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Mar 29

15 Signs of Emotional Masochism



By Mike Bundrant of the iNLP Center.

Disclaimer: By writing this article, I do not suggest that what I am calling emotional masochism is necessarily a conscious choice.

I also do not claim that it is anyone’s fault. I believe it may be part of human nature with origins that pre-date the average person’s conscious awareness.

In my experience, becoming aware of emotionally masochistic tendencies for what they are is a rare phenomenon, even though such tendencies appear to be common.

Defined as the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome, masochism seems quite a stretch for most people.

How can one possibly find pleasure in pain?

You’ve probably seen documentaries or movies that feature radically religious devotees who self-flagellate. The devout one bull whips himself to shreds, basking in the spiritual high that comes from the physical pain.

And you think, “Wow, that guy is nuts!”

What if, however, as we scorn the masochist, it is simultaneously happening right under our nose – inside our own mind and body? And what if we are scorning masochism in others because we don’t want to see self-flagellating tendencies in ourselves?

This might be particularly applicable to emotional masochism, which is defined as finding subconscious pleasure in emotional negativity.

The pleasure principle – the universal law of pleasure and pain – holds that people will consistently seek pleasure and avoid pain. This seeking pleasure and avoiding pain should manifest in behavioral choices.

On the surface, the pleasure principle would rule out self-harm, self-loathing, self-criticism, low self-esteem, anxiety of all kinds, depression, fear of success, fear of failure, and a host of other emotional ills. After all, none of the above is pleasurable, right?

Not so fast.

Why do we commonly do ANY of the following?

1. Start arguments for no apparent reason.
2. Engorge ourselves with food until it hurts.
3. Quit goals right when things start to go well.
4. Run from happy relationships.
5. Quit jobs that have potential.
6. End friendships over trivial matters.
7. Knowingly spend more money than we have.
8. Abuse alcohol and drugs.
9. Tolerate people who hurt us.
10. Tolerate people who control us.
11. Tolerate people who reject and demean us.
12. Tolerate people who humiliate us.
13. Refuse to stand up for ourselves.
14. Hold onto painful feelings.
15. Criticize ourselves incessantly.

It’s safe to say that – in general – none of the above is absolutely necessary. Also safe to say in general that each of these examples causes some kind of emotional pain. We have choices. Yet, we so commonly opt for the most painful one!

Why? Emotional masochism – the tendency to find some strange, twisted and subtle pleasure (familiarity, self-justification, delicious self-victimization) – may be the culprit.

An alternative way to view this is to call chronic yet avoidable emotional pain a psychological attachment. This phrasing suggests that, even though we consciously hate the angst, we are somehow attached to it. It’s often been with us so long that we can’t imagine any other way of being.

Mar 27

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Researchers have known that a high-fat diet is linked to a variety of medical problems such as heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

Emerging research suggests a high-fat diet may also increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

As discussed in a new study, researchers theorize that a high-fat diet produces changes in health and behavior, in part, by changing the mix of bacteria in the gut, also known as the gut microbiome.

The study is found in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

The human microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms, many of which reside in the intestinal tract. These microbiota are essential for normal physiological functioning.

However, research has suggested that alterations in the microbiome may underlie the host’s susceptibility to illness, including neuropsychiatric impairment.

As a result, researchers at Louisiana State University decided to test whether an obesity-related microbiome alters behavior and cognition even in the absence of obesity.

For the study, non-obese adult mice were conventionally housed and maintained on a normal diet, but received a transplant of gut microbiota from donor mice that had been fed either a high-fat diet or control diet. The recipient mice were then evaluated for changes in behavior and cognition.

The animals who received the microbiota shaped by a high-fat diet showed multiple disruptions in behavior, including increased anxiety, impaired memory, and repetitive behaviors.

They also showed many detrimental effects in the body, including increased intestinal permeability and markers of inflammation. Signs of inflammation in the brain were also evident and may have contributed to the behavioral changes.

“This paper suggests that high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracks,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

Experts believe the findings provide evidence that diet-induced changes to the gut microbiome are sufficient to alter brain function even in the absence of obesity.

This is consistent with prior research, which has established an association between numerous psychiatric conditions and gastrointestinal symptoms. However, the mechanisms by which gut microbiota affect behavior are still not well understood.

Researchers believe additional studies are necessary, but the current findings do suggest that the gut microbiome has the eventual potential to serve as a therapeutic target for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Mar 25


Fix these things or get ready to say goodbye.

Well-trained marriage therapists have most likely studied the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The Gottmans have done the most extensive research on marriage and what predicts divorce. He discovered four main predictors, which he terms the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and they are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

All relationships have some of these, but if there are more than one present, a marriage therapist may have doubts about the longevity of the relationship.

The Top 10 Reasons People Get Divorced

The 4 Signs That Predict Divorce

1. Attacking the Person, Not the Behavior.

When criticizing, it is done in a way that implies something is wrong with you. It may include attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong. An example might be using generalizations. Saying, “you always…” “you never…” or “you’re the type of person who…” and “why are you so…”

Check out YourTango for relationship advice
This often makes the person feel under attack and in return, it provokes defensive reactions. This is a bad pattern as neither person feels heard and both may start to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other.

It is important to make a specific complaint about a behavior, not attack your partner’s personality. For example, when X happened, I felt Y, and I need Z.

