Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

Teen Myths Busted: New Science Reveals That Common Assumptions Are Wrong

A new book, The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, dispels many common myths about adolescence with the latest scientific findings on the physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual and spiritual development of teens. [Book is available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website at Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).] Authors Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard from the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provide useful tips and strategies for real-life situations and experiences from bullying, to nutrition and sexuality.

Created in partnership with an alliance of youth-serving professionals, The Teen Years Explained is science-based and accessible. The practical and colorful guide to healthy adolescent development is an essential resource for parents and all people who work with young people.

“Whether you have five minutes or five hours, you will find something useful in the guide,” said McNeely. “We want both adults and young people to understand the changes – what is happening and why – so everyone can enjoy this second decade of life.”

Popular Myths about Teenagers:

Myth: Teens are bigger risk-takers and thrill-seekers than adults. Fact: Teens perceive more risk than adults do in certain areas, such as the chance of getting into an accident if they drive with a drunk driver.

Myth: Young people only listen to their friends. Fact: Young people report that their parents or a caring adult are their greatest influence – especially when it comes to sexual behavior.

Myth: Adolescents live to push your buttons. Fact: Adolescents may view conflict as a way of expressing themselves, while adults take arguments personally.

Myth: When you’re a teenager, you can eat whatever you want and burn it off. Fact: Obesity rates have tripled for adolescents since 1980.

Myth: Teens don’t need sleep. Fact: Teens need as much sleep or more than they got as children – 9 to 10 hours is optimum.

Three years in the making, the guide came about initially at the request of two of the Center’s partners, the Maryland Mentoring Partnership and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who felt there was a need in the community for an easily navigated and engaging look at adolescent development.

“Add The Teen Years Explained to the ‘must-read’ list,” said Karen Pittman, director of the Forum for Youth Investment. “In plain English, the book explains the science behind adolescent development and challenges and empowers adults to invest more attention and more time to young people.”

Click Image to read reviews

The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development will be available for purchase on April 10 through Amazon.com. Electronic copies will also be available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website atJohns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).

The Center for Adolescent Health is a Prevention Research Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is committed to assisting urban youth in becoming healthy and productive adults. Together with community partners, the Center conducts research to identify the needs and strengths of young people, and evaluates and assists programs to promote their health and well-being. The Center’s mission is to work in partnership with youth, people who work with youth, public policymakers and program administrators to help urban adolescents develop healthy adult lifestyles.

Source:
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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April 13, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Child Behavior, Girls, Health Psychology, Internet, Intimate Relationshps, research, Resilience, Sex & Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Intimacy & Desire: David Schnarch On Sex After Marriage

Dr David Schnarch

I have just found this video which includes a rare interview with Dr David Schnarch, author of “Passionate Marriage”, “Resurrecting Sex” & his latest book released in October 2009 “Intimacy & Desire”. Anyone who knows me well knows I am an advocate of Schnarch’s personal development approach to improving intimate relationships. For more information on my personal experiences with Schnarch and his unique contributions to this field read  THIS POST.

Here are  Schnarch’s online self evaluation surveys and statistics for  the health of your sexual relationship and personal intimacy style. If you’re having issues (like 70% of couples in committed relationships) and have tried and failed to spark things up again, please watch this interview, read one of Schnarch’s books and check out his website for online resources. It will be worth your time and money.

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April 3, 2010 Posted by | Books, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Resources, Sex & Sexuality, video | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Attractive Lady Makes The Boys Go Gaga:Testosterone And Risk Taking Behavior

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

From UNIS : University of Queensland research suggests that the presence of a beautiful woman can lead men to throw caution to the wind. Professor Bill von Hippel and doctoral student Richard Ronay, from UQ’s School of Psychology, have been examining the links between physical risk-taking in young men and the presence of attractive women.

To examine this issue, they conducted a field experiment with young male skateboarders and found the skateboarders took more risks at the skate park when they were observed by an attractive female experimenter than when they were observed by a male experimenter.

This increased risk-taking led to more successes but also more crash landings in front of the female observer.

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Professor von Hippel and Mr Ronay also measured testosterone from participants’ saliva, and found that the skateboarders’ increased risk taking was caused by elevated testosterone levels brought about by the presence of the attractive female.

According to the researchers these findings suggest an evolutionary basis for male risk-taking.

