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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Experts Claim Poor Academic Performance Tied to Behavioral Issues, Not Just Depression

Children Mental Health 5A number of studies connect depression as a factor for students with poor academic performance. However, new research suggests there might be more to this story. Experts say depression, in itself, is not responsible for problems at school. Instead, they suggest that behavioral issues, alongside depression, contribute to poor performance.

Lead study author and associate dean at Indiana University, Jane D. McLeod, Ph.D, advises that behavioral issues including lack of focus, drug or alcohol use, and delinquent behaviors are all linked with lower academic achievement. However, depression alone, cautions Dr. McLeod in an article outlined by PsychCentral, has no direct ties with poor academia.

While investigators acknowledge that some depressed youth struggle in the classroom, they attest it is most likely the result of other factors such as poor attention span, partaking in deviant activities, or substance abuse.

McLeod cites evidence from a study of thousands of  youth she and others conducted from data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The research team compared high school GPAs with the highest level of education attained by the students 15 years later in order to ascertain academic achievement.

Students experiencing depression without behavioral issues had higher GPAs than their peers who did have behavior problems. Likewise, adolescents who engaged in delinquent activities or had histories of substance use were shown to pursue lesser degrees, but there was no such correlation amongst those solely struggling with depression.

McLeod says this affirms there are other factors involved besides depression that are negatively impacting adolescents’ educational potential, a discovery she says underscores the importance of embracing inclusion in our approach to classroom discipline.

Students with behavioral problems increase their chances of success in school if undiagnosed or untreated mental health problems, like chronic depression, are addressed. Mental health professionals at Family Guidance Center can help, with a walk-in assessment as a first step.

Addressing Childhood OCD

A lot of kids have funny quirks that might easily be dismissed as nothing out of the ordinary. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is something we don’t normally associate with children, but while childhood OCD can be difficult to diagnose, there are signs that parents should be vigilant for.

A German study explores the subject of OCD in more depth – particularly issues with regard to assessing and treating the anxiety disorder. Unwanted thoughts and compulsions are typical in those with OCD, but clinicians don’t like to label young children with a definitive diagnosis until an established pattern is solidified over time.

Interestingly, German researchers found that nearly 90 percent of all young patients with the diagnosis, including both teens and children, exhibited some form of obsessive cleansing. Another common trait amongst the group examined was attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – greater than 70 percent of patients also had ADHD.

Study author, Susanne Walitza, M.D., advised that a key to successful management of the disease is OCD 1prompt recognition and medical attention. According to information presented by psychcentral.com, certain characteristics of the disorder can be identified early with a proper psychodiagnostic evaluation. Left untreated, childhood OCD or that which presents itself in the teen years often persists into adulthood and can become burdensome to mental health.

Treatment for OCD can be administered in the form of behavioral therapy, which involves therapists exposing the affected person to the underlying situation that triggers the compulsive behavior, and patients work through the urge to engage in their rituals. A less popular method of treatment incorporates medication and behavioral intervention therapy.

Coping with a mental illness can be difficult – particularly when it relates to children. Individuals with OCD often need ongoing treatment strategies and tools to prevent symptoms from recurring, and Family Guidance Center has resources that can help. Researchers believe that early attention to the disorder can be beneficial in minimizing negative effects over time. Call or click to find out more about programs available in your area.

Winter Blues Have You Feeling SAD?

SAD 1The dreary winter months are difficult for even the best of us to navigate. Cold temperatures, lack of sunlight, and time spent cooped up indoors can be a bit dismal. This time of year can also trigger in some what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a form of depression that is brought on by the darkness of winter. It is believed that SAD is caused by melatonin or serotonin changes in the brain. Those with SAD may experience periods of feeling down, loss of joy, heightened anxiety, and a yearning to hibernate. Like most forms of depression, more women than men report symptoms of SAD, but as an EmpowHer article points out, the disorder can also affect men — and its effects are not limited to a particular age group.

Fortunately, most people have found that symptoms of SAD dissipate with the change of weather and increased sunlight exposure. Treating SAD is easiest if it is identified early. One method of treatment involves what is known as light therapy. Bright light is used to mimic the uplifting effects of the sun. Light enters the eye, sending a feel good signal to the brain’s pineal gland. Light therapy is most effective when administered daily throughout the affected period.

