At first thought, many consider distractibility and hyperactivity as the defining characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Demonstrating difficulties in sustaining concentration, being prone to anger and frustration, difficulty sitting still, significant disruptive behavior in most settings due to impulsivity, are the common hallmark symptoms of ADHD. However, there are other, less disruptive symptoms that are often overlooked or attributed to other motives.
An additional, less commonly talked about characteristic, is a difficulty in shifting attention as needed. This is often referred to as hyper-focus. Hyper-focus is demonstrated when a child (or adult) can become so focused on an activity that they are unable to shift attention appropriately as necessary, to another task, person, etc. This is most often seen when a child becomes engrossed for hours on end with a specific activity, such as Legos, reading, or a video game. This is not where it typically interferes with day to day life. In fact, depending on the activity, it can be seen as beneficial (i.e. most parents don’t complain about a child reading too much!).
When working with parents, a common concern/complaint expressed is when they feel their child is ignoring their requests. This is a common trait in many children. When I hear this from a parent, my first thought is to try to determine if there is a level of hyper-focus in action. Is the child “ignoring” their parent, or, is the child just engrossed in an activity to the detriment of being able to shift their attention when their parent is making a request? However, to be clear, this singular trait, in and of itself, does not solely indicate the presence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a child.
It is important to first get more information about the context of the situation(s).
Where is the child relative to the parent?
Are they in the same room?
What is the distance?
Is the child engaged in a task or is the child demonstrating that they are giving the parent their full attention when the request is made (i.e. making eye contact, responding to the prompt verbally)?
Why ask these questions? They provide information to determine if there is an attentional issue at play, or if there is a behavioral issue to be addressed.
Where is the child relative to the parent? Are they in the same room? What is the distance?
Often times, parents or caregivers will make requests of a child from a separate room. The child will be in the living room or their bedroom and the parent will call from another room for the child to complete a task. For example, telling the child to take the garbage out. Ten minutes later, the parent is frustrated, if not angry, that the child has not completed the task. They make the request once more typically receiving an errant “I’m coming” from the child. Again, the garbage remains in the home rather than disposed of in the garbage bin. This cycle replays until the parent reaches peak frustration and enters the room enraged.
Is the child engaged in a task? Are they demonstrating that they are giving their full attention?
Children, particularly those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, will fully immerse themselves in a task, to the exclusion of most other stimuli. Let’s say the task is an enjoyable one. The child is fully immersed in an activity such as watching a favorite television program or playing the latest video game (Fortnite anyone?). The child will unconsciously “tune out” intrusions into their attentional field, including their parent’s requests. A parent will be talking to their child and the response varies from no response, an automatic response to the prompt (i.e. “Yeah yeah, I’m coming”) or the tell-tale headshake– you know the one where they finally turn to you and pretend to pay attention?
So, the question is- What can you do? You are a parent who is desperately trying to teach your child responsibility by having them take the garbage out. There is hope! You have a few options:
Always make a request to the child from within the same room.
This is not always ideal, though it serves a purpose. When a parent is in the same room as the child, they are able to see whether the child is immersed in a task. They can determine if or how the child is responding non-verbally to their presence and the request.
When the parent enters the room, does the child notice?
When the parent speaks, does the child look up in the direction of the parent?
Do they make eye contact with you while you are talking?
If the answer is “no” there is a chance that they are fully immersed in their activity. And yes, there is still also a chance that they are, in fact, ignoring you. But let’s test it out.
Walk up to the child so that you can provide additional input/stimulation.
When you speak, pair it with another source of input/stimulation.
When you are talking, place your hand on their shoulder or arm to gather their attention.
Sometimes it can be helpful to break their line of vision if they are engrossed in a video game or television program. This will prompt the child to look in the direction of the intrusion- you.
Behaviorally speaking, this should help enable the child to, over time, once successfully paired, to attend to a verbal command without the presence of the tactile or visual input.
Make sure that you have their sustained attention.
Before making your request, make sure that the child has their face directed towards you, and more so, that they are making eye contact. There are so many times that a child will turn their head but maintain eye contact with the brightly colored screen that has so aptly captured their attention.
If necessary, prompt them to look at you, or a personal favorite, particularly for young children, tell them to look here and point to the tip of your nose.
Once you have their sustained attention, make your request.