2. Feeling or Expressing Contempt Toward Your Spouse.

Contempt is any statement of nonverbal behavior that puts you on a higher ground than your partner. This could be mocking your partner, calling him/her names, eye rolling, hostile humor, hurtful sarcasm, sneering in disgust, etc.

It involves attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her. This is the most serious of the four.

Couples must work to eliminate such behaviors and build a culture of respect, appreciation, tolerance and kindness in the relationship.

3. Always Being On the Defensive (Even If You Don’t Realize It).

This is an attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint. Another way is to act like a victim or whine. This can look like making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way). Saying things like “It’s not my fault,” “I didn’t …” It can also be cross-complaining, such as meeting your partner’s complaint or criticism with a complaint of your own or ignoring what your partner said.

Other no-nos are yes-butting (start off agreeing but end up disagreeing) or simply repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying.

The best thing to do would be to try to listen from your partner’s perspective. Slow down and realize that you do not have to be perfect. Try your best to have conscious communication: speaking the unarguable truth and listening generously. Also, validate your partner — let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling and that you can see things through their eyes.

4. Stonewalling, Shutting Down or Walking Out.

This is withdrawing from the conversation and essentially the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or just completely shut down. Sometimes this is an attempt to calm oneself when overwhelmed, but it is most often unsuccessful.

People who do this may think they are trying to be “neutral,” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Stonewalling can look like: stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, removing yourself physically or the “silent treatment.”

The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break and that the conversation will resume when you are both calmer.

4 BIG Mistakes I Made As A Wife (Psst! I’m The Ex-Wife Now)

Now that you know about the “Four Horsemen,” you can definitely do more to mitigate these factors in your relationship. Do you know that you need five times as much positive feeling and interaction as negative? This is the ratio at a minimum!

After an argument, claim responsibility for your part. Ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?” and “what can I do about it?”

Use what Gottman terms “repair attempts” during arguments that help to offset the tension. This may look like humor (used appropriately) or saying something like, “I’m sorry” or “I hear you saying…” or “I understand.”

Don’t push buttons and don’t escalate the argument. Start to recognize that all interactions are really a self-perpetuating cycle that you can exit from. Someone gets triggered, someone reacts, the partner reacts to this, and so on. Slow things down and ask what you are feeling under the surface (e.g., really hurt when you yelled in anger instead) and express that part of yourself.

We can all learn and benefit from the Gottmans’ research and if you still find the Four Horsemen are ruining your relationship, it’s time to seek out a skilled marriage therapist.

This guest article originally appeared on 4 Tell-Tale Signs Marriage Therapists Use To Predict Divorce.

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was found to be associated with reduced cognitive function and an increased risk for small blood vessel damage in the brain in otherwise healthy people, according to new research published in the journal Stroke.

“Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health,” said lead study author Yasuharu Tabara, Ph.D., associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan.

“Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”

For the study, 841 women and 546 men (average age of 67) were timed to see how long they could stand on one leg with their eyes open. The maximum time for keeping the leg raised was 60 seconds.

Participants got two chances and the better of their two scores was used in the analysis. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to detect small vessel disease.

Researchers found that struggling to balance on one leg for more than 20 seconds was linked to cerebral small vessel disease, such as lacunar infarctions (a piece of tissue that is dying or dead because of a lack of blood supply) and microbleeds (tiny round hemorrhages). The researchers noted that:

five percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing;.
16 percent of those with one lacunar infarction lesion had trouble balancing;
30 percent of those with more than two microbleed lesions had trouble balancing;
three percent with one microbleed lesion had trouble balancing.
After adjusting for a variety of factors, people with more microbleeds and lacunar infarctions in the brain had shorter one-legged standing times. Also, people who had shorter one-legged standing times tended to have lower cognitive scores.

Although prior research has examined the connection between gait and physical abilities and the risk of stroke, this is one of the first studies to closely investigate how long a person can stand on one leg as a reflection of overall brain health.

“One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities,” said Tabara.

The researchers also found a strong link between struggling to stand on one leg and increased age, with significant shorter one-leg standing time in patients aged 60 and over. Small vessel disease typically increases with age.

Tabara noted that the one-leg standing test is an easy way to determine if there are early signs of being at risk for a stroke and cognitive impairment and whether these patients need additional evaluation.

Source: American Heart Association

Mar 22

Depression Influences Perception of Time


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

A new review finds that people suffering from depression appear to experience time differently than healthy individuals.

Although the perception of time is subjective and usually depends on the relevant situation, the discovery that time appears to pass more slowly for depressed individuals is significant.

Many of us experience a different sense of how fast or slow time is passing relative to whether we are waiting for something or if a deadline is approaching. The new study, however, finds that depressed individuals often perceive that time seems to pass extremely slowly or even stands still.

Psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) collated relevant studies on the subject to analyze them in a so-called meta-study.

They discovered that although depressed individuals perceive slow time passage, when asked to judge the duration of a specific time interval, such as two seconds or two minutes, their estimates are just as accurate as those of healthy subjects.

Sven Thönes and Dr. Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel of the Institute of Psychology at Mainz University looked at the results from 16 individual studies in which 433 depressed subjects and 485 non-depressed control subjects participated.

“Psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals and private practices repeatedly report that depressed patients feel that time only creeps forward slowly or is passing in slow motion,” reported Oberfeld-Twistel.

