731 S. Plymouth Court, Suite 112
To schedule an appointment, call 312-369-8700, or stop by our office.
- Effective Communication
- Dear Babbs – Not Looking Forward to Home
- Dear Babbs – Blocked and Confused
- Time Management Tips
- Not for Everyone on Sleep Hygiene: It’s More Than Just Brushing Your Teeth Before Bed
By: Olivia Metzger, clinical intern
As simple as communication seems, often times when we try to communicate with others (or when others try to communicate with us) much of what we are trying to convey is misunderstood. This can cause conflict and frustration in some of our most important relationships. The use of effective communication is one way in which we can become better communicators and can strengthen our relationships with others. Effective communication combines a set of skills: attentive listening, nonverbal cues, the ability to manage stress in the moment, and emotional awareness. Learning and practicing these skills enables us to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and better connect with our family members, friends, and colleagues.
Listening is one of the most important aspects of effective communication. Attentive listening is a skill that involves not only understanding the words that are being conveyed but also the feelings behind the message the speaker is sending. To be an attentive listener you must focus fully on the speaker. If you are texting or daydreaming you are missing parts of the conversation. If you find it difficult to concentrate on the speaker, try repeating their words over in your head to help you stay focused.
Attentive listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. If you are formulating a response, you are not concentrating on what the other person is saying. The same goes for interrupting. Try to let the speaker finish their thought before you add to the conversation.
Attentive listeners demonstrate their interest in what is being said by nodding occasionally and making eye contact with the person who is talking. This does not mean you have to like or agree with the ideas being presented. However, it does mean you should strive to set aside judgment and criticism in order to better understand the speaker’s point of view.
Wordless or nonverbal communication involves conveying meaning through body language, facial expression, movements, gestures, eye contact, posture, and the tone of your voice. You can enhance effective communication by being aware of the nonverbal cues both you and others transmit. For example, open body language such as standing with your arms uncrossed and maintaining eye contact with the person you are talking to sends a message that you want to understand and connect with them.
You can improve your understanding of nonverbal cues by observing how others use body language. Take note of how people react to each other and be aware of individual differences such as how age, culture, gender, and emotional state affect people’s nonverbal cues.
When stress becomes overwhelming it can disrupt your ability to communicate in an effective manner. This is because stress affects your ability to think clearly and creatively and to act appropriately. You are more likely to misread people and situations when you are stressed and may even send confusing or off-putting nonverbal cues to others as well.
To deal with stress during communication, you should recognize when you are becoming tense. Your body will give you clues such as tight muscles or shallow breathing. When you notice these body signals, take a moment to calm down by taking a few deep breaths or by trying to engage your other senses through focusing on a calming sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell. If necessary, take time away from the conversation to calm down. Find a quiet place to regain composure before continuing the conversation.
Often times it is the way you feel, rather than what you think that motivates you to communicate. If you are out of touch with your feelings or do not understand how or why you feel a certain way, you may have a hard time communicating your needs to others. This can lead to frustration, misunderstanding, and conflict. Emotional awareness can enhance clear and effective communication because it allows you to better understand yourself and others.
Knowing your feelings may seem like a simple idea but many people try to ignore or push away strong and unpleasant emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear. Your ability to connect with these difficult feelings will help you communicate more genuinely with others and allow for greater understanding, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
Developing emotional awareness takes time. You can start by tuning into your self and noticing how you feel each day. If it is difficult for you to pinpoint your exact emotions, try writing a description or even asking someone you know or trust how you come across to others. Try not to judge or edit your feelings by dismissing them before you have a chance to think them through. With time and practice, you will become better at cultivating emotional awareness and your ability to communicate effectively with others will improve.
Posted on 2.12.2013
Post by jstrobel
I’m in my junior year at Columbia, am earning good grades, and even have a job to help pay my way through school. With the holidays coming up, I’m dreading going home to see my family. My parents, especially my mom, still treat me like I’m a kid. Whenever I disagree with her, she tells me I’m acting childish. Both my parents constantly lecture me, even about my own field of study! I feel like I’ll only be an adult in their eyes if I do everything exactly the way they want. How can I gain some respect from my parents or at the very least deal with being around them during break?
