Raising Awareness about ADHD


Be sure to know these tips about ADHD (Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

You might think the last thing the ADHD community needs is more news coverage since it seems to be in the press and on the television all the time. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health problems that affect our lives, there is such a thing as bad press and most of the press related to ADHD is controversial or sensational rather than informative or factual. This is why it is more important than ever to use ADHD Awareness Month to educate and inform people about this very real condition that affects about 11% of American children.

While there has been a shift in society’s thinking about this condition in recent years and the focus of ADHD awareness campaigns is no longer whether or not it is a real condition, there is still work to be done.   Misinformation abounds and there is still a significant stigma attached to being diagnosed with the condition. This means that people who have the disorder and not getting diagnosed and those who are diagnosed aren’t getting the treatment they need. Working to resolve those two problems is the continuing goal of ADHD Awareness Month and The Many Faces of ADHD campaign.

In an effort to help educate and inform, here are some of the facts about ADHD that everyone should know.

Who Does ADHD Affect?

  • ADHD doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of every race, ethnicity, religion, age, and gender. Anyone can have ADHD.
  • ADHD doesn’t care how much money you have. People with ADHD are rich and poor, successful and unsuccessful, single, married, and divorced, thriving, and struggling.
  • In truth, there is no “typical” person with ADHD.

How do I get Tested for ADHD?

  • There is no ‘test’ for ADHD, doctors cannot talk a blood sample to determine if someone has it.
  • There are specific diagnostic criteria that mental health professionals and other practitioners use in order to diagnose the disorder.
  • The process of diagnosing the disorder can be complex, especially if there are other co-existing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.
  • Diagnosis relies on anecdotal evidence and most practitioners use a variety of well-respected tools and tests as part of their diagnostic process.

Why Should Someone Get Diagnosed?

  • Unfortunately, most people with ADHD will experience difficulties because of the disorder.
  • It can cause significant problems in all areas of a person’s life including school, work, personal relationships, social development, and long term happiness.
  • Research has shown that diagnosis and treatment are the best way to avoid or overcome these challenges.

How is ADHD Treated?

  • ADHD can be treated using medications like, but not limited to, Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta.
  • ADHD can also be treated through participating in therapy, coaching, and behavior modification programs.
  • For most people with the disorder, a combined approach of therapy, skill building, medication, and coaching is the most effective way to treat the various symptoms of the condition.

For more information about ADHD or to find ways to participate in ADHD Awareness month, visit the ADHD Awareness Month website.

How to Stay Connected Through the Contentious Teen Years

Follow these tips to build healthy relationships with your teens (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Follow these tips to build healthy relationships with your teens (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

One of the hardest things about being a parent is to know when to be firm, when to be soft, when to be strict, when to give in, when to hold them close, and when to let them go.  This is never truer than when that child becomes a teenager.

Seemingly overnight, their happy, friendly, lovable child is transformed into this frustrated, moody, blue-haired teenager that is embarrassed to be seen with them and has no interest in anything they have to say.  The often rapid transformation that accompanies the teen years can be as overwhelming for parents as it is for teens and many parents make the mistake of withdrawing and pulling away because they don’t know what to do with this stranger that looks like their child.

Unfortunately, the times when parents are most likely to pull back are also the times those teens often need them the most.  The key is to use communication to bridge the distance between parent and child so that they have a way to navigate the challenges of the teen years together.  Here are some ways to keep the lines of communication open so that they can come to you when they need you and you can guide them when that’s what you need to do.

Be the Adult

Teenagers are very emotional and most of the time they are still learning to control those emotions.  When they disagree with their parents, those emotions can come out in unpleasant and hurtful ways.  It is at this time that parents must be the adult in the relationship which doesn’t mean handing out discipline or shutting things down.  It means controlling your own emotions.  It means remaining understanding and supportive rather than becoming emotional and retaliatory.

No parent-teen relationship ever benefitted from a parent returning fire when a teenager started spewing insults.  This doesn’t mean laying down and letting them become verbally abuse, it just means choosing not to respond in kind or to give into the emotional tide of the moment both of which will only damage your relationship.

Be Available

Even though it may not feel as though your teenager needs you anymore, they do; they just need you for different things.  Instead of protecting them from the world, they need you to help them learn to protect themselves.  Instead of being their guide, they need you to support them as they learn to find their own way.  This can be a difficult transition for parents who experience the change in dynamics as loss or rejection.  This can cause you to turn away from your teen when what your teen needs most is to know that you are there if they need you, that you are available if they need advice, and that you will be there to catch them if they start to fall.

