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What is ADHD?

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) is a genetic, neuro-developmental disorder that is diagnosed in both children adults. ADHD is the official, medical term for the condition — regardless of whether a person demonstrates symptoms of hyperactivity. ADD is a now-outdated term that was typically used to describe inattentive-type ADHD.

People with ADHD struggle to focus, prioritize and stay on task. They may be dis-organised, hypersensitive to rejection and struggle with impulse control. Struggling to manage impulses often leads to mood swings and outbursts of anger.

Dealing with someone who has ADHD can be frustrating because often their disorder presents as laziness. They may seem disinterested and will procrastinate and put off important tasks until the last minute, meaning they often miss their deadlines.  

What is interesting about this disorder is that children are correctly diagnosed more often than adults. One of the biggest myths about ADHD is that it is a childhood disorder and that children will eventually grow out of it once they reach adulthood.

There is a high statistic of ADHD adults that are untreated, un-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. This is because the symptoms often look different in adulthood than in childhood. Untreated ADHD can result in a crippling low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. A lack of awareness, masking the disorder or self-medicating of symptoms can lead to adults developing negative behavior traits like substance abuse.

In his 2012 Burnett Lecture, Dr Russel Barkley stated that “we are under-treating the most treatable disorder in psychiatry”. He highlights that ADHD has the most effective medication on the market. In fact ADHD medications are three times more effective than medications that treat depression and anxiety. Professionals agree that while ADHD can be treated successfully using medicine, it is the combination of medication, life skills training and/or therapy that gives the best result.  

Exercise is an excellent coping skill for people living with ADHD. It has been proven that a single session of exercise can lead to immediate improvements in ADHD symptoms and cognitive functions.

If you would like to support a person who may have ADHD, the first step is to talk to a healthcare provider. Chatting to a healthcare provider about behaviours and symptoms of concern will assist you in finding the right professional to complete the assessment and if relevant assist with a diagnosis and treatment plan.  

There is help available! As Dr Barkley says, ADHD is one of the most treatable disorders in psychiatry at this time.

Written by Anita Butow, Life Coach at The Bell House. Anita is a specialist life coach in the field of ADHD. Find her at

What is a Psychiatrist?

What is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. 

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. 

People seek psychiatric help for many reasons. The problems can be sudden, such as a panic attack, frightening hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, or hearing “voices.” Or they may be more long-term, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiousness that never seem to lift or problems functioning, causing everyday life to feel distorted or out of control.

Because they are qualified doctors, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests which, combined with discussions with patients, help provide a picture of a patient’s physical and mental state. Their education and clinical training equip them to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses and the relationships with genetics and family history. 

Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments – including various forms of psychotherapy, medications, psycho social interventions and other treatments (such as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT), depending on the needs of each patient. 

Most medications prescribed by a psychiatrist are used in much the same way that medications are used to treat high blood pressure or diabetes. After completing thorough evaluations, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat mental disorders. Psychiatric medications can help correct imbalances in brain chemistry that are thought to be involved in some mental disorders.

Patients on long-term medication treatment typically meet with their psychiatrist periodically to monitor the effectiveness of their medication and any potential side effects.

 To practice as a Psychiatrist, you need to have a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBChB), followed by a Masters in Medicine, specialising in Psychiatry. Prospective students also need to be registered with the HPCSA.

Some psychiatrists also complete additional specialised training after their four years of general psychiatry training. They may become certified in:

  • Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Geriatric psychiatry
  • Forensic (legal) psychiatry
  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Pain medicine
  • Psychosomatic (mind and body) medicine

What is Antisocial Personality disorder?

What is Antisocial Personality disorder?

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a condition characterized by a lack of empathy and regard for other people. People who have antisocial personality disorder have little or no regard for right or wrong. They antagonize others and often act insensitively or in an unfeeling manner. 

It is not unusual for symptoms to be present during childhood; such behaviours may include fire setting, cruelty to animals, and difficulty with authority. Individuals with this disorder may lie, engage in aggressive or violent behaviour and participate in criminal activity from an early age. 

These characteristics often lead to major difficulties in many life areas. At its core, the inability to consider the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of other people can lead to harmful disregard for others. As adults, the disorder can be destructive to both the person living with it and those who come into contact with them. 

People with antisocial personality disorder are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours and dangerous activities. Those with the disorder are often described as having no conscience and feel no regret or remorse for their harmful actions. 

While the condition may begin in childhood, it cannot be officially diagnosed before the age of 18. Children who display these symptoms are diagnosed with conduct disorder. In order to be diagnosed with ASPD, a person must display a disregard and violation of the rights of others before the age of 15. 

The exact causes of antisocial personality disorder are not known. Personality is shaped by a variety of forces including nature and nurture. Upbringing can also have an important influence. Childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma have also been linked to the onset of ASPD. A number of factors have been found to increase the risk of the disorder including smoking during pregnancy and abnormal brain function.

Research suggests that people with ASPD have differences in the frontal lobe, the area of the brain that plays a role in planning and judgment. People with the disorder also tend to require greater stimulation and may seek out dangerous or even illegal activities to raise their arousal to an optimal level. 

As this is a complex personality disorder, it is recommended that you work with your psychiatrist or mental health team in the event that you or a loved one are experiencing a range of these symptoms.  

    What is a Borderline Personality Disorder?

    What is a Borderline Personality Disorder?

    A complex personality disorder where a person experiences instability in their relationships, moods, thinking, behaviour — even in their identity.


    A person with a borderline personality disorder (BPD), most probably feels like they are on a rollercoaster — and not just because of their unstable emotions or relationships, but also because of their wavering sense of who they are.


    Their self-image, goals, and even their likes and dislikes may change frequently in ways that feel confusing and unclear.


    People with BPD tend to be extremely sensitive. Some describe it as like they are having an exposed nerve ending. Small things can trigger intense reactions. And once upset, have trouble calming down. It’s easy to understand how this emotional volatility and inability to self-soothe leads to relationship turmoil and impulsive — even reckless — behaviour.


    When a person with BPD is in the throws of overwhelming emotions, they are unable to think straight or stay grounded. They may say hurtful things or act out in dangerous or inappropriate ways that then make them feel guilty or ashamed afterwards.


    It’s a painful cycle that can feel impossible to escape. But it’s not. There are effective BPD treatments and coping skills that can help people with BPD feel better and back in control of their thoughts, feelings, and actions.


    There are many complex things happening in the BPD brain, and researchers are still untangling what it all means. But in essence, if you have BPD, your brain is on high alert. Things feel scarier and more stressful to you than they do to other people. Your fight-or-flight switch is easily tripped, and once it’s on, it hijacks your rational brain, triggering primitive survival instincts that aren’t always appropriate to the situation at hand.


    This may make it sound as if there’s nothing that can be done. After all, what can you do if your brain is different? But the truth is that you can change your brain. Every time you practice a new coping response or self-soothing technique you are creating new neural pathways. Some treatments, such as mindfulness meditation, can even grow your brain matter. And the more you practice, the stronger and more automatic these pathways will become. So, don’t give up! With time and dedication, it is possible to change the way we think, feel, and act.


    Is a False Memory a Real Thing?

    Is a False Memory a Real Thing?


     A false memory is a fabricated or distorted recollection of an event and yes, it is a real thing. Such memories may be entirely false and imaginary. In other cases, they may contain elements of fact that have been distorted by interfering information or other memory distortions. 

    People often think of memory as something like a video recorder, accurately documenting and storing everything that happens with perfect accuracy and clarity. In reality, memory is very prone to fallacy. People can feel completely confident that their memory is accurate, but this confidence is no guarantee that a particular memory is correct. Examples of this phenomenon can range from the fairly mundane, such as incorrectly recalling that you locked the front door, to the much more serious, such as falsely remembering details of an accident you witnessed. 

    False memory differs from simple memory errors. While we are all prone to memory fallibility, false memory is more than a simple mistake; it involves a level of certitude in the validity of the memory. 

    Everyone experiences memory failures from time to time, false memories are unique in that they represent a distinct recollection of something that did not actually happen. It is not about forgetting or mixing up details of things that we experienced; it is about remembering things that we never experienced in the first place. 

    Factors that can influence false memory include mis-information and mis-attribution of the original source of the information. Existing knowledge and other memories can also interfere with the formation of a new memory, causing the recollection of an event to be mistaken or entirely false. 

    Over time, memories become distorted and begin to change. In some cases, the original memory may be changed in order to incorporate new information or experiences. 

    While it might be difficult for many people to believe, everyone has false memories. Our memories are generally not as reliable as we think and false memories can form quite easily, even among people who typically have very good memories.