Thursday, October 22, 2009

Does Divorce Matter?

In 1997, a prominent psychologist wrote an article which appeared in an American psychological journal. The author reviewed several commonly held beliefs about psychology, and one of his claims was that the brain is quite resilient to the effects of trauma. He noted that rats which had been subjected to trauma as infants developed into apparently well-adjusted adults.

A response was written to his claim in which it was noted that, unlike animals, we humans have language — along with a memory system with which to process it — and that trauma has a unique linguistic way of lingering in our unconscious minds. Humans, just like rats, may give the appearance of being well-adjusted, but, as any experienced mental health clinician has seen over and over, many of the seemingly “well-adjusted” individuals walking around in our society are tormented by inner lives of emptiness and self-destructive despair. Professor, physician, lawyer — they all say the same thing to me: “I feel like mush inside.” And most of them, as children, saw their families shattered by divorce or adultery — often the “adultery” of child sexual abuse. We take divorce so much for granted today that it is hard not to find someone who has been divorced or who has married someone who has been divorced or who has parents or relatives who have divorced. And like that prominent psychologist, we brush it off and say, “It doesn’t matter.”

But it does matter. Children need to have both a mother and a father who will protect them, care for them, teach them, and guide their feet through darkness into the way of peace. Even the trauma of losing a parent to death is less a trauma than losing a parent to divorce, for in divorce a parent essentially says to a child — and to a spouse — “My personal desires are more important to me than is your welfare. This family is nothing to me, and you are just an object to be moved around like a pawn in my self-indulgent search for happiness.” Laboratory rats have only cheese and mazes. What can they say about trauma? Children, however, have phobias, eating disorders, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex, unwanted pregnancies, sexual diseases, abortion—and suicide, and guns — to “speak” about their traumas. And yet we continue to look at divorce and say, “It doesn’t matter.”

It does matter and we often need help with divorce issues. Counseling is available. Call us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

About ADHD

If you’re waiting for your child to outgrow ADHD … don’t. Approximately 60 percent of children with the condition will carry it into adulthood. Early evaluation and treatment, when appropriate, can pre-empt years of more serious problems. As the ADHD child gets older, his symptoms — and his means of coping with those symptoms — can intensify. A 10-year study currently under way has already found that young adults are at high risk for “markedly elevated rates of antisocial, addictive, mood and anxiety disorders.”

Over treatment and misdiagnosis are still problem areas. Some bioethicists believe that pharmaceutical companies are pushing their drugs, leading to medical treatment in patients who don’t need it. At the same time, a true case of ADHD is a neurobiological condition — a medical problem, not just a psychological one — and does warrant the use of prescribed medicine.

A major part of the problem is that most primary-care physicians are simply not trained yet in diagnosing ADHD. The disorder was not formally recognized as a disability until 1998, and doctors are still catching up to the ongoing research and the efficacy of treatments. Seek physicians with experience in ADHD diagnosis, and educate yourself.

ADHD is most effectively treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Prescribed medicines are effective for approximately 50 percent of the patients who need them. But even in the patients who do respond, only about half of their symptoms are relieved. The drugs won’t necessarily treat problems with organizational skills, coping socially and the overwhelming emotions associated with underachievement and failure. Cognitive psychotherapy can reach where medication does not.

It is still undetermined whether ADHD can be beat. We don’t know yet whether adult patients can be free of the condition after stopping medication and therapy. (Children may have not carried the condition into adulthood.) While on a treatment program, people do learn to relieve impairments and decrease distress. But it is unknown whether patients can maintain long-term control over symptoms on their own when the course of meds is ended.

Half of all people with ADHD have other disorders as well. Depression and anxiety are the most common conditions that “co-travel” with ADHD. These co-travelers present a major problem because they mask ADHD; physicians will often recognize and treat the mood disorder, which they’re familiar with, but miss the ADHD completely.

As in children, adults with ADHD are also more likely to have asthma. Other co-travelers, so to speak, include smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, and obesity — all of which signal ways in which people try to cope or self-medicate.

It's very real. Sure -- many people in our generation or older can remember a time back when behaviors that mirror ADHD/ADD were punished since they looked like plain, old disobedience or out of control impulsiveness. You, as parent, know your child best. But also recognize when it's not only okay, but in your child's best interest, to seek the advice of experts -- your son or daughter likely isn't intentionally trying to forget homework assignments night after night, and treatment of a perhaps previously overlooked medical condition could make a world of difference to you all.

(Research by John Tesh)

Repairing a Broken Relationship

1. Assess what's going on between you - Try to think objectively and make sure that you really want to mend the friendship. Your latest tiff may just be a sign that the relationship has been doomed for a while. Have you simply outgrown each other? That's no one's fault. People change over time and not always in the same direction. Have the same problems recurred time after time? Maybe the bad chemistry or sense of imbalance between you has become so overwhelming that it is impossible to transcend. Or -- is it something that you think you might really be able to fix? If so, proceed to Tip 2.

2. Pinpoint what happened - If it is something you said or did, or something you didn't say or do -- or if the problem was with her, talk about it. No friendship is perfect and each one has tiny kinks that need to be worked out. Communicating avoids little problems from escalating into big ones that can undermine a relationship.

3. Be the first to offer the olive branch - If you know you were in the wrong, take responsibility for your mistake. Tell your friend how important the relationship is to you and show her in some small but concrete way. Invite her to dinner or send her a card that says, "I'm sorry." If she was in the wrong, practice forgiveness. Harboring resentment towards someone has a way of bouncing back like a boomerang to hurt you (including raising your blood pressure). Let go of the disappointment. Having a shared history should provide a strong foundation that allows a friendship to weather small hurts.

4. Step back after you've tried - Be sensitive to her response. Okay, you've been thinking about how you were going to handle this fiasco, for hours or maybe even weeks and months. But you just sprung your thinking on her and she may need time to mull it over. If her answer is "No way," accept it for the moment, give it some time, and try again. If she repeatedly blows you off, you may have to accept her decision and move on.

5. Don't necessarily view endings as a failure - Friendships have beginning and endings. Ones that last forever are more likely to be the topic of novels and television scripts. Sometimes, people breathe a sigh of relief after an ambivalent or toxic friendship is over.

Friendships are wonderful and life affirming. But keep in mind that just as is the case in most relationships that really mean something to us, the ones that have a chance at surviving the test of time (as well as stresses and arguments!), our friendships will not flourish being left on a shelf with no care coming from us. They require effort. And if we're lucky, each one provides us with new wisdom so they get better and better!

(by John Tesh)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Counseling Women

Women today face the challenge of trying to meet everybody else’s needs, often ignoring their own needs. They may find that they try to be the perfect wife, mother, employee, etc., and still ...