“Historically, men have competed with each other for access to fertile women and the winners of those competitions are the ones who pass on their genes to future generations. Risk-taking would have been inherent in such a competitive mating strategy,” said Professor von Hippel.

“Our results suggest that displays of physical risk-taking might best be understood as hormonally fuelled advertisements of health and vigour aimed at potential mates, and signals of strength, fitness, and daring intended to intimidate potential rivals.”

The researchers point out that although evolution may have favoured males who engage in risky behaviour to attract females, such behaviours can also be detrimental in terms of survival.

“Other instances of physical risk-taking that contribute to men’s early mortality, such as dangerous driving and physical aggression, might also be influenced by increases in testosterone brought about by the presence of attractive women.”

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

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March 27, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Cognition, Identity, Intimate Relationshps, Sex & Sexuality, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex: Research Shows 6 Step Program To Be Effective

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, people who engage in regular sexual activity gain several health benefits, such as longer lives, healthier hearts, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of breast cancer. However, approximately 33 percent of women may not receive these benefits due to low sexual desire. Also, the marriages of women with low sexual desire may also be at risk, given a recent statistic that 25 percent of divorce is due to sexual dissatisfaction.

Some doctors are prescribing testosterone patches for women with low sexual desire. However, research shows that testosterone patches might increase the risk of breast cancer when used for just a year. Researchers are currently testing a new drug, flibanserin, which was developed as an antidepressant and affects neurotransmitters in the brain, to treat women with low sexual desire. However, experts are concerned about the side effects of this possible treatment. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found evidence that a low-cost, risk-free psychological treatment is effective and may be a better alternative to drugs that have adverse side effects.

“Low sexual desire is the number one problem women bring to sex therapists,” said Laurie Mintz, associate professor of educational, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education. “Drugs to treat low sexual desire may take the focus away from the most common culprits of diminished desire in women, including lack of information on how our own bodies work, body image issues, relationship issues and a stressful lifestyle. Indeed, research demonstrates that relationship issues are far more important in predicting women’s sexual desire than are hormone levels. Before women seek medical treatments, they should consider psychological treatment.”

Mintz has authored a book, A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship , based on this premise. In her book, Mintz suggests a six-step psycho-educational and cognitive-behavioral treatment approach that she based on scientific literature and more than 20 years of clinical knowledge. The treatment plan includes chapters about one’s thoughts about sex, how to talk with your partner, the importance of spending time together, ways to touch each other in both erotic and non-erotic ways, how to make time for sex and different ways to make sexual activity exciting and thus, increase women’s sexual desire.

In a study demonstrating the effectiveness of her treatment, Mintz recruited married women between the ages of 28 to 65, who said they were uninterested in sexual activity. All the women were employed and a majority had children. All participants completed an online survey that measured sexual desire and sexual functioning. Then half of the participants were selected randomly to read her book and perform the exercises outlined in her book. After six weeks, they were emailed the same survey again. The control group did not read the book. Mintz found that the intervention group who read the book made significant gains in sexual desire and sexual functioning, compared to the control group who did not read the book. On average, women who read the book increased their level of sexual desire by almost 30 percent.

“This finding is especially exciting because low sexual desire among women has been not only the most common, but the least successfully treated of all the sexual problems brought to therapists” Mintz said. “Also, although other books have been written on the topic, this is the first to be tested for its effectiveness. In addition, unlike medical treatments such as testosterone, there are certainly no known negative medical side effects associated with the treatment strategies in my book.”

Mintz will present her findings at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) annual conference.

Source:

Laurie Mintz, A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship

University of Missouri-Columbia

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March 12, 2010 Posted by | Health Psychology, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Positive Psychology, Sex & Sexuality, stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happiness: Why It’s Harder to Find in Depression’s “Shrinking World”

http://www.PsychologicalScience.org via http://www.psychcentral.com

A new research study investigated whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to engage in.

For a four-day period, psychological scientists from the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis had volunteers equipped with an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR).

This device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives. For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings.

Researchers then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. In addition, the volunteers completed personality and well-being assessments.

An analysis of the recordings revealed some very interesting findings.

Greater well-being was related to spending less time alone and more time talking to others: The happiest participants spent 25 percent less time alone and 70 percent more time talking than the unhappiest participants.

In addition to the difference in the amount of social interactions happy and unhappy people had, there was also a difference in the types of conversations they took part in: The happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.

These findings suggest that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial.

The researchers surmise that — though the current findings cannot identify the causal direction — deep conversations may have the potential to make people happier.

