Thursday, June 19, 2008

Responding to Crisis, Trauma and Natural Disasters

Natural disasters and their increasing destructiveness are becoming a part of the American landscape. Leaving scars, not only on the land and the livelihoods of those affected but leaving scars on the psyches of the survivors as well. One only needs to look back at New Orleans and more recently to the mid-west for recent examples. More than ever, we need a greater understanding on how to cope with natural disasters both large and small.

On January, 16, 1994, I was settled into a deep sleep, comfortable in my bed and safe in my home when suddenly, at 4 AM, the ground began to shake fiercely. I missed the initial shaking lost in my slumber. Suddenly, I awaken to a horrible grinding and growling coming from every direction of my bedroom. The ground is moving violently and I hang on for dear life to a bed that is trying to throw me off. Things are crashing all around me. My thoughts began to race uncontrollably, “Don’t let go, just don’t let go.” “Oh God, what is happening?”

Flashes of blue light from exploding transformers illuminate the room with rapid brilliance then fade through the curtains of my bedroom window. Things keep crashing to the ground; floor boards and wall studs creak and moan threateningly as the angry earth throws my home in its fit of rage. “Will it hold?” I’m frightened it won’t. It feels as if the world is coming to an end. Its fury is a monster released upon my home and me and it’s out to destroy us both. No time to think, just hold onto the bed, just hold on.

Then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped. Only the sound of car alarms echoing from within the blackness of the skyline can be heard off in the distance. One by one, they too become silent; then nothing. No sound, no light, just an ear crushing silence blanketing the night on a devastated landscape.

House to house my neighbors and I begin knocking on doors; “Is everybody alright?” can be heard echoing in the night up and down the street. Children put in cars, injured attended to; neighbors who have never before spoken to each other standing shoulder to shoulder helping one another.

When we have done what we can, we gather together in the street dazed and shocked. We come together to admire the now visible Milky Way whose brilliance, for the first time, can be seen from our street in the absolute darkness. Like a silent sentry it stands above us giving comfort in the stillness as we wait for the approaching daylight and the dawn of an unknown future.

Earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and all other disasters, natural or manmade, can be devastating on our sense of self and sense of safety. We are aware that, in Southern California, we live in an earthquake prone area. However, their lack of predictable activity and the long lag times between them can lull us into complacency. The same can be said for terrorist attacks as well.

We must live with an underlying, and reasonable, anxiety that a major disaster could happen. However, people are very adaptable by nature and in order to live with this chronic anxiety, we learn to turn it off. Over time, we become less responsive to the anxiety signals that are intended to protect us from danger.

This is the fight/flight response and we need to dull it to go on with life in a normal way. A good example of this can be observed in modern Israel where terrorist attacks have become a way of life. Yes, they are tragic, but people adapt and life goes on around them. We are designed, as human beings, to do this. We are very adaptable, so we are adapting to our environment of anxiety by turning it off. An unfortunate consequence of this natural adaptation is to not fully prepare for the possible crisis.

After a disaster hits, we feel disbelief and shock. We can become disoriented, have difficulty making decisions and experience feelings of anxious and moodiness. Often, people will feel apathy and emotional numbing accompanied by depression and reoccurring thoughts about the event. Insomnia and nightmares are also common. These are all signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The two strongest factors influencing and individual’s recovery from PTSD are the intensity of the life stressors that were occurring before the trauma and the social support network they have with others. Negative social support, such as family members’ critical comments about the length of time taken for recovery, can make a victim’s recovery time drag on even longer.

A trauma victim must start dealing with his or her feelings immediately after the event, or they can become harmful to their mental and physical health. Here are some tips for handling those feelings. Talk about the event as much as you want by sharing your feelings with those who are willing to listen. Spend more time with friends and family. Make sure to care for yourself by getting enough rest, exercise and proper nutrition.

As you are able, return to as normal of a routine as possible. Meaning, if possible, eat meals at the usual time, go to bed at the usual time, etc. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t try to cope by yourself. Receiving help is not a sign of weakness. Help others. This can be a wonderful way of regaining a personal sense of fulfillment and empowerment during a time when personal power appears to have been stripped from us at a moment’s notice.

Allow children to be more dependent than usual. Often, children and adolescents will temporarily regress to acting younger than their age. Allow this to occur without shaming them. And of course, avoid drugs and excessive drinking. They can ultimately compound the stress by creating additional problems during a time of crisis.

It is common for people to not feel the symptoms of PTSD until after the adrenalin rush of the initial shock has worn off. It can take from days to months for this to occur. This is why some people behave as strong, steady, clearheaded heroes during the initial experience of a trauma and end up depressed or suffering nightmares after the event has passed.

Given the horror of a disaster, there is also opportunity for personal growth. A disaster can “shake” us out of our old patterns of thinking by allowing us an opportunity to view our selves and lives differently. By helping others, we meet the real self that lies beneath the surface of our once complacent exterior. And, like the Milky Way, it is often best revealed in the darkest of moments.