If it appears that they are not paying attention, and even if they are, ask them to repeat the directions. Children have amazing acting skills when it comes to looking as though they are paying attention, when, in fact, they are not. It provides an opportunity to ensure that they have taken the important information.
If it is a multi-step task, such as “take out the garbage and then make sure to feed the cat and clean the litter box.” have the child repeat the list. This will help to ensure that they have successfully listened and will also help (though not guarantee) them remember the tasks.
For the child that does have some difficulty with memory, retaining information, or for a child that is particularly prone to distraction, it may be necessary to take additional steps.
Make requests one at a time.
Provide the child with an additional aid, such as a list of the tasks for them to refer to as they complete each step.
Stay in the area to redirect them if they become distracted. If the child should become distracted, repeat the same procedure to get them back on task. Ensure that you have their attention and redirect them back to the task at hand.
It is important to try to remember that this is a skill that you are helping them to learn. It is not an automatic, intrinsic ability with which we are born. Especially for those with identified attentional deficits. As with any skill, it will take time, patience, and perseverance, both on the part of the child, and on the part of you, the parent or caregiver. If this does not work, it may be necessary to speak with someone to help troubleshoot the procedure, explore additional options, and/or to address additional behavioral problems.
Research tells us that about 80% of women will experience normal feelings of sadness and anxiety within the first few weeks of delivery. Some women may experience more clinically significant symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessions and compulsions, and psychosis. One in seven women may suffer from more serious symptoms of depression or anxiety. Dads and other partners are also susceptible; one in ten men may experience postpartum depression. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders can begin at any time during or after pregnancy; including in the case of a loss of pregnancy.
These symptoms may look unexpected:
Drug and/or alcohol dependence
If you think you may be suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, please know that you are not alone, that you are not to blame, and that you can be well again.
Many of the mothers that I have encountered since becoming a clinical therapist have echoed the relief I experienced when we agree on the challenge of parenthood and the realistic toll that a newborn can take on one’s psyche.
When I was two weeks postpartum with my first child, I walked into a “Mommy & Me Support Group” hoping to see a handful of other mothers that looked just like me: sleep deprived, spit up on my shoulder, hair in a messy bun and yoga pants. I hoped that I would be validated in my struggle; to learn that I was not alone in feeling like I had just entered into the hardest time period of my life. Luckily, I was met with the warm smile of a social worker who informed me that although I had mistaken the time of the class, that she’d be happy to sit down and talk one-on-one with me. An hour later, I walked away feeling lighter and relieved to know that the range of feelings I was experiencing were all normal and to be expected.
After several weeks of attending my local hospital’s “Mommy & Me” support group as a new mother, I felt emboldened by learning from the collective knowledge of the group, validated by seeing others with bags under their eyes, and hopeful in seeing mothers with older babies who were getting more sleep. If you or a loved one has recently given birth or received a child by adoption, my hope for you is that you’ve found a place to be validated and encouraged. If you are struggling with more severe symptoms and think you may be suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, please consider making an appointment to begin healing today.
“She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes”, was Kate Spade’s desire for those who invested in her brand and was the je ne sais quoi she hoped to inspire. Kate, herself, exemplified this in her many contributions.
On Tuesday, June 5th, media outlets inundated the public with the breaking news: Kate Spade had taken her own life. As a designer, an entrepreneur, and a philanthropist, Kate Spade was a quintessential icon of classic style, vision, and grace.
The investigation into Kate Spade’s suicide is ongoing. Details are being revealed indicating that she suffered for years with mental health issues. It remains unclear as to the finite details of her mental health struggles, but the fact remains: the signs had been missed.
To many, she was a woman who had it all – money, fame, success, family – but it only goes to show that mental illness can impact anyone. In a world where it’s easy to become immersed in the fast-paced routine of life, mental health often takes a backseat. Over the years, attempts have been made to diminish the stigma surrounding mental health, but the stigma still exists. In recent years, we see more public figures and celebrities openly addressing their personal struggles with mental illness. Their openness reminds those who may be in a similar situation that they are not alone and encourages them to seek support.
Kate Spade’s death brings us back to a crucial discussion of mental health being as important as taking care of our physical health. Suicide ranks amongst the top ten leading causes of death in this country. Suicidal thoughts are not signs of weakness. With the proper support and treatment, suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be reduced. With National Mental Health Awareness Month being observed in May; the work to break the stigma should not end there. Simply raising awareness is not enough; we need to center our efforts on what we can do to support and connect those in need to the proper services.