“The results of our analysis confirm that this is indeed the case.”

In the second part of their meta-analysis, Thönes and Oberfeld-Twistel examined subjective estimates of how long events last.

In these studies, the subjects were asked, for example, to estimate the duration of a movie in minutes, press a button for five seconds, or discriminate the duration of two sounds. The results obtained for the depressed subjects were exactly the same as those for the healthy ones without any relevant statistical difference.

“We found strong indicators that in depressed individuals the subjective feeling of the passage of time differs from the ability to assess the actual duration of external events,” concluded Oberfeld-Twistel, summarizing the findings.

Thönes and Oberfeld-Twistel identified several aspects of the relation between depression and time perception that have not yet been investigated adequately.

Little is actually known about the effects of antidepressants and psychotherapy, or how patients with bipolar disorders compared to non-bipolar depression assess the passing of time.

Researchers believe future studies are needed to clearly differentiate between the subjective perception of the passage of time and the ability to estimate the length of precisely defined time intervals.

Mar 20

How Cannabis Affects Bipolar Disorder


By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Cannabis use is linked to an increase in both manic and depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder, according to a new study by Lancaster University.

The study is the first to examine the use of cannabis in the context of daily life among people with bipolar disorder. In the U.K., where the study took place, around two percent of the population suffers from bipolar disorder, with up to 60 percent of those using cannabis at some point in their lives.

Research in this area is limited, however, and reasons for this high level of use are unclear.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Tyler of the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University led the study with Professor Steven Jones and colleagues from the University of Manchester, Professor Christine Barrowclough, Nancy Black, and Lesley-Anne Carter.

“One theory that is used to explain high levels of drug use is that people use cannabis to self-medicate their symptoms of bipolar disorder,” said Tyler.

For the study, the researchers evaluated people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who were not experiencing a depressive or manic episode during the six days the research was carried out. Each participant reported daily on their emotional state and drug use at several random points over a period of week. This enabled people to log their daily experiences in the moment before they forgot how they were feeling.

Here are a few comments from the daily reports:

“I do smoke a small amount to lift my mood and make myself slightly manic but it also lifts my mood and switches me into a different mind-set.”
“I do not use weed to manage depression as it can make it worse, making me anxious and paranoid.”
“I have found though that if I have smoked more excessively it can make me feel depressed for days afterwards.”
The researchers found that the odds of using cannabis increased when individuals were in a good mood. Cannabis use was also associated with an increase in positive mood, manic symptoms and paradoxically an increase in depressive symptoms, but not in the same individuals.

“The findings suggest that cannabis is not being used to self-medicate small changes in symptoms within the context of daily life. However, cannabis use itself may be associated with both positive and negative emotional states. We need to find out whether these relationships play out in the longer term as this may have an impact on a person’s course of bipolar disorder,” said Tyler.

Mar 17

Power Naps Help Your Brain Retain New Information


By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Taking a brief nap after studying — instead of participating in other activities — can significantly increase retention of the information just learned, according to a new study at Saarland University.

“Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory,” says Professor Axel Mecklinger, Ph.D.

“The control group, whose members watched DVDs while the other group slept, performed significantly worse than the nap group when it came to remembering the word pairs. The memory performance of the participants who had a power nap was just as good as it was before sleeping, that is, immediately after completing the learning phase.”

During the study, the researchers focused mostly on the role of the hippocampus, the part of the brain where memories are consolidated. In the hippocampus, previously learned information is transferred into long-term memory storage.

“We examined a particular type of brain activity, known as ‘sleep spindles,’ that plays an important role in memory consolidation during sleep,” explains Sara Studte, a graduate biologist specializing in neuropsychology. A sleep spindle is a short burst of rapid oscillations in the electroencephalogram (EEG).

The greater the number of sleep spindles in a person’s brain, the better he or she will remember newly acquired information. New information is essentially given a label, making it easier to recall that information at some later time.

“We suspect that certain types of memory content, particularly information that was previously tagged, is preferentially consolidated during this type of brain activity,” says Mecklinger.

In an effort to rule out the possibility that the study subjects only recall the learned items due to a feeling of familiarity, the researchers used the following trick: participants were asked to learn not only 90 single words, but also 120 word pairs, in which the word pairs were essentially meaningless.

“A word pair might, for example, be ‘milk-taxi.’ Familiarity is of no use here when participants try to remember this word pair, because they have never heard this particular word combination before and it is essentially without meaning. They therefore need to access the specific memory of the corresponding episode in the hippocampus,” said Mecklinger.

“A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep.”

Mar 15

Setting Healthy Expectations for Your Children



One of the challenges of parenting is figuring out when to accept your children as they are, and when to push them to be more. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for how to begin to set healthy expectations for your kids, and for yourself.

1) Learn about child development.

You can save yourself a lot of grief by knowing how broad the range of normal really is. You want to make sure that you’re not expecting 5-year-old skills out of your 3-year-old. Just looking around at other kids and comparing isn’t a helpful way to assess.

Healthy expectations start with educating yourself. Knowing the benchmarks and milestones (behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social) will guide you.

2) If you are seeing developmental lags, talk to your pediatrician and see about having your child formally assessed. If your child is on target, be grateful.

Sometimes parents are obsessed with their children being exceptional. But simply being where you’d expect they’d be at a given age is a beautiful thing, and worthy of appreciation.