Not Looking Forward to Home
Dear Not Looking Forward to Home,
It makes sense that you are wary of returning home for the holidays. You have been away at college for several years and have likely set up routines and established an existence completely independent from your family. It is wonderful that you’ve taken on some of the responsibility of helping to pay your way through school and great that you are working hard at your studies! I know life would be a lot easier if your mom and dad could just acknowledge your burgeoning independence and back off but unfortunately some parents have difficulty accepting as their children pull away from the family and make independent decisions. While it seems unfair that parents can react this way, you should continue to demonstrate that you are becoming an adult by behaving in a respectful and responsible manner while you are at home.
One way to demonstrate your maturity is by practicing healthy communication and problem solving skills to manage any conflict that may arise with your parents. The following three-step framework is one helpful way in which you can attack family problems without attacking each other:
Step One: If a conflict arises, you should start by identifying the problem. I encourage you to do this openly with your mom and dad so that each family member has a chance to clarify their view of the disagreement. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to speak and that those who are not speaking are attentively listening. Attentive listening means that you are not interrupting or formulating a rebuttal while another person is speaking but that you are genuinely hearing what is being said. One way in which to show you have been attentively listening is to repeat back the main idea that your mom or dad is trying to convey. After you have acknowledged their perspective on the matter, you can offer your own point of view while they attentively listen to you.
Step Two: After the source of the problem is identified, it is time to propose possible solutions. When identifying potential solutions, I encourage you to be creative. Even if you do not plan to implement a particular solution because it is too outrageous or silly, thinking creatively often frees your mind to find a more practical solution that had not previously been available. Each family member is allowed to identify as many solutions as they would like without veto and everyone should have a chance to offer solutions while the other family members practice attentive listening. It is useful to write down all the solutions that are generated.
Step Three: Now that you have made a list of possible solutions, the final step in resolving the conflict is to evaluate, select, and implement one of the solutions. Again, you will want to use your attentive listening skills to talk through the potential benefits and pitfalls of each option. Once you have discussed the solutions, you and your parents should choose and implement one of them. The goal here is to choose the option that will most help reduce the conflict. If members cannot agree on a solution, perhaps a combination of solutions is a more realistic conclusion. Try to remember that even if the problem is not immediately solved, you have conveyed to your parents that you are able and willing to communicate in a helpful and responsible manner that invites open discussion and problem solving. This should certainly afford you some respect!
By: Olivia Metzger, clinical intern
Posted on 2.12.2013
Post by jstrobel
Ever since I was younger, I’ve loved art and felt that it is an outlet for everything going on in my life. I was so excited to come to Columbia and dedicate myself to art full-time. However, with all of these assignments in my different classes, my art is starting to feel like an obligation instead of something I can practice whenever I feel inspired. It’s so hard to produce work for all of these deadlines and I just feel like my creativity is completely shot. Does this mean I’m not a real artist? How can I keep up with all of my different projects when I’m feeling totally uninspired?
Blocked and confused
Dear Blocked and Confused,
With all of the many demands of college life, it is completely normal to feel run down at times. Even the world’s greatest creative minds throughout history have often described periods of feeling blocked, unproductive, and uninspired—and they weren’t up against deadlines for midterms and final projects! While it is completely understandable to question yourself in times of burn out, rest assured that moments of more and less productivity are all part of the creative process. With this in mind, there are several things you can do to help foster your artistic practice, both by seeking out sources of inspiration and refining your creativity habit.
It is hard to predict when a moment of feeling inspired might occur, so stay aware of even fleeting thoughts or images throughout your day, and jot them down (in a handy notebook, scrap of paper, or even in your phone) in the moment to reflect on later. Inspiration often occurs as we engage in new experiences, so making even small changes to your routine can incite a new way of seeing things—take a new route when walking to your usual places, experiment with working on your projects in different settings or at different times of day. Don’t forget about the importance of consuming other people’s art in order to help you produce your own. In free time, take advantage of the many offerings of Chicago’s neighborhoods, festivals, concert venues, old bookstores, small galleries, and artisan markets. When you are having trouble with the first steps of your creative process, don’t be afraid to begin with imitation, copying the first words of a favorite author’s book, sketching your own interpretation of a well-known piece of art, etc. to spark your own imagination. It can also be helpful to engage the connection our minds have to our bodies, using physical movement to stimulate and invigorate all of your senses and even your thoughts. Perhaps most fundamentally, maintaining a curious approach to all that you encounter in classes, relationships, and daily experiences opens you up to inspiration in both expected and unexpected places.
