The Shock This Mom Got When She Tried to “Fix” Her Daughter
(Names have been changed to protect privacy.)
When someone in your family is struggling with a mental health condition—whether it’s anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, memory loss, schizophrenia, behavioral problems, or PTSD—it impacts the whole family and can create dysfunction. Most people want to blame all the stress and drama on that one person and believe that if they could just “fix” that individual, everything would be resolved. In reality, it’s rarely that simple. In many cases, other family members are contributing to the problems due to undiagnosed issues.
Here’s how one mother learned this important lesson first-hand.
Was Maya’s Condition the Source of Dysfunction?
Jackie was constantly butting heads with her daughter, Maya, a 16-year-old junior in high school who had been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Like many teens with this condition, Maya’s room at home was so messy it looked like it had been hit by a tornado. She had trouble focusing and was struggling to keep up with her schoolwork while also studying to take the SAT. Maya was having such a hard time, she started thinking she would never get into college, so why should she even bother studying so hard for the SAT?
Jackie was constantly hounding her daughter to study more and work harder and telling her she was being lazy, which only added to Maya’s discouragement. Jackie was a natural at taking charge and getting things done and expected everybody else to be just as good at powering through their to-do list, so she thought Maya was just being lazy with her study schedule.
On top of that, Jackie hated it when things were out of place, so she would get angry at her daughter for having so much clutter in her room. These negative thoughts would get stuck in Jackie’s head, and she would bring up things Maya did wrong years ago. It all added more stress to Maya’s situation and ratcheted up the mother-daughter tension.
Jackie was convinced that Maya’s ADD/ADHD was the source of all their troubles and if they could just get that under control then everything would be better between them.
When Brain Scans Reveal Undetected Issues
Jackie decided to take her daughter for a brain SPECT scan and a comprehensive evaluation so Maya could be “fixed.” After learning more about their relationship, however, the psychiatrist suggested that both Maya and Jackie get scanned. Jackie didn’t think she really needed to have her own brain scanned, after all, it was Maya’s brain that was the problem. But she agreed, assuming the doctor could use her own scan as a healthy example to compare to Maya’s.
After going through the process, Maya’s scan showed low activity in her prefrontal cortex (consistent with ADD/ADHD) combined with increased activity in her basal ganglia and amygdala (a tendency for anxiety and predicting the worst).
The patterns of abnormal brain activity in Maya’s scan related to ADD/ADHD didn’t come as a surprise to Jackie. But she hadn’t realized that her daughter’s negativity was rooted in brain activity that revealed a vulnerability for anxiety disorder. She had always thought it was just a bad personality trait.
Then it came time to review her own scan. What she saw was shocking.
How Do You Know Unless You Look?
Jackie’s scan showed excessive activity in the front part of her brain in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG), which is seen in people with obsessive compulsive disorder and in those who tend to be rigid and hold grudges. For the first time in her life, Jackie grasped that she had brain issues that were fueling the dysfunctional relationship she had with her daughter. “Fixing” her daughter wasn’t going to solve their problems. They both needed to enhance their brain health in order to have a peaceful relationship.
Seeing both of their brain scans also helped Jackie understand that her daughter’s brain simply worked differently from her own, so she stopped expecting Maya to tackle her studies the same way she had done when she was that age. It also helped her see how her parenting style had actually been making Maya’s issues worse. She realized that enhancing Maya’s brain was only part of the solution. She needed to optimize her own brain as well to be able to better support Maya.
With the help of their mental health professional, the two of them began personalized treatment plans using supplements and lifestyle interventions targeted to each individual brain. Maya’s treatment plan focused on boosting activity in the PFC and soothing the basal ganglia, while Jackie’s program aimed to calm her overactive ACG.
After a few weeks, Maya was able to get better organized and stay more focused while studying. And with her own brain calmed down, Jackie stopped getting so upset about things being out of place and quit harping on Maya about things that had happened years earlier. When it came time for the SAT, Maya did better than she had anticipated and eventually got into her top choice for college. And she and her mom now get along much better, so they are both less stressed in general.
At Amen Clinics, when we use brain SPECT imaging to scan entire families, we often discover that one or more family members have a diagnosable mental health condition that has gone undetected. Without this knowledge, the family unit would likely continue to struggle. Optimizing all of the family member’s brains can be the key to a more loving and supportive home life.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of family members who have already visited Amen Clinics and enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and healed their relationships, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.