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Oct 31


Emerging research suggests our willpower to resist cheating or lying diminishes over the course of a day.

Ethics researchers from Harvard University and the University of Utah discovered the pattern while investigating various behaviors, such as lying, stealing, and cheating.

Drs. Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith have published their findings in Psychological Science.

“We noticed that experiments conducted in the morning seemed to systematically result in lower instances of unethical behavior.”

This led the researchers to wonder: Is it easier to resist opportunities to lie, cheat, steal, and engage in other unethical behavior in the morning than in the afternoon?

Knowing that self-control can be depleted from a lack of rest and from making repeated decisions, Kouchacki and Smith wanted to examine whether normal activities during the day would be enough to deplete self-control and increase dishonest behavior.

In two experiments, college-age participants were shown various patterns of dots on a computer. For each pattern, they were asked to identify whether more dots were displayed on the left or right of the screen.

Importantly, participants were not given money for getting correct answers, but were instead given money based on which side of the screen they determined had more dots; they were paid 10 times the amount for selecting the right over the left.

Participants therefore had a financial incentive to select the right, even if there were unmistakably more dots on the left, which would be a case of clear cheating.

In line with the hypothesis, participants tested between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. were less likely to cheat than those tested between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. — a phenomenon the researchers call the “morning morality effect.”

They also tested participants’ moral awareness in both the morning and afternoon.

After presenting them with word fragments such as “_ _RAL” and “E_ _ _ C_ _” the morning participants were more likely to form the words “moral” and “ethical,” whereas the afternoon participants tended to form the words “coral” and “effects,” lending further support to the morning morality effect.

The researchers found the same pattern of results when they tested a sample of online participants from across the United States.

Participants were more likely to send a dishonest message to a virtual partner or to report having solved an unsolvable number-matching problem in the afternoon, compared to the morning.

They also discovered that the extent to which people behave unethically without feeling guilt or distress — known as moral disengagement — made a difference in the significance of the morning morality effect.

That is, those participants with a higher propensity to morally disengage were likely to cheat in both the morning and the afternoon.

But people who had a lower propensity to morally disengage — those who might be expected to be more ethical in general — were honest in the morning, but less so in the afternoon.

“Unfortunately, the most honest people, such as those less likely to morally disengage, may be the most susceptible to the negative consequences associated with the morning morality effect,” the researchers write.

“Our findings suggest that mere time of day can lead to a systematic failure of good people to act morally.”

The researchers believe their results could have implications for organizations or businesses trying to reduce unethical behavior.

“For instance, organizations may need to be more vigilant about combating the unethical behavior of customers or employees in the afternoon than in the morning,” the researchers said.

“Whether you are personally trying to manage your own temptations, or you are a parent, teacher, or leader worried about the unethical behavior of others, our research suggests that it can be important to take something as seemingly mundane as the time of day into account.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Oct 30

Video gaming causes increases in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning as well as fine motor skills. This has been shown in a new study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charite University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus. The positive effects of video gaming may also prove relevant in therapeutic interventions targeting psychiatric disorders.

In order to investigate how video games affect the brain, scientists in Berlin have asked adults to play the video game “Super Mario 64” over a period of two months for 30 minutes a day. A control group did not play video games. Brain volume was quantified using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In comparison to the control group the video gaming group showed increases of grey matter, in which the cell bodies of the nerve cells of the brain are situated. These plasticity effects were observed in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. These brain regions are involved in functions such as spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills of the hands. Most interestingly, these changes were more pronounced the more desire the participants reported to play the video game.

“While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games”, says study leader Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Therefore Simone Kühn and her colleagues assume that video games could be therapeutically useful for patients with mental disorders in which brain regions are altered or reduced in size, e.g. schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s dementia.

“Many patients will accept video games more readily than other medical interventions”, adds the psychiatrist Jürgen Gallinat, co-author of the study at Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus. Further studies to investigate the effects of video gaming in patients with mental health issues are planned. A study on the effects of video gaming in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder is currently ongoing.

Oct 29

Ways to Keep Your Memory Sharp With Age


Clear thinking and memory are examples of what doctors call cognitive abilities. Since the human brain peaks in size at about age 20 and then starts to shrink, you might think that by age 70 or 80, you’d be lucky to remember your name. The good news is that memory loss is not inevitable. “There are examples of people who have lived to 123 years of age who died with completely intact memories and no evidence of neuropathology,” said Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Here are six ways to stay sharp as a tack despite your shrinking brain.

1.Physical Exercise
PhD, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University in College Station, put exercise at the top of his memory improvement list. Professor Klemm is the author the book Memory Power 101. “Get plenty of aerobic exercise, at least 20 minutes every other day,” said Klemm. People who stay physically fit tend to stay mentally sharp and hold their cognitive abilities well into their seventies and eighties. A 2012 study of 691 seniors in the journal Neurology found that seniors who reported high levels of physical activity at age 70 had less brain shrinkage at age 73 than seniors who reported less physical activity. Exercise may decrease memory loss by improving blood flow to the brain.

2.Brain Exercise
Train your attentiveness and focus. The most common mental problem with aging is distractibility, which inevitably interferes with memory. An example is when you open the refrigerator door and suddenly realize you forgot what you went to the fridge for,” said Klemm. He recommends challenging your brain with games like chess or Sudoku. Dr. Gandy recommends puzzles and memory training. A 2013 study published in the journal PLOS One found that seniors who played just 10 hours of a mind-challenging video game had significant improvement in cognitive abilities.

3. Learn a New Skill
Some research shows that learning a new language or learning to play a musical instrument may help prevent memory loss and improve cognitive abilities. A 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychology found that people who had instrumental musical training retained their memory and had less cognitive decline with age. The study included 70 seniors between age 60 and 83. The study found that the more years of musical training a person had, the better their cognitive performance was with age.

4. Be More Sociable
Both Klemm and Gandy agree that social engagement is important in preventing memory loss. “Social engagement, along with physical and mental stimulation, all release substances in the brain that strengthen nerve connections called synapses,” said Gandy. A 2012 study published in the journal Neuropsychology followed 952 seniors for 12 years to see if social engagement protected seniors from memory loss and decline in communication skills. They concluded that being socially active reduced these declines and that seniors who showed declines tended to become less socially engaged.

5. Get Your Antioxidants
Antioxidant vitamins may benefit memory by blocking free radicals that contribute to cell aging. Over the years, some large studies have found that antioxidant vitamins C and E may protect against cognitive decline. Gandy said that vitamins could help but cautions that they only help in cases of vitamin deficiency. You can also get plenty of antioxidants naturally in your diet. “They’re in any dark-colored fruit, berry, or vegetable. Also, take vitamin D3 and resveratrol pills,” advised Klemm.

6. Learn to Meditate
Stress and anxiety may decrease memory and cognitive ability, so take steps to reduce these negatives. “Take up meditation, yoga, or another type of mind-body exercise that reduces stress,” said Klemm. A 2010 study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found that just four days of meditation training could significantly reduce anxiety and improve memory and cognition. In the study, 24 volunteers took meditation training and 25 listened to a recorded book. Both groups had improved mood, but the meditation group also had better memory, less stress, and clearer thinking.

Oct 28

by Stanley Siegel, LCSW
Scientists agree that frequent sex can improve heart health, build a more robust immune system, and increase the ability to ward off pain. Sex changes brain and body chemistry, boosting certain hormone levels that keep us young and vibrant. Sex can also alter our mental state by releasing endorphins that act as antidotes to stress, anxiety, and depression.

But among the greatest miracles of sex is its most secret – its capacity to help us work through deep-seated emotional conflicts and satisfy unmet childhood needs.

The human body is designed to heal itself. We have an immune system that protects us from disease and repairs us when we are damaged. Pain acts as an alarm, alerting us to the problem. In response, all of the body’s systems, including the mind, are called into action to aid in the process of self-recovery. Similarly, when we encounter emotional conflict, we also experience pain. The mind mobilizes its own defense to assist in repairing the emotional wound in the same way we release an army of antibodies to heal a cut finger. Whether it’s physical or psychological, we are hard-wired to lessen pain, helped by innate mechanisms.

Among the mind’s most inventive weapons in the battle for emotional recovery are our fantasies. We create them to counteract anxiety or pain, substituting pleasure where conflict exists.

As children we use imaginative play to help us gain mastery of challenging events. We try out roles as sports stars, princesses, police officers, and superheroes, enabling ourselves to feel powerful in a world in which grown-ups are in charge. In play, we find comfort often returning to the same games or stories again and again because their familiarity provides a zone in which we feel safe and increasingly competent. This same mechanism will apply later in adulthood when “playtime” occurs in the bedroom.

As we grow out of childhood and societal expectations and norms gradually restrict our imagination and behavior, we begin to apply lessons learned toward navigating the harsher realities of adult life. Yet, fantasies remain an essential part of helping us cope with life’s myriad conflicts. Now we imagine being billionaires or CEO’s or celebrities, rewarded with power or fame for our accomplishments, or we fantasize writing the great American novel or producing a film, becoming the pillars of our community, or simply winning the lottery. We have learned to convert painful feelings of disappointment, helplessness, failure, or loss into manageable and sometimes even pleasurable ones.

Just as fantasies of great wealth or status serve to help us feel less powerless in an ordinary lives, sexual fantasies are the minds way of helping us gain mastery of unresolved conflicts or unmet needs. They are not simple random imaginings as we are led to believe. At their base lies fragments of our history, that reach far back into the forgotten past. By the time we leave adolescence, most of us have eroticized some aspect of unmeet needs from our childhoods, encoding them in our sexual fantasies. These encoded sexual fantasies, which continue throughout our adult lives, transform the pain associated with old wounds into sexual pleasure.

As a society, we have yet to appreciate the healing nature of sex. Instead we have a complicated relationship with sex, simultaneously promoting sexual images in popular culture – movies, television, and advertising – while demonizing those of us who enjoy it, especially women, with labels like “whore,” “slut,” and “player.” As a consequence, many of us internalize these confusing or unrealistic messages, so by the time we reach adulthood, we have no idea of what sex actually means to us. We suppress or erase our sexual desires and fantasies from our experience, if not from our consciousness altogether, creating a condition of alienation and inauthenticity – a disconnection between who we really are and how we behave. We enter a process of disengaging our minds from our bodies and souls, which often lasts a lifetime.

