Category: Child Therapy

Photo in black and white of a young man's arm grabbing the collar of another young man's shirt. Bullying.

Forgiveness Therapy for Treating Kids Who Bully

Bullying among children and teens has received drastically increased news coverage and awareness. This has proven to be both good and bad in terms of outcomes. On the one hand, bullying is a serious issue which needs to be address in order to maintain the safety, happiness, and well-being of our children in their daily lives. On the other, the increased awareness towards bullying and the extent to which it takes place brings to light a greater problem with today’s youth:  an epidemic of abuse and intimidation. Bullies are ultimately abusers. Their victims are their fellow peers, classmates, or even friends or significant others. Through bullying, they assert their power and dominance over those they perceive as weaker and less deserving of respect. This is a problem not only for childhood but also one that may persist throughout one’s life if not properly caught and addressed by parents and teachers early on. The good news: there is a new type of therapy for kids who bully that focuses on forgiveness and self-love.

Why Do Kids Bully?

There are several theories as to why children bully others, though it varies from person to person. Oftentimes, many adults and healthcare professionals alike point to a volatile upbringing or abuse in the home as a result of this negative behavior. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, many children who bully others may come from homes that seem perfectly fine and healthy. That being said, there appears to be one underlying theme that influences the behavior of nearly all young bullies: anger. The cause of bully behavior and victimizing lies in the anger of the child who is choosing to bully others. Therefore, in order to stop bullying, we must first find the source of and address the child’s anger.

Dr. Robert Enright is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a licensed psychologist and pioneer of the social scientific study of forgiveness. According to Dr. Enright, angry individuals tend to displace their anger onto others, which can result in behavior we typically associate with bullying. The anger, then, becomes more powerful as it is transferred from the abuser to the abused, who then abuses others in an attempt to rid themselves of these pent-up negative emotions. He explains that “anger as a source of inner disruption in the form of anxiety, low-self esteem, and pessimism all too often goes unrecognized.” As such, he believes that toxic anger, which may present itself as symptoms of anxiety or other related disorders which contribute to maladaptive behaviors, is actually the root of these problems but goes largely unnoticed or misdiagnosed.

Forgiveness Therapy for Kids Who Bully

To remedy this problem, Dr. Enright proposes a treatment method which he calls “Forgiveness therapy,” which has been empirically validated. This treatment can reduce and ultimately eliminate the aforementioned toxic anger. Dr. Enright refers to forgiveness therapy as a “paradoxical psychotherapy.” This is because “as the client discussed the unfair behaviors coming from others, the treatment focus shifts from the client’s symptoms to an exploration of who the offending person is.” This includes exploring the emotional wounds of that person and their doubts, fears, and vulnerabilities. Uncovering these may help them then understand why that person behaved in an abusive way. The point of this is not to encourage the client to forget the abuse or justify it, nor is the intention to stop them from pursuing justice for their poor treatment. Rather, to offer forgiveness is to offer goodness which that individual had been previously declined, thereby reducing feelings of resentment that may have otherwise continued building up.

According to Dr. Enright, “as the student’s pain subsides by seeing the inherent worth in the one who was cruel and by fostering compassion toward that person…so too does the anger within the one who bullies start to fade, and this takes away the incentive to bully.” Thus, in order to stop bullying, we mustn’t just look at the symptoms, but the underlying anger which is causing the behavior, which has been ignited by the misguided anger of others. Not only must we recognize this anger but we must develop a plan to reduce it. The best way to do this, Dr. Enright argues, is through forgiveness therapy.

Encouraging Forgiveness in Ourselves and Our Children

In encouraging forgiveness, we help take away some of the resentment that may have been lingering and festering inside the bully for who knows how long. A bully’s behavior is likely a response to unaddressed resentments they have been harboring. To effectively stop abusive behavior in kids and teens (adults, too!) we must learn to forgive and to teach forgiveness. As Dr. Enright states: “forgiveness therapy, as empirically shown, already has done its job. Now it is time to transport such therapy from the clinician’s office into the school setting for the good of those who bully and for the good of those who are the unwitting recipients of their pain.”

Find out more about Boca Raton therapy for kids and adults who bully @ 800-378-9354.

Understanding the 3 Major Types of Therapy: CBT, ACT, DBT

What do you think of when you hear the word “psychotherapy”? Chances are it might not be good. After all, any word which contains within it the word “psycho” immediately brings to mind a number of negative connotations. This is thanks, at least, in part, to various films and tv shows that depict therapists as villains or figures of malice. But what exactly is psychotherapy? To begin with, it’s nothing to be afraid of. Psychotherapy, in essence, is talk therapy. Reframed, its revealed to be far less intimidating than it might seem. During a session of psychotherapy, an individual meets with a therapist within a safe and confidential environment to better understand their feelings and behaviors and gain skills with which to cope. These conversations are frequently lead by the therapist and cover a wide range of subjects pertaining to the patient’s past and present. Sessions will also explore the patient’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, and/or relationships in an effort to provide greater insight and clarity into their lives.