Columbia’s emphasis on collaboration and working with a creative posse is fruitful and rewarding, but it can be equally important to set aside alone time to sink into your individual process and indulge your own creativity without distraction. The term “creativity habit” has become popular for good reason—regular and disciplined practice is the foundation for keeping up artistic skill and productivity even when passion or inspiration are in short supply. As part of this regular practice, do your best not to judge your creative output, instead know that “good” art and “bad” attempts are all part of the process. In maintaining your daily artistic exercise, it can be helpful to develop a ritual to help spark your creative practice. This ritual could be clearing the same space to sit in each day, preparing your favorite cup of tea or coffee before you begin, performing relaxation exercises, or reading a mantra or quotation that reminds you of your intention.
As you explore these ideas for inspiration and creative practice, keep in mind that patience is perhaps the most useful skill to develop toward yourself as an artist. Through a combination of seeking inspiration, consistent effort, and patience with yourself, periods of increased creativity will always return.
Posted on 5.11.2013
Post by jstrobel
By: Anna Leifeste, clinical intern in Counseling Services
Along with all of the excitement and busyness of college comes the frequent feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. When you’re balancing a combination of several classes, extracurricular activities, hobbies, relationships, and the general demands of young adult life, all while trying to save a little time for yourself, making the most of your work time is essential. Since the days aren’t getting any longer, our best bet is to adopt some helpful time management techniques to maximize efficiency, which just might lead to a little more time to spend on the things that matter most. Let’s take a look at a few effective time management strategies…
Get Organized: Monthly, weekly, and daily to-do lists can help keep you organized and on task. Making weekly reviews of what you’ve accomplished in the past week and what needs to get done in the next seven days can help remind you of what you’ve recently achieved, as well as clarify how your time will be best spent in the near future.
Prioritize: In making your to-do lists, it may help to begin with a few easy tasks to jumpstart your sense of productivity, and to mix in shorter and/or easier tasks between larger undertakings to keep your momentum up and prevent feelings of discouragement. When scheduling larger projects, it is often best to tackle difficult projects earlier in your day so that your mind feels fresh and not yet fatigued. Strategize as you plan, thinking about how and when you work best, and anticipating likely hurdles in order to create a realistic schedule for yourself. For example, you may find that it’s best to schedule group meetings first thing in the morning because you find it is difficult to concentrate in the hours leading up to such meetings, causing time to be wasted in anticipation.
Postpone the Unnecessary: In prioritizing your daily, weekly, and monthly goals, ask yourself which tasks can wait and which are not necessary to complete at this time, and keep those items on a separate list for periodic review. Don’t worry- they can be moved to your priority list if you have extra time, or when they become necessary. So often, it is tempting to delay starting a large or difficult project by crossing less intimidating items off of your to-do list. However, if those smaller items weren’t necessary or urgent to complete, they are just setting you back in the long run and taking away from precious time you could devote to important projects, or use to engage in self-care.
Minimize Distractions: It is tempting to keep our cell phones within arm’s reach and our email open while working, but this threatens dedicated work time with intermittent distractions. Schedule in purposeful time to check and return email, texts, and missed calls throughout your day, but between these time periods, be sure to turn off your ringer and log out of email. Similarly, while you are working on a particular task, any unrelated ideas, questions, or “to-dos” that pop into your head should be written down and set aside to pursue at a later time. This will prevent you from going down the rabbit hole of sequential internet searches that can so easily soak up hours of your week before you even realize you’ve strayed from your intended focus.
Take Breaks: High levels of productivity cannot be maintained for hours on end, so keep your energy up and your mind fresh by “chunking” your time. Setting a timer to go off at the time of your next scheduled break can help you avoid the distraction of constantly checking the clock. Breaking larger projects up into manageable pieces will keep the idea of getting started from being overly daunting. Keep in mind that more time doesn’t always mean more productivity- time pressure and schedule constraints can add urgency and motivation to your work that can lead to improved concentration as well as saving you time in the long run.
