Thursday, December 19, 2013

ADHD Working Memory

One of the executive functions of our brain is commonly called “working memory”: the ability to hold information in mind for a time while you use it to perform a task.

Think of working memory as having sticky notes stuck to a wall in your brain where you sketch images or jot notes to help keep your mind on topic as you perform and complete a task. Once you are finished the task, you simply peel the note off the wall and toss it away, making room for fresh stickies with information about the next task… or distraction.

As a normal functioning brain matures, it can hold more "sticky notes" to work with at any given time. As a bonus, that sticky stuff on the back of the notes gets upgraded to better quality so the notes can stick in your mind longer when you are fully mature. Not so with ADHD.

If we say that a normal mature brain can hold 5 sticky notes worth of information in working memory, then in comparison ADHD brains would hold only 2 or 3 notes at best. Not only that, the ADHD brain never does receive the upgrade of sticky stuff, so most notes don’t stick around that long in an ADHD brain before falling off the wall. (What’s worse, whatever sticky stuff they put on "boring notes" doesn’t even stick in an ADHD brain, making it virtually impossible to remember boring information long enough to turn it into an action.)

This type of explanation is useful to understand why ADHD individuals find it hard to plan, perform, and complete complicated tasks; ADHD working memory can’t work with as much information at one time as a normal functioning brain, nor can it hold onto that information for as long: less information and shorter duration (especially for uninteresting topic.

Another ADHD phenomenon can also be explained with the sticky note scenario; if the ADHD individual is extremely interested in something, they may fill their entire quota of notes with the information necessary to pay attention to whatever they are currently locked onto (video games, sports on tv, a favourite novel), and their interest may be so intense that the notes seem to be stapled to the wall rather than stickied.

This hyper-focus can be frustrating for others who try to get the ADHD person's attention. Trying to post notes like “take out the garbage”, “cook dinner”, or “change the baby’s diaper” is impossible because the limited number of sticky notes are already filled with captivating information. Removing the stapled notes to make room for your notes takes considerably more time and effort than usual.

Common responses to hyper-focus (raising voices, punishing, consequencing, labelling, or abandoning) are confusing for the person with ADHD who wasn’t purposefully trying to ignore others. Also, those responses do little toward addressing ADHD interest based attention problems; in fact, they worsen it because punishment, labels, and ostracism aren’t that interesting (to anyone).

There are ways to increase the ADHD person’s success in this area, but an understanding of the ADHD working memory is critical in developing personally tailored strategies which improve the person’s ability to successfully navigate the world around them.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What is Depression?

Johnny Has Done This a Hundred Times

“Johnny, I know you can do this properly. I’ve seen you do it a hundred times! Stop being lazy.” (or “stubborn”, or “rebellious”) The teacher is trying to motivate Johnny as best she can, but if Johnny has ADHD, she is missing the point entirely.

The brain wired by ADHD often presents the owner with a uniquely paradoxical ADHD equation: the short version reads “proficiency = failure”. The long version is “proficiency = routine = boredom = mistakes = failure”.

Hyperactive/Impulsive ADH

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity are often the earliest discernible symptoms of ADHD. The little girl who can’t sit still like the other children in her class; squirming, chatting, and constantly adjusting her dress. The boy on the playground who steals toys, budges in line, hits first and ask questions later... “Why are you crying?”

Adult ADHD?
These symptoms, which are often the first to appear, are also the first to taper off as the person reaches adulthood. Of course there are varying degrees of “tapering”, but generally, hyperactivity becomes less discernible as we age. This partly explains why ADHD was considered a childhood disorder until the last couple of decades. Many still consider it so.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Four Ways to Keep Your Teen Busy During Winter Break

Teenagers everywhere anxiously await the annual winter break from the daily grind of school, homework and tests. But for parents, going into an extended break without a plan vastly increases the chances that your teens will use their free time to get into trouble.

Here are a few ways your teens can make productive use of their winter vacation:

School’s Out! (Uh, Oh) Tips for Avoiding Family Conflict During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity for families to reconnect, and for both parents and children to spend a bit of leisurely time together away from the stresses and pressures of work and school.