Psychotherapy has been shown in numerous studies to help with a wide array of mental illnesses. The treatment is both popular and versatile, able to be used for individuals as well as groups, including families.

There are three main types of psychotherapy: CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Here, we’ll explore each of these forms of psychotherapy and what exactly they entail, as well as how they might benefit individuals in need. Knowing the difference between these treatments can help you and your therapist decide which might be best for you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

In previous posts we’ve discussed a treatment known as CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy. This is because in CBT focuses primarily on exploring the relationships between and individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Doing this can help the patient identify unhealthy patterns of thought and what ways these patterns may be causing them to engage in self-destructive behaviors.

In addressing these patterns, therapists and their patients can work together to develop more constructive ways of thinking. Doing this can enable the individual to develop healthier behaviors and beliefs. After all, the defining principles of CBT are identifying negative, false beliefs and testing then restructuring them. Because of this it has been shown to be an effective treatment method for a number of disorders including: depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Less well-known but no less effective, ACT is a psychological intervention which focuses on using acceptance and mindfulness strategies alongside commitment and behavior change strategies to ultimately increase an individual’s psychological flexibility. What this accomplishes is that it grounds patients in the present moment and teaches them to be fully conscious. It also teaches them to adapt their behavior according to their chosen values. For example, if in a given situation one’s behavior is contradicting their values the best course of action would be to cease or change that behavior. Conversely, if a behavior is in accordance with one’s values, like volunteering in an offer to be more helpful, then the best course of action would be to continue that behavior.

Through ACT patients can begin to realize how their actions may be in conflict with their own desires and goals. Therapists use various exercises and examples to demonstrate how an individual might establish healthier relationships between their thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical experiences. In doing this, patients develop a clearer sense of their own personal values and what level of commitment is required on their behalf in order for their behavior to truly change.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

In the beginning, DBT was developed primarily for individuals who frequently contemplated suicide and also possessed a borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, over the years, DBT has evolved to treat people with a variety of mental illnesses, but most people treated with DBT are usually diagnosed with BPD as a primary illness. There are a lot of similarities between DBT and the more popular CBT with one notable difference: Rather than focusing on struggling with uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, individuals are encouraged to accept them. DBT emphasizes validation, allowing patients to come to terms with their problematic thoughts, emotions, and actions so that change no longer appears to be impossible. This allows the therapist to be able to create a gradual plan for recovery.

In a typical DBT session, the therapist’s role is to help their patient find a balance between acceptance and change. Another essential part of DBT, like CBT, is learning new methods of addressing their unhealthy thoughts and behaviors using mindfulness and developing new and effective means of coping. Improved coping strategies is a significant aspect of successful DBT treatment and can help individuals avoid dangerous behaviors and thoughts in the long-term on their road to recovery.

middle aged blonde woman embracing her dog companion

Using Pet Therapy To Boost Mental Health Treatment

It’s no secret that people love their pets, which is why pet therapy is so effective. Pets can have an amazing effect on people who need a loving non-judgmental companion to spend time with. Some of the many benefits of pet therapy include relief from anxiety and stress, depression, reduced blood-pressure, elevated mood, and increased self-esteem. Most importantly, a session of pet therapy can benefit people of all ages: both individually and in groups. In this article, we’ll look  at some of the benefits that this unique form of therapy can have on adults, children, seniors, and families.

Pet Therapy and Mental Health

So how does pet therapy improve mental health? Studies show that including pet therapy in any existing mental health treatment program is likely to increase participation and attendance. This is because pets have a way of making people feel comfortable and willing to speak about their experiences which aids the recovery process and helps create a communal environment within any recovery center. In short, there’s a reason pets are our best friends. Nothing can beat the unconditional love and assurance of a furry companion, which is why pet therapy is a great addition to any treatment program and beneficial for people of all ages.

1. Children And Pet Therapy

Pet therapy has been shown to help children focus better which, in turn, has contributed to improved literacy skills and reading confidence. In fact, pet therapy can significantly improve a child’s self-esteem by providing them with a relaxed, non-judgemental companion to interact with. Pets can also teach children about responsibility, especially for other living things, and can help them be more socially active and willing to engage in outdoor activities. Moreover, studies have shown that having an animal present during other therapy or treatment sessions can improve the child’s response to treatment. Pet therapy has also been shown to help children overcome some speech impediments by allowing them to build confidence in their speaking abilities and children who have been exposed to pet therapy are also afforded the opportunity to overcome early emotional disorders by learning to care for the pet.