They note, “Just as self-disclosure can instill a sense of intimacy in a relationship, deep conversations may instill a sense of meaning in the interaction partners.”

The findings are reported in the latest issue of Psychological Science, http://www.psychologicalscience.org

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March 8, 2010 Posted by | Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Health Psychology, Intimate Relationshps, Positive Psychology, stress | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Love the One You’re With: The Pitfalls of Seeking a “Soul Mate”

Has the quest for that one perfect partner, the never-ending search for the ideal done us more harm than good? There is growing evidence that an idealistic search for love can hinder the enjoyment and fulfilment of what you already have. The following is excerpted from Polly Schulman’s article at  Psychology Today (http://psychologytoday.com ).

The divorce rate has stayed constant at nearly 50 percent for the last two decades. The ease with which we enter and dissolve unions makes marriage seem like a prime-time spectator sport, whether it’s Britney Spears in Vegas or bimbos chasing after the Bachelor.

Long live the new marriage! We once prized the institution for the practical pairing of a cash-producing father and a home-building mother. Now we want it all—a partner who reflects our taste and status, who sees us for who we are, who loves us for all the “right” reasons, who helps us become the person we want to be. We’ve done away with a rigid social order, adopting instead an even more onerous obligation: the mandate to find a perfect match. Anything short of this ideal prompts us to ask: Is this all there is? Am I as happy as I should be? Could there be somebody out there who’s better for me? As often as not, we answer yes to that last question and fall victim to our own great expectations.

That somebody is, of course, our soul mate, the man or woman who will counter our weaknesses, amplify our strengths and provide the unflagging support and respect that is the essence of a contemporary relationship. The reality is that few marriages or partnerships consistently live up to this ideal. The result is a commitment limbo, in which we care deeply for our partner but keep one stealthy foot out the door of our hearts. In so doing, we subject the relationship to constant review: Would I be happier, smarter, a better person with someone else? It’s a painful modern quandary. “Nothing has produced more unhappiness than the concept of the soul mate,” says Atlanta psychiatrist Frank Pittman [….

… ] Many of us either dodge the decision to commit or commit without fully relinquishing the right to keep looking—opting for an arrangement psychotherapist Terrence Real terms “stable ambiguity.” “You park on the border of the relationship, so you’re in it but not of it,” he says. There are a million ways to do that: You can be in a relationship but not be sure it’s really the right one, have an eye open for a better deal or something on the side, choose someone impossible or far away.

Yet commitment and marriage offer real physical and financial rewards. Touting the benefits of marriage may sound like conservative policy rhetoric, but nonpartisan sociological research backs it up: Committed partners have it all over singles, at least on average. Married people are more financially stable, according to Linda Waite, a sociologist at the University of Chicago and a coauthor of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially Both married men and married women have more assets on average than singles; for women, the differential is huge.

The benefits go beyond the piggy bank. Married people, particularly men, tend to live longer than people who aren’t married. Couples also live better: When people expect to stay together, says Waite, they pool their resources, increasing their individual standard of living. They also pool their expertise—in cooking, say, or financial management. In general, women improve men’s health by putting a stop to stupid bachelor tricks and bugging their husbands to exercise and eat their vegetables. Plus, people who aren’t comparing their partners to someone else in bed have less trouble performing and are more emotionally satisfied with sex. The relationship doesn’t have to be wonderful for life to get better, says Waite: The statistics hold true for mediocre marriages as well as for passionate ones.

The pragmatic benefits of partnership used to be foremost in our minds. The idea of marriage as a vehicle for self-fulfillment and happiness is relatively new, says Paul Amato, professor of sociology, demography and family studies at Penn State University. Surveys of high school and college students 50 or 60 years ago found that most wanted to get married in order to have children or own a home. Now, most report that they plan to get married for love. This increased emphasis on emotional fulfillment within marriage leaves couples ill-prepared for the realities they will probably face.

Because the early phase of a relationship is marked by excitement and idealization, “many romantic, passionate couples expect to have that excitement forever,” says Barry McCarthy, a clinical psychologist and coauthor—with his wife, Emily McCarthy—of  Getting It Right the First Time: Creating a Healthy Marriage. Longing for the charged energy of the early days, people look elsewhere or split up.

