A Quick Glimpse at ADHD in Teenage Girls

As I wrote in a previous post, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is 2 to 4 times more common in boys than in girls and thus often doesn’t get discussed much when it comes to teenage and adolescent girls.

In her article Calm Down, Boys, Adolescent Girls Have ADHD Too, Mary Bates discusses how ADHD goes unrecognized in girls because they often don’t present with the stereotypical hyperactivity and attention deficit that boys usually present with and because diagnosing ADHD in itself can prove difficult because teenagers can be impulsive, inattentive and disorganized, but not noticeably hyperactive.

Kathleen Nadeau, a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Maryland, and coauthor of Understanding Girls with AD/HD states that girls are less likely to be hyperactive and impulsive, but instead may appear “spacey,” unfocused, inattentive, have trouble staying organized and/or remembering directives or homework.

It wasn’t too long ago that ADHD was two separate disorders, ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder), but now they are almost always diagnosed as ADHD with a sub-type of either predominately attention-deficit, predominately inattentive or combined.

Since girls often present with different symptoms, they are often diagnosed five years later than boys or go un-diagnosed altogether, thus missing out on proper treatment for their disorder. “A 16-year-old girl who runs stop signs and can never find her homework might not be a rebel- she could have ADHD” Bates says.

Treatment for ADHD includes stimulant medications, school and family counseling. Families can try ignoring minor annoyances while creating a point or contract system (“Wash the dishes now and I will leave you alone while you play your video games”). ADHD is not a curse, many successful and brilliant people today and in history have ADHD, just look at Michael Phelps.

help4yourfamily

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Based on a question I had from my parent affirmation about breathing last week, and because I teach people the mechanics of breathing several times a week, I decided to take a moment to really break this breathing thing down for everyone. Breathing is the first step in getting connected to our bodies and what our body is telling us.  Before you think that you already know how to breathe, take a moment to ask yourself whether there were any times in the last week where you noticed you had been hungry and meaning to eat for several hours but did not get around to it. Or, alternately, did you find yourself mindlessly eating away at your child’s leftovers as you were doing the dishes? Maybe you realized you needed to go to the bathroom and just did not give yourself the time to…

View original post 999 more words

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, A Brief Primer Part 1: Automatic Thoughts, Assumptions and Personal Schemas

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular forms of therapy used in the Western world. The premise behind CBT is that stressful states such as depression, anxiety and anger are often maintain or exacerbated by exaggerated or biased ways of thinking. The role of the therapist is to help the patient recognize his or her idiosyncratic style of thinking and modify it through the application of evidence and logic.

One of the key components of CBT is getting the person to start recognizing their automatic thoughts which usually serve to maintain their undesired state.

Automatic thoughts come spontaneously, so much so that we often give no thought to them, and they appear to be true even when distorted, which often lead to problematic behaviors and disturbing emotions.

Some forms of automatic thoughts include fortune tellingdichotomous (all or nothing thinking), catastrophizing, personalizing, mind-reading and labeling.

Automatic thoughts could be true or false. For example, someone may have the mind-reading thought that “My boss doesn’t like me” and that could be true. However, the problem is that without sufficient evidence, we usually believe our automatic thoughts to be totally accurate, even when they aren’t. Combine this with the other underlying assumptions and rules that we all have, which tend to be rigid, over-inclusive, almost impossible to attain and ascribe vulnerability into the future, and we have a recipe for repeated disappointment, anger, depression, anxiety and a host of other unhealthy feelings and thoughts (Leah, 2003).

For example, if the person who has the automatic thought “My boss doesn’t like me”, also has the underlying rule that “Everyone must like me or I am a bad person”, will be deeply upset over the thought that his/her boss doesn’t like them. The same is true with rejection which partially explains why some people do not take rejection as well as others. One person can ask someone out on a date and if that person politely says “no”, that person goes on with their day, giving little thought to the rejection. But if another person has the rule and automatic thought “If she rejects me, that means I am undesirable to all women and will spend the rest of my life alone”, they will handle the rejection totally differently.

