Latest update: March 5th, 2012
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Mark, sixteen years old, has trouble sitting still in class. His mind wanders; he’s anxious and is failing many of his subjects. Mark was never tested for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; somehow he slipped through the cracks in the system and never received the help he needed years ago. Mark now faces difficulty finishing high school.
Studies have shown that teenagers with ADHD are at greater risk for school failure, other learning disabilities, and alcohol or other drug abuse. Mark may have more difficulty maintaining friendships and getting along with his family. He may also be more irritable and have a quick temper. Teenagers with ADHD are also at higher risk for developing depression because of the frustrations that come with this disorder.
It is important to note that about “20 to 40 percent of ADHD children may eventually develop conduct disorder (CD), a more serious pattern of antisocial behavior.”¹³ These children frequently lie or steal, fight with or bully others, and are at serious risk of getting into trouble at school or with the police. They violate the basic rights of other people, are aggressive toward people and/or animals, destroy property, break into people’s homes, commit thefts, carry or use weapons, or engage in vandalism.
Simon, age 15, has lost the zest for life he once enjoyed as a child. He is successful in school, but personally unhappy. He also suffers from feelings of sadness and despair and has withdrawn from spending time with friends and family. Simon is suffering from depression.
In 2000, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that more teens suffer from depression than you might think. It is estimated that one in five children have some sort of mental, behavioral, or emotional problem, and that one in ten may have a serious emotional problem. Among adolescents, one in six may suffer from depression. Of all these children and teens struggling with emotional and behavioral problems, a mere 30% receive any sort of intervention or treatment. The other 70% simply struggle through the pain of mental illness or emotional turmoil, doing their best to make it to adulthood.
I have found that parents do not recognize the symptoms of depression in their adolescent children. Symptoms to look out for include:
Constant worry or prolonged irritability Lack of energy Trouble concentrating Wearing dark clothing Preoccupation with music that has nihilistic themes Chronic aches and pains
Rachel has a secret that she is desperate to keep. She’s fourteen years old, on the verge of entering high school and she is dying to be thin, literally. Recently she discovered that maintaining her pre-adolescent shape might just be possible. Laxative abuse, self-induced vomiting and excessive exercise may be able to keep her slim forever.
Rachel suffers from bulimia nervosa. She has a serious illness that can lead to malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, heart attack, and seizures. Some studies indicate that 1 in 19 orthodox teens has an eating disorder and few receive the care needed to overcome this dangerous and growing phenomenon.
Eating disorders involve serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight. Researchers are investigating how and why initially voluntary behaviors, such as eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, at some point move beyond control for some people and develop into an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not due to a failure of will or behavior; they are real, treatable medical illnesses in which certain maladaptive patterns of eating take on a life of their own. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. A third type, binge-eating disorder, has been suggested but has not yet been approved as a formal psychiatric diagnosis. Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate their onset can occur during childhood or later in adulthood.
Michael is fifteen years old and he’s already been in three different schools. Last week he was expelled from his yeshiva and is now hanging around at home with nothing to do.
Bearing the pain of the situation and realizing the implications for his future, Michael’s parents begin to ask themselves what went wrong. They vaguely remember his early childhood experiences at school. In third grade, he had a hard time with his rabbi. He recalls, “My rabbi was very mean to us. He used to yell at me when I didn’t even do anything. He also gave me ridiculous punishments, like writing thirty Mishnayos over and over again – just for coming late to davening!”
And then there were the problems in fourth grade and again in sixth grade with the rabbis who Michael’s parents thought would understand their son. But he wasn’t able to keep up in Talmud, and being frustrated, he just stopped trying. That’s when the behavior problems started. Michael started receiving more detentions and notes from the principal, and eventually he got kicked out of school for disrupting the class.
Ask teenagers what they think of school, and these are some of the answers they will give you:
“The teachers are mean and don’t understand me.” “You don’t get to sit next to your friends.” “I am always singled out and punished, but I didn’t do it.” “The teacher hates me and I hate him.” “Lunch is too short, classes are too long, and recess is never long enough.” “There’s too much homework.”
Now you know more about just who those gremlins are who have captured your teenager. You also know that the gremlins will return your child in a few years. The question is, how are you going to deal with the situation now, while you are waiting?
In the following weeks, we will look at ways of dealing with your teenager’s inner issues, how to develop a relationship of mutual respect, how to decide which problems you should or shouldn’t respond to, and how to encourage your teenager to make positive choices in his or her life.
Improve the quality of your relationship with your teenager. Identify your parenting values and goals and modify them for a teenager at risk. Learn about the common issues your teenager may be facing. Realize that many teenage problems subside and therefore you will do best to focus on the long-term development of the relationship.
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at email@example.com.
About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, Marriage and Family Therapy, is an expert in marriage counseling, pre-marital education, and helping teens in crisis with offices in Flatbush, Cedarhurst, and Crown Heights. He is a certified PAIRS instructor, and trained as a Level 1, Emotionally Focused Therapist at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and is a member of AASECT. He is the author of At Risk – Never Beyond Reach and First Aid For Jewish Marriages. To watch his free videos on marriage and parenting and for appointments visit: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723
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