In her life, Kate Spade created a legacy for individuals of all ages and backgrounds with exuberating passion, confidence, and optimism. In her death, her legacy sparks a call for action towards emphasizing the importance of mental health and working towards prevention. Let’s honor and celebrate her life in this way.
A Special Tribute to Kate Spade from the Writer:
Simron Sahoo – FVI Guest Blogger
I purchased my first Kate Spade handbag this past year during my senior year of college. Had given me a gift card for my birthday, my friends knew how much I adored the elegance of both the bags and the brand. When I made my first Kate Spade purchase, I relished in the excitement of the years I spent admiring her sophisticated and classy bags – where simplicity met style. This purchase represented more than buying an accessory. A Kate Spade purse was not simply just a purse – it was a symbol of venturing out into adulthood. When I heard the news of Kate Spade’s passing, I couldn’t believe it. Not only was she my favorite designer, but she also embodied a feministic vision, becoming a pioneer for women in the professional world.
Her presence impacted my life. She will be missed, but her legacy will live on.
For many survivors of suicide loss, the journey of healing can be lonely, painful, and confusing. At Fox Valley Institute, we understand this struggle and we are here for you. We offer a Bereavement Support Group for adults who have lost a loved one through suicide that meets the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 8:00 am – 9:00 am. Please call 630.718.0717, ext. 240 to be added to the bereavement email list and click here for additional resources.
If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the warning signs of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Visit afsp.org for more information on warning signs and suicide prevention.
Simron Sahoo, FVI Guest Blogger
B.S. Psychology 2018, Minors in Neuroscience, Math, and Biology
Loyola University Chicago
Are you familiar with Gary Chapman’s couple’s resource, “The Five Love Languages?” This book is a simple, yet powerful tool for learning how to better communicate with your partner through each other’s love languages. You can find more information on Chapman’s website:
Chapman will educate you on the five main love languages he has uncovered; words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. First, you and your partner will be directed to take an assessment to determine your primary love language. From there, you will want to read more on your partner’s love language, gain a better understanding of it, and learn helpful tips on how to fulfill their love language. Don’t be surprised if you and your partner do not share the same love language.
Words of Affirmation are validating words said to your partner to help them feel good and validated within the relationship. For example: “I appreciate you.” “You look great in that new dress!” “You always make such a great dinner.”
Acts of Service are meaningful things done for your partner. For example, emptying the dishwasher because it is their least favorite chore, hanging up your coat when you come home, or making the bed every morning. These may not be your most favorite things to do, but you are doing them for your partner so they feel loved.
Receiving Gifts, even small ones can go a long way to make your partner feel loved. For example, a handwritten card saying I love you tucked in her purse or flowers you picked up on your way home ‘just because’ are great gifts that will help your partner feel loved.
Physical Touch, reaching out and grabbing your partner’s hand or sneaking them an unexpected kiss. Physical touch may be important to your partner and being neglectful of this can lead to feelings of rejection or resentment.
Quality Time, is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. For some people, quality time is their primary love language and if you don’t give them quality time, they will not feel loved. For example, your partner values when you put aside 30 minutes after a long day to spend time with them or simply putting your cell phone down while you are together.
Women, are you seeking emotional support from your partner? Men, are you craving to feel desired and appreciated? Below are steps couples can easily integrate into their daily lives to get things sizzling and improve intimacy.
Fan The Flames By Flirting
Flirt with each other throughout the day. Start thinking of foreplay as more than just physical touch or direct assertions. Consider how to display affection to your partner through your everyday actions based on their Love Language. (Not sure what your Love Languages are? Take the test here: www.5lovelanguages.com)
Create Sparks By Using Physical Contact
Practice non-assuming touch. Find ways to come into physical contact with your partner throughout the day that does not assume that you are initiating sex. Gently rub their back while you walk past them, brush their hair away from their face, touch their hand while you’re talking, offer a foot or back massage. Give your partner a full kiss and hug at each parting and greeting.
Keeping Things Hot
Sex really does start in the kitchen. One way of increasing your sense of closeness is to complete shared responsibilities and tasks together to reinforce the security of the relationship. Studies show that women who feel that their partner equally contributes around the house are more sexually satisfied. Women in turn can find ways throughout the day of expressing appreciation and desire for their partner.
