I want my ADHD
If you’re close to my age and you think about songs in the 80s, you just might guess the tune I’m alluding to in my title. Need help? The song title is actually “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights and there’s a phrase repeatedly sung in a cameo by Sting that says, “I want my MTV.”
Most people visiting their medical doctor for an illness, their psychiatrist for depression, or their counselor for ongoing relationship problems WANT something. They may want an antibiotic, something to numb their emotional pain, or a quick set of principles to apply that will make their significant other happier with them. They want relief. If they’re paying for the visit to whatever professional is involved, they usually expect something in return for that copay or especially if it’s full cash pay.
The problem for providers of all types is that it’s not always that easy. The key element in determining whether to GIVE or OFFER something is preferably an accurate assessment of the problem and a proper diagnosis.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in 2018 (www.cdc.gov > antibioticuse), about 30 percent of antibiotics, or 47 million prescriptions, are prescribed unnecessarily in of thedoctors’ offices and emergency departments in the United States. Antibiotics simply will not treat a viral infection so prescribing them unnecessarily has now been shown to actually create more problems such as antibiotic resistant bacteria. To truly know whether the patient has a condition treatable with an antibiotic, the most accurate test is a culture but that costs time, money, and is often inconvenient for provider and patient alike. Whether it’s done or not is a matter of provider choice in many cases. They often feel obligated to write a script for that antibiotic even if they don’t run a culture. But their patient WANTS something, so there you go….
The same can occur in the mental health arena. And just as it is in the provision of medical care, mental health practitioners need an accurate diagnosis before they can prescribe medications (psychiatrists) or therapy treatment plans (counselors, social workers, etc). But patients often enter therapy or treatment with a diagnosis from a previous provider or hospital stay. Despite there being a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5 currently), there is not always agreement among mental health providers regarding what they see in their office or clinic compared to what is listed in the DSM or what has been diagnosed by a previous provider. And with the ubiquitous presence of informal screening instruments on the web, many patients enter therapy with a diagnosis that they’ve given themselves. “Hey, great to meet you, I need help for “my” ADHD, bipolar depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and explosive anger.” But regardless of whether you have a valid diagnosis, there still remains the issue of how to treat a client’s presenting complaints.
Now, what is it that many patients seeking either medical or mental health help do NOT want? They don’t want the provider to ask the PATIENT to do something for themselves. A good medical or mental health provider will address sleep, nutrition, exercise, the nature of their living environment, stressors, and their support network. Why? Because it has been shown that much of what we experience in terms of wellness (or sickness) is related directly to those factors listed above.
The Wild 5 Wellness Study (https://www.wild5wellness.com/) examined those areas and found significant tie in to a person’s emotional well-being associated with how actively they are pursuing activities in those areas. Recent studies have shown positive links between the specific types of food we eat and the impact on whether we have depression. People with positive support systems in place are much less likely to suffer mental illness and much more likely to heal faster if they do suffer illness but have the encouragement of their support group in the process. And sleep? One of the markers many clients have been taught to look for when evaluating a crisis is the use of the acronym H-A-L-T (Hungry-Angry-Lonely-Tired). Notice how that parallels the factors above? When we are exhausted or sleep deprived, we are MUCH more likely to be triggered into an emotional crisis. So, before seeing your medical doctor or mental health professional, take a little time to evaluate your fitness in those areas above. You might be able to achieve a great deal of healing by taking some actions yourself to improve your sleep, nutrition, physical fitness, social connectedness, and the stress in your environment.
As it has been said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Where does that leave us with our “I want my….” culture that exists today?
First, if you are seeing or planning on seeing a new (to you) counselor and have previous experience with being treated for any mental health concerns, consider that your new counselor will have their own unique education, experience, training, and perspective that might compliment or differ from your previous treatment. Neither the previous nor the current treatment are either right or wrong, they may just be different. And different CAN be a good thing.
Second, expect your new counselor to assess you in those multifaceted areas mentioned above. If you have problems in any of those areas, expect your provider to ask you to address them to aid in your healing during your counseling experience. At the same time, if you have success in any of those areas, recognize that success as a valuable resource and be sure to use your positive experiences as tools to help in your healing
Third, do not expect your counselor to do your work for you (I know, shock, right?). Not only is that physically impossible, even if it were, it would not help you become independently healthy and able to prevent and care for your own issues. Think of your counselor not as someone who is there to “fix” you (or your child or mate), but as a trusted guide who will help YOU learn and develop the skills to help yourself now and in the future.
Finally, think of the counseling experience as a type of jump start into a lifestyle of mindfulness and overall wellness. Yes, you may be dealing with crises that are overwhelming right now and all you want is relief. But do not sacrifice potential long term, lifetime gains for short term escape. What you will be or are hopefully going through in your sessions can be modeling for how to treat yourself for the rest of your life. If it’s good, keep it and maintain it. If it’s bad, discard it and protect yourself against it in the future.
Here’s to your health as we are walking together down the road less travelled toward hope and healing
Locke Curfman, LPC