Optimize Your Biological Clock: Some people wake up alert and energized, while others gain motivation and momentum later in the day or evening. Observing and utilizing your natural rhythms of energy and concentration will serve you well to accomplish tasks more efficiently. Finding a routine that works with your internal clock and sticking to it will reinforce your natural rhythms to create a work routine that can develop into a familiar habit that requires less effort than trying to get motivated at different times every day and week.
Use Free Time Intentionally: In addition to all of the work projects and obligations assigned to your schedule, be sure to also block out a reasonable amount of free time to recharge and take care of yourself. Just like the focus you dedicate to your scheduled work time, the blocks of time that you have dedicated to relaxation and leisure should be free from the distraction and worry about the remaining items on your agenda. Really letting yourself enjoy your free time will not only feel good, but it will better prepare you to return to your work refreshed and motivated when the time comes.
As you experiment with these time management techniques, finding what works for you and beginning to develop effective work habits will serve you well for years to come. Motivation and work ethic are like muscles that must be exercised to build and maintain, so remember that finding your most effective work styles is an ongoing process. Be realistic in your expectations—it is impossible to be productive all of the hours in the day—and celebrate your small successes along the way in order to continue developing your own style that will minimize the obstacles in your work routine and maximize the balance in your life.
Posted on 4.11.2013
Post by jstrobel
Whether you’re new to Chicago or born and raised here, I think we can all admit that as amazing as Chicago is, every once in a while the stresses of urban life feel unbearable. Whether it is the honking of car horns during rush hour or a CTA delay that threatens to make you late for class, the fact that city life is sometimes stressful is not only universally agreed upon, it’s also scientifically proven! A study conducted by researchers at the University of Heidelberg and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University recently proved a link between living in an urban environment and vulnerability to stress. The study found that “city dwellers” bear a 21% increased risk for developing anxiety disorders and a 39% increased risk for developing mood disorders and that the incidence of schizophrenia is doubled among those born and raised in urban environments.
To understand the association between urban environments and these psychological conditions, the researchers evaluated the impact of urban stress on our brains, specifically its impact on our neural processing of social stress. The results showed that current city residents experienced increased activity in the region of the brain known as the amygdala, which is responsible for regulating emotions like anxiety and fear. Our brains activate the amygdala to respond to stressful or threatening situations, and as a result of increased activity in the region, city residents’ have more sensitive responses to such scenarios. The study divided participants into three categories: rural areas (populations less than 10,000), towns (populations between 10,000 and 100,000), and cities (populations greater than 100,000). The findings revealed that amygdala activity increased as population density increased. Interestingly, the research denies that pollution, noise, or any other environmental factors are responsible. Instead, the social stress associated with living and interacting with so many people on a daily basis is what’s causing higher incidences of anxiety and mood disorders in urban settings.
So what can you do to manage stress in the city? Don’t worry – there’s no need to retreat to the suburbs! Jens Pruessner, a co-author of the study, advises “when it comes to stress, it’s important to keep a balance” and that the study’s findings “suggest the need to keep things in balance, so after a period of working hard, you balance that with a period of off-time as well.” Here are some helpful tips to keep a good balance so that your stress (whatever its cause may be) does not become debilitating:
1) Maintain good “sleep hygiene:” Sleep regularly, sleep when you’re tired, but try not to nap! Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, as these are known to adversely affect your sleep. Don’t forget to maintain a balanced diet and exercise as well!
2) Manage your time well: there may be times where it doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to fulfill all of your responsibilities, let alone eat, sleep, or take time to relax. Still, it’s important to find a balance and make time for yourself! Try mapping out your day ahead of time so that you use your “work” time more efficiently and won’t have to compromise your “me” time.
3) Try meditation, relaxation, or breathing exercises: there are tons of great resources on the internet!
4) Find a support network: Call a friend or family member (one that won’t make you even more stressed out!) or try joining an organization on campus.
