Over the past several years, people have become more aware of autism and what it entails. This of course is great news for those who cope with its challenges every day. Parents can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone and that there are abundant resources available to help them best meet their children’s needs after diagnosis. Even teachers can access a wide range of lesson plans that appropriately serve children on the spectrum. But what about adults who think they may have autism? How can they get a proper diagnosis? If you are wondering if you might fall on the spectrum and are not sure what to do next, read on for some information and helpful tips.
To start, below are some characteristics commonly observed in adults with autism.
You Are Fixated on One Specific Topic
Maybe you know more about birds than anyone you know and are always eager to share interesting facts about geese migration patterns. Perhaps you can drone on endlessly about 19th century poets. Having an obsession with a specific topic to the point of struggling to discuss anything else is a classic symptom of autism and similar disorders. People who manifest this symptom might even see their “obsession” as a safe haven from things that scare them, like large crowds.
Making Friends is Difficult for You
A lot of people struggle to meet new people and maintain meaningful, lasting relationships with them. However, making and keeping friends is notably challenging for those with autism. Even those who do make friends regularly might struggle to relate to them on a basic level, straining the friendship as a result.
Irony, Sarcasm and Figures of Speech Often Fly Over Your Head
So, somebody told you a really funny joke. At least--it was supposed to be funny. Other people are laughing. Many are at least smiling, knowing something you don’t. All you can do, however, is think “huh?” You might face similar confusion when someone uses figurative language or gives a sarcastic response.
You Struggle to Abandon the Familiar
Many people have a daily routine so familiar to them that they perform it without much thought. For people with autism, breaking that routine can be distressing. For instance, the average person probably would probably be just mildly annoyed if they had to wait an extra ten minutes to go to lunch at work. Someone with autism, however, would probably get anxious over this disruption.
You Feel Very Introverted
Because of their difficulty in social situations, some people with autism prefer to forgo those situations altogether. As a result, they keep to themselves. They might spend this alone time doing things that make them feel most at ease, like reading or listening to music.
I Think I Might Have Autism. What’s Next?
If you fit several of these descriptions, you might fall on the autism spectrum. However, there are some steps you should take to get a proper diagnosis. Read on to learn more.
First Up: Get a Proper Evaluation
As with any condition, it is extremely important you seek out a professional’s opinion before looking into treatment. You must understand that most psychologists who specialize in autism and spectrum disorders follow diagnostic procedures best suited for children. Additionally, the parents play a major role in making an accurate diagnosis--something that many adults do not have. With these things in mind, you would be best served finding a psychologist who treats adults with autism and thus knows what to look for. Testing will likely involve a lot of talking on your part and much observation from the psychologist.
Be Forthcoming with the Psychologist about Your History
Once you find a psychologist who suits your needs, go to your appointment ready to both ask questions and to share a lot of personal history. In other words, the psychologist will likely want a detailed account of your childhood and medical history leading up to the present. Understand that he is not trying to prod for the sake of curiosity; he is trying to get a picture of who you are. You are not the first person this psychologist has seen with these problems, and be grateful for that. All that experience means that he knows exactly how to help you, whether you fall on the spectrum or not.
For more information on how to cope with specific psychological conditions, visit Dr. Syras Derksen.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2029, the last of the Baby Boomer Generation will have reached age 65. This means that in a mere 11 years, 20% of the United States population will have reached the retirement age --and these statistic are only accounting for the U.S.! Let’s face it, our population is aging and we need to be ready for the challenges that are to come. As George R. R. Martin once said, “Knowledge is a weapon arm yourself well for battle.” The more we learn about potential mental health issues now, the better prepared we will be in the future.
Statistics show that 20% of older adults and 37% of adults living in nursing homes suffer from depression. If that isn’t bad enough, in this age group the symptoms are often overlooked. You may be wondering how symptoms of such a serious disease could go unnoticed. Unfortunately they are often attributed to other events that will inevitably occur when a person reaches this age bracket i.e. loss of a loved ones and coping with bodily changes. If you are currently entering senescence, remember that you are not alone. In fact, you belong to a fairly large world demographic. One of the best things you can do to prevent depression is create bonds with those who are dealing with the same issues. Building a good support system will do wonders for your mental health and overall outlook on life. Keeping friends and family close will remind you of all the good in the world.