If there are lags and your child is under 3, there are many services available for assessment. Over that age, it might be through your health insurance or the school district. Being an informed advocate is crucial.

3) Examine your own underlying motivations and assumptions.

We all want to raise happy, well-adjusted individuals. But based on our own life experiences, we tend to want add-ons. We want our kids to be popular, maybe, or to excel in sports or academia.

Consider where those extras are coming from for you. Perhaps you want your kids to be what you weren’t, or maybe you want them to have what made you happiest. Maybe you’re expecting your child to validate you as a parent, or to represent you in other people’s eyes. Children can’t be the primary source of your fulfillment; if you’re trying to make that happen, then you’ll put too much pressure on yourself and on your children.

Sometimes we internalize ideas from our own families of origin that might not apply to our current life, or to our children. For example, your family might have taught you that academic success is essential for a healthy, productive life. That would then make it incredibly difficult for you to accept a child with learning disabilities, or one whose talents are less suited for academia (for example, a child who might want to work with their hands.)

4) Identify your child’s strengths and difficulties. Alternate between them as areas of focus.

You don’t always want to point out deficits; you can’t always praise them. You want to find a healthy balance that leads to honest self-assessment. Eventually, you won’t be there to set the expectations, and your child will need to do it on their own. Model how to do this.

Notice how your child is experiencing you. As an ally and source of support, or as a taskmaster? Have open dialogue about how they see you, what you’re trying to do as a parent, and how you’re doing it. Let them evaluate you. Take their feedback seriously.

5) Distinguish between effort and outcome.

Praise your kids for the effort expended, rather than the outcome achieved. If you’re overly focused on the results, they will be, too. That puts them under more stress and at greater risk for mental health problems.

Let’s face it, sometimes kids are going to fail, regardless of how hard they tried. But it’s better to reward them for trying at something where they didn’t do well than to overly focus on their success in an area that didn’t require much work.

Self-esteem–the sense of authentic worth, mastery, and competence–is built through struggle, and that takes effort.

***Holly Brown is a therapist and author of the page-turning family drama Don’t Try to Find Me about a teen runaway and the family who’d do anything to bring her home, including launching a social media campaign that will expose their secrets and change their family forever.

Mar 13

ADHD Could Lead to Obesity



Childhood obesityChildren with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could be at greater risk of becoming obese, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows. “We found that ADHD was a risk factor for later obesity,” said Alina Rodriguez, a visiting professor at Imperial College London, UK, whose recent study found that children with ADHD symptoms were less likely to engage in physical activity and more likely to become obese as adolescents.

This may sound counterintuitive to the image most people have of a child with ADHD: sprightly and in constant motion. How could someone who can’t sit still ever become lethargic and paunchy? Kids with ADHD, though, are more squirmy than energetic, and both inattention and impulsivity — defining characteristics of ADHD — could increase the risk of obesity.

“It may seem paradoxical,” said Samuele Cortese, M.D., Ph.D. and clinical associate professor at Southampton University, UK, “rather than being hyperactive, individuals with obesity are often described as ‘lazy.’”

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed disorder among U.S. children ages 4-17. It affects nearly seven percent of children and adolescents as of 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (dextroamphetamine) typically increase attention span and lessen impulsivity. What’s more, a common side effect of these stimulant medications is appetite suppression. Left untreated, however, ADHD could lead to indolence.

Obesity affects over a third of U.S. adults, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder could be the root of a problem plaguing more than half the adults in the U.S.

Rodriguez and her team followed over 6,500 children from age 8 to age 16 and found that nine percent who had ADHD symptoms as children were more likely to be physically inactive and obese as teens. Physical activity, or lack thereof, seems the underlying factor. “The main take-away [from the study] is that physical activity really had a moderating impact on obesity,” said Rodriguez. Since children with ADHD play less, they are significantly more susceptible to obesity as adolescents.

“It is self-evident that engaging in physical activity (at school and also outside of school) is important, and it might be even more important for children with ADHD since they might be at higher risk of obesity,” said Cortese. But why are children with ADHD less inclined to exercise?

“A lot of 8-year-olds like to sit in front of the computer,” said Rodriguez. One to two hours spent watching television or playing on the computer is acceptable, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but research has shown children spend over six hours per day sitting in front of screens. That number is even larger for those with ADHD, said Cortese. “Children with ADHD have been shown to exercise less and watch more TV than children without ADHD.”

Kids already spend six to seven hours on average sitting in school and they barely get any time to burn off energy on the playground. Mathew Pontifex, a professor of Kinesiology at Michigan State University, points to an underlying problem in school funding. “It’s increasingly being tied to achievement scores, and that means cutting opportunities for physical activity for additional time in the classroom,” said Pontifex. These cuts hurt children with ADHD the most.

To be sure, ADHD is merely one of many potential risk factors for later obesity. Both Rodriguez and Cortese hesitate to identify one sole cause for why children with and without ADHD become obese. “We are trying to uncover causal risk factors for ADHD. If we can change or eliminate a cause then we may be able to potentially prevent or ameliorate ADHD symptoms,” said Rodriguez.

One thing is for certain, though: regardless of whether children have ADHD, they need more exercise. “Physical activity is good for you anyway, and there are a lot of studies that show it helps mental health,” Rodriguez said. Help mental health and stave off obesity? Exercise sounds like the best medicine.

