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ADHD: Over-Diagnosed?

August 20th, 2013

Ritalin tablets

Photo: The Guardian, August 13, 2013, Murdo Macleod

A recent article published in the UK newspaper, The Guardian (Tuesday August 13th, 2013) entitled, ADHD Prescriptions Rise Sparks ‘Smart Drugs’ Fears is noteworthy for reasons that go beyond the main thrust of the commentary. While the piece highlights the dangers ensuing from “diversion or misuse”, what alarmed me most of all was the underlying acceptance of the trend toward “increased diagnosis of, and prescribing for, the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”.

Apart from the fact that all pharmaceuticals are potentially powerful and dangerous (for example, stimulants routinely cause ‘rebound’ involving a worsening of behavioural symptoms) we are now well aware of this industry’s typically dubious research claims as being a particularly noxious example of the mishandling of science. There is certainly a lack of valid scientific evidence to support the claim that these drugs contribute to improved learning and academic performance. While ritalin has a good chance of making a child more compliant in class, I’m not sure that this is the kind of ‘improvement’ we should be advocating for our children. Indeed, children are often put on stimulants as a result of pressure from schools who encourage parents to seek medical consultations directed at ‘controlling’ classroom behaviour.

Peter Breggin, author of Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD, has astutely pointed out that children are often actually suffering from “parent attention deficit disorder”; that parents rarely find enough time to give children all the attention they need. Often, the kids get the “left over time”. Perhaps its no wonder that parents give in so easily to the idea of medication as children make fewer demands while on drugs. If you would like to read more, I would recommend Breggin’s book. He discusses many of the subjects related to what I have touched on in this review, including how to deal with schools and it also includes tips about parenting skills.

 

 

 

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

August 19th, 2013

The-examined-life

Stephen Grosz’s book, The Examined Life – How We Lose and Find Ourselves, is a wonderful read for anyone who has ever contemplated psychoanalysis or deeper insight-oriented therapy, but I would also recommend this book to anyone who is generally curious about the perplexities of everyday life and human behaviour. There are several excellent reviews of this book worth reading including one from “The Independent Review” The Independent and another from The New York Times.

Grosz’s chapter titles are immediately attention grabbing: “How praise can cause a loss of confidence“, “Why parents envy their children“, and “On not being in a couple“, to name a few.  The stories he tells connect the past, the present and the future and demonstrate that inner change is possible. Mr. Grosz quotes Isak Dinesen, observing that “all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them”. He adds that  stories can help us to make sense of our lives, but that if “we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us — we dream these stories, we develop symptoms, or we find ourselves acting in ways we don’t understand.”

Grosz’s book also highlights is the fact that psychoanalysis goes against the grain: How on earth in our virtual world of speed, tweeting and texting and other sophisticated means of communication can a person take the time to drop everything 3, 4 or 5 times a week to lie down on a couch for almost an hour and attend to what is going on in his or her inner world? If efficiency is defined as doing the most in the least time, the slow pace of analysis seems almost mad or at least a little absurd.

How can people with no experience of analysis imagine what happens in it. There are some kinds of knowledge that can be taught and others that are discovered by personal experience, and I think psychoanalysis falls into the latter category. However, in making use of beautifully written and deceptively simple human stories, Grosz’s book manages to at least convey some of the nuanced complexities of psychoanalysis.

Grosz, is a practicing psychoanalyst, a teacher at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and in the Psychoanalytic Unit at University College London.