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ADHD Adolescence Mental Health

Does Your Child Have ADHD?

ADHD is a common disorder that mental health professionals encounter. It has become a road-to-recoverygo-to diagnosis for physicians, whose first line of treatment is typically Adderal or Ritalin. However, ADHD diagnoses are often determined using elementary questionnaires, the answers to which are relative and rely on a patient’s (i.e., parent’s) willingness to be transparent rather than psychological clarification.

 

It’s important to recognize that there are many psychological issues that have similar traits to ADHD.  Often times, someone will present with ADHD traits when their actual diagnosis is depression, anxiety, or PTSD.  Using drugs like Adderal or Ritalin isn’t always a wise course of action. These drugs are both stimulants and highly addictive. While these drugs will certainly increase focus and attention, they will also mask the relevant and underlying issues that may be present. Additionally, they have severe side effects: paranoia, irregular heartbeat, and an increase in blood pressure, tremors, restlessness, hallucinations, and muscle twitches.

 

Finding a skilled mental-health professional will shift the course of your teen’s treatment; a qualified clinician can skillfully diagnose disorders that are similar in symptoms but which may require different treatment.  Diagnosing ADHD requires investigation into several areas. Doctors look at the following to determine if there is an issue of hyperactivity and impulsivity. This is often the more obvious form of ADHD and more easily recognizable because of the negative social constructs that occur. Note, a child or teen has to experience 6 or more of these symptoms for a minimum of 6 months to qualify for this diagnosis. ADHD is diagnosed by looking at the following issues (following info via PsychCentral):

 

Inattention

  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities–even those the person performs regularly (e.g., a routine appointment)

  

Hyperactivity

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Often talks excessively

 

Impulsivity

  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

 

Note, the DSM-5 lists three subcategories for ADHD, which are:

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation — Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not symptoms of inattention have been shown for at least 6 months.
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation — Symptoms of inattention but not symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least 6 months.
  • Combined Presentation — Symptoms of both hyperactive-impulsivity and inattentiveness have been shown for at least 6 months.

 

Regardless of where your child lands in the ADHD field, it’s important to have the appropriate clinical support, the willingness to accept the diagnosis, and the courage to do the work to support and care for your child. Creating schedules that your child can adhere to, having a therapist that your child relates to, and building an infrastructure of support can make managing ADHD and other similarly related issues easier for families. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s better to know than not know. It’s better to ask for help than to watch your child needlessly suffer.

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Addiction Adolescence Alumni Guest Posts Bipolar Disorder Mental Health Recovery

Alumni Voices: “I’m 17, Bipolar and In Recovery”

I’m pleased to share a guest post from one of our Alumni, bravely sharing about her experience as a bipolar teen in recovery. She is not only inspiring and courageous, her post is a testament to the clarity and hope willingness and recovery brings.

 

“I’m 17, Bipolar and in Recovery”

How old are you when you are in the 5th grade? Ten, maybe 11 years old? I was probably closer to 11 given that I was held back in preschool. Now, who exactly gets held back in preschool? I didn’t really pay it any mind when I was in preschool, yet I still struggle with the shame of having repeated a grade so early on in my education. I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable in the 3rd grade for having to be pulled out of class to learn to read in a private room with Mrs. A, the learning specialist teacher. Learning to read had come so easily to my older sister, C; it was not the same case for me.

So back to my original question: I was 11, and I had already been diagnosed with ADHD. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was prescribed 100 mg of Adderall per day. Well, it turns out that I did have a mild case of ADHD, yet it also turns out that ADHD is commonly misdiagnosed and mistaken for bipolar Disorder. No one found out that I had a mood disorder until I came to Visions.

 

It is not uncommon for a person who is bipolar to not want to take their medication. The first time I went through Visions treatment I was diagnosed as having mood instability and not full-blown bipolar Disorder. This mood disorder accounts for a lot of the feelings I was having before and even after I came through Visions. Before I reached the point of needing inpatient care for the first time, which far preceded the time in which it took for me to ask for it, I had experienced quite a bit of depression. I have also dealt with my fair share of manic episodes.

 

For someone with a mood instability disorder, drugs of any kind will make for a much more painful and deep depression, a much more insane manic high, and will far from help the situation. This is not to say that abusing any kind of drugs or medication, illicit or otherwise, will help anyone. Yet, when your brain chemistry is already messed up and you continue to pile any kind of chemically enhanced drugs on top of that, it makes for a manic-depressive individual.

 

It is not uncommon for a person who is bipolar to not want to take their medication. The first time I left treatment, I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed. I missed many days in a row, I took it at different times throughout the day, and I even flushed a whole handful of my pills down the toilet. This definitely didn’t help my condition. The combination of illicit drug use, consistently missing my meds, and a variety of other unpleasant behaviors can only lead to a few options. Those of us in recovery know what those options are.

 

Given that I had already been locked up in a psych ward at the age of 14, had not yet been to Juvi, and was still breathing, the last option would be recovery.

 

I haven’t discussed my recovery much because it is not only something I deal with on a daily basis, but it is also something that I am quite insecure about. As I have already shared, I have been through Visions Adolescent Treatment twice. I once had almost a year and a half of sobriety. I had gotten sober at 15, yet I prided myself on the time I had sober, and not the work I was doing. How could I? I wasn’t actually working a program.

 

I had struggled with the idea of sobriety the moment I found out what the other residents were using in my inpatient program. I had only been smoking weed, while the other residents were in treatment for much harder drugs. I knew that I deserved to be there; my story was pretty intense, yet I still felt insecure about my drug use.