By Brigit Katz
On a recent afternoon, JD Bailey was trying to get her two young daughters to their dance class. A work assignment delayed her attempts to leave the house, and when Bailey was finally ready to go, she realized that her girls still didn’t have their dance clothes on. She began to feel overwhelmed and frustrated, and in the car ride on the way to the class, she shouted at her daughters for not being ready on time. “Suddenly I was like, ‘What am I doing?'” she recalls. “‘This isn’t their fault. This is me.’ ”
Bailey has dealt with anxiety for as long as she can remember, but it has become more acute since the birth of her second daughter, when she began to experience postpartum depression. She knows that her anxiety occasionally causes her to lash out at her daughters when she doesn’t really mean to, and she can see that it affects them. “You see it in your kids’ face,” Bailey says. “Not that they’re scared, but just the negativity: ‘Oh my God, my mommy’s upset.’ You’re their rock. They don’t want to see you upset.”
Taking cues from you
Witnessing a parent in a state of anxiety can be more than just momentarily unsettling for children. Kids look to their parents for information about how to interpret ambiguous situations; if a parent seems consistently anxious and fearful, the child will determine that a variety of scenarios are unsafe. And there is evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves, a probable combination of genetic risk factors and learned behaviors.
It can be painful to think that, despite your best intentions, you may find yourself transmitting your own stress to your child. But if you are dealing with anxiety and start to notice your child exhibiting anxious behaviors, the first important thing is not to get bogged down by guilt. “There’s no need to punish yourself,” says Dr. Jamie Howard, director of the Stress and Resilience Program at the Child Mind Institute. “It feels really bad to have anxiety, and it’s not easy to turn off.”
But the transmission of anxiety from parent to child is not inevitable. The second important thing to do is implement strategies to help ensure that you do not pass your anxiety on to your kids. That means managing your own stress as effectively as possible, and helping your kids manage theirs. “If a child is prone to anxiety,” Dr. Howard adds, “it’s helpful to know it sooner and to learn the strategies to manage sooner.”
What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious
It’s tempting to protect kids from things that make them anxious, but learning to tolerate anxiety is how we overcome fears. READ MORE
Learn stress management techniques
It can be very difficult to communicate a sense of calm to your child when you are struggling to cope with your own anxiety. A mental health professional can help you work through methods of stress management that will suit your specific needs. As you learn to tolerate stress, you will in turn be teaching your child—who takes cues from your behavior—how to cope with situations of uncertainty or doubt.
“A big part of treatment for children with anxiety,” explains Laura Kirmayer, an associate psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, “is actually teaching parents stress tolerance, It’s a simultaneous process—it’s both directing the parent’s anxiety, and then how they also support and scaffold the child’s development of stress tolerance.”
Model stress tolerance
You might find yourself learning strategies in therapy that you can then impart to your child when she is feeling anxious. If, for example, you are working on thinking rationally during times of stress, you can practice those same skills with your child. Say to her: “I understand that you are scared, but what are the chances something scary is actually going to happen?”
Try to maintain a calm, neutral demeanour in front of your child, even as you are working on managing your anxiety. Dr. Howard says, “Be aware of your facial expressions, the words you choose, and the intensity of the emotion you express, because kids are reading you. They’re little sponges and they pick up on everything.”
The Secret to Calm Parenting
Helping kids relax, focus and shed anxiety by quieting their bodies to quiet their minds. READ MORE
Explain your anxiety
While you don’t want your child to witness every anxious moment you experience, you do not have to constantly suppress your emotions. It’s okay—and even healthy—for children to see their parents cope with stress every now and then, but you want to explain why you reacted in the way that you did.
Let’s say, for example, you lost your temper because you were worried about getting your child to school on time. Later, when things are calm, say to her: “Do you remember when I got really frustrated in the morning? I was feeling anxious because you were late for school, and the way I managed my anxiety was by yelling. But there are other ways you can manage it too. Maybe we can come up with a better way of leaving the house each morning.”
Talking about anxiety in this way gives children permission to feel stress, explains Kirmayer, and sends the message that stress is manageable. “If we feel like we have to constantly protect our children from seeing us sad, or angry, or anxious, we’re subtly giving our children the message that they don’t have permission to feel those feelings, or express them, or manage them,” she adds. “Then we’re also, in a way, giving them an indication that there isn’t a way to manage them when they happen.”
After JD Bailey lost her temper at her daughters on their way to dance class, she made sure to explain her reaction, and then focused on moving forward. “I said, ‘I’m sorry. Mom is a little stressed out because I have a lot of work going on. Let’s listen to some music,’ ” Bailey recalls. “We cranked up the music in the car, and it changed our mood.”
Make a plan
Come up with strategies in advance for managing specific situations that trigger your stress. You may even involve your child in the plan. If, for example, you find yourself feeling anxious about getting your son ready for bed by a reasonable hour, talk to him about how you can work together to better handle this stressful transition in the future. Maybe you can come up with a plan wherein he earns points toward a privilege whenever he goes through his evening routine without protesting his bedtime.
These strategies should be used sparingly: You don’t want to put the responsibility on your child to manage your anxiety if it permeates many aspects of your life. But seeing you implement a plan to curb specific anxious moments lets him know that stress can be tolerated and managed.
The Power of Mindfulness
The meditation practice that helps kids become less anxious, more focused, and more in charge of their own behavior. READ MORE
Know when to disengage
If you know that a situation causes you undue stress, you might want to plan ahead to absent yourself from that situation so your children will not interpret it as unsafe. Let’s say, for example, that school drop-offs fill you with separation anxiety. Eventually you want to be able to take your child to school, but if you are still in treatment, you can ask a co-parent or co-adult to handle the drop off. “You don’t want to model this very worried, concerned expression upon separating from your children,” says Dr. Howard. “You don’t want them to think that there’s anything dangerous about dropping them off at school.”
In general, if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with anxiety in the presence of your child, try to take a break. Danielle Veith, a stay-at-home mom who blogs about her struggles with anxiety, will take some time to herself and engage in stress-relieving activities when she starts to feel acutely anxious. “I have a list of to-do-right-this-second tips for dealing with a panic, which I carry with me: take a walk, drink tea, take a bath, or just get out the door into the air,” she says. “For me, it’s about trusting in the fact that the anxiety will pass and just getting through until it passes.”
Find a support system
Trying to parent while struggling with your own mental health can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. Rely on the people in your life who will step in when you feel overwhelmed, or even just offer words of support. Those people can be therapists, co-parents, or friends. “I am a part of an actual support group, but I also have a network of friends,” says Veith. “I am open with friends about who I am, because I need to be able to call on them and ask for help. ”
You can also look for support on blogs, online forums, and social media. JD Bailey runs a site called Honest Mom, where mothers can post essays about mental health and parenting. “I write about mental health to connect with other moms and help them not feel so alone,” Bailey explains. “I get email and Facebook messages from readers, and the most common comment is, ‘I felt so alone until I found your site.’ And yes, writing about depression and anxiety helps me, too!”

Rachel Ehmke
Senior Writer
When you’re a teen you start being more aware of what other people think. There seems to be a “right” thing to wear, or say, or do. There also seem to be things that you shouldn’t do—things that could be embarrassing, or lose you points with friends.
The idea that people might be paying particular attention to what you do makes a lot of kids anxious—some are so anxious that they have something called social anxiety disorder. It’s when you worry so much about how you appear to others that you stop doing things you need to (and want to) do for fear of embarrassing yourself.
Most people with the disorder start noticing this anxiety when they’re between the ages of 8 and 15. For a while, kids are usually able to hide it. Their parents and teachers may not notice that anything is wrong, especially since kids are often ashamed to admit how anxious they are about things that other people don’t seem to get upset about.
At the Child Mind Institute we’ve heard from a lot of young people who are wondering if they might have social anxiety disorder, and how to tell their parents about it. This is an explanation of what it looks like, and what to do if you think you (or your child) might have it.
Not just being shy
Kids with social anxiety disorder aren’t just nervous when they’re at parties or giving a speech in class. “It’s not a phobia of being in social situations, it’s being terrified of how people are going to perceive you,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist and the head of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders center at the Child Mind Institute.
Even small interactions, like answering a question in class or eating with friends in the cafeteria, can feel extremely scary to kids with social anxiety disorder. That’s because they fear they might accidentally do something embarrassing or offensive, and it will make others judge or even reject them.
Tips for Managing Social Anxiety
If worrying about embarrassing yourself is getting in your way, some strategies for beating the fear. READ MORE
And while kids who are just shy will gradually warm up to new people and situations over time, kids with social anxiety don’t. Rachel Busman, PsyD, another psychologist at the Child Mind Institute who specializes in anxiety, explains: “Shyness might hold you back to some extent from doing things, but it won’t significantly impact your ability to do your job as a teenager, which is to function in school, function in your family, and to have friends and be a part of your peer-related community.” But social anxiety will.
The kinds of situations that are anxiety provoking can vary a lot depending on the person. Some kids with social anxiety mostly just fear performing in front of people, while others are anxious in many situations—talking to a sales clerk, asking for help, eating or drinking in front of others. Here are some examples of what social anxiety might look like:
You walk into the cafeteria and see your friends whispering and laughing. You’re afraid they’re laughing at you—and even when they promise they weren’t, you keep worrying.
You love soccer and you want to try out for the team, but you don’t because you’re worried about people looking at you.
You want to ask the teacher a question, but you can’t because you’re afraid you’ll sound stupid.
You agonize over taking a position in a paper you’re writing because you think it might be the “wrong” one.
You dread reading out loud because you might pronounce something wrong or skip a word.
What you feel—and what others see
If you have social anxiety disorder, you probably think your anxiety is obvious for all to see—in fact looking anxious is another thing kids with social anxiety are afraid of. But other people might not recognize it. That’s because a lot of the symptoms of anxiety are happening under the surface. You might be having panicked thoughts and feeling some of the physical symptoms of anxiety—like a racing heart or an upset stomach—but other people probably aren’t going to pick up on that. More visible signs like blushing can be a clue, but even blushing tends to be something people pay more attention to when it is happening to themselves.
Because kids with social anxiety disorder are afraid of doing anything that is embarrassing, Dr. Busman adds, they can be experts at hiding how they really feel. “One of the girls I’ve worked with had panic attacks and was very highly anxious. Because I know her pretty well, I’d know that if she looked at the floor and was quiet that meant she was feeling anxious. But other people don’t notice that, and can only assume by what they see.”
How to Talk Your Parents About Getting Help
Asking for help can be tough, but it is important to do. Here are some tips to make talking about it a little easier. READ MORE
For other kids, their anxiety can make them seem angry or aggressive, like one boy Dr. Bubrick worked with. “Someone came up to him randomly and said, ‘I hear you want to see a picture of Sarah in a bikini.'” The boy was mortified and “went ballistic,” says Dr. Bubrick. “He was throwing papers, he kicked the principal. The school thought he was being oppositional, but underneath it all was this horrendous fear of being embarrassed.”
Why avoiding anxiety doesn’t work
One of the things that kids learn to do when they are anxious is to avoid the things that worry them—making excuses to stay home from school or skip parties or other social events. While this might work to calm your anxiety in the short term, experts warn that hiding from your anxiety really only makes it get worse. Besides, you’ll still need to learn how to do those things that at some point, and practicing them helps.
Another dangerous thing about avoiding fears is that it can become a habit, so you might find yourself withdrawing more and more. This will make your anxiety worse, and other people won’t understand why you are withdrawing. This can make you feel even more alone.
You’re so worried about giving a presentation in school that you decide to cut class, because you’d rather take a lower grade than give your speech. Doing this makes the teacher think you don’t care about grades and are just doing the bare minimum to get by, when in fact you care a lot about school but are paralyzed at the idea of getting in front of the class.
You are becoming friends with your new lab partner and he keeps inviting you to play video games with him after school. You would like to go, but you’re afraid you’ll do something weird, so you keep coming up with excuses. Eventually he will start seeking you out less and less and assume you don’t want to be friends after all.
Why it’s important to ask for help
Having social anxiety can stop you from doing the things you want to do, and close you off from people you’d like to be friends with. It can also make you more likely to get depressed. Asking for help can be hard, but it really is important.
Dr. Busman says she wants kids to know they’re not alone. “Many teens experience anxiety disorders. Being brave and telling someone how you feel might seem scary, but if you can get over that hurdle, someone will want to listen.”

