Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Why Do Some Friends Disappear When The Going Gets Tough?

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

It’s a question that many of us ask when terrible things happen. Where are the people who call themselves your friends when the going gets tough?

This reposted article from Harriet Brown of the New York Times may help you understand some of the possible answers.

Over the last few years, my family has weathered our share of crises. First our younger daughter was hospitalized for a week with Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and spent several months convalescing at home. Soon after she recovered, our older daughter landed in the hospital with anorexia, which proved to be the start of a yearlong fight for her life.

Somewhere in the middle of that process, my mother-in-law was given a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer, and died less than 11 months later.

So we’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe not only how we dealt with trauma but how our friends, family and community did, too. For the most part, we were blessed with support and love; friends ran errands for us, delivered meals, sat in hospital waiting rooms, walked, talked and cried with us.

But a couple of friends disappeared entirely. During the year we spent in eating-disorder hell, they called once or twice but otherwise behaved as though we had been transported to Mongolia with no telephones or e-mail.

At first, I barely noticed; I was overwhelmed with getting through each day. As the year wore on, though, and life settled in to a new if unpleasant version of normal, I began to wonder what had happened. Given our preoccupation with our daughter’s recovery and my husband’s mother’s illness, we were no doubt lousy company. Maybe we’d somehow offended our friends. Or maybe they were just sick of the disasters that now consumed our lives; just because we were stuck with them didn’t mean our friends had to go there, too.

Even if they were completely fed up with us, though, they had to know that my husband and I were going through the toughest year of our lives. I would have understood their defection if our friendship had been less close; as it was, I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.

In the wake of 9/11, two wars and the seemingly ever-rising tide of natural disasters, we’ve come to understand the various ways in which people cope with crisis when it happens to them. But psychologists are just beginning to explore the ways we respond to other people’s traumas.

“We all live in some degree of terror of bad things happening to us,” said Barbara M. Sourkes, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “When you’re confronted by someone else’s horror, there’s a sense that it’s close to home.”

Dr. Sourkes works with families confronted with the unfolding trauma of a child’s serious, and possibly fatal, illness. “Other people’s reactions are multifaceted,” she said. “There’s no formula, and it’ll change from person to person.” The only certainty is that traumatic events change relationships outside the family as well as within it.

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Often the closer one feels to the family in crisis, the harder it is to cope. “Most people cannot tolerate the feeling of helplessness,” said Jackson Rainer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University who has studied grief and relationships. “And in the presence of another’s crisis, there’s always the sense of helplessness.”

Feelings of vulnerability can lead to a kind of survivor’s guilt: People are grateful that the trauma didn’t happen to them, but they feel deeply ashamed of their reactions. Such emotional discomfort often leads them to avoid the family in crisis; as Dr. Sourkes put it, “They might, for instance, make sure they’re never in a situation where they have to talk to the family directly.”

Awkwardness is another common reaction — not knowing what to say or do. Some people say nothing; others, in a rush to relieve the feelings of awkwardness, blurt out well-intentioned but thoughtless comments, like telling the parent of a child with cancer, “My grandmother went through this, so I understand.”

“We have more of a societal framework for what to say and do around bereavement than we do when you’re in the midst of it,” Dr. Sourkes said. “Families say over and over, ‘It’s such a lonely time and I don’t have the energy to educate my friends and family, yet they don’t have a clue.’ ”

The more vulnerable people feel, the harder it may be to connect. A friend whose son suffered brain damage in an accident told me that the families who dropped them afterward had children the same age as her son. They could picture all too vividly the same thing happening to their children; they felt too much empathy rather than not enough.

That was true for us, too, I realized. The friends who had disappeared had daughters exactly the same age as ours.

Dr. Rainer describes this kind of distancing as “stiff-arming” — creating as much space as possible from the possibility of trauma. It’s magical thinking in the service of denial: If bad things are happening to you and I stay away from you, then I’ll be safe.

Such people often wind up offering what Dr. Rainer calls pseudo-care, asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up. Or they might say they’re praying for the family in crisis, a response he dismisses as ineffectual at best. “A more compassionate response,” he said, “is ‘I am praying for myself to have the courage to help you.

