Meditation therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that affects a significant number of children and adults in a variety of ways. It is characterized by chronic levels of inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. Meditation therapy could be a beneficial treatment for those diagnosed with ADHD. The objective of this review was to assess the efficacy of this treatment. As a result of the small number of studies that we were able to include in this review and the limitations of those studies, we were unable to draw any conclusions regarding the effectiveness of meditation therapy for ADHD. No adverse effects of meditation in children have been reported. More trials are needed on meditation therapies for ADHD so that conclusions can be drawn regarding its effectiveness.

Authors' conclusions: 

As a result of the limited number of included studies, the small sample sizes and the high risk of bias, we are unable to draw any conclusions regarding the effectiveness of meditation therapy for ADHD. The adverse effects of meditation have not been reported. More trials are needed.

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Background: 

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common developmental disorders experienced in childhood and can persist into adulthood. The disorder has early onset and is characterized by a combination of overactive, poorly modulated behavior with marked inattention. In the long term it can impair academic performance, vocational success and social-emotional development. Meditation is increasingly used for psychological conditions and could be used as a tool for attentional training in the ADHD population.

Objectives: 

To assess the effectiveness of meditation therapies as a treatment for ADHD.

Search strategy: 

Our extensive search included: CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, ERIC, PsycINFO, C2-SPECTR, dissertation abstracts, LILACS, Virtual Health Library (VHL) in BIREME, Complementary and Alternative Medicine specific databases, HSTAT, Informit, JST, Thai Psychiatric databases and ISI Proceedings, plus grey literature and trial registries from inception to January 2010.

Selection criteria: 

Randomized controlled trials that investigated the efficacy of meditation therapy in children or adults diagnosed with ADHD.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors extracted data independently using a pre-designed data extraction form. We contacted study authors for additional information required. We analyzed data using mean difference (MD) to calculate the treatment effect. The results are presented in tables, figures and narrative form.

Main results: 

Four studies, including 83 participants, are included in this review. Two studies used mantra meditation while the other two used yoga compared with drugs, relaxation training, non-specific exercises and standard treatment control. Design limitations caused high risk of bias across the studies. Only one out of four studies provided data appropriate for analysis. For this study there was no statistically significant difference between the meditation therapy group and the drug therapy group on the teacher rating ADHD scale (MD -2.72, 95% CI -8.49 to 3.05, 15 patients). Likewise, there was no statistically significant difference between the meditation therapy group and the standard therapy group on the teacher rating ADHD scale (MD -0.52, 95% CI -5.88 to 4.84, 17 patients). There was also no statistically significant difference between the meditation therapy group and the standard therapy group in the distraction test (MD -8.34, 95% CI -107.05 to 90.37, 17 patients).

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