But if we learn to identify our sexual fantasies and true desires, where they come from and what they mean, we can unleash their full healing power. Embracing our sexual truth reverses the corrosive influences of guilt and shame, and enhances the sense of self-worth and wholeness that is essential to leading a fulfilling life. It allows us to reclaim abandoned parts of ourselves and integrate them into our being, also crucial to health. And equally important, our true desires can also became a diving rod that leads to choosing partners with whom we can build a respectful, honest and trusting relationship, whether it is for a single night or a lifetime.

By following the steps of Intelligent Lust we embark on a journey of self discovery in which we uncover our true desires and then use those secrets to create powerful change.

STEP ONE: Getting in the Right Frame of Mind

Like any traveler, we must prepare. Following the steps of intelligent lust requires having the right attitude. We must be willing to open our mind to our deepest thoughts and to get past social taboos and psychological prohibitions that cause us to limit our sexual experience. It will help us put aside what you have been told is “normal” and discover what our real sexuality is beyond the prescribed conventions we may feel compelled to follow.

We can begin by creating the time and space for quiet contemplation. Chose a private space free of distractions to navigate the exercises to follow. A neutral place, absent of personal history, prevents contaminating the experience with negative associations or memories – a garden, park bench, beach, backyard deck, front porch, or even the back seat of a car – to navigate the exercises. Designate it as a place to return to. Keep a notebook or diary handy to record your experience.

Trust Your True Desires

Have faith in the healing power of your desires. Keep this mantra in mind. Our fantasies are antidotes that have meaning and purpose. Whether it’s a wish to be dominated, or to be tenderly made love to, our sexual fantasies convert painful, confusing, or unresolved feelings from the past into manageable and pleasurable ones in the present. We use them to transform helplessness into power, loneliness into emotional attachment, inadequacy into competence, weakness into strength. If properly understood, we can use them to find energy and direction to reconcile old conflicts and satisfy unfulfilled needs. Honor them as you would a friend.

Give Yourself Permission to Explore

Even experts vary on what a definition of healthy or normal sex should be. Why should we then accept someone else’s ideas about sex before we identify and understand our own desires and ideals? Instead, we should dig deep into our souls and psyches and examine what we truly feel about sex even at the risk of feeling disloyal to our families or churches. Following the steps of intelligent lust requires giving ourselves permission to be different.

Be Compassionate Toward Yourself

Suspend all self-judgments, tone down the moralism, draw from our reservoir of compassion, and direct it toward ourselves. Life is full of contradictions and paradoxes, which, with maturity, we learn to accept. To become whole we must fully embrace and integrate all parts of ourselves and our desires, however contradictory, dark, or difficult they may appear.

Confront the Consequences of Change

Choose to act courageously, acknowledge the discomfort that comes with change, and still move forward. By confronting our fears, we have the potential to not only discover the many truths about ourselves, our relationships, and partners, but also a passion for life itself.

Commit to Maintaining Openness and Self-Acceptance

Following the steps of intelligent lust requires a commitment to maintain openness, honesty, and acceptance regardless of the outcome while we sort through what we really feel, think, and believe in relation to sex. There are often vagaries to our thoughts at first. It may take time for them to solidify and for us to feel certain and secure with what we believe is true.

Accept and Honor Your True Desires

Our fantasies and desires remain relatively constant throughout our lives because the unmet needs from which they originate often goes unsatisfied or the underlying conflicts remains unresolved. Many women focus their sexual attention on the desires of their partners and simply don’t know or place value on their own.

By accepting and honoring our true desires, we take responsibility for their gratification and create the opportunity for them to truly serve their healing purpose.

Check back for STEP TWO: Identifying Your Sexual Fantasies.

Stanley Siegel, Intelligent Lust

Oct 27

Using Mindfulness to Stop People Pleasing



Wanting to please and take care of others is natural. But when pleasing others is based in fear of being unloved, it can become habitual and unhealthy, according to Micki Fine, MEd, LPC, author of The Need to Please: Mindfulness Skills to Gain Freedom from People Pleasing & Approval Seeking.

Specifically, people pleasing becomes problematic when your behavior is motivated by the fear of losing someone’s love or being abandoned, Fine said. She sees people pleasing as a cycle of thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

As she writes in The Need to Please, “This cycle consists of deep feelings of unworthiness, excessive attempts to be or do what you think others want from you, worry about meeting those supposed demands, and sacrificing your own well-being to please or fit in with others.”

People pleasing can be really subtle, such as agreeing with someone when you actually don’t agree, so they’ll like you, and you can be who they want you to be, she said. Or “it can be really big and overt,” such as doing something illegal for another person.

The need to please tends to arise from childhood “when we don’t receive enough unconditional love, [and] we don’t have our inner goodness mirrored to us by our caretakers enough.”

For instance, maybe your family showed you lots of love, except when you made a mistake or got a bad grade, Fine said. You learned to believe you weren’t good enough and had to do better to earn someone’s affection.

Maybe your family wanted you to be someone else entirely, she said. For instance, they wanted you to be an extrovert instead of the introvert you really are. Over time you came to believe you’re not OK as you are.

Or maybe your family hovered around you, conveying that you couldn’t make your own decisions, Fine said. You learned to “look outside yourself for who and how you should be.”

People pleasing isn’t just destructive to ourselves; it’s also ineffective. “Because people pleasing behaviors are based on the idea that we must do these things in order to be loved, they actually deny us the experience of being accepted as we are.”

Mindfulness can help you notice your people-pleasing ways and reduce them, according to Fine, founder of the organization Mindful Living and a mindfulness teacher who teaches courses at The Jung Center and Rice University.

She defines mindfulness as: “the awareness that arises when we intentionally bring our attention into the moment and notice, and let go of judgment, critical thoughts and preconceived ideas.”

Below, you’ll learn how to use mindfulness to reduce your need to please.

1. Pay attention to small experiences.

According to Fine, there are two ways to practice mindfulness: formal and informal. The formal way includes setting time aside to meditate, while the informal way includes simply paying attention during the day.

Start practicing mindfulness by paying attention to small everyday experiences, Fine said. For instance, notice the sensations of pouring milk into your cereal bowl or walking from your car to work. As you do this, you can notice what’s on your mind, as well, she said.

You might not even realize it, but thoughts such as “Did I put enough cereal in the bowl? Will they like it this way?” or “My colleague will need my help today” may arise.

This simple practice helps you to practice mindfulness in more difficult moments and better understand how your thoughts form and when they surface, she said.

2. Pause.

Mindfulness also helps you get off of autopilot. For instance, when someone asks you for help, you might automatically blurt out “yes!” before even considering if you’re interested or available.

By practicing mindfulness every day, you can learn to simply pause. This way, the next time someone asks you for help, you can “stop and take a breath.” Then you might say: “Let me think about that for a while” or “I’m just overloaded right now. I need to say no, but I appreciate the offer.”

3. Create a new relationship with your thoughts.

In addition to noticing thoughts that usually fly under the radar — and perpetuate the people-pleasing cycle — mindfulness helps you gain independence from these thoughts and relinquish them.

According to Fine, these are several examples of common people-pleasing thoughts: “I’ll do anything to be loved;” “What do other people want from me?;” “I’m not worthy of love;” and “I’ll be judged and rejected.”

In her book, Fine suggests making a list of recurrent thoughts and labeling them. For instance, thoughts such as “How can I make her like me?” or “I have to say yes” can be labeled “approval-seeking thoughts.”

Any time these thoughts arise, accept and label them. Another strategy is to smile at a thought and just say, “Oh, there you are again.”

4. Recognize your inner loveliness.

When you realize your own inner loveliness you don’t have to look outside yourself or seek others’ approval so much, Fine said. You realize, “I already have what I need. I don’t need to look for proof to know I’m OK.”

Fine features a loving-kindness meditation in her book. She suggests setting aside 20 minutes for this practice. Whatever thoughts or feelings arise, respond to them with kindness.

Call to mind a being, human or otherwise, who makes you smile and whom you love a lot. If you can’t think of such a being, you can imagine someone you don’t know but who embodies love, perhaps Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King Jr. Imagine that you are in the presence of this being now. Allow yourself to feel this being’s presence. Notice what happens in the body, perhaps feelings of lightness or gladdening of the heart. See this particular being through the eyes of love. Sit for a few moments, relishing this imagined presence.

Now turn your eyes of love toward yourself. Notice your experience as you do so, remembering that nothing special needs to happen. Simply notice whatever happens inside you. You are watering seeds of love toward yourself, not trying to force them to grow and blossom right away.

Quietly repeat the following blessings to yourself for about fifteen minutes or for whatever time you have. Experiment with allowing gentleness and kindness to inform the way in which you speak to yourself as you say these phrases:

May I be free from fear and suffering.

May I have physical well-being.

May I have mental well-being.

May I be happy and truly free.

Don’t blame yourself for your people-pleasing habits, according to Fine. They stem from a deep desire to be happy. Instead, pause, pay attention to your thoughts and practice kindness.

Oct 26

Can Cheating Make Us Feel Good?


A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that behaving in unethical ways creates positive feelings in many people, especially if they know or believe that their behavior is not harming anyone. These results are in sharp contrast to previous theories of moral behavior, which assume that all unethical behaviors cause most people to experience negative affect (to feel shameful, guilty, and otherwise bad about themselves and what they’ve done).

The researchers, led by Nicole Ruedy at the University of Washington, conducted six trials examining multiple aspects of “victimless” unethical behavior and its emotional effects. They found that although people predict they will feel bad after engaging in unethical behavior, they often do not, and, in fact, many actually experience an increase in feelings of excitement and arousal. The authors have labeled this increase in positive affect the “cheater’s high.”