True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. “There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint,” Dr. Rainer said. If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.

I tested that theory recently, when a friend’s mother went through a series of medical crises and moved to an assisted-living facility in our town. Normally, I might have been guilty of pseudo-care, asking if I could do anything but never really stepping up. Instead, I e-mailed her a list of tasks I could do, and asked if any of them would be helpful.

To my surprise, my friend responded by asking if I’d visit her mother on a day she couldn’t. Her mother was glad for the company, and my friend felt reassured, knowing that her mother wasn’t alone.

And I had the chance to do something truly useful for my friend, which in turn let me show her how much I cared about her. The time I spent with her mother turned out to be a gift for me.

Thinking back to my own years of crisis, I wondered why I’d focused on the friends who didn’t come through when so many others had. In retrospect, I wished I’d taken a slightly more Zen-like attitud

“The human condition is that traumatic events occur,” said David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. “The reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”

Harriet Brown is the author of “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia,” being published next week.

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August 19, 2010 Posted by | Books, Eating Disorder, Education, Health Psychology, Intimate Relationshps, Parenting, Positive Psychology, stress | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Helicopter Parenting? New Book Advocates That Firmer But Fair Is The Way To Go

There are times when parents have to stay tough and Nigel Latta explains how best to do it

A COMMON question among parents of young children is: ‘‘ When does raising children start to get better?’’ The answer could be that it doesn’t get any better, it just gets different.

MADE TO ORDER: Keeping a firm hand but not rule by fear is the recommended way to go.It’s a theme Nigel Latta explores in his new book, Politically Incorrect Parenting. Latta will soon present a show of the same name on Channel 9.

While the issues he explores are hardly new, this is not your average parenting book. It doesn’t trade on a parent’s fear but on the reassurance that there are ways you can survive, keep a semblance of sanity and still enjoy the company of your little home-grown terrorist.

It’s battlefield wisdom from a therapist who’s seen more than most of us could handle and has some commonsense tools to help ordinary parents who need a hand.

Some of the chapter headings might give you a clue to his approach.

The preface ‘‘Never Mind the Kids . . . Save Yourself’’ is a pretty good hint, but there are also gems such as ‘‘How to Make Time Out and Sticker Charts Actually Work’’. Then there’s ‘‘Why You Should Never Negotiate with a Terrorist’’.

‘‘I just think parenting is such bloody hard work and the last thing you want to do is read a book on raising your children that’s boring and just makes you feel worse,’’ Latta says.

‘‘You want to read something that feels like a bit of time off.

‘‘What I try to do in the TV show and the book is to give people useful things that they can actually use to make things better but also just reassure people that life is not that complicated.

‘‘We all worry about damaging our children if we say the wrong thing, or send them to the wrong school, or don’t read them enough stories. It’s not about any of that stuff because it’s not stuff that matters.’’

Latta fears the modern world has done away with a lot of common sense. ‘‘I understand common sense as wise thinking,’’ he says. ‘‘If people have a problem with their children most will Google it and they come up with 26 million different opinions . . . and a lot of scare tactics.

‘‘Scaring people is a way to sell books because it works, but I just think it sucks. You don’t need to make parents any more afraid because as soon as you have children you start to worry and it never stops.’’

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After helping thousands of people crawl out of what they feared were bottomless pits, Latta has found a common theme running through the vast majority of cases.

‘‘By far the biggest issue is that people just need to toughen up and that invariably gets it sorted,’’ he says.

‘‘People come to me and say they have a four-year-old they just can’t control and I’m wondering if he’s a mutant six foot high fouryear-old.

‘‘And they become paralysed with all this modern doubt stuff that makes them wonder if they’re doing the right thing when really it’s pretty straightforward.’’

For example, what to do with a fussy eater.

Hungry children eat, Latta says, it’s as simple as that.

He has a key message for parents who are doing it tough. ‘‘Get tough on the behaviours you don’t like and praise them for stuff you do.

‘‘Do that and it fixes anything – a few simple things and it’ll all be fine.’’

Source: Tony Bartlett:  The Courier Mail news.com.au

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May 21, 2010 Posted by | ADHD /ADD, Books, Child Behavior, Parenting, Resilience, Resources | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Online Shopping: Is “Drink Buying” A Problem for You?

