Archive for October, 2011

Stigma, Mental Illness and Shame

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Stigma, Mental Illness and ShameA quick quiz for you: You have friends coming over for dinner, and your antidepressant is in its usual place, the kitchen counter.

Do you: A) leave it where it is, since you have nothing to hide? B) put it in the cupboard to make more room for food? C) stick it in the cat food bag, where no one will find it? D) put it on the table so you’ll remember to compare notes with your friends who are on other medications?

Next question: Would it be different if your medication was for your diabetes? What about if it were for an STD? Erectile dysfunction? Cancer? AIDS?

4 Teen-Parenting Strategies That Don’t Work — And What Does

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

“The teen years tend to foster fear: fear that our child will fail, over-experiment, embarrass us [and] become depressed,” according to John Duffy, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.

So naturally it’s tough to figure out the best way to navigate such a seemingly tumultuous time. (By the way, the belief that teens are a nightmare is exaggerated. While the years aren’t easy-peasy, Duffy said that they’re rewarding and filled with growth.)

But parenting from a place of fear rarely works. It leads to poor parenting decisions, Duffy said. Below, he shares his insight on outdated approaches, why they don’t work and what does.

1. Lecturing. “Parents still think they can lecture kids into submission, or at the very least compliance,” Duffy said. But it can backfire, because teens may just “blow their parents off.” Lecturing might’ve worked a generation ago, but it doesn’t today, he explained. How come? Today’s teens are “more worldly and savvy.” And “As [teens] grow up more quickly in this media age, they question authority more readily than we did, and require more two-way, respectful communication.”

8 Tips to Stop Procrastinating

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

8 Tips to Stop ProcrastinatingHow many times each day do you try to work yourself up to tackle some undesirable task?

If you’re like me — several. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that is never started, so I’ve come up with some tricks to use on myself, to prod myself to get started.

1. Put yourself in Procrastination Jail.

If I feel pressure to jump in and finish something in a rush, and therefore can’t bear to start, sometimes I put myself in jail. If you’re in jail, you have all the time in the world. You have no reason to hurry, no reason to cut corners or to try to do too many things at once. You can slow down, concentrate. You can take the time to get every single detail right.

Struggle With, Not Victory Over

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Struggle With, Not Victory OverIt’s tempting for anyone who writes about depression and anxiety to preach from hindsight, after he has “recovered” from his mood disorder: “This is what I did to free myself from addiction” … “Here are five steps to instant weight loss” … “These are eight techniques to cure anxiety.”

If you look at the list of New York Times bestseller advice books, such simple directives fill slots 1 through 20. Because no one wants to read the secrets of a person still struggling with her diet and exercise. After fifteen bloody weeks, she is still grossed out by sweat. Few people want to read a depression memoir that ends in a psych ward, with ECT.

Awhile back a friend sent me a great article called “Victory Over or Struggle With?” about the temptation for preachers to speak from a “victory over” perspective versus a more reflective, introspective “struggling with” point of view.

BPA and Childhood Problems: Another Crappy Finding from Pediatrics

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

BPA and Childhood Problems: Another Crappy Finding from PediatricsLet me state up front that I have no doubt BPA — a chemical used in the manufacture of many modern goods, including in the past many water bottles and sippy cups — is something we should get rid of in any connection to food. But at the same time, I have to speak out when a scientific study’s findings are misused to forward political agendas.

The findings here come, once again, from the journal Pediatrics. It seems like a month doesn’t go by when this journal is publishing more crappy science, and then draping it in a public relations campaign that gets everyone’s attention. (Actually, to be fair, the science is sometimes fine; it’s the over-reaching conclusions drawn by the researchers and the PR media machine that is truly vomit-inducing.)

In this case, the researchers set out to followup on a previous study that found higher gestational (in the womb) BPA levels increased hyperactivity and aggression scores in 2-year-old girls. They wanted to determine if these findings continue as the children age, whether executive functions were impacted by higher BPA levels, and whether it was gestational BPA as opposed to childhood BPA levels that were more important.

Best of Our Blogs: October 25, 2011

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

In her documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer Kris Carr says, “I don’t think cancer is a gift because I wouldn’t give it to you.” When I heard that, I immediately thought you could replace “cancer” with any other illness and the sentence would still ring true. People who have recovered from anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other mental health issues usually say that going through it was one of the best things that ever happened to them.

If you’re going through the worst of it right now, you may think people who say that are liars. How could there be anything beautiful or beneficial from the pain, stigma and suffering that it caused? The fear of you’re life never being the same again. The constant worrying about your health, your finances, your loved ones who will be forced to deal with it. The frustration that comes with dealing with depression over and over again.

I sometimes get caught up in that way of thinking too. And then I think about my grandmother. You probably heard me mention her before and I think it’s fitting that I talk about her again. Alzheimer’s disease is not a gift because I would never give it to you. It is only through gratitude, a piece one of our blogger talks about this week, that I could find the silver lining in an otherwise dark and depressing disease. While Carr says that cancer is not a gift, she said it was a catalyst that wasn’t killing her, but forcing her to live her life. What I realized is that my grandmother’s disease created a undeniable wave of both intense sorrow and love, emotions my family rarely expressed. Her inability to remember the past, worry about the future and ability to stay in the present were a gift. It was a gift that changed all of our lives.

