Eline CHM Haijen is a PhD candidate in the Psychopharmacology in Maastricht research group at the Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology at Maastricht University. With a background in psychology, she obtained her research master’s degree in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, with a specialization in Neuropsychology at Maastricht University. Her current projects investigate the emotional, cognitive and possible therapeutic effects of low doses of psychedelics in a healthy- and an ADHD population. Further, her research interests include the effects of psychedelics on sleep and well-being, as well as the inter-individual differences in experienced psychedelic effects.
INSIGHT 2023 Topic:
Self-Initiated Microdosing with Psychedelics Improves Self-Reported Emotion Regulation and Empathy in Adult ADHD
Adults diagnosed with ADHD can experience problems in emotion regulation and empathic responding; two strongly related processes essential in keeping healthy interpersonal relationships. While emotion dysregulation has been suggested as a core symptom in ADHD, empathic abilities have been largely unexplored in adults diagnosed with ADHD. Conventional pharmacological ADHD treatments seem to be less effective in targeting emotion dysregulation compared to targeting inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms, suggesting these treatments fail in addressing the broader clinical needs of ADHD patients. Microdosing (MD), using low doses of psychedelics repeatedly, has been suggested as potential treatment for ADHD, and previous studies have linked MD to positive effects on social functioning and aspects of empathy.
The current online prospective study aimed to investigate the effects of MD on emotion regulation and empathy. Adults who had the intention to start MD on their own initiative, and who were either diagnosed with ADHD or who experienced severe ADHD symptoms, were assessed at baseline and two- and four weeks after MD initiation. It was expected that emotion regulation and (cognitive and emotional) empathy would improve after MD. It was investigated whether having comorbidities alongside the ADHD diagnosis and using conventional ADHD medication alongside MD influenced the effect on emotion regulation and empathy. Sample sizes included N = 233, N = 64, and N = 44, at the three assessment moments, respectively. Improvements in emotion regulation (i.e., cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression) and aspects of (cognitive and emotional) empathy (i.e., perspective-taking and personal distress) were found 2 and 4 weeks after MD initiation. Using conventional medication or having comorbid diagnoses did not change the MD effects on emotion regulation and empathy. This study provides evidence for potential positive effects of low doses of psychedelics on emotion regulation and empathy in adults diagnosed with ADHD.