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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Archive for June, 2014

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Dr. Hallowell Addresses Teens on Sadness and Worry

Dr. Edward Hallowell speaks honestly to teens with LD and AD/HD about depression and anxiety. In this article, he shares his personal and professional insights.

 By Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.
When I was in high school, I was worried or sad a lot of the time. I came from a pretty mixed-up family and didn’t feel very secure within myself. I felt pressure not only to do well academically but also to be liked and accepted by the others in my class. Often I felt on the outside, and I didn’t know what to do to find a way to the happy, secure life I imagined my classmates enjoyed.


I wish someone had been able to sit down with me and explain that my feelings were common among people like me, people who have learning difficulties (I have both dyslexia and attention deficit disorder), as well as people who have a family history of mental illness and alcoholism, as I do. My father had bipolar (or manic-depressive) illness, and my mother was alcoholic.

If all this sounds frightening, take heart. I am a very fulfilled man today. At the age of 52, I have three happy children whom I adore, a wonderful wife whom I cherish, and a multi-faceted job I love. I am a psychiatrist in private practice and on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, a writer, and a public speaker.

Read More at www.greatschools.org

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Dr. Hallowell on ADHD, Audra McDonald & Time Magazine

The recent exchange between Tony winner Audra McDonald, who thanked her parents for not medicating their hyperactive child, and Belinda Luscombe, editor-at-large of Time Magazine, whose child was helped by medication, prompts me to summarize my philosophy as a doctor who’s been treating ADHD for over 30 years, and as a man who has the condition himself: Use whatever works, as long as it’s safe and it’s legal.

Thankfully, we have many tools in our toolbox, from physical exercise, to nutritional interventions, to meditation, to coaching, and yes, to medication, as well as a host of newly developing alternative treatments.

It’s best to avoid polarizing positions, as there is no one right way.  Happily, there are many right ways.  When people ask me if I “believe in” medication, my reply is that medication is not a religious principle. It is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of science, of evidence, weighing each decision on a case-by-case basis.

I see people who have ADHD as being blessed with Ferrari engines for brains, but equipped only with bicycle brakes.  The goal is to strengthen those brakes so these kids–and adults, like me, who have it–can become the champions they have it in them to become.

We have many ways to strengthen those brakes.  So, as long as what you use is safe and legal, use whatever works for you or your child!

Have you been following the discussion surrounding medication and ADHD by Audra McDonald and Belinda Luscombe? As someone who has ADHD and is also a parent to children with ADHD, I know intimately well the struggles families can face. Each child and patient is different—medication is the solution for some, while others like Audra can benefit from alternative methods. In the end we must remember, ADHD is not something to be feared—once harnessed it can be a powerful tool for success! http://ti.me/SwA7I5

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Mindfulness and ADHD

by Cheryl Jacobs,

There are many tasks throughout the day that require our attention. Attending to them requires that we self-regulate and maintain focus, especially difficult with ADHD. Research shows that we all have a limited amount of self-regulation resources and with ADHD the supply is even smaller. I like to think of it as a reservoir that requires refilling throughout the day as we continuously drain our supply. When the reservoir is empty, we have difficulty focusing and coping; our will power is deleted. Mindfulness interventions can refill the reservoir. If we take mindful pauses during the day, we can keep the reservoir topped off. Again, a mindfulness practice teaches us the skills to recognize when the reservoir is in need of a refill.

As we practice mindfulness, we experience moments of peace and awareness. We come to know that quiet, calm space is always there and available to us. I like to compare it to an Eskimo who is asked to see himself relaxing under a palm tree sipping a pina colada. He can imagine it but he has not experienced it. We can ask someone to calm down and feel the peace but if they have never experienced it, it is just a picture. Through mindfulness, we actually have moments of calm and peace. Just knowing that it is always there, below the surface, allows us some relief. It also encourages us to continue the practice.

Mindfulness exercises allow you to observe that your mind is always having thoughts. We learn that we do not have to get caught up in each of them. I like to compare it to sitting by the highway and watching the cars go by. You can simply watch them passing by or you can get caught up with them For instance, “Oh, it’s a Jaguar, I always wanted one of those but I hear they’re always in the shop. Hmm.. There’s a Honda, that might be a good choice but I don’t like that color. What color should I get?” You get the idea. You can talk mindfully to your thoughts. “Thank you very much but right now I’m finishing this project; thank you very much but right now I’m in a meeting.” Recently, I had a client comment how amazing this exercise was for him. He said that he had never realized that he didn’t have to pay attention to each and every thought.

