ability to sustain focus on tasks.
  • Goal-directed behaviour: ACT’s emphasis on values-based action helps individuals with ADHD prioritize their goals and take steps towards achieving them. By aligning actions with personal values, individuals can find motivation and meaning in their pursuits, even when faced with ADHD-related difficulties.


ACT offers a valuable approach for individuals with ADHD to manage their symptoms and improve overall well-being. By cultivating acceptance, mindfulness, and values-based action, individuals can develop psychological flexibility and enhance their ability to navigate the challenges associated with ADHD. While ACT should not be seen as a standalone treatment for ADHD, it can be a complementary therapeutic tool, augmenting existing interventions and empowering individuals to live meaningful and fulfilling lives, despite the ADHD-related obstacles they may face.




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