Mar 7

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

A new diet, known by the acronym MIND, has been found to significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), even when the diet is not strictly followed, according to new research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, both of which have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

The diet was developed by nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., of Rush University in Chicago, and her colleagues.

According to the study findings, the MIND diet was able to lower the risk of AD by as much as 53 percent in participants who strictly adhered to the diet, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it fairly well.

“One of the more exciting things about this is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction in their risk for AD,” said Morris, a Rush professor, assistant provost for Community Research, and director of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology.

“I think that will motivate people.”

The diet is based on information accrued from years’ worth of past research about which foods and nutrients have positive and negative effects on the functioning of the brain over time. This is the first study to relate the MIND diet to Alzheimer’s disease.

For the study, the MIND diet was compared with the two other diets. People with high adherence to the DASH and Mediterranean diets also had reductions in AD — 39 percent with the DASH diet and 54 percent with the Mediterranean diet — but got insignificant benefits when they only loosely followed either diet.

The MIND diet labels 15 dietary components: 10 “brain-healthy food groups” — green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine — and five unhealthy groups such as red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, and sweets, and fried or fast food.

To follow the MIND diet, a person should eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and one other vegetable every day — along with a glass of wine — snack most days on nuts, eat beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week, and eat fish at least once a week.

However, a person should limit consumption of the designated unhealthy foods, especially butter (less than one tablespoon a day), cheese, and fried or fast food (less than a serving a week for any of the three), to have a real shot at avoiding the devastating effects of AD, according to the study.

Berries are the only fruit included in the MIND diet. “Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” Morris said, and strawberries have also performed well in past studies of the effect of food on cognitive function.

AD, which takes a devastating toll on cognitive function, is not unlike heart disease in that there appear to be “many factors that play into who gets the disease,” including behavioral, environmental and genetic components, Morris said.

“With late-onset AD, with that older group of people, genetic risk factors are a small piece of the picture,” she said. Research has shown that what we eat may play a significant role in determining who gets AD and who doesn’t, Morris added.

The findings also suggest that the longer a person adheres to the MIND diet, the less risk a person will have of developing AD. “You’ll be healthier if you’ve been doing the right thing for a long time,” Morris added.

Source: Rush University Medical Center

Mar 5

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Emerging research suggest an association between low levels of vitamin D and depression in otherwise healthy young women.

Oregon State University (OSU) researchers found that young women with lower levels of vitamin D were more likely to have clinically significant depressive symptoms over the course of a five-week study.

The results were consistent even when other possible explanations, such as time of year, exercise, and time spent outside were considered, says lead author David Kerr.

“Depression has multiple, powerful causes and if vitamin D is part of the picture, it is just a small part,” said Kerr, an associate professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU.

“But given how many people are affected by depression, any little inroad we can find could have an important impact on public health.”

The findings were published recently in the journal Psychiatry Research.

As most are aware, Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for bone health and muscle function. However, deficiency has also been associated with impaired immune function, some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease, said co-author Adrian Gombart, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics, and an international expert on vitamin D and the immune response.

People create their own vitamin D when their skin is exposed to sunlight. When sun is scarce in the winter, people can take a supplement, but vitamin D also is found in some foods, including milk that is fortified with it, Gombart said.

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU per day. There is no established level of vitamin D sufficiency for mental health.

Although experts have suspected that vitamin D and depression are connected, scientific research to support the belief is lacking, says Kerr.

Accordingly, the new study was designed to support the association between Vitamin D deficiency and depression.

“I think people hear that vitamin D and depression can change with the seasons, so it is natural for them to assume the two are connected,” he said.

According to Kerr and his colleagues, a lot of past research has actually found no association between the two, but much of that research has been based on much older adults or special medical populations.

Kerr’s study focused on young women in the Pacific Northwest because they are at risk of both depression and vitamin D insufficiency.

Past research found that 25 percent of American women experience clinical depression at some point in their lives, compared to 16 percent of men, for example.

OSU investigators recruited 185 college students, all women ages 18-25, to participate in the study at different times during the school year. Vitamin D levels were measured from blood samples and participants completed a depression symptom survey each week for five weeks.

Perhaps as a surprise, many women in the study had vitamin D levels considered insufficient for good health. Moreover, the rates were much higher among women of color, with 61 percent of women of color recording insufficient levels, compared to 35 percent of other women.

In addition, more than a third of the participants reported clinically significant depressive symptoms each week over the course of the study.

“It may surprise people that so many apparently healthy young women are experiencing these health risks,” Kerr said.

As expected, the women’s vitamin D levels depended on the time of year, with levels dropping during the fall, at their lowest in winter, and rising in the spring.

Depression did not show as a clear pattern, prompting Kerr to conclude that links between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal depression should be studied in larger groups of at-risk individuals.

Researchers say the study does not conclusively show that low vitamin D levels cause depression.

A clinical trial examining whether vitamin D supplements might help prevent or relieve depression is the logical next step to understanding the link between the two, Kerr said.

A follow-up study on vitamin D deficiency in women of color has already been instigated by OSU researchers. In the meantime, researchers encourage those at risk of vitamin D deficiency to speak with their doctor about taking a supplement.

“Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and readily available.” Kerr said. “They certainly shouldn’t be considered as alternatives to the treatments known to be effective for depression, but they are good for overall health.”

Source: Oregon State University

Mar 1

5 Steps to Increase Motivation


I hear it all the time: “I’m not motivated.” For many of my clients, they are referring to not having the motivation to perform basic life responsibilities such as paying bills, cleaning the house, making calls, and taking care of their health.

When do they get motivated? When they are in the danger zone. A late fee motivates them to pay bills. When friends come over, or when the house is so disgusting they can’t take it, is when they get motivated to clean. They get motivated to make a call just minutes before a negative consequence, and motivated to take care of their health in times of sickness.

What is really happening is that procrastination has trained the brain to dump adrenaline right before the event, and we get energy to take action. Adrenaline does give us energy, so we wait for the adrenaline dump to get motivated.

Things eventually get done; however, it comes with a huge physical cost, and low-level living that can lead to depression, anxiety, and lack of enjoyment. The undercurrent of daily living is a negative environment. Motivation to get things done comes from the danger zone of fear, worry, and anxiety. This can make life feel dull and hard, keeping the stress cycle of procrastination going and flooding your body with harmful stress hormones.

The good news is that you can change the undercurrent. Here are five steps to increase positive motivation for a healthier, happier life:

1. Educate yourself.

Know that the same human brain that dumps adrenaline has the same to potential to dump happy hormones such as serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.

Serotonin gets released when you feel significant and important and have a sense of internal satisfaction. Endorphins (endogenous morphine) are the body’s natural opiates designed to relieve stress and enhance pleasure. They get released with certain foods, social connections, and light to moderate exercise. Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals and desires, and gives us pleasure when achieving them. But you have to actually taking some action to release dopamine, even in small increments.

2. Stop the adrenaline dump.

Pay at least one bill every week. This is not about the timely manner in which you pay bills; it’s getting your brain away from the danger zone to stop the adrenaline dump. Clean 10 minutes each day and maybe an hour on the weekend instead of the adrenaline-rushed four-hour “motivated” cleanup. Your brain will have no reason to dump adrenaline at the last minute if you do small increments and you get the benefit of helping your brain release dopamine more often.

3. Become aware of perceptions.

Simply observe thoughts while doing your small increments. Do you perceive the event as dreadful, painful, and boring? If so, you perceive the event as an emotional danger zone, and of course you procrastinate. Your brain also has potential to change thoughts toward perceived mundane activities which make up about 80 percent of daily life — such as eating, showering, cleaning, driving, and walking.

4. Be truthful.

Draw into the truth of the actual experience, not your creative stories about how dreadful it is. When you wash the dishes, feel the warm water. See the suds. Smell the dish soap. Pick up a cup and plate. Lift the cup into the drain board. Clean the cup. Is this really so dreadful?

When you pay bills, go to the bank website. Look at your balance. Open an envelope. See the amount owed. Pick up the checkbook. Reach for a pen. Write letters and numbers. Affix a stamp to the envelope. Walk to the mailbox. Or, lift your fingers a few times to pay online.

5. Tap into gratitude to finalize new perceptions, and know that there is more truth.

You are glad to have children who track mud in the house. You are glad to have a house to clean, to pay for, and for a cell phone bill that keeps you closer to friends and family. You are grateful to have a house that friends want to come to, and glad you have friends. You are glad to have the food that you are cleaning off dishes.

You are glad that you have a body that hugs and kisses, and is able to speak, see, and hear words of gratitude. You are grateful to have all these things, and you are motivated to take care of and appreciate them.

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