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Diagnosis versus Description:
When Labeling and Pigeon-holing Doesn't Help
 

Hi there,

My name is Kelly. I'm 38 years of age and married with one child. I live in Kansas. I would greatly appreciate a diagnosis by a professional so we can seek some specific help, and some advice and help regarding my situation:

My daughter is 8-years-old and has been refusing to attend school lately. This has surprised my wife and I because she her teachers have always told us what an excellent student our daughter is. She has always received good reports in every academic field and her teachers speak highly of her, and she her as an extremely conscientious, quiet and obedient child.

However my wife and I have always noticed our daughter to be somewhat nervous and her anxiety has increased greatly in the past year. She worries a lot about her school work, she worries about our health (my wife smokes), her own health, her popularity with friends, but mainly about the possibility of such events as wars, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks occurring, or becoming a victim of robbers or kidnappers. She has always had a vivid imagination which she uses to conjure up impending disasters. For example, the last time there was a very heavy rain fall, she was reluctant to attend school because she was worried that the rain would cause a serious flood, the destruction of buildings, and injury or death to people (including us and herself).

My wife and I have always noticed our daughter not sleeping well in the past 6-7 months. It takes a long time for her to fall asleep, and she often wants to stay in our bed at night. As a result, she often feels tired during the day. She complains about stomach aches and she frequently experiences sweaty hands, trembling, breathing difficulties and a 'lump in her throat'. Recently, she has found it difficult to concentrate or answer questions at school and she simply tells us that her mind 'goes blank'.

Most of these symptoms have been occurring nearly every day in the past 6-9 months. We need help because we're unsure whether these symptoms are a part of her growing up, or if our daughter needs more intensive professional help.

Thank you,
Kelly

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The Myth of Mental Illness

Hello Kelly:

My doctorate is in Social Psychology, which is a scientific discipline and not a "clinical" discipline per se. That said, all issues that deal with interaction and relations are better informed by my field, than by Psychology. Why so? Because Psychology is an individualistic discipline which approaches Man as a meat machine driven by biological and brain determinates.

Psychologists seek to explain outside behavior by internal factors. You might say they are obsessed with this largely unfruitful focus — an aim and approach that has been spawned by secular assumptions and evolutionary ontology. <---- an important word, look it up if you don't know the meaning?

If you lean a ladder against the wrong wall, no matter how high you climb, your eventual destination will be . . . WRONG. Read insights about WRONG assumptions of It's-Not-Your-Fault Psychology.

Incorrect assumptions about our world come from incorrect ontology. This means, if human beings are Creations of a Creator, the premise and approach to your daughter's problems are completely different, compared to recommendations that assume Big Bang and Evolution of the species. Completely different! Whether you or I "think" Reality to be this way . . . or that — Reality will remain to Be . . . what it IS. How we perceive Reality, does not change Reality.

I don't follow or recommend the approaches of secular psychology: So instead of "diagnosis" . . . I describe; and instead of "treatment" . . . I teach. Here is my description of your daughter's problem:

"worries a lot about her school work, . . . worries about her parent's health (because Mom smokes), and worries about her own health, her popularity with friends, but mainly about the possibility of such events as wars, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks occurring, or becoming a victim of robbers or kidnappers. She has always had a vivid imagination which she uses to conjure up impending disasters. . . . She once worried that the rain would cause a serious flood, the destruction of buildings, and injury or death to people (including her parents). . . She is not sleeping well for the past 6-7 months. It takes a long time for her to fall asleep, and she often wants to stay in our bed at night. As a result, she often feels tired during the day."

This partial description provides an adequate basis from which to help your daughter. And of course, descriptions can be added to and adjusted over time.

Describing versus Diagnosing

Just last night, I watched a documentary about a young girl who was not growing normally; at the age of two, this young child was no bigger than a 3 month old baby. The documentary focused upon the parents' quest to get an accurate diagnosis. Their question and quest was thus:

Is our child MOPD-1 or MOPD-2? MOPD stand for microcephalic osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism

But whether the diagnosis was MOPD-1 or MOPD-2, the child's stunted growth could not be changed, her genetic reality was set at birth; knowing which LABEL to place upon her would not change or improve her condition. The child will remain small for the rest of her life — barring a miracle from Heaven.

I can't speak to your daughter's physical symptoms, except to say that worry absolutely initiates psychosomatic effects. I clearly remember psychiatrist William Glasser teaching this very truth at a seminar I attended in college. He said "fix the worry and psychosomatic symptoms disappear."

For non-life-threatening psychological symptoms such as the ones you describe for your daughter, better than finding a diagnostic LABEL for your child, is to simply pay attention to the detailed descriptions of WHAT is happening . . . and then dealing directly with those issues. Your daughter can be helped back to health without the need to know a pigeon-holing category for her emotional patterns.

Honestly, the descriptions you've shared sound more like the worries and fears of an adult, and not an 8 year old. The immediate concerns of a world and a nation, typically blow over the heads of young children and many teenagers too.

So, how does an 8 year old come to fear "terrorists," "wars," and "natural disasters" — does she watch the news, or does she hear mom and dad talk about these things? Does she have friends who talk about these things? What is she learning at school?

Is your child also worried about the National Debt and the current economic recession? This is an example of adult-worry, and children can learn this worry too . . . if the parents teach them.

Every concern and worry come from somewhere . . . and never from thin air!

Again, what is Mom and Dad talking about, what are friends talking about, and what is she learning at school? Also, what is she seeing or hearing on Television, Radio, and the Internet? Answering these question will identify the source of the information she worries about.

But why does she worry or fear at all? Who is teaching her how to worry? Most young children are FEARLESS and care free. Children are not BORN to worry; this behavior is learned.

But wherever she LEARNED the CONTENT of her worry, and her TENDENCY to worry . . . both CONTENT and TENDENCY can be Unlearned. Unlearning is a matter of "teaching." Teaching 8-year-olds takes time. What your child needs cannot be accelerated by "intensive professional help."

A Professional may know an ocean-full of helpful information, but an 8-year-old child can only LEARN a teaspoon at a time, and when she becomes a teenager, will learn a teacup at a time. Having a professional pour an ocean-full of expert information upon your daughter, even intensively, will NOT accelerate the process. The "intensive" assumption needs re-thinking . . . and ultimately re-jection.

What will help your daughter the most is your ability to calmly and comfortably love her. And within the warmth of a loving relationship, you can teach your daughter all she needs to know to release her from a chronic pattern of worry. The same true principles that will release adults from chronic worry, will also help children.

If Mom and Dad learn what their daughter needs to learn, THEN mom and dad can teach her in the coming years, realizing that the ultimate solution for your daughters tendencies will take time. This process of Un-learning and Re-learning will take many years — that's life!

Your daughter is experiencing LIFE . . . just like the rest of us. LIFE presents continual challenges! Haven't you noticed? So get used to this fact and get on with the process. Again, the "intensive" approach will NOT work, because green tomatoes (young children) ripen at their own pace, no matter how hard you try to speed up the ripening process.

Much of what you need to teach your daughter is explained in the pages of my book, Changing Your Stripes. Through consistent experience I know that people are helped and lives are improved as they understand and apply principles explained in my book.

Coincidentally, I received an email this very day from a 22 year old who has much to worry about. The true principles that will lift and relieve her, are the SAME ones that will help your daughter.

The sooner you learn these principles, the sooner you can teach them to your daughter.

Best Regards,
Dr Matt

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
 

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