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Jun 26

How Do You Forgive Yourself?


By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT
Guilt is good. Yes! Guilt actually encourages people to have more empathy for others, to take corrective action, and to improve themselves. Self-forgiveness following guilt is self-essential to esteem, which is key to enjoying life and relationships. Yet, for many, self-acceptance remains elusive because of unhealthy guilt.

Guilt may be an unrelenting source of pain. You might believe that you should feel guilty and condemn yourself not once, but repeatedly. Guilt also may simmer in your unconscious. Either way, this kind of guilt is insidious and self-destructive and can sabotage your goals.

Guilt causes anger and resentment, not only at yourself, but toward others in order to justify your actions. Anger, resentment, and guilt sap your energy, cause depression and illness, and prevent success, pleasure, and fulfilling relationships. They keep you stuck in the past and prevent you from moving forward.

You may feel guilty not only for your actions, but also for your thoughts — for wishing someone pain, misfortune, or even death; for feelings such as anger, lust, or greed; for lack of feelings, such as unreciprocal love or friendship, or for not grieving the loss of someone close. Although irrational, you might feel guilty for someone else’s thoughts, attributes, feelings, and actions. It’s not unusual for people to feel guilty for leaving their faith or not meeting their parents’ expectations.

People often judge themselves based upon the blame or false accusations emanating from others, which they believe to be true. For example, a woman projects her selfishness onto her husband. He believes it, not realizing it is she who is selfish (an attribute). She might blame her insecurity (feeling) on him, claiming he’s flirting, uncaring, or indifferent. A man might blame his anger (feeling) or mistake (action) on his partner, and she believes him and feels guilty.

Because of their low self-esteem, it’s common for codependents to take the blame for others’ behavior. A spouse might accept her husband’s blame and feel guilty for his drinking or addiction. Victims of abuse or sexual assault frequently feel guilt and shame, despite the fact that they were victims and it’s the perpetrator who is culpable. When it comes to divorce, those initiating it often feel guilty, even though responsibility for their marital problem is shared or was primarily due to their partner.

Guilt should be distinguished from shame. Shame causes you to feel inferior, inadequate, or bad about who you are versus what you did. When irrational and not absolved, guilt can lead to shame. Shame isn’t constructive. Instead of enhancing empathy and self-improvement, it has the opposite effect. It leads to greater self-preoccupation and undermines both the self and relationships.

If you already have low self-esteem or have issues around shame (most people do), it may be difficult to concentrate on what it is you feel guilty about. However, this is necessary in order to get past it. Rationalizing or brushing it under the rug to avoid self-examination may help temporarily, but will not achieve self-forgiveness. Alternatively, beating yourself up prolongs guilt and shame and damages your self-esteem; accepting responsibility and taking remedial action improves it. Here are suggested steps you can take. I refer to actions, but they apply equally to thoughts or feelings you feel guilty about:

If you’ve been rationalizing your actions, take responsibility. “Okay, I did (or said) it.”
Write a story about what happened, including how you felt about yourself and others involved before, during, and after.
Analyze what your needs were at that time, and whether they were being met. If not, why not?
What were your motives? What or who was the catalyst for your behavior?
Does the catalyst remind you of something from your past? Write a story about it, and include dialogue and your feelings.
How were your feelings and mistakes handled growing up? Were they forgiven, judged, or punished? Who was hard on you? Were you made to feel ashamed?
Evaluate the standards by which you’re judging yourself. Are they your values, your parents’, your friends’, your spouse’s, or those of your faith? Do you need their approval? It’s pointless to try to live up to someone else’s expectations. Others’ desires and values have more to do with them. They may never approve, or you may sacrifice yourself and your happiness seeking approval.
Identify the values and beliefs that in fact governed you during the event? For example, “Adultery is okay if my spouse never finds out.” Be honest, and decide which values you agree with.
Did your actions reflect your true values? If not, trace your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that led to your actions. Think about what may have led you to abandon your values. Notice that you hurt yourself when you violate your values. This actually causes more harm than disappointing someone else.
How did your actions affect you and others? Whom did you hurt? Include yourself on the list.
Think of ways to make amends. Take the action, and make them. For example, if the person is dead, you can write a letter of apology. You can also decide to act differently in the future.
Looking back, what healthier beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions would have led to a more desirable result?
Do you expect perfection? Has this improved your overall well-being? Perfection is illusory and a manifestation of underlying shame.
Would you forgive someone else for the same actions? Why would you treat yourself differently? How does it benefit you to continue to punish yourself?
Remorse is healthy and leads to corrective action. Think about what you’ve learned from your experience and how you might act differently today.
Write yourself an empathic letter of understanding, appreciation, and forgiveness.
Repeat on a daily basis words of kindness and forgiveness from your letter, such as, “I’m innocent,” “I forgive myself,” and “I love myself.”
Share honestly with others what you did. Don’t share with those who might judge you. If appropriate, talk about what happened in a 12-Step group. Secrecy prolongs guilt and shame.

Realize that you may forgive yourself and still believe you were at fault, just as you might forgive someone else even though you think the person was in the wrong. You can have regret for what you did yet accept that you’re human and made mistakes. Perhaps, you did your best, given your circumstances, awareness, maturity, and experience at the time. This is a healthy, humble attitude.

If you continue to have difficulties with self-forgiveness, it’s helpful to see a counselor. You may be suffering from shame, which predisposes you to self-loathing, guilt, and feeling bad about yourself. This can be healed in therapy. See my posts on self-love and nurturing, and get my ebook, 10 Steps to Self-Esteem.

Jun 23

What Your Favorite Porn Says About You


By Stanley Siegel
You are sitting in front of a computer screen surfing porn sites ready to get off. You sift through scenes and images until you connect to one. Suddenly, every element of desire falls perfectly in line. You become intensely excited, your physical and mental energy sharply focused and shutting out other thoughts. Eventually, you climax.

Most of us do not meticulously analyze what just happened. There might be some curiosity about why a certain porn scene turns us on. Typically, after getting off to it, we feel temporarily satisfied and pull ourselves back together.

What actually is happening in that moment when everything clicks? Why does a particular story or scene cause such arousal? Why, for instance, does forced sex with a woman or a very boyish man attract us more than other images?

Sexual fantasies, whether elaborate romantic themes or sporadic images of muscular arms or big breasts, mean much more than we think. Specific erotic images are connections to deeper inner truths long banished from consciousness.

Porn intensely focuses our mental and physical attention, uncovering specific emotions eroticized much earlier in life. Through our sexual fantasies, we attempt to master feelings of powerlessness, shame, guilt, fear and loneliness that have followed us into adulthood. Encoded in the porn scenes that lead us to orgasm are the psychological antidotes to these feelings. Situating ourselves in humiliating, romantic or risky scenes counteracts painful feelings by turning them into pleasurable ones. Psychologically, this happens outside our awareness, the way blood cells heal a cut finger without our knowing it.

To decode eroticized feelings, look at family dynamics. Childhood conflicts produce strong emotions that never completely disappear. Their impact echoes long into adulthood, woven into our fantasies, even when denied. What arouses us is far from random or meaningless. The porn we choose to watch is dictated by our psychological histories.

So, as you continue to read, consider your answers to these questions as you think about the porn you watch.

What was your scariest experience growing up?
Were you afraid of your parents?
When did you not feel accepted or ignored by a parent, sibling or friend?
When did you feel controlled by your parents?
Could you discuss anger with them or disagree with them?
Were you regularly spanked or disciplined as a child?

The basic question to put to yourself is this one: How is the feeling in your favorite porn video like the feeling you had during a conflict in your childhood?

Suppose our parents, teachers, or clergy used excessive shame or guilt to teach or control us. To deal with our resultant anger, we encode the shame in our fantasies, becoming aroused when thinking of ourselves as naughty or engaging in secret or forbidden sexual acts. We feel excited, for example, when punished or disciplined for supposed misbehavior, by being tied up and forced to have sex. Forced to surrender sexually to a dominant aggressor, we allow ourselves to enjoy the sex while escaping from the guilt that has haunted us through life.

On the other hand, some of us respond to underlying guilt and shame by sexualizing the idea of becoming the aggressor, perhaps delving into themes of incest or other extreme sexual behaviors to attach pleasure to unthinkable acts.

As children our sense of self-worth largely depends on how our parents hold and value us as distinct persons separate from the experiences they underwent. Our self-esteem, sense of competence and ability to cope in the world is shaped by specific family dynamics.

Frequent interactions defined by negativity and disparaging comparisons leave us with deep feelings of inadequacy and, most harmfully, a notion of not being lovable. Whether we accept failure as inevitable or rebel against it and become an overachiever, that lack of self-worth influences all our interactions with the world.

It can also define our sexuality. Eroticizing feelings of inadequacy lead to fantasies with themes involving submission, humiliation, verbal abuse or extreme adoration of a partner. We are aroused by being treated as if we are useless, unworthy or weak. Yet, by inviting our own humiliation, we become in charge of it and through the sexual pleasure we receive weaken the impact of childhood pain.

Some of us on the the other hand, counteract feelings of inadequacy with ideas of grandiosity in which we imagine ourselves as important, powerful or irresistibly sexy. We invent fantasies in which we are admired, adored, paid for sex, recreating ourselves as competent, powerful and attainable.

The most common feelings people eroticize are:

powerlessness and helplessness
detachment and emptiness
rejection and abandonment
anger and aggression
inadequacy, guilt and shame
insecurity, loneliness and vulnerability

Two recent cases from my practice illustrate what I mean. In my patient Laura’s family, any sexual reference was totally frowned upon. When she was a toddler, Laura’s father abandoned her, her sister and mother Edna for another woman. Over the following years, Edna grew increasingly protective of her daughters. Fearing they would suffer her fate, Edna raised her daughters to believe that all men are unfaithful. “Even my father had cheated on my mother,” Edna repeatedly told them.

Edna forbade the girls to attend school dances and demanded extra homework time, watching over them like a hawk. Academic excellence, she insisted, guaranteed independence from a man. Laura obeyed and did very well in school. Her mother was actually pleased Laura was shy and socially awkward with boys.

