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Getting help with emotions, attention and concentration issues

Relevant Key words: psychoanalyst Melbourne. psychologist melbourne. anxiety. mood disorders. stress. depression. personality issues.

Psychologist Melbourne: a word on diagnosis

Attention, concentration, impulsivity and emotion regulation problems are prevalent in a number of disorders. As a psychologist in Melbourne and based on my clinical training in Melbourne, and the continuing professional development I complete annually, the best practice I have been taught is that, a clear and thorough differential diagnosis process is paramount to offering any treatment. Therefore the initial sessions with me are dedicated to developing a good understanding of your family and psychiatric history as well as a recent history of your relationships and your own account of your presenting problem. This is because psychological problems can be complex to diagnose, because human beings are unique and complex beings. There is rarely a blood test or a brain scan that can diagnose a psychological problem. Although medical tests can be done to support the diagnostic process where warranted.

One of the commonly diagnosed DSM5 disorders is the Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is under the chapter of neuro-developmental disorders. The history of the manual is a contentious topic and out of the scope of this discussion, but a plethora of research have been previously dedicated to studying the issues, including the diagnostic overlap among the DSM-5 criteria. The list of symptoms of ADHD in the DSM have shown to have low specificity and there are no actual medical tests with good reliability and validity that predict someone might have it, regularly resulting in false positives in clinical trials and other observations from practice. There are many reasons for this issue (large numbers of false positives in clinical trials) which is out of the scope of this discussion, but you can read about medical tests: sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value elsewhere. In my practice, my focus is on working with and understanding the person and their difficulties, enabling the individual to speak about their problem, and attempting to create a clear and accurate assessment.


Neurocognitive theories of attention and information processing

Information processing and learning theories emphasize that information is elaborated, put into words and processed in various modes such as through perception, labeling, attention and meaning making. The connectionist model, which emerged from numerous neuroscience studies refers to a network of associations in the mind that are connected to various concepts. Current neuroscience theories state that information is stored simultaneously in different areas of the brain, and concepts are connected as a network of associations. The number of connections to a single piece of information will influence the ease of retrieval. Moreover, attention has a limited capacity so if there are unresolved emotional problems, one might repeatedly ruminate over the same thoughts as an attempt to try to process, taking up even more attention and mental resources. This process (i.e. rumination) can interfere with work, study and other areas of functioning.

In summary, stress, effects of grief, anger and chronic distress can all impair attention and may present as symptoms of ADHD. Therefore a thorough historical and developmental context of the individual suffering from those symptoms or problems is necessary to the differential diagnosis process. Because an accurate diagnosis determines the direction of the treatment or the interventions offered.

Psychology and clinical psychoanalysis refer treatment process


Therapeutic intervention /treatment

Treatment can help improve concentration and reduce the intensity of emotions by working to place the issues inside a coherent life narrative. Since we experience our life as a story of which we are both protagonists and narrators. For human beings, processing information involves organising things such as events in a narrative form. In treatment, by speaking and working through we help process and integrate the event, whatever it may be, into our life or pull the story out from under the weight and confusion of a traumatic event.

Evidently attention issues can risk being misdiagnosed, since the symptoms can overlap with anxiety, psychosis and mood disorders. For example clinical depression can also overload and slow cognitive processing. Melbourne psychologists with expertise in attention issues, an ADHD psychologist Melbourne may be able to assist in exploring these concerns with you to clarify the presenting problem.

Attention and emotional difficulties manifest and create difficulties differently for each individual. Regular consistent treatment may create stabilisation and assist in reducing stress. Furthermore treatment may support you in managing your day-to-day activities; for example by increasing your capacity to hold and process information.

Psychology studies have shown that people are more likely to act on impulse when feeling overwhelmed or disorganised in their thoughts. Speaking and working through your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a safe /nonjudgmental setting may improve confidence and increase clarity in thoughts and emotions. It may help in making independent decisions rather than being swayed, acting on mood changes and impulses. Speaking can produce the effect of freeing up cognitive resources and capacity for holding, learning and presenting information in a coherent manner.