Make It Steamy In The Bedroom
Create a sanctuary in your bedroom. You know that iconic scene in movies where the couple pushes off all the paperwork on the desk and makes love in the messy office? My experience working with couples leads me to believe that is unrealistic. Create a space in your bedroom that allows you to focus on nothing but you and your partner. Remove any work, reading materials, televisions or computers. Close the closet if it is not organized. Bring any laundry to the laundry room and if necessary throw that laundry off the bed!
Igniting The Passion With Self Care
Take care of yourself. Stress prevents us from being truly present with one another. When our mind is in a tizzy, our body doesn’t get the message to relax. Encourage one another to practice self-care, such as taking time for individual therapy, massage, exercise, or enjoying a hobby.
Dr. Laura Bokar is the CEO and Founder of the Fox Valley Institute. She started FVI with one person (herself), and now has a phenomenal team of experienced therapists with many different specialties. In the world of therapy, she is quite a visionary and advocate for the community.
Her unique philosophy revolves around the principles of “Growth & Contribution.”
Dr. Laura has learned that fulfillment in life and business is found in relationships. Most counseling sessions revolve around the relationships in the patients’ lives; there’s often hurt or need for repair in relationships, whether it is a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, co-worker, or boss. Nearly everyone wants to connect or love someone(s), and this is an important part of being fulfilled in life. Two other aspects that create truly fulfilled people are continued growth and contribution. Growth can occur through literature, education, and/or trying new experiences. Contribution allows individuals to give back to a community, organization, and/or person. When one loves, grows, and contributes that person finds true fulfillment. Incorporate those values in your business, and it will not only provide fulfillment, but a well-respected business in your area of expertise and in your community.
When faced with any challenge, Dr. Laura knows how to “seek direction from people she trusts before stepping into uncertainty.”
With over two decades of experience as a marriage and family therapist, Dr. Laura was able to “see the needs in the profession that were not being filled.” Her understanding of the needs progressed as she grew in her career. Before she began her new journey of building Fox Valley Institute she received counsel from people she trusted. She then decided to move forward. She was confident in moving forward into her new adventure of uncertainty and created a practice that has made her a genuine trailblazer in her field.
“It’s about innovation! What else is out there that will help the process of wellness?”
Research shows that “clients leave with the therapist’s values.” At Fox Valley Institute, the therapists work hard to care for themselves and maintain a balanced life. This means following what it takes to have a fulfilled life – creating healthy relationships, growing, and contributing. Dr. Laura is intentional about having healthy relationships in the practice. They resolve conflicts, have direct communication, and celebrate with each other. In their team meetings, they learn about the newest innovative techniques, inform each other on the latest research and discuss organizations in the Naperville community that can help them help others. Fox Valley Institute also gives back to the community in many ways; they support many organizations financially, volunteer their time and talents, and provide an opportunity for the next generation of therapists by supervising interns.
She encourages women to “acknowledge the potential and gifts in themselves and in others.”
Dr. Laura is constantly learning. She thirsts for knowledge so that she can contribute to individuals, families, companies, and the community she loves. She understands that life is a generous gift, and no matter one’s age or position the most fulfilled lives have healthy relationships, growth opportunities, and contributions to society.
TO-DO: Discover your Vision; Seek Counsel from People You Trust; Develop a Plan; Take the Risk by Jumping into the World of Uncertainty; Create the Opportunity Your Heart has been Calling You Towards; Continue to Grow; and, Generously Give Back!
By: Erin Doepel Wikstrom, CFP®
Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC Raymond James is not affiliated with Dr. Laura Bokar or Fox Valley Institute.
When people ask me what I do for a living and hear that I’m a Clinical Psychologist, I often hear “Are you analyzing me right now?” I often laugh, but secretly wish that I had the kind of mental powers that the X-Men’s Professor Xavier has to get inside people’s heads. Or maybe Luke Skywalker’s Jedi mind tricks! Even though I don’t have those special powers, I do have some unique tools. Kind of like what Batman has in his tool belt. These tools allow me to help people understand themselves in new ways so they can pursue healthy relationships, get the treatment they need, and/or thrive in school and work settings. These tools are a range of cutting-edge psychological tests that can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some examples of the psychological assessments we provide at the Fox Valley Institute:
The 6-year-old boy ran out to the waiting room after a morning of testing to excitedly tell his mom about the colored blocks he assembled, the funny headband he wore during a boring test, and the pictures he drew during the assessment. Unbeknownst to him, these various tasks were helping us to understand whether he has ADHD and learning problems. For parents and teachers concerned about problems with concentration and with constantly being “on the go,” we can use cutting edge technologies to clarify how normative this is and what interventions may be helpful.
