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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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For a long time, Ive needed to study or work in a very quiet

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For a long time, I’ve needed to study or work in a very quiet environment. In high school or college, compared to other “A” students, I was unproductive in the louder libraries yet was more productive in the quiet libraries. I did very well in high school (graduated with honors) and graduated from an elite university with high honors.

Since finishing college, my work performance has been related to how loud/quiet my office space is. I’ve been out of college for 5.5 yrs and have had 4 different jobs, and in each job I’ve had numerous issues with the office noise such as co-workers talking, person sitting next to me clicking his mouse or typing too loudly, loud phone ringing of colleagues, etc. At one of the firms, when I was allowed to wear bose noise cancelling headphones, I went from being able to barely do my job adequately, to doing fantastic. However, at that job the senior managers felt it was unprofessional for me to wear the headphones and eventually I had to not wear the headphones.

In a regular office environment I struggle compared to my colleagues of similar “rank”. However, if the environment is quiet or I am wearing headphones I do much better than my colleagues. So, it seems that I am incapable of staying focused in an environment with noise, yet I have zero focus problems in a quiet environment (or when wearing earplugs or headphones). This is not ADHD/ADD then right?

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, let me say I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. Your problem, however, does not appear to be consistent with ADHD. That's good news. Because you are clearly bright and capable. So having a specific problem is easier than an overall cognitive problem like ADHD. What, then, might be going on here?

There are two problems that emerge as most likely based on what you have written. One is a form of dyslexia and the other an anxiety reaction. It is possible that your brain is not processing the information you need to concentrate on because of the background noise, that it can't "tune out" the background noise. The filtering mechanism may not be there. In that case you would have to get help from a specialist in this.

But I'm not convinced this is the leading contender here. Why?

Because you've gotten this far without having this problem. This form of dyslexia would, from my understanding, have been present throughout your school career. The late onset of this problem just doesn't conform. But keep it in the back of your mind if the next possibility is ruled out for some reason.

And that is an anxiety reaction. The timing of the problem's onset is very consistent with this. The fact that you are very bright and capable is not, you might be surprised to find out, a protection from these anxiety symptoms. Often, capable people, will have somatic (physical) symptoms that result from anxiety.

Now, you are a young man and aren't reporting any other problem. I therefore am going to recommend something unusual. I rarely recommend hypnosis. But here I'm going to! Why?

Because there is no other symptom of a life problem that is debilitating going on. Now here's the important statement about hypnosis: hypnosis can help with a specific problem and that's why I'm thinking of it. HOWEVER, there are good and honest hypnotists and there are other types. Your only way of assessing is two ways: first, make sure he or she is a licensed psychologist. Don't let anyone tell you they are a licensed hypnotherapist. There is no licensure in most states that I know of. It's all a "self-licensing" which is not good enough. So you want to know his or her license number as a psychologist and call the state licensing board to make sure there have been no complaints filed.

My hope here is that you will, like a smoker, be able to use the hypnosis to not have to have the anxiety reaction continue just as a smoker can cease his anxiety reaction of holding a cigarette to his lips, etc.

This is a relatively quick way to see if you can deal with the problem as a symptom. If, however, you are not a good candidate or it doesn't bring relief, then you should consider psychotherapy for the underlying anxiety. You would then talk with your therapist about the possibility of that form of dyslexia and investigate it as well. But I hope that this straightforward approach will help you; it's worth trying first.

I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
"It is possible that your brain is not processing the information you need to concentrate on because of the background noise, that it can't "tune out" the background noise. The filtering mechanism may not be there. In that case you would have to get help from a specialist in this.

But I'm not convinced this is the leading contender here. Why?
Because you've gotten this far without having this problem. This form of dyslexia would, from my understanding, have been present throughout your school career..."

Dear Doc, first, thank you very much for your hard work on this. Your work really makes a difference.

The first paragraph above hits the nail on the head. However, this "tuning out inability" has been fully present in school and college. The difference is that I had the option to study in quiet environments on my hw in school/college. And during class the environment was fairly quiet, and there weren't phones ringing, colleagues chatting in cube next to me, etc...Therefore, I am fully confident that my "tuning out" ability did not decrease once I joined corporate office environment, but that the office environment is just significantly "noisier".

With this in mind, what form of dyslexia are you referring to, and if I am convinced that the "tuning out" mechanism is the issue here, and it has been "missing" for as long as I remember, what specialist do I see?

...since I am asking you more than 1 question worth, I'll double the payment amount or something like that, I do appreciate your time.
I appreciate your sensitivity in terms of payment. I'm so glad I didn't discount it like I thought to at first given the timing. You know, dyslexia is usually treated in childhood and teen years in the school using educational psychologists. You now are looking for a practice that is more of a private practice that would have some experience following adults after school years. So, the best way I know of is to Google "adult dyslexia treatment {the name of your city or closest metro area}". Or Google "adult learning disabilities treatment {the name of your city or closest metro area}". I know it sounds vague but use the ones that come up as if you were networking: you call and see who they can refer you to who can then...and when you do find someone who seems like they can offer treatment, interview them first and make your own evaluation if you feel confident they have experience with this educational/behavioral treatment you need.

Another way is to look at the web page for the Education Department of your local university. The top university and get the email addresses of the faculty there. Sometimes they list the faculty's research interest. See if there's someone who's researching learning disabilities. But that's not so important. You want to relate your problem and the difficulties in finding the right treatment modality for a working professional. Ask them for a referral. Try all the faculty there. I do that when I've got someone in session who has specialized needs.

Let me finish with two small tips. I'm not an educational psychologist and haven't specialized at all in the problem you're experiencing. But I've worked with kids and teens, and when you do that you get whole sorts of situations. So here are two tips that you may already know but...

1. Concentrating is a luxury until you get some good treatment. Okay. So, until it quiets down, work in a series of steps: write down a quick outline first of what you're trying to do. Then a first draft that's messy, then a refinement, then a final draft. In everything, even an email, don't try to make it all one step. Because that's a lot of concentrating time.

2. Whenever you can, talk out loud as you work saying out what you are trying to type. Or mouth the words to yourself. Sometimes saying out loud focuses us.

Is there an option of staggering your hours so you're there sometimes when there are fewer other staff? Or weekend work and you take other days off? Or take a different lunch hour when it's loud and work during the quiet main lunch hour?

Okay. So treatment is the key here. I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
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