Abnormal Psychology I Chose to Write Term Paper

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Abnormal Psychology

I chose to write about Attention Deficit Disorder because an uncle of mine (I will call him "Uncle Bill") was recently diagnosed with it. Uncle Bill is about 40 years old and admits he has had a hard time living a normal adult life. He is glad he was diagnosed but also a little confused. According to the research I have found, it is called "ADD" or "ADHD" or "AD/HD," the abbreviation used in DSM-IV. Sources say that it has to begin in childhood but often lasts throughout life, making problems for the person as an adult as well as during childhood (Arcus, 2001). According to Uncle Bill, who was willing to talk to me quite freely about this, his would have been diagnosed in childhood except that when he was a child, his doctor tells him, it was often overlooked. Research I found say that from 3% - 9% of children may have AD/HD. (Smucker & Hedayat, 2001).

I asked Uncle Bill why he thought he went undiagnosed in childhood, and he said that it was because he wasn't a behavior problem. He was active, but he didn't really make big problems most of the time. He heard his parents describe him as "all boy" and a "rascal," and he got told over and over that he needed to learn to think before he acted. He says these things could be warning signs but they just weren't noticed when he was little. According to the research I found, which I have given to Uncle Bill, most children get excitable or don't pay full attention sometimes, but for children with AD/HD it is typical behavior for them. Sometimes their behavior is described as immature, or more appropriate for a child younger than them. They have trouble paying attention in class (Arcus, 2001). This fits with what Uncle Bill said. He said the doctor had him bring in his childhood report cards, which were full of comments like "Sometimes he acts silly or immature," and "He would do better if he paid attention more." He says his parents did not punish him for those comments. He thinks he was pretty lucky that way.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), the diagnostic symptoms for AD/HD are listed. It divides AD/HD into three types: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined. According to Arcus (2001), most people have the combined type, showing some signs of inattention and some signs of hyperactivity. My uncle says that would have described him as a child but that now he doesn't think he's hyperactive. However, he does say he is inattentive and impulsive. As I look at my uncle, I'm not sure this is entirely a bad thing. He is the one in the family who is willing to take the little kids to explore creeks, look for fossils and find salamanders. He spent a lot of time doing this as a child and he knows a lot of things that interest children. He's always been one of my favorite relatives.

I noticed that DSM-IV describes the situation of people like Uncle Bill, who weren't diagnosed until adulthood. It says that they don't have to be diagnosed in childhood, but the pattern of symptoms have to have been present by age seven, even if they were only noticed in retrospect. That is exactly my uncle's situation. Uncle Bill also says that the condition is usually genetic. He suspects that his father has it also, and he thinks maybe that's why his dad didn't give him too hard a time for some of the harebrained (my uncle's words) things he did as a child. For instance, when he was about 10, he decided to see how big a whole a lot of firecrackers would make. He dug a hole a couple of feet from the house, and took all the firecrackers he had bought for the Fourth. He tied them together, put them in the hole, lit the fuse, and hid behind a tree. He says it blew a huge hole in the ground and broke a window. He expected to get into a lot of trouble for it, but his dad just made him help fix the window and fill in the hole, and told him he figured he wouldn't do that one again. His dad did tell him he was lucky he wasn't badly hurt. There was broken glass embedded in the tree.

I asked Uncle Bill how he was diagnosed and he said took a while. He had to fill out questionnaires and so did his parents, and he said a psychologist did some work to see whether he had any other conditions. He said he is also a little anxious and mildly depressed, but he thinks the depression is just about gone with the diagnosis because his life makes more sense to him now. In children, researchers record the kinds of behaviors the child shows. They also look to make sure there are no physical causes and that the child's hearing and vision are OK. (Smucker & Hedayat, 2001). According to Arcus (2001) these steps are important because other things can look like AD/HD. They reported one case where out of about 250 children, only 38% actually had AD/HD although nearly all of them were diagnosed with something.

Treatment for AD/HD includes medication and any other interventions the person needs to cope with life better (Arcus, 2001). I asked Uncle Bill what his treatment will be. He said that he will be starting on medication soon, and he believes that will help a lot. But he said the psychologist told him he will also have to do a fair amount of work to undo bad habits he may have formed over the years. Uncle Bill was very frank with me and said that one of those bad habits is that he procrastinates, even on important things like paying bills, and that two weeks ago his lights were turned off because of it. He had the money to pay the bill but just hadn't gotten around to it. In children, treatment may include behavior modification, tutoring, social skills training, or other strategies to help them lead a happier life, but that medication is a lot of help to most children with AD/HD (Arcus, 2001). Arcus did not that for some children, side effects can make medications a bad idea for them. Those side effects can include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, headaches or stomach-aches or mood changes.

Experts also note that medication alone is not usually the best solution. Uncle Bill says that he will be continuing with the psychologist in a very practical way. They will identify areas where the AD/HD makes difficulties for him and then try to come up with solutions - for instance, ways to avoid paying bills late. Other researchers note that children often need some kind of psychological help, because many children with AD/HD have depression or self-esteem problems (Jensen et. al., 1999).

One thing Uncle Bill complained about was that some people have tried to tell him that AD/HD does not exist, or that it's just excuse-making. He heard this from his own father. He thinks his father just feels guilty because he didn't get help as a child, but it still bothers him. I found research demonstrating that children with AD/HD actually have different brain structure than those without AD/HD (Baving et. al., 1999), and I gave it to him.

He also said that one of the first things his father said was "They're not going to put you on that drug, are they?" Uncle Bill just said that he trusted his doctor and would follow his instructions. I did notice in my research that there's a lot of criticism regarding the use of medication for AD/HD (Jensen et. al., 1999), but personally I think some of Uncle Bill's problems sound pretty serious, like having his electricity cut off, and I hope the meds will help him. Uncle Bill said that he was hoping there would be a natural treatment for it, but that his doctor says that they don't work. Nevertheless, a search for something other than prescription medication seems important to some people (Chan et. al., 2000). Uncle Bill says he's going to give medication a try first.

I was surprised that Uncle Bill was so willing to talk about all of this so freely, but he had mentioned his diagnosis over Labor Day of this year. I asked him why he did that, and he said he wasn't sure but that he thought there were several reasons. He said that when he was a child he knew he was different but he didn't understand why. He knew he did some things he called "bone-headed" (such as the stunt with the firecrackers), and he was hoping people would understand why he was the way he was. But then he laughed and said that he also just plain talks too much. He said he tends to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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