PHOTO Some online shoppers are indulging their temptations and  making purchases they might not have made if sober.

Andrea calls them “gifts” from her drunk self to her sober self.
Some online shoppers are indulging their temptations and making purchases they might not have made if sober.

When she hasn’t been drinking, the 26-year-old New Yorker says that she rarely does more than browse online retail sites. But give her some booze and the buying begins.

“Get some drinks in me and I’m more likely to bite the bullet and figure out where to store the crap later on,” she said.

Andrea, who asked to withhold her name to protect her privacy, said she’s shopped under the influence more than a dozen times, but the habit comes and goes.

“I’ll do it several times over a month and then forget about it for a while,” she said. “Luckily, I haven’t bought or won anything terribly extravagant. Generally, I am pleasantly surprised about my purchases.”

After her latest late-night spree, she said awoke to the whole Doc Savage comic book series, the movie “Popeye,” with Robin Williams, the children’s book “Mouse Tails,” and (her favorite) the book “Statistics for the Utterly Confused.”

Along with her list of drunken purchases, she posted on her Facebook page, “Can we PLEASE get a breathalyzer on these things?”

While inebriated Internet buying may not be be an epidemic, it’s also not that unusual. A spokesperson for an online retail site, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, said that intoxicated-sounding shoppers regularly call the site’s customer service asking for help placing orders.

“They’re trying to get a little roadside assistance on the shopping piece,” the spokesperson said, adding that sometimes the customers need technical guidance, while other times it sounds like they just want to hear a friendly voice.

Andrea said she’s partial to things that remind her of childhood memories (her very first drunk purchases were the book “The Phantom Tollbooth” and a whittling kit), but, occasionally, she said she wakes up to the just plain bizarre. “I [bid] on a plaster casting kit, which is rather surprising as I have no idea what I was thinking of doing with it,” she said.

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But no matter what her sober self finds in the morning, she said she never thinks of returning anything. Why? “[I’m] way too embarrassed,” she said. Psychologists say the habit is fairly harmless as long as people don’t take it to extremes or spend extravagantly. “Normally, when we haven’t had a drink or two, our rational selves intercede between the emotion and the action and we say, ‘Oh, I don’t really need that’ or ‘Oh, I don’t have the money right now,'” said John Grohol, a clinical psychologist and founder of the online mental health resource PsychCentral.com. “But alcohol takes that one step away, that rational voice away, and we go directly to the emotion and the behavior.” Source: ABC news

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May 15, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Alcohol, Books, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Regular Exercise Is Important For The Health Of Those Who Have Schizophrenia

Regular exercise can play an important a role in improving the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals with schizophrenia, according to a review published in The Cochrane Library. Following a systematic review of the most up-to-date research on exercise in schizophrenia, researchers concluded that the current guidelines for exercise should be followed by people with schizophrenia just as they should by the general population.

“Current guidelines for exercise appear to be just as acceptable to individuals with schizophrenia in terms of potential physical and mental health benefit,” says lead researcher Guy Faulkner of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto, Canada. “So thirty minutes of moderate physical activity on most or all days of the week is a good goal to aim for. Start slowly and build up.”

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness affecting four in every 1,000 people. It is already known that exercise can improve mental health, but so far there has been only limited evidence of effects in schizophrenia. The new review focused on three recent small studies that compared the effects of 1216 week exercise programmes, including components such as jogging, walking and strength training, to standard care or yoga.

The researchers found that exercise programmes improved mental state for measures including anxiety and depression, particularly when compared to standard care. Changes in physical health outcomes were seen but they were not significant overall. However, the researchers suggest this may be due to the short timescale of the trials.

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Two previous reviews have found exercise therapy to be beneficial in schizophrenia, but called for more rigorous research. “This new review suggests that such calls are starting to be addressed,” says Faulkner. “But we still need more research that will help us learn how we can get individuals with schizophrenia engaged in exercise programmes in the first place, and how such programmes can be developed and implemented within mental health services. That’s one of the biggest challenges for this type of intervention.”