Let Them Be

It can be terrifying for parents when their teenager seems to become a different person overnight or when they seem to be adopting a new persona every month.  But when parents try to impose their will on their teenagers emerging identity and independence, it almost always causes conflict.  Rather than trying to guide or force them into becoming the version of themselves that you want them to be, let them be and encourage them to explore who they are so they can choose who they want to be.


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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Resources for Parents of Teens

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD

Know the signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder that affects people of all ages.  A person with OCD experiences severe anxiety related to specific things where the level of anxiety or worry doesn’t match what is happening.  The specific things that they have this reaction to are called obsessions.  Teenagers can develop obsessions related to normal teenage problems like making friends, doing well in school, or fitting in with peers.  But someone with OCD can develop an obsession about almost anything.

In order to deal with these obsessions, those with the condition will participate in ritualistic behaviors related to their obsession that help to ease the level of anxiety they are feeling.  These behaviors are called compulsions.   The need to perform this ritualized action can be so strong that it may feel impossible not to do it.

The following resources provide more information about OCD, how it is diagnosed, how it is treated, and what parents can do to support their teens.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents from  the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Provides a good overview of OCD in adolescents and provides links to other resources
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation – Offers parents insight in what it is like to live with OCD, an overview of treatment options, and a resource for finding help locally.
  • Child and Adolescent OCD from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Gives parents a good overview of the most common obsessions and compulsions experienced by children and teens and discusses the effect OCD can have on the overall family
  • OCD in Teens from Beyond OCD – Offers a section of information ”Just for Teens” about this disorder that includes an overview of the disorder, a list of symptoms, information on why therapy works, and links to other resources
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation – Provides an explanation of what it can feel like to have OCD, a downloadable brochure about OCD, and links to information on treatment and other resources.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Overview from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Provides parents with basic information on symptoms, treatment options, and offers additional information on hoarding, which can sometimes accompany OCD, even in teens.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD  from the National Institutes of Mental Health – Provides a basic overview, information on symptoms and treatments, a description of common risk factors, and information on how to live with this disorder.
  • The Role of Personnel in School  from OCD Education Station, Beyond OCD – Although this resource is targeted at those who work in the school, it can provide valuable information for parents about what kinds of resources, assistance, and accommodations may be available to support their teen’s OCD during the school day.
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Dating Violence: The Things Parents Should Look For

Make sure you know the warning signs  to protect your teen from dating violence (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Make sure you know the warning signs to protect your teen from dating violence (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Unfortunately, dating violence is all too prevalent amongst today’s teens. The signs of it occurring may not be easily observable, and your teen may even try to hide that it’s happening to them.  So, as a parent, it is imperative to know the warning signs of dating violence and the things to be on the lookout for.

Things Parents and Friends Should Look For:

  • Withdrawing from friends, family & activities they used to enjoy.
  • Avoiding places or people without explanation.
  • Fear of breaking up with partner.
  • Feeling tied down, feeling like he/she has to check-in.
  • Fear of making decisions or bring up certain subjects so that the other person won’t get mad.
  • Trying harder and loving the boyfriend/girlfriend enough in order to make everything fine.
  • Crying a lot, being depressed or unhappy.
  • Worrying and obsessing about how to please his/her partner and keep them happy.
  • The physical or emotional abuse getting worse over time.  (Red Flag Campaign website)

What To Do:

  • Call the police (911) if there are signs of abuse (bruises, fat lips, unexplained marks).
  • Encourage your loved one to talk to a counselor or someone from the domestic violence hotlines.

If you know someone you suspect may be a victim of dating violence, please don’t delay in intervening and getting them the help, and protection, they may need. For a list of additional resources, please see our Resources page.

Teens Aren’t Getting the Mental Health Care They Need


Mental Health Month

Make sure you know how to get your teen the help they need (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Research has shown that many of our teenagers simply aren’t getting the mental health services they need to treat and overcome mental health conditions that can impact the rest of their lives.  Only about 45% of teenagers with psychiatric disorders receive treatment which is a statistic we, as a community, have to change.   One of the goals of National Mental Health Month, which runs throughout the month of May, is to provide people with the tips and information they need to protect mental health as part of their overall health.