To make an appointment at Columbia College Counseling Services, call 312-369-8700
Lederbogen, F., Tost, H., Schuch, P., Wust, S., Pruessner, J. C., Rietschel, M., Deuschle , M., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2011). City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans. 474, 498-591. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v474/n7352/pdf/nature10190.pdf
Park, A. (2011, June 22). Stressed in the city: How urban life may change your brain read. Time, Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/22/stressed-in-the-city-how-urban-life-may-change-your-brain/
Posted on 14.10.2013
Post by jstrobel
Need Free Health Insurance?
Did you know that young adults are the most likely of any age group to visit the emergency room? Or that people between ages 18 to 24 are the most likely to be uninsured? Health insurance is something young people often don’t give much thought to, until they encounter an unexpected medical emergency or serious illness. A 2011Government Accounting Office report estimated that 1.7 million college students are uninsured, and two thirds of those cannot afford to pay for needed treatment. ColumbiaCollege does not require students to have health insurance, and therefore many are uninsured. The reality is that health insurance is expensive, and many students and/or their parents cannot afford it.
However, beginning January 1, 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans, including college students, will be required to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. This begs the question of how uninsured college students will obtain affordable coverage. Among insured college students, approximately 39 percent are covered under parents’ health insurance plans, 58 percent are covered by school insurance and 3 percent are covered by other private insurance. However, many ColumbiaCollege students simply do not have access to any of these options.
Fortunately, there is good news! As of January 2013, a free comprehensive health insurance called CountyCare is available to eligible Illinois residents. CountyCare is part of healthcare reform laws and is operated by the State of Illinois and the Cook County Health and Hospitals Systems (CCHHS). It is estimated that more than 250,000 CookCounty residents are eligible for CountyCare, but many remain unaware of the opportunity. In order to qualify, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Live in CookCounty (which includes Chicago)
- Be 19-64 years old
- Be US citizen or legal immigrant for at least 5 years
- Earn an individual income of less than $15,282 per year or a joint income of less than $20,628
- Have a Social Security Number or have applied for one
- Not be eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or CHIP
CountyCare covers a number of routine and emergency health care services, including emergency room visits, in-patient hospital stays, physician visits, prescription drugs, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, laboratory and x-ray services, dental services for individuals age 19-20, and more. For a full list of covered services, visit http://countycare.com/about/coveredservices.aspx.
CountyCare is a great option for ColumbiaCollege students who cannot afford private health insurance but want reliable access to physical and mental health care! In order to apply or ask questions, students can call 312-864-8200 between 8 AM-8 PM Monday-Friday and 9am-2pm Saturday. After speaking with a representative, applicants are mailed a list of documents to copy and return, in order to finalize the application. Students can also apply in-person for CountyCare by bringing the aforementioned documents to StrogerHospital, ProvidentHospital, and Oak ForestHealthCenter.
- Proof of Identity: Driver’s license; Government issued picture ID; or U.S. passport
- Proof of Cook County Address: Utility bill; Rent receipt/lease agreement; Illinois drivers license or state identification card; or other residency proof
- Proof that Income does not Exceed Limits: Pay stubs; Employee statement; Unemployment document (If an applicant does not have any income, they do not need to produce a proof of income)
- Proof of Legal Status (for Non-Citizens only): Form I-94 arrival-departure form; Permanent resident card; Alien registration card; Green card; or other immigration document with picture and A-Number
If students do not qualify for CountyCare or would prefer to purchase private health insurance, open enrollment for the Illinois state exchange begins October 1. Through this marketplace, all American will have an opportunity to purchase subsidized health insurance (based on income level), in order to obtain coverage by January 1, 2014.
Posted on 7.10.2013
Post by jstrobel
Dear Scared of Stigma,
Thank you for reaching out– it can be tough to admit that you’re not feeling yourself. Please know that you are not alone! Prejudice or discrimination against people experiencing mental illness, better known as stigma, is a very real problem in our country. While it’s estimated that 26% of adults and 20% of children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, 2/3 of these individuals do not seek treatment because of reasons like those you mentioned. In an effort to convince you not to “go it alone”, I’d like to make some suggestions to combat each of the concerns you mentioned.