Source: Eurekalert

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May 12, 2010 Posted by | Books, Exercise, mood, Resilience, Schizophrenia | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Lucky Charms Sometimes Work: The Powerful Positive Performance Psychology Of Superstition

Can luck really influence the outcome of events? That question has captivated otherwise rational people for centuries—and challenged scientists to somehow prove whether lucky charms, special shirts or ritualistic behaviors hold special powers.

Read The Original Research Dissertation

They do. (Sometimes.) New research coming out in June suggests that a belief in good luck can affect performance.

In a test conducted by researchers from the University of Cologne, participants on a putting green who were told they were playing with a “lucky ball” sank 6.4 putts out of 10, nearly two more putts, on average, than those who weren’t told the ball was lucky. That is a 35% improvement. The results suggest new thinking in how to view luck and are intriguing to behavorial psychologists.

“Our results suggest that the activation of a superstition can indeed yield performance-improving effects,” says Lysann Damisch, co-author of the Cologne study, set to be published in the journal Psychological Science. The sample size, just 28 university students, was small, but the effect was big enough to be statistically significant.

Believing in their own good fortune can help people only in situations where they can affect the outcome. It can’t, say, help people watching a horse race they have bet on.

While the findings have not been published, this study could prompt psychologists to explore ways to tap into people’s belief in good luck. “Simply being told this is a lucky ball is sufficient to affect performance,” Stuart Vyse, professor of psychology at Connecticut College and author of “Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition,” says of the new study.

More Accuracy: Participants who were handed a golf ball and told, ‘Here is your ball. So far it has turned out to be a lucky ball,’ were 35% more likely to make a golf putt than participants who were told, ‘This is the ball everyone has used so far.’.

When Anthony Overfield rides his motorcycle, he carries two passengers on board: so-called gremlin bells. The 46-year-old runs a Web site, New York Biker, and sells merchandise at bike shows statewide. Gremlin bells are his best sellers. Many bikers believe these small brass bells, mounted near the back of his bike, help ward off accidents. “My bike’s in good shape,” he says. “I’m healthy. I haven’t been involved with any altercations with vehicles.” In short, his good-luck charms seem to be working.

Still, people often overestimate how much control they have over a situation. For a 2003 paper, researchers in the U.K. enlisted 107 traders at London investment banks to play a computer game simulating a live stock index. They were told that pressing the letters Z, X and C on the keyboard “may have some effect on the index,” when in fact it didn’t.

Nonetheless, many traders had an illusion of control. This characteristic could have detracted from their job performance. Traders in the study who held the strongest false belief in control had lower salaries in real life, suggesting that excessive belief in their own control of “luck” may have hurt their trading decisions.

“The idea that wearing a red shirt, saying some sort of incantation or prayer or carrying a lucky charm will bring good luck is very appealing because it gives people the illusion that they have some degree of control over future events in their lives,” says Peter Thall, a biostatistician at the University of Texas. “The painful truth is that we have little or no control over the most important events in our lives.”

Better Memory: with their ‘lucky charms’ on hand performed significantly better than those separated from their charms. Moreover, participants with their lucky charms reported that they felt 30% more capable than participants without the charms.

Mathematicians have demonstrated the role that randomness plays in life—”there are no long-term successful craps players,” says Harvey Mudd College mathematician Arthur Benjamin.

But don’t tell that to the people who believe they can shape their own luck. They’re well represented in games of chance, such as lotteries and casinos, and will be out in force at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, in which a favorite is named, what else, Lookin At Lucky.

On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, N.Y., Dennis Canetty was wearing a brown suit. Not an everyday, run-of-the-mill, ordinary brown suit. The retired Wall Street trader, age 61, was sporting his lucky brown suit to help the horse he co-owns, Always a Party, win the second race. The power of the suit is real and proven: Mr. Canetty was wearing it at the Preakness Stakes two years ago when Macho Again, another horse he co-owns, finished second as a 40-to-1 long shot.

“It’s silly,” he said a few minutes before race time. “My wife thinks I’m nuts.”

Even some otherwise calculating mathematicians hold irrational beliefs about luck. “I tell my class, ‘Don’t bother entering sweepstakes; it’s so unlikely you’re going to win,” says Joseph Mazur, a mathematician at Marlboro College and author of the book “What’s Luck Got to Do with It?” coming out in July. But then his wife entered him in a sweepstakes and he won $20,000.