2. Adults And Therapeutic Pets

Pet therapy offers a wide variety of health benefits for adults. Including those previously mentioned, pet therapy has also been shown to lower work-related anxiety and stress and reduce feelings of loneliness. Not to mention, pets have been shown to help teach adults without children nurturing and the responsibility commonly associated with parenthood. Pets are also a great addition to adult therapy sessions for increased responsiveness and relaxation. Studies have shown that spending time with pets via pet therapy allows for the release of plenty of endorphins which produce a calm, euphoric state. Endorphins also help combat physical pain, making pet therapy an ideal supplement for physical therapy or rehabilitation.

3. Seniors And Pets

Seniors are especially prone to a variety of physical ailments and health problems, some of which pet therapy can help with. Pet therapy has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels among the elderly. Moreover, seniors sometimes find themselves isolated as their children have lives and responsibilities of their own. Pet therapy can bring companionship to seniors and help them socialize with others, thus reducing the rates of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Pet therapy can also help with feelings of grief or loss by providing comfort. Working with pets offers a number of physical benefits as well which are especially beneficial to seniors. These include increasing physical activity and thus reducing joint stiffness and helping with maintaining motor skills and mobility.

4. Families Healing Through Therapy with Pets

Its estimated that more than 60% of households in the United States have pets and when reviewing the benefits of pet therapy it’s easy to see why. Pet therapy is effective in helping bring families together by easing communication through positive, nonjudgmental attention. Just as pet therapy can help build confidence in child and adult speech, so can it help facilitate familial communication and cooperation. When a pet is involved, all members of a family can work together to love and care for it. With pet therapy, each family member gets to spend time with a loving, relaxed companion and through that interaction can learn key skills such as compassion, empathy, and responsibility which can help improve family relationships. A pet’s ability to reduce anxiety, aggression, and depression can also reduce tension during family therapy sessions and thus help improve overall familial bonds through shared comfort.

four children taking a test with a woman teacher

Intelligence Indicated by Drawings in Early Childhood

Ask your child when he or she is 4 years old to draw a picture of a child.  Once your child has complied, the drawing could be scored on a scale of 0 to 12.  The scoring depends upon the features included and if they are correct in number and in placement.  The scored features can include head, body, eyes, mouth, ears, nose, hair, arms, and legs.  In one scoring example, a child whose drawing has a body, a head, two arms, and two legs that are all correctly placed but does not include any facial features would receive a score of 4.

The “Draw-A-Person” Test For Intelligence

This test is called the Draw-a-Child or the Draw-a-Person test.  It has also been called the Goodenough-Harris test.  Dr. Rosalind Arden was the lead author in a study involving drawing and intelligence.  Dr. Arden and researchers from King’s College London recently studied 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical twins to determine if the link between drawing and later intelligence was influenced by their genes.  The study took place in the MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

Dr. Arden said, “The Draw-a-Child test was devised in the 1920’s to assess children’s intelligence, so the fact that the test correlated with intelligence at age 4 was expected.  What surprised us was that it correlated with intelligence a decade later.”  She continued, “The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly. Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”

This test was developed by Florence Goodenough in 1926.  Later on, the test was revised by Dr. Dale B. Harris.  Along with testing children for intelligence, the test is also given to some people who are suspected of having a mental illness, particularly those who may have schizophrenia.  In the case of adults, they are typically asked to draw a person rather than to draw a child.  According to psychologist Julian Jones and his 1976 book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, schizophrenic patients do not always have trouble drawing a person.  If the patient in question cannot draw a person or has difficulty drawing a person, he or she is likely to have a mental illness.  Some patients will draw exaggerated features or have trouble with different pieces of the body.  Any of these difficulties can tell trained psychiatrists about the condition from which the patient is suffering.

Studies Done Between Twins Prove Effectiveness

Twins were used in the King’s College study to add an element of heritability to the research.  Non-identical twins share approximately 50 percent of their genes.  Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes.  Twins were chosen who were being raised in the same home, under the same conditions, with the same family environment, and access to the same materials so that the genetic factors would be the most apparent variables.

According to the research, the drawings of the 4 year olds who are identical twins were more similar to one another than the drawings done by the non-identical twins.  Researchers concluded from this that the differences in each child’s drawings would likely be a genetic factor.  They also found a strong genetic link between the score of the drawing produced at the age of 4 and the intelligence of the child at the age of 14.

Dr. Arden clarified, “This does not mean that there is a drawing gene — a child’s ability to draw stems from many other abilities, such as observing, holding a pencil etc. We are a long way off understanding how genes influence all these different types of behavior.”

Dr. Arden continued, “Drawing is an ancient behavior, dating back beyond 15,000 years ago. Through drawing, we are attempting to show someone else what’s in our mind. This capacity to reproduce figures is a uniquely human ability and a sign of cognitive ability, in a similar way to writing, which transformed the human species’ ability to store information, and build a civilization.”

The Cure for Childhood Boredom

As loving parents we do the best we can for our kids and we want them to be happy.  We spend as much time with them as we can and we make sure they have toys and many other things to play with and enjoy.  So it comes as no surprise that we also dread the words “I’m Bored”.  Childhood boredom is a fact of life and it can cause parents great stress, particularly when WE have no choice but to leave them alone so we can do life’s dreaded chores:  paying bills, cleaning up, dishes and so forth.  As a parent and as a professional I have talked to so many people over the years and the feeling is the same.  “We have a pool, a trampoline, a play yard, iPad, computer, iPhone.  How can he/she be bored?”  Is there a solution?

The Answer to Childhood Boredom is To Give Them The Choice

The answer is YES.  I won’t take credit for the Fish Bowl of Boredom, which I read somewhere a while back, but the idea is brilliant.  You take several pieces of paper and in each one you write a bunch of activities for your child to do.  It can include things they already have access to, such as pool, a trampoline, a play yard, iPad, computer, iPhone.  It also includes several activities you can do with your child.  Things such as going to the movies, park, beach, zoo, you name it.  BUT it also includes chores.  Things such as picking up leaves and weeds in the back yard, cleaning up various parts of the house, cleaning/putting away dishes, picking up their room, etc.  You get the picture.  Now you put all those pieces of folded up paper with Ideas to get rid of boredom into a bowl or box of your choosing.

Let Them Decide – Works Like a Charm

Next time your child comes up to you to complain “I’m Bored” explain what is in the bowl/box and ask them to pick something out of the bowl/box.  They must do whatever they pick.  So do you, if it includes an activity with them.  However, since they are risking choosing an unpleasant chore, more often then not they will say: “Never mind.  I’ll figure something out.”  After all isn’t that what we want for them? For them to use their own little minds to problem solve and find ways of entertaining themselves without always having to rely on us.

Types of Adolescent Therapy in South Florida

Adolescents today face a multitude of challenges.  Often, they are able to rise up and meet these challenges with a combination of existing skills and social/familial support.  Sometimes, challenges can be too great for an adolescent to handle and they find themselves struggling to overcome.  There are a variety of types of adolescent therapy in South Florida to help manage some of these struggles.  At Proliance Center, one of the types of adolescent therapy in South Florida offered that can be very useful is social skills therapy.

As one of the many types of adolescent therapy in South Florida, social skills therapy can provide adolescents with an opportunity to process the social struggles they have and learn how to navigate social situations by acquiring new skills taught by their therapist.  These include communication skills and problem-solving techniques.  Also incorporated into this type of adolescent therapy in South Florida is stress management and self-esteem improvement.  At Proliance Center, we work with adolescents in this type of adolescent therapy in South Florida to help them recognize their greatest personal strengths and attributes and capitalize on them to improve their personal identity.  We provide support in a comfortable, private setting to allow adolescents to feel heard and understood in order to best process their presenting issues.

As a parent, it is sometimes difficult to decide which type of adolescent therapy in South Florida would meet the needs of your child.  Whether provided in a group or individual setting, adolescent therapy in South Florida focused on social skills can be extremely beneficial for overcoming social challenges and feeling confident in oneself.  At Proliance Center in Boca Raton, our therapist work closely with the parents of adolescents receiving treatment to help them best manage their child outside of the therapeutic setting and guide them to provide the most appropriate and beneficial support at home.  We will help you to better understand your child and bridge any existing gaps in communication between you.  If you have questions about the types of adolescent therapy in South Florida or feel your child is in need of social skills therapy, a Proliance Center therapist can help to answer your question and provide you with information necessary to make and educated decision.

How To Find A Child Therapist In Boca Raton, Florida

How Do I Narrow My Search For A Child Therapist In Boca Raton Florida To Someone I Can Trust?

Sometimes kids, like adults can benefit from therapy. Meeting with a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida can help kids develop positive coping skills, effective problem-solving skills and teach them the value of seeking help.

A Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida can help children and their families cope with stressors and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues. How do you find a qualified Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida that has experience working with kids? While experience and education are important, it is also important to find a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida that your child feels comfortable talking to and interacting with. Look for one who not only has the right experience, but also the best approach to help your child in the present circumstances.

As a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida, I believe that the most important aspect of child therapy is the relationship. Each child and their family are treated individually. Treatment plan goals, objectives, interventions used during sessions and treatment modalities are specifically geared for that child and their presenting problems.

How Do I Know If The Child Therapist In Boca Raton Florida I Choose Is Qualified To Help My Family?

A Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida is trained to work in a more juvenile environment to help your child feel comfortable and at ease, such as with play therapy. One of the major principles of play therapy is that you focus on the relationship between child and therapist. As with other medical professions, a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida may have a variety of credentials and specific degrees. As a general rule, your Child’s Therapist in Boca Raton Florida should hold a professional degree in the field of Mental Health Counseling, Social Work, Psychology or Psychiatry, and be licensed in your state. All of these professionals diagnose and treat mental health disorders. You may want to consider the following factors when looking for a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida: Is the Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida licensed to practice in your state? What are his or her credentials? What type of experience does he or she have? How long has he or she worked with children? Would your child find him or her friendly? Is the Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida available via phone during an emergency?

As a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida, I graduated from Nova Southeastern University with my Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2004. As a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida, I obtained my License in Mental Health Counseling with the State of Florida in 2007. I am also a State Qualified Supervisor for Registered Interns. Additionally, I am a Kids Yoga Instructor and use these practices in my interventions. As a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida, I have worked with children presenting with behavioral, emotional and mental health issues since 2002. Some of my experience includes; supervising therapeutic (clinical) group homes for children in foster care, clinical director of mental health outpatient clinics, developing and running clinical play/art groups for children, and working with children/families on an individual basis. I am on-call through our 24-hour emergency line for all of my patients and families.

What Factors Should I Consider In Choosing A Child Therapist In Boca Raton Florida?

Is your child struggling with behavioral, emotional or mental health issues? Are these behaviors and symptoms disruptive at home, school or socially? Many kids need help dealing with school stress, such as homework, test anxiety, bullying or peer pressure. Others need to discuss their feelings about family issues. Others have problems such as defiance, distractibility, low self-esteem, constant worry, depression, autism-spectrum disorder and other issues. If your child is struggling with such issues and you are not sure where to start, finding a reputable Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida is the first step to getting your child the help he/she needs. One factor to remember is to set realistic goals going into the therapy experience.  Expecting miracles will only set a family up for disappointment. Be realistic in what therapy goals you have and in what time frames they can be established.

As a Child Therapist in Boca Raton Florida, I believe in establishing a solid rapport with my clients.  The child needs to feel safe and secure and this may take a few sessions. The therapy modalities most commonly used can include play therapy, art therapy, cognitive-behavioral and yoga/meditation techniques. This may look different to a parent who has not seen play therapy before. However, the benefits are outstanding.  Children learn through play and what is learned in the therapy room is then carried out into the rest of their life.

– Jennifer

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) & ADD

What is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an often-misunderstood condition, which is not only over diagnosed, but under diagnosed as well.  While Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health disorders of childhood, ADHD is not just a childhood disorder.  The symptoms affect children, teens, and adults.  Recent national surveys have documented an increase in the prevalence of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) during the past decade.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (more simply known as the CDC), it is estimated that in the United States alone approximately 8 percent of children ages 3-17 years have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.  This includes 11 percent of boys’ ages 3-17 years old and nearly 6 percent of girls’ ages 3-17 years old.  This stunning fact means that around 5 million children from the ages of 3-17 years old have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the United States.  In childhood, ADHD is more common in boys than girls by a ratio of 3 to 1, but by adulthood this ratio seems to even out.  The symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) include inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.  Nearly everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, but ADHD lasts more than 6 months and in affected individuals these symptoms frequently lead to problems in several areas of a person’s life.  These include academic, school, occupation, family, home, relationships and social settings.  They begin in childhood and often persist into adulthood. The specific causes and risk factors for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are unknown, but genetic factors do play a large role.  The appropriate diagnosis of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should involve several steps, including a medical exam; a checklist for rating Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms based on reports from parents, teachers, and sometimes the child; and an evaluation for coexisting conditions.

Why is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Over Diagnosed?

There are a number of conditions or problems that can mimic the distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity usually associated with ADHD.  For instance, while a lack of focus (distractibility) is considered by many to be suggestive of ADHD there are actually two things that must be present for one to focus:  Attention and Concentration.  Attention problems may certainly be the result of ADHD, but certain kinds of Seizures can affect this as well.  The second is concentration.  There are a number of things that if present can cause problems with concentration and lead someone to be diagnosed with ADHD, when the real problem is something else.  Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Tourette’s Disorder, Poor Nutrition, High Levels of Lead in the Blood and Poor Sleep can all lead to a decrease in concentration, which would then cause focusing problems.  Impulsivity and hyperactivity can also occur with Anxiety, Tourette’s Disorder, Poor Sleep, Poor Nutrition (such as Foods with Sugar, Food Additives, and Dyes) and Bipolar Disorder.  Additionally, the level of acceptable hyperactivity varies depending on ones age.  So while one could expect a 5 year old to be running around a fountain at a public park, we wouldn’t expect it from a 15 year old.

Why is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Under Diagnosed?

Some critics of ADHD allege that children with problematic behavior are often diagnosed with ADHD when the behavior may result from other causes.  These critics are correct and this underscores the need to have individuals evaluated correctly.  Other critics state that some children diagnosed with ADHD, or labeled ADHD by parents or teachers, are normal but do not behave in the way that responsible adults want them to behave.  This too is important, given that parents often see kids as a reflection of themselves or are afraid of how others may view them.  As a result, they can be overly critical of normal childhood behavior due to fear of embarrassment or being wrongly judged.

