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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

ADHD - Breaking the Cycle of Shame

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 16th 2009

woman with shameIn a way, it's really amazing that we call ourselves a developed culture. Why do I say that? The shame in our society that comes from having a mental health challenge is enormous and immature. People who struggle with bipolar disorder, major depression, ADHD and other brain related issues are often, at least initially, hidden in a cloud of shame. Why? Because the ignorance in our society is pervasive and because that which we don't understand we fear, and that which we fear we oppress.

Having any of these issues is difficult enough and adding shame on top of it only makes it more difficult for the person and as a result, that person doesn't feel confident to show his or her talents out in the world and lives life just trying to hide or cover up their issue.

So what's in a label? While labeling for some people can feel like they are being put in a box, for others it can be a huge relief. Finally, this issue they've been struggling with their whole lives where people have told them they are irresponsible, stupid, lazy, etc... is named and now that is named, they can work on working with it.

Working with anything starts with awareness, that is the ground from which change can happen.

As an example, if someone is struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it may really be helpful to show them that this is ADHD because there are millions of people who struggle with this and there is a feeling of belonging instead of being so alone.

In addition, at times it is helpful to show a model of what is going on in their brain. Showing this helps the person recognize that the issue is not their fault and begins to untie this cycle of shame which only pours kerosene on the fire.  

As a generalization, Neurologists and neuropsychologists are finding that people with ADHD seem to show deficits in the frontal cortex of the brain which is involved in problem solving, attention, reasoning and planning.

Many researchers are starting to believe that because the brain has been found to have plasticity - or that it can change - it is possible to work with ADHD, helping people become better able to regulate their moods and pay attention to what is most important. Often times this may be supported with medication.

What's important to know about all of this is that there is no magic bullet. While one approach might work for one, it may be another approach that works better for another.

More than anything, we must educate ourselves that we're all on a spectrum of disorder and adding oppression and shame to it only breeds disconnection which leads to imbalance, individually and culturally.

As always, please share your thoughts, resources, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Of course ADHD IS MY OWN FAULT. - - Sep 27th 2010

    For 20 years, I've known how to stop being ADHD and refused to do it; namely, a bullet to my brain. I'm too much a COWARD to do this; thusly, only a politically correct, left-wing Obamabot liberal would say my struggles with ADHD aren't my OWN FAULT!!!

    Agree - Dario McDarby - Dec 24th 2009

    We who have various neuroeccentricities face a strange paradoxical reaction by neurotypicals... at first, it's "oh you don't 'have' that." Then, it's "everybody's got that today." Those are demeaning and dismissive attitudes of uninformed ignoramuses. Their stupidity promotes shame and self-loathing.

    It's an uphill battle.

    The point is to accept our gifts, even through the incredible pain, and continue to realize that we have been given a different way of being in the world.

    Dario McDarby 

    Neuroeccentricity and Neuroeccentrics

    So True! - Terry Matlen, ACSW - Oct 18th 2009

    Excellent article! Finding others who share these brain "challenges" is a wonderful step in healing.  Finding forums, attending conferences and meetings- anything to normalize one's struggles and discovering resources that can help, are healthy ways to work on improving one's life. Nice job!

    Terry Matlen, ACSW

    Director, www.MomsWithADD.com

    Author, Survival Tips for Women with ADHD

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