Aging

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of Grief

When I was a boy and there was a death in the family, the mirrors in our house would be covered with a sheet, as Jewish tradition dictated.

The “official” explanation of this custom, according to our rabbi, was that gazing at one’s reflection in a mirror is an act of vanity — and there is no place for vanity in a period of mourning. But my family had a different understanding of the practice: the mirrors were covered so that we would not see the face of the deceased instead of our own reflections.

As a psychiatrist, I think this bit of folk wisdom may see more deeply into the human soul than the theological teaching.

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Aging

5 Simple Ways to Recharge Your Relationship


The turning of a year seems to beg us to reevaluate, revitalize, and recommit. We resolve to do better and to be better in almost every area of our lives. The only problem is that when it comes to breathing new life into an old relationship, most of us are not sure how to do it.

But we used to know how! Try reinstating some behaviors that came naturally at the beginning of the relationship.

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Aging

Facing Down a Quarter-Life Crisis

College graduation day: You’ve made it! It's a priceless feeling that you will never forget.

That diploma is still radiating through your fingers, as though it is some sort of golden passport. Before you even look down, to check to see if your name is spelled correctly, you have already booked your flight to the future and are well on your way. You hear the comforting voice of your flight attendant say “We will be taking off momentarily, please stow away any and all college books, research articles, writing assignments, forget about group projects, studying for exams and forget about rushing around campus to make it to class on time. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the flight, we will take care of the rest.”

You are now a college graduate. Congratulations! All of your hard work has paid off.

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Addiction

Will the New DSM-5 Over-Diagnose?

Positive psychology emphasizes individuals’ strengths, and focuses on obtaining optimal mental development (as opposed to just diminishing negative symptoms), which is why I’m drawn to the field. For instance, positive psychologists not only seek to lift depression, but they encourage clients to explore their sense of happiness and resilience as well.

While not a student of abnormal psychology, I’m obviously aware that there are those who suffer from very serious illnesses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) is published by the American Psychiatric Association to provide a standard classification and common language for mental illness. It’s used by clinicians and researchers of various orientations and backgrounds.

And with the advent of the latest edition, diagnoses run rampant, encouraging us to pose the infamous question: are mental health professionals a bit too ready to diagnose disorders?

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Aging

25 Things I Learned the Year I Turned 25

With 2014 looming around the corner, I decided to reflect upon the past year and what I’ve learned.

Turning 25 was a big one for me, and with it came a lot of personal growth and learning experiences. I would like to share them with you and I encourage you to do the same. It allows you to pause and note any changes, progress, setbacks, and lessons you’ve experienced so far.

So here it goes -- 25 things I learned the year I turned 25.

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Aging

Birthdays & Age Expectations of Today’s Young Adult

"Your age is your age. But more importantly, your life is your life. Enjoy where you are. Here. Right here."
~ Today Was Meaningful Blog

My birthday recently passed, and I jokingly announced to everyone that I’m turning the same age again. (Look at me guys, I’m forever young -- literally!) I think it’s safe to presume that many of my 20-something friends are also a bit reticent that we’re another year older. It’s not that we don’t know this obvious fact of life, but it still somehow hits us hard that time seems to fly incredibly fast.

But perhaps aging is just a small part of our moaning and groaning. Societal expectations -- age expectations -- could be what have us sighing. It’s as if we’re all on a timeline to achieve this by this age, and be in this place by that age, and on and on the cycle continues.

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Aging

The Seniors Are Coming: World Mental Health Day 2013

America -- like the rest of the world -- is facing a fundamental shift in its population from younger to older in the next few decades. Due to great leaps in technology and health, people are simply living longer.

Some places aren't well-prepared for this shift. Nowhere is that more true than in the U.S.

In America, I'm ashamed to acknowledge we too-often treat seniors like people whose contributions to society have ended. They have nothing left to share, and so are shuffled off to a nursing home.

How does that make the elderly feel? Let's just say that it's not real good for their mental health.

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Aging

Dear Diary: Who Am I?

“What do you wish you could tell your 13-year-old self?”

This is a common parlor-game sort of question, leading to warm and fuzzy discussions about how difficult adolescence is and how we wouldn’t want to be teenagers again. Pink has even turned it into a song, “Conversations With My Thirteen Year Old Self.”

But in a twist on that, I am finding that my 13-year-old self has some things to tell me.

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Aging

7th Canadian Conference on Dementia

Dementia, a term used to describe declines in mental ability, such as memory and thinking, that interfere with daily life, affects millions of people in the U.S. and Canada. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are just two of the debilitating diseases encompassed by the term dementia.

From October 3-5, 2013, a world-renowned faculty of national and international speakers will gather at the 7th Canadian Conference on Dementia in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The conference offers a wide range of topics related to dementia. There will be opportunities for stimulating debate, interactive workshops and exposure to the latest research via oral and poster presentations.

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Aging

Depression & Seniors: 5 Ways You Can Help

Depression affects people of all ages; it really doesn't care if you're a 17-year-old high school student or a 50-something CEO.  Depression is non-discriminating  and will take you down like a starving grizzly bear, given half a chance.

There is one age group that often gets overlooked when it comes to depression and that's the elderly.

In seniors especially, symptoms of depression are sometimes missed or confused with the effects of other illnesses or medication they may be using. Also, the typical symptoms of depression -- such as fatigue, lack of appetite and loss of interest in previously loved activities -- are often put down to the aging process and not depression. Studies on the number of elderly people experiencing depression varies, but it's estimated 6.5 million of Americans over 65 are depressed.

Sadly, only about 10 percent of those people actually receive any help.

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Aging

Memento Mori: Remember You’re Mortal

I love the story about how, when generals were parading through the streets of Rome during a victory march, a slave would be tasked with walking behind them saying memento mori -- remember you're mortal.

How great is that? Here's a Roman general, top of the pile, a massive celebrity (like the Jay-Z of his day), and there's this slave reminding him that he's mortal and not to get too high above himself because he too can die.

Personally, I think we need more of that today -- humility and the awareness to realize and accept that we are mortal, destined to die.

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Aging

8 Ways to Help Your Aging Parents

As they age, our parents might need more help. But you might not know exactly how to lend a hand or even where to start. Plus, what do you do if your parents balk at your attempts to assist them?

While every situation is unique, Christina Steinorth, MFT, a psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships, offered her suggestions for helping aging parents.

1. Empathize with your parents.

Sometimes you might be taken aback by your parents’ frustration, moody behavior or neediness. In fact, on some days, they might be downright unpleasant to be around. But it’s important to be empathetic and understand where they’re coming from. According to Steinorth, “Aging is a series of losses -- loss of employment, health and energy, friends, mobility, and independence.” Consider how you’d feel if you were in their situation, she said.

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