Yet by high school, when Laura began to have sexual feelings, she often had the same fantasy. Her mother had warned her: “Boys took advantage of me sexually.” That very idea excited Laura. “I would imagine one boy in particular. He was known as a stud. He would force sex on me. I’d resist, but he would eventually overpower me and fuck me,” Laura told me. This theme became the center of her erotic thoughts and behavior. As a young adult, she masturbated to videos featuring such men. Submerged in her moments of pleasure, though, lay Laura’s conflicted past.

As a gay man, Stephen was comfortable with his sexuality. He regularly dated and had sex. When he climaxed, he noted that his thoughts frequently had drifted to a particular porno scene that had fixated him since he was a teen: humiliation scenes. So, Stephen fantasized being on his knees in front of another man, begging for sex. He also imagined the man spitting on him as both a “humiliation and a gift.” Because he felt ashamed of these desires, he never shared them with partners, nor sought them out in sexual encounters. He satisfied them by watching porno.

During his childhood, to relieve her loneliness, Stephen’s mother turned him into her confidant. With his father regularly gone on business, Stephen was often home with only his sister and mother. Stephen did not miss his father because they were ill at ease with each other. Since childhood, Stephen knew his femininity made his father uncomfortable, who tried to change Stephen by forcing him to play sports and “act like a boy.” Despite his mother’s interventions, his father prevailed.

Not surprisingly, Stephen never felt he measured up to his father’s expectations. But rather than surrendering, Stephen grew defiant. In early adolescence he declared his sexuality, making his father even angrier.

Despite fighting his father’s contempt, the years of denigration had seeped into Stephen’s consciousness. Not only had he internalized the shame, he had eroticized it. “I fantasized being humiliated. But I took things one step further. By being humiliated through sex, at least I could feel good too,” Stephen acknowledged.

Porn is a window into the deepest levels of your psyche. From it you can discover your deepest desires, where they come from and what they mean. The next time you find yourself enjoying your favorite porn scene, take a moment to think about the feelings that got you off and the possible history behind it.

This may seem like a heavy task. It might even feel like it will spoil your fun. But understanding the psychological imprinting that shapes your desires will show what conflicts or unmet needs still require resolution. That knowledge can lead you to a more authentic sex life with your current partner or guide you in choosing a partner with whom you are sexually and otherwise compatible.

Here is a list of some more questions to help you establish the link between your favorite porn and the family conflict or unmet need that has shaped your desire.

What is the specific story line in your favorite porn?
How would you describe the characters’ attitudes and feelings in the video?
Which character do you identify with?
How does that character’s behavior excite you?
Is there a specific image, or body part that gets you off?

When in the past did you experience the feelings you’ve identified?
What were the circumstances and the people in that experience?
Was this a one-time conflict or ongoing one?
Did the feelings change over time?

Do you feel afraid of your own anger?

Were there events that lead to dramatic changes in family life?
What were your reactions to the change?
How did family members handle your feelings at the time?
What emotional need do you feel was not satisfied during your childhood?
What is your most basic emotional need now?

JoNel Aleccia NBC News
The father who called to dispute the C grade his adult son got on a college exam had good intentions, Chris Segrin knows. He only wanted what was best for his kid, and if that involved lobbying the University of Arizona professor for a change, so be it.

“Somehow, his dad just seemed to know that the exam was worth a grade of a B,” says Segrin, a behavioral scientist who studies interpersonal relationships and mental health.

But what the dad didn’t know is that the phone call actually undermined his son, leaving the young man feeling insecure and incapable, not empowered and supported, a casualty of what researchers like Segrin describe as an epidemic of “overparenting.”

“When it was all done, the son came in. He was actually a nice kid who apologized profusely,” Segrin recalls. “Sometimes this type of parenting is imposed on children against their will.”

Whether it’s called overparenting or the better-known “helicopter parenting,” the style of overly attentive, competitive child-rearing popular since about the mid-1990s may have backfired.

As the first generation of overparented kids continues to graduate into the world, a slew of studies, including Segrin’s, now show that youngsters whose parents intervene inappropriately — offering advice, removing obstacles and solving problems that kids should tackle themselves — actually wind up as anxious, narcissistic young adults who have trouble coping with the demands of life.

“The paradox of this form of parenting is that, despite seemingly good intentions, the preliminary evidence indicates that it is not associated with adaptive outcomes for young adults and may indeed be linked with traits that could hinder the child’s success,” concludes Segrin’s latest study, set to be published next month in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Other recent studies also have found that too much help can create undesired outcomes, including a paper by California sociologist Laura T. Hamilton that says that the more money parents spend on their child’s college education, the worse grades the kid gets. Another study by Virginia psychologist Holly H. Schiffrin finds that the more parents are involved in schoolwork and selection of college majors, the less satisfied their kids feel with their college lives.
Courtesy Studio One to One /
C. Lee and Khris Reed write the blog “Helicopter Parenting and Just Plane Dad,” in which they chronicle their attentive efforts to parent 16-year-old Hailey. They defend their “extremely overprotective” style of parenting and disagree with studies that show that so-called helicopter parenting hampers young adults’ coping skills.

That news doesn’t sit well with parents like C. Lee and Khris Reed of Seffner, Fla., who are the producers of a blog dubbed “Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad: Tales from the Not-So-Darkside of Parenting.” In it, they proudly chronicle their all-too attentive parenting of their only child, 16-year-old Hailey, dubbed “Beloved” on the blog, and they don’t apologize for it.

“We are extremely overprotective and overbearing,” says mom C. Lee Reed, 42, an executive assistant at a large orthopedic practice. “I know at every second where she is and who she’s with. I will monitor every bit of technology. She knows the rule is we know every password.”

The Reeds are familiar with research on helicopter parenting and, in short, they don’t buy it. Good parents naturally are invested in every aspect of their children’s lives, they contend.

“I don’t agree that just because we’ve been that way, we hamper her,” says C. Lee.

Adds Khris Reed, 41, a general manager for a local auto parts store: “When people say ‘helicopter parent’ or ‘helicopter mom,’ in general, it’s the idea of the mom standing in the bushes with binoculars. The far extreme has put a bad rap on it.”

They believe that Hailey, who attends an online high school and doesn’t drive yet, is developing the life skills and self-sufficiency she’ll need to flourish at college in a few years, and later on her own, while still maintaining close ties with Mom and Dad.

For her part, Hailey thinks so, too.

“They teach me a lot of things that I’ll need to know in the real world so that I’m not lost and I know how to take care of myself,” she says.

Helicopter parenting sprang up in the era of “Baby on Board” signs, mandatory car seats and bicycle helmets and police department fingerprinting sessions to prevent child abduction. There was a greater sense of anxiety, combined with a greater sense of competition, as the children of the massive Baby Boom generation reached high-school and college age, says Margaret Nelson, author of the 2010 book “Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times.”

“Parents have become constantly more involved in their children’s lives than they were a decade or two ago,” says Nelson, a professor of sociology at Middlebury College, a top liberal arts college in Vermont.

There was a push, especially among educated working professionals, to provide youngsters with every opportunity to succeed, from homework tutors and lacrosse camps at age 8 to college application essay assistance at age 18, the experts say. Parents became fierce advocates for their children, intervening with teachers, coaches — even employers.

The problem with all that help, says Segrin, is that when it’s overdone, it keeps children from developing their own age-appropriate strengths and skills.

“When we do not give the child the freedom to try on his or her own and maybe fail on his own, he doesn’t develop the competency that children who fail learn,” he says.

Segrin’s latest papers relied on interviews with more than 1,000 college-age students and their parents from across the nation. They found that many of the young adult kids are in touch with their parents constantly, with nearly a quarter communicating by text, phone or other means several times every day and another 22 percent reaching out once a day.

“There’s this endless contact with parents,” says Segrin, who doesn’t have children. “I don’t think it’s just calling to socialize. A lot of it is, ‘How do I?’ ‘Will you?’ ‘Can you?’ They are still quite reliant on their parents.”

The studies showed that parents who felt more anxiety about their children and more regret about their own missed goals led to greater overparenting. At the same time, they found that kids who were overparented were more likely be anxious and narcissistic and to lack coping skills.

That makes sense to Elizabeth May, 22, a recent University of Arizona graduate who participated in Segrin’s research with her mom, Suzanne May, 55. She says her parents were not the helicopter type, but she knows of plenty who were.

In one instance, the house where May lived with roommates was broken into and things were stolen. May called the landlord to ask that an alarm system be installed, but before she could finish the negotiations, her roommate’s mother rushed in and demanded action.

“I felt like it kind of undermined my communication with our landlord,” she says. “I feel like we could have gotten it done ourselves.”

Separating harmful overparenting from appropriate parenting isn’t easy.

“There’s no sure 100-percent fault-free parenting guidebook,” observes Suzanne May.

In this culture, helicopter parenting is almost contagious, observes Nelson, the Middlebury College professor, with parents vying with each other to prove how engaged and attentive they are.

It would be better, suggests Segrin, for parents to put that energy into helping children — especially late adolescents and young adults — learn to handle problems and setbacks on their own

That can be challenging because different kids can handle responsibility at different ages, experts say. But it starts with parents actively choosing to let children experience the consequences of their actions instead of rushing to intervene. Suzanne May, an elementary school teacher who left the workforce while she raised her three kids, recalls a time when one child forgot crucial homework and called to ask May to bring it to school.

“I told her, ‘No, it’s your responsibility. I’m not at your disposal to say, ‘Hey, Mom, I forgot this,'” May says. That was a hard stance at the time, but her daughter learned that she needed to remember her work.

In the short run, letting kids suffer discomfort or failure is tough, Segrin says. Most parents want to help their children if they can.

“Overparenting is motivated with the idea of doing good things,” Segrin says. “But it does the exact opposite in the long run. In the long run, parents are impairing their child’s coping skills. They’re winning the battle, but actually losing the war.”

Jun 18

5 Self-Sabotaging Thoughts About Self-Compassion


By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS
Many of us have a hard time practicing self-compassion because of the negative thoughts swirling in our heads. I used to think everything from I don’t deserve compassion to I need to shame myself instead to I should prepare myself for reality (i.e., negative things).

