For many years now (since 2007) I have been working in the therapeutic and coaching industry. What I have discovered over this period of time is that there are an awful lot of people on prescription medication for ‘conditions’ that should not be considered illnesses, the definition of illness is ‘a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind’, are these labelled forms of behaviour really an illness? Just for a moment, put aside all of your opinions and beliefs around these labels and consider the question “are there alternative options”? From my experience with many of these people, young and old, the drugs are not working. Some of them have been taking antidepressants for 20 years yet they are still depressed. At what point would you question this? We seem to have been stuck in an era where we medicate the symptoms not find a solution to the cause. The area that is causing my most concern for the past 7 years has been the rise in the diagnosis of ADHD and I would like to share my experiences in this realm to open up some non judgemental thought processes around the subject. I am going to share with you a few case studies to demonstrate my concerns.
My first encounter with ADHD was with a student I was asked to help who was in the firing line to be moved to a PRU unit if he could not sort his behaviour out. He was on prescription medication for ADHD yet he was still showing the behavioural indifference. According to his records there was no history of abuse or trauma and he came from a stable family. My findings were as follows; after opening up to me what I found was that this child have serious limiting beliefs about his potential in life based on comparisons to his siblings, he felt like he was letting everyone down and that he was stupid. When we unravelled this, it basically boiled down to the fact that he was a very kinaesthetic kid who was constantly on the go and if you know anything about intense ‘K’s’ it is that they need to move and take much longer to absorb information compared to visual or audio learning styles. He recalls numerous occasions where he was asked to “hurry up” because everyone else is finished or comments such as “why does it take you so long”? What this led to overtime was a feeling of deep anxiety and sadness within this lad that then led to anger, frustration and negative behaviour. I only spent an hour with this student and by the end of it we had pulled his belief system to pieces, recoded the negative emotions and experiences which were driving the behaviour and just had a good chat about how he learns best and what he can do to make sure he benefits from the last year in school. Following this session, he came off of his medication and became a prefect in the school. He demonstrated that when you change a belief and develop the skills and understanding to learn, you can change your behaviour.
Another student I worked with was 15 years old and had a horrendous record for negative behaviour. On meeting this student, I knew instantly that something deeper was going on as the pupil could not keep her eyes still, they were literally rolling around her head. The brief I had been given was that the family background was stable, no trauma or abuse known and the pupil had been showing this type of behaviour since 3 years old. Through disassociated questioning we walked straight to the issue creating the patterns. At the age of 2/3 this child had experienced her mother having an epileptic fit and she was the only witness. She watched her mum nearly die and could do nothing about it. What this led to for the 2/3 year old child was a fear of closing her eyes in case she had the same thing happen as her mum. The result was that this child did her absolute best to not sleep, she would lay in bed trying to keep her eyes open and not sleep so she did not have a fit like her mum. Basically she had not had a good nights sleep for 12 years, this led to extreme tiredness, fatigue, lack of concentration and total lack of emotional control which led to behavioural problems. Combine this with the prescription meds she was taking, it was basically a cocktail for psychosis. We had 2 sessions where we recoded the trauma, reset some belief systems and did some performance coaching so she had goals and ways of moving towards them. I can remember at the end of the first session when she looked me in the eyes and I saw calmness, stillness and a child who was just physically and mentally exhausted. I am pleased to say that she got some sleep at last, finished school and went to college and the behaviour changed from negative to positive.
This particular lad sticks in my head and I am so proud of what he has achieved now. I met him when he was 13 and he was depressed and angry. Also labelled as ADHD and on meds. The family background was that the parents had recently divorced although it was reported to be amicable and the other children were fine. Because of the serious nature of the behaviour being demonstrated the medication was a very high dose. This lad had the loveliest personality and a kindness about him that I rarely see. When we unravelled the behaviour it linked to him being a peg in between his divorced parents. Being the oldest, the mum and dad would confide in him and pass messages to each other through him. He found this really hard to deal with and this is what led to the depression first and then the anger. It is interesting how children will not voice their concerns to their parents for fear of adding to or upsetting them. Again, I had 2 sessions with this lad and recoded emotional baggage and beliefs and helped him develop the confidence to talk to his parents about this. What he found was that when he did talk to them, they were both mortified about how their son felt and had not even considered the mental strain they were putting on him. He now works in London fulfilling his dream and is in a really good space off of medication.