Flagging passion is often interpreted as the death knell of a relationship. You begin to wonder whether you’re really right for each other after all. You’re comfortable together, but you don’t really connect the way you used to. Wouldn’t it be more honest—and braver—to just admit that it’s not working and call it off? “People are made to feel that remaining in a marriage that doesn’t make you blissfully happy is an act of existential cowardice,” says Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco psychologist.

Coleman says that the constant cultural pressure to have it all—a great sex life, a wonderful family—has made people ashamed of their less-than-perfect relationships and question whether such unions are worth hanging on to. Feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointment are natural, but they can seem intolerable when standards are sky-high. “It’s a recent historical event that people expect to get so much from individual partners,” says Coleman, author of  The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony in which he advises couples in lackluster marriages to stick it out—especially if they have kids. “There’s an enormous amount of pressure on marriages to live up to an unrealistic ideal.” […

…] In fact, argue psychologists and marital advocates, there’s no such thing as true compatibility. “Marriage is a disagreement machine,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. “All couples disagree about all the same things. We have a highly romanticized notion that if we were with the right person, we wouldn’t fight.” Discord springs eternal over money, kids, sex and leisure time, but psychologist John Gottman has shown that long-term, happily married couples disagree about these things just as much as couples who divorce.

“There is a mythology of ‘the wrong person,'” agrees Pittman. “All marriages are incompatible. All marriages are between people from different families, people who have a different view of things. The magic is to develop binocular vision, to see life through your partner’s eyes as well as through your own.”

The realization that we’re not going to get everything we want from a partner is not just sobering, it’s downright miserable. But it is also a necessary step in building a mature relationship, according to Real, who has written about the subject in How Can I Get Through to You? Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women
. “The paradox of intimacy is that our ability to stay close rests on our ability to tolerate solitude inside a relationship,” he says. “A central aspect of grown-up love is grief. All of us long for—and think we deserve—perfection.” We can hardly be blamed for striving for bliss and self-fulfillment in our romantic lives—our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the first blueprint of [..modern]  society.

This same respect for our own needs spurred the divorce-law reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. During that era, “The culture shifted to emphasize individual satisfaction, and marriage was part of that,” explains Paul Amato, who has followed more than 2,000 families for 20 years in a long-term study of marriage and divorce. Amato says that this shift did some good by freeing people from abusive and intolerable marriages. But it had an unintended side effect: encouraging people to abandon relationships that may be worth salvaging. In a society hell-bent on individual achievement and autonomy, working on a difficult relationship may get short shrift, says psychiatrist Peter Kramer, author of  Should You Leave?

“So much of what we learn has to do with the self, the ego, rather than giving over the self to things like a relationship,” Kramer says. In our competitive world, we’re rewarded for our individual achievements rather than for how we help others. We value independence over cooperation, and sacrifices for values like loyalty and continuity seem foolish. “I think we get the divorce rate that we deserve as a culture.”

The steadfast focus on our own potential may turn a partner into an accessory in the quest for self-actualization, says Maggie Robbins, a therapist in New York City. “We think that this person should reflect the beauty and perfection that is the inner me—or, more often, that this person should compensate for the yuckiness and mess that is the inner me,” says Robbins. “This is what makes you tell your wife, ‘Lose some weight—you’re making me look bad,’ not ‘Lose some weight, you’re at risk for diabetes.'” […

…]  The urge to find a soul mate is not fueled just by notions of romantic manifest destiny. Trends in the workforce and in the media create a sense of limitless romantic possibility. According to Scott South, a demographer at SUNY-Albany, proximity to potential partners has a powerful effect on relationships. South and his colleagues found higher divorce rates among people living in communities or working in professions where they encounter lots of potential partners—people who match them in age, race and education level. “These results hold true not just for unhappy marriages but also for happy ones,” says South.

The temptations aren’t always living, breathing people. According to research by psychologists Sara Gutierres and Douglas Kenrick, both of Arizona State University, we find reasonably attractive people less appealing when we’ve just seen a hunk or a hottie—and we’re bombarded daily by images of gorgeous models and actors. When we watch Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen’s kingly mien and Liv Tyler’s elfin charm can make our husbands and wives look all too schlumpy.

Kramer sees a similar pull in the narratives that surround us. “The number of stories that tell us about other lives we could lead—in magazine articles, television shows, books—has increased enormously. We have an enormous reservoir of possibilities,” says Kramer.

