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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

The ADHD Epidemic

ADHD is an unsophisticated, nonsensical notion though with a long history, it being termed "mental restlessness" in 1700s England, Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD) in early 1900s USA (of which a Harvard psychiatrist said that any doctor using this diagnosis had a minimal brain dysfunction), with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) being its newest incarnation. It has symptoms identical to anxiety and depression which can be associated with every psychological and physical disturbance. Though a large profitable industry has grown up around it. Its belief largely reflects public ignorance of early life psychological development, and the attempt to "neurologize" psychological symptoms and life issues. And check online for the prescribed drugs' potential side effects, which are far from small.

To explain what is termed ADHD further: some children with school learning issues and adults with concentration difficulty do have psychological problems, reflecting what has since the 1960s been understood as Elements of A Borderline Psychotic Psychostructural Organization. Which does not mean "psychotic" or "borderline psychotic" but rather weakness of those basic ego capacities which develop in early childhood and include control of thinking and behavior, mood modulation, development of a sense of self, and others. This requires psychotherapy to heal, to replace the deficient ego capacities with more mature one. These weaknesses are not a present or absent diagnosis but a continuam of strengths and weaknesses which must be assessed through interview.

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On Deserved and Undeserved Parental Guilt

While it is best for a distressed child to receive mental health treatment as soon as possible this is not always done. Babies are not born with instructions and parent guilt is often a factor, they not wanting to accept their role in their child's problems. While parents don't blame themselves for a child's physical illness they often do so with their child's emotional problems. Feeling responsible, and with justification since early life experiences are the bedrock of adequate functioning. But parenting mistakes derive from their own imperfect life experiences so, after gaining treatment for their child, parental guilty feelings are undeserved and counter-productive in helping their child. And though children will readily forgive parental mistakes they never forget having been ignored.

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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms are NOT Your Enemy

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has gained much of its erroneous though popular knowledge from frightening movies depicting berserk ex-soldiers on killing sprees. Yet PTSD symptoms can develop in anyone including children. It exists because the mind has a limited capacity to cope with stress and, when exceeded, symptoms develop. A symptom is the sign that something is wrong and, with PTSD, can include nightmares, flashbacks of the causative event, psychogenic seizures, over-sensitivity to startling noises, or odd fears and obsessions. These reflect the urgent message from the unconscious that help is needed to avoid damaging the mind or body as great continuing anxiety can do. Thus PTSD symptoms are like the bodily fever that warns of infection, being temporarily uncomfortable but needed since it leads to gaining the required care and regaining health.

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Good Common Sense Isn't Always Good Parenting Sense

Some child interaction guidelines, which have long been followed by both parents and teachers, derive from the popular notion that reward and punishment effect behavior. Thus if a child is punished for misbehaving they are less likely to do so in the future. A belief which sounds reasonable but is not.

As psychologists have long known, behavior modification work with dogs but not cats, with those of severely limited intellect (since it simplifies their environment) but not those of near normal and above intelligence, and for inhabitants of tightly controlled environments such as prisons. It does not work with others since humans are a thinking species.

Moreover, children are reasonable and want to develop into adults. Thus if asked to do something by their parent or teacher they usually will though being less likely to do so if they are hungry or tired or ill or troubled, or unable to do what is asked for a reason which may make sense to their immature mind but not to others.

Thus, apart from emergency situations involving harm or danger, explaining why a child should do something will usually gain their cooperation. If not it will be for one of the above reasons in which case they will be behaving like similarly afflicted adults.

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