First of all, research shows that psychotherapy often helps people overcome depression, so your intuition that you could benefit from therapy is right on. Secondly, you don’t need to worry about paying for sessions because you can attend ten free individual sessions per academic year at Columbia College’s Counseling Services! If you need more than ten sessions, the therapists can refer you to other practitioners in the area who offer reduced fees to those without health insurance. Counseling Services also offers free unlimited group therapy to all enrolled students. Additionally, you might be eligible for County Care, Cook County’s new free health insurance program for adults age 19-64. For more information on County Care visit http://countycare.com/.
Next, as long as you are over the age of 18, your parents will not be informed that you are in therapy. If you want to tell them you can, but the fact that you’re in treatment and anything you talk about with your therapist will be kept confidential. That goes for your friends as well. While I doubt they would think you are crazy, you only need to share about your therapy experience with people you trust. If you do choose to share with friends who genuinely care about you and want to see you thrive, I bet they would be very supportive, and might even be inspired to seek help for their own issues! It’s also important to remember that talking openly about mental health issues such as depression is one way to reduce the stigma around it. Lastly, if you go to Counseling Services for therapy, no one will force you to take medication. If you are in fact experiencing Major Depressive Disorder, the therapist might suggest you visit a psychiatrist to learn more about antidepressant medication, but the decision to take it or not would be entirely yours.
I hope you will take this advice and not rely entirely on yourself to feel better. Keep in mind that having a mental illness such as depression is not your fault; there’s no need to beat yourself up about feeling down. So, don’t let stigma scare you away from improving your mental health – call Counseling Services today at 312.869.8700 to get the help you need!
Posted on 7.10.2013
Post by jstrobel
I’ve been feeling pretty down lately and I think I might be depressed. I’ve heard therapy can help with depression, but I have a lot of hesitations about seeking help. First of all, I don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to pay for therapy sessions on my own. Besides being a broke college student, I worry that my friends would think I’m crazy, my parents would freak out, and I don’t want to be forced to take medication. Do you have any advice for how to deal with these obstacles? Or should I just forget about therapy and try to cope on my own?
Scared of Stigma
Posted on 7.10.2013
Post by jstrobel
Living in Chicago is seriously stressful! I just moved to the city from the suburbs to start school here at Columbia and the transition has been tougher than I expected. Life in the city just seems more difficult: the traffic, navigating public transportation, crowded streets, etc. Not to mention how expensive everything is downtown! Is it normal to feel this way? How can I cope with this stress?
New to Chicago
Dear New to Chicago,
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Life on an urban campus can be stressful, especially if you’re new to living in a city. Forbes Magazine placed Chicago third on its list of “American’s Most Stressful Cities” and declared that Chicago had the worst traffic congestion in the country. Yikes! Yes the traffic, public transportation, crowds, and expenses of this city can be stressful, but try to remember all the great perks of city life that led you to choose Columbia in the first place. Chicago is known for its diversity, culture, arts, and of course, great food! Still, everyone needs some peace and quiet from time to time, and Chicago has plenty of places where you can find that too, many of which are located right in Columbia’s neighborhood. Author Anne Ford has some great recommendations in her book, Peaceful Places, Chicago: 110 Tranquil Sites in the Windy City and Beyond. Some peaceful spots nearby Columbia include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Rookery, and the Winter Garden located on the ninth floor of the Harold Washington Library Center.
While almost everyone experiences some mild stress from time to time, be careful not to leave your stress (whatever its cause may be) unchecked to the point where it becomes debilitating. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself to determine whether or not your stress or anxiety is holding you back:
- How often do I feel this way?
- How long have I been feeling this way?
- Does my stress or anxiety affect my daily routine?
- What symptoms accompany my stress or anxiety? Examples might include frequent worrying, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, rapid heartbeat, or nausea.
Check out this month’s featured article for some tips on how you can manage your stress on your own! However, if your stresses or anxieties are interfering with your daily life, you can always visit Counseling Services at 731 S. Plymouth Ct. or call 312-369-8700 to schedule an appointment!
