Adolescence & Other Temporary Mental Disorders

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Adolescence & Other Temporary Mental Disorders
Produced by Barbara Lonnborg and Eli Hernandez
Boys Town Press
1 hour, 15 minutes. DVD.

This talk by Patrick C. Friman, director of clinical services at Boys Town, demystifies adolescent behavior with sound psychological insights.

Creating a sense that we’re all in this together, Friman describes our culture’s unrealistic expectation that normal kids are “problem-free.” Yet “temporary insanity” is normal, Friman explains, when adolescents are “hijacked by the limbic system,” the emotional part of the brain. When the brain’s “CEO” – the cerebral cortex that governs rational thought and self-control – is “on the job,” teenagers are respectful and responsible. If parents leave a teen alone for the weekend, the cerebral cortex goes on vacation, and the kid invites his pals over for a party. When the parents come home to total chaos, they wonder what’s wrong with their teenager.

Friman describes variations of limbic system takeover with humorous names. Rationality in Absentia Disorder occurs when a teen has done something “questionable or nutty.” The parent asks, “Why did you do that?” The factual response would be “Because I felt like it.” The next question is “What were you thinking?” The correct answer is “I wasn’t thinking.” Because parents won’t accept these genuine answers, the teenagers make something up.

An anecdote about Friman himself at 14 makes the point. A summer job on a farm required him to drive a tractor in a straight line at two miles per hour for a quarter-mile each day. Bored silly, Friman took the tractor on a fast spin, tearing up the field in crop-circle designs. He couldn’t tell the furious farmer the two correct answers just mentioned, so he concocted a story.

Friman’s constellation of adolescent disorders includes Situational Mutism (responding with monosyllables), Sensory Interruptitis (deafness and blindness to adult commands) and Woeismenia (chronically bored moodiness).

In addition, says Friman, “puberty hits them like a freight train.” His description of male puberty from his own experience is priceless. As for Sexmania, it’s “all but inevitable” that most teens will have some form of sex because “they’re overprepared biologically and overstimulated by Madison Avenue.”

Having treated serious disorders, Friman has valuable insights on Pharmacitis (drug use) and Cutitis, making a distinction between minor cutting for social attention, and severe cutting as a “maladaptive way of asking for help.” When a suffering teenager cannot escape a problem, the moment of cutting is a “tremendous relief because all the attention goes there.”

Ten closing tips for adults dealing with adolescents range from “Be a dispassionate cop” to “Honor their identity.” Friman’s authority, energetic pace, and mix of humor and gravity make his messages easily digestible. (800) 282-6657, www.boystownpress.org.