ADHD, Chronic Pain, & Hypnosis

Hypnosis involves a state of focused attention. So, one might think that children with ADHD would not be able to use it. In fact, kids with ADHD can be very talented and skilled in the use of hypnosis.

Many people with ADHD have a “superpower” hyper-focus. Although hyper-focus is not a criterion for an ADHD diagnosis, about 75% of people with ADHD experience it. One might say that ADHD is not so much attention deficit as attention dysregulation. In other words, people with ADHD aren’t lacking in attention, they are lacking in the ability to control their attention.

To be the target of hyperfocus, an activity has to be interesting or fun. Video games are probably the most common example of a fun target of hyper-focus. Unfortunately, pain is an interesting experience that can also become the target of hyper-focus.

At the same time, “interesting” and “fun” are good descriptions for many hypnosis sessions. In particular, active hypnosis techniques can use discussion of or participation in a favorite pastime to identify creative solutions to a problem – including problems related to pain.

The challenge with doing hypnosis in the setting of ADHD, I find, is mostly in the induction – the beginning stage of hypnosis. From that point on, we are off and running! One of the big questions that I have before an induction is whether the child likes the idea of being very relaxed.

For instance, some kids with ADHD tell me they have never felt that way, and don’t want to, because it is too boring. In that case, I generally have them keep their eyes open, and “fidget” their way through the session. One of my patients, an 11-year-old boy, used a (disconnected) computer mouse for this purpose, and later created a reminder gesture he called “Universal Gamer Hand.”

Don’t dismiss the possibility that your child with ADHD can use hypnosis. Their ability to successfully engage with it may surprise you!

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