Posted on 9.09.2013
Post by jstrobel
At some point in their lives, I would venture to guess that most students wonder if they have ADHD. Maybe it’s that class where it seems that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t pay attention to the professor. Maybe it’s those moments where you suddenly remember something that has to be done right away, just to completely forget it 5 seconds later. Or maybe it’s that scattered feeling, when you jump around from facebook to gchat to gossip websites to playing solitaire, just to realize that 2 hours have gone by when you were supposed to be writing a paper. Whatever the situation – we live in a society that almost seems to be set up to make us feel ADHD, with an odd combination of unending opportunities for distraction on the one hand, and often-unrealistic demands on our time on the other. Young adults today are expected to be going 24/7, and in that climate, of course we are going to forget things, procrastinate and not be able to pay attention…so how does someone know if they do in fact have ADHD?
ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurological condition – it is located in the connections between cells in the brain. Ideally, the diagnosis would be confirmed by an ADHD expert with reputable testing procedures – either a psychologist, neuropsychologist, or medical doctor (especially a psychiatrist). Because ADHD can be confused with so many other conditions, it is important that the expert take time to really get to know you and your history in a thorough way before confirming a diagnosis. Really exploring your history is particularly important before prescribing psychotropic medications. ADHD does not appear out of nowhere, and a childhood history is a central component of diagnosis. If your symptoms don’t go back that far, most likely something else is going on. But only an expert has the training to know what to look for.
If you’re considering being tested, the seminal book Driven to Distraction is an extremely helpful place to begin. In addition to spelling out treatment options, the authors give real-world examples to illustrate what it feels like to be a human struggling with ADHD. Many people with ADHD struggle over a lifetime with feelings of being a fraud or illegitimate. They may appear to be keeping it all together, but under the surface they are panicked with the fear that they will forget to cross their t’s and dot their i’s — suddenly to be discovered for the “screw-up” that they really are. They may feel paralyzed under a weight of their inability to follow through on their flashes of brilliance and inspiration. They may suffer from anxiety, chronic depression, low self-esteem and negative self-image. Their romantic partners may be frustrated by their vagueness, forgetfulness, and difficulty with communication. They may not be able to keep a relationship for very long.
As one of the authors put it to a patient, “It’s no more a thing to be ashamed of than being nearsighted is. In fact, it’s sort of like being nearsighted. You don’t focus very well. You have to strain to see clearly. People with ADD have trouble attending to one task at a time. You’ve probably heard of hyperactive children, and that was how this syndrome was originally described—hyperactivity in kids. We now know that the symptoms include more than just hyperactivity and that it affects adults as well as children. The hallmark symptoms of ADD are easy distractibility, impulsivity, and sometimes, but not always, hyperactivity or excess energy. These people are on the go. Type A personalities. Thrill seekers. High-energy–, action-oriented–, bottom-line, gotta-run-type people. They have lots of projects going simultaneously. They’re always scrambling. They procrastinate a lot and they have trouble finishing things. Their moods can be quite unstable, going from high to low in the bat of an eye for no apparent reason. They can be irritable, even rageful, especially when interrupted or when making transitions. Their memories are porous. They daydream a lot. They love high-stimulus situations. They love action and novelty. Just as this kind of problem can get in the way at work, it can also interfere with close relationships. Your girlfriend can get the wrong impression if you’re constantly tuning out or going for fast action.”
They also go on to point out the seeming superpowers of ADHD. He discusses how Mozart may have been a classic case of ADD: “impatient, impulsive, distractible, energetic, emotionally needy, creative, innovative, irreverent, and a maverick. Structure is one of the hallmarks of the treatment of ADD, and the tight forms within which Mozart worked show how beautifully structure can capture the dart-here, dart-there genius of the ADD mind…You might describe many with ADD as having a ‘special something,’ a hard-to-pin-down yet undeniable potential. If that potential can be tapped, the results can be spectacular. Albert Einstein, Edgar Allan Poe, George Bernard Shaw, and Slavador Dali were all expelled from school, and Thomas Edison was at the bottom of his class…Unfortunately, there is a longer list of those people whose spirits were broken in school, who therefore never got the chance to realize their potential.”
This final point is extremely important. For the 5% or so of the population who do test positive for ADHD, life may seem unbearable as they are never able to live up to their full potential and they are cruelly aware of the discrepancy. We are fortunate to live in a place where advanced treatments – through therapy, life coaching, and possibly, medication – exist to help people realize that potential. If you worry you may have ADHD, Counseling Services can help connect you with experts and treatment to start turning things around.
Posted on 3.06.2013
Post by jstrobel