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Severe ADHD in Adults: Pressure Blankets as a Treatment

Severe ADHD in adults can diminish the ability to function in day-to-day life. Various techniques have been found to improve life including...

Pressure blankets (weighted blankets) are the new trend in holistic health, and many adults wonder if they can be used to alleviate severe ADHD in adults. In short, the study described below shows that adults with ADHD prefer pressure blankets as a tool to reduce symptoms.

You have probably encountered a rambunctious child at some point during your life, but have you ever encountered a child with Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? People toss the term “ADHD” around when describing hyperactive children, but the fact is only about 6.1% of children meet the criteria (Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016).

Amount of Children Ages 4-17 who were Diagnosed with ADHD in the United States

graph of diagnostic breakdown
*In Millions*
(CDC, 2016)

Regardless if you have ever encountered a child with ADHD, the term itself is often used with children, and not so much with adults. Most of the time, kids outgrow the symptoms and live productive lifestyles.

However, about 8.1% of the adult population suffers from ADHD, and their symptoms can have impacts on their jobs, social lives, or everyday functioning (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2017). Severe ADHD in adults can create challenges with planning and organizing skills, which can impact their vocational and personal lives.

Cognitive Assistive technology (CAT) are devices implemented by occupational therapists to improve average lifestyle functioning. A program using these devices was implemented in Switzerland and as a way to aid those who have been placed on disability for conditions such as severe ADHD in adults.

One of the tools that can be used as CAT is pressure blankets, also known as pressure blankets (weighted blankets)

Examples of CAT Tools

pressure therapy, timer, headphones, and a schedule as CAT examples.

A person who uses CAT tools can gain control of their social and organizational lives.

Severe ADHD in Adult Sample Size

A total of 19 adults were recruited to participate, but after an initial evaluation, it was determined that only 17 would benefit from CAT tools.

Demographics

participant demographics
(Lindstedt & Umb Carlsson, 2013)

The participants were taking some form of ADHD medication to aid in the alleviation of symptoms, and some had multiple diagnoses, which created more lifestyle problems.

Stages of the Study

stages of CAT study
(Lindstedt & Umb-Carlsson, 2013)

As occupational therapists worked with the participants to develop unique treatment plans, they would begin with simple CAT tools such as a pencil and paper to create a schedule; then, CAT tools were adjusted as needed.

Before being admitted into the study, participants were given The Assessment of Motor and Process Skills, which assisted in determining the level of need for each participant. If their scores fell within the predetermined category, they were admitted into the study and assigned an occupational therapist to begin stage two.

Measurements

This study was primarily quantitative, meaning numerical data were collected and analyzed to determine the efficacy of CAT tools such as heavy blankets for ADHD.

  • The Quebec User Evaluation with Assistive Technology was given to participants after they used the CAT tool to determine their satisfaction with the apparatus.
    • The occupational therapists gave this assessment to participants after “they had become acquainted with the product.” Therefore, the length of time with the CAT was not controlled for and was dependent on each individual.
  • The Individual Support Protocol was used to create this measure, and it determined how well a participant was functioning with each domain of life functions.
    • For example, the occupational therapist can assess to determine how well participants can complete day to day tasks like financial self-sufficiency or holding a stable job.
  • The Satisfaction of Daily Occupation was given to determine their perception of satisfaction with completing daily activities.
  • The Manchester Short Assessment of Quality of Life was given to assess the quality of life.

What Happened in This Study?

This was a pretty lengthy and inclusive study, as it lasted two years, and the researchers wanted to be as thorough as possible when collecting data.

The satisfaction of daily occupations and the manchester’s short assessment of the quality of life were conducted once the participant was admitted into the study, and then again after the appropriate CAT was found.

Participants were asked to choose two occupations from a list of over 80 occupations. During the study, participants were to perform their chosen occupation. Occupational Therapists rated the participants’ job performance from 1-4 (1 signifying poor performance and 4 signifying adequate performance).

Does a Pressure Blanket help with Severe ADHD in adults?

The highest-rated CATs were weekly schedules, alarm clocks, and pressure blankets. Tasks that were most frequently supported by these CATs were

  • Carrying out daily routines
  • Economic self-sufficiency
  • Undertaking a single task
  • Looking after one’s health

Details of CAT Tools Used

Severe ADHD in adults can be attenuated by a variety of CAT products such as a pressure blanket.

(Lindstedt & Umb-Carlsson, 2013)

Pressure Blankets for ADHD adult Implications

As aforementioned, severe ADHD in adults can lead to diminished quality of life due to the difficulties associated with maintaining life skills. While working with occupational therapists, it was found that quality of life was improved when participants were provided with certain CAT tools, including pressure blankets!

The article does not go into the specifics of how much weight was used, and the length of time the pressure blanket was used. However, this study does provide us with solid insight that pressure blankets may help other adults with ADHD function at a higher level.

There is prior research to support the notion that pressure blankets improve sleep issues for people with ADHD, and thus we can infer that pressure blankets would help with severe ADHD in adults and insomnia as comorbid conditions.

By piecing together the research that we do have, we can begin to develop ways in which pressure blankets can be used to alleviate ADHD-symptoms. 

Limitations

This study attempted to determine what types of CAT tools would be both preferred and useful to participants, so we do not get an in-depth look as to how the weighted blanket helped or why it was preferred. A follow-up study would need to be conducted to gather more information on this.

There are different types of medication that can be prescribed for ADHD, and it was not noted which medications were prescribed. Although unlikely, it is possible medication could have played a role in preference and effectiveness.

Read More About ADHD Stats and the Study Discussed!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Data and statistics about ADHD. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html/

National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd.shtml

Lindstedt, H., & Umb-Carlsson, O. (2013). Cognitive assistive technology and professional support in everyday life for adults with ADHD. Disability and Rehabilitation Assistive Technology, 8(5), 402-408. DOI: 10.3109/17483107.2013.769120

Veronica

Veronica is a mental health professional who is pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and now provides therapy to children and youth in the community agency setting. She has been a part of several studies withiфn the field of psychology, including cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and health psychology. Her current research interests revolve around utilizing mindfulness meditation techniques and how they can impact the health of individuals in various socio-economic settings. She also has research interests revolving around developing and implementing interventions to aid in recovery from substance abuse within the primary care setting.

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