Intelligence and Achievement Testing
The young adult anxiously considered going to college after taking a semester off following her high school graduation. She acknowledged that she had struggled with test taking throughout middle and high school, and wondered if this would continue to be a problem if she went on to college. Through the use of intelligence and achievement tests, we were able to determine that she would indeed be able to succeed if given accommodations such as having extra time and a quiet setting to take her tests. Encouraged to advocate for herself with the use of this testing report, she considered new possibilities for her future.
The teenager and her parents expressed some surprise and relief at the results. In various ways they expressed, “Now I get why that medication and therapy wasn’t helping!” After several attempts to treat a certain mental health diagnosis with a particular type of medication, the psychological assessment led to a different conclusion about what diagnosis best described the teenager’s struggles. This allowed us to collaborate with her psychiatrist and therapist to modify her treatment.
His wife smiled and gave him a knowing glance; he grimaced a little but nodded in agreement too. We were part way through the husband’s assessment feedback session when the couple seemed to understand each other in a new way. With a fuller description of his personality, the husband was better able to articulate some of the reasons why he responds to his wife in the way he does, and she offered more acceptance rather than frustration in knowing this. They expressed new hope in returning to their marital therapy after having felt “stuck” for some time.
The couple eagerly entered the office, thinking months ahead about traveling overseas to meet their adoptive child. As part of the long list of appointments and paperwork they were enduring to get to that joyful destination, they participated in a brief personality assessment to confirm that they were psychologically fit to be adoptive parents. The test results were an opportunity to celebrate the unique strengths they could offer their new family member, as well as be aware of some areas that may be more challenging for them as their family expanded.
For more information about psychological testing, please contact Dr. Brian Post at 630-718-0717 x 208 or email@example.com. Self pay and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance accepted.
Our country, and the world, has been racked with pain over the last week and a half as we’ve heard about the horrible mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nearly 60 people had their lives taken that night and hundreds more suffered gunshot wounds and other injuries requiring hospitalization. Stories of heroism, as well as tragedy have been shared, and for days the event has been at the forefront of the media’s attention. Repeated video exposure of the gunfire and people running in fear for their lives has made us vicariously experience the horror and brought the impact of the shooting in our own homes and workplaces. The effects of the shooting, as a result, go much farther than just those present that evening who lived through it.
For this reason, it is fitting for us to write about what we can do in response to this event to protect ourselves from its negative effects. Having lived through such an event myself, as a father of one of the victims of such a shooting, I am aware of the trauma brought on by such events. As a mental health professional, I can offer some advice to help you cope with this news, as well as provide practical help for those who experienced it first or second hand.
Suggestions for Those Affected Second Hand
First of all, we can all benefit by protecting ourselves from over-exposure to the messages and images that maintain the presence of this tragedy in our lives. We can do this, by turning off our televisions and radios when coverage of the shooting is part of the broadcast. The risk to our well-being from seeing and hearing the story over and over again far outweighs the benefit of keeping up with the latest in the death toll and details about the shooter. The repeating of the story and thinking of what happened on an hourly or even daily basis can exaggerate our sense that the world is a dangerous place. This has the potential to increase our anxiety, distrust, anger, and depression.
Instead, focus on what is going on in your own life and in your own community, giving thanks for what is good and pleasant in your life, and by working on improving those things in your personal life that are meaningful to you. For most of us, the world is a much more beautiful and harmonious place than the news media communicates. We are not criticizing the news media; we are merely saying that their job is not to give us the complete picture that we actually need to live by. It is up to us to put the news in perspective.
Suggestions for Those Affected First Hand
For those who know people whose lives were directly affected by the shooting and want to know how to help and support them, here are a few helpful things to keep in mind and to do:
Grief is a normal reaction to losses of many kinds. It is not a flaw or weakness. Grieving people are not broken (though their hearts may feel that way). Thus, grieving people do not need to be fixed; they need to be listened to with respect, kindness, and empathy.
