Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mental Disorder Series - Focus Disorders

Weird title, huh? Inability to focus is technically not a classified mental disorder. ADD is, but according to my psychologist I might not have that because of some of my scores on the IQ test were too high. However, no test could rule out my high level of inability to concentrate and my general distractability.

This being the definite on all levels, it's what I'm going to focus on in my story, but I will call this and everything in this post Focus Disorders. So this post is about and for everyone that exhibits one or more ADD/Focus Disorder like symptoms to a level that effects their daily life.

What are focus disorders?

Focus Disorders are a type of mental issue that involves the inability to focus or concentrate, as well as the higher distractibility rate. (Yes, those are all different things.)

The most common, and therefore named, disorders are ADD/ADHD and Concentration Deficit Disorder or CDD. (I just learned about CDD today and am probably going to bring it up to my psychologist on a later date.)

I'm not going to go into the differences of the two disorders, because that is NOT what this post is about. This post is about the general qualities involved in focus disorders and how they effect people.

What are these general qualities?

  • Inability to focus.
  • Staring blankly/zoning out frequently.
  • Lack of concentration
  • Heightened levels of distraction
  • Anxiety.
  • Sleep Problems.
  • Fatigue/Drowsiness
  • "Bored Easily"
  • Memory Problems
  • Impulsivity
Obviously not every person with every focus disorder is going to have all of these, but they're in a lot of people and a lot of the disorders.

It's important to realize that people with these disorders are not purposely forgetting things, allowing themselves to be distracted, or not just working hard enough. This is a real disorder that causes a lot of real problems and has nothing to do with laziness or apathy. Speaking of these things, let's move on to:

Things you shouldn't say to someone with a focus related disorder.
  1. Try harder - Trust us, we're trying.
  2. You're just being lazy. - No, we're really not. In fact, it takes a lot of extra effort just to do the same things you can do.
  3. Stop letting yourself get distracted. - Honey, I could get distracted even if I was locked in a white walled room with nothing around but the project I'm supposed to be working on.
  4. ADD/CDD/Etc isn't a 'real' disorder. - Actually it is and it effects many, many people. By perpetuating the idea that they aren't real, you're taking away valuable resources from people who need them. We can't just "Woman/Man Up" and just suddenly be able to focus, that's not how this works.
  5. Woman/Man Up - You'll see this again in the anxiety section because it's literally been said to me for that reason but SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. We aren't faking and it's really affecting us terribly when you act like we can just change on a whim. TRUST ME I'VE TRIED.
  6. I get distracted sometimes too. - Okay, while I understand and appreciate the attempt at empathy, your problem could probably be solved by organization, lists, and other methods. And while these things will also help people with focus disorders (see next section,) it won't take away all of our problems. The reason it's a disorder is because no matter what we do, it's still going to get in our way.
  7. Medication is evil, etc. etc. etc. - Alright, this is where debates normally start. Some people have focus disorders because of their brain chemistry. Brain chemistry isn't changed through willpower and organizational strategies. Brain chemistry needs things that effect brain chemistry. Medication. While some people can get by without medication and live mostly normal lives, other people can't.
How are Focus Disorders Treated or Managed?

Well, most people use a combination of methods. While I don't think you can completely treat a focus disorder, they're relatively simple to manage. Note, simple does not mean easy.

There are three main components here: Medication, therapy, and life style changes.

Medication, the ever increasing controversy, is used by many, many an afflicted person. There are both stimulant and nonstimulant versions, each prescribed for their various reasons. Most people get the stimulant medication (such as adderall) whereas people with high irritability or other factors use the nonstimulants (like Strattera.) These medications help the user concentrate.

Therapy, especially behavioral therapy, is another common method of dealing with focus disorders. Most of the time therapy used in conjunction with medication leads to some pretty good results. Besides behavior, therapy is good for all the issues that come with focus disorders, most notably anxiety and depression. Self-worth has a habit of getting damaged when you find yourself falling behind things.

The third common focus disorder management? Life style changes! This is the one that everything thinks will work all the time. I'm on the "hey medication is helpful" side of the debate because I've seen what it can do for people but I'm against ONLY using it. Life style changes? They are amazing. Organization, lists, planning, routines, even diet changes can mean the world! No matter what you do, doing this third thing will boost your ability to do things that much more. Figure out what you need to do and get it done.