All of these types of thoughts are simply the scared words of an inner critic, who’s worried we’re pulling away, who’s desperately trying to hold on to the negativity and darkness.

Self-compassion threatens all of that (the muck, the misery, the shame). And, of course, that’s a great thing.

In her book The Power of Self-Compassion: Using Compassion-Focused Therapy to End Self-Criticism and Build Self-Confidence, clinical psychologist Mary Welford, DClinPsy, defines self-compassion as “sensitivity to the pain — be it psychological or physical — that we may experience, plus a motivation and genuine commitment to relieve it.”

Self-compassion involves encouraging and supporting ourselves, and sometimes, even pushing ourselves (when it’s in our best interests), Welford writes. It’s about recognizing that we’re struggling and committing to improving things.

In her helpful book, Welford reveals the truth behind 10 thoughts that interfere with practicing self-compassion. Here are five thoughts that I’ve run across — along with Welford’s wise words on relinquishing these ruminations.

1. Self-sabotaging thought: Self-compassion is selfish.

To the contrary, self-compassion actually helps you be more compassionate and more helpful to others. Welford writes, “Having become more self-compassionate, people often report having greater strength to deal with conflicts and to become better friends, parents, and colleagues. Lack of self-compassion, by contrast, means that we are more likely to become immobilized or consumed by our own difficulties and therefore less able to help others.”

2. Self-sabotaging thought: My needs aren’t as important as someone else’s.

Many of us think that other people’s needs trump our own. But here’s what happens when we neglect our needs (including the need for self-compassion): we become depleted and even feel angry, resentful and taken for granted.

Plus, remember that here’s no harm in trying out self-compassion. As Welford writes, “If you still think that the needs of others are more important than your own, start practicing self-compassion for the sake of others. You can always revert back to your old ways if you find it doesn’t help.”

3. Self-sabotaging thought: Self-compassion is weak.

Self-compassion is actually courageous. According to Welford, “It involves facing our difficulties and experiencing a range of emotions that are uncomfortable.” (Yes, it does. Self-compassion is about identifying, acknowledging and expressing our emotions “instead of bottling them up.”)

It also involves “the commitment to change ourselves, which requires courage and strength.”

For instance, being self-compassionate might mean standing up for yourself, even though you’re oh-so used to remaining quiet. It also might mean letting people see the real you.

4. Self-sabotaging thought: Self-compassion sets us up for falls or failure.

There’s a common fear that if you don’t expect the worst, you’re clearly not preparing yourself for something big and terrible. As such, people worry about being in a positive mood or being too relaxed. People also worry that positive feelings will somehow attract negative ones.

I’m definitely one of those people.

But self-compassion is actually a helpful way to prepare yourself for tough times. Self-compassion, writes Welford, “…builds your ability to cope with hard situations, and it’s through coping with setbacks that self-confidence in our ability to cope increases.”

And, again, remind yourself that you’re simply going to sample self-compassion. “If fear of falling gets in the way of your experiencing positive feelings, it may be helpful just to think, I’ll give it a go. I can always revert to my old ways.”

5. Self-sabotaging thought: Self-compassion is too overwhelming.

When you’re so accustomed to bashing yourself, self-compassion may certainly feel different and difficult. And that’s OK.

You can start slow. Welford suggests the following ideas: Start gradually, like you would if you were learning how to swim (you’d start at the shallow end, and then slowly move into deeper waters). Engage in fun, healthy activities and experiences, such as hanging out with close friends. If you think you need extra support, see a therapist.
Cultivating Self-Compassion

Here’s a list of how-to posts on practicing self-compassion:

Connecting to your self-compassion.
The case for self-compassion.
Strategies for practicing self-compassion.
Practicing self-compassion when you have a mental illness.
More exercises on self-compassion.
An exercise in self-compassionate parenting.
Using compassion to cope with anxiety.

What stops you from practicing self-compassion? What’s helped you in practicing self-compassion?

Jun 17

Paranoid Thoughts Are Relatively Common


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
A novel UK study uses a virtual reality underground ride to determine the extent that paranoia occurs in the general public.

The research demonstrates that suspicious or paranoid thoughts are much more common in the general population than was previously thought and that they are almost as common as anxiety and depression.

Until now, researchers have been unable to study paranoia (exaggerated fears about threats from others) in laboratory settings, instead relying on questionnaires, which can be inaccurate.

A collaboration led by Dr Daniel Freeman, a Wellcome Trust researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, has developed a computer simulation to study paranoid thoughts.

“Paranoid thoughts are often triggered by ambiguous events such as people looking in one’s direction or hearing laughter in a room but it is very difficult to recreate such social interactions,” says Dr Freeman.

“Virtual reality allows us to do just that, to look at how different people interpret exactly the same social situation. It is a uniquely powerful method to detect those liable to misinterpret other people.”

Wearing virtual reality headsets, 200 volunteers broadly representative of the general population walked around a virtual London underground carriage in a four-minute journey between station stops. The carriage contained neutral computer people (avatars) that breathed, looked around, and sometimes met the gaze of the participants. One avatar read a newspaper; another would occasionally smile if looked at. A soundtrack of a train carriage was played.

Dr Freeman and colleagues found that the participants interpreted the same computer characters very differently. The most common reaction was to find the virtual reality characters friendly or neutral, but almost 40% of the participants experienced at least one paranoid thought. The participants were extensively assessed before entering the train ride, and it was found that those who were anxious, worried, focused on the worst-case scenarios and had low self-esteem were the most likely to have paranoid thoughts. The results of the study are published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Comments about the virtual reality characters by participants who experienced paranoid thoughts included:

“There was a guy spooking me out – tried to get away from him. Didn’t like his face. I’m sure he looked at me more than a couple of times though might be imagining it.”

“A girl kept moving her hand. Looked like she was a pickpocket and would pass it to the person standing opposite her.”

“Felt trapped between two men in the doorway. As a woman I’m a lot more suspicious of men. Didn’t like the close proximity of the men. The guy opposite may have had sexual intent, manipulation or whatever.”

“There’s something dodgy about one guy. Like he was about to do something – assault someone, plant a bomb, say something not nice to me, be aggressive.”

“In the past, only those with a severe mental illness were thought to experience paranoid thoughts, but now we know that this is simply not the case,” says Dr Freeman.

“About one-third of the general population regularly experience persecutory thoughts. This shouldn’t be surprising. At the heart of all social interactions is a vital judgment whether to trust or mistrust, but it is a judgment that is error-prone. We are more likely to make paranoid errors if we are anxious, ruminate and have had bad experiences from others in the past.”

Dr Freeman believes that paranoid thoughts are more likely to develop in settings such as on public transport, where people can feel trapped and observed, and can’t hear what others are saying. People who feared terrorism on the Underground tended to report more paranoid thoughts in the virtual train, possibly reflecting the after-effects of the London bombings on 7 July 2005. However, the researchers also found that people who regularly used the Underground experienced less paranoid thoughts in the virtual train.

“Paranoid thinking is a topic of national discussion given increasing public attention to threats such as terrorism,” says Dr Freeman. “It sometimes seems as if the one thing that unites the diverse peoples of the world is our fear of one another. Worries about other people are so common that they seem to be an essential – if unwelcome – part of what it means to be human.”

Paranoia is increasingly being treated using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Dr Freeman believes that in the future virtual reality may be used as a tool in clinical assessment and be incorporated into CBT interventions for paranoia, allowing patients to test out their fears in virtual worlds.

Source: Wellcome Trust

Jun 16

You Know You Have Adult ADHD When…


We’re calling on the adult ADHD community to help us compile this light-hearted list. Please contribute!

You know you have adult ADHD when:
By Jennifer Koretsky
You spend 15 minutes looking for your keys until you find them…in your pocket.
While reading an article about how stimulant medications are “addictive,” you suddenly realize you forgot to take your stimulant medication this morning.
You have a long conversation with someone and spend the entire time thinking, Why can’t I remember this guy’s name?
You go out for milk and come home with $50 worth of groceries…but no milk.
You consider it a good day when you’re only 5 minutes late to work.
You find yourself lying awake at night thinking about something totally random, like why Idaho is a good state to grow potatoes, until you just can’t take it anymore and get up to Google to the answer.

Now it’s your turn! Tell us, You know you have adult ADHD when ____________.

Jun 15

Bipolar Disorder: Questions to Ask Your Doctor


By Jen Laskey
While your doctor usually asks the questions during an exam, you can respectfully and proactively take charge, too. In fact, asking the right questions can make a big difference in the way you manage your bipolar disorder. Your health is important both to you and to your doctor, so don’t hesitate to inquire about any topic you feel is relevant to your condition, whether it’s a question about your bipolar diagnosis, something regarding your bipolar medication, curiosity about complementary or alternative therapies for bipolar disorder, or concern about your emotional health, your financial health, or any other lifestyle issue.

Engaging in a dialogue with your doctor will help educate you about bipolar disorder and the treatment options available to you, and it’ll give your doctor a better sense of who you are and how bipolar disorder is affecting your health and your life. With the lines of communication open, you and your doctor will be able to develop the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

But remember, your time with your doctor is limited, so be sure to arrive at your appointment prepared and ready to discuss bipolar disorder and the questions that are important to you. Start by:

Researching bipolar disorder. It’s a good idea to get a better understanding of bipolar disorder before your appointment. Through research, you may even be able to answer some of your own questions. Visit Everyday Health’s Bipolar Disorder Center, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the National Institute of Mental Health, and MedlinePlus.
Strategizing. Your family doctor may not be able to answer all your questions about bipolar disorder; some may be better addressed by a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who specializes in treating people with bipolar disorder. Discuss this with your doctor, set up a plan for addressing your concerns, and follow up with a specialist, as directed by your doctor. You can also do additional research of your own.
Keeping records. Consider keeping a journal about your bipolar disorder between visits to the doctor, and share any relevant information with your doctor, such as changes in mood or behavior and how well your medicine is working. Taking notes during your appointments will help you remember important details after your visit. Alternatively, you may consider bringing a recording device or inviting someone to accompany you and take notes.

General Bipolar Disorder Questions

If you haven’t yet been formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, talk to your doctor about arranging an evaluation with a specialist, such as a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with experience in diagnosing and treating mood disorders.

