Adhd and Cbt: Using Automatic Thoughts to Help | Kristen McClure

Studies suggest that people with ADHD have more negative automatic thoughts than others. Therefore it makes sense to use techniques that address “Negative Automatic Thoughts” to help yourself. This is especially true in regards to perfectionism and anxiety, and the patterns that may cause you to freeze or avoid.

Automatic thinking comes from beliefs you have about yourself and the world. They aren’t chosen. They stem from the beliefs that formed as you rather automatically as you grew up.

Challenging automatic thoughts helps chip away at the beliefs that are there. Using strategies that address these thoughts has been shown to help with your self-concept. Self-concept refers to how people perceive themselves your past your abilities, your future, and your sense of self in general.

Check out these worksheets below from




One of the best methods to work with ADHD from this approach is to learn how to observe your thoughts without judgment so we can challenge their validity of them.

Negative automatic thoughts can be triggered by external or internal events and can also be images, or be accompanied by images. Cognitive behavioral therapy does have value for women with ADHD. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we often get to the truth of how thoughts are tricking you through a method called Socratic questioning. As it implies, this was a technique named for the early Greek philosopher and is designed to get at the truth. The forefathers of cognitive behavioral therapy utilized this technique in their office, as do almost all therapists. Luckily, you can teach yourself how to use this technique.

Negative Automatic Thoughts and ADHD : Three Facts about using CBT techniques

Thoughts and beliefs that underlie some things you believe about yourself due to your ADHD are often distorted, negative and happen automatically

Questioning those thoughts can help you realize that they are not helpful, distorted, and untrue

Understanding the thoughts are not accurate can shake the foundations of some of the things that hurt you because of your ADHD
Although the formula for Socratic questioning can be complicated, a simple method is demonstrated here.

An example of Socratic Questioning

What is the evidence for and against this thought?

What are different ways to think of the situation?

What would happen if you thought differently, and what is happening in your life if you continue to think this thought?

Exploring Negative Automatic Thoughts for ADHD

One way to explore Negative automatic thoughts as they relate to ADHD is to fill out a sheet that simply identifies the thought that is making you feel bad, the event that triggered it, and more realistic thought.

For example, let’s say the trigger is procrastinating doing your project.

The Automatic Thought may be ” I am Lazy and can’t ever get anything done”

A more adaptive thought might be: ” I have ADHD and I can’t get started when I am overwhelmed. Procrastination is a sign that I need to chunk. I will do better next time.”

These are questions I’ve adapted from the positive psychology website that you can ask yourself about your automatic thought.

Challenging Questions to Help with my Automatic Thoughts

1. What facts support this thought? What existing evidence contradicts it?

2. What would the worst possible outcome be, if this thought were true?

3. Am I using an experience from my family and what they have taught me about my ADHD to overgeneralize?

5. If I don’t do this perfectly or make a mistake will this matter in a week or a month?

6. What are some ways I’ve dealt with this scenario before that was helpful?

7. What advice would my counselor or therapist give about this situation that explains it in terms of my ADHD?

9. Are my thoughts self-compassionate?

11. Besides myself, what else might be affecting this situation?

12. Am I using “I must,” “I have to,” or “I should” thinking here? Is it truly necessary?

13. What advice would I give my friend with ADHD or neurodiversity in this scenario?

14. Am I comparing myself to others who are neurotypical?

You can learn how to do this yourself!

Here is another helpful Formula I sometimes use

Here is a formula used by Byron Katie, a spiritual teacher who suffered a deep long depression at the end of which she learned many things about how to be happy. The formula is similar to that used BY CBT therapists and is simple and to the point.

More questions about automatic thoughts

Do I know it ( the thought) is true?
How do I feel when I think that’s true?
Can the opposite or an alternative thought be true?
How do a feel when I believe that thought is true?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.

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