I am happy to report that this rather significant piece of research makes perfect sense to me as a clinician who has worked with, quite literally, thousands of men and women who’ve been “forced” into treatment by an “angry and resentful” partner (who has often just learned of the identified patient’s ongoing pattern sexual infidelity). The minimizations, rationalizations and outright denials of reality I see in these “cheating” men and women are often astounding. And nearly always part of this justification is the fact that they have convinced themselves they are not hurting anyone, which is a key element in the cheater’s high described above.

That said, the “cheater’s high” study did not focus on relationship infidelity or even things like outright stealing. Instead, researchers looked at unethical behavior engaged in while solving math, logic and word problems. In one experiment, participants answered math and logic problems on computers in two groups. In group one, when participants completed an answer, they were automatically moved to the next question. In the second group, participants could click a button on the screen to see the correct answer before giving their own, but they were asked to disregard the correct answer button and solve the problems without that crutch. Researchers could see who used the correct answer button (who cheated), and they found that 68 percent of the people who had that option took it. Thus we see that about two-thirds of people will cheat, as long as there is no perceived victim.

In another experiment, the researchers paired a true study participant with an actor pretending to be a study participant. The actual participants were told they would be paid for each puzzle they solved within a certain time limit, with their work being graded by the other participant (the actor). So while the real participants solved puzzles, the fake participants graded the results. For half of the real participants, the actor/grader inflated the puzzle-solver’s score, thereby increasing that person’s financial payout. For the other half, the actor/grader scored the test accurately. None of the participants in the cheating duos reported the lie. Afterward, those who gained from the actor/grader telling a lie reported feeling better (having a higher positive affect) than those who did not. In other words, they felt good about getting away with something.

All told, the six trials in the study provide a strong challenge to the long-held assumption that in most people, unethical behavior automatically triggers negative affect. Here, research shows that even though most people expect to experience negative affect, unscrupulous behavior may in fact trigger positive feelings, especially if the person’s “crime” is thought (by the person) to be victimless. This last portion is the groundbreaking part. As the authors write in their study:

Very little prior work has examined the consequences of voluntary unethical behavior without obvious harm or a salient victim. This is an important omission not only because these types of unethical behavior are common … but also because the affective consequences of these acts may be very different [and] may actually evoke positive affect … The idea that unethical behavior can trigger positive affect is consistent with many anecdotal accounts of dishonesty, theft, and fraud. These accounts include wealthy individuals who delight in shoplifting affordable goods, joy-riders who steal cars for the thrill and fraudsters who revel in their misdeeds.

So is it reasonable to officially extend these findings to infidelity? As of now, probably not. In reality, much more research is needed on the topic. Anecdotally speaking, however, I can tell you that this cheater’s high is very much a part of serial sexual infidelity for a lot of people. Men and women who engage in such behavior very often think: What she (or he) doesn’t know can’t possibly hurt her (or him). Thus, in addition to the actual sexual experience, they get to experience the cheater’s high brought on by getting away with their “victimless” unethical behavior.

Potential Causes of the Cheater’s High

As Ruedy and her colleagues note, there are three primary ways in which people derive psychological benefits from victimless unethical behaviors. They are, in short:

Such behaviors may provide financial, social or other gains such as better grades, raises at work, the satisfaction of “doing better” than someone else, etc. These windfalls are, generally speaking, triggers for positive affect.
Such behaviors may lead to a greater sense of autonomy and influence. Circumventing rules that limit others gives cheaters an expanded range of options and an increased sense of control over their life outcomes, thereby increasing positive affect.
Such behaviors often involve the challenge of breaking rules and overcoming systems that are designed to constrain that behavior. The mental gymnastics involved in this can make life more interesting and enjoyable, leading to an increase in positive affect.
All of these are very much in play when it comes to relationship infidelity. First, the “windfall” of infidelity is having more (and perhaps more exciting) sex. Second, circumventing vows of monogamy and other societal rules attached to long-term relationships gives cheaters a greater sense of control over their sexual lives, and often that feeling of control extends to other areas of life. Third, and I see this in many of my clients, there is a definite sense of enjoyment/accomplishment in facing and meeting the challenges of secretive philandering.

What the researchers fail to consider is the pleasurable neurochemical rush human beings get from certain behaviors. It is this experience of pleasure that drives much of human activity. This, of course, is most apparent in adolescents, who act more impulsively, fail to consider long-term consequences, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than adults or younger children. Simply put, teens have higher rates of accidents, drug and alcohol use, suicide, unsafe sexual behaviors and criminal behavior. And functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the brain tell us very clearly that this is neurobiological in nature. Essentially, different parts of the brain mature at different rates, with the nucleus accumbens, better known as the brain’s “pleasure center,” maturing quickly, and the striatum, which controls rational thought and decision-making, maturing slowly. In essence, the human brain is designed to encourage irresponsible behavior in adolescents (understanding that a period of time in which risky, impulsive, perhaps even unethical behaviors are more attractive than safe, responsible behaviors results in learning and emotional growth). The problem is that for some people, the striatum never quite catches up to the nucleus accumbens, meaning the neurochemical rush of “fun” behaviors continues to outweigh the joys of meeting obligations, keeping promises and behaving ethically. And “getting away with it” most likely enhances the usual dopaminergic rush.

The Cheater’s High and Sexual Infidelity

One aspect of the cheater’s high that definitely needs to be researched further is whether it serves as a motivating factor in future decision-making. In other words: Does getting away with unethical behavior and feeling good about oneself afterward motivate a person to repeat his or her unethical behavior? The same basic question worded differently and from my usual therapeutic perspective reads: Does cheating on your significant other without getting caught and then feeling good about yourself make you want to cheat again? If so, that would certainly explain, at least in part, a lot of the behavior my clients have engaged in.

That said, as every good clinician knows, the full spectrum of reasons people do the things they do is never simple. Motivations for engaging in sexual infidelity are even more complex because the innate and very complicated drive for sexual congress is thrown into the mix. Most often, the assistance of an extremely skilled clinician is needed if a cheater is ever going to parse through the many layers of feeling, perception, and experience that drive his or her extracurricular sexual activity.

Ultimately, of course, a person’s reasons (both conscious and unconscious) for cheating are less important than their current and future behavior. It is possible, even for those addicted to intensity-based patterns of behavior (gambling, porn, sex, spending, etc.), to change their conduct without ever developing a deep understanding of that behavior’s root causes. In fact, the initial approach taken when treating any form of addiction is to change the behavior first, and then, once sobriety is solidly established, attempt to deal with the emotional and psychological underpinnings of the problem. Of course, if a person is still enjoying the cheating, and if that person still feels that his or her behavior is not hurting anyone, then getting that person to willingly enter treatment and do the necessary work of recovery is well-nigh impossible. Still, the more we know about what motivates good people to do bad things, the better off we’ll be, and the cheater’s high discussed herein may well be a significant step in that direction.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. A licensed UCLA MSW graduate and personal trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, Mr. Weiss is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships, along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters.

Oct 22

8 Happy Feelings That Will Never Change


The stress and strain of constantly being connected can sometimes take your life — and your well-being — of course. GPS For The Soul can help you find your way back to balance.

GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others’ stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing “secret weapons” that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.

Life has a way of constantly surprising us. Whether it’s throwing us a curveball or shifting toward the better, our resilience is often tested. However, there are some happy constants we can always count on staying the same. These positive emotions will continue to light a spark in us, whether we’re 18 or 80. Scroll through the list below of eight of our favorite happy feelings that will never change. Tell us in the comments: What’s a happy feeling that’s a constant in your life?
The safe feeling of being with family

How you feel after a really good nap

The freedom you feel on the first day it’s warm enough to wear shorts

The unconditional love you get from a pet

The nostalgic feeling triggered by the smell of a campfire

The sense of calm you feel when you hear the ocean lap the shore

The joyful feeling of hearing little kids giggle

How you feel after a belly laugh

Oct 21

Are Women Better at Multitasking?


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on October 25, 2013
New research offers mild support to the theory that women are better at multitasking than men — at least in some kinds of specific conditions.

To test the hypothesis, researchers designed two experiments on multi-tasking to examine how well people can switch tasks quickly and efficiently.

There are at least two distinct types of multi-tasking abilities, according to the researchers. The first type is the skill of being able to deal with multiple task demands without the need to carry out the involved tasks simultaneously. Researchers call this “task switching.” A good example of this type of multi-tasking is carried out by administrative assistants, who answer phone calls, fill in paperwork, sort incoming faxes and mail, and typically do not carry out any of these tasks simultaneously.

A second type of multi-tasking ability is required when two types of information must be processed or carried out simultaneously. An example of the latter category is drawing a circle with one hand while drawing a straight line with the other hand. While humans have no difficulty carrying out each of these tasks individually, drawing a circle with one hand and drawing a straight line with the other simultaneously is nearly impossible.

The researchers were only concerned with examining the first kind of multi-tasking, task-switching, because it is far more common in the real world.

The first lab-based, computer experiment indicated that, in general, people are not good at multitasking, slowing down when they were asked to do more one task. Both men and women slowed down considerably when asked to engage in task-switching in a computer-based experimental task.

Women did slow down less than men, implying they may have an advantage when faced with multitasking situations that don’t require the tasks be done simultaneously.

The researchers then went on to compare men and women in an experiment designed to better simulate real world multitasking.

Participants were asked to complete three different tasks in eight minutes. On top of this, during the task a phone would ring. If they chose to answer it, the participants would have to answer general knowledge questions.

Although there was no difference between men and women when the entire experiment was analyzed, women did score better on the one task that required them to devise strategies for locating a lost key.

”Using two very different experimental set ups, we found that women have an advantage over men in specific aspects of multitasking situations,” said Gijsbert Stoet, Ph.D., author of the paper.

In general, however, the research showed that men and women are both equally bad at multitasking. Women were shown to be just a little less bad.

“The lack of other empirical studies, though, should caution against drawing strong conclusions; instead, we hope that other researchers will aim to replicate and elaborate on our findings,” he said.

Source: Biomed Central

Oct 20

What Is Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder?


By Madeline Vann, MPH
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

For one in every five people with bipolar disorder, they must deal with an even more complicated aspect of their condition. These people have rapid cycling bipolar disorder — a subtype of the condition in which the patient cycles through ups and downs at a much faster pace.

With rapid cycling bipolar disorder, moods may shift over the course of a day or a week, explains Jeri Brasch, a 32-year-old Colorado Springs, Colo., resident who has the condition.

“It’s really hard to gain self-awareness with this illness, but once you’re at that point, it’s like an asthma attack — you can feel it coming and you try to do something about it,” she says.

Her rapid cycling bipolar disorder is now manageable with the help of treatment and therapy. But when she was diagnosed as a teenager in 1996 — four years after her first episode — she says the road was rocky at best.

Recognizing the Signs of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Prior to the current definition of rapid cycling bipolar disorder, people received the diagnosis if their bipolar signs and symptoms failed to respond to lithium. But experts now know that this is a unique form of bipolar disorder.

A diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar disorder is made when you experience four separate episodes of bipolar signs and symptoms — such as major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed symptoms — within one year.

Rapid cycling disorder complicates the strategy for treating bipolar, but with the right diagnosis and ongoing treatment, most people are able to manage their illness.

“There has to be a period of ‘quiescence’ in between the episodes,” emphasizes psychiatrist Jeffrey Bennett, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. This period of returning to “normal” is important for the diagnosis, to avoid misdiagnosing another condition, such as depression, or failing to treat bipolar correctly. For some people, rapid cycling bipolar disorder means moods that shift over the course of a week or a day, not merely over the course of an entire year.

This type of bipolar disorder is more common in women and in those whose first episodes were in childhood or adolescence.

Some of the first rapid cycling bipolar signs Brasch noticed were:

Rapid talking. Even if she doesn’t notice this herself, people will tell her to slow down, she says.
Catastrophic thinking. Brasch knows she is starting to cycle when, in response to simple frustrations during the day such as bad traffic or a flat tire, her thoughts tell her nothing will ever go right.
Apathy. Brasch is typically energetic and committed to being engaged in her life, so when she lacks the motivation to get going, she knows she’s at risk for an episode.
Distrusting medication. Brasch knows that when she begins to think her medication isn’t working and considers not taking it, it’s time to call her doctor or therapist instead.
Because rapid cycling disorder can also include periods of depression, people have their own individual bipolar signs that could signal an episode. Some will experience classic signs of mania, others will have signs of depression, and yet another group goes through the dangerous mixed state of being depressed yet full of manic energy.

“Some people have this up-and-down as part of one episode,” notes Dr. Bennett. Even for people who only go through a mild episode, such as a period of hypomania, “people around them experience them as having a discrete period of changing personality,” he says.

What to Do if You Have Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Brasch has dedicated herself to speaking publicly about rapid cycling bipolar disorder. She volunteers with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and participates in as many public events as she can.

“Bipolar disorder can be fatal if untreated, and that’s scary,” she says. “It’s scary to know that 15 percent of people with bipolar disorder complete suicide, because I do get those thoughts.”

Treatment for rapid cycling bipolar disorder will typically involve therapy and medication. Many people need a mood stabilizer as well as antidepressants or antipsychotic medications to manage the disorder.

Brasch offers these six important tips for surviving rapid cycling bipolar disorder:

Stay in treatment. Treating bipolar disorder is complicated for everyone involved. You might need to try several different medications under the supervision of your doctor before you find the right one for you. Even then, you should stay in touch with your medical team. “I have a therapist on standby,” Brasch jokes.
Find your perfect match. Brasch says she feels that her psychiatrist listens to her experiences with medication and her moods and takes them seriously. For her part, she tries to comply with her doctor’s recommendations. It’s a two-way relationship, she says.
Try cognitive behavioral therapy. Brasch’s personal experience with therapy included talk therapy, which she said wasn’t really effective for her. When she switched to cognitive behavioral therapy and started to learn how to identify and alter the thought patterns that signaled or triggered mood shifts, she gained more control over her bipolar disorder.
Build social support. Relationships can be difficult if you don’t have a handle on your bipolar disorder, but it’s important to reach out to others. Brasch says her support network is invaluable, and she also feels good about the ways she is able to give back to others through her volunteer work. If you don’t have support you can lean on, Brasch recommends joining a support group through the DBSA or an online community like Everyday Health.
Get organized. Creating a schedule that guides you through your days helps. “This morning I woke up and thought, ‘I don’t want to get out of bed,’” she admits. “But I did it anyway.” Commitment to a healthy routine provides a sound foundation on most days. A therapist can help you with this.
Give yourself credit. “Trying to stay alive and well with anything like bipolar is a constant day-to-day struggle, and it’s exhausting,” she says. But if you get to the end of the day and you are stable, that’s an accomplishment to be proud of.
If you or someone you love has rapid cycling bipolar disorder, it is important to get a diagnosis and get started with treatment.

Oct 19

Internet Therapy May Ease Postpartum Depression


By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor
New research reveals that postpartum depression can be treated effectively using online therapy.

Researchers at the University of Exeter in England teamed with online forum Netmums in two studies to investigate the feasibility of an Internet-based Behavioral Action treatment for postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression (PND).

The researchers noted that between 10 and 30 percent of new mothers are affected by postpartum depression, but many cases go unreported and few women seek help.

The study found that mothers who received the Internet-based treatment reported better results for depression, work and social impairment. The mothers also reported better anxiety scores immediately after they received the treatment, according to the researchers.

Furthermore, they reported better results for depression six months after treatment, the researchers noted.

The results, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, indicate that Internet-based treatment could have a positive effect on postpartum depression as a whole, providing new mothers with support at times that are convenient to them. It also allows them to complete a course of therapy, the researchers said.

“The high number of cases of PND, and the comparatively poor take-up of help from those affected by it, are worrying,” said Heather O’Mahen, Ph.D., from the University of Exeter, who led the study.

She noted that this study, coupled with another recently published study by the same research team that looked at a self-help version of the treatment delivered online, are the first to investigate “the effectiveness of using an Internet-based therapy to provide mums with PND with the support they would have traditionally received in a clinic-based environment. The results are enough to convince us that such an approach is indeed a feasible one.”

“Our hope is that this will allow more women to access and benefit from support, with all the knock-on positives that come from that — happier families, improved quality of life for mums, and a reduction in the demands such cases can bring to stretched health services around the world,” she said.

“This treatment is an accessible and potentially cost-effective option, and one that could easily be incorporated into mental healthcare provision.”

For the study, the researchers designed a 12-session, modular, Internet BA treatment that was supported by telephone calls with a mental health worker. A total of 249 mothers were recruited via the UK parenting site

The mothers received information about the program through Netmums newsletter advertisements, emails and online advertisements. They completed online forms and were asked questions about their mood in a telephone interview with a research assistant.

Of those, 83 met the criteria for “major depressive disorder,” the researchers report. These women were randomly split into two groups: One received “treatment as usual,” while the other group participated in the Internet-based treatment, according to the researchers.

Women in the Internet treatment group could sign onto the online program and chose modules relevant to their needs, such as “ being a good enough mum,” “changing roles and relationships,” “sleep” and “communication.” The women had weekly telephone sessions with a mental health worker who helped support the women through the program.

Mothers reported favoring therapy over drug-based solutions, especially if they are breastfeeding.

The researchers add that for many new mothers, accessing traditional clinic-based therapy is difficult because “transportation, childcare, variable feeding and nap times all conspire to make it hard to keep appointments.”

“It is critical to provide new mothers with treatments that work for them,” the researchers concluded.

Source: University of Exeter

Oct 18

A new discovery in the treatment of degenerative nerve cell disease has been characterized as a “turning point” in the fight against diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. In tests on laboratory mice, deaths from what is known as prion disease was completely prevented leading Professor Robert Morris from King’s College, London to say that it represents a momentous milestone in the treatment and possible prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The newly developed compound inhibits a cell’s incorrectly activated defense mechanisms that would otherwise shut down certain protein production activity ultimately killing the nerve cell. Published in Science Translational Medicine (, the study showed that mice with this type of prion disease developed severe memory and movement problems and died within 12 weeks. But when the mice were given the compound, there was no sign of brain tissue wasting away and they survived. Much more work needs to be done. There are side effects that include pancreatic involvement such that it triggered a mild diabetic reaction and associated weight loss. Professor Morris cautioned that a cure for Alzheimer’s was not, “imminent” but if the study results are validated by additional research, it certainly gives a renewed sense of optimism that treatment for nerve disease may be entering a brand new and exciting world of possibilities. – See more at:

Oct 17

ADHD Meds and the Aging


In a small study that was published in the Journals of Gerentology, researchers in Israel gave a 10mg dose of the drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) to fifteen healthy adults, 70 and older who could walk without assistance. They compared this group to 15 others given a placebo. The dosed group showed improved gait and function while performing single tasks (i.e. walking) and when performing dual tasks (i.e. walking and reciting the days of the week in reverse). The drug’s ability to enhance mental focus (it is often given to help those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is suspected of also impacting the area of the brain that controls balance and motor skills. Methylphenidate does have some documented addiction issues and it is not currently recommended for adults 65 and older nor is it for those having cardiac conditions. However the results of this initial work will hopefully result in larger clinical studies that may verify the findings and help to create a safe therapeutic regimen that can reduce the incidence of falls. – See more at:

Oct 16

Anxiety gene may curb willingness to help others


If you saw an elderly lady struggling across the road with a shopping cart, would you offer to help her? Most of us would, but new research suggests that a gene related to anxiety disorders may impair a person’s willingness to help others.

Researchers from the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln discovered that people with the genotype 5-HTTLPR – linked to higher social anxiety – were less likely to engage in prosocial behavior, compared with those missing this genotype.

“Prosocial behavior is linked closely to strong social skills and is considered a marker of individuals’ health and well-being,” says Gustavo Carlo, Millsap professor of diversity at the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri.

Social anxiety can have crippling effects on sufferers. In extreme cases it can lead to agoraphobia.
“Social people are more likely to be healthier, excel academically, experience career success and develop deeper interpersonal relationships that may help alleviate stress.”

According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that the brain’s neurotransmitter system for seratonin – a chemical that transmits nerve impulses between nerve cells or neurons – plays a key part in influencing a person’s prosocial behavior.

From this, the researchers wanted to determine whether this process was mediated by anxiety caused by the 5-HTTLPR genotype.

The team analyzed the genotype of 398 undergraduate students. The participants were also required to report avoidance of certain situations that involved helping other people throughout the study period.

Biological factors are ‘critical influences’ on prosocial behavior
Explaining the results of the study, published in the journal Social Neuroscience, the researchers say:

“Triallelic 5-HTTLPR genotype was significantly associated with prosocial behavior and the effect was partially mediated by social anxiety, such that those carrying the S-allele reported higher levels of social avoidance and lower rates of helping others.”

Scott Stoltenburg, associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, adds:

“Our findings suggest that individual differences in social anxiety levels are influenced by this serotonin system gene and that these differences help to partially explain why some people are more likely than others to behave prosocially.”

“Studies like this one show that biological factors are critical influences on how people interact with one another.”

Potential help for those with social anxiety
Prof. Carlo notes that since their findings show that prosocial behavior is linked to genetic-based anxiety, it is possible that those with social anxiety could be helped through support, counseling and medication, encouraging them to engage in more social behavior.

“Some forms of anxieties can be very debilitating for individuals,” says Prof. Carlo. “When people have severe levels of social anxiety, such as agoraphobia – the fear of public places and large crowds – they will avoid social situations altogether and miss the prosocial opportunities.”

He adds that although it is difficult to understand how much of a person’s prosocial behavior is a result of environmental or biological factors, this research brings them closer to understanding how an individual’s biological makeup plays a part.

Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that anxiety may cause the brain to transform neutral odors to negative ones.

Written by Honor Whiteman

Oct 15

Delay Dementia – Medication Causes of Dementia


About 5-8% of all people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia, and this number doubles every five years above that age. Dementia is the loss of mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with people’s every life and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in aging people. American typical diet contains high amount of saturated and trans fat, artificial ingredients with less fruits and vegetable which can lead to dementia and other kind of diseases

I. Causes of Dementia
A. Medication Causes of Dementia
As aging, accumulation of toxins of certain medication used to treat certain diseases, such as antidepressants, sedatives, cardiovascular drugs and anti-anxiety medications may cause increased risk of cognitive dysfunction leading to produced dementia-like symptoms.(1)
1. Antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines
An Antidepressants is a psychiatric medication used to treat mood disorders, such as major depression and dysthymia and anxiety disorders. In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center of total of 230 participants were followed for a mean of 3.7 years. Persistency index (PI) was calculated for all antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics (atypical and typical), and benzodiazepines as the proportion of observed time of medication exposure, found that Psychotropic medication use was associated with more rapid cognitive and functional decline in AD, and not with improved NPS. Clinicians may tend to prescribe psychotropic medications to AD patients at risk of poorer outcomes, but one cannot rule out the possibility of poorer outcomes being caused by psychotropic medications(2)

2. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Lower risks for AD and all-cause dementia were significantly associated with the use of any NSAIDs and the salicylates without barbiturates subgroup in the study sample including subjects with CIND at baseline. There was a weak association between any NSAIDs and the risk of CIND (hazard ratio, 0.87; 95% confidence interval, 0.76-1.00)(3)

3. Cannabis
Cannabis has been used for the treatment of a number of conditions, including neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea, etc,. In the study conducted by University of Western Australia showed that he chronic use of cannabis may impair intellectual abilities but data on this topic remain sparse and difficult to interpret. In conclusion, there is evidence that some drugs contribute to the causal pathway that leads to the development of cognitive impairment but currently available data do not support the introduction of a separate diagnostic category of drug-induced dementia (such as alcohol-related dementia)(4).

4. Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are psychedelic drugs, used primary action is to alter cognition and perception, leading to distortion of sensory perception, and other psychic and somatic effects, including sweating, heart palpitations, blurring of vision, memory loss, trembling, and itching(5)

5. Others
a. Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids are synthetic drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands to assist the physiologic processes, including stress response, immune response, and regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, behavior, etc. but an excess can cause agitation and even actual psychoses. In the study to evaluate the effects of anti-inflammatory intake on cognitive function in 7234 community-dwelling elderly persons, showed that the association may be related to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal corticotropic axis dysfunctioning rather than a direct anti-inflammatory mechanism. Long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids may constitute a form of reversible cognitive disorder in elderly women. Physicians should check this possibility before assuming neurodegenerative changes(6).

b. Anticholinergic drugs
Researchers at the Université Montpellier 1, in the studyof 4128 women and 2784 men 65 years or older from a population-based cohort recruited from 3 French cities. Cognitive performance, clinical diagnosis of dementia, and anticholinergic use were evaluated at baseline and 2 and 4 years later, suggested that Elderly people taking anticholinergic drugs were at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia. Discontinuing anticholinergic treatment was associated with a decreased risk. Physicians should carefully consider prescription of anticholinergic drugs in elderly people, especially in the very elderly and in persons at high genetic risk for cognitive disorder(7)

c. Fluoroquinolone
Fluoroquinolone antibioticsare are medication taken to treat a variety of infections and found to be associated with delirium in elderly patients. “There are three cases of rare side effects which appeared to be attributable to antibacterial drug treatment” said Dr. Fux R and the team at Universitätsklinikum Tübingen and ” A 20-year-old male patient presented with most intense headache and psychomotor deceleration. Pseudotumor cerebri, which was suspected to be the underlying cause, is described as a rare side effect of minocyclin which the patient has taken for acne pustulosa (100 mg single dose). After dechallenge of minocyclin, neurological symptoms quickly subsided. A 82-year-old female patient used moxifloxacin (400 mg/d) for febrile bronchopulmonary infection for one week. During this therapy, confusion and severe dementia presented and remained for more than two months after discontinuation. The demential syndrome appears to be possibly related to the fluoroquinolone use. In summary, adverse drug effects not pertaining to the primary physician’s field are especially difficult to identify. Most importantly, rare side effects must be borne in mind by the prescribing physician(8).

d. Histamine-2 receptor antagonist
Histamine-2 receptor antagonist are medicines taken to reduce the amount of acid the stomach by blocking one important producer of histamine2 and might be a risk factor for the development of cognitive impairment in African Americans(9), but in the study of to examine whether histamine-2 receptor antagonist medications (H2RAs) are associated with a lower incidence of all-cause dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD), as some studies have suggested, showed that no association was found between H2RA use and risk of all-cause dementia or AD using more-detailed and -extensive information about past H2RA use than any prior study(10).

e. Etc.

Alzheimer’s Disease – My Story
This Is A Real Case Study, Written By An Alzheimer’s Sufferer
Sharing His Hurts, Frustration And Desperation.

For the series of Delay Dementia, visit

For Other Health articles visit


Oct 13

Why mindfulness has a place in psychiatry



As a psychiatry resident with both a personal interest in meditation and a professional interest in integrating eastern mindfulness practices into western psychiatry, I like to keep up with the latest research on the subject. And I can’t help but notice how trendy the topic has become.

My last literature search turned up articles like “Pilot randomized trial on mindfulness training for smoking in young adult binge drinkers,” “Mindfulness-based program for infertility: An efficacy study,” and even “Mindfulness-based cognitive group therapy vs. cognitive behavioral group therapy as treatment for driving anger and aggression in Iranian taxi drivers.” These days one can hardly read a magazine or medical journal with seeing some reference to this simple concept being the new wave in self-help wisdom.

As I or any practicing meditator can attest to, though, mindfulness may not be the next panacea, but it is much more than just the next fad. The core principles of Buddhist psychology were developed almost 2,500 years ago, and first written down by the Indian scholar Buddhaghosa in The Path to Purification over 1,500 years ago (predating Freud by about 1,400 years).

The leap of bringing these eastern concepts to western psychotherapy is credited to several forward-thinking pioneers, including the scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn, author of the New York Times bestsellers Wherever You Go, There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living, became renowned for bringing his mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) to the University of Massachusetts in the late 1970s to help patients cope better with chronic pain. The approach was revolutionary. Instead of trying to eliminate the pain, he showed his patients how to accept it.

But what is mindfulness, anyway? One definition from the 2005 book Mindfulness and Psychotherapy describes mindfulness as “(1) awareness, (2) of present experience, (3) with acceptance.”

It’s a simple concept, but consider how differently we typically operate. We become bored or detached from the present, instead occupying our minds with fantasies (or worries) about the future or ruminations about the past. Or, we are aware of the present and not accepting of it, either grasping at brief pleasures or resisting unavoidable pains. We try to string happy moment after happy moment, as if we could prevent anything bad from happening in between.

What if, instead, we could ride the inevitable ups and downs of life with wisdom and compassion? What if we could accept that we get sick, get old, die? That relationships end? That bad things happen at the worst times? What if we could face all dimensions of the human experience — from the greatest joy to the deepest pain — with equal attention and curiosity?

Sounds like a pretty good option to me.

Which brings me to psychiatry — a field that is often criticized for focusing too much on treating disease without addressing sufficiently the promotion of wellness, happiness and resilience. Mindfulness could be the tool that helps us bridge the gap.

First, mindfulness can help cultivate better mental health practitioners. I notice a profound difference in my level of compassion, my patience, and my ability to tolerate negative affect in myself and my patients when I meditate regularly compared to when I don’t. At a time when doctors and other mental health providers are under enough stress trying to treat big problems in too-brief time slots, meditation could help us be better at listening to our patients and staying present with their pain instead of rushing to prescribe a medication or offer a platitude to assuage our own discomfort.

Second, mindfulness can be taught to patients, such as through Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR courses, or the related mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and has a strong evidence base in the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

Third, mindfulness can be brought to organizations, with the potential to impact not just individuals, but communities. There is already a movement to bring mindfulness to the workplace (it was reported in the New York Times last year that Google now offers meditation classes) and even more importantly, to our schools (maybe if these techniques were taught earlier, psychiatrists wouldn’t have so much business?). And let’s not forget about those angry Iranian taxi drivers — perhaps mindfulness can help them, too (it did, according to the above study).

