Not Reality, Scripted

There were a bunch of adoptee reunion programs on TV in the 1990s. I think seeing these really made my adoptee mom wish for a reunion of her own. It was not to be. Even as Tennessee was turning down her request for her adoption file, they broke her heart by telling her that her mother has died several years earlier.

As today’s story reveals, you really can’t believe what you see on these programs.

In early 2020 pre-COVID, I was contacted by a TV producer asking if I would be interested in being on a show. I won’t give the name, but it’s a show about finding lost family members. I immediately knew it was probably about my bio mom or dad.

I agreed, a little out of curiosity, but mostly because they offered me $4000 to be on the show and an all-expenses paid vacation to LA for filming.

Sure enough, it was my mother. She put forth this sob story. She was 15 (which I already knew) and that she felt like she had to give me up, in order to escape shame and disownment from friends and family. Also that her boyfriend pushed her to do it. She said, she always wanted to find me – blah blah blah. I felt completely awkward doing this around cameras.

I found out that ALL reality shows, even the feel-good ones, are SUPER scripted, and the producers kept trying to feed me lines to say, like “I’ve waited for this moment all my life.” At this time in my life, I really couldn’t care less about finding my biological family and had negative feelings about my firth mom, so I don’t think I played the “grateful daughter” role that they wanted. Anyways, the show ends and I go back to my life. I got my biological mom’s info and we text a few times a year.

I was just notified that the show will be airing in the summer, and I have had a lot of anxiety over it. I cannot shake the feeling that none of this was necessary and that it was all for show, and that my biological mom did this to give the world an emotional story to make herself feel better.

There was absolutely NO reason she needed to go on national television to find me. For one, I have researched, and closed adoption files can be accessed by the biological mother, if she goes through the proper steps. She could’ve found my adoptive parent’s information and gone from there. It’s also literally 2022 (actually it was 2020 at the time but still).

Everyone is taking Ancestry DNA tests. She could’ve spent 60 bucks to get a 23 and Me test and found out that I’m already in the data base. I just feel like she completely went to the extremes to do this and put our personal business out there for the world. What if I am portrayed as being an ungrateful bitch or something ?Or future employers search for my name and find the episode!!

One commenter noted – I hear you on the “reality” shows. I also did a pilot many years ago in which they wanted me to react a certain way, so did my daughter. Basically they’re all fake (not real at all). As for the biological mom, everyone is different in how they come to the decision, and what they do with it. She could’ve been looking for her 15 min of fame, or possibly she did feel so pressured and now finally felt like it was time to stand up to those who pressured her. 

And yet another added – or she wanted the money.

Developmental Trauma Disorder In An Adoptee

“All diagnoses are wrong, but some are useful.” George Box

The kinds of complex issues that adoptees face can be difficult to treat. A 2013 study found that fewer than 25% of adoptive parents who sought mental health services felt that their mental health professional was adoption-competent. The symptoms and issues that adopted children experience are typically not taught in most graduate school mental health programs. Adding to the challenges faced by adoptive families, insurance companies will not cover what is really going on with these children and their families because it is not correctly conceptualized, coded, and diagnosed.

Some common diagnoses used with adopted children include Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Affective Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Each of these may characterize certain symptoms that these children demonstrate, but none of them systemically addresses the developmental aspect of trauma that most (if not all) adopted children experience. None take into account the sad possibility of being traumatized by birth or foster-parents. “There is no diagnosis for children that more than partially addresses the symptoms associated with these impairments in self-regulation” according to Julian Ford, PhD, who is a psychologist with the University of Connecticut.

“Developmental Trauma Disorder” or DTD includes symptoms that differentiate it from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD more commonly associated with the “Battle-Fatigue” symptoms of WWI. Children are often traumatized in the context of relationships. Because children’s brains are still developing, this trauma has a much more pervasive and long-range influence on their self-concept, on their sense of the world, and on their ability to regulate themselves.

There are four diagnostic areas involved in DTD – [1] Exposure [2] Triggered pattern of repeated dysregulation in response to trauma cues [3] Persistently Altered Attributions and Expectancies and [4] Functional Impairment. Those who’s work has been focused on adopted children who have suffered various forms of Complex Trauma will recognize the manifestation of these. The American Psychiatric Association failed to include this in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (also known as the DSM-V).

The problem with this oversight is that after experiencing chronic trauma, the current standard of clinical practice often reveals no diagnosis, inaccurate diagnosis or inadequate diagnosis…all of which leads to misguided or complete lack of treatment plans. Further, because there is almost always considerable dysregulation of body (sensory and motor), affect (explosive/irritable or frozen/restricted), cognition (altered perceptions of beliefs, auditory and sensory-perceptual flashbacks and dissociation) and behavior (multiple forms of regression), the diagnoses of bipolar, oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other anxiety disorders are made. Many of these disorders are co-morbid with developmental trauma disorder, as they tend to cluster in these complex families. But the importance is that the developmental trauma disorder would be primary and thus guide the treatment plan…and further, refine the inclusion (or not) of other co-morbid disorders.

Today’s blog was informed by an article Could My Adopted Teen Have Developmental Trauma Disorder? by Dr Norm Thibault, LMFT