 

That statement alone is what reminds me on a daily basis that I need to be sober. Only an addict-alcoholic would feel the need to go further and to use harder. I guess that wasn’t enough for me, because after about a year and four months of sobriety, I relapsed. This time, it did not take long for me to realize how utterly unmanageable my life was.

 

I did not need to prove to anyone else that it was a good idea for me to be sober, especially not my mother. That’s another good point: Only someone who is extremely sick and in their illness would put someone they love in that much pain. I guess I still had to prove it to myself.

 

Today, when I have a moment where I think of using, I think of my family. I say to myself, “Even if I’m not an addict, I couldn’t put them through what I used to.” I believe that the “issues” I deal with are not only related to one another, but they are also a gift: Not only is my recovery a gift, but I see my bipolar disorder as a gift as well. I feel lucky to have the ability to feel things as intensely as I do. I hope that this will be that last time I am getting sober. I will take one day at a time in keeping it that way.

 

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ADHD Mental Health Recovery

ADHD: More Than Statistics

Image via Wikipedia

There’s no doubt there’s an ADHD epidemic. It’s the diagnosis most often handed out when a child is struggling in school with fidgets, a short attention span, hyperactivity, et al.  Typically prompted by a complaint from a frustrated teacher, parents are lead to take the first step toward finding a behavioral solution.  A visit to the pediatrician will include having parents and teacher separately fill out a questionnaire. The questions tend to be specific and general–all at the same time.  On occasion, the answers fall in line with one another, but sometimes, they do not. In fact, at times, a child will present one way at school and another at home. For example, where the parents’ answers may not indicate the inability to focus, fidgeting or any other emotional anomalies common with ADHD, the teacher’s findings may say otherwise. Theirs may indicate negative, disruptive behaviors present, which are impacting the classroom dynamic. Because ADHD is a real illness and one that debilitates those who have it and creates challenges for those directly effected by it, there needs to be care and diligence when diagnosing it. Is the teacher overreacting? Are the parents not being entirely honest with themselves? Is it a little of both? It takes a skilled mental health practitioner and patience to sort that out.

Keep in mind, some behavioral challenges may be as simple as a child not being mature enough to “handle” the expectations thrust upon them by a numbers-driven educational system or by the institution of school itself.  Or it may be the prevalent learning style isn’t compatible with your child—some kids are tactile learners, others are visual, and others can memorize with ease. Learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience.

Regardless, ADHD continues to be a widespread diagnostic phenomenon. According to the CDC, “The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that 3%-7% of school-aged children have ADHD.  However, studies have estimated higher rates in community samples.”  This statistic is just for the United States alone.

Recent data from parents, which was also gathered by the CDC shows:

  • Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.
  • Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.
  • As of 2007, parents of 2.7 million youth ages 4-17 years (66.3% of those with a current diagnosis) report that their child was receiving medication treatment for the disorder.
  • Rates of medication treatment for ADHD varied by age and sex; children aged 11-17 years of age were more likely than those 4-10 years of age to take medication, and boys are 2.8 times more likely to take medication than girls.

Read here for a more extensive listing of statistics.

While there are legitimate diagnoses of ADHD, a question of misdiagnosis has arisen. According to new research by Todd Elder, a Michigan State economist, “approximately 1 million children in the U.S. are potentially misdiagnosed with ADHD.” His argument brings up the issue of giftedness and behavioral issues having resulted in a misdiagnosis of ADHD. Are they valid? We’ll see as I explore this idea in another blog. In the meantime, if you suspect your child is having difficulties, get them help. There is far more internal stigma that occurs when a child is struggling with an untreated mental health issue than the stigma that may occur with the diagnosis itself. It’s up to us as parents, teachers, caregivers, therapists, and counselors to see to it that the youth of our future have their needs met in the way that best benefits them.

When we are able to manage our symptoms, we have a better chance of getting to the root of the cause.

Categories
Addiction ADHD Mental Health

ADHD and Addiction

There’s an interesting correlation between ADHD and substance abuse, with research showing children who have ADHD as being more likely to struggle with addiction issues as adults. According to the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders, “some studies show a higher rate of ADHD among substance abusers and that people with ADHD may develop substance abuse problems at an earlier age.”  The three main characteristics of ADHD are: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can lead to high levels of anxiety, restlessness, and stress. Attempting to manage these symptoms can be overwhelming, particularly if one is symptomatic yet untreated.
As researchers and medical professionals dig deeper into addiction issues and ADHD, they are finding proof that lower levels of dopamine is a key factor. Sufferers begin to self-medicate and will often find temporary relief when they smoke marijuana, for example. Why? Well, because THC temporarily triggers the brain to release dopamine and dopamine makes us feel better. The user doesn’t realize the damaging effects THC has to their brain cells and this type of self-medication can set the stage for substance abuse, particularly since the use of drugs and alcohol can provide a sense of calm, even if just for a minute. Also, with an inclination toward impulsivity and risk-taking, ADHD sufferers tend toward perilous behaviors, which can also allude to addiction issues.
It’s important then, as parents, and friends of those suffering from addiction to look at ADHD as a link. Taking a whole-body approach is necessary–one must treat the ADHD component in collusion with the addiction component. Twelve-step meetings or treatment are wonderful tools to combat and cope with one’s addiction and will allow one to better handle the prescription treatment involved with managing ADHD. They have to be undertaken together, however, or one will counteract the other.