When it comes to the mental health of our teens, parents are generally the deciding factor when it comes to getting help for mental health issues.   They are the ones who reach out to seek treatment and who pursue or fail to pursue the available options for support.  One of the most common challenges parents face is finding the right mental health provider for their teenager, especially if there is no diagnosis or if the parents are reaching out for the first time.  To help parents overcome this challenge, here are some tips parents can use to find the perfect provider for their teen.

  1. Work with Your Teen

Finding the right provider can play a big part in the success of mental health treatment.  For this reason, you and your teen need to work together to identify potential providers that might be a good fit. Sit down and talk about what kind of provider they want to work with and use that as your basis to move forward.

  1. Make a List of Qualifications

While talking to your teen, brainstorm the kind of qualifications you need to look for in a provider.  These can include gender, age, specialty, experience, etc.

  1. Ask for Recommendations

You can ask friends and family for recommendations if you feel comfortable discussing the situation with others.  You can also talk to the guidance counselor at your child’s school or their pediatrician to get other recommendations.

  1. Make a List

Come up with a list of potential providers and then call your insurance company.  Verify that all the people on your list are covered by the plan.  Once you have confirmed coverage, take some time to look them up online and do some research.

  1. Pick One to Start With

You may have more than one provider on your list after completing your research.  That’s okay.  Just pick the one that seems like the best fit and schedule an initial session.  Keep the list of alternative providers as a backup in case the provider you picked isn’t available of proves to be less than an ideal fit for your teen.

Taking the time to pick providers that are well suited to your teenager is very important.  While many teens are open to the idea of mental health treatment, you may only have one good shot and if they end up with an ill-suited provider, it can be difficult to get them to try again with someone else.


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Emotional Overeating Awareness Month

obesity healthy eating

If you struggle with emotional overeating, these tips can help you get on the road towards better health (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

One of the many challenges we face as a society is overcoming the recent rise in obesity rates among both adolescents and adults. With more than a third of the population currently categorized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as obese  and more than two thirds considered overweight, now is the time to seek solutions for what many experts believe has become an epidemic.

While there are many factors believed to contribute to the obesity epidemic, the bottom-line is that most of us are simply eating and drinking more calories than our bodies require and when we have more than we need, the extra calories are stored as fat. In order to address this problem, we need to identify and correct this rampant overconsumption of calories. This is one of the goals of Emotional Overeating Awareness Month.

Emotional overeating happens when a person uses food as a way to feel good. For those that struggle with it, emotional eating offers a refuge from strong negative emotions and a way to dull those emotions so that they don’t have to be dealt with. But, this is not a healthy coping strategy for several reasons.

  1. It leads to weight gain, obesity, and the myriad of health problems caused by those conditions.
  2. It can become a vicious self-perpetuating cycle where the person eats to dull the pain, gains weight, experiences more negative emotions because of the weight gain, and then eats more to dull that pain.
  3. It keeps people from dealing with the source of those emotions.

While none of the people you know who are overweight or obese got that way solely because of emotional overeating, it can be a contributing factor. One of the challenges emotional overeaters face in overcoming this habit is that this kind of overeating often happens on autopilot. People who are eating because of their mood or emotion may not even realize they are eating until they have consumed a considerable number of calories.

There are things that emotional overeaters can do to help curb this behavior. Here are some strategies for dealing with emotional overeating and the emotions that underlie it in healthier ways.

  • Meet with a Nutritionist – A nutritionist or registered dietitian can help someone who struggles with overeating to pinpoint the triggers, behaviors, events, and emotions that support their overeating habits. They can also help identify healthy calorie intake levels, recommend ways to adopt healthier eating habits, and work to help improve overall eating habits and attitudes about food.
  • Meet with a Mental Health Provider – If emotional eating is a significant problem, there are emotional issues that need to be addressed and new, healthier coping strategies to be developed. A mental health provider can provide assistance and support for both.
  • Pay Attention – So much of emotional overeating is habit that happens without conscious thought that simply paying attention to what is going on in the mind, body, environment, etc. can help decrease overeating episodes and provide information needed to help increase the effectiveness of the other two strategies.


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4 Common Types of Counseling, Explained

In honor of National Counseling Month,here are the different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

In honor of National Counseling Month, here are just four different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

April is Counseling Awareness Month which provides us with an excellent opportunity to talk about the different types of therapy that are often grouped under the “counseling” category.

For anyone new to mental health services, it can feel like the providers you are working with are speaking a different language.