While mindfulness will not solve all of our problems, it is a powerful tool with great potential to help us all transform our relationship with our problems when it is not possible, or desirable, to eliminate them. I hope we are only at the beginning of what will be an important transformation for psychiatry and for mental health care as a whole.

Elana Miller is a psychiatrist who blogs at Zen Psychiatry.

By Robert Preidt, HealthDay News TUESDAY, Jan. 24, 2012 (HealthDay News) — Getting too little sleep can make you hungrier than normal and may lead to weight gain, a small study suggests.

The team at Uppsala University in Sweden used functional MRI to observe the brains of 12 normal weight males while they looked at images of food. This was done on two occasions — after a night of normal sleep and after a night without sleep.

The results showed that a specific brain region that plays a role in appetite shows more activation in response to food images after a night without sleep than after a night of normal sleep.

This suggests that poor sleep habits can affect a person’s risk of becoming overweight in the long run, according to the study published online Jan. 18 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

“After a night of total sleep loss, these males showed a high level of activation in an area of the brain that is involved in a desire to eat,” researcher Christian Benedict said in a university news release.

“Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people’s risk to gain weight in the long run. It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight,” Benedict added.

Oct 9

By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor

A new study suggests that taking certain blood pressure medications may reduce the risk of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.

When researchers at Johns Hopkins analyzed data on more than 3,000 elderly Americans, they found that people over the age of 75 with normal cognition who used diuretics, angiotensin-1 receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors showed a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s-related dementia by at least 50 percent.

Additionally, diuretics were associated with a 50 percent reduced risk in those with mild cognitive impairment.

Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers did not show a link to reduced risk, the scientists reported in the study, published in the journal Neurology.

“Identifying new pharmacological treatments to prevent or delay the onset of AD dementia is critical, given the dearth of effective interventions to date,” said Sevil Yasar, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our study was able to replicate previous findings, however, we were also able to show that the beneficial effect of these blood pressure medications are maybe in addition to blood pressure control, and could help clinicians in selecting an antihypertensive medication based not only on blood pressure control, but also on additional benefits.”

For the new study, Yasar and her research team conducted a “post-hoc” analysis of information originally collected in the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study (GEMS) study, a six-year effort to determine if using the herb ginkgo biloba reduced AD risk.

That study , a double-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial of 3,069 adults between the ages of 75 and 96 without dementia, began in 2000 and recruited participants from four U.S. cities: Hagerstown, Md.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Winston-Salem/Greensboro, N.C.; and Sacramento, Calif.

While the GEMS trial showed no benefit of ginkgo biloba in reducing dementia, information was also available about the study participant’s use of antihypertensive drugs, according to Yasar.

Previous studies suggest that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for dementias, she said, noting that there have been suggestions that drugs used to control blood pressure also had a protective effect on the brain.

The question, she said, was which ones were associated with reduced AD dementia risk, and which were not.

The research team looked at 2,248 of the GEMS participants. In that group, 351 reported use of a diuretic, 140 use of ARBs, 324 use of ACE inhibitors, 333 use of calcium channel blockers, and 457 use of beta blockers. The average age of this group was 78.7 years, and 47 percent were women, the researchers report.

“We were able to confirm previous suggestions of a protective effect of some of these medicines not only in participants with normal cognition, but also in those with mild cognitive impairment,” Yasar said.

“Additionally, we were also able to assess the possible role of elevated systolic blood pressure in AD dementia by placing those within each medication group in categories above and below systolic blood pressures of 140 mmHg, the standard cut-off reading for a diagnosis of hypertension,” she continued.

Yasar cautioned that the analysis had its limitations, owing mostly to the fact that the data collected by the GEMS trial were not gathered to directly measure the effect of the drugs, and by the fact that it was impossible to tell with certainty how well each group of participants complied with their drug treatments.

The research team also did not have information on the subjects’ use of drugs prior to the study period.

“The consistent pattern we saw of reduced risk of AD dementia associated with these medications warrants further studies, including the use of brain imaging, to better understand the biologic basis of these associations,” she said.

Such studies, she added, “could lead to identification of new pharmacologic targets for preventive interventions to slow cognitive decline and possibly delay progression of AD dementia.”

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

On SEPTEMBER 25, 2013

Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet it receives far less attention partly because it’s never been recognized as a distinct disease.

In a groundbreaking new study from UC San Francisco, researchers have found that children affected with SPD have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders.

One of the reasons SPD has been overlooked until now is that it often occurs in children who also have ADHD or autism, and the disorders have not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists.
“Until now, SPD hasn’t had a known biological underpinning,” said senior author Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and bioengineering at UCSF. “Our findings point the way to establishing a biological basis for the disease that can be easily measured and used as a diagnostic tool,” Mukherjee said.

The work is published in the open access online journal NeuroImage:Clinical.
‘Out of Sync’ Kids

Sensory processing disorders affect 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children.

Children with SPD struggle with how to process stimulation, which can cause a wide range of symptoms including hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch, poor fine motor skills and easy distractibility. Some SPD children cannot tolerate the sound of a vacuum, while others can’t hold a pencil or struggle with social interaction. Furthermore, a sound that one day is an irritant can the next day be sought out. The disease can be baffling for parents and has been a source of much controversy for clinicians, according to the researchers. “Most people don’t know how to support these kids because they don’t fall into a traditional clinical group,” said Elysa Marco, MD, who led the study along with postdoctoral fellow Julia Owen, PhD. Marco is a cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, ranked among the nation’s best and one of California’s top-ranked centers for neurology and other specialties, according to the 2013-2014 U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals survey.

“Sometimes they are called the ‘out of sync’ kids. Their language is good, but they seem to have trouble with just about everything else, especially emotional regulation and distraction. In the real world, they’re just less able to process information efficiently, and they get left out and bullied,” said Marco, who treats affected children in her cognitive and behavioral neurology clinic.

“If we can better understand these kids who are falling through the cracks, we will not only help a whole lot of families, but we will better understand sensory processing in general. This work is laying the foundation for expanding our research and clinical evaluation of children with a wide range of neurodevelopmental challenges – stretching beyond autism and ADHD,” she said.
Imaging the Brain’s White Matter

In the study, researchers used an advanced form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which measures the microscopic movement of water molecules within the brain in order to give information about the brain’s white matter tracts. DTI shows the direction of the white matter fibers and the integrity of the white matter. The brain’s white matter is essential for perceiving, thinking and learning.

The study examined 16 boys, between the ages of eight and 11, with SPD but without a diagnosis of autism or prematurity, and compared the results with 24 typically developing boys who were matched for age, gender, right- or left-handedness and IQ. The patients’ and control subjects’ behaviors were first characterized using a parent report measure of sensory behavior called the Sensory Profile.

The imaging detected abnormal white matter tracts in the SPD subjects, primarily involving areas in the back of the brain, that serve as connections for the auditory, visual and somatosensory (tactile) systems involved in sensory processing, including their connections between the left and right halves of the brain.

“These are tracts that are emblematic of someone with problems with sensory processing,” said Mukherjee. “More frontal anterior white matter tracts are typically involved in children with only ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders. The abnormalities we found are focused in a different region of the brain, indicating SPD may be neuroanatomically distinct.”

The researchers found a strong correlation between the micro-structural abnormalities in the white matter of the posterior cerebral tracts focused on sensory processing and the auditory, multisensory and inattention scores reported by parents in the Sensory Profile. The strongest correlation was for auditory processing, with other correlations observed for multi-sensory integration, vision, tactile and inattention.

The abnormal microstructure of sensory white matter tracts shown by DTI in kids with SPD likely alters the timing of sensory transmission so that processing of sensory stimuli and integrating information across multiple senses becomes difficult or impossible.

“We are just at the beginning, because people didn’t believe this existed,” said Marco. “This is absolutely the first structural imaging comparison of kids with research diagnosed sensory processing disorder and typically developing kids. It shows it is a brain-based disorder and gives us a way to evaluate them in clinic.”

Future studies need to be done, she said, to research the many children affected by sensory processing differences who have a known genetic disorder or brain injury related to prematurity.

The study’s co-authors are Shivani Desai, BS, Emily Fourie, BS, Julia Harris, BS, and Susanna Hill, BS, all of UCSF, and Anne Arnett, MA, of the University of Denver.

Oct 5


Of course, feeling trapped is a state of mind. No one needs consent to leave a relationship. Millions of people remain in unhappy relationships that range from empty to abusive for many reasons; however, the feeling of suffocation or of having no choices stems from fear that’s often unconscious.

People give many explanations for staying in bad relationships, ranging from caring for young children to caring for a sick mate. One man was too afraid and guilt-ridden to leave his ill wife (11 years his senior). His ambivalence made him so distressed, he died before she did! Money binds couples, too, especially in a bad economy. Yet, more affluent couples may cling to a comfortable lifestyle, while their marriage dissolves into a business arrangement.

Homemakers fear being self-supporting or single moms, and breadwinners dread paying support and seeing their assets divided. Often spouses fear feeling shamed for leaving a “failed” marriage. Some even worry their spouse may harm him- or herself. Battered women may stay out of fear of retaliation. Most people tell themselves “The grass isn’t any greener,” believe they’re too old to find love again and imagine nightmarish online dating scenarios. Also, some cultures still stigmatize divorce.

Unconscious Fears
Despite the abundance of reasons, many of which are realistic, there are deeper, unconscious ones that keep people trapped – usually fears of separation and loneliness. In longer relationships, spouses often don’t develop individual activities or support networks. In the past, an extended family served that function.

Whereas women tend to have girlfriends in whom they confide and are usually closer with their parents, traditionally, men focus on work, but disregard their emotional needs and rely exclusively on their wife for support. Yet, both men and women often neglect developing individual interests. Some codependent women give up their friends, hobbies, and activities and adopt those of their male companions. The combined effect of this adds to fears of loneliness and isolation people envisage from being on their own.

For spouses married a number of years, their identity may be as a “husband” or “wife” – a “provider” or “homemaker.” The loneliness experienced upon divorce is tinged with feeling lost. It’s an identity crisis. This also may be significant for a noncustodial parent, for whom parenting is a major source of self-esteem.

Some people have never lived alone. They left home or their college roommate for a marriage or romantic partner. The relationship helped them leave home – physically. Yet, they’ve never completed the developmental milestone of “leaving home” psychologically, meaning becoming an autonomous adult. They are as tied to their mate as they once were to their parents.

Going through divorce or separation brings with it all of the unfinished work of becoming an independent “adult.” Fears about leaving their spouse and children may be reiterations of the fears and guilt that they would have had upon separating from their parents, which were avoided by quickly getting into a relationship or marriage.

Guilt about leaving a spouse may be due to the fact that their parents didn’t appropriately encourage emotional separation. Although the negative impact of divorce upon children is real, parents’ worries may also be projections of fears for themselves. This is compounded if they suffered from their parents’ divorce.

Lack of Autonomy
Autonomy implies being an emotionally secure, separate, and independent person. The lack of autonomy not only makes separation difficult, it naturally also makes people more dependent upon their partner. The consequence is that people feel trapped or “on the fence” and wracked with ambivalence. On one hand, they crave freedom and independence; on the other hand, they want the security of a relationship – even a bad one. Autonomy doesn’t mean you don’t need others. In fact, it allows you to experience healthy dependence on others without the fear of suffocation. Examples of psychological autonomy include:

You don’t feel lost and empty when you’re alone.
You don’t feel responsible for others’ feelings and actions.
You don’t take things personally.
You can make decisions on your own.
You have your own opinions and values and aren’t easily suggestible.
You can initiate and do things on your own.
You can say “no” and ask for space.
You have your own friends.
Often, it’s this lack of autonomy that makes people unhappy in relationships or unable to commit. Because they can’t leave, they fear getting close. They’re afraid of even more dependence – of losing themselves completely. They may people-please or sacrifice their needs, interests, and friends, and then build resentments toward their partner.

A Way Out of Your Unhappiness
The way out may not require leaving the relationship. Freedom is an inside job. Develop a support system and become more independent and assertive. Take responsibility for your happiness by developing your passions instead of focusing on the relationship. Find out more about becoming assertive in my e-book, How to Speak Your Mind — Become Assertive and Set Limits.

Oct 4

Healthy emotional and physical boundaries are the basis of healthy relationships. Enmeshed relationships, however, are bereft of these boundaries, according to Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, a national seminar trainer and psychotherapist who specializes in relationships.

Whether it’s a relationship between family members, partners or spouses, limits simply don’t exist in enmeshed relationships, and boundaries are permeable.

“People in enmeshed relationships are defined more by the relationship than by their individuality,” said Rosenberg, also author of the book The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.

They depend on each other to fulfill their emotional needs, “to make them feel good, whole or healthy, but they do it in a way that sacrifices psychological health.” In other words, “their self-concept is defined by the other person,” and they “lose their individuality to get their needs met.”

For instance, an enmeshed relationship between a parent and child may look like this, according to Rosenberg: Mom is a narcissist, while the son is codependent, “the person who lives to give.” Mom knows that her son is the only one who will listen to her and help her. The son is afraid of standing up to his mom, and she exploits his caregiving.

While it might seem impossible, you can learn to set and sustain personal boundaries in your relationship. Boundary-setting is a skill. Below, Rosenberg shares his tips, along with several signs that you’re in an enmeshed relationship.

Signs of Enmeshed Relationships
Typically people in enmeshed relationships have a hard time recognizing that they’re actually in an unhealthy relationship, Rosenberg said. Doing so means acknowledging their own emotional issues, which can trigger anxiety, shame and guilt, he said.

However, making this realization is liberating. It’s the first step in making positive changes and focusing your attention on building healthy relationships, including the one with yourself.

In his therapy work, Rosenberg does a “cost-benefit analysis” with clients. He helps them understand that they have much more to lose by staying in an enmeshed relationship as is than by making changes and finding healthy relationships.

Rosenberg shared these signs, which are indicative of enmeshed relationships.

You neglect other relationships because of a preoccupation or compulsion to be in the relationship.
Your happiness or contentment relies on your relationship.
Your self-esteem is contingent upon this relationship.
When there’s a conflict or disagreement in your relationship, you feel extreme anxiety or fear or a compulsion to fix the problem.
When you’re not around this person or can’t talk to them, “a feeling of loneliness pervades [your] psyche. Without that connection, the loneliness will increase to the point of creating irrational desires to reconnect.”
There’s a “symbiotic emotional connection.” If they’re angry, anxious or depressed, you’re also angry, anxious or depressed. “You absorb those feelings and are drawn to remediate them.”
Tips for Setting Boundaries
1. Seek professional help.

A trained mental health professional can help you better understand your relationship and take you through setting and practicing healthy boundaries, Rosenberg said. To find a therapist, start here.

2. Set small boundaries.

Start practicing boundary-setting by creating small boundaries in your enmeshed relationship. When stating your boundary, avoid doing it in a shaming, accusatory or judgmental way, Rosenberg said.

Instead, emphasize your love without judging the person for being wrong, and “offer something in return.” Then make sure you follow through. This way you’re still responding to their need and respecting your own limits.

Here’s an example: Your family wants you to come over for Thanksgiving. But this is the third time in a row you and your spouse have been visiting your parents’ home, thereby neglecting her family. To express your boundary, you might tell your dad, “We can’t come for dinner this Thanksgiving because we’ll be spending time with Sarah’s family. But we’d love to stop by for dessert” or “Next year, we’ll do Thanksgiving with you.”

Here’s another example: A daughter goes off to college. Her mom expects to speak and text with her several times a day. Instead of telling her mom, “Mom, you’re suffocating me, and you need to back off,” she’d say: “I know it means a lot for you to talk to me, and you’re doing this out of love, but I really need to focus on my studies and spend more time with my friends at school. Since I enjoy talking to you, let’s talk twice a week. Then I can catch you up on all the great things happening here.”

Setting boundaries this way avoids the negative cycle of enmeshment: Saying that you feel trapped by your parent’s expectations only triggers their anger or passive aggressive reaction (which Rosenberg calls a “narcissistic injury.”) They exclaim that “No one loves me,” which then triggers your shame and guilt, and you let them bulldoze your boundary.

3. Create connections with yourself and others.

“[P]ractice being alone and spending time by yourself,” Rosenberg said. “Work on the parts of your life that make you feel unhealthy, needy or insecure. And come to an understanding that your complete happiness can’t be met with one person.”

He also suggested reaching out to others and developing meaningful relationships; calling friends; making lunch dates and going to the movies.

“Find something that brings you passion, and you’ve kind of lost because of your over-involvement in the relationship.” For instance, volunteer, join a club, take a class or become active in a religious institution, he said.

“Life is too short to be insecure and fearful and tied down to [an unhealthy] relationship.” Learn the skills to create emotional and physical boundaries, and consider seeking professional help. Foster fulfilling relationships, but don’t let them define who you are.

Oct 3

The Empty Nest: Opportunity or Crisis?


Feelings of loss and anxiety about change when the last child leaves home are normal. But it often has been pathologized in popular culture as a disorder, disease or condition that needs treatment. Usually it’s not and it doesn’t.

In fact, the “empty nest syndrome” usually doesn’t exist at all. For most families, the last kid going off to college or to a first good job and apartment is a cause for celebration and relief, not a stage of loss at all.

On the other hand, it is a time of change. Parents who have been very involved with their kids’ lives — coaching the teams, endlessly carpooling, monitoring homework, sharing a hobby or activity and truly enjoying each other’s company — may find themselves with hours of time they haven’t had for years, as well as without the buddies with whom they shared those activities. Like most change, this can present an opportunity or a crisis.

It’s an opportunity:

For more spontaneity.With no sports practices and games to get to after dinner or on weekends, with no homework to monitor and no need to find child care, you can do things like go to a movie on Wednesday night or take off for a weekend on short notice.
To stop being a role model (at least once in awhile).With children in the house, it’s important to serve healthy meals on a regular basis, both to feed growing bodies and to establish good eating habits. These days, if you and your spouse want a martini and ice cream for dinner, you aren’t falling down on your job as a parent.
For developing your own interests.You don’t resent the years you spent watching a sport you don’t especially like but that your children loved, participating in their education, or doing the thousand chores it takes to raise a family. But it left little time for your own hobbies, especially any interest that takes focused time. It’s wonderful to be able to read for a whole evening, to take up an instrument, to rehearse a play or to actually finish a project in a few weeks instead of a few years.
For buying things for yourself.We do our best to give our kids what they need and a fair amount of what they want. Often that means sacrificing or putting off things we want or need ourselves. With no one needing new sneakers or field trip money or whatever, it’s wonderful to be able to buy ourselves treats now and then.
To reconnect with your partner in a new way.Couple partnerships often suffer some neglect when they’re focused on raising children. Often communication is primarily around logistics (like who is driving which kid where) and problem-solving (like how to help Junior pass his history exam or how to discipline Sis who was out past curfew). With no children at home, partners can once again have longer and more meaningful conversations. They can rediscover each other and take their relationship to a new level.
For more intimacy.With no risk of discovery by a child, it’s possible again to make love in the afternoon and in the living room. It’s possible to wear a naughty nightie instead of flannel pajamas. It’s okay to have a lingering kiss in the kitchen or to sexually tease. There’s no young person to shield from those personal intimacies and connections that are part of adult romance.
It can be a crisis:

If the kids have been the primary focus of your life.As important as it is to love our children and love the job of parenting, it’s also a stage of life, not the whole of it. Those who have thrown themselves into parenting to the exclusion of their own interests do sometimes find themselves wandering the empty house, feeling like their purpose in life has vanished. They aren’t wrong. Their purpose for those 18-plus years has reached an endpoint. Now it’s time to redefine the relationship with the child, the spouse if there is one, and with the self. It can be disorienting. If it hasn’t been prepared for, it can truly feel like a crisis of identity, purpose and meaning.
Grieving the life stage and the loss of all the activity and daily emotional connection with multiple people having multiple needs can go on too long if there isn’t some thing and some people to take its place. If it lasts more than a month after the last child leaves home, it’s probably a good idea to see a counselor to help you through.

If other parents on the bleachers were your only friends.It’s easy to think you have a busy social life when you are around people all the time due to children’s activities. But sharing a bleacher or carpool doesn’t necessarily mean that you are sharing a friendship. Many parents can’t find the time to develop real adult friendships when in the thick of parenting. When the children leave, they find themselves with few or even no meaningful and deep adult relationships.
If the kids were a distraction from things going wrong with your relationship.Some couples bury themselves in work and children’s activities as a way to avoid dealing with the fact that they are growing apart. When the kids leave, they find themselves looking at each other and seeing a stranger. Left to themselves, all the little irritations and big disagreements that have been left unattended come into focus.
Sometimes such couples can take a deep breath, have some very painful and yet productive conversations, and make the changes they need to make to face the next stage of life together. Sometimes they need the help and support of a couples counselor to know even where to begin. It’s always worth a shot. You’ve done the job of raising the kids together. Now it’s possible that you can rediscover the love and interest that brought you together in the first place.

If you didn’t prepare the kids to be independent.Kids who were over-parented don’t want the parenting to stop. They want their parents to continue to monitor their homework, help them with their papers, bail them out when they overspend and bawl out the roommate they can’t stand. It may be tempting to participate and protect. But doing so will further impede their growing up and will prevent you from moving to the next stage of life.
If you are depressed by the idea that you are no longer needed as an active parent.Needing to be needed in order to feel like you have a place in the world isn’t healthy. It means you are always dependent on having a “needy someone” to be your partner in the transaction. It’s time to find another way to relate to others and to feel good about yourself.
Opportunity or Crisis?
Parenting is a wonderful, joyful, frustrating, humbling and important stage of life. But once the intense time of getting the children to adulthood is over, it’s up to us to decide what we will do with the rest of life that is available to us. Certainly, staying in touch and relating to our children as adults should be part of the next stage. But our kids can’t continue to be the center of our lives if they are to be healthy adults with new families. It’s their turn to be partners and parents. It’s our turn to rediscover ourselves.

Whether this new life stage is an opportunity or crisis is up to us. One of the marvelous things about being human is that we can decide what we want to do next. Sometimes we have enough perspective and personal resources to do it on our own. If we’re in crisis, we may need to reach for some professional help to say goodbye to that chapter and hello to a new one. However it happens, it’s yet another chance to grow.

Oct 2

How our beliefs area influenced by bodily movements


SUPERSTITIOUS people do all sorts of puzzling things. But it’s not just the superstitious who knock on wood. From time to time, we all rap our knuckles on a nearby table if we happen to let fate-tempting words slip out. “The cancer is in remission, knock on wood,” we might say.
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Olimpia Zagnoli
In fact, it’s so common we often don’t think about it. But it’s worth asking: why do people who do not believe that knocking on wood has an effect on the world often do it anyway? Because it works.

No, knocking on wood won’t change what happens. The cancer is no more likely to stay in remission one way or the other. But knocking on wood does affect our beliefs, and that’s almost as important.

Research finds that people, superstitious or not, tend to believe that negative outcomes are more likely after they “jinx” themselves. Boast that you’ve been driving for 20 years without an accident, and your concern about your drive home that evening rises. The superstitious may tell you that your concern is well founded because the universe is bound to punish your hubris. Psychological research has a less magical explanation: boasting about being accident-free makes the thought of getting into an accident jump to mind and, once there, that thought makes you worry.

That makes sense intuitively. What’s less intuitive is how a simple physical act, like knocking on wood, can alleviate that concern.

In one study, to be published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, one of us, Jane L. Risen, and her colleagues Yan Zhang and Christine Hosey, induced college students to jinx themselves by asking half of them to say out loud that they would definitely not get into a car accident this winter. Compared with those who did not jinx themselves, these students, when asked about it later, thought it was more likely that they would get into an accident.

After the “jinx,” in the guise of clearing their minds, we invited some of these students to knock on the wooden table in front of them. Those who knocked on the table were no more likely to think that they would get into an accident than students who hadn’t jinxed themselves in the first place. They had reversed the effects of the jinx.

Knocking on wood may not be magical, but superstition proved helpful in understanding why the ritual was effective. Across cultures, superstitions intended to reverse bad luck, like throwing salt or spitting, often share a common ingredient. In one way or another, they involve an avoidant action, one that exerts force away from oneself, as if pushing something away.

This pushing action turns out to be important, because people’s beliefs are often influenced by bodily feelings and movements. For example, other research shows that people tend to agree with the same arguments more when they hear them while they are nodding their head up and down (as if they were saying “yes”) rather than shaking it from side to side (as if they were saying “no”).

Because people generally push bad things away, we suggest that they may have built up an association between pushing actions and avoiding harm or danger. This led us to speculate that when people knock on wood, or throw salt, or spit, the ritual may help calm the mind, because such avoidant actions lead people to simulate the feelings, thoughts and sensations they experience when they avoid something bad.

To test this, in our knocking-on-wood experiment we asked some people to knock down on the table and away from themselves, while we had others knock up on the underside of the table, toward themselves. Those who knocked up engaged in an approach action, not an avoidant one. Despite knocking on wood, people who knocked up failed to reverse the perceived jinx; if anything, their concerns were made worse compared with people who did not knock at all.

Next we tested whether avoidant movements would have the same effect in situations free from the baggage of superstition. Instead of having participants knock down on wood after jinxing themselves, we had them throw a ball (also an avoidant action, but not one associated with a superstition). We conducted two studies, one in Chicago and another in Singapore. We found that the act of throwing a ball also reduces people’s concerns following a jinx, in either culture. Even pretending to throw a ball has the same effect as actually throwing it.

While almost any behavior can be turned into a superstitious ritual, perhaps the ones that are most likely to survive are those that happen to be effective at changing how we feel. We can seek to rid ourselves of superstitions in the name of enlightenment and progress, but we are likely to find that some may be hard to shake because, although they may be superficially irrational, they may not be unreasonable. Superstitious rituals can really work — but it’s not magic, it’s psychology.

Jane L. Risen and A. David Nussbaum are, respectively, an associate professor of behavioral science and an adjunct assistant professor of behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Oct 1

How Much Porn Is Your Kid Watching?


Studies say that almost half of kids between ages 10 and 17 are consuming porn online—and close to a third of teens are sending their own nude photos. Peggy Drexler on how the porn culture could be affecting the next generation’s attitudes towards sex.

There is a scene in HBO’s Girls, where Hannah’s boyfriend has anal sex with her in what may be the un-sexiest sex scene ever presented on television: he is brutal and uncaring; she is passive and unenthusiastic. Interpret it how you will—an affront to all we hold dear; character development; or simply shock value for audiences that are increasingly hard to shock.

But at the core, it’s another example of the rampant dehumanization of sex, where the physical and the emotional seem to be going their separate ways without so much as a backward glance.

I blame porn. I’m not an anti-porn crusader by any means. In terms of the likelihood of change, you might as well be anti-cell phone. Still, the scene—where he didn’t seem to notice her head banging against the bedpost and she didn’t seem to care—is both an example and a reflection of how thoroughly sex for the sake of sex has saturated America’s culture.

As we adjust to this infinite swamp of pornographic availability, three questions emerge. How much porn are kids watching? How is it impacting how they see the connection between sex and emotion? And what—if anything—do parents do about it? How much they’re watching starts with how much is there to watch.

First, videos and DVDs brought porn into the home. Now comes the Internet, and porn is everywhere. As widely reported, a University of Montreal study concluded 90 percent of all pornography now comes from the Web. Just 10 percent comes from video stores. The technology blog Gizmodo puts the number of pornographic web sites at 24.6 million, roughly 12 percent of total web sites. As for breadth of content, a few quick search terms can take you—often by accident—directly to a site that proclaims itself “the largest bestiality site” on the Web. You might want to be there when your child searches: “My Little Pony.”
How much are kids consuming? Study results vary widely, and none are lock-down credible. The University of Montreal study reports that boys seek out pornography by age 10. A University of New Hampshire survey of Internet users ages 10 to 17 published in Pediatrics found that 42 percent said they had viewed online porn in the past 12 months—and 66 of those said the exposure was unwanted.
A significant number of teens report getting into producing porn themselves. A University of Texas Medical Branch study of students in southeast Texas found that 30 percent of U.S. teenagers are sending nude photos over e-mail or texts.

The University of Montreal study reports that boys seek out pornography by age 10.
Two facts are beyond debate. Porn is omnipresent, and kids are encountering it. Much less clear is what to do about it. Regardless of the most determined parental filtering and blocking, kids at the peak of their sexual curiosity will find their way to it. What happens once they arrive, however, is an open question. Predictions tend to vary with agendas.

For boys (the prime consumer), it may poison attitudes toward women, create confidence-sapping comparisons of dimensions and performance, crowd out actual relationships—even carve out new neural pathways. Or it may do nothing at all. Boomers, after all, managed to survive Playboy, Hustler, X-ratings, strip clubs and all the ensuing and incremental media sexual firsts with their sexuality generally undamaged.
Still, we’ve never experienced push-button porn serving up genres from routine to revolting.
In the absence of credible, long-term research, we simply don’t know where the age of insta-porn is taking us. One thing is certain, however: parents are not behind the wheel. From adolescence on, blocking and filtering are simply denial. When biological urgency meets technological capability, the only weapon is to construct a frame of reference; a way to process things past generations have never seen.
How families approach that is an individual decision. But there is a fundamental and consistent message: porn is not sex. It’s a commercial depiction of sex that has nothing to do with real (non-digital) human relationships.

The sexual revolution is now some five decades along. One thing we know about revolutions—sexual or otherwise—is that they don’t go backwards. Porn is here to stay. (Google Glass wearable computer won’t be out until 2014, and there is already a porn app.) Nothing will diminish its presence or its access. But with an open attitude and a real-world perspective, we can help young people understand it for what it is.

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