And these possibilities can drive us to despair. Too many choices have been shown to stymie consumers, and an array of alternative mates is no exception. In an era when marriages were difficult to dissolve, couples rated their marriages as more satisfying than do today’s couples, for whom divorce is a clear option, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

While we expect marriage to be “happily ever after,” the truth is that for most people, neither marriage nor divorce seem to have a decisive impact on happiness. Although Waite’s research shows that married people are happier than their single counterparts, other studies have found that after a couple years of marriage, people are just about as happy (or unhappy) as they were before settling down. And assuming that marriage will automatically provide contentment is itself a surefire recipe for misery.

“Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is supposed to make you married,” says Pittman. “When you are all the way in your marriage, you are free to do useful things, become a better person.” A committed relationship allows you to drop pretenses and seductions, expose your weaknesses, be yourself—and know that you will be loved, warts and all. “A real relationship is the collision of my humanity and yours, in all its joy and limitations,” says Real. “How partners handle that collision is what determines the quality of their relationship.”

Such a down-to-earth view of marriage is hardly romantic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not profound: An authentic relationship with another person, says Pittman, is “one of the first steps toward connecting with the human condition—which is necessary if you’re going to become fulfilled as a human being.” If we accept these humble terms, the quest for a soul mate might just be a noble pursuit after all.

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source: PsychologyToday.com

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Resources, Sex & Sexuality | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

More than Words: The Importance of Physical Touch

Psychologists have long studied the grunts and winks of nonverbal communication, the vocal tones and facial expressions that carry emotion. A warm tone of voice, a hostile stare — both have the same meaning in Terre Haute or Timbuktu, and are among dozens of signals that form a universal human vocabulary.

But in recent years some researchers have begun to focus on a different, often more subtle kind of wordless communication: physical contact. Momentary touches, they say — whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm — can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words.

“It is the first language we learn,” said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life” (Norton, 2009), and remains, he said, “our richest means of emotional expression” throughout life.

The evidence that such messages can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave is accumulating fast. Students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from a teacher were nearly twice as likely to volunteer in class as those who did not, studies have found. A sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched. Research by Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that a massage from a loved one can not only ease pain but also soothe depression and strengthen a relationship.

In a series of experiments led by Matthew Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana, volunteers tried to communicate a list of emotions by touching a blindfolded stranger. The participants were able to communicate eight distinct emotions, from gratitude to disgust to love, some with about 70 percent accuracy.

“We used to think that touch only served to intensify communicated emotions,” Dr. Hertenstein said. Now it turns out to be “a much more differentiated signaling system than we had imagined.”

To see whether a rich vocabulary of supportive touch is in fact related to performance, scientists at Berkeley recently analyzed interactions in one of the most physically expressive arenas on earth: professional basketball. Michael W. Kraus led a research team that coded every bump, hug and high five in a single game played by each team in the National Basketball Association early last season.

In a paper due out this year in the journal Emotion, Mr. Kraus and his co-authors, Cassy Huang and Dr. Keltner, report that with a few exceptions, good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones. The most touch-bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, currently two of the league’s top teams; at the bottom were the mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats.

The same was true, more or less, for players. The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, the Celtics’ star big man, followed by star forwards Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. “Within 600 milliseconds of shooting a free throw, Garnett has reached out and touched four guys,” Dr. Keltner said.

To correct for the possibility that the better teams touch more often simply because they are winning, the researchers rated performance based not on points or victories but on a sophisticated measure of how efficiently players and teams managed the ball — their ratio of assists to giveaways, for example. And even after the high expectations surrounding the more talented teams were taken into account, the correlation persisted. Players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent.

The study fell short of showing that touch caused the better performance, Dr. Kraus acknowledged. “We still have to test this in a controlled lab environment,” he said.

If a high five or an equivalent can in fact enhance performance, on the field or in the office, that may be because it reduces stress. A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”

“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”

The same is certainly true of partnerships, and especially the romantic kind, psychologists say. In a recent experiment, researchers led by Christopher Oveis of Harvard conducted five-minute interviews with 69 couples, prompting each pair to discuss difficult periods in their relationship.

The investigators scored the frequency and length of touching that each couple, seated side by side, engaged in. In an interview, Dr. Oveis said that the results were preliminary.

“But it looks so far like the couples who touch more are reporting more satisfaction in the relationship,” he said. Again, it’s not clear which came first, the touching or the satisfaction. But in romantic relationships, one has been known to lead to the other. Or at least, so the anecdotal evidence suggests.