Because there are several different therapeutic techniques available, seeking out services for your teen can easily become overwhelming.

To help you feel more comfortable reaching out and getting your teenager the help he or she needs, here is a breakdown of the most common types of psychotherapy in use today.

Gaining a basic understanding of the types of services available can help you to make an informed decision.

To help, here is a basic overview for each of the four most common types of counseling or therapeutic techniques used with teens.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

When people talk about going to “therapy” this is generally what they mean.  CBT is one of the most common types of therapy provided to teens and is often used as a foundation for treatment that can be combined with other types of therapy.

The premise of CBT is that our early lives including our childhood, upbringing, and the environment in which we were raised dictate who we become.

This means that the dysfunctional patterns and coping strategies we learned in our childhood and adolescence follow-us into adulthood.

CBT works to identify and replace the dysfunctional areas with healthy alternatives primarily through talk therapy.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy uses key behavioral modifications to effect change in thought patterns and emotional responses.

It is much more structured than CBT and focuses on changing behaviors in order to overcome challenges.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT uses the same techniques for learning to regulate and manage emotion as CBT but pairs them with practices like mindfulness and acceptance.

Although this type of therapy was originally developed as a way to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is also proving to be effective at helping those who participate in self-harm like cutting and those with mood spectrum disorders.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy takes a completely different approach to helping those with mental health concerns that the behavior-based therapies listed above.

Here, any dysfunction resulting from childhood experiences, traumatic events, or learned behaviors is irrelevant.  Instead, this method of treatment centers on self-actualization, fostering the idea that people are responsible for their own choices and that what matters is taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are being experienced.

It is important to remember that these are only the most common therapeutic approaches used in treating mental health concerns that are often combined with these foundational techniques to better meet the needs of the individual client.

Most mental health providers will have a variety of tools in their toolbox which enables them to tailor their approach to treatment to the strategies, techniques, and tactics that are the most suitable for the situation.

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Why You May Not Want to Yell at Your Teens…Even When You Do

Study reveals you might want to think twice the next time you're tempted to yell at your teen (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Study reveals that you might want to think twice the next time you’re tempted to yell at your teen (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There has never been a parent of a teenager who was not at some point inspired to yell, loudly, at their offspring.  It is the nature of parents and teenagers to butt heads and to disagree.  It is also normal and even expected that teenagers will try to spread their wings and do things their parents don’t think they are ready to do.  Arguments between parents and teens are so common and natural that they are the ultimate teen/parent cliché.  But is all that yelling, swearing, and insulting actually helping?

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan says no and that in actuality, all that hostility and all those harsh words may actually be doing damage.  The findings indicate that even if disagreement, disapproval, and arguing are normal in parent/teen relationships, how you, the parent, chooses to communicate during these troubled times may have a real impact on your teen’s mental health.

The study, which was published in the journal Child Development, found that 13 year olds whose parents yelled at them were more likely to show signs of depression than teens whose parents did not yell.  These results indicate that harsh verbal discipline may be damaging to adolescents in ways not previously understood.  This is one of the first research initiatives to indicate that using harsh words and yelling can have consequences.

The study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and included almost 1,000 two parent families from the U.S that included a 13 year old child.  The research team looked at what differences displayed in families where parents engaged in harsh verbal discipline from those that did not.  Across the participants, the study showed that when parents engaged in harsh verbal discipline at age 13, children were more likely to have conduct problems and display the signs and symptoms of depression.   Additionally, children who displayed conduct problems at age 13 were more likely to have parents who engaged in harsh verbal discipline when their children were ages 13 and 14.

Participants completed surveys over a two year period that tracked information on mental health, parenting tactics, and how parents and children felt about their relationship.

The study also looked to see if there were factors that mitigated this damage.  Many parents believe that as long as there is a strong bond between them and their child, yelling doesn’t have real consequences.  The idea that teenagers somehow understand that parents are only yelling, swearing, and saying mean or insulting things because they love them and want what is best for them is misguided.  In fact, the study showed that the damage done by harsh verbal discipline was not mitigated by or lessened by parental warmth, care or concern.

These findings confirm that even parents who would never consider intentionally doing something that was damaging to their child may be harming them by choosing the wrong words and the wrong tone of voice.

If you find it’s difficult to control how you speak to your teen and would like some help with ways to communicate differently, please contact Doorways or another counselor.