How Can You Help Someone with a Focus Disorder?
  1. Reminders. Reminders. Reminders. Please, all the reminders. Not like every second of every day, and as with ODD wording is everything, but reminders are really helpful. "Hey, I asked you to take out the trash earlier, could you take a break and do that now? It's a little full and I'm cleaning." "Just to remind you, we have guests coming over tomorrow." "Hey, how are you doing on ___?"
  2. Don't act like we're super weird for not being able to focus. A lot of people do, which I find very strange. 
  3. Help us organize! Being organized is going to make things that much easier for a person unable to focus. We'll be able to find things and do things and be less distracted!
  4. Suggest we go to therapy. Most disorders of any kind are going to be better through therapy. Why? Because a professional who has studied our disorder can probably give us some pretty good suggestions on what we can do, will help us get past our insecurities AND won't hate us for talking about how much we get distracted all the time!
  5. Encourage the use of lists and other productivity related things. One thing about this productivity movement that has been amazing is the amount of resources it provides for people with focus disorders! Timers, schedules, lists, all optimized to be the best they can are all available at our fingertips. And we should really use them.
  6. Become a part of our routines. Even if we don't have a routine, setting something up at a specific time each week or day like going for a run or meeting for coffee can make our lives that much easier. It's harder to forget something that happens regularly, and it provides a reference point in our lives so we know when something is. (For example, a doctor's appointment after my weekly run with my friend is a lot easier to remember than 9am on Sunday the 5th.)
My Struggle with Focus!

Oh boy, where do I begin? How about at the part where I totally just zoned out for like ten minutes before writing this part? Kidding. (About starting there, not zoning out...)

So when I was a little kid in 1st or 2nd grade I was passing notes between my parents and teacher for a couple days. Later on in life I find what was being said. Apparently they wanted to get me tested for ADD. Why? Well because I couldn't pay attention and I was always very fidgety and prone to daydreams.

This continued. I went to a church where I participated in some of the plays. Other kids were terribly annoyed by me. I wouldn't shut up half the time and I would always fidget. Always. I wouldn't notice until I was shown the recording. I still fidget.

Classes were hard because I couldn't pay attention. 3rd grade I was told I could sit anywhere and work on the math book by myself since I could understand it and could learn from a book pretty easily. Soon enough I fell behind because I could not concentrate on the work. I would find a tiny red spider and follow it on the floor with my pen. I would look out the window. I would daydream. I would create worlds in my mind... And then I would be abruptly brought back to earth when I realized I hadn't completed a single page. I fell a little behind and lost the privilege to self-learn.

Fast forward to any school year in the future. I can't concentrate, I forget my homework, I zone out during important discussions. Somehow I manage to keep decent grades in most of my classes. By some miracle. The higher the grade level the harder it was to maintain that grade's level. I was lucky to graduate. I'm intelligent and I work hard, but I was just plain lucky to graduate.

And why? 

Because of my focus disorder.

See tomorrow for my next mental disorder spotlight!

Also, after reviewing all the research and links that I did, I have found a couple niches that need to be filled. Calling all people to do research and write articles about Productivity Tools for people with Focus Disorders. Also, calling all people for articles on general non-cleaning organization. And on focus disorder life-style changes. Oi. You'd think there would be articles but no, only a few books that briefly touch on such things.

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! :)

New Car Downpayment
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Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

In other news, my brain hurts because this post took a long time to research.

Anyone that knows about my food experiment, here's an update for you. The four foods: Onion, Potatoes, Dairy, and Meat are not the only potential problems. After my week last week where I cut them out completely I still experienced digestive issues, though less intense. Because of this I am adding sugar and fried foods to my list of things to try to see if they are causing issues.

This week is onion week and so far I am agreeing with myself that onion plays a role in my digestive problems, though cooked onion is not as bad. So far my verdict is that I'll only buy frozen pre-cut onion to avoid contact with raw and use said onion sparingly. Of course, the week is not up yet. (Oh, and if you have issues cutting onions, throw them in the freezer until they're a little more firm. Cuts down on the onion spray)

I would also like to mention that I'll probably be submitting an essay to Stigma Fighters when I have a chance to create one. I'll have to ask about specific requirements, but it sounds like a blast and is for a great cause.

Also, shoutout to ADDitude for having so many insane resources on their website.

As always, Charmed
-Alexandria