Once you have a formal diagnosis, your doctor will give you information about the condition and recommend a course of treatment. You may have questions or concerns about your diagnosis and how bipolar disorder will affect your health and your life. Consider asking your doctor the following:

What type of bipolar disorder do I have? How severe is it? Can you explain the disorder to me?
What is the best method (or combination of methods) of treatment for bipolar disorder?
Does bipolar disorder change with age? Do people ever outgrow it?
How will bipolar disorder affect me over the long term?
What are the key components for successfully managing the challenges of bipolar disorder?
Are there other types of medical or mental health specialists who should be involved in my care?
When might hospitalization be beneficial or necessary?
Should I (or a member of my family) alert you if there are any changes in my behavior?
What kind of changes do you want to be informed about?
What should I do if I feel I’m in crisis or need emergency help?

Prescription Considerations

Mood stabilizers, like lithium, or anticonvulsant drugs are commonly prescribed to help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Your doctor may also recommend other types of medication, such as antidepressants and antianxiety and antipsychotic drugs. It is important to understand the medication your doctor is prescribing. Ask your doctor about it, read the insert the pharmacy includes with your prescription, and take the medication as directed by your physician. Knowing how your medication is supposed to work will help you evaluate its effectiveness and whether it’s the right medication for you. Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor about bipolar disorder medications:

Do I need medication, or can I be treated effectively without it?
What types of medications are used to treat the manic and depressive mood swings of bipolar disorder?
How often and for how long will I need to take this medication?
Is there medication that I can take on an as-needed basis?
What type of drug are you prescribing for me, and how does it work?
Where can I get more information about this drug?
How will the medication make me feel, and how will I know if it’s working?
When can I expect to notice improvements in how I feel?
What are the risks if I don’t take my medication as directed, or if I forget to take it?
How has this medication been tested? Are there any recent clinical studies on it?
What should I do if I experience any side effects? Are there any that may require me to call a doctor? Are there any that may require me to stop taking the medication immediately?
Is this drug habit-forming?
Can I take this on an empty stomach, or should it be taken with food?
Could this medication interact with other medication I’m taking?
Are there any foods, drinks (such as alcohol), vitamins, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter drugs that I should avoid while taking this medication?
Can other conditions affect or be affected by my medication? What if I have a family history of heart disease?
What is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)? Is it still used to treat bipolar disorder?

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Doctors often recommend a combination of therapies to treat the symptoms of mania and depression. In addition to your medication, you may consider complementary or alternative therapies, such as practicing meditation, taking a yoga class, or trying a dietary supplement. Ask your doctor whether any of these options might be beneficial for you:

Are there any complementary or alternative therapies I should consider?
Do any clinical trials or research support these complementary or alternative therapies?
Do you recommend any herbs or other natural supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids or Saint John’s wort?

Emotional Health

Bipolar disorder can take a toll on your emotional health and your relationships, but your doctor can help you find ways to cope with the emotional stress, manage your manic and depressive symptoms, and handle the impact bipolar disorder is having on your relationships. Psychotherapy, in particular, can help people with bipolar disorder recognize changes in their personality that may signal an oncoming mood swing. It can also help with other challenges, such as manic episodes, spending sprees, substance abuse, and withdrawal during depressed phases. Ask for a referral to a good therapist or support group and find out what else you can do to improve your emotional health while living with bipolar disorder.

Should I seek any emotional support from a support group or a therapist? Can you give me some referrals?
How will I know if my therapist is right for me?
Will I need to see both a psychologist and a psychiatrist? If so, why?
What is cognitive-behavioral therapy? Am I likely to benefit from this type of therapy?
Is social rhythm therapy effective at helping people with bipolar disorder improve their relationships and organize their daily routines?
How should I explain my condition to my spouse, family, and friends? What, if anything, should I say to my boss and co-workers?
How can my family and friends help me? Are there specific things I should ask of them?
What should I do if I feel I’m being discriminated against at work or school?
What should I do if I feel that I can’t keep up at work or school? What accommodations can I ask for? Where can I get more information about work- and school-related issues?
How is my condition likely to affect my relationships, and what can I do to improve my situation?

Health and Lifestyle Concerns

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to keep yourself in good shape. Participating in a physical fitness regimen, following a balanced diet, getting adequate rest and sleep, quitting smoking, moderating your alcohol consumption, and avoiding substance abuse of any kind can all contribute to your overall health. Check with your doctor to see whether you need to make any lifestyle changes or whether there’s anything he or she recommends that you do at home, work, or school to help you better manage your bipolar disorder:

Do I need to make any changes in diet, exercise, or how much I rest?
Can stress, drinking alcohol, smoking, or using drugs affect my condition?
Are there any activities I should avoid?
Should I make any special accommodations for school, home, or my work?
Can you recommend any good books, magazines, organizations, or online resources that focus on bipolar disorder?

Financial Health

The costs associated with your bipolar disorder treatment will have an effect on your finances. It’s crucial to find ways to balance your physical health with your financial health. Ask your doctor about ways in which you may be able to offset the cost of your treatment.

Will my medication be covered by my health insurance plan?
About how much will my medication cost?
Is there a generic version of the medication that would be more affordable? If not, are there other, equally effective medications that are available as generics?
Do you have any samples or discount coupons for my prescription?
If I need to be hospitalized, will the hospital accept my insurance? How much of my care can I expect to be covered? If my hospitalization is not covered by insurance, will I have any payment alternatives?
Are there separate fees or charges at the hospital for doctors, therapists, caretakers, or anything else? If so, what kind of charges can I expect?
If I choose a complementary or alternative therapy, is it likely to be covered by my insurance? If not, what kind of out-of-pocket costs can I expect?

Additionally, people with bipolar disorder sometimes get themselves into financial straits during manic phases in which they go on spending sprees or gamble. If this is a concern for you, consult your doctor or therapist and ask:

What can I do to control my spending during my manic highs?
How can I get help for a gambling problem?

Jun 14

Sugar and Bipolar Disorder


By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Lots of people consider a pint of ice cream the perfect cure for the blues. Others indulge in sugary snacks as a way to get an energetic high. But for people with bipolar disorder, sugar and other simple carbohydrates may harm more than help.

Carbohydrate cravings in bipolar patients are legendary, so much so that increased intake of sugary treats is considered a clue to bipolar disorder during diagnosis. People who are depressed munch on sugary snacks to make themselves feel better and then, in the throes of a manic high, mindlessly devour high-carb junk food.

The question is, should those with bipolar disorder put the brakes on sugar intake?

Bipolar Disorder: Sugar and the Brain

Blood sugar and carbohydrate intake are very important to the brain. Your brain runs on glucose and depends on carbohydrates to supply the energy it needs. But for bipolar patients, carbohydrate intake also prompts the production and release of important neurotransmitters. The body produces tryptophan, an amino acid that the brain converts into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin creates a feeling of calm and well-being and reduces depression. So people with bipolar disorder are indulging in a form of self-medication when they eat sugary snacks during depressive lows or manic highs.

Doctors believe that people use this natural reaction to try to ease their bipolar symptoms when they have depression or mania. Eating large amounts of sugar can soothe a deep depression. It also can take the edge off a manic high.

But compulsive sugar intake is not an exact form of treatment, and people who eat too much sugar may find their mood swinging wildly — a terrible prospect for people with bipolar symptoms. They also face an inevitable “crash” following the intake of simple carbohydrates like sugar. Sugary foods burn hot and fast through the body, and their effects on brain chemistry and other bodily processes tend to be immediate, intense, and abrupt.

Bipolar Disorder: Getting the Right Carbs

Bipolar patients should not cut carbohydrates out of their diet. Because they are linked to the mood-controlling neurotransmitters, carbohydrates are important to managing bipolar symptoms. Instead, swap out simple sugars in the diet for more complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates burn slow and long, ensuring a more controlled release of neurotransmitters to the brain. Complex carbohydrates are also healthier for you overall, keeping your blood glucose levels more stable and preventing the development of type 2 diabetes.

To help eliminate sugar cravings and maintain good blood sugar levels and healthy brain chemistry, you should:

Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are rich in complex carbohydrates.
Be sure to eat enough protein, which can improve alertness without the rush of a sugar high. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy products are good, healthy sources of protein. Poultry, oil-rich fish, baked potatoes, beans, oats, nuts, and seeds are protein sources that have the added benefit of being rich in tryptophan and can help the brain produce serotonin in a controlled, healthy fashion.

It might help to create a food and mood journal for keeping track of when you eat, what you eat, and any abrupt changes in mood you experience. These notes could hold the key to determining if certain foods are influencing your bipolar symptoms in a positive way.

Jun 13

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
A new study suggests a dose-response relationship among playing violent video games and aggressive and hostile behavior, with negative effects accumulating over time.

Investigators discovered people who played a violent video game for three consecutive days showed increases in aggressive behavior and hostile expectations each day they played. They also found that those who played nonviolent games showed no meaningful changes in aggression or hostile expectations over that period.

Although other experimental studies have shown that a single session of playing a violent video game increased short-term aggression, this is the first study to show long-term effects from playing violent video games, said psychologist Dr. Brad Bushman, co-author of the study.

“It’s important to know the long-term causal effects of violent video games, because so many young people regularly play these games,” Bushman said.

“Playing video games could be compared to smoking cigarettes. A single cigarette won’t cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression.”

Study results are published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and will appear in a future print edition.

In the study, researchers told 70 French university students that they would be participating in a three-day study of the effects of brightness of video games on visual perception.

They were then assigned to play a violent or nonviolent video game for 20 minutes on each of three consecutive days.

Investigators assigned the violent games “Condemned 2,” “Call of Duty 4″ and then “The Club” on consecutive days (in a random order). Those assigned the nonviolent games played “S3K Superbike,” “Dirt2″ and “Pure” (in a random order).

After playing the game each day, participants took part in an exercise that measured their hostile expectations. They were given the beginning of a story, and then asked to list 20 things that the main character will do or say as the story unfolds.

For example, in one story another driver crashes into the back of the main character’s car, causing significant damage. The researchers counted how many times the participants listed violent or aggressive actions and words that might occur.

Students in the study then participated in a competitive reaction time task, which is used to measure aggression. Each student was told that he or she would compete against an unseen opponent in a 25-trial computer game in which the object was to be the first to respond to a visual cue on the computer screen.

The loser of each trial would receive a blast of unpleasant noise through headphones, and the winner would decide how loud and long the blast would be. The noise blasts were a mixture of several sounds that most people find unpleasant (such as fingernails on a chalk board, dentist drills, and sirens).

In actuality, there was no opponent and the participants were told they won about half the trials.

Researchers discovered that, after each day, those who played the violent games had an increase in their hostile expectations. In other words, after reading the beginning of the stories, they were more likely to think that the characters would react with aggression or violence.

“People who have a steady diet of playing these violent games may come to see the world as a hostile and violent place,” Bushman said. “These results suggest there could be a cumulative effect.”

Investigators believe this may help explain why players of the violent games also grew more aggressive day by day, agreeing to give their opponents longer and louder noise blasts through the headphones.

“Hostile expectations are probably not the only reason that players of violent games are more aggressive, but our study suggests it is certainly one important factor,” Bushman said.

“After playing a violent video game, we found that people expect others to behave aggressively. That expectation may make them more defensive and more likely to respond with aggression themselves, as we saw in this study and in other studies we have conducted.”

Students who played the nonviolent games showed no changes in either their hostile expectations or their aggression, Bushman noted.

He said it is impossible to know for sure how much aggression may increase for those who play video games for months or years, as many people do.

“We would know more if we could test players for longer periods of time, but that isn’t practical or ethical,” he said. “I would expect that the increase in aggression would accumulate for more than three days. It may eventually level off.

“However, there is no theoretical reason to think that aggression would decrease over time, as long as players are still playing the violent games,” he said.

Source: Ohio State University

Jun 12

The Daily Rituals of Creative Minds


By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
I love learning about the creative processes and daily habits of people who’ve given us great gifts, everything from powerful writing to awe-inspiring art to beautiful symphonies.

So I was excited to pick up a copy of Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. In it, Currey shares the everyday routines of writers, composers, painters, playwrights, poets, philosophers, filmmakers, scientists and other artists — 161 in total.

In his introduction, he notes that Daily Rituals is “about the circumstances of creative activity, not the product; it deals with manufacturing rather than meaning.” His goal, he says, is “…to show how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one’s working habits influence the work itself, and vice versa.”

Daily Rituals is a fascinating glimpse into some of the greatest minds, and the habits and practices that are integral to their creative process.

For instance, take exercise. For many of the individuals, it was (and is) indispensable. Spanish artist Joan Miró exercised vigorously. (He worried about suffering another severe depression, which he did as a young man.)

According to Currey, his routine included: “boxing in Paris; jumping rope and Swedish gymnastics at a Barcelona gym; and running on the beach and swimming at Mont-roig, a seaside village where his family owned a farmhouse, to which Miró returned nearly every summer to escape city life and recharge his creative energies.”

Novelist and writer Haruki Murakami has said that “physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” In 1981, when he had just started working as a professional writer, Murakami led a sedentary life and smoked as many as 60 cigarettes a day. But he revised his unhealthy lifestyle. Currey writes:

He soon resolved to change his habits completely, moving with his wife to a rural area, quitting smoking, drinking less, and eating a diet of mostly vegetables and fish. He also started running daily, a habit he has kept up for more than a quarter century.

Oliver Sacks, a physician, professor and author of several bestselling books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, prefers swimming, after he meets with his analyst at 6 a.m. “Swimming gets me going as nothing else can, and I need to do it at the start of the day, otherwise I will be deflected by busyness or laziness.”

For Tchaikovsky, long daily walks were essential to his creative process. The weather conditions didn’t matter. According to Tchaikovsky’s brother:

Somewhere at sometime he had discovered that a man needs a two-hour walk for his health, and his observance of this rule was pedantic and superstitious, as though if he returned five minutes early he would fall ill, and unbelievable misfortunes of some sort would ensue.

Others also followed superstitions. Truman Capote had to write in bed. In 1957 he told The Paris Review: “I am a completely horizontal author.” He’d write longhand using a pencil and then type up the final copy, balancing the typewriter on his knees. He had other superstitions.

He couldn’t allow three cigarette butts in the same ashtray at once, and if he was a guest at someone’s house, he would stuff the butts in his pocket rather than overfill the tray. He couldn’t begin or end anything on Friday. And he compulsively added numbers in his head, refusing to dial a telephone number or accept a hotel room if the digits made a sum he considered unlucky. “It’s endless, the things I can’t and won’t,” he said. “But I derive some curious comfort from obeying these primitive concepts.”

Ernest Hemingway had certain interesting idiosyncrasies, as well. Despite popular belief, he didn’t start his work by sharpening 22 number-two pencils. But he did write standing up, “facing a chest-high bookshelf with a typewriter on top, and on top of that a wooden reading board”; and “compose his first drafts “in pencil on onionskin typewriter paper laid slantwise across the board.”

When his work was progressing well, he’d move to the typewriter. When it wasn’t, he’d switch to answering letters.

Maya Angelou is particular about her work area. She’s said that she likes to keep her home pretty. “[A]nd I can’t work in a pretty surrounding. It throws me.” So she works in hotel or motel rooms. In a 1983 interview she shared her routine:

…I keep a hotel room in which I do my work – a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room. I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it’s going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous. I edit while I’m working. When I come home at 2, I read over what I’ve written that day, and then try to put it out of my mind. I shower, prepare dinner, so that when my husband comes home, I’m not totally absorbed in my work. We have a semblance of a normal life. We have a drink together and have dinner. Maybe after dinner I’ll read to him what I’ve written that day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anyone but my editor, but hearing it aloud is good. Sometimes I hear the dissonance; then I try to straighten it out in the morning.

B.F. Skinner, the founder of behavioral psychology, not surprisingly, treated his work as a lab experiment. (Would you expect anything less?) According to Currey, Skinner conditioned “himself to write every morning with a pair of self-reinforcing behaviors: he started and stopped by the buzz of a timer, and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph.”

So what’s the takeaway from these daily rituals?

They’re as varied and interesting as the great minds who followed them (and follow them today). And despite their great work, many still worried about their progress, struggled with creative blocks and experienced constant self-doubt (like William James and Franz Kafka).

So if you’re regularly second-guessing your work, take heart. You’re among an illustrious group. But I hope you don’t simmer in your self-doubt for too long. There’s work to be done.

Jun 11

Pay Now, Consume Later


by Dave Nussbaum
Jerry Seinfeld is not a fan of the check-at-the-end-of-the-meal-system. When you sit down to a meal, Seinfeld explains in the opening monologue of The Stock Tip, you’re hungry and money has no value to you. “You’re like the ruler of an empire,” ordering indiscriminately, “‘More drinks! Appetizers! Quickly, quickly! It will be the greatest meal of our lives!’” But at the end of the meal, the check comes. Now you’ve eaten, you’re anything but hungry, and you’re mystified by the total. “‘What is this?’” people ask, passing the check around the table, “‘Does this look right to you? We’re not hungry now – why are we buying all this food?’”

A new book, just out last month, by social psychologists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, tells us that there’s plenty of good research to back up Jerry’s complaint. The book, Happy Money, Dunn told me over the phone, aims to “get people to stop and ask, ‘is spending this money going to make me happier?’” Across five chapters, the book offers specific (but flexible) research-based strategies to help people maximize the happiness they get out of their money in their daily lives. Among their recommendations: spend money on others, invest in experiences instead of material goods, and when you do spend money on yourself, try to make it a treat.

But the advice that backs up Jerry’s dissatisfaction is summed up by the title of the book’s fourth chapter, Pay Now, Consume Later. The underlying idea is that because spending money can be painful, paying detracts from people’s enjoyment of an experience. Imagine you go out to a fancy sushi restaurant for your anniversary and every time you reach for a piece of a delicious dragon roll the waiter comes over and ask you to fork (or should it be chopstick?) over three dollars. So, rather than pay-as-you-go, Dunn and Norton suggest that people will be happier if they can separate the pleasure of an experience, like a meal or a vacation, from the pain of paying for it.

Beyond separating payment from an experience, Dunn and Norton also explain that people are better off paying for something first and consuming it later – and, if possible, much later. That’s why paying at the end of a meal will make people less happy than paying at the beginning, and they may be happiest if they can pay for their meal well in advance.

One reason paying at the end makes people less happy is based on what Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls the peak-end rule – when people think back on an experience, their memory is largely determined by its peak (the high or low point of the experience) and its end. So ending a meal with the check rather than, say, a delicious desert, can undermine people’s whole memory of the experience (Paul Rozin has done some research specific to meals and the peak-end rule that I discuss here).

A second reason not to end with the check, as Jerry’s rant implies, is that by the end of the meal, most of the joy of the experience is behind you. As he puts it, “you’ve got the pants open, you’ve got the napkins destroyed, cigarette butt in the mashed potatoes.” You’re paying for something that’s in the past when, according to Dunn and Norton, you’d be much better off if the pleasant experience you were paying for were still to come.

The third reason not to pay at the end is that you’re likely to end up paying for more food than you actually needed because ordering it was so painless. As Jerry says, “before you eat, money has no value.” Sure, people may occasionally recoil at an item that looks expensive on the menu, but because they don’t have to pay the bill until later, the price often fails to stop people from ordering way more than they need.

The obvious solution to Jerry’s problem seems to be moving the check to the beginning of the meal. That would be an improvement, Dunn told me, but there’s still on hurdle to clear: hunger. Even if people pay up front (which should improve their tendency to over-order) the problem is, in Jerry’s words, “you don’t care about money when you’re hungry.” As experience (and research) confirms, people buy more food when they’re hungry (a brand new study by Brian Wansink finds that people buy more high-calorie foods when hungry as well). So even in the pay-at-the-beginning system people will often end up overspending and have leftovers at the end of the meal. That might not be the worst thing in the world, but there is an even better solution: Pay in advance.

The idea might not be suited for trips to the drive-thru window at Burger King, but for a visit to a nice restaurant on a special occasion, it might be nice if you could pay in advance. That would help you get around all the problems with paying-at-the-end-system, and (as long as you aren’t hungry when you place the order) it would improve on the pay-at-the-beginning-system, too. But wait, there’s more! When you pay in advance, not only will the meal be more likely to feel free once it rolls around, you’ll also get the additional benefit of enjoying the anticipation of the meal. This is what Dunn and Norton call the “drool factor.” While you count down the days until your special meal, you’ll get the pleasure of imagining how wonderful it will be.

Some restaurants, like Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago, have already adopted the pay-in-advance-system. Alinea sells “tickets” for meals as far as two or three months in advance. When you show up you’ve been dreaming about the meal for weeks and, when you’re done, there’s no bill to pay. Alinea, it seems, has infused their thinking with the wisdom of French novelist Gustave Flaubert who wrote that, “Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.” I’m not sure how Jerry would feel about waiting that long – he, George, and Elaine couldn’t even make it through a 22-minute episode before giving up in The Chinese Restaurant – but it would probably be better than getting the check at the end.

Jun 10

Take the Anxiety Disorder Test


Anxiety Disorder Test: Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?

Written by Natasha Tracy

Jun 9

Kissing Colleagues


Dr. Peggy Drexler
Author, research psychologist and gender scholar

When Heather began her career as a literary agent, she’d often greet her clients much as she would her friends: with a loose hug or a quick kiss on the cheek. She did not discriminate with her affections; it didn’t matter if the client was a much older gentleman or a woman around her age. And though she was a naturally affectionate person, she administered these greetings with actual professional purpose: “A hug or a cheek kiss always seemed to be a way to foster intimacy and connection, whereas a handshake was so formal and cold,” she said. “I thought a more familiar approach would help us establish closeness and trust” — vital, she thought, to the agent-writer relationship.

But over the years, Heather began to wonder if this hyper-familiarity might in some way undermine how these clients saw her. Did it make her seem childish? Too girly? Was she subconsciously using these greetings as flirtations? Her male colleagues certainly didn’t embrace their female clients nearly as freely, especially not the older ones, and they seemed to establish trusting relationships just fine.

Though it’s not entirely accurate to say that women are more affectionate than men, according to Gallup polls, that stereotype still prevails in the minds of most Americans. And indeed many women — and men — do embrace the professional embrace, hugging clients or colleagues in place of the traditional handshake. This is especially true as the American workplace has grown more casual. At the same time, working women are consistently coached in how to act “less girly,” and more “like men” in order to get ahead. Included among the advice: Handshake, not hug.

In Lean In, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to fight against unfair double standards, the message, in many places, appears to be that downplaying femininity is a good idea for those looking to be taken seriously. “Leaning in” includes being direct and voicing opinions. It also includes giving a firm handshake. This is, after all, how the men do it.

Still, there is proof that handshakes can be an effective way of forging a bond. A December 2012 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience reported that a firm handshake increases the likelihood of a positive reaction, while diminishing the likelihood of a negative reaction. At the same time, there is also evidence, including from a 2010 study published in the journal Emotion that looked at the power of touch among teammates, that shows gentle or supportive touch can engender feelings of affection, help create a sensation of trust, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The bottom line: Handshakes are effective, but hugs are, too.

When Lola began her new job as a department head at a custom publisher, she found that a quick hand on a staffer’s shoulder or elbow made delivering criticism more palatable. “Establishing a physical connection made difficult conversations easier for me and, I believe, them,” she told me. “I felt like I could see a difference in how information was received when I made it more personal, versus when I stood back, with folded arms, in a more ‘professional’ manner.” Though she would never do so in the office, whenever she ran into staffers outside of work, she was quick to give a hug or kiss. At the same time, she often wondered if such affection coming from a male boss might have come across as creepy or condescending. “I was aware that, as a woman, this was a tool I could use,” she said. “Did it make me any less serious, or effective, as a boss? I don’t think so. If being female made this method of interacting more acceptable, I welcomed it — with open arms, you could say!” Just because a hug wasn’t something a man would, or could, do didn’t mean Lola’s use of such affection diminished her effectiveness as a leader.

Which brings us to the real issue here: That is, challenging the idea that women need to behave more like men in order to get respect in the workplace, or make professional gains. Workplace style is entirely individual, and every female action needn’t be compared to its male counterpart. Women are women, men are men, and everyone’s different regardless of gender.

And just as the male workplace style shouldn’t be considered the superior one, the female-administered workplace hug or kiss isn’t right for everyone. Jenna, an investment banker, did not like to kiss, or be kissed by, clients, but found that avoiding doing so made her seem uptight and unfriendly. “I used to step backwards if I saw a hug or cheek kiss coming, trying to be subtle, but it was clear that this only offended people,” she said. “But I felt so awkward with the closeness.” Instead, she practiced being warmer with her handshakes, so that those clients who expected more familiarity received it, while Jenna was able to stay true to herself.

Striving for gender equality both in and out of the workplace doesn’t mean women should be striving to emulate, “overtake,” or actually be men. Whatever women choose to do — hug, kiss, handshake — it’s key to embrace the choice and approach the movement with confidence and ease. In the end, it’s less about the point of contact than about the attitude behind it.

Jun 9

Mindful Parenting


By Carla Naumburg

At least once a week one of my friends or family members jokingly accuses me of mindless parenting. Chances are, they’re right. I first became interested in mindfulness and mindful parenting because I was unhappy with how often I was reacting to my daughters out of frustration, anger, or boredom. They’d whine or dawdle or throw tantrums or do something that is completely normal for a preschooler or toddler to do, and more often than not, I would snap or even yell at them.

I’m a year into my mindfulness practice, and I can honestly tell you that I still do snap and yell at my girls.

The difference is that now I have tools. Instead of constantly repeating a cycle of conflict and apologies, I know I can choose a more intentional way to engage with my kids. I am getting better at catching myself (sometimes before I lose my patience, sometimes right as it is happening, and sometimes well after the fact), taking a few deep breaths, and making a choice to respond differently. Sometimes I spend much of the day repeatedly reminding myself to breathe (and yes, I do feel like a bit of a crazy person on those days, probably because I am a bit of a crazy person on those days) because that’s what it takes to get me through each moment.

When I do lose it, I am less likely to berate myself for not being a better mother, which was my common reaction in the past. I used to convince myself that I was the only mother on the planet who yelled at her children, and I would sink into a place of deep shame and regret. Those negative feelings made it virtually impossible for me to come to a place of kindness towards myself and my kids.

Now, I try to forgive myself and remember that each moment is a new opportunity to make a different choice in how I want to respond to myself and my daughters. I try to remember that when I can create a little space in the middle of everything, I can choose which thoughts and behaviors I want to hang on to, and which I want to let go of.

I’m not sure how different it all looks from the outside (hence, my friends’ comments), but my internal experience is significantly improved. Most of the time.

Ask any mindfulness practitioner (even the experts, who will likely be the first to tell you that there’s no such thing as an expert in mindfulness) and they will tell you that none of us can be mindful all of the time. It’s not about being some super calm zen Mama as your little Tasmanian Devils are swirling around you. Mindfulness is a practice, a choice we make over and over again to keep coming back to the present moment, to the place in which we stop, breathe, and find space to make a different choice, no matter how far we have strayed.

By Dr. Jennifer Kromberg

Looking back

Most of my patients are pushed into therapy by what they see as a problem – maybe it’s an eating disorder or a specific relationship issue like mistrust or infidelity. Many of these patients simply want the problem to go away. But a study recently published in the journal Advances in Life Course Research reinforces the idea that it’s rarely that easy. Many of your current problems aren’t the result of your current circumstances and instead require looking deeper into the transformative experiences of your childhood for anything that might resemble a long term fix.

Specifically, researchers Eva-Maria Merz and Suzanne Jak used results from the 3,980-person Netherlands Kinship Panel Study to show that the quality of your childhood relationships with your parents affects the quality of your romantic relationships as an adult. That might not be a newsflash, but the study also shows exactly what it is in your early patterns of attachment to your parents that predicts good and bad relationships now.

They started with a soup of factors that included a person’s childhood attachment to mother and father, childhood stressful relationship with mother and father, quality of the current romantic relationship, current family ties, and current loneliness. And, basically, they asked what was related to what, in other words, which – if any! – things in your past lead to which things in your present?

As you might expect, everything was related to loneliness. That is, everything except having a stressful relationship with your mother! It turns out that as long as you had the background of attachment to your mother – reliability, closeness, and supportiveness – you could also have fought with her, without these fights hurting your chances for healthy adult relationships or increasing your chance of loneliness. The same wasn’t true of fathers: fighting with dad was bad. In fact, it was this positive side of mom – how attached you were to her – that was the study’s best overall predictor of your current relationship quality, strength of family ties and loneliness. Really: kids who were attached to mom tend to experience good things as adults.

The aspects of attachment to mom that were most important in this study were “experiences and memories of the mother as a reliable resource in problem solving, as supportive, a close relationship partner, and understanding,” the authors write.

What’s especially interesting, if not especially surprising is that these early attachments matter at all. Your adult life including romantic relationships and feelings of loneliness may be the products of patterns created long ago. You do not ping and pong through life simply in the moment of your present experiences and instead interpret and react to these experiences as interpreted through the lens of your past.

As you look for current solutions, I suggest you first look to the problems of your past instead of simply focusing on the problems in front of you.

I’d love to add your voice to the conversation! Please get in touch via the comments on this page or at the social media links below.

Jun 7

Child Custody and the Working Mom


By Lisa Helfend Meyer – Family Law Attorney
According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 70.5 percent of mothers are now in the workforce. Not only are the number of working moms at near record levels, but also nearly 30 percent of working wives now outearn their working husbands, making them the primary breadwinners while dad is more frequently at home with the kids. These statistics have led to dramatic reversals in who gets primary custody and spousal support (aka alimony) when couples divorce.

Not so long ago, moms (working or not) almost always got the kids, while dads paid child support and alimony. It comes as a shock to many divorcing working moms that the tide is turning and dads whether or not they are the primary caretakers are being awarded at a minimum 50 percent because they don’t work.

While assuming the breadwinner role was a comfortable arrangement during the marriage, this situation can have consequences for a mother contemplating divorce. More often than not, the working mom is doing double duty in the family. In addition to her job outside the home, she is likely performing substantial childcare duties. She gets the kids up and ready for school, arranges playdates with friends, helps with homework, and organizes kids’ sports and other extra-curricular activities. This mom manages her kids’ schedule with the same precision that she brings to her professional life. Yet pursuing her professional dreams and financial success can put her at a distinct disadvantage in divorce if she has not physically been at home during the day. The hard reality is that while mom may be “doing it all” at home and in the workplace, it is dad who is being rewarded because he is physically at home during the day — even if he is not performing the majority of caretaking responsibilities.

Parental roles and responsibilities were once very traditional and the court’s decisions reflected those roles. Mom got the house and kids; dad got the business, paid support and spent Saturdays at Disneyland. In the 1980s, in recognition of the growing number of women in the workplace and fathers assuming more parental responsibility, a trend towards 50/50 custody became more the norm.

Today in some camps, the pendulum has swung with some psychologists and family law courts favoring children having one primary caregiver, especially when a child is very young. Judges want to know who is the hands-on parent and who spends more time with the kids. If the father is seen to have assumed this role during the marriage, it’s likely that the court will maintain the status quo when awarding custody, giving the father 50 percent of the time or in some instances the majority of the time. However other mental health professionals and courts believe that children are resilient and even if a father did not assume parenting duties during marriage, that a divorce can make better parents, and the court will award him 50 percent.

When the courts award primary or even 50 percent custody to the father, it’s often devastating for the mother. She feels like she is being penalized for working and having her children “taken away from her.” Even women who have reached the pinnacles of success in business get their identity through children and family, whereas men, for the most part, still get their identity from work. Unfortunately, society often stigmatizes the woman denied primary custody of her children. We wonder, what did a woman do “to lose” custody of her children.

While the courts can’t discriminate against a working parent and must be gender neutral, try telling that to the working mom who feels like the court has bent over backwards to favor the non-working father. In a practical sense courts do just that in an effort to appear “gender neutral.”

In my practice, I counsel many successful professional women on what they need to know and to do to achieve a custody arrangement that will be in the best interest of their children and be comfortable for them.

Avoid Going to Court
Nine times out of ten, it’s better to reach a custody agreement outside of the courtroom rather than having a judge decide your fate. Judges are pressed for time. Rather than examining subtle family dynamics, they may determine the best interests of the child by simply calculating work hours, school involvement and other factors that put the mom spending long hours at work at a disadvantage. If dad can devote more time to childcare and the present arrangement is working, the judge is unlikely to make a change in mom’s favor. Look for an attorney who has handled cases similar to yours and one with a track record in reaching successful custody settlements before going to trial.

Adjust Your Priorities
If you’re a working mom heading towards to divorce and want to pursue primary custody, I recommend adjusting your priorities to take on the role of custodial parent before the divorce. Instead of working 50 hours, consider cutting back on time in the office to devote more time to the kids. Strategies may include getting up a little earlier in the morning, bringing work home that can be done after hours, or investigating flex time arrangements with your employer. A word of caution, these changes have to be for real. Making them a month or two before filing for divorce will be seen as a ploy by the court.

Be Visible as a Caregiver
Are you a working mom who spends long hours in the office or on the road? Then it’s likely you aren’t as visible to teachers, the pediatrician and others who may end up testifying in court. It’s important to have your contributions recognized and documented. Using email and Skype to stay in touch with the school and teachers can help, but it’s also critical to have in-person face-time with the people involved with your child’s life. Again, you have to make it a priority to be present at parent/teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments, soccer practice, music lessons, etc. Document your lives by keeping a journal of important facts including the amount of time spent with children, activities you engage in, communications with teachers, concerns regarding the other parent, etc.

Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
It’s impossible to give 100 percent to your career and 100 percent to your kids, so don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to give 100 percent to each facet of your life 100 percent of the time. You can still be a great mom. When you are traveling for work, communicate with your children daily by Skype or phone. If you are traveling during one week, try to spend more time with your children the following week or plan a special weekend outing or vacation.

See Your Ex as an Asset and not an Adversary
While your marriage may have ended in divorce, you and your ex can still be successful co-parents. As the other person who loves your kids as much as you do, your ex can be an asset and your best ally in raising your children. Divorce often makes dads better parents. Use the time your kids are with their dad to recharge your batteries and take care of yourself. This will enable you to be revitalized when your kids are with you and make the most of your time together.

As family law and the courts struggle to catch up with the changing needs of the American family, working mothers will have to rise to the custody challenges that working fathers have faced for decades.

By Janice Wood Associate News Editor
People who develop atrial fibrillation — a type of irregular heartbeat common in old age — may also be more likely to develop problems with memory and thinking, according to a new study.

“Problems with memory and thinking are common for people as they get older. Our study shows that, on average, problems with memory and thinking may start earlier or get worse more quickly in people who have atrial fibrillation,” said study author Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“This means that heart health is an important factor related to brain health.”

The study analyzed results from more than 5,100 people age 65 and older from four communities in the United States who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study.

Participants did not have a history of atrial fibrillation or stroke at the start of the study. They were followed for an average of seven years, taking a 100-point memory and thinking test every year.

Of the 5,150 participants, 552, or about 11 percent, developed atrial fibrillation during the study.

The researchers found that people with atrial fibrillation were more likely to experience lower memory and thinking scores at earlier ages than people with no history of atrial fibrillation.

For example, from age 80 to age 85 the average score on the 100-point test went down by about 6 points for people without atrial fibrillation. But the average dropped by about 10 points for people with atrial fibrillation, the researchers noted.

For participants ages 75 and older, the average rate of decline was about three to four points faster per five years of aging with atrial fibrillation compared to those without the condition, he added.

“This suggests that, on average, people with atrial fibrillation may be more likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia at earlier ages than people with no history of atrial fibrillation,” he said.

Thacker noted that scores below 78 was suggestive of dementia. People without atrial fibrillation in the study were predicted to score below 78 points at age 87, while people with atrial fibrillation were predicted to score below 78 points at age 85, two years earlier.

“If there is indeed a link between atrial fibrillation and memory and thinking decline, the next steps are to learn why that decline happens and how we can prevent that decline,” said Thacker.

The study was published in the online issue of Neurology.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Jun 5

Many Children With Autism Also Have ADHD


In a study of the co-occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in early school-age children (four to eight years old), researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that nearly one-third of children with ASD also have clinically significant ADHD symptoms. Published in Autism: The International Journal and Practice (Epub ahead of print), the study also found that children with both ASD and ADHD are significantly more impaired on measures of cognitive, social and adaptive functioning compared to children with ASD only.

Distinct from existing research, the current study offers novel insights because most of the children entered the study as infants or toddlers, well before ADHD is typically diagnosed. Previous studies on the co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD are based on patients seeking care from clinics, making them biased towards having more multi-faceted or severe impairments. By recruiting patients as infants or toddlers, the likelihood of bias in the current study is significantly reduced.
“We are increasingly seeing that these two disorders co-occur and a greater understanding of how they relate to each other could ultimately improve outcomes and quality of life for this subset of children,” says Dr. Rebecca Landa, senior study author and director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger. “The recent change to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to remove the prohibition of a dual diagnosis of autism and ADHD is an important step forward.”

Participants in this prospective, longitudinal child development study included 162 children. Researchers divided the children into ASD and Non-ASD groups. The groups were further categorized by ADHD classification according to parent-reported symptoms of ADHD on the Hyperactivity and Attention Problems subscales of the Behavioral Assessment System for Children-Second Edition, a standard assessment specifically designed to identify the core symptoms of ADHD.

Results revealed that, out of 63 children with ASD in the study, 18 (29%) were rated by their parents as having clinically significant symptoms of ADHD. Importantly, the age range for children in the study (four to eight) represented a younger and narrower sample than has been previously reported in published literature. “We focused on young school-aged children because the earlier we can identify this subset of children, the earlier we can design specialized interventions,” says Dr. Landa. “Tailored interventions may improve their outcomes, which tend to be significantly worse than those of peers with autism only.”

Researchers also found that early school-age children with co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD were significantly more impaired than children with only ASD on measures of cognitive and social functioning, as well as in the ability to function in everyday situations. They were also more likely to have significant cognitive delays (61 versus 25 percent) and display more severe autism mannerisms, like stereotypic and repetitive behaviors. The study findings suggest that children with the combined presence of ADHD and ASD may need different treatment methods or intensities than those with ASD only in order to achieve better outcomes.

Dr. Landa and her team recognize that this research supports the need for future prospective, longitudinal studies of attention, social, communication and cognitive functioning from the time that the first red flags of ASD are identified. Such research will lead to important insights about the relative timing of onset and stability of disruption to attention mechanisms and barriers to successful functioning in children with co-occurring ASD and ADHD.

Jun 4

Things to Do When You Feel Insecure


By Therese J. Borchard Associate Editor
German psychoanalyst Eric Fromm said, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”

Everyone I have ever known — I take that back — every likable person I have ever known in this world has admitted to periods of sheer insecurity. They looked at themselves from the perspective of someone else — perhaps a person with no appreciation of their talents, personality traits, abilities—and judged themselves unfairly according to the perverted view.

I am terribly insecure much of the time. I grew up with bad acne, braces, and a twin sister who was in the popular group. The adolescent self-doubt had sticking power. At times I can pull off the image of a self-confident author and writer, but it usually lasts as long as the speaking event or lunch with my editor.

Lately the junior high inferiority complex has made a surprise visit, and I’m more insecure than usual. So here’s one of those lists that people are always writing — suggestions on what to do if you are feeling insecure, too.

1. Consider it beautiful.

Insecurity — vulnerability of spirit — is essentially humility, which is a divine quality. In fact, since pride is considered to be the origin of sin (Saint Augustine), then humility would be the greatest spiritual virtue. With insecurity, we admit that it’s not all about us, and that philosophy in this world of self-centeredness is quite lovely. Says Stephen Fry in “Moab Is My Washpot”:

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”

2. Read your self-esteem file.

A self-esteem file is a warm-fuzzy folder, but I really refuse to call it that because it sounds like I live in the land of the unicorns and fairies with retreats to the land of the rainbows and lollipops. It’s a collection of anything anyone has ever said, written, indicated that can be categorized as positive. Someone says something shallow like, “I like your shoes.” Sure, put it in there, with a note “I have good taste in shoes.” Another person mutters, “Dude, thanks for listening.” That goes in there as well: “I am a good listener.”

I suggest asking two or three of your best friends to list ten of your best qualities and put those in there to jumpstart the project. That’s what I did seven years ago. My therapist asked me to make a list of ten of my best qualities and I couldn’t do it. So she told me to ask my friends. I was embarrassed. Ashamed. Why should I need to do this? But my self-esteem file has saved me from weeks of self-loathing. Now it’s full of nice comments on my blog, emails, feedback from my books. I reach for it every time I feel a moment of insecurity coming over me.

3. Avoid people you feel insecure around.

I know this sounds like common sense, but it does require a bit of homework. Sometimes you have to rearrange your schedule, find a new route to work, take lunch at a different time, or compile a ton of excuses to have on hand. “I’m sorry I can’t go to happy hour with you guys. The truth is that your cliquish group does not make me happy. I have a better chance of getting happy by myself. Oh, and my dog needs to get groomed at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night.”

You have to protect yourself. That should be your first priority for as long as you are feeling insecure, not convenience. Why torture yourself? If you think the popular group will notice, you’re wrong. Most likely they don’t care about you. But you won’t care that they don’t care if you are proactive about protecting yourself. Then, when you don’t feel as insecure, you can resume your old schedule or go to happy hour if you want and if your dog has been groomed.

4. Surround yourself with supportive people.

There are only a few people in my life who get me. Who really get me. When I’m insecure, I will drive 250 miles to see them, or squeeze a half hour into my hectic evening to talk to them on the phone. They remind me of what is good and unique about myself — maybe unorthodox and not at all appreciated by other folks — elements that contribute to my decent DNA. These people love that I have no filter, that I say whatever I am thinking out loud and therefore insult an average of two people every ten seconds. This character defect, they say, is refreshing!

Those trusted few are the voices of truth and we need as many voices of truth as we can get. “We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us,” writes Beth Moore in “So Long, Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend To Us.”

5. Know it’s invisible.

You figure everyone can see that you’re insecure. And that actually makes you feel more insecure. But here’s the wonderful truth. No one can see your insecurity. They are too worried about their own insecurity to notice your insecurity. Even when I think the world can see me shake – when I get really nervous or uncertain – few people can. Either that or they are lying to me when I call them on it. Do your friends look insecure when they are in a group of coworkers or with dysfunctional families? Nope? No one can see your insides but you.

5 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Insecure was originally published on Everyday Health in the Sanity Break blog.

Jun 3

I think I was misdiagnosed with aspergers


So I was diagnosed with aspergers at the age of 7 and I had only a few of the symtoms. As I got older, the symtoms got milder and almsot all of them have dissapeered completly. Anywhay, heres why I think I don;t have aspergers

People with aspergers often lack social skills, wich often causes them to become shy, I was pretty shy as a child, but as I became a teenager, I came out of my shell more and more andnow, I’m still somewhat shy, but not notcabaly,[I will be turning 18 this year] Looking back on it, I thnik I was just natually shy, because I had somewhat average social skills, I was just to nervous to use them. About a year after my diagnosis, I started seeing a therapist, and I do not exzaggerage when I say this lady had NO CLUE what she was doing When I was in 5th grade, she put me in a social skills group to “help me read social cues”. I had NO PROBLEM reading social cues, wich also laeds me to bellieve I don;t have aspergers. I also have NO PROBLEM whith maintaining eye contact [something aspies struggle tremendously with] I do not take things literally[ another signs of aspergers] infact my friends say I understand jokes better than they do and they are NOT autistic.

Peopel with aspergers often exel in logical thinking, math, and science, but struggle with exepressing themselves emotionaly. I am the opposoite, I am AWFUL in math, I am more emiotional then logical and Im only average at science, but I am EXELLINT at expressing my emotions

When I was 12 I got a new therapist who was MUCH better than the old one. And seeing her lead me to be diagnosed with ADD which, I have to say, the diagnoses fits me like a glove, I would daydream in class, and I am very forgetful and disorganized. I am fairly inteligent for my age, but I am TERRIBLE at spelling, and reading is not my best subject eiter.

I have asked severeal peope lI know if they think I have aspergers and ADD. Pretty much everyone said I had ADD but I didn’t have aspergers. My friends were actually supprized I was ever diagonosed with aspergers. Alot of people in my class ask me If I have “dislexya” which I have NEVER heard of. So, do you think I have aspergers? Does dislexia cause similar symptoms to aspegrers? Am I only borderline aspergers? What do you think?

Jun 2

Secondhand Drinking | Drugging


by Lisa Frederiksen
Coping with secondhand drinking | drugging is especially problematic for a young person because of the brain development that occurs from birth through one’s early 20s – especially if the parent or sibling’s drinking or drug use behaviors involved verbal, physical or emotional abuse. Why is this such a problem? Because it actually changes the way the brain works and in the case of substance abuse, those brain changes around childhood trauma become one of the five key risk factors for developing a substance abuse problem and/or an addiction.

For more on this concept, consider reading: “Secondhand Drinking, Secondhand Drugging,” “Childhood Trauma Leaves Lasting Marks on the Brain” and browsing through “The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs)” website.
Affects of Coping with Secondhand Drinking | Drugging as a Young Person

In previous posts, such as: “How Teens Can Become Alcoholics Before Age 21,” I’ve written about how the brain’s developmental processes from ages 12 – 25 make a person’s brain especially vulnerable to developing a problem with alcohol abuse, even alcoholism.

The same is true of wiring coping skills for dealing with a family member’s substance abuse and/or substance addiction (alcohol or drugs); in other words, wiring skills to cope with secondhand drinking/drugging (SHDD) — coping skills such as those developed to “handle” a loved one’s verbal, physical or emotionally abusive drinking behaviors. Examples of these kinds of SHDD coping skills include retreating inside one’s mind or physically when confronted with abusive or scary drinking behaviors; carrying pent up, explosive rage that spills out in other situations because it cannot be expressed to the person abusively drinking/drugging for safety reasons; attempts to be especially “good” to make up for or “fix” the problem; or ….

When a person, especially a young person, does not understand drinking behaviors as a consequence of brain changes (and in the case of addiction, a brain disease) caused by the substance abuse, they think “it” (the behaviors) are their loved ones. Thus, they think their loved one’s behaviors are something they have to accommodate or thwart or believe, because, after all, it is their loved one! So they internalize — wire — coping skills to respond to the drinking behaviors.

As you’ve also likely read on this blog, the brain embeds brain maps (neurons talking to one another to produce a particular activity) for everything we think, feel, say and do — including how we cope with SHDD. The brain is especially vulnerable to how it wires these coping skills during the development that occurs from ages 12-25 — the time of brain maturity shown in the image below, a time-lapse of brain imaging studies reprinted with permission from Dr. Paul Thompson of UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.

Brain development occurring ages 12-25 makes a young person especially vulnerable to wiring unhealthy coping skills that they will carry throughout their life, unless and until, they understand that substance abuse / addiction causes brain changes and the resulting behaviors are not a reflection of them (the young person), they are the result of those brain changes that cause the drinking behaviors (further described in the “related posts” listed below).

The developmental brain changes occurring between ages 12-25 referenced above are related to:

1) Puberty. Puberty triggers new hormonal and physical changes, as well as new neural networks.

2) Continued development of the cerebral cortex (front area) — the “thinking” part of the brain. This involves neural networks wiring within the Cerebral Cortex — the idea of learning calculus vs. memorizing multiplication tables, for example. It also involves neural networks in the Cerebral Cortex writing to those in other areas of the brain — the idea of controlling emotions, which originate in the Limbic System, with logical thought, which originates in the Cerebral Cortex, for example.

3) “Pruning” and “strengthening” of neural networks. Pruning is when neural connections (i.e., brain cells talking to one another) that are not used or are redundant fall away (get “pruned”), and those that are used get strengthened, which makes the remaining neural connections more efficient (similar to the way an insulted cable wire works more efficiently than a non-insulated one). This concept is explained in more detail at The Partnership at Drug website, A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain.

Image: Thompson, Paul. Ph.D., Time-Lapse Imaging Tracks Brain Developing from ages 5 to 20, UCLA Lab of Neuro-Imaging and Brain Mapping Division, Dept. Neurology and Brain Research Institute, Permission: Dr. Paul Thompson 5.7.09

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor

Mom’s Education Impacts Adult Kids’ Depression RiskA new study shows that children of women who didn’t graduate from high school have double the risk of experiencing major depression in early adulthood, compared to children of mothers who graduated.

“Our research indicates that a mother’s lack of high school education has a robust impact on her child’s risk of major depressive episode in early adulthood,” said senior author Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, Ph.D., of McGill University.

The higher risk of depression in children of mothers with less than a high school education could not be attributed to parental history of depression, early life adversity, or the children’s own education and income in early adulthood.

The study is the first in Canada to distinguish the impact of a mother and father’s education on depression in early adulthood.

For the study, researchers looked at a sample of 1,267 individuals from Statistics Canada’s National Population Health Survey.

Participants were first interviewed in 1994, when they were between 12 and 24 years old, and living with their parents. They were then followed for 12 years, and their risk of major depressive episode was assessed between the ages of 22 and 36.

“Depression in early adulthood strikes at a critical time,” said Quesnel-Vallée.

“An individual may be pursuing studies or apprenticeships, or starting a career or a family. A disruption caused by depression can potentially derail these events and have lifelong consequences.”

Interestingly, the father’s level of education has no impact.

“This, along with the fact that the effect of mother’s education was not explained by the children’s own education or income, suggests that mothers’ parenting skills may be at play here,” she said.

Alison Park, a researcher at the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec who worked on the research for her master’s degree, said, “Education gives people practical skills, such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as an increased sense of mastery.”

“A better-educated mother might be more confident in coping with difficulties arising from child-rearing. This increased confidence and feeling of self-mastery might serve as a model for her children.”

The research is published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Source: McGill University

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