ADHD, Trauma and Somatic Therapy

The Relationship Between Trauma and ADHD

While science hasn’t yet proved a causal link between trauma and ADHD, research suggests that those with ADHD are more likely than others to have experienced trauma at some point in their lives, although they may not call it that. Trauma is a mental, emotional, or physical response to a distressing event or series of stressful events while ADHD is a neruodevelopmental condition.But they share many symptoms in common, including:

  • memory issues
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sudden bursts of anger
  • difficulty with emotional regulation
  • increased stress response
  • reduced interest in activities
  • sleep disturbances
  • feelings of shame or guilt

ADHD can be influenced by in-utero and early life exposures to a variety of stressors and trauma. And children with ADHD may be more subject to bullying by peers and increase the risk of:

  • abusive behaviors
  • substance use
  • risky behaviors
  • being in potentially traumatic situations

Past trauma, especially childhood trauma, has been linked to increased severity of symptoms. For individuals with ADHD, it is often difficult to determine that an uncomfortable physical sensation is being caused by an underlying emotion. They often disconnect from physical discomforts by numbing themselves with food, drugs, sex, risky behaviors, or by being workaholics.

Somatic therapy offers greater physical and emotional control over the body’s uncomfortable responses to distress and has been shown effective for use in treating  PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief and addiction.

Somatic Therapy and Trauma

Somatic therapy incorporates the mind, body, and spirit into therapeutic healing work. It aims to treat the effects of trauma through the connection of mind and body and a body-centric approach. Unlike traditional therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), somatic therapy incorporates body-oriented modalities such as dance, breath work, and meditation to support patients through their healing process. In addition, somatic therapy sessions include talk therapy and mind-body exercises.

This therapy aims to help release how a physical body holds on to stress, tension, and trauma, rather than only resolving problems verbally.

Different Aspects of Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy is based on the principle that what happens to you in your life is stored not only in your mind but also in your body. By focusing on both the physical sensations in your body and the discussion of your problems, it can bring about healing. Somatic therapy techniques include:

  • Developing more awareness of your body and its sensations
  • Grounding in the present moment
  • Encouraging detailed descriptions of physical sensations and experiences
  • Movement, including acting out of physical feelings
  • Learning tools to calm yourself
  • Alternating focus between something stressful and something not stressful to help release tension
  • Replaying past situations with new physical tools
  • Emotional release
  • Strengthening boundaries

As with any form of therapy, it’s essential to be in an emotional and mental place where you have the time and energy to process complex feelings. If you’re doing somatic therapy in person, touch is often involved so it’s wise to ensure you don’t mind being touched by another person.

Also be aware that, like all therapies, somatic therapy may be emotionally difficult and take time for you to fully feel its effects.



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