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source: NY Times : nytimes.com
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February 27, 2010 Posted by | Cognition, General, Health Psychology, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Resilience | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faking Orgasm: Women AND Men do it! WHY?

Chances are that if you’ve been in a relationship, and you’re a woman, you’ve probably faked an orgasm. But did you know that men fake them too?

The research that brings us this important sexual discovery was conducted at the University of Kansas on 180 male and 101 female college students. The students completed an anonymous survey about their sexual habits.

Not surprisingly, some of the college students were still virgins — 15 percent of men and 32 percent of women surveyed had not yet had intercourse.

Of the students who had had sex, nearly 30 percent of men reported faking an orgasm, compared to 67 percent of women. Some of the participants admitted they also faked orgasm not only during regular sex, but during oral sex, manual stimulation and phone sex as well. The 67 percent number is comparable to past research, that has reported a similar percentage among women.

So why do we do it? Why fake an orgasm during intimacy, a time when you’d think we be putting our social masks aside

The researchers asked these college students that question, and the most frequently reported reasons were:

* Orgasm was unlikely. — Sometimes it’s just not going to happen, and although this seems to be a more common issue amongst women, it can also happen with men. Especially if alcohol is involved.41S1BZZ2V9L

* They wanted sex to end. — Closely linked to an orgasm is unlikely, sometimes a partner will want to keep having sex until their partner finishes. A fake orgasm brings sex to an end quickly.

* They wanted to avoid negative consequences. — Most people don’t want to hurt another person’s feelings, and that’s no more the case than with our romantic partner. A fake orgasm avoids the negative consequences of having another person feel badly that they didn’t perform “well enough” to bring the other person to climax.

* They wanted to please their partner. — Faking an orgasm shows that you care about your partner’s feelings of performance and self-esteem. Or so said the people who filled out the survey.

Why would an orgasm be unlikely or why would one want sex to end more quickly? Well, sometimes we’re not always in the same place sexually as our partner. So we agree to sex because we feel guilty or to put an end to the nagging. Or perhaps we agreed to have sex to help relieve stress, only to find it didn’t quite help in the way we had hoped. An orgasm is unlikely if your partner is stressed, not turned on, feels tired, or is put off by you or the relationship in some way. A faked orgasm during such times helps end the sex more quickly, without making your partner feel bad.

The researchers found that the responses suggested a sexual “script” that most of us follow, or would like to follow. Boy meets girl, girl takes boy to bed, girl has an orgasm before the boy. And the boy is response for the girl’s orgasm (although not as much, vice-a-versa). Faking an orgasm is a predictable response to this set of expectations, to ensure the “script” goes as smoothly as possible.

Reference:

Muehlenhard CL. & Shippee SK. (2009). Men’s and Women’s Reports of Pretending Orgasm. J Sex Res, 5, 1-16.

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Text by Dr. John Grohol  CEO and founder of Psych Central.
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September 18, 2009 Posted by | Health Psychology, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Sex & Sexuality, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Watch What They’re Watching:Children Viewing Adult-targeted TV May Become Sexually Active Earlier In Life

Early onset of sexual activity among teens may relate to the amount of adult content children were exposed to during their childhood, according to a new study released by Children’s Hospital Boston. Based on a longitudinal study tracking children from age six to eighteen, researchers found that the younger children are exposed to content intended for adults in television and movies, the earlier they become sexually active during adolescence. The findings are being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meetings on Monday, May 4 in Baltimore.

“Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents,” says Hernan Delgado, MD, fellow in the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston and lead author of the study. “Our research shows that their sexual attitudes and expectations are influenced much earlier in life.”

The study consisted of 754 participants, 365 males and 389 females, who were tracked during two stages in life: first during childhood, and again five years later when their ages ranged from 12 to 18-years-old. At each stage, the television programs and movies viewed, and the amount of time spent watching them over a sample weekday and weekend day were logged. The program titles were used to determine what content was intended for adults. The participants’ onset of sexual activity was then tracked during the second stage.9780345505071

According to the findings, when the youngest children in the sample–ages 6 to 8-years-old–were exposed to adult-targeted television and movies, they were more likely to have sex earlier when compared those who watched less adult-targeted content. The study found that for every hour the youngest group of children watched adult-targeted content over the two sample days, their chances of having sex during early adolescence increased by 33 percent. Meanwhile, the reverse was not found to be true that is, becoming sexually active in adolescence did not subsequently increase youth’s viewing of adult-targeted television and movies.

“Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships. Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain,” adds David Bickham, PhD, staff scientist in the Center on Media and Child Health and co-author of the study. “Children learn from media, and when they watch media with sexual references and innuendos, our research suggests they are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life.”

The researchers encourage parents to follow current American Academy of Pediatrics viewing guidelines such as no television in the bedroom, no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time a day, and to co-view television programs and have an open dialogue about its content with your children. They also suggest that–while the results demonstrate a longitudinal relationship–more research needs be done to understand how media influences children’s growing awareness of human relationships and sexual behavior.

“Adolescent sexual behaviors may be influenced at a younger age, but this is just one area we studied,” adds Dr. Delgado. “We showed how adult media impacts children into adolescence, yet there are a number of other themes in adult television shows and movies, like violence and language, whose influence also needs to be tracked from childhood to adolescence.”

The study was funded by support by grants from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and the Center on Media and Child Health.

Children’s Hospital Boston is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 13 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children’s Hospital Boston today is a 397-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children’s also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

Source: MedicalNewsToday.com, Children’s Hospital Boston

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September 10, 2009 Posted by | Adolescence, Child Behavior, Education, Intimate Relationshps, Parenting, Sex & Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Borderline Personality Disorder: What’s with the Name & Just What Is It?

I have had a number of requests by email and on Twitter about Borderline Personality Disorder, its name, its presentation, its treatment and its psycho-genesis. Below is a brief post which I think covers most of these questions in outline form. I am open to suggestions as to which, if any areas readers would like to discuss in more detail. A small collection of books on BPD which I recommend to patients, carers, significant others and counsellors can be found here, most with reader reviews. I would be happy to hear of others, and I will also add a few more over the next few days.

What’s with the name?51RzQ0P9lvL

The term “borderline” was first used by early psychiatrists to describe people who were thought to be on the “border” between diagnoses. At the time, the system for diagnosing mental illness was far less sophisticated than it is today, and “borderline” referred to individuals who did not fit neatly into the two broad categories of mental disorder: psychosis or neurosis.

Today, far more is known about BPD, and it is no longer thought of as being related to psychotic disorders (and the term “neurosis” is no longer used in our diagnostic system). Instead, BPD is recognized as a disorder characterized by intense emotional experiences and instability in relationships and behavior.

Many experts are now calling for BPD to be renamed, because the term “borderline” is outdated and because, unfortunately, the name has been used in a stigmatizing way in the past. Suggestions for the new name have included: “Emotion Dysregulation Disorder,” Unstable Personality Disorder,” and “Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual’s sense of self-identity. Originally thought to be at the “borderline” of psychosis, people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation. While less well known than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), BPD is more common, affecting 2 percent of adults, mostly young women.1 There is a high rate of self-injury without suicide intent, as well as a significant rate of suicide attempts and completed suicide in severe cases.2,3 Patients often need extensive mental health services, and account for 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations.4 Yet, with help, many improve over time and are eventually able to lead productive lives.

Symptoms

While a person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day.5 These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse. Distortions in cognition and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone.

41yVtFwvk2LPeople with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Thus, they may form an immediate attachment and idealize the other person, but when a slight separation or conflict occurs, they switch unexpectedly to the other extreme and angrily accuse the other person of not caring for them at all. Even with family members, individuals with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection, reacting with anger and distress to such mild separations as a vacation, a business trip, or a sudden change in plans. These fears of abandonment seem to be related to difficulties feeling emotionally connected to important persons when they are physically absent, leaving the individual with BPD feeling lost and perhaps worthless. Suicide threats and attempts may occur along with anger at perceived abandonment and disappointments.

People with BPD exhibit other impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex. BPD often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.

Treatment

Treatments for BPD have improved in recent years. Group and individual psychotherapy are at least partially effective for many patients. Within the past 15 years, a new psychosocial treatment termed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed specifically to treat BPD, and this technique has looked promising in treatment studies.6 Pharmacological treatments are often prescribed based on specific target symptoms shown by the individual patient. Antidepressant drugs and mood stabilizers may be helpful for depressed and/or labile mood. Antipsychotic drugs may also be used when there are distortions in thinking.7

Recent Research Findings

Although the cause of BPD is unknown, both environmental and genetic factors are thought to play a role in predisposing patients to BPD symptoms and traits. Studies show that many, but not all individuals with BPD report a history of abuse, neglect, or separation as young children.8 Forty to 71 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused, usually by a non-caregiver.9 Researchers believe that BPD results from a combination of individual vulnerability to environmental stress, neglect or abuse as young children, and a series of events that trigger the onset of the disorder as young adults. Adults with BPD are also considerably more likely to be the victim of violence, including rape and other crimes. This may result from both harmful environments as well as impulsivity and poor judgement in choosing partners and lifestyles.