If you’re feeling discouraged, I hope you’ll discover insight, gratitude and appreciation in her story and in one of our posts this week. Hope is there. Sometimes we just need to dig deep to find it.

Relationship Themes in Suicide Notes

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Relationship Themes in Suicide NotesYears ago I worked in a psychiatric emergency room in a large metropolitan hospital. My job consisted of evaluating a steady stream of patients to determine whether they should be hospitalized or sent elsewhere.

I saw people in the throes of mania, psychosis and suicidal depression. I still remember the man who asked if I was a witch who would place a spell on him. And the woman who came barreling at me down the hallway, warning, “You best get out of my way, or I’m going to go Ninja Turtle on your ass!” I remember the man who swallowed six bedsprings in a suicide attempt. And countless others with bandaged wrists, bruised necks, and broken souls. I learned a lot about the breadth and depth of human suffering.

One day I was waxing philosophical about suicide with one of the charge nurses who had worked there for more than 20 years. She shared that she had a collection of 350-odd suicide notes that had been collected by a medical examiner over the course of his career. The notes had been collecting dust in her attic for the past 10 years.

She asked if I wanted them.

Was Sybil Faking Multiple Personalities?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Was Sybil Faking Multiple Personalities?Multiple personality disorder — now known in modern psychological lingo as dissociative identity disorder (DID) in the DSM-IV — is a fairly uncommon mental health concern. But it remains an intriguing one because of its nature: The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states. Each of these identities or personality states has its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self, and take alternating control of the person’s behavior.

Sybil is one of the most popularly known individuals who had multiple personality disorder, largely because of a book published in the 1970s that detailed her experience and that of her psychiatrist in trying to help treat her.

Now Debbie Nathan, writing in her new book, Sybil Exposed, suggests that the core diagnosis for Sybil — of multiple personality disorder — was made up by the patient to keep in the good graces of her psychiatrist.

7 Tips to Know If You’re Boring Someone

Monday, October 24th, 2011

7 Tips to Know If You're Boring SomeoneIn a movie I love, a quirky documentary called Sherman’s March, the documentary maker’s former high school teacher tells him, “As people get older, they get more like themselves. And you’re getting more boring.” I’ve never forgotten that.Like most people, probably, I have several pet subjects that I love to talk about – subjects that are sometimes interesting to other people, and sometimes not. Don’t get me started on happiness, or the screening procedures in airports and buildings, or children’s literature, or Winston Churchill, unless you really want to talk about it. (I do manage to be very disciplined about not talking about my children too much, except with grandparents.)

I made a list of signs to look for, as indicators that I might be boring someone. Just because a person isn’t actually walking away or changing the subject doesn’t mean that that person is genuinely engaged in a conversation. One challenge is that the more socially adept a person is, the better he or she is at hiding boredom. It’s a rare person, however, who can truly look fascinated while stifling a yawn.

Why Do We Feel The Need To Argue?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Why Do We Feel The Need To Argue?This guest article from YourTango was written by Julia Flood.

It doesn’t seem to make sense: You used to be best friends, but now you can’t go a day without fighting. Your partner says something that triggers you — you feel attacked or devalued — and you react: Maybe you yell, slam the door and walk out, or you shut down and refuse to continue the conversation. Looking back, it may be hard to tell how you even got into the argument in the first place.

It might have been something very subtle that made you see red: a smirk, rolled eyes, a certain body posture, or tone of voice. In a split-second you picked up on a message, and you simply reacted. Unfortunately, your own signature response to the threat you perceive coming from your partner is likely to be the exact thing that drives him or her crazy, whether you say something hurtful, or flee the battlefield and leave your partner feeling abandoned. It’s a vicious cycle.

11 Ways to Help a Loved One in Denial

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

11 Ways to Help a Loved One in DenialWhat if your friend, mother, sibling, or father-in-law is severely depressed but refuses to recognize it?

Most of us have been there at least once in our life: the awkward spot where you know a loved one has a mood disorder or drinking problem, but is too stubborn to admit it and to proud to get help. You might see the consequence his behavior is having on his children, his job, or his marriage, but he is blissfully blind or is in too much pain to see the truth.

What can you do, short of taking the person by his shoulders, shaking him, while screaming, “Wake the hell up and see what you are doing?!?”

It’s very complicated.

Because people are different.

Mood disorders vary.

And families are as unique as the illnesses themselves.

After doing a bit of research and consulting with a few mental health professionals, I have compiled this list of suggestions, to be read as merely that: suggestions.

Tips for Reading Scientific Research Reports

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Tips for Reading Scientific Research ReportsNot all science or research is created equal. Some research is likely to hold more weight than other research. Researchers and academics often recognize quality research readily, while others — even other professionals such as doctors and clinicians — may struggle with understanding the value of any given journal article.

The intent of this article is to provide some basic tips on reading research reports.  I will assume you already have at a least a basic understanding of different methods and statistical procedures used in analyzing research data. (In order to maximize the benefits of reading a research report it is important to have at least a basic understanding of research methods and statistics.)

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