More Persistence: In an anagram game, in which participants had to make as many words as possible from a string of eight letters, participants with their lucky charms set higher goals (16 more words) and persisted longer (nearly 5½-minutes longer) than participants whose lucky charms had been removed.

“There I was for months afterwards, entering every sweepstakes contest I could find,” he says. It was futile—he never repeated.

Investors also are prone to superstitions. For example, during an eclipse, which many cultures view as a bad omen, major U.S. stock-market indexes typically fall, according to research conducted by Gabriele Lepori, assistant professor of finance at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. This effect persists even after controlling for economic news and long-term trends. And the indexes usually bounce back soon afterward.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, known for basing personnel decisions on statistics, notes with bemusement the superstition of some of his highest-paid employees. “Every locker room has a comical procession of superstitions,” he said in an email. “We have things based on time, on speech intonations and on specific conversation exchanges. If you look at the introductions of any NBA team and what the players do, you have an anthropologist’s dream.”

But at Times False Confidence: In a stock-market simulation, 107 traders were told that pressing the letters Z, X and C on a keyboard ‘may have some effect on the index,’ when in fact it didn’t. Traders in the study who held the strongest belief that the keys made a difference had lower salaries in real life, suggesting that ‘luck’ may hurt their trading decisions.

But Mr. Cuban is sticking with his stats. “When it’s all said and done, it’s about performance and data,” he said. “Guys will change their superstitions, but the numbers don’t lie.”

Still, he says he has some superstitions of his own to give his Mavs a boost, “but there is no chance I tell you; that kills them.” These may not have helped his team in the playoffs: Dallas trails San Antonio, three games to two.

And did Mr. Canetty’s lucky brown suit prove to be lucky? His horse, Always a Party, was bumped early in the race and jockey Channing Hill went flying. “I threw the suit away,” Mr. Canetty said on Tuesday. “I’m not wearing that suit anymore.” For the next race, “I’ll try out a new suit, and see if it brings better luck.”

Read The Original Research Dissertation

Credit: CARL BIALIK : The Wall Street Journal

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May 11, 2010 Posted by | Books, Cognition, Positive Psychology, research | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TV For Toddlers: “The Wiggles” Or The Wobbles?

Want kids who are smarter and thinner? Keep them away from the television set as toddlers. A shocking study from child experts at the Université de Montréal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the University of Michigan, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, has found that television exposure at age two forecasts negative consequences for kids, ranging from poor school adjustment to unhealthy habits.

View Abstract Here

“We found every additional hour of TV exposure among toddlers corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, have a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index,” says lead author Dr. Linda S. Pagani, a psychosocial professor at the Université de Montréal and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center.

The goal of the study was to determine the impact of TV exposure at age 2 on future academic success, lifestyle choices and general well being among children. “Between the ages of two and four, even incremental exposure to television delayed development,” says Dr. Pagani.

A total of 1,314 kids took part in the investigation, which was part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development Main Exposure. Parents were asked to report how much TV their kids watched at 29 months and at 53 months in age. Teachers were asked to evaluate academic, psychosocial and health habits, while body mass index (BMI) was measured at 10 years old.

“Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour,” warns Dr. Pagani. “High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to future unhealthy habits. Despite clear recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggesting less than two hours of TV per day — beyond the age of two — parents show poor factual knowledge and awareness of such existing guidelines.”

According to the investigation, watching too much TV as toddlers later forecasted:

  • a seven percent decrease in classroom engagement;
  • a six percent decrease in math achievement (with no harmful effects on later reading);
  • a 10 percent increase in victimization by classmates (peer rejection, being teased, assaulted or insulted by other students);
  • a 13 percent decrease in weekend physical activity;
  • a nine percent decrease in general physical activity;
  • a none percent higher consumption of soft drinks;
  • a 10 percent peak in snacks intake;
  • a five percent increase in BMI.

“Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven and a half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting,” says Dr. Pagani. “Our findings make a compelling public health argument against excessive TV viewing in early childhood and for parents to heed guidelines on TV exposure from the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

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Since TV exposure encourages a sedentary lifestyle, Dr. Pagani says, television viewing must be curbed for toddlers to avoid the maintenance of passive mental and physical habits in later childhood: “Common sense would have it that TV exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks which foster cognitive, behavioral, and motor development.”

“What’s special about this study is how it confirms suspicions that have been out there and shown by smaller projects on one outcome or another. This study takes a comprehensive approach and considers many parental, pediatric and societal factors simultaneously,” she adds.

This research was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The article, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was authored by Linda S. Pagani, Caroline Fitzpatrick and Tracie A. Barnett of the Université de Montréal and its affiliated Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center in Canada in collaboration with Eric Dubow of the University of Michigan in the United States.

Source: Sciencedaily

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May 8, 2010 Posted by | ADHD /ADD, Books, Child Behavior, Cognition, Education, Parenting, Resilience, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emotional Binge Eating: Dealing With The Emotions Is Just As Important As Dealing With The Eating

This article highlights how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is being integrated into weight loss programs for emotional eaters.

How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream? It’s common for many people, but for those trying to lose weight, it can be detrimental to their long term success, and most weight-loss programs never even address it.

They focus on choosing healthier foods and exercising more, but they never answer a key question: how can people who have eaten to cope with emotions change their eating habits, when they haven’t learned other ways of coping with emotions?

Researchers at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research are trying to figure out the answer as part of a new, NIH-funded weight loss study. The new treatment incorporates skills that directly address the emotional eating, and essentially adds those skills to a state-of-the art behavioral weight loss treatment.

“The problem that we’re trying to address is that the success rates for long-term weight loss are not as good as we would like them to be,” said Edie Goldbacher, a postdoctoral fellow at CORE. “Emotional eating may be one reason why people don’t do as well in behavioral weight loss groups, because these groups don’t address emotional eating or any of its contributing factors.”

The study has already had one wave of participants come through, and many participants have seen some success in the short term, but have also learned the skills to help them achieve long term success.

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Janet Williams, part of that first cohort, said she lost about 17 pounds over 22 weeks, and still uses some of the techniques she learned in the study to help maintain her weight, which has not fluctuated.

“The program doesn’t just help you identify when you eat,” said Williams. “It helps you recognize triggers that make you eat, to help you break that cycle of reaching for food every time you feel bored, or frustrated, or sad.”

Williams said that the program teaches various techniques to help break that cycle, such as the “conveyor belt,” in which participants, when overcome with a specific emotion, can recognize it and take a step back, before reaching for chips or cookies, and put those feelings on their mental “conveyor belt” and watch them go away.

“I still use the skills I learned in the study,” she said. “I’ve learned to say, ‘I will not allow this emotional episode to control my eating habits.'”

Source:eurekalert

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May 6, 2010 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Addiction, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Eating Disorder, Health Psychology, Mindfulness, mood, stress | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“My Kid Wouldn’t Go There”: Teens & Teen Sexuality

It can be difficult for parents of teenagers to come to terms with the fact their kids may have sex, particularly given widespread concerns about the consequences of teen sexual activity. In fact, a new study from North Carolina State University shows that many parents think that their children aren’t interested in sex – but that everyone else’s kids are.

“Parents I interviewed had a very hard time thinking about their own teen children as sexually desiring subjects,” says Dr. Sinikka Elliott, an assistant professor of sociology at NC State and author of the study. In other words, parents find it difficult to think that their teenagers want to have sex.

“At the same time,” Elliott says, “parents view their teens’ peers as highly sexual, even sexually predatory.” By taking this stance, the parents shift the responsibility for potential sexual activity to others – attributing any such behavior to peer pressure, coercion or even entrapment.

For example, Elliott says, parents of teenage boys were often concerned that their sons may be lured into sexual situations by teenage girls who, the parents felt, may use sex in an effort to solidify a relationship. The parents of teenage girls, meanwhile, expressed fears that their daughters would be taken advantage of by sexually driven teenage boys.

These beliefs contribute to stereotypes of sexual behavior that aren’t helpful to parents or kids.