Underlying assumptions are deeply linked to personal schemas. Personal schemas are basically the core beliefs of what we belief about ourselves. We all have personal schemas, some positive and some negative, which influence the way we interpret information filtered through our automatic thoughts.

Back to our example. If someone has the personal schemas, “I am undesirable”, “I am worthless”, “I am unattractive”, they will have selective attention and memory as they look to validate their core beliefs about themselves and thus their automatic thoughts will also work to validate their core beliefs. So if the person already has the personal schema “I am undesirable”, and the automatic thought “this person will probably reject me” (mind reading), if they get rejected it will validate their personal schema and thus send them into a tail spin of self-pity, depression and anxiety, building on the strength of their erroneous thinking, assumptions, and schema.

(The ego always wants to be in balance with you and wants to make you happy. “The ego’s mission is to take the beliefs of the self and turn them into the experiences of the self.” – Falco, 2010)

This person, like many people with depression or anxiety, will filter out any information that contradicts their negative personal schemas and assumptions. For example, they may not notice the cute guy that flirts with them, but will fall to pieces at the person who makes a disapproving comment about her hair or her dress.

The goal of a CBT therapist would be to get the person to start recognizing all of these erroneous patterns of thinking, unravel them and replace them with more accurate forms of thinking.

We will discuss in a later post how thoughts create feelings.

help4yourfamily

Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

I usually get an eye-roll when I mention the idea of breathing or paying attention to one’s breathing in my office.  It is so simple.  We all breathe all day, everyday.  As my dad would say, “It’s better than the alternative.”  This week, I want to give you a simple task to go along with your affirmation.  Pay attention to your breath.  Notice how you are breathing at different times of the day.  If each breath is felt most in your shoulders, try taking in a breath that fills your belly like a balloon, then lets the air out of the balloon.  It only takes a moment.

Take a deep breath- through your nose if possible- and let it out slowly.  You can even try the trick my meditation teacher taught me called the “mindsweep.”  When someone has entered your space and left a bad feeling…

View original post 252 more words

Human Rights Violations, Psychological Damage and Caster Semenya

Most of us know Mokgadi Caster Semenya as the South African middle-distance runner who’s gender came into question after she blew away her competition during the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships with a then world record time of 1:55.45.

I remember when her gender came into question first in the media, then among my peers who insisted due to Semenya’s masculine appearance, voice and astonishing athletic feats, that she had to be a man, or at the minimum, not all woman.

The International Associate of Athletics Federation (IAAF) reported that they had to investigate Semenya after she made improvements in both her 800 and 1500 meter times by 8 seconds and 25 seconds respectfully, improvements in performance that usually arouse suspicions of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) use. At this time, the IAAF also tricked Semenya and performed a gender test without her permission, something she confirmed during an interview with NBC before her Olympic race in London. Semenya stated that she knew she was being tested for PEDs, something she was used to, but didn’t know she was going through a gender test until the testing became more of a violation, poking and probing in areas she knew weren’t part of any PEDs test she had ever been through.

If this is true, which various sources confirm, it is a violation of her human rights. Furthermore, she had to seek the legal services of Dewey & LeBoeuf who are acting pro bono to make sure her legal, human and civil rights will not be further violated.

After more gender tests and speculation over her eligibility to compete as a woman, the IAAF finally cleared her in July 2010 to return to competition as a woman and has yet to release their findings from her gender tests. Since her medical records are private, it may never be known if much of the embarrassment and scrutiny Semenya was subjected to was all for nothing, but one would suspect that if the IAAF had enough evidence to suggest Semenya wasn’t “technically” a woman, they would have released it.

I have to imagine that this young lady, at the time this all began she was only 18, suffered imaginable psychological damages having the world not only question who she was as a person, but to be examined like an animal with the world waiting for the results.

Since returning to international racing Semenya hasn’t been her self. During her 800 race in the London Olympics she got silver after trailing most of the race and only running hard towards the end to secure a second place finish. Many commentators, sport analyst and spectators commented that Semenya seemed to lose the race on purpose, saying that she didn’t seem tired after the race, much like she had in an earlier international race where she got a silver. If this is true, it is sad, but can you see why someone who previously fell under world scrutiny after finishing first, would purposely opt out of being in that position again.

In an interview after the race, Semenya stated that her head just wasn’t into it. This is the Olympics, what professional athlete’s head is not into their Olympic event? Maybe one who had her human rights violated and was kept out of competition while the IAAF tried to verify her gender which indeed caused an untold amount of psychological damage.

In that same interview with NBC, Semenya asked the interviewer, Mary Carillo how she would feel if she was subjected to the same scrutiny while the world watched through a microscope and the interviewer had no response. Semenya stated “you might even think about taking a suicide” which to me suggests at some point, Semenya did indeed think about committing suicide.  I am so glad that she was strong enough, confident enough and resilient enough to overcome that destructive and irreversible thought. Now if only her psychological damages can be healed enough where she can feel free to race at her best and win without fear of once against being cast into the world spotlight for anything other than being one of the best women 800 meters runners ever.

Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas and A.N.T.S.

Recently I watched as Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas won two gold metals in the Olympics and made history by becoming not only the first African-American woman, but also the first woman of color to win the individual-all around in gymnastics. Remarkable feats for anyone, let alone a 16 year old. Being an African-American I was so proud of her, so you can imagine my shock when I was told that much of the talk about Gabby within the African-American community online wasn’t about her gold metals or her history making accomplishment, but about her hair. Her hair? Are you kidding me?

I took some time reading different blogs and websites and was shocked to see that a lot of people were more concerned about the texture, style and condition of her hair than about what this 4’11” exceptional athlete was doing in London. The more I read, the more I found myself enraged at the ignorance of those who expressed that Gabby was representing all African-American women “and her hair should look good” while she was doing it. This is so ridiculous. She is representing African-American women, showing that if you are dedicated, focused, work hard, refuse to take no for an answer and never give up on yourself, you can accomplish all of your dreams. Instead, many people are worried about the superficial and that got me to thinking.

There are so many places I could go with this. I could talk about the psychology of racism, self-hate, the European standard of beauty, stereotypes, the psychodynamic value (or devaluation) of African-American hair, post traumatic slave syndrome, images in the media that make many African-American’s consciously or sub-consciously reject their own images as attractive, self esteem, and the list could go on and on. However, I decided to try to stay as true to this blog as possible, and discuss something I think everyone could benefit from and that is understanding automatic negative thoughts, or ANTS.

You see, we all have automatic thoughts which are thoughts that just pop into our head without us giving much thought about them. We will discuss this more in detail next week. We all at times even have ANTS (automatic negative thoughts), but some people seem to be infested with ANTS and when reading those disparaging remarks about Gabby, I realized that those people were infested. Instead of looking at a beautiful, successful, incredible young woman, they quickly pointed out the negative and decided to focus on that for whatever reason (in the African-American community, the word “crabbing” is often used to describe when other African-American’s complain about more successful African-Americans, often in attempts to make the other person feel bad while also making the person complaining feel better about themselves). Those ANTS keep them from being able to truly see or recognize the beauty right in front of them.

People with ANTS, if you take them to a beautiful beach will complain that it’s too hot, the waves are too loud, it smells too salty or that the sand is getting between their toes.  If you take them on a beautiful midnight stroll they will complain that the moon is too bright or that their feet hurt. Or, if you show them a beautiful teenager making Olympic history, will complain that her hair isn’t done nicely. They will never be happy unless they are complaining about something. They are so used to being miserable that they are only happy when complaining. These people usually don’t even know that they have a problem because they have lived with the ANTS for so long that they are part of them.

Are there people in your life who have ANTS? People who always seem to rain on your parade, point out the negative in every situation or seem to only be somewhat content when they are complaining about how miserable they are or pointing out flaws and imperfections in other people? If so, recognizing that they are infested with ANTS helps keep you from making their issue, your issue, and allows you to detach from them either physically or emotionally. Maybe you recognize that you have an infestation of ANTS. Start paying attention to your automatic thoughts, especially those ANTS and next week we’ll start working on getting rid of them.