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5 Ways You Can Fight Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a real concern for the longterm health of our teens and adolescents. (photo credit: bigstockphoto.com)

Childhood obesity is a real concern for the longterm health of our teens and adolescents. (photo credit: bigstockphoto.com)

Childhood Obesity Awareness month provides all parents with a great opportunity to take small steps to help combat the obesity epidemic in our children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),  one third of all adolescents in America are either overweight or obese.  At last report by the CDC in 2011, here in Arizona, 11% of our high school students were obese.  There is no question that we must take action now to turn the tide.  At the same time, we, as parents, need to be cautious that we aren’t creating the conditions that make the development of eating disorders more likely in our effort to win the battle of the bulge.

This calls for a balanced approach that focuses more on healthy habits and an active lifestyle than on weight, weight management, and restrictive dieting.  As part of Childhood Obesity Awareness month, here are 5 ways you can fight childhood obesity by putting the focus on living a healthy life.

1.     Involve Everyone

Start by talking to your children about what a healthy lifestyle looks like and brainstorm some ways your family could be healthier.  Once you have some family goals, share that with the other important people in your life.  Tell your parents, siblings, and friends about the changes you are working on and ask for their support.  Let educators, child care providers, coaches, and any others in your life that could impact your family’s ability to achieve these goals know what you are working towards.

2.     Move Together

The best way to get everyone in the family to be more active is to do it together.  Make family time active time by riding bikes, taking karate, learning to kayak, or even just going for a walk as a family. By combining family time and active time, you not only make activity fun for everyone, you set an example of healthy activity for your kids to follow.

3.     Reward Yourselves

Think about how many of the rewards we give ourselves and our children that are tied to food.  Stop doing this.  Look for other ways to reward good behavior, accomplishments in school, and special achievements.  Help your children and yourself by eliminating the link between doing something good and eating a treat.

4.     Back to Basics

One of the benefits of eating dinner at the table as a family is that you tend to eat less than you would if you were eating in front of the TV.  This is true at meal times and when eating snacks.  This practice also gives everyone an opportunity to talk about healthy eating and to reconnect with each other without the impediment of distractions like TV, radio, video games, cell phones, and computers.

5.     Set a Good Example

Setting a good example is not just about eating healthy all the time.  It is also about modeling what to do when things don’t go well.  Making good food choices will help your teens see what and how much to eat.  Seeing how you handle unexpected circumstances and bad days will also show them what to do when things don’t as planned.

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Choosing a Mental Health Provider for Your Teen

Before deciding on a provider for your child, take the time to call, ask questions, and do your research. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Before deciding on a provider for your child, take the time to call, ask questions, and do your research. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

The first challenge in helping your troubled teen get the help they need is accepting that help is needed in the first place.  The good news is that this is often the hardest step.  Once you have determined that your teenager’s needs require the experience of a professional, finding the right mental health provider can seem overwhelming.  This is especially true if this is your first experience with mental health care.   Finding the right provider isn’t always easy but you can simplify it by starting off with a sound strategy.  Here are some tips to help you choose the best mental health provider for your teen.

1.     List Your Must Haves

Next, you need to think about your requirements.  Is your child facing a specific problem like anxiety or depression?  You may want to focus your search on providers that specialize in helping people with the specific challenge your teen is facing.  You may also want someone who has a certain amount of experience or who primarily works with people the same age as your child.

2.     Start Searching

One of the best places to start is to call your health insurance provider and ask for a list of available providers that are covered under your plan.  This gives you a good start and puts you ahead of the game.  You can also ask your child’s guidance department or pediatrician, friends, and family members for a recommendation.  Just remember to double check that any referrals are covered by your insurance plan.

3.     Research Your List

Once you have a list of options, do your research.  Look at their websites.  Google them.  Read any papers they have published or blogs they write.  Use the resources available to you to get to know your options a little and to help whittle down your list.

4.     Check them Out

Check with your state’s licensing board to ensure the people on your list are properly licensed for your state and do not have complaints against them.

5.     Schedule a Session

Take time to vet your final selections yourself before introducing them to your child.  In many cases, teens are willing to try therapy once and if they don’t have a good experience, it can be challenging to get them back through the door.  Meet with each candidate first to discuss your child, your concerns, and then listen to your gut about which is the best candidate for your child.

After you have decided on which provider is the best fit for your child, let your child know that they are going to be seeing a provider and tell your child a little about them before you arrive.