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“By using sexual stereotypes to absolve their children of responsibility for sexual activity, the parents effectively reinforce those same stereotypes,” Elliott says.

Parents’ use of these stereotypes also paints teen heterosexual relationships in an unflattering, adversarial light, Elliott says and notes the irony of this: “Although parents assume their kids are heterosexual, they don’t make heterosexual relationships sound very appealing.”

A paper describing the study is published in the May issue of Symbolic Interaction. Elliott is also the author of the forthcoming book, Not My Kid: Parents and Teen Sexuality, which will by published by New York University Press.

Source: ScienceDaily (May 3, 2010)

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May 5, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Child Behavior, Girls, Identity, Intimate Relationshps, Parenting, Sex & Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Should I Tell Or Not? Mood Disorders & The Workplace

Credit: Therese J. Borchard via psychcentral

Just when I think our world has moved a baby step in the right direction regarding our understanding of mental illness, I get another blow that tells me otherwise. For example, awhile back I quoted an intelligent woman who wrote an article in a popular women’s magazine about dating a bipolar guy when she was bipolar herself. She recently discovered that she had jeopardized a job prospect because the article came up — as well as all those who referenced it, like Beyond Blue — when you Googled her name. So she requested everyone who picked up that article to go back and change her real name to a pseudonym.

Because talking about bipolar disorder in the workplace is pretty much like singing about AIDS at the office a hundred years ago or maybe championing civil rights in the 60s.

I totally get why this woman created a pseudonym. Trust me, I entertained that possibility when I decided to throw out my psychiatric chart to the public. It’s risky. Extremely risky. Each person’s situation is unique, so I can’t advise a general “yes ” or “no.” As much as I would love to say corporate America will embrace the person struggling with a mood disorder and wrap him around a set of loving hands, I know the reality is more like a bipolar or depressive being spit upon, blamed, and made fun of by his boss and co-workers. Because the majority of professionals today simply don’t get it.

Not at all.

They don’t get it even though the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart disease; that major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health; that the direct cost of depression to the United States in terms of lost time at work is estimated at 172 million days yearly.

I realize every time I publish a personal blog post — one in which I describe my severe ruminations, death thoughts, and difficulty using the rational part of my brain — I jeopardize my possibilities for gainful employment in the future. I can pretty much write off all government work because, from what I’ve been told, you have to get a gaggle of people to testify that you have no history of psychiatric illnesses (and, again, all it takes is one Google search to prove I’m crazy).

It’s totally unfair.

Do we penalize diabetics for needing insulin or tell people with disabling arthritis to get over it? Do we advise cancer victims to use a pseudonym if they write about their chemo, for fear of being labeled as weak and pathetic? That they really should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and heal themselves because it’s all in their heads?

But I don’t want to hide behind a pseudonym. I use my real name because, for me, the benefit of comforting someone who thinks they are all alone outweighs the risk of unemployment in the future. Kay Redfield Jamison did it. She’s okay. So is Robin Williams. And Kitty Dukasis. And Carrie Fisher. Granted all four of those people have talent agents ready to book them as speakers for a nice fee.

In their book, Living with Someone Who’s Living with Bipolar Disorder Chelsea Lowe and Bruce M. Cohen, MD, Ph.D., list the pros and the cons of going public with a mood disorder. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but here are the pros:

  • There’s nothing disgraceful about the condition, any more than there would be about cancer or heart disease.
  • Carrying a secret is an enormous burden. Sharing it lightens it.
  • The more people who know and are looking out for you, the more likely you’ll be able to get help before the problems turn serious.
  • Sharing the information lessons the burden on your partner.
  • Lots of people have psychiatric issues; maybe your boss or family member does too.
  • Taking about the diagnosis is an opportunity to educate others.

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The authors suggest telling your employer under these circumstances:

  • If you are taking a new medication and may need time for adjustment.
  • If your schedule doesn’t allow for regular, restful sleep–which is an important factor in controlling the disorder–or if you need to request certain adjustments to your schedule, like telecommuting.
  • If you need to be hospitalized or take a leave of absence.
  • If the disorder is affecting your behavior or job performance.
  • If you need to submit benefit claims through your employer rather than the insurance company, or if your employer requires medical forms for extended absences.

And the cons:

  • Prejudice and stigma about psychiatric disorders are still common in our society. A disclosure of bipolar disorder [or any mental illness] will inevitably color your employer’s and coworkers’ perceptions of his job performance: “Did Jerry miss that meeting because the bus was late, or because he was off his meds?” Potential problems include discrimination, stigmatization, fear and actual job loss.
  • You can’t un-tell a secret.
  • Your chances for promotion could be hurt.
  • The employer is under no obligation to keep your condition secret.
  • Discrimination is illegal but difficult to prove.
  • You could be written off as “crazy.”

It’s Tricky! What are your thoughts?

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May 3, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, depression, Education, General, mood | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emotional Intelligence: Learning To Roll With The Punches

It’s a hot-buzz topic that covers everything from improving workplace performance and successfully climbing the corporate ladder to building the happiest of marriages to ending school bullying. But what exactly is Emotional Intelligence (EI)? If we lack it, can we learn it? And how do we know if our EI is high or low? Is it only high if we’re really, really nice?

Three scholarly researchers – including University of Cincinnati Psychology Professor Gerry Matthews – delved into the science of EI and published “What We Know About Emotional Intelligence: How it Affects Learning, Work, Relationships, and Our Mental Health.”

Published by MIT Press (2009), the book was recently awarded the American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence – the PROSE Awards – in the biological and life sciences category of biomedicine and neuroscience. The book, co-authored by Matthews, Moshe Zeidner (University of Haifa) and Richard D. Roberts (Center for New Constructs, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, N.J.), was also on display at the UC Libraries’ Authors, Editors and Composers Reception and Program from 3:30-5 p.m., Thursday, April 22, in the Russell C. Myers Alumni Center.

MIT Press promotions describe EI as the “ability to perceive, regulate and communicate emotions – to understand emotions in ourselves and others.” Workplaces want to test for it to find the most EI-talented employees, and consultants are touting training and EI tests to improve productivity. “In the popular writings, EI tends to be defined very broadly and one can’t proceed with scientific research with such a vague and broad definition,” Matthews says.

Matthews’ research interests have explored how stress, mood and coping ability can affect performance on tests, in the workplace and on the highway. He adds that amid the grim economy, even the people who have jobs are feeling high levels of stress in the workplace and are feeling more challenged by workplace demands and concerns about job security. In general terms, those who can roll with the punches – with a shrug and a smile – may have higher Emotional Intelligence.

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Then again, “The intimate association of personality and emotion sets a trap for researchers interested in Emotional Intelligence,” writes Matthews. “It might seem that happy, calm states of mind should be seen as the person imbued with high Emotional Intelligence. However, such emotional tendencies may be no more than a consequence of biases in brain functioning or information-processing routines operating without insight or ‘intelligence.’ Some individuals – in part because of their DNA – are simply fortunate in being prone to pleasant moods, so it follows that emotional states do not alone provide an index of Emotional Intelligence,” Matthews states in the book.

In fact, Matthews says he’s skeptical that people who are better at managing stress hold higher Emotional Intelligence, but as the researchers found as they tried to narrow down the science of Emotional Intelligence, more research is needed. For instance, is someone with higher EI in the workplace more productive, or are they just better at self-promotion and forming positive relationships with co-workers? Matthews says he believes EI appears to be very modestly related to workplace performance, and could turn out to be nothing more than a business fad.

He adds the researchers are also skeptical about all of those EI tests, particularly those self-assessments. After all, people could be rating themselves the way they see themselves or the way they would like to be seen, and not like they actually are.

Currently, authors Matthews and Roberts are researching the testing of EI through video scenarios. The situation judgment test involves watching the videos unfold a challenging situation, and then the video comes to a stop and offers different options for resolving the problem. Matthews is building on his earlier research which explored whether negative moods affected good decision making abilities. “Through the video project, the idea is to see if emotionally intelligent people are better able to make rational decisions under stress,” he says.

The researchers are also examining the link between EI and school social and emotional learning programs.

Source:
Dawn Fuller
University of Cincinnati

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May 2, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, Cognition, Health Psychology, Identity, Positive Psychology, research, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments