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ADHD Adults

Talk show guest excoriated for classic ADHD traits

Dear ADHD friends,

Did anyone else wince when Dr. Phil humiliated a guest with what appears to be a debilitating case of undiagnosed ADHD?

Phil McGraw, who at one time was a practicing psychologist, has posted a written summary and video excerpts of the case of the “Mama’s Boy Moocher,” a 28-year-old man who lives with his parents and can’t be made to thrive on his own. You can find it here:

Steven is chronically unemployed, stuck in neutral, deep in debt, trailed by patently foolish life decisions.
McGraw scolds Steven relentlessly, telling him he’s a dependent, lazy, unfocused, immature, obese, out-of-shape spendthrift with no foresight.

Likewise, McGraw lambastes the parents for crippling Steven by indulging his enduring wish to evade responsibility.

I, however, am struck by the intensity of Steven’s desire to become independent and competent. As you can see, he proves his motivation by subjecting himself to the full Dr. Phil treatment in exchange for practical help turning his life around. In addition to enduring a fusillade of McGraw’s exclamations of indignation and disgust, Steven faces the withering disdain of the financial drill sergeant McGraw has assigned to whip him into shape.

I predict McGraw’s approach will fail, as have all the extraordinary methods attempted by Steven’s loving but exasperated family. I think Steven’s genuine motivation will be undermined, as always, by his ignorance of his ADHD.

If you’re curious, I’ve posted a letter to Dr. Phil laying out my hypothesis:

I’ve also posted a letter offering Steven a bit of empathy and support:

If you’d like to augment my advice to McGraw, he welcomes feedback: 

With respect and gratitude,

Jameson O’Neal


I don’t watch Dr.  Phil Charleton, You don’t do therapy on TV

Posted by donttread on Jan 19, 2014 at 7:07pm

I don’t watch Dr.  Phil Charleton, You don’t do therapy on TV

Posted by donttread on Jan 19, 2014 at 7:08pm

I have not watched Dr. Phil, but from what you describe, the good doctor was attacking the behaviors and not ADHD per se.  Importantly, this poor sap was not diagnosed, nor was there any mention of a diagnosis. 

ADHD symptoms read like a social and professional train wreck.  If no pathology exists then this guy certainly needs some kind of motivation.  Clearly, indulging this guy is not having any positive outcome.

What is scary here is that you are correct, this guy could be a poster child for ADHD…  How he lives his life is what this condition all too often fosters.  Sloth, self depreciation, profound lack of confidence, an inability to properly match behaviors to desired outcome.  Quoting you:  “...dependent, lazy, unfocused, immature, obese, out-of-shape spendthrift with no foresight”.  Sadly, all too often, that is what we do - and often worse.  Addictions, infidelity, criminal behaviors… I need not repeat the litany.

I think it would have been a positive for our community if this poor sap was diagnosed with ADHD.  Clearly it would have been a positive for the ‘patient’ as well. Few outside of those directly affected by ADHD understand the magnitude of this disorder. Let’s face it.  ADHD symptoms read like a social and professional train wreck.  As said earlier.. this guy would be the perfect poster child.

In my mind, such reprimands are not inconsistent with the behaviors.  If not ADHD, then a good kick in the tail is can be a positive when all else fails…  I have ADHD and such ‘kicks in the tail’ have often been positives for me.  I may not like it when it happens but long term, the outcome is positive. Such ‘tough love’ saw me through Grad School and some difficult stretches in my professional life.  Hand wringing only ausauges those with wet hands.

Your suggestions?

Posted by LakeLife on Jan 19, 2014 at 11:10pm

Jameson, I am impressed that you took the time to offer your observations to both Dr. Phil and to Steven. People in the media need to be aware of what ADHD looks like in real life.  I once wrote to Dear Abby for the same reason, and luckily she responded that hundreds of people wrote to educate her about ADHD.

I hope that Steven and his family learn from what you wrote and that he is able to get to the place he wants to be.  And I hope Dr. Phil learns and does a show that will help us ADD-ers, not hurt us!

Posted by anniewriter64 on Jan 20, 2014 at 12:01am

ADD is to complicated for TV and Dr. Phil.

Posted by msnuggie on Jan 21, 2014 at 5:55pm

Dr. Phil strikes me as the sort of person who wouldn’t “believe” in ADHD. “Reality TV” disgusts me - TV “therapy” turns real problems into a circus so that mean-spirited people watching at home can boost their own self-esteem on gossip fodder. It gives them something to tsk-tsk about, and inflate their own egos by comparison. Right? But I’m glad you responded to him, because people like that need to understand there is only so much the public will tolerate. Eventually ignorance and bullying will hurt his career.

Posted by sdsea on Jan 25, 2014 at 5:40am

ADHD is not a mental illness.

Posted by sdsea on Jan 25, 2014 at 5:53am

I hate Dr. Phil, but have to defend him in this instance.

Negative behaviors most definitely should lead to consequences.

You also can’t ignore the epidemic numbers of young adults following this model. They can’t ALL have ADHD.

Dr. Phil’s “treatment” is for his audience, and in this regard he’s addressing the fact that parents are allowing their kids to shirk responsibility for a cripplingly long time into adulthood and enabling them to continue the behaviors that have thus far led them back to their childhood bedroom.

For certain, psychology should be availed in cases where it’s necessary. Maybe this will also inspire some parents to suggest that their child should get help. If the adult child in question follows through and gets it, I’m sure his doctor and therapist will work towards achieving the patient independence for his/her own well-being.

In that vein, I’m sure his hope was to empower some parents to start “laying down the law.”

Posted by Bumr50 on Jan 25, 2014 at 8:30pm

I can’t imagine any psychologist worth a dime using tactics such as “humiliation” and “excoriation” with a client. When have those ever made someone a better person? Apparently, Dr. Phil is successful as an entertainer, but I’m sure he isn’t successful as a psychologist (which may be why he’s doing a TV show, instead). I’m sure there are some other hostile, judgmental psychologists out there who operate like he does. But I doubt that many people would go to see them more than once.

Posted by pnwsuzie on Jan 26, 2014 at 8:04am

And if Steven’s self image is damaged to the point where he’s stagnant and frozen and unable to help himself because of undiagnosed ADD/ADHD, how in the world is Dr. Phil’s tirade going to help? 

If he didn’t want help, he wouldn’t have come on the show.  Perhaps he’d spent a lifetime asking himself “why” he’s like he is and can’t help himself.  ADHD sounds like a reasonable armchair diagnosis.

Posted by SheilaC on Aug 08, 2014 at 7:12pm

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