NIMH-funded neuroscience research is revealing brain mechanisms underlying the impulsivity, mood instability, aggression, anger, and negative emotion seen in BPD. Studies suggest that people predisposed to impulsive aggression have impaired regulation of the neural circuits that modulate emotion.10 The amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure deep inside the brain, is an important component of the circuit that regulates negative emotion. In response to signals from other brain centers indicating a perceived threat, it marshals fear and arousal. This might be more pronounced under the influence of drugs like alcohol, or stress. Areas in the front of the brain (pre-frontal area) act to dampen the activity of this circuit. Recent brain imaging studies show that individual differences in the ability to activate regions of the prefrontal cerebral cortex thought to be involved in inhibitory activity predict the ability to suppress negative emotion.11

Serotonin, norepinephrine and acetylcholine are among the chemical messengers in these circuits that play a role in the regulation of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and irritability. Drugs that enhance brain serotonin function may improve emotional symptoms in BPD. Likewise, mood-stabilizing drugs that are known to enhance the activity of GABA, the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter, may help people who experience BPD-like mood swings. Such brain-based vulnerabilities can be managed with help from behavioral interventions and medications, much like people manage susceptibility to diabetes or high blood pressure.7

Future Progress

Studies that translate basic findings about the neural basis of temperament, mood regulation, and cognition into clinically relevant insights which bear directly on BPD represent a growing area of NIMH-supported research. Research is also underway to test the efficacy of combining medications with behavioral treatments like DBT, and gauging the effect of childhood abuse and other stress in BPD on brain hormones. Data from the first prospective, longitudinal study of BPD, which began in the early 1990s, is expected to reveal how treatment affects the course of the illness. It will also pinpoint specific environmental factors and personality traits that predict a more favorable outcome. The Institute is also collaborating with a private foundation to help attract new researchers to develop a better understanding and better treatment for BPD.

References

1Swartz M, Blazer D, George L, Winfield I. Estimating the prevalence of borderline personality disorder in the community. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1990; 4(3): 257-72.

2Soloff PH, Lis JA, Kelly T, Cornelius J, Ulrich R. Self-mutilation and suicidal behavior in borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1994; 8(4): 257-67.

3Gardner DL, Cowdry RW. Suicidal and parasuicidal behavior in borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 1985; 8(2): 389-403.

4Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR. Treatment histories of borderline inpatients. Comprehensive Psychiatry, in press.

5Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR, DeLuca CJ, Hennen J, Khera GS, Gunderson JG. The pain of being borderline: dysphoric states specific to borderline personality disorder. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 1998; 6(4): 201-7.

6Koerner K, Linehan MM. Research on dialectical behavior therapy for patients with borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2000; 23(1): 151-67.

7Siever LJ, Koenigsberg HW. The frustrating no-mans-land of borderline personality disorder. Cerebrum, The Dana Forum on Brain Science, 2000; 2(4).

8Zanarini MC, Frankenburg. Pathways to the development of borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1997; 11(1): 93-104.

9Zanarini MC. Childhood experiences associated with the development of borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2000; 23(1): 89-101.

10Davidson RJ, Jackson DC, Kalin NH. Emotion, plasticity, context and regulation: perspectives from affective neuroscience. Psychological Bulletin, 2000; 126(6): 873-89.

11Davidson RJ, Putnam KM, Larson CL. Dysfunction in the neural circuitry of emotion regulation – a possible prelude to violence. Science, 2000; 289(5479): 591-4.

Bernstein, PhD, David P., Iscan, MD, Cuneyt, Maser, PhD, Jack, Board of Directors, Association for Research in Personality Disorder, & Board of Directors, International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders. “Opinions of personality disorder experts regarding the DSM-IV Personality Disorders classification system.” Journal of Personality Disorders, 21: 536-551, October 2007.
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Sources: about.com and nimh.gov.org

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Intimate Relationshps, Personality Disorder | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment