Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Stuff, Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

I recently published a review of Buried in Treasures, Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, by David Tolin, Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, a hands-on workbook for those struggling with hoarding and disorganization. What led me to that book was a book I’d read a few weeks earlier, Stuff, Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, two of the same authors. As a psychotherapist, I’m fascinated by all different types of minds, and differing ways of looking at the world. Hoarding, with its emphasis on and connection to the world of objects rather than other people, is one such difference.

Where Buried in Treasures is a problem-solving Cognitive Behavioral workbook, Stuff reads more like a novel. Its pages are peopled with the author’s examples of different type of hoarders, those who collect antiques, or animals, or even garbage. The authors present some data and facts, as well as theories and their own ideas about what drives hoarders. There is a chapter toward the end on getting help. But the true allure of this fascinating book is the chance to get to know the characters its written about. Although the authors present their own theories on what drives these individuals, you’ll see them in such detail you can come up with your own ideas and even see the ways we all have our own attachments to objects and our own hoarding-like behaviors. Hoarding may be an extreme behavior, but after reading this book, you'll think twice about the next grocery bag you save or the stack of mail on the front table.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review: Out of the Fog, Treatment Options and Coping Strategies for Adult Attention Deficit Disorder

So much of what’s written about ADHD is aimed at parents. But the disorder doesn’t just disappear when these kids grow up. Based on information published on Russell Barkley’s website, 65 to 80% of children with the disorder continue to have impairments as adults. This can range from school, employment, and interpersonal issues to conditions as severe as mental illness, substance abuse and legal problems.

I’ve published several good reviews on coping with ADHD in this blog. Smart But Scattered and Late, Lost and Unprepared are two favorites. Although they tend to focus on children’s issues, many of the technique can be adapted to adults.

But it’s always best to be able to find something uniquely adapted to your own situation, which is why I was to pleased to find Out of the Fog, Treatment Options and Coping Strategies for Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, by Kevin R, Murphy, Ph.D. and Suzanne LeVert. Dr. Murphy was a researcher at the Adult ADHD Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, and is now in private practice. Out of the Fog is a book that really attempts to do it all: explain the condition of Adult ADHD, discuss treatments and strategies, and cover practical aspects such as organization and communication. With a lesser author, this approach might be too much at cover, but Murphy is so knowledgeable, he’s got good advice for all these varied aspects. Because the book was written in 1995, it doesn’t use some of the newer terminology, such as “Executive Function”, and the specific medication information is showing its age. In general though, the information in this practical guide is still useful and timely.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: Buried in Treasures, Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding

Hoarding is not a disorder that exists only among those on the autism spectrum, but certainly there can be a strong aspect of clutter and disorganization that goes along with Asperger’s, autism, ADHD and the accompanying deficits in executive function.  Hoarding at its most severe really requires the help of a specifically trained mental health professional, because it’s about so much more than getting organized and cleaning things up. But for those who won’t, or can’t, access professional help, Buried in Treasures, Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, by David Tolin, Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee can be the next best thing.

This book, written by a team of experts on Anxiety Disorders, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and hoarding, functions as a step by step guide to solving the problem. Heavily influenced by CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques as well as practical advice, the book leads the reader through exactly what to do to solve the problems. The focus of the program isn’t just on organizing and throwing things out, it really delves into managing the underlying dysfunctional thinking and erroneous beliefs that can make a hoarding problem so difficult to get a handle on. The authors present numerous specific suggestions for testing beliefs and developing new ways of thinking about objects.

In addition to the step by step instructions, Buried in Treasures includes questionnaires, quizzes and worksheets, so the reader can figure out exactly what specific issues are most difficult for him or her to deal with. There are also separate sections with information to assist family members, organizers, and coaches in working with hoarders.

This book is a practical hands-on guide that will be useful throughout any stage of the process of dealing with acquiring, clutter, disorganization, and hoarding.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Review: The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide

A while back, someone sent me a copy of Susan Senator’s The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide. Susan Senator is a gifted writer, with a blog as well as an earlier book about raising her autistic son. Susan Senator writes with a personal, honest voice that feels like you’re talking with a close friend over a cup of tea.

Although I read the book immediately, and keep recommending it to friends and clients, somehow I’ve never reviewed it for my blog. I thought now would be a good time to rectify that lapse. The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide is really all about taking care of yourself at the same time you’re taking care of your special needs child, as well as the rest of your family. Senator writes from her own perspective, as well as compiling the advice of other autism parents. For parents who may feel like they’re all alone, judged by others and not measuring up, this voice from a community of others in the same situation can be a valuable support.

My favorite part of the book comes when Senator writes in her own voice, as the mother of a now grown autistic child. Her compassion as she looks back on her own young self, raising her small child, was touching, and just what every young mother needs to hear. This book is a gift for all parents of special needs kids, a book to pull out when you feel like no one understands, or that you’re all alone.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Divorce and Autism: An Ongoing Discussion

I think every family wants what's best for their autistic child, and one of their biggest worries is divorce. It's not surprising, since popular culture so often states that 80% of families with autistic children get divorced. Thankfully, that statistic seems to be more widespread than valid. I’ve published a few posts on the theme of divorce statistics among families with autistic children. You can find more details about divorce rates in the Kennedy Krieger study and the Easter Seals survey.

Fortunately, it’s an intriguing issue, and researchers continue to investigate the question. Recently, The Journal of Family Psychology published a study by Sigan Hartley, in which she looked at 406 families of autistic children, as well as an equal number of parents of typical children. The study found that divorce rates were equal up to the child's age of eight, after which time the parents of autistic children were more likely to divorce. The study found a 23% divorce rate for the autistic families, compared to 14% for the typical families, still a far cry from the often reported 80% rate. Hartley suggests that the difference in rate found between this study and the Kennedy Krieger study was due to the age differences of the children. The Kennedy Kreiger study, which found equal divorces rates regardless of the presence of autistic children, looked at children under 17, while Hartley’s study included children into middle age.

Clearly, this is not a simple question, and more research will give us more details. But, the good news is that most families do manage to stay intact, regardless of their children's diagnoses.