Sometimes SAD can be caused by low levels of Vitamin D. An imbalance is easy to rectify – a doctor can test to ensure that levels for the vitamin are where they should be. In addition, exercise can provide a natural boost of endorphins to help boost mood.

But, not everyone can just pick up and travel when the weather turns drab. Some may also experience symptoms that could indicate chronic depression or an anxiety disorder, such as prolonged lack of interest in activities, fatigue, muscle aches or uncontrollable worrying. The Family Guidance Center offers a team of experienced mental health professionals who can help you evaluate your symptoms with an assessment, and help you take next steps toward a return to well-being.

Stress of Homelessness Takes a Mental Toll on Children

The holiday season evokes memories of food, family, and fun – but not for everyone. Christmastime canHomeless 1 be a difficult time of year for families struggling to make ends meet. A down economy, difficulty securing employment, and rising costs may leave some fighting to provide even basic needs for their children including food and shelter, let alone holiday extras.

While we do think of children during the holidays, images of homeless children are not one of the first things that come to mind. However, according to an article, there are 1.6 million children who have no shelter for at least a portion of each year. Financial issues amongst the parents are a contributing factor, but so is mental illness.

A parent suffering from mental illness may have trouble holding down a job or making ends meet. Financial pressures add an extra layer of stress, and, many parents may not seek the help they need because they either don’t know they are battling a mental illness or they believe they can’t afford treatment.

Statistics show that nearly half of all homeless people have some form of mental health problem, a figure that considerably outweighs that of the normal population. Since homelessness can be very stressful, it is difficult to tell whether stress triggers bring on mental illness or if mental illness contributed to the circumstances. Regardless, the fact remains that the upset of being homeless takes a mental toll on children as well as parents.

Issues associated with being homeless include heightened anxiety from not having proper shelter or food as well as the dangers of residing on the streets. Children forced to cope in these situations can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, problems sleeping, and other mental health disorders. Some parents under this type of pressure may seek short-term escape in drugs or alcohol, which serves to perpetuate the problem.

Family Guidance Center can help families address the symptoms of mental illness from a whole-person perspective, as well as help refer families to local support resources. By providing mental health support and addiction recovery programs, Family Guidance Center helps families plan next steps for a return to quality of life. Call today to find out more.

Prescription Drugs Highly Abused by American Adoclescents

Perscription Addiction 1Concern over youth getting drugs off the “street” is taking more of a back seat today in comparison to the numbers of teens who are using prescription medications found in their own homes.  Adolescents have been abusing prescription medications in place of illicit drugs at higher levels than ever before, many under the assumption that they are safer since most prescriptions are obtained legally through a physician. But legal certainly doesn’t equal safe – especially if the drugs are not used as prescribed.

Per a report detailed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 70 percent of high school seniors using prescription narcotics relayed that they had obtained them from friends or family members. After marijuana, the most commonly abused drugs by kids in this age group were prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Data points to widespread availability of such drugs as part of the problem – accessibility has dramatically increased over the past several years. In the near 10 year period spanning from 1991 to 2010, stimulant prescriptions rose from 5 to 45 million, and opioid scripts also increased during this period from about 76 million to nearly 210 million.

Statistics show that 1 out of every 12 students in their last year of senior high has misused Vicodin, while figures for OxyContin abuse were 1 in 20. This is particularly alarming given the highly addictive nature of opioids and risk for overdose – fatal opioid overdoses currently surpass that of cocaine and heroin combined. Abusing drugs in the stimulant category can also result in serious health outcomes, including seizures, heart problems, and psychosis. Not only is the abuse of prescriptions dangerous, it has also been tied to increased likelihood of other types of risky conduct including abusing alcohol and other drugs.

In many cases, a teen who is abusing prescription drugs may have undiagnosed and untreated depression, anxiety disorder or another type of mood disorder that can be masked by the prescription drug abuse problem. For more information about help for teens who may have symptoms of mental illness, contact the mental health professionals at Family Guidance Center.