How do you tell the difference between emotional discomfort and a mental health disorder?
Members of the Nebraska City Rotary Club had an opportunity to learn the difference between the two conditions when John Lehnhoff, Ph.D., clinical psychology consultant for CHI behavioral health, spoke to the club on June 26.
Lenhoff explained the difference between the two conditions as follows: “Life is one thing after another, while a mental disorder is the same thing over and over.”
Other signs of a mental health disorder include:
Symptoms that recur and interfere with a person’s social, interpersonal, physical or vocational skills;
Symptoms that occur more often, more intensely or for a longer time than those of one’s peers;
Symptoms that do not improve with behavioral management methods that have worked in the past; and
Patterns of frequent “bad days” with similar problems of problem behaviors.
Lehnhoff used an incident from his childhood to illustrate his last point.
He told of a day where he stole some wrenches from a local bicycle repair shop in his neighborhood.
He went home and told his mother soon after his arrival that he intended to become criminal and that he had stolen the wrenches.
His mother promptly loaded him into the family station wagon for a trip back to the shop, where the wrenches were returned.
Lehnhoff noted that successful criminals “do not usually go home and tell their mothers of their plans.” He added that the feelings he felt as he and his mother traveled back to the shop kept him from stealing in the future.
If, however, he had continued to show a pattern of criminal behavior, Lehnhoff said his mother might have needed to bring in additional help to solve his behavior problem.
Lehnhoff said some of his work has been with students who have some behavioral problems in school.
He tried complimenting the students when they behaved correctly, but he found they had difficulty accepting the compliment.
When he focused on the student’s “success,” he said the student was better able to accept the compliment.
“I used to tell them to give themselves a high-five to help them internalize their success,” he said, rather than having the students depend on others to compliment them.
Lehnhoff also found success with students who could tell him how easy a project was to complete, instead of him telling them afterwards that the project “wasn’t so hard.”
“Think of the things you’re more proud of [accomplishing],” he told the audience. “They probably weren’t easy, but you’re glad you did it.”
The Nebraska City Rotary Club meets at noon Wednesday at the Eagles Club, 600 1st Corso. Guests pay $9 for lunch.