Log onto for more information on PTSD, stress and anxiety. Take a free personality quiz to see how you respond to stress. Log onto Stress Relief & Deep Sleep, or Tension Relief for free samples of anxiety and tension relief downloads.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Healing from Grief

Grief is something we will all experience in our lives. Because we live, form attachments and love, we experience grief when these attachments and bonds are broken. It makes little difference if the break in the bond was intentional as through a decision we make, or unintentional resulting from death or the actions of another. If we had formed a bond, then we will experience grief if it is broken.

Our experience of grief is an essential process for healing from a loss. Experiencing grief is unavoidable if we are to heal. Everyone experiences grief in their own time and manner. Through the processes of grief, we both cry and laugh as we remember the individual. It is a process of integrating the reality of the loss into our lives in a way that allows us to move forward in our own life.

During the first part of the grief, we may not want to accept the reality of what has just occurred. It seems unreal, unfathomable. We then may enter a place where we may feel angry with the other person for leaving and we feel abandoned or victimized. Under that anger is our pain. It’s another indication of how deeply we loved that person. This is good, because we are getting in touch with our feelings and it shows us that we did love that person and we are angry at their loss.

We may then try to make deals with God or ourselves to bring them back, for instance, “I promise to go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life if you just bring him back.”

As the reality of the loss sinks deeper into our consciousness, we may experience a feeling of hopelessness, deep sadness and depression. This is the phase most commonly recognized in the grief process. This phase allows us to shut down and go quiet so that we may heal on the inside. We are finally acknowledging the loss but we are physically and mentally slowed down by the depression.

This slowing down process brought about by the depression allows us to gradually come to the acceptance of what has actually occurred. This is a very important part of healing from the loss and should not be rushed or avoided. Ultimately, it is a sign that you are healing. At times, we can feel all of these phases at once and sometimes we just jump around from one to the other in no particular order.

Finally, at some point, we experience a sense of acceptance for the loss. Acceptance does not mean that we like it, but we stop fighting our loss and that gives us permission to move forward and live. When we come to acceptance, we once again begin to listen to and take care of our own needs. We reach out to others and we reaffirm old relationships and we engage in new ones.

In the meantime, find those things that you enjoy doing, that give you a sense of rest from your emotions, and do those things without casting judgment on yourself. In time, you will heal.

For more information on grief and healing and a free personality profile, check out For more information on self-help downloads, and to listen to free samples, log onto The Dr. Walton Series.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How Do I Know If My Child Has ADD?

School is back in session and the kids are settling into their academic routines with vigor and gusto. They eagerly prepare for school the night before, completing their homework, doing their chores, and even laying their cloths out for the next day. Standing at the front door, a gentle breeze blowing, bells in the distance chiming, you bid them good bye with a small kiss and pat on the head as you send them off to another perfect day of school. No arguments, no nagging, it’s just those darn bells keep ringing and getting louder and louder. You awaken suddenly. Dazed and confused. Oh no! It’s 7:00 AM!

It’s Monday. “Kids!” you scream. “Get up!” “Hurry, we’re late for school!” A flurry of activity springs into action and Monday mayhem begins all over again. “Why didn’t you tell me that your school report was due today?” can be heard over the din of activity. The flush of panic grips your heart. You wonder how will this kid ever make it if he doesn’t follow through with his homework and pay attention in school. Is there something wrong with him? Is there something wrong with you?

Children who experience difficulty finishing tasks, who are easily distracted, who squirm or fidget, talk excessively, appear to not be listening, are often forgetful, interrupt others and exhibit a greater than average amount of body movement are possible candidates for a diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

It runs in families because it has a very strong link to genetics.
More often than not, if a child in the family has ADHD, there is a good chance that at least one parent experiences it as well. In reality, approximately 3% to 5% of school age children can be diagnosed with ADHD. Up to 70% of those children will continue to experience ADHD into adulthood.

It is very difficult to diagnose ADHD in someone younger than the age of 6. Often, what appears as ADHD in a young child is the result of environmental factors at home such as lack of structure and/or poor diet. Once those factors are remedied, the disruptive ADHD like behaviors frequently clear up.

ADHD in a child can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, child psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. Generally, the child must be showing six or more specific symptoms on a regular basis over a period of six months or longer. Although recent developments have been made in identifying the differences between and individual with ADHD and an individual without ADHD in Magnetic Brain Imaging, it is still a diagnosis more commonly made through behavioral observation by a qualified professional.

There are three subtypes of ADHD:

Combined Type (Inattentive/Hyperactive/Impulsive). Children of this subtype experience all three symptoms. Children experience this form of ADHD the most.

Hyperactive/Impulsive Type. Children of this group exhibit both hyperactive and impulsive behavior; however, they are able to focus their attention.

Inattentive Type. This subtype was once known as attention deficit disorder (ADD). These children are not impulsive or hyperactive, however, they have great difficulty staying focused and on task. Because they are not disruptive, their symptoms frequently go unnoticed.
ADHD is most commonly, and effectively, treated with stimulant medications along with educational programs and behavioral interventions. The list of stimulant medications used for treating ADHD include: Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. These stimulants are designed to help the ADHD child ignore distractions and focus his or her attention on the task.

A new, non-stimulant, medication has entered the market called Strattera. Its effectiveness is not yet fully proven; however, the early results are quite promising. All medications come with the possible risk of side effects, so be sure to speak with your physician about those possibilities.

Children with ADHD benefit greatly from structure and routine. They would rather play than do homework. They have more difficulty with the rules that govern behaviors. They tend to drift away from following established rules which can put them at odds with the people around them.

ADHD often becomes apparent in the fourth grade. This is a time emphasis is place on working alone while sitting quietly at a desk. This can be an incredibly difficult task for children with ADHD.

Accurate diagnosis and treatment for a child with ADHD is critical. Children with ADHD are frequently suffer the brunt of jokes and teasing at school. Their impulsivity can draw attention to themselves making them targets of negative attention from other children, teachers and authority figures. Their behavior affects their social and emotional development and can cause them to lag behind other children their own age. Children with ADHD have a higher incidence of learning disabilities and conduct disorders. They are also at much greater risk of experiencing anxiety and depression than the general population. Thus, early diagnosis and treatment is important for the well-being of the child.

Once the symptoms of ADHD have been addressed and treated, the natural energy, creativity and drive of the individual can be transformed into something wonderful and fully appreciated. According to, Ansel Adams, George Burns, Jim Carrey, Cher, Bill Cosby, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy and many, many other famous, and highly successful people, have used their symptoms of ADHD make our world a better place.

If you suspect that your child might have ADHD please seek out a psychiatrist, child psychologist or other qualified licensed professional in your area for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. If you child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may want to speak with the school counselor for further information on resources and programs that may be available to your child through the school. For the parents of a child with ADHD, is a good resource for current information and support.

For more information on ADD and childhood issues, and a free personality profile go to For more information on self-help downloads, and to listen to free samples, log onto The Dr. Walton Series.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Marriage and Relationships - making them work

Each spring, the sound of wedding bells fill the air. It’s a time of love, of hope and of high expectations. The famous German playwright, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, said it best when he said, “Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.”

The concept for marriage out of love is a relatively new experience that began in Europe around 1100 ad. Up until that point, all marriages everywhere were arranged marriages based on political and financial alliances. A practice that continues to remain true for the majority of marriages around the world today.

By the late 1500’s, the idea of marriage based on love had taken hold in Europe inspiring Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Marriage became a decision made between the husband and wife. Shakespeare’s work explored the ecstasies of passion and the devastating consequences of fiery passion not balanced with a realistic perspective. And what blinded his heroic lovers to the realistic perspective that could have saved their lives and marriage? It was their unrealistic expectations.

Their unrealistic expectations swept them off their feet from their passionate beginning and carried them off to their tragic end. What was true in the time of Shakespeare continues to hold true today; if we allow our expectations of love to run our romance, we will never see the other person, or the marriage itself, in a realistic light. Our unrealistic expectations invite the poison pill of Shakespeare’s tragedy into our own world. Our unrealistic expectations will kill our relationship.

Statistically, arranged marriages experience lower rates of divorce than love based marriages. The reason is that the participants of arranged marriages have lower expectations of their partners. Individuals enter into arranged marriages with lower expectations and therefore experience less disappointment.

They realize that if this arranged marriage is going to work, then they have to accept responsibility for their part in creating harmony and caring with this stranger in their bed. Right from the start, they have to work on it. They do not have the luxury of depending on love to carry them through. If their marriage is going to survive, then they have to make decisions based upon what is good for the relationship. What is true for them is also true for you. If you marriage is going to survive, then you both must begin basing your decisions on what is good for the relationship above what is good for each of you alone.

With divorce rates in this nation nearing the 50 percent mark, I see one and only one culprit: unrealistic expectations. We often expect that marriage, and surely our spouses, will rescue us from our feelings of isolation and loneliness. Love will conquer all. I can assure you that it will not. Marriage is not a solution for loneliness. Under the right circumstances, two can be a lonelier number than one.

There are some things you can do to improve your marital odds. First, and foremost, lower your expectations of what your marriage and your partner are going to do for you. Healthy relationships are created by our participation in them. They are not bestowed upon us through passive participation.

By enacting decisions based upon what is good for the relationship, we help them to grow. Your marriage should be treated as a living being under your care whose health is dependent upon your attention. Your marriage is not there to be your servant. That attitude will quickly drain the vibrancy of your love and leave you to wallow in your disappointment. To have a successful marriage, we must become the loving servants of our marriage and by doing so, we will enjoy the all the gifts that a growing, healthy, and deeply loving relationship can bring.

As young lovers move forward into this wonderful and exciting time of their lives above all else, they would do well to lower what they expect out of their partner. Instead, they might consider what they can contribute ahead of what they will receive. By doing so, the magic of love is allowed to do its work in their lives.

For more information on couples and marriage go to and get your free relationship profile or log onto Surviving the Wedding for free samples of premarital downloads. You may also want to check out Dr. Walton's acclaimed Anger Management download. Catch Dr. Walton discussing how to make a marriage work on YouTube.