Each loss is unique. Comparing what you have been through with what they are feeling is like comparing apples with motorcycles. Similarly, being told by someone “I know how you feel” shuts down conversation and does nothing to help the person you want to help. It can lead that person to feel more isolated and discourages them from telling their story.
Many grieving people want to tell their story. They just haven’t found the person who will show an interest and have the ability to listen (without analyzing, giving advice, or comparing losses). If someone you care about does not want to talk, that is also okay. Just let them know you care and will be there when they need you. Then be sure to be there when they reach out.
Avoid clichés. Time worn and inaccurate statements like “Just keep busy,” “You never get over the loss of a child,” and “It just takes time” may lead to putting off getting support when they really need the help and encouragement to heal.
Finally, be encouraged it is possible for people to recover from events such as the shooting in Las Vegas, to experience growth in their lives, a deepening of relationships, and a greater appreciation for the daily blessings of life. It is our hope at Fox Valley Institute that you will experience these things in your life, and feel confident in knowing you can always call on us.
When you are literally pulling your hair out, finding yourself constantly and compulsively checking if your front door is locked, or perseverating endlessly on an experience, it may be time to explore if OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is at the root of these behaviors.
Definition of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
The International OCD Foundation defines Obsessive-Compulsive as a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.
Characteristics/Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
• Repeated unwanted ideas, thoughts, or imagery
• Fear of contamination
• Aggressive impulses
• Persistent sexual thoughts
• Thoughts that you might be harmed or cause someone else harm
• Religious and moral fears
• Extreme need for symmetry or exactness
While testing isn’t always necessary, a clinical psychologist may conduct psychological testing to determine the impact the OCD symptoms are having on the individual’s ability to function. A comprehensive psychological assessment provides feedback on the strengths and limitations of the individual. Psychological testing can help lead to a diagnosis and addressing the underlying factors of a problem. Following testing, accurately tailored treatments and interventions can be recommended.
Additional assessment factors to consider:
Since there can be a genetic component, a family mental health history should be gathered along with identifying what medications have and have not been useful to treat the family members’ OCD. Further exploring the family stressors that may exacerbate the OCD symptoms can be very beneficial.
A medical health history should be conducted for someone with OCD, especially in children and adolescents. Something that is quite different from Pediatric OCD is the appearance of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS/PANS) in this situation, OCD symptoms often emerge as a result of an infection, such as strep. Rather than developing gradually, this relatively rare sub-type of OCD manifests as a sudden appearance of OCD symptoms in children following an infection.
FVI DIGEST: OCD CASE STUDY
Dana is a 10 year old, white, 4th grade female. She lives at home with her mother, father, twin brothers, age 5, and her 12 year old sister. She noted experiencing a lot of unwanted ideation about symmetry and germs. She also has rigid nighttime rituals that are time consuming and impact her family. She’s a good student, who’s highly motivated, but her worries about germs have contributed to her not wanting to attend school. She attempts to minimize the anxiety about germs by washing her hands after she touches what she believes to be a contaminated object. She will wash her hands up to four times repeatedly which has led to red chapped skin. At school reading and writing have become time intensive because the OCD is demanding she balance her gaze by looking at one side of a book, and then the other for equal time. She gets mentally distracted by adding up the number of letters in words and reorganizing the words based on an even/odd pattern. Teachers describe her as having attention deficit. During her bedtime routine, she includes many rigid rituals like having to say good night in both a certain way and number of times, applying lotion in a particular fashion that includes pumping the lotion bottle two times, and organizing the blankets in a certain manner. She refuses to go to sleep if her parents are not home, thus her parents miss out on social events. Prior to her parents having an explanation of OCD for Dana’s behaviors, her parents viewed her behavior as defiant and disrespectful. OCD sends out a loud message for symmetry, so if her parents kiss her on one side of her face they need to balance it with a kiss on the other side of her face. If a person touches one of Dana’s arms, Dana will then need to touch the other arm in the same place. Dana has also experienced physical complications like teeth grinding at night, stomach pain, constipation, headaches, and irritated skin.