One study said that at 20% older Americans have the highest suicide rate among any age group. Remember that suicide is never the answer. If you develop depression that leads to suicidal thoughts, please visit your doctor immediately. Additionally, you should try to find a hobby that brings you joy. Whether it’s painting, playing and instrument, or even writing blog articles, find your passion. When you become passionate about a specific endeavor, it can very quickly become an excellent reason to get up in the morning.
After looking at the statistics, it is apparent that our society is in great need of efficient treatments for older patients dealing with substance abuse. An estimated 17% of older adults misuse and abuse alcohol and medications. This estimate doesn’t even include the number of seniors who are at risk for this type of behavior. We here at Oakville encourage you to see your physician regularly. Only a licensed professional can tell you provide you with the help and treatment necessary to stay healthy, clear headed, and away from potentially harmful substances. Remember, as you get older, you will much likely need to be placed on various medications. Always take them as directed. Failure to do so can lead down a dark path that does not have a happy ending for you or your family.
Anxiety is another mental health problem that tends to be overlooked. Because this disorder can present itself with a multitude of different symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnose. According to a study on mental health issues in the elderly, 9% of those age 95 and above, who do not experience dementia, have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Seniors should make themselves aware of these statistics so that they can try to prevent adding themselves to these ranks. Although anxiety can be difficult to prevent, there are a few methods that seniors can do to keep this disorder at bay. For example, seniors should keep their lives as stress free as possible. By eliminating stress, seniors will be more likely to stay relaxed and prevent anxiety from clouding their judgement.
Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
The last of these four disorders is by far the most difficult to deal with. Alzheimer's Disease currently affects 12 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to increase to more than 22 million people by 2025. The number of people dealing with this terrible disease is rapidly increasing and causing heartbreak to many families around the globe. If you are unaware Alzheimer's Disease is the disorder that causes dementia, otherwise known as the irreversible deterioration of intellectual ability. Although scientists have developed means of detecting it early, there is still no known cure for this disease. As a senior, you must visit your physician often! Early diagnosis of this disease is of the utmost importance. When detected early, your doctors can drastically slow the course of this disease, giving you more years to spend with the ones you love.
Guarding yourself against mental health disorders is vital to living a long, productive life.
Trying to navigate a relationship with a narcissist can be a difficult feat. While narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is rare, affecting less than 1% of the general population, most people demonstrate narcissistic tendencies over time.
Narcissism is marked by many traits including a lack of empathy, grandiose thoughts and behaviors, entitlement, and a strong need for validation. These traits make healthy communication and negotiation a challenge, which can lead to frustration and eventually ruin relationships. One of the major characteristics of a narcissistic negotiator is the tendency for them to overestimate the power of their position and underestimate the power of yours. This can lead to continued misunderstanding and escalation in conflict.
Admiration Vs. Rivalry
Both admiration and rivalry can play a part in how narcissists interact. Both of these traits contribute to the maintenance of a grandiose self-image. It has been shown that narcissistic traits are great for building relationships in the short-term, but are disastrous in the long-term.
A research project in 2017 found was conducted to look at the admiration behaviour vs. rivalry behaviour in narcissists. This admiration was defined as the promotion of positivity in the person's self-view. Rivalry was the tendency to protect their self-image by being negative towards others. They found that it was tendency towards needing admiration that was what helped narcissists build relationships in the short-term. However, it was the tendency towards rivalry that cause relationships to break-apart over the long-term.
It is likely that this dynamic also occurs in negotiating. In the short-term relationships can flourish, but it would be expected that negotiations would also elicit strong rivalry tendencies that could produce negative acrimonious interactions. This fluctuation between these two sides could also be disorienting for the participants and observers.
What Should You Do?
When dealing with someone who tends to show narcissistic characteristics, it is important to make sure you are able to protect your self-esteem and your feelings. If you have a relationship with someone with NPD or with someone who often shows narcissistic traits, here are a few communication tips to keep in mind:
While you can neither control nor change the actions and thought patterns of someone who behaves narcissistically, remember that you are in control of your own actions and feelings. If you feel a conversation is leading to an unproductive argument or spiraling out of control, take a step back and think about how you can stay in control of the situation. Do your best to prevent frustration on your end from negatively influencing the way you communicate with the other person. Avoid building a negative case against them in your mind or lashing out in anger by taking control of your own thoughts and actions.
Avoid Unhealthy Conversation
You might be tempted to feel negatively about yourself when communicating with a narcissist. A narcissist might display little to no empathy for your feelings or try to blame you for a conflict. While it is frustrating to solve an issue with someone who refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions, it is important for you to remember the big picture: you are in charge of your feelings, and you do not have to give this person power over your sense of self.
When negotiating with a narcissist begins to seem one-sided or the other person stops listening and is no longer interested in a healthy dialogue, you can stop the discussion. Communicate your feelings with the other person and express that you would prefer to continue the discussion at a later time when he or she is ready to listen to and respect your feelings. Even though a narcissist might feel entitled to your time, energy, and praise, they are just one person, and you do not have to give them every single thing they want just because they demand it from you. You do not have to sacrifice your self-esteem and energy to communicate with a narcissist.
Become Aware of Narcissistic Tendencies
As you spend time with a person with NPD or narcissistic tendencies, be sure to make note of the character traits they exhibit that might lead to unhealthy communication between the two of you. By becoming aware of these traits, you know when to stop a potentially unproductive conversation or disagreement. This will also give you a starting place for learning how to develop strategies to deal with these behaviors effectively. If you cannot avoid dealing with a narcissist on a regular basis, you should practice self-care by preparing yourself to handle the different character strengths that they might misuse.
Separate the Behavior from the Person
A trademark characteristic of narcissists is the need to be validated. Effective communication will not happen if you label the other individual based on their actions. When you become aware of their narcissistic behaviors and you want to communicate your feelings, you need to make sure you separate these behaviors from the person. Use “I” statements to express your feelings instead of placing blame that might make them feel attacked or invalidated. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re selfish, and you only care about yourself” you could say, “I do not feel cared for when you do this.” Doing this provides the space for the other person to listen and change, and it will help them pinpoint an area where they need to improve.
For helpful strategies that can make it easier for you to identify narcissistic behaviors that you demonstrate or that are exhibited by somebody close to you, visit www.oakvillewellnesscenter.com.
Leahy, R. (2014). Impediments and strategies in negotiating: A cognitive therapy model. Handbook of International Negotiating.
Wurst, S. N., Gerlach, T. M., Dufner, M., et al. (2017). Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 280-306.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder affecting approximately 3.4% of adults. Symptoms vary, but amongst the most common are distractedness and impulsivity as well as hyperactivity.
The number of children being diagnosed with ADHD in the US has been increasing in recent years. ADHD however, may also be diagnosed in adulthood, with many adults realising that the lifelong difficulties they have faced may be due to something more underlying.
Given the lower prevalence of ADHD worldwide, it is remarkable that approximately 25% of those treated for alcohol and substance abuse problems also have co-occurring ADHD. The link between ADHD and substance abuse is well-documented but the reasons behind it are less understood.
WHY IS THERE A LINK?
This is a complex question as it is unclear whether the qualities of ADHD lead to addiction, or whether the way ADHD is treated (medication etc.) may lead to substance abuse.
There is little evidence for the latter. Treating ADHD with medications like Adderall does not increase the abuse of other substances, but reduces risk. Engaging with medication and treatment programmes has been found to reduce the likelihood of becoming involved in criminal behaviour. Another study which followed children with ADHD into adulthood found that stimulant medications did not increase the risk of drug and/or alcohol abuse into adulthood.
The evidence therefore, seems to indicate that the actual traits associated with ADHD – like hyperactivity, impulsivity etc. may make individuals vulnerable to substance use.
An interesting study conducted by Harvard Medical school, found that out of those with ADHD who were abusing substances, only 30% were doing it for enjoyment only. The other 70% used it to improve sleep, mood etc. This tells us that individuals with ADHD may be self-medicating to treat the problems they may be experiencing.
The restlessness and hyperactivity associated with ADHD makes concentrating on repetitive tasks difficult. Therefore, those with ADHD are prone to boredom, which substance use can help them to deal with. Without a diagnosis, those enrolled in programmes of study may turn to substances to help them cope with study stress or an inability to concentrate during lectures.
ADHD, particularly when left undiagnosed and untreated, can be a stressful disorder to live with. Tasks that may take a person without difficulties two hours may take an individual with ADHD four. This can make schoolwork or the working environment extremely stressful, with self-esteem often suffering as a result.
Those with ADHD tend to be less successful academically, and this in time can lead to difficulties holding down jobs and earning money. Again, this leads individuals vulnerable to substance abuse.
Treating Co-occurring Disorders
ADHD, when undiagnosed, also makes substance abuse harder to treat. The difficulties associated with it make engaging in regimented treatment programs more difficult. Individual talk-therapy, often requiring long, concentrated sessions, can be difficult to focus on and the impulsivity associated with the disorder may make relapse more likely.
What Can Be Done to Help?
It is extremely important for those with ADHD to be diagnosed. An experienced professional will have a range of clinical interviews and measures at their disposal in order to accurately assess whether ADHD is present.
This often requires the professional to take case history and they may also call on a parent or sibling to ascertain how long symptoms have been present and the effects they have had at various stages of the individual’s life.
Often, when those with ADHD and addiction issues present for treatment, it is primarily due to the addiction problems. The realisation that ADHD is also present can be a remarkable moment for the addict, as the complicated tapestry of difficulties and addiction problems they have faced can begin to make sense.
Once diagnosis has been made, treatment can be tailored to take the comorbid ADHD into account. This is far more effective than treating the addiction only.
Simple changes and learning how to better organise time and money can all make a massive difference to adults with ADHD. With time coping strategies can be developed to help minimize distractions and improve attention spans.
In terms of prevention for those already diagnosed with ADHD, exercise has been found to be an effective habit for those with ADHD to adapt. Regular exercise provides structure and stimulates the brain, making it less likely that those with ADHD will turn to substance abuse.
The strong relationship now evident in the scientific literature means that it can be stated with some certainty that ADHD places individuals at risk of abusing substances. It may be helpful for parents of children with ADHD to speak to them about the risks they may encounter in the future, and the added complications they may face when experimenting with substances.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
Registered Psycholog and Winnipeg Therapist
Conners, C. K., Erhardt, D., Epstein, J. N., Parker, J. D. A., Sitarenios, G., & Sparrow, E. (1999). Self-ratings of ADHD symptoms in adults I: Factor structure and normative data. Journal of Attention Disorders, 3(3), 141-151.
Lee, S. S., Humphreys, K. L., Flory, K., Liu, R., & Glass, K. (2011). Prospective association of childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use and abuse/dependence: a meta-analytic review. Clinical psychology review, 31(3), 328-341.
Mannuzza S, Klein RG, Truong NL, Moulton JL 3rd, Roizen ER, Howell KH, Castellanos FX. Age of methylphenidate treatment initiation in children with ADHD and later substance abuse: Prospective follow-up into adulthood. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2008; 165: 604-609
Wilens, T. E., Biederman, J., Mick, E., Faraone, S. V., & Spencer, T. (1997). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with early onset substance use disorders. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 185(8), 475-482.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the world’s most common childhood disorders, with an estimated prevalence of 5.29%. It is also a highly misunderstood neurodevelopmental condition.
Whilst many associate it with hyperactivity and overmedication, particularly in young boys, ADHD encompasses a wide range of symptoms. ADHD is also being increasingly diagnosed in adults and girls.
ADHD is diagnosed three times more frequently in boys than girls. Not long ago, however, this figure was closer to 10 to 1. Although the margins are narrowing, by adulthood the level of diagnoses across the sexes is roughly the same - so to what can we attribute the lower rates identified in childhood?
One potential explanation is that the symptoms observed in girls and boys can be quite different. Boys tend to exhibit the more “obvious” signs of ADHD such as hyperactivity and conduct disorder, whereas the difficulties experienced by girls tend to be attentional such as daydreaming in class.
For this reason, ADHD in girls may not be as obvious in an educational setting and therefore fall under the radar.
The hyperactive symptoms more commonly displayed by boys are more likely to be problematic in the home or classroom, and may therefore more quickly draw the attention of teachers, special needs officers etc.
Girls on the other hand, tend to experience the difficulties of ADHD in a more internal manner. It has also been argued that as girls are socialised by society to behave in a more reserved manner that they are better than boys at covering up symptoms.
There is also limited public knowledge in terms of the different ways ADHD may express itself among the sexes.
So in what ways may ADHD look different in girls than boys?
An interesting paper by Rucklidge (2010) explored gender differences in ADHD. In a review of previous studies, she found a number of differences in a variety of areas.
This is potentially the most widely recognised symptom of ADHD and is the main symptom that boys tend to exhibit more than their female counterparts. Children with ADHD may find it difficult to sit still and may also exhibit impulsivity for example non- stop talking, making inappropriate comments and being impatient.
Although many children may be high-energy, in order to meet the clinical criteria for these facet of ADHD the hyperactivity and impulsivity demonstrated must be impacting the child’s life and have been doing so for six months or more.
Inattentive ADHD is that which leads to trouble focusing and being easily distracted. Children with ADHD are daydreamers who get bored easily. Whilst this could easily be said of many children, in the case of those with inattentive ADHD this leads to trouble completing schoolwork and avoiding tasks requiring focus. Children with ADHD may also be highly disorganised with messy rooms.
Again, whilst many of these are common childhood traits, those with ADHD will suffer both at home and at school due to the severity of these symptoms.
Girls display attentional ADHD more so than boys.
Tactile Defensiveness (TD) refers to both behaviours and emotional responses which are out of proportion to tactile (relating to sense of touch) stimuli. Children with TD may be overwhelmed by sensory overload and in extreme cases may find everyday activities such as having hair brushed or eating cold food intolerable.
TD is commonly associated with ADHD and is exhibited more frequently by females.
Social and Psychological Functioning:
Studies have also found some marked differences in these areas between girls and boys. Boys have been found to be more aggressive, particularly with peers. Interestingly, it has been found that girls suffer from lower self-esteem and demonstrate poorer coping strategies than boys.
This could be due to the more internalised nature of female ADHD but could also be the result of later diagnosis.
Effects of late diagnosis
Early identification and intervention are obviously important in terms of determining future outcomes. Children who receive support at home and at school are much more likely to manage their condition into the future.
Unfortunately, at present ADHD tends to be diagnosed later in girls than in boys. Until recently, the American Psychiatric Association diagnosis manual specified 7 as the cut- off age for symptoms to be evident. Although this has recently been increased to 12, it is quite possible that the narrow age- range previously provided prevented some diagnoses from being made.
Some studies estimate that as many as 50- 75 percent of girls with ADHD are not diagnosed.
Studies have found that both men and women diagnosed as adults struggle in a wide array of domains and have lower self- esteem, poorer coping strategies and higher levels of depression. In addition adults identified with ADHD later in life tend to have negative attributions about themselves.
The lack of a diagnosis may lead individuals to having their difficulties attributed to laziness or lack of ability both by themselves and others.
As of yet however, no study has compared those diagnosed during adulthood with those diagnosed during childhood.
So what should you look out for in order to spot the signs of ADHD in girls?
The following signs may indicate that ADHD is going unnoticed:
If this sounds familiar it may be worth speaking to a GP or therapist in order to further investigate the basis of these problems. Given the lack of awareness regarding girls with ADHD, and the detrimental impact of later diagnosis, it is important not to let girls with ADHD continue to fall under the radar.
By Dr. Syras Derksen
Hamed, A. M., Kauer, A. J., & Stevens, H. E. (2015). Why the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder matters. Frontiers in psychiatry , 6 .
Rucklidge, J. J. (2010). Gender differences in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America , 33 (2), 357-373.