Book review: ‘Dyslexia and Mental Health’ by Neil Alexander Passe
This book gave me insight into the psychological effects that dyslexia can have on an individual. It did that by explaining the difference between defence mechanisms and coping strategies. We use defence mechanisms in response to situations to protect ourselves from anxiety. However, instead of dealing with the difficulty, defence mechanisms actually prevent us from doing so. For example, if we drink alcohol to escape anxiety, we are not allowing ourselves to self-help. Coping strategies, on the other hand, enable us to fulfil our potential.
Here are some defence mechanisms the book discusses.
Avoidance – in fact, this is termed as a ‘pre-defence mechanism’. E.g. if you really don’t want to write a report, you procrastinate writing it
Denial e.g. denying that you are dyslexic even though you know you are
Repression = forgetting something bad e.g. a car accident
Regression = reverting back to a child-like emotional state e.g. bed-wetting, stammering, sulking
Displacement (‘kicking the cat’) = taking your emotion out on someone or something other than the person you feel it about
Projection e.g. if you think you’re stupid, accusing other people of thinking you’re stupid when there is no evidence to support this
Reaction formation = when you are attracted to someone you know is unsuitable and you behave as though you can’t stand them
Intellectualisation = thinking away an emotion that is uncomfortable for you
Rationalisation = explaining away your bad behaviour
Sublimation = using your emotions to produce positive results e.g. growing vegetables instead of vandalising cars
And here are some dyslexic defence mechanisms the book explores.
Emotional defence mechanisms
Social withdrawal e.g. daydreaming, avoiding socialising
Self-blame – internalising problems and punishing yourself
Hiding in class – trying to keep out of the teacher’s radar
Perfectionism – paying attention to detail
Hypochondria, including psychosomatic pain
Blocking out – trying not to think about the thing that threatens you
Drug or alcohol abuse
Self-harm e.g. with food or body
Suicide or attempted suicide
Behavioural defence mechanisms
Distraction e.g. misbehaving in class
Bad temper e.g. blaming others for difficulties
Pessimism e.g. saying ‘I’m going to fail this test’
Bullying – an expression of anger and frustration and a response to hostility
Shouting, biting, tantrums
Attention seeking e.g. shock, anger
Fantasy e.g. imagining answering someone back rather than actually doing it
The coping strategy this book suggests is Seligman’s ABCDE technique. This is about overcoming hopelessness in a learning context.
The book also identifies several different dyslexic coping profiles. These really helped me to understand and accept myself and others.
I found some of this book difficult to follow, and some of it contestable. Nevertheless, I benefited from reading it. The groups I would recommend it to are:
Parents / carers / educators of dyslexic children / young people; and
Counsellors / psychotherapists.
My top 3 tips for tackling this book are:
Start with chapter 14
Consider skipping chapter 1 if you are finding it hard-going (it’s summarised in chapter 14)
Before reading each chapter, read the conclusions and bullet points that come at the end of it.
Dyslexia Scotland has a copy of this book in its Resource Centre.
Published in the UK by Jessica Kingsley, 2015. ISBN 978-1-84905-582-6
This book review was written by a Dyslexia Scotland member.