Dana has learned to view her OCD as a brain hiccup and to not feel guilt for her quirky behaviors. She named her OCD, “stupid thoughts” and she began to boss these “stupid thoughts” back, telling the thoughts she won’t respond to them or allow them to control her behavior. Dana learned diffusion techniques to externalize thoughts and to see the thoughts come and go, like leaves on a stream, allowing her a visual image to encourage flexibility and acceptance. Another technique that assisted Dana was learning to be “in the moment” and use her senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight to let go of being the “thinking self” and learn to be the “observing self”. Virtual Reality Therapy was beneficial in assisting with Exposure and Response Prevention. Dana visualizes someone touching something that to her was “contaminated” and then the person would proceed to go to lunch without washing their hands. To help her stay calm through the visualization exercise, Dana was taught deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Dana was then able to utilize these calming strategies in her day to day activities. Eventually, she was able to practice Exposure and Response Prevention on her own. She is now able to touch a “contaminated” surface and not have to run immediately to the sink to wash her hands. Ultimately, Dana was able to go to school and not feel she had to respond to her obsessive thinking. Since her parents were seeing improvements in Dana they trusted she can regulate some of the distressful thoughts, which allowed Dana’s parents to feel more comfortable having date nights and trusting things would be ok.
Treatment for OCD:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the treatment modality which is the form of treatment recommended by National Institute of Mental Health, Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Medical School. CBT involves techniques related to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy. When you recognize that your behaviors may be becoming problematic and disruptive, a critical first step is reaching out to a qualified therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They are here to help you. Break the stigma surrounding mental health by becoming more cognizant of these conditions. Once awareness exists, you can help yourself or support others in seeking out services.
Welcome back to school! Whether you are looking forward to it or anticipating it with trepidation, there is a high level of excitement. A new school year brings opportunities and challenges in balancing transition issues, academic pursuits, college life, home, and family. At this point in the year, you probably have a fair amount of adrenaline (and maybe caffeine) powering you through the day.
As I send my clients off to college each fall, I emphasize one point above all else: Watch out for the October Slide! Towards the end of September, the excitement draws to an end and reality sets in. The tests are more difficult, conflicts may be arising with roommates, and the colder darker days of winter are fast approaching. The steady diet of fast food, late nights, and lack of techniques to manage your stress may make the pressures you’re feeling seem overwhelming. These factors often result in an increase in depression and anxiety. Your impulse may be to curl up in bed and binge on pizza and Netflix while waiting for the semester to end. The October Slide can be prevented with your actions in September. I’m challenging you to be proactive.
Are you up for it? Take care of your health by following the simple acronym – MEDSS and my other recommendations below.
M – Take MEDICATION as prescribed
E – EXERCISE
D – Follow a healthy DIET
S – Get sufficient SLEEP
S – Nourish your SOUL, be it in finding solace in your faith, nature, art, yoga or any activity that helps you to feel more relaxed and grounded
Develop a routine that keeps you healthy and organized. Write down your goals, and then use a planner to map out your week. Schedule your study time, work outs, and meals in advance. This planning time may seem taxing; I assure you it’s a great habit to form. It will help you to feel more focused and ultimately better.
Establish your support network. Check in with your family, friends, therapist, and mentors, even when things are going well. If you find yourself feeling more stressed or down than usual, make an appointment with your therapist. If you do not have one, seek one out before the symptoms become overwhelming. The important thing is to stay connected. If you’re struggling to make friends, find a club, activity, volunteer position, or job that will provide you the opportunity to contribute and surround yourself with other like-minded individuals.
Have fun in moderation. For some people, it can be tempting to say yes to every party, tailgate, or social gathering. Overdoing these things will wreak havoc on your health, leaving you drained, more prone to getting sick, and feeling anxious and depressed. Know your limits and give your body break. These breaks should also include making time for yourself away from technology: your phone, social media, and video games. Recognize your own personal need for time to yourself in an open space – allow yourself that break.
Your actions right now determine how the stressors impact you as you face and conquer the challenges a new school year brings. Believe in yourself and acknowledge that others care about you and are there to help if you need it.
Parents, here are three simple things you can do to help your student right now:
Check in with your student about their emotional wellbeing and the stressors they are facing.
Offer support in helping your student establish healthy and productive routines.
Assist in connecting your student with professional support if that will be beneficial.
Therapists at Fox Valley Institute are offering Telehealth services to their current clients, who are away at school in the state of Illinois. You will need to verify with your insurance provider that video conference (Telehealth) services are covered. Let us know if we can be of support in any way.