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Lamenting the Allure of Technology

As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.
~ Buddha

When you sit in a waiting room, you get a glimpse into what other people choose to do as they wait. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked up to see an adolescent male reading a book.

So often the scenario is that one pulls out a smartphone or tablet -- children, adolescents, and adults alike. This is not limited to just waiting rooms; I’ve seen it during classroom breaks at college, in restaurants, or simply walking around.

We have seemingly become hardwired to checking our phones. And for some of us, it has become compulsive.

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How the DSM-5 Got Grief, Bereavement Right

One of the charges leveled against psychiatry’s diagnostic categories is that they are often “politically motivated.” If that were true, the framers of the DSM-5 probably would have retained the so-called “bereavement exclusion” -- a DSM-IV rule that instructed clinicians not to diagnose major depressive disorder (MDD) after the recent death of a loved one (bereavement) -- even when the patient met the usual MDD criteria. An exception could be made only in certain cases; for example, if the patient were psychotic, suicidal, or severely impaired.

And yet, in the face of fierce criticism from many groups and organizations, the DSM-5 mood disorder experts stuck to the best available science and eliminated this exclusion rule.

The main reason is straightforward: most studies in the past 30 years have shown that depressive syndromes in the context of bereavement aren’t fundamentally different from depressive syndromes after other major losses -- or from depression appearing “out of the blue.” (see Zisook et al, 2012, below). At the same time, the DSM-5 takes pains to parse the substantial differences between ordinary grief and major depressive disorder.

Unfortunately, the DSM-5’s decision continues to be misrepresented in the popular media.

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Best of Our Blogs

Best of Our Blogs: May 31, 2013

I caught an episode of Super Soul Sunday the other night and was impressed by what I saw. Oprah interviewed a panel of spiritual leaders including Reverend Ed Bacon, and authors Elizabeth Lesser and Mark Nepo on a variety of topics. But their discussion on prescription medication really hit home.

Oprah asked about their thoughts on the rise of medication use in our country. It wasn't their debate on whether prescriptions were used or abused that was revolutionary, but their differentiation between the two. Nepo and Bacon both confessed to personally seeing the benefits of prescription medication and had compassion for those who need it. Lesser explained her own beliefs that some abuse medication as a way to defer or avoid difficult feelings. What's great was how they defined the necessity in prescription use, which I think could be applied to anything you're currently doing in your life.

Does what you're doing help you enter or escape life? In other words, is prescription medication/exercise/shopping/food, etc. allowing you to be fully engaged in life or are you using it to prevent difficult feelings and consequently avoid your life? It's an important question to ask yourself this week. These top posts will help to facilitate the discussion and may bring you closer to being more aware of what you're doing (using marijuana/self-injury/being judgmental) or not doing (changing unhealthy habits) to yourself.
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3 Simple Ways to Improve Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is just as important -- if not more important -- than verbal communication. Sometimes we focus so much on what we are saying or what’s being said, we don’t think of the nonverbal ways we are communicating.

There are common types of nonverbal communication, including body movement, voice quality, space and territory. Interestingly enough, people tend to focus more on negative nonverbal communication than what is actually being said.

With that being said, we should make sure we are displaying positive nonverbal communication when we can. Here are three simple ways you can improve your nonverbal communication.

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Introducing Inside Out: Clean Out the Closet of your Unconscious

Sometimes our relationships with others just don’t work out. In some cases, we understand what went wrong, and how the relationship fell apart. We might even know who to blame.

But other times, we don’t seem to have any idea whatsoever why a relationship has ended, or what led it to derail. There may, in fact, be unconscious motivations or other things outside of our immediate awareness that led to the relationship’s demise.

So what do you do when this happens? How can you explore your unconscious motivations if they are… well, unconscious?

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Myth Busting: Are Violence & Mental Illness Significantly Related?

It's time we put this myth to rest -- violence and mental illness share about as much in common as violence and people who happen to be men. The key factor that determines whether someone with mental illness is at greater risk for serious violence in society is substance abuse.

Although we seek to find answers as to why people commit random acts of horrible violence, we should not focus on extraneous variables in a person, just because they're convenient. Mental illness -- by itself -- is not the cause of violence in an individual.

And here's the research to prove it.

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Children and Teens

Children Learn When Adults Imitate Them

Children often mimic each other, with one repeating everything the other says. Young children may concur with an older sibling's every decision. Although it's usually a way to tease another, on the whole, imitation seems to have a positive social impact.

Parents also imitate their children in a playful way. We tend to think of people who imitate us (maybe not in the annoying way a younger sibling does) as being “like us” or “one of us.” On the other hand, when observing an interaction, the person who mirrors actions can be perceived as a follower, and the other person is perceived as a leader or an expert. In other words, imitation also can have a negative social impact under some circumstances.

It turns out that imitation can influence what preschoolers prefer and maybe even whom they trust.

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Too Many Choices: Problems with Searching for an Extraordinary Life

Like many kids growing up in the 1970s and '80s, I was fortunate enough to have parents who were able to provide all the modern luxuries a kid could want. I was always fed, clothed, and loved. I never lived without a home, color TV, car and good education. Not that everything was great, but overall I never struggled.

Growing up in this easy(ish) world, my parents always told me that I could do anything with my life, be whatever I wanted, and do what made me happy. On the whole they meant well, and on the whole they believed what they told me, until what I wanted to do was diametrically opposite to what they thought was best for me... but that's for another day.

I believed that I was special and that the world should treat me as such. If I wanted to do something that interested me, the path should open up before me and I should be able to walk into any job I wanted. Oh, how I can laugh at myself now!

Sadly, this type of irrational thinking seems to be even more prevalent in today's generation.

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10 Small Steps You Can Take Today to Improve ADHD Symptoms

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can feel overwhelming sometimes. Most people with ADHD have a hard time staying on task, managing their time, remembering where they put important things (like their keys and wallet) and organizing their schedule. Fortunately, you can manage and ease your symptoms by taking small and relatively simple steps every day.

The key is to pay attention to how ADHD interferes with your daily life and develop strategies that work for you, said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Here are several strategies for improving common symptoms, which you can start today.

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Not in the DSM-5: Internet Addiction & Parental Alienation Disorder

Disappointing to some professionals, I'm sure, is the fact that two disorders didn't make it into the DSM-5 at all -- not even in the chapter "Conditions for Further Study."

Those two lonely disorders? "Internet addiction" and parental alienation disorder.

This is a nice respite from the hype surrounding both these concerns and reaffirms what we've been saying here for years -- these are not mental disorders. Do some people have a usually-temporary and almost-always transitory problem with figuring out how much time to spend on the Internet? Sure they do -- it's just not a disorder-level concern.

And the evidence is simply too sparse for "parental alienation disorder," which I believe has propagated more for legal than clinical reasons.

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Inner Courage = Peace

Two words you don’t see thrown together as equals much are courage and peace.

“Coraggio,” what my violin teacher in college implored me to have before an audition, is what you need to conjure in order to face a daunting task. Peace is that elusive component of life that is only a little more attainable than its sister condition, joy (which a lot of depressives and goths will say they never even heard of).

But if you consider those moments when you have to throw caution to the wind and go after what speaks to you in this life -- or simply speak your mind -- no matter the outcome, you should be able to find peace.

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Locked up at Mathari Hospital: Mental Health Treatment Lags in Kenya

Last week, the Associated Press reported on the deplorable state of Kenya's only psychiatric hospital -- where locking patients up and over-drugging them appear to be the norm. Things are so bad, recently 40 patients actually escaped from the hospital.

Mental health treatment continues to lag -- sometimes quite severely -- in under-developed countries throughout the world. Many countries in Africa continue to treat people with a mental illness as though they had leprosy or some other inexplicable, communicable disease.

Because so little is understood about mental illness by some of the peoples of these countries, family members are often outcast and given over to well-meaning -- but severely understaffed and under-resourced -- professionals. This is of little surprise when poverty is so rampant in countries like Kenya.

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