Photobiomodulation (PBM) for ADHD may not even be a thing. It’s not a subject that has received much study. But ADHD isn’t particularly easy to live with, and there might be enough evidence to justify personal investigation of a promising technology. Let’s see.
CHADD — “Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” — says about 10 million adults in the U.S. live with ADHD. ADHD can have a number of effects on a person’s life. But the most important effect is “difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function and working memory.” Attention, executive function, and working memory are obviously critical to career success in today’s world. That makes adult ADHD a major economic and social problem.
Adult ADHD May Not Mean Hyperactivity
ADHD is commonly encountered in children, perhaps because its behavioral effects are so visible in a classroom. Some children seem to “grow out of it,” but about one-third to one-half of ADHD children take the disorder into adulthood. Adults generally control the symptoms on their own and don’t usually display the hyperactivity often seen in children. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to manage. Imagine living with an inner restlessness all the time.
ADHD seems to be predominantly genetic in origin, but environmental factors must play a role as well. Research has been unable to pinpoint a specific cause, so there’s no cure. But the symptoms are usually manageable. Managing them requires medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, organizational tools, or a combination of those things. The medications used are psychostimulants, and they seem to be effective because they boost the activity of neurotransmitters. That is, they increase signaling in the brain’s pathways.
It’s In The Pathways
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall a post from nearly a year ago, about the work of Michael R. Hamblin. Hamblin has an unusual take on PBM. He says that it succeeds with neurological disorders, not because it improves cellular health (which is the conventional wisdom), but because it activates signaling pathways in the brain. And, in fact, his major paper on photobiomodulation suggested ADHD would prove to be one of the disorders that PBM can effectively treat.
I haven’t been able to find any clinical studies of photobiomodulation for ADHD. So there’s no basis — beyond the hypothetical — for saying it can help. At the same time, however, PBM is known to have very little risk. If you want to try a few sessions to determine if it helps you control your inner restlessness, there’s nothing stopping you.
Photobiomodulation for ADHD
For whatever it’s worth, we have a client here at Peak who comes in for weekly PBM sessions, who told me that he has felt a small but unmistakable calming effect. He has never been diagnosed with ADHD. But he says that he is a lifelong fidgeter, that he has always found repose rather difficult, and that a tendency to foot-twitching runs in his family. But he has never fidgeted in the PBM bed. From the first time he tried it, he said, he lay almost perfectly still for the session. He said that it was the first time he was ever able to keep himself still without effort. Since he started PBM, the effect has spilled over into his daily life, and he now finds repose in other situations both undemanding and refreshing.
One person’s experience is hardly a clinical study, and his case might not even be ADHD. But I can confirm from my own PBM sessions that there is a perceptible calming effect. If you want to try it on your ADHD, why not book a few sessions and see how it goes?