But as every parent of a teenager knows, an excess of free time isn’t necessarily such a good thing – especially when it comes to keeping your child out of trouble and your family out of conflict.

The following are a few tips for increasing the odds that your holiday season will be free of raised voices, slammed doors and other symptoms of family conflict. 

Seven Steps for Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays are supposed to be a time of family, togetherness and joy. Instead, many of us end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed and fatigued. To make matters worse, we often respond to that stress by overeating or otherwise abandoning our healthy diet. 

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The following are a few tips for managing your stress over the holidays (and the rest of the year, too, for that matter):

Beating The Holiday Blues

The holidays are here. It’s the happiest time of the year, right? For some, the answer is a resounding “yes.” For others, the holidays bring into sharp focus how desperately unhappy they feel.

Depression isn’t just about feeling sad. It’s a clinical disorder that warrants medical attention and can affect physical health. Without help, it’s like a car getting stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels to get out, and instead, only getting in deeper. What’s more, once someone suffers a bout of depression and has managed to get past it, the depression may return, making it even more difficult to find a way to move past the new set of challenges.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Are all psychiatric drugs just avoidance that make the problems worse?

Nils Nilsen Clinical Psychologist

In working with anxiety patients, I see that there is one element that is behind all anxiety problems: Avoidance of psychological distress. The typical case is a person who feels anxious going to shops. She gets Valium or another benzodiazepine and takes this in order to do her shopping.

She avoids the anxiety by taking the drug. She never goes to the shop without taking the drug, so she has no opportunity to see that she would have been able to do it, and that she would get better every time she tried.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Quote of the Day:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
- Carl Rogers

The Courage to Seek: An Awakening Journey of Being: Part Three: The Paradoxical Experience of Being—Isolation & Meaning

Isolation vs. RelationAs I began to make conscious efforts to be more present with myself and how I live my life, my heightened sense of self-awareness also led to the increased awareness of my sense of aloneness—the life anxiety that Otto Rank (cited in Yalom, 2008) warned us about. In coming to the Bay Area, I experienced first-hand, rather than just understanding the concepts intellectually, that no matter how close I am to my loved ones, I am ultimately alone—alone in my search for my identity and meaning in life. “Each man is at once a part of all other men and yet he is apart from all others” (Bugental, 1976, p. 102).

The Courage to Seek: An Awakening Journey of Being: Part Two: The Paradoxical Experience of Being—Freedom & Death

As I immerse myself in “the work” and struggle to seek a new way of experiencing and being, I was able to appreciate the meaning of the four important paradoxical concepts of our human existence Irvin Yalom described in his book Existential Psychology (1980) from a whole new perspective.

The Courage to Seek: An Awakening Journey of Being--Part One: Being on a Continuu

These series of blogs are written by a courageous Malaysian student and her journey into her own existence, JoAnn Loo. Inspired by the great existentialist psychologists including Yalom, Bugental, and May, she made the challenging decision to take one year off from her work and further her studies in existential psychology by relocating to the US on her own and pursuing the Certificate Program at Existential Humanistic Institute in San Francisco. JoAnn, like many people know that existence cannot be postponed and that if they are to grow and enter further into their own beings, they must emerge from the crowd, create their own paths and heed the responsibility for their own creation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Staying True Unto Oneself

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

~ Steve Jobs
What does it mean to “stay true unto oneself?” Shakespeare spoke of this immortal question, others have reformatted and repackaged the idea, but still many remain uncertain of the essential meaning of being true unto oneself.

What is the importance of staying true unto oneself? However you want to package the basic premise is: be authentic in all that you do. Do not waver from the nature of your true person. Whoever you are, allow that person to shine through.

Raise Your Child’s Social IQ

How to help when ADHD impacts people skills
by Cathi Cohen, LCSW
A MOTHER IS CONCERNED about her eight-year-old daughter, Taylor. While Taylor usually makes a good first impression when she meets other children, it’s extremely hard for her to develop lasting friendships. Mom wants to help her daughter develop deeper connections with others, but she doesn’t know how to help. For Taylor, joining in a game or group activity is easy; maintaining friendships is not. Within minutes, it becomes clear that as much as Taylor likes to play, she likes to play her way. In her easygoing manner, she shifts the play toward something she’d like to do and assumes the other children will join her. When they don’t, she becomes confused and frustrated. Time and time again, instead of ending up with a group to play with, Taylor winds up playing alone.

