All of us carry emotional wounds which are invisible. These wounds are often passed down through the generations by our parents, who carry their own invisible wounds and scars. We don’t call this illness. We call it the human condition.
When kids show signs of emotional or behavioral troubles they may be sent to a mental health professional who suggests that a “chemical imbalance” is the problem. Here’s what can happen when the family, not just the child, becomes the patient. The side-effects are good.
All families have Rule Systems, but they may not even know it. In this case story, psychiatrist/family therapist Dave Keith treats a family with a child diagnosed with ADHD. Watch how he disrupts the Family Rule system. Good things happen for the child.
Dave: I have to take a moment to applaud my good friend and muse, Amy Begel, who has a splendid
Parenting advice often describes ways to “manage” a child’s temper tantrums. But temper tantrums, or defiant behavior in kids contain important messages for the parents. Often, without meaning to, kids are responding to underlying tensions in the family. They react in the only way they know how: through their behavior. The message: HELP!
Tensions in marriage are normal, and unavoidable. They’re part of the price of intimacy. Problems only occur when these underlying tensions are ongoing, and not acknowledged. They are semi-buried. Children are geniuses at feeling these latent tensions; they often help magnify what hasn’t been addressed. In fact, in their own way, they may be trying to help.
We’re revisiting a past article by Dr. Allen Frances, a prominent psychiatric “insider” who now spends his time railing against the overprescribing of psychiatric medications. Here he talks about the New York Times article which connected the proliferation of “ADHD” in kids to the profiteering by the drug companies. This is a wake up call to parents and professionals alike. Frances says, “as it stands now, we are doing an uncontrolled experiment on our kids with no clue about the long term effects of the meds on their brains and behavior.”
In contemporary culture, as portrayed in commercials for pharmaceuticals, family members are portrayed as bystanders to suffering, having to “manage” the symptoms of their bi-polar loved one, or “suffer” the effects of the depressed person’s symptoms or behavior. But families, couples, all of us, can unwittingly get stuck in patterns, sometimes destructive patterns, of which we are unaware. Those patterns can cause distress in ourselves and others, which can show up as a “symptom” in one person. This is rarely intentional, more a product of the tricky, powerful and subtle nature of relationship dynamics.
Eating disorders are no exceptions. Most of the clinical writing and popular assumptions about anorexia and other eating disorders note that these conditions are characterized by the need for individual “control”. There’s truth to this. But if you expand the lens to include the family, you learn a lot about what this “control” can look like.
Women who feel depressed often see this as a purely personal struggle, believing they have a “chemical imbalance”. They may feel burdened and alone, and responsible and/or guilty for their depression.
In fact, depression is rarely a simple personal affair. Most often, the roots of depression can be found in that person’s intimate relationship sphere, where important parts of our happiness/unhappiness live. Here’s one woman’s story of how she moved from depression to owning her own power.
In this post Dave reflects on a case from his early career in child psychiatry, where he recounts his play therapy experience with a seven-year old autistic girl. He still winces when he remembers his therapeutic mistake, but remains grateful for his relationship with this young, silent girl, and what she taught him.