Does Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Occur in Adults ?

It is now known that in 60% of children ADHD symptoms can continue into adulthood.   That amounts to 4% of the US adult population, or roughly 8 – 10 million adults. However, few adults are identified or treated for adult ADHD.   Additionally, while ADHD affects males at a higher rate than females in childhood, this ratio seems to even out by adulthood.  Adults with ADHD may have trouble in a number of areas that can cause associated behavioral, emotional, social, occupational and academic problems.  These include chronic lateness, forgetfulness, problems concentrating and following directions.  They also include problems organizing tasks and completing work within time limits.   Furthermore, they can result in impulsiveness, low frustration tolerance, and chronic feelings of boredom, difficulty controlling anger and more.  These behaviors can be mild to severe and can vary with the situation or be present all of the time.   For instance, some adults with ADHD can be withdrawn and antisocial, or they can be overly social and unable to be alone.  Some are able to concentrate if they are interested in or excited about what they are doing (such as something that gives their brain a “Wow”). Others may have difficulty focusing under any circumstances.  Some will look for stimulation, but others avoid it.  Adults with ADHD are more likely to have had a history of poor educational performance, been underachievers in school, had more frequent school disciplinary actions, repeated a grade or dropped out of school.  As a result of all these challenges, they can end up with anxiety, mood swings, depression, substance abuse or addiction, low self-esteem and relationship problems.  Adults with ADHD are more likely to smoke cigarettes, have driving violations such as: be cited for speeding; have their licenses suspended; be involved in more crashes; rate themselves and others as using poorer driving habits.  They may have a lower socioeconomic status, and use illegal substances more frequently.

How Does Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Affect Teenagers?

Incredibly, ADHD teens can have about four times the amount of traffic citations, four times as many car wrecks and are seven times more likely to be involved in a second car accident as non-ADHD teens.  In school they can have problems with authority figures, exhibit verbal hostility, defiance and non-compliance.   As teenagers 21% repeatedly skip school, 30% fail subjects and repeat a year of school, 35% get suspended and 35% drop out of school. It is important to diagnose and treat ADHD in teens with some form of child psychiatry.

Is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Genetic?

There is strong evidence that genetics plays a role in the risk of getting ADHD. In fact, a study conducted in 2009 concluded that genetics account for about 75 percent of the risk.  Additionally, it runs in families, to the point that 40% of ADHD children have at least one parent with ADHD.   Specific studies have found that kids with ADHD were more likely to have small parts of their DNA that were duplicates or missing.  These deletion or duplication of genetic material is called copy number variants or CNVs.  However, this research did not conclude that ADHD is entirely genetically based.  In fact, human development includes both genetic origins of behavior and the direct influence that environmental forces have on the expression of those genes (nature vs. nurture).  Simply put, how our genes express themselves is greatly impacted by our environment.  This is important because increased environmental stress can, in effect, turn ON genes that were previously in the OFF position.  Presently, once these genes are turned ON and ADHD is expressed (present in the individual) the genes cannot be turned OFF.  However, while there is no cure for it, treatments can in effect “dim the lights” to the point that someone can appear as if they don’t have ADHD, provided they continue with treatment.

How Does Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Lead to Academic or School Impairment?

It is estimated that in a classroom of 30 students there are about 1 to 3 children with ADHD.  65% of ADHD children have problems with authority figures, exhibit verbal hostility, defiance, temper tantrums and non-compliance. About 25% of ADHD students have additional learning problems that can be serious. These include problems with listening skills, oral expression, reading comprehension and mathematics.  50% of ADHD students have problems with listening comprehension.  33% of ADHD students have language deficits, poor organizational skills, poor fine motor skills and poor memory.  ADHD children are three times more likely to have problems with expressive language.  As teenagers 21% repeatedly skip school, 30% fail subjects and repeat a year of school, 35% get suspended and 35% drop out of school.  Adults with ADHD are more likely to have had a history of poor educational performance, been underachievers in school, had more frequent school disciplinary actions, repeated a grade or dropped out of school.   Some people have misconceptions about ADHD, such as that those with ADHD are lazy or dumb.  The truth is that anyone of any level of intelligence can have ADHD and the higher one’s intelligence the longer they can go without being detected.  The reason for this is that when someone has the distractibility that comes with ADHD, but is highly intelligent, they can afford to miss information and still get by.  However, as the difficulty of subjects increases with advancing years, this becomes more difficult and people can no longer simply “wing it” by not fully listening in class or preparing for exams.  This is why many adults escape detection until college, graduate school, law or medical school.  Another misconception is that medicine for ADHD can make you smart.  The reality is that it just gives you back your own brain so you can use it.  People with the distractibility of ADHD are often unable to read something in spite of deciding they NEED to read it.  They find themselves thinking or daydreaming of other things as they are reading, to the point that they get to the end of a page and realize they don’t know what they just read.  Medicines do help with this tremendously and dramatically to the point people often feel as if someone turned on a light in their brain.

