Brain and Behavior Articles

PMS & Relationships

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

PMS and RelationshipsLast year I gave a talk on PMS and nobody came. I was surprised when I looked out at the empty room because so many of the women I see in therapy suffer from PMS.

Whether they come in to deal with anxiety, anger, depression, grief, self-esteem or a breakup, many add, “Oh, and it’s a lot worse when I’m PMSing. I feel like I’m going crazy. And I usually start a terrible fight with my partner.”

Taking Too Many Selfies? Don’t Worry, It’s Not a Disorder

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Taking Too Many Selfies? Don't Worry, It's Not a DisorderA news article was recently published that described how the American Psychiatric Association had classified taking too many selfies as a new mental disorder.

The only problem? It wasn’t true.

Showing that far too many people don’t ever bother to check to see what kind of website they’re on, thousands of people tweeted and posted links to the fake news article. Nobody stopped for a minute to ask, “Hey, is this true? How come no other news website is reporting it?”

Don’t worry — taking too many selfies isn’t a mental disorder.

Why Some Delusions Can Be So Persistent

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Why Some Delusions Can Be So Persistent A delusion is defined as a firmly held belief or impression which is contradicted by reality or rational argument.

As a person with schizophrenia, I’m more than familiar with delusional thinking. A major part of my experience living with the illness has taught me to be wary of any thought I have which doesn’t seem entirely real.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Why Some Delusions Can Be So PersistentA single text message from my brother nearly sent me into an identity crisis. He was trying to persuade me to sign up for an extreme sports event which includes running up steep hills, wading through mud, scaling walls … getting mildly electrocuted.

If you haven’t heard of this and think I’m describing something out of Abu Ghraib, it’s actually a popular event these days. But I haven’t been all that sporty in a while (and I’ve never been electrocuted on purpose).

Energy and Depression

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Energy and DepressionPsychiatrist Dan Siegel once got a definition of energy from a conference of physicists: “It’s the capacity to make stuff happen.”

“Making stuff happen” is extremely important when we’re talking about depression, since depression acts primarily as a monitor and regulator of energy level. Like a nuclear power plant technician, depression goes into a hyperactive alarm mode when the levels start to dip, ringing bells and rapidly shutting down systems.

Emotions Coming at the Speed of Light & the Ghosts of Relationships Past

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

when-dont-get-what-you-want-woman-sunlight-sun

While working with a relationship retreat guest recently, I had a funny realization. You know how astronomers tell us that the light we see coming from the stars above at night is really from a long, long time ago? And in fact, the starlight we are “seeing” is really a window to the past as the star may not even be in existence anymore by the time we see it.

I suddenly realized that our emotions are often the very same way.

How Neuroscience is Helping Us Better Understand Disordered Eating

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

How Neuroscience is Helping Understand Disordered EatingHave you ever eaten “comfort foods” to calm yourself down? What about ice cream when feeling sad or depressed? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, does the thought of eating chocolate cake after already eating a meal stress you out with anxiety about your body? According to neuroscience, there is a reason for it.

Only a Fool Pursues Happiness

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Only a Fool Pursues HappinessWhile I’m sure our Founding Fathers were well-intentioned, the “pursuit of happiness” is not really something one should consciously work toward.

“How can I be happier?” is a question I often get. But people who ask this are really pursuing the wrong thing. You can’t “catch” happiness like some sort of drug-induced high or disease.

I don’t think happiness is a good goal to pursue. In fact, I believe that only a fool would pursue happiness… Here’s why.

When Depression Becomes Depressing

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

When Depression Becomes Depressing “I am larger and better than I thought.” ~ Walt Whitman

In the movie “All Is Lost” with Robert Redford, the vast expanse of the never-ending sea could serve as a metaphor for stretches of life when there seems to be nothing on the horizon but more depression and inevitable despair. The increasingly futility of his efforts to survive also can be compared to treating depression as a losing battle, considering the over 120 million sufferers worldwide and counting.

In his latest book, Out of the Blue, Bill O’Hanlon makes a valuable contribution to turning that tide. In his opening dedication he writes, “Let me reassure your soul that there is a way out.”

On Rejecting the False Promise, 25 Years Later

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

imagesI used to think once you put down the drink you were fixed, that once you conjured up the courage to quit your addiction the hard work was over. But addicts are never really cured.

Like cancer survivors, they simply stay in remission for the duration of their lives. There is always a person, place, or thing in their horizon promising them the way to the land of unicorns and fairies, a detour from the painful stuff of life.

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of Grief

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of GriefWhen 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.

How to Deal with Social Anxiety & Paranoia

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

How to Deal with Social Anxiety and ParanoiaSchizophrenia can be marked by various frightening and, at times, debilitating symptoms. These include delusions, hearing voices or sounds that aren’t there and others. For me the most debilitating symptom — and the one that never really seems to go away entirely even with my myriad medications — is paranoia.

Paranoia is basically the feeling and the anxiety that people’s main goals are primarily to hurt you in some way. For me it manifests in more social iterations as opposed to bodily harm. I’m constantly worried that people are laughing at me or making fun of me. The exact reason they’re making fun of me varies from the way I look that day to the way I act to smaller things like the way I talk or the way I hold my cigarette.

I’ve been told that everyone has a level of anxiety around these things and that what I call paranoia is no more than social anxiety. I think the determining factor is the belief that people are going out of their way to harm me emotionally. If that’s not paranoia I don’t know what is.

Recent Comments
  • Jessica: Dealt with this in a big way when I was pregnant with my first. (And no, I wasn’t a love-forlorn...
  • Rose: AAAHHHHHHHH! Wow. At my age, you put such a mirror in front of my face. I don’t think I’ll ever be...
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  • Raina: If you want to see a culture where the boys lean on each others shoulders and sleep on each others laps,...
  • Teeny: Get over yourself.
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