I find it interesting how parents perspective can be totally different to how a child views events. Children do not want to upset their parents so they tend to go along with them and agree with whatever they say. To expect a child to have an honest open adult opinion is unrealistic really, we forget as adults that children work differently to us… maybe we should remember how we were as a child. Did you talk to your parents about everything, tell them every worry and concern or did you hold the majority on the inside? It is important to keep reminding ourselves about the ‘no blame, no judgement’ rule in therapy, you don’t know what you don’t know and everyone is just doing the best with what they have and what they have been taught. Becoming aware, owning your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours will allow you to be open to helping create change for others. Seriously, nobody is perfect.
This next case was a demonstration of what I have just talked about above. I worked with a 12 year old girl who was diagnosed with ADHD at 8 and had been medicated since that point. She came from a single parent background with an interesting twist. Her mother had a sperm donor from a friend who was going to have nothing to do with the child, the agreement was that the mother would bring the child up as a single parent with no knowledge or involvement from the donor. The mother had been totally open with the child as to this when the child was growing up. The negative behaviour began when the child started primary school and progressed to the point of the school suggesting that maybe home schooling was the better option. When I spent some time with this young lady and utilised disassociated questioning again what came up was very interesting. For fear of upsetting her mum, this child never discussed what was going on because she didn’t want her mum to feel bad. This girl had experienced mild bullying at school because she did not know who her dad was, she used to get teased daily. This led to her feeling really sad and she was actually self harming too. The sadness soon turned to anger and then the behaviour followed suit. The girl told me she wondered all the time who her dad was, where he was and if he would ever meet her. She felt like there must be something wrong with her for her dad to not want to know her. We spent some time resetting her beliefs, emotions and then had a good chat with her mum about options for the future.
This case was something that I deal with quite regularly. This lad had been bullied at school and had not told anyone. He also came from a family where mum and dad used to argue all the time in a very heated loud fashion and are now divorced. He had so much anger, frustration, sadness and guilt built up on the inside he did not know what to do with it, so it came out in behavioural indifference. This is a typical case of a child having masses of emotion and no understanding of why they have it, this results in bursts of negative behaviour that can be extreme and out of character. We spent 2 sessions recoding the emotions and creating new beliefs and behavioural patterns. He now reports feeling calm and in control and the school and parents are stating the same from a behavioural point of view.
I have to mention this one because it makes me chuckle when I think about it. I had a family referred to me by a friend, they needed help with their 2 year old. Now, at 2, it is a bit young for me to work with although I can work with the parents instead. Luckily for me these 2 parents really did want to sort out the behavioural issues now because it had already been mentioned that ADHD could be a possibility (at 2 jeez). So, we had a skype call. I asked them to tell me the behaviours that the child was showing and we wrote out a long list. Then I went down the list (using humour) asking this question “who does this behaviour belong to out of you two”? The funny thing was, they both admitted showing signs of the behaviours that the 2 year old was using and through humour and suggestions they became aware that they were teaching their child how to do these things, the 2 year old was just copying what was being seen. The result was that within 2 weeks, the parents had changed their behaviours and guess what… so did the 2 year old.
Since 2007 I have worked with around 120 cases of ADHD, Bi-Polar or similar and I have yet to find one that is purely a chemical in-balance. Obviously they all have chemical in-balance because when we experience negative emotions we create different chemicals based on the emotional state we are experiencing and if you hold that state for a long period of time, yes your chemical content will remain in line with the feelings. What I have found though is that 99% of the children I have worked with would be considered highly kinaesthetic (they like doing), the majority are extremely good at sport and have certain lessons or certain people/teachers that they behave really well for, so at some level they are choosing the behaviour. This leads to the question should ADHD be considered in a different way and a polar opposite viewpoint of how to deal with it? Maybe there are aspects that should be fully checked out before we slap a label on a child’s head and give them a belief system that they are now going to use as an excuse for negative behaviour. Are they exercising, eating well, sleeping enough, emotionally balanced, having fun, creating self confidence, being taught well by teachers & parents, understanding their system of thoughts & feelings, in a nurturing environment, happy at school?
There are so many factors to look at before we bring out our label machine and medicate. Just remember to create change you have to stand in the space of “NO BLAME, NO JUDGEMENT”. It is not about ‘who did what’ it is about ‘who will do what to create change’!