Brendan is an eleven-year-old boy who continuously provokes others around him. He talks nonstop in class, preventing others from getting their work done. His desk is such a mess that his stuff always ends up on other classmates’ desks. He blurts out answers in class, which frustrates the teacher. He taunts the girls at recess to get them to pay attention to him. When they walk away, he is disappointed and hurt. Brendan doesn’t understand why the kids in class won’t talk to him. The girls whisper behind his back, and the boys call him names like “Stupid” and “Big Mouth.” Brendan comes home most days feeling hurt and confused.

 Both Brendan and Taylor have ADHD. Like many children with ADHD, they struggle to make and keep friends. Brendan is not purposely trying to drive others crazy with his provocative behavior nor is Taylor intentionally driving kids away when she is bossy. In fact, they are desperately trying to make connections with their peers. They just don’t know how. Feeling alone and disconnected from peers is a distressing thing for a child to experience. And it's not only the children who suffer. As parents, you also feel frustrated and hopeless at not knowing how to help your children make the friends they so strongly desire. Children affected by ADHD, in particular, have unique social challenges that frequently get in the way of acquiring good social skills.

Letting Boys Be Boys, Not ADHD Diagnoses

By Brent Dean Robbins

Photo by Jorge Royan.
On April 1, The New York Times reported on the startling fact that 11% of children in the United States are now diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One in five young males of high school age now have the diagnosis. Among children between the ages of 4 and 17, 6.4 million now bear the ADHD label and, no doubt, are medicated for it, most likely with psychostimulants. Since 2007, the ADHD diagnosis has seen a 16% increase, and over the past decade, the increase has been an astonishing 41%.

Keep Stress In Check

Source Lauren E. Miller

"Stress is our perception of what's happening outside of us and the power we give it," says Lauren E. Miller, author and stress expert.
If you can adopt Miller's definition of the phenomenon as your own, you may find it possible to reframe your perception of stressful situations and, inevitably, experience less stress overall.
The author of "5 Minutes to Stress Relief," has compassion for hardship (as a cancer survivor she's been through a lot of it herself), but believes it's counterproductive to see yourself as a victim. Rather than letting stress overcome you, Miller insists you must transform it.
The key to dealing with stress, according to Miller, is knowing that you are in charge. "If you make the conscious choice and stay awake at the gate of your thoughts, then you can adjust your perception of any situation," she says.

ADHD Survival Tips for Work

Source: Frances Prevatt, PhD

FOR ADULTS WITH ADHD, the world of work can be especially frustrating due to the symptoms of the disorder. How do inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity impair your job functioning? Here are some examples of behaviors that you might encounter.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

7 Facts You Need To Know About ADHD
Source: CHADD
1) ADHD is Real.
Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States long ago concluded that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a real, brain-based medical disorder. These organizations also concluded that children and adults with ADHD benefit from appropriate treatment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ADHD and the Decision to Medicate

by Kevin T. Kalikow, MD

PETER PALEY’S MOTHER HAS BEEN DREADING THE PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE. She has been getting phone calls about Peter’s disruptive and distracting classroom antics. After the usual pleasantries and a review of Peter’s behavior, Peter’s teacher says, "I’m not a doctor, but Peter’s ADHD really should be evaluated." Ms. Paley knows the code. The teacher thinks Peter should be treated with medicine. In the car heading home, she struggles with the possibility of placing Peter on medicine. She is unsure what she will do and does not know how to approach the problem.
If you are the parent of a child with ADHD, you have probably faced the dilemma of whether or not your child should take medicine. Perhaps the recommendation comes from the teacher. Perhaps the pediatrician has offered to help harness the excess energy of your eight-year-old whose perpetual motion made the routine physical a nightmare. Or perhaps, after hearing that your friend’s child has benefited from medicine, you wonder whether your child would also benefit. Perplexed, you are unsure how to decide.




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