How Does Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Lead to Occupational Impairment?

Adults with ADHD are more likely to have problems organizing tasks, completing work within time limits, forgetfulness, and problems concentrating and following directions.  This leads to fewer occupational achievements, promotions, etc.  Due to impulsiveness, low frustration tolerance, and difficulty controlling anger, they have a difficult time interacting with their peers and managing others.  They may also be chronically late and procrastinate a lot.  As a result they change employers frequently and perform poorly.

How Does Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Lead to Family, Home or Relationship Impairment?

Due to impulsiveness, low frustration tolerance, and difficulty controlling anger, parents with an ADHD child are three times as likely to separate or divorce as parents who don’t have an ADHD child.   Adults with ADHD are more likely to have more marital problems and multiple marriages.  They also have a higher incidence of separation and divorce.  However, most of these problems that are related to ADHD can improve with appropriate treatment.

How Does Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Lead to Social Impairment?

In childhood the rate of emotional development for a person with ADHD can be 30% slower than the emotional development of a similar person without ADHD.  Therefore, a 10-year-old child with ADHD operates at a 7-year-old maturity level.  Also ADHD children are three times more likely to have problems with expressive language, making communication with peers a challenge.  The impulsiveness, low frustration tolerance, and difficulty controlling anger that can be present in ADHD, make establishing and maintaining friendships more difficult.  Children often want to at least take turns and get tired of someone who always has to play their way.  Adults too cannot deal well with people who get angry and easily upset all the time.

Does Medicine for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Make You Smart?

Some people have misconceptions about ADHD, such as that those with ADHD are lazy or dumb.  The truth is that anyone of any level of intelligence can have ADHD and the higher one’s intelligence the longer they can go without being detected, despite being distractible.  The reason for this is that when someone has the distractibility that comes with ADHD, but is highly intelligent, they can afford to miss information and still get by.  However, as the difficulty of the subject increases with advancing years, this becomes more difficult and people can no longer simply “wing it” by not fully listening in class or preparing for exams.  This is why many adults escape detection until college, graduate school, law or medical school.  Another misconception is that medicine for ADHD can make you smart.  The reality is that it just gives you back your own brain so you can use it.  People with the distractibility of ADHD are often unable to read something in spite of deciding they need to read it.  They find themselves thinking or daydreaming of other things as they are reading, to the point that they get to the end of a page and realize they don’t know what they just read.  Medicines do help with this tremendously and dramatically to the point people often feel as if someone turned on a light in their brain.

How Do You Diagnose Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

The appropriate diagnosis of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should involve several steps, including a medical exam; a checklist for rating Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms based on reports from parents, teachers, and sometimes the child; and an evaluation for coexisting conditions.

What Are There Different Types of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Primarily Inattentive Type – ADD

The general public tends to refer to this as simply ADD, because of the lack of the hyperactivity (the H), but in reality it is also a form of ADHD.  The reason for this is that while the majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present, hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree.  Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.  Children who have symptoms of inattention may:  be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, start but not finish things and frequently switch from one activity to another.  They may have difficulty focusing on one thing; become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable; have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new; have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments; often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities; seem not to listen when spoken to directly; daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly; have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others; struggle to follow instructions.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

In this subtype, most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories.  Fewer than six symptoms of inattention are present, although inattention may still be present to some degree.  Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:  fidget and squirm in their seats, talk nonstop, run around, touch or play with anything and everything in sight, have trouble sitting still (such as during dinner, school, and story time), be constantly in motion, have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.  Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may: be very impatient, blurt out inappropriate comments, often interrupt conversations or others’ activities, show their emotions without restraint, act without regard for consequences, have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games, etc.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Combined Type

Most children have the combined type of ADHD.  It includes the presence of six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity.

What Does a MEDICAL Exam for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Involve?

Unfortunately, no single test can diagnose a person as having ADHD.  Instead, a licensed medical health professional (such as a Medical Doctor who completed a 4 year medical school and a further 3-6 years of Residency Training) needs to gather information about the person, and his or her behavior and environment.  This is important because there are a number of MEDICAL causes and conditions that can appear like ADHD.  A mother’s pregnancy history can increase the risk for ADHD, such as the use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy.  In addition, preschoolers who are exposed to high levels of lead may have a higher risk of developing ADHD.  Lead is a danger for them because it can sometimes be found in plumbing fixtures, well water, and old building paints and in some older Chinese made toys.  Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may show some behaviors similar to those of ADHD.  Those with undetected seizures could appear hyperactive, impulsive and/or inattentive.  A middle ear infection or any undetected hearing or vision problems can cause someone to “miss” things and appear inattentive.  Learning disabilities can do this as well.   Anxiety or depression, or other psychiatric problems can lead to ADHD-like symptoms, because they affect a person’s concentration and subsequently will decrease their focus.  Environmental changes and stressors can cause this too.  Things such as a significant or sudden change in the individual’s life (death of a family member or friend, a divorce, a parent’s job loss, school stress/bullying, new school, new home, new town, new country) can seriously impact a person’s ability to concentrate and focus.  This is why a specialist will often review school and medical records for clues, to see if the child’s home or school settings appear unusually stressful or disrupted, and gather information from the child’s parents and teachers.  Babysitters, coaches, and other adults who know the child well also may be consulted.  Some families may want to first talk with the child’s pediatrician. Some pediatricians can assess the child themselves, but many will refer the family to a Child Psychiatrist with experience in childhood mental health challenges such as ADHD. The pediatrician, or preferably a medical health professional that specializes in mental health challenges (Child Psychiatrist or Psychiatrist) will first try to rule out other possibilities for the symptoms.  A specialist will investigate whether the behaviors are excessive and long-term, and do they affect all aspects of the person’s life?  Do they happen more often in this person or child compared with the person or child’s peers?  Are the behaviors a continuous problem or a response to a temporary situation?  Do the behaviors occur in several settings or only in one place, such as the playground, classroom, home or work?  The specialist will pay close attention to the individual’s behavior during different situations.  Some situations are highly structured, but some have less structure. Others would require the person to keep paying attention. Most children with ADHD are better able to control their behaviors in situations where they are getting individual attention and when they are free to focus on enjoyable activities. The same is true of adults. These types of situations are less important in the assessment.  A child also may be evaluated to see how he or she acts in social situations, and may be given tests of intellectual ability and academic achievement to see if he or she has a learning disability.  Finally, if after gathering all this information the child meets the criteria for ADHD, he or she will be diagnosed with the disorder.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Checklists for Rating ADHD Symptoms – new content coming soon

What are Some Coexisting Conditions that Occur in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

65% of ADHD children have problems with authority figures, and exhibit verbal hostility, defiance, temper tantrums and non-compliance and many are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  50% of ADHD children also have sleep problems.   These can range from poor sleep habits, restlessness in bed, sleep apnea, sleepwalking and Enuresis (bedwetting).   Many parents believe that foods with sugar, food additives, and dyes make their children more hyperactive.  However, while this may be true, these foods have not been shown to cause ADHD.  There is also a relationship between high levels of lead in the blood and distractibility.  But again, this doesn’t cause ADHD and the treatment involves getting rid of the extra lead in the body.  Sometimes individuals with certain types of seizures (i.e. Absence Seizures) can appear to have the distractibility of ADHD as they are seen to be “starring into space”.  While this is easily treated with medication once identified, its identification is imperative, as many of the medications used to treat ADHD can make this problem worse.  ADHD can also occur with and or lead to a Depression if it remains untreated for a long time.  The reason for this may not just be genetics, but an environment of failure across several areas of an individual’s life that eventually erode their self-esteem and lead to depression.  ADHD can occur with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other Anxiety Disorders (Generalized Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, Panic Disorder, PTSD, etc).  This is important to find out for several reasons.  Some of the medications used to treat ADHD can make OCD and or Anxiety worse.  Additionally, having OCD or Anxiety affect concentration and focus and lead some to mistake them for the inattentive features of ADHD.  Tourette’s Disorder, is also common and can co-occur with ADHD.  It can cause repetitive involuntary movements of the eyes, nose, mouth, face, neck, head, arms, hands, etc. and vocal sounds such as throat clearing, coughing, clicking, grunting or sneezing sounds.  Often many of the symptoms of Tourette’s Disorder can be confused for those of ADHD and are only identified by the characteristic movements these individuals have, that only those trained to identify them can detect.  Additionally, these symptoms can be made worse by many of the very same medications used to treat ADHD and require special planning and management when treating with medications.  ADHD can also occur with Bipolar Disorder and given that several symptoms of ADHD, in childhood are also common to Bipolar Disorder the likelihood of a misdiagnosis or the wrong diagnosis is high.  So while increase energy, distractibility, and pressured speech commonly occur in ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, irritability, grandiosity, racing thoughts, decrease need for sleep, euphoria/elation, poor judgment, flight of ideas and hyper sexuality generally occur only with bipolar disorder.  This too is important to know, because some of the treatments for ADHD can worsen or bring out symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Treatment

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Treatment often includes medicines to control symptoms. But some form of child psychiatry is imperative for children and teens who are dealing with ADHD. For example, structure at home and at school is also important. Parenting classes or behavioral therapy may also help.  – new content coming soon

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