Mindfulness allows us to participate and be present in our lives. We learn to savor our experiences as we stop and bring awareness to the moment. I like to reference Carly Simon’s song Anticipation. There are potent words; “I’m going to stay right here ‘cause these are the good old days.” One day we will look back at a moment remembering what it was like but did we truly experience it at the time. It is important that we learn to check in using mindfulness techniques regularly throughout the day to be sure we are truly in the moment and present for the experience.

I especially remember a day this past winter. I went skiing with my son and my grandson for the first time. My grandson was 5 and really getting it was what I had heard. There were several times when I reminded myself to stop and soak in the experience. Not just the skiing, conditions and mountain but also the fact that I was one lucky lady to be here on this day with my son and his son.

As I mentioned earlier, mindfulness teaches us to be curious and kind to ourselves and others. A key to mindfulness is the development of a non-judgmental awareness. We develop the skill to become an impartial observer of our own thoughts. We learn to look for our wins; no matter how big or small. We begin to appreciate and accept ourselves wherever we are in our process.

We appreciate and become curious about the wonder that is us!!

And finally, once again, we learn that there is an internal environment that is calm and peaceful. A resource that is always there beneath the surface that we have experienced and can tap into. We begin to experience moments of clarity when the internal chatter quiets down.

I hope that this piques your interest. Know that your life can be an exciting and meaningful journey and that you can learn ways to be present for it, yourself and the people in it.

Mindfulness Programs are available at the Hallowell Centers.

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Dr. Hallowell’s 10 Tips for Managing Anger in Children

Of all the emotions that can get a child into trouble, at home or at school, anger leads the list. While sadness or anxiety can lead to misery, it is anger that leads to trouble, i.e., punishment, suspension, expulsion, and a host of other outcomes we don’t wish our children to suffer.

Of course, it is also important that a child be able to express anger. But anger should be like a sneeze: it clears the passageways, then disappears. A child who cannot get angry can be in as much danger as a child who cannot control how angry he gets.

So the goal is to learn how to manage the often difficult-to-manage emotion we name anger.
Here are 10 tips.  All of these cost nothing, can be used anywhere, and do not require the assistance of an expert. If you’d like to learn more, I refer you to my book, When You Worry About the Child You Love, from which these tips are loosely adapted.

1. Exercise –  One of the best tonics for the brain is physical exercise.  My friend and colleague, Dr. John Ratey, showed in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain how dramatically helpful exercise is in promoting healthy brain function, including the ability to control aggression.
2. Put feelings into words –  One of the more common reasons a child loses control is that he is unable to articulate his frustration.  Learning simple phrases like, “I’m really angry” can prevent the more violent expressions of that anger.
3. Limit excessive use of electronics – Not only do electronics numb the mind, they also preclude the more useful activities of exercise and face-to-face social interactions.  Some electronic use is fine, indeed desirable.  But too much, say more than 2 hours per day, should be avoided.
4. Teach your child than anger is a signal, not an outcome – When he feels anger, he should learn to stop and think, why am I angry?  Then, if he can put that into words, it will be much easier to control that feeling. Furthermore, if he is angry because he is being mistreated or is in danger, he can ask for help.
5. As a family, practice compromise and negotiation – In his excellent book, The Explosive Child, Ross Greene introduced a method he calls collaborative problem solving. Read the book, and learn the technique. It works wonders. And it all depends upon negotiation, rather than  the unilateral giving or orders.
6. Consult with a professional – make sure there is no underlying diagnosis that you might not know about. Various conditions, including ADHD, Tourette syndrome, conduct disorder, seizure disorders, thyroid dysfunction, or even brain tumors can manifest as uncontrolled or impulsive anger.
7. Make notes to yourself – If your child has a problem with anger, take a few minutes every day to document what he’s done. After a month or so, you will be able to read through the entries and perhaps see a pattern that will suggest a means of intervening more effectively.
8. No physical punishment – Families run best if they have a shared agreement, “We never put hands on each other in anger.”  The days of spanking should be long gone.  It only makes anger–and a host of other issues–worse.
9. Be the boss – That does not mean you should run your family like the military. But children do much better knowing that their parents are in charge. In fact, they will up the ante until one or both parents finally does take charge.
10. Never worry alone – If none of these suggestions help, talk to people you trust. Almost every child who has problems with anger can learn to control that anger. It may take some time and some backing and filling, but solutions can be found for sure. Just never worry alone.

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Dr. Hallowell: Family Circle Advice – Don’t Worry Alone

“When you have someone to worry with, it strengthens your resolve. If you are in a room in the dark alone, you feel paranoid. If you’re in that room with someone else, you laugh.” Dr. Hallowell weighs in on coping strategies for parents whose children have special healthcare needs. Read one mother’s powerful story via Family Circle.

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