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Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Family in Chaos - Jan 17, 2008

Family in Chaos, Britney Spears' Latest Troubles

January 17, 2008

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With Britney Spears continuing to struggle following a stunning series of bad choices over the last few weeks, Americans are asking if the young singer will ever calm down. Yet this story highlights an important challenge faced for millions of American parents who bear responsibility for their adult children. Here to shed some light on this difficult issue is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Gearing.

Q: This is a young woman with everything--fame, fortune and beauty. Why does she continue to spiral out of control?

Dr. Sylvia: From media reports, it appears that Britney is an addict and is mentally ill. She seems to have every symptom of bipolar depression disorder in which the individual fluctuates between extreme highs and lows leading to erratic decision making and unexplainable moods. Tragically, bipolar often strikes in the late teens or early twenties as the child moves from dependence to complete emancipation. With new freedom that comes with early adulthood, the depression can become deeply entrenched in the brain before it is diagnosed. Hidden by the impulsivity of youth, risky and even dangerous behaviors are misinterpreted as "kids being kids." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Q: So Britney's drug and alcohol problems could be a direct result of her depression?

Dr. Sylvia: It is a debate in psychology as to which comes first. We do know that with affluent teens and adults in their early twenties, their access to an array of drugs allows them to self medicate as the bipolar emerges in their brains. They basically use the substance abuse to resist the increasing mental chokehold of the mood swings. If you add in a possible post partum depression and family history of depression, Britney Spears never had a chance.

Q: According to reports, Britney's family has repeatedly tried to intervene. What should families do at this point?

Dr. Sylvia: The Spears family is in one of the most torturous situations of modern parenting and psychologists are seeing more of these tragedies in practice. The bottom line is that kids are taking longer to grow up. Twentysomethings are commonly experiencing an extended adolescence and "26" is the new "16." With the astronomical costs of education and launching a child into the job market, many parents are still burdened with supporting their adult child both emotionally and financially. When extreme mental illness hits, the entire family can be wiped out emotionally, if not financially.

Q: What happens when an adult child spins out of control as in Britney's case?

Dr. Sylvia: The family ends up "spinning" with her. In fact, we commonly treat wonderful, conscientious parents for severe trauma who are caught in the "perfect storm" of their child's explosive and lethal behaviors. Faced with helplessness and endlessly frustrated by a legal system that protects the adult child, they are relegated to a bystander position.

Q: What kind of situation is especially difficult for the parent?

Dr. Sylvia: The trauma to the parent is especially severe when the adult child begins to make irrevocable decisions that are life changing. The parent can't completely walk away because they love this person, yet they lack any means to control the situation. As one patient told me, "I feel like I am in a car with my child going over a cliff in slow motion."

Q: What advice do you have for anyone caught in this situation?

Dr. Sylvia: There are several things to keep in mind:

1. Adult Children on a Rampage: You are not alone. Many talented and devoted parents are in the same situation and are mired in the nightmare of an adult child on a rampage. Don't blame yourself once you have tried to secure the correct mental health professionals for your child. Resist resonating to the criticism from people who want to blame the parents. This type of situation can happen to any parent.

2. Control What You Can: Focus on what you can control and move past the decisions beyond your control. Research tells us that resilient people remain stable in the face of formidable odds when they retain this focus.

3. Miracles Abound: As a psychologist with twenty years experience, I can promise you that miracles commonly happen. Don't buy into the hopeless, stereotypical thinking of others. People change radically every day. Neuro-science studies now tell us that our minds are ever expanding and that we can redefine who we are. Find a great psychologist to help you remain accurate and available as a mentor for that amazing adult child who needs you.