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Psychology Research...Unraveled

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10 Years of Torture, What's Next?

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (56)
For the last 48 hours the country has been fascinated by the story of three women and one child who were held captive as sex slaves for over 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio. The story broke on Monday night (May 6, 2013) after Amanda Berry, 27, had the courage and tenacity to escape and get help.  Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, also escaped shortly after Berry.

According to one of  the women, they were kidnapped and raped for over a decade by three  brothers, Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro. Aside from a number of miscarriages and extremely rare access to the outside world, the women were subjected to psychological abuse, according to City Councilman Brian Cummins. 

It is unclear right now exactly what type of psychological abuse the women suffered; however, it would be surprising to hear that the abuse was anything less than severe and intense. Keep in mind that when these women were kidnapped, two of them were minors. Being in captivity for 10 years puts Berry and DeJesus at 17 and 13 years old, respectively. Even though Knight was 22 at the time of her kidnapping, she was still relatively young.

For all intents and purposes, these women were impressionable babies when they were first kidnapped. It is traumatizing enough to be taken from your family, but to be raped repeated FOR 10 YEARS is extreme trauma. Additionally, for some of these women, this terrible ordeal may have been their first sexual experience. 

Just think back...while you were carelessly going to the grocery store or laughing with your children on a playground, three women were being held against their wills wondering if they would ever see their families again. Think of all of birthdays (theirs and family members'), holidays and special days that they missed. Did Amanda Berry even know that her mother passed away a year after she was kidnapped from heart failure?

They have a lot of psychological work ahead of them. Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been roommates, friends and each others' protectors for a decade. It is highly probable that these women bonded over their experience and had a hard time leaving each other, even if it meant freedom. Psychologically speaking, being protective of each other was probably one of the factors that contributed to them not being able to escape sooner. If one escaped, what would happen to the other two when the kidnappers found out? What if the escapee couldn't get back in time?

Now, the women are going to have to create a new normal. They are going to have to learn how the world works and where they fit in. They are going to have to learn how to relate to others and trust again, which may prove to be incredibly difficult.

The only thing that won't be difficult in this entire situation is a jury figuring out what to do with those three brothers.

Psychology Is Everywhere!

The Psychology of Addiction: Jump, Jump to the Other Side

Posted on May 4, 2013 at 11:48 AM Comments comments (27)
On Wednesday of this week it was reported that teenage rapper, Chris Kelly, died of an alleged drug overdose at the age of 34. Kelly, whose talent was discovered in an Atlanta, GA mall, was reportedly found in his home unresponsive by a friend. That same friend told police that the Kris Kross rapper from the early 90's, had taken a mixture of cocaine and heroin, or a speedball, the night before.

Addiction specialists and substance abusers know that speedballing is a deadly practice. The allure of speedballing stems from the effects that each of the drugs has on the brain and body. 

Heroin, which can be smoked, snorted or injected, is a depressant. It literally depresses, or slows down the brain and its functions. It also has pain relief effects, which is why some chronic pain patients often get addicted to morphine, a prescription medication which is essentially a smaller, legalized dose of heroin. 

Cocaine, on the other hand, is a stimulant. This means that it has essentially the exact opposite effects as heroin. It speeds up brain functions and gives you a feeling of euphoria. The majority of your bodily functions get instructions from your brain (with the exception of reflexes). In other words, there is a part of your brain that tells your heart to beat. When high on cocaine, the drug sends messages to the brain, which sends messages to the body to increase functions like heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. 

Obviously, taking drugs that have such extreme and opposite effects on the brain, which controls the body, can send both into shock. This shock can ultimately cause the brain, body or both to shutdown.

Even though there is controversy on this topic, addiction is considered a medical and psychological disorder. Some professionals have argued that categorizing addiction as a medical disorder as we would a heart murmur or arthritis, is a miscategorization because, unlike the latter disorders, addiction is a choice.

While addicts may choose their disease, most of them certainly don't choose for it to get out of control. Once they start abusing the drug, they need more and more of it to get the same effects. This is called building up a tolerance to the drug. In other words, even though you may have started snorting 1mg of cocaine, three years later you will need a lot more of it to get the euphoric effects that you got during the first use. 

Additionally, the more you use, the more worried you get about the effects of stopping. A lot of addicts are concerned that their withdrawal process will be unbearable. 

Professionals who support the idea that addiction is a medical disease argue that, like other diseases, it changes bodily functions; therefore, it should be considered a medical problem. Of course, chronic drug abuse effects the body in a number of ways, the ultimate of which is death. 

Psychologists weigh in for two reasons. First, chronic drug abuse not only changes bodily functioning, but it also changes brain chemistry. Secondly, chronic drug abuse is considered a psychological disorder because of how addiction gets started. Sometimes people use drugs recreationally because they were pressured into it or because they were bored; however, no one starts abusing drugs on a regular basis because their lives are going well. 

Addicts are master avoiders. They abuse drugs to avoid pain and feeling, and the job of a psychologist who works in addictions is to help former addicts figure out what they are trying not to feel and slowly begin the feeling process. 

If psychological treatment goes well, psychologists help the addict come to the realization that, while feeling negative emotions hurts at times, when you are high you can't feel anything...the good or the bad. Some addicts come to this realization, get sober and start anew. Others never get it.

If the report is true, Chris Kelly may have never gotten the chance to Jump, Jump to the other side. 

Psychology IEverywhere!

Why Catherine Zeta Jones Shouldn't Be In the Headlines

Posted on May 1, 2013 at 11:01 PM Comments comments (25)
Every day millions of Americans deal with Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder. Earlier this week, Catherine Zeta Jones was admitted to a mental hospital after another flare up of Bipolar II Disorder, which is marked by an inability to maintain a stable mood. 

Most times, the human brain naturally produces the chemicals that it needs to keep your mood relatively stable. This doesn't mean that you don't have ups and downs to your mood; everyone does. However, people who have enough of the right chemicals, or neurotransmitters, understand what has affected their moods and why. Additionally, when you have an adequate amount of neurotransmitters, your mood doesn't fluctuate with minute problems. For example, not making it to the post office in time doesn't send you into a tailspin. You may be disappointed, but the feeling passes momentarily.

People who have been diagnosed with Bipolar I or II don't have the right amount of neurotransmitters in their brains; therefore, their mood often lives at two extremes (hence the term bi-meaning two and polar-meaning ends). They have trouble predicting what is going to send them into the a state of depression. Additionally, they don't know when that state of depression will be over. As if depression isn't enough, they also experience extreme highs.

Bipolar I Disorder is a disease that includes depression and mania. Mania is a state of exhilaration and excitement that lasts for about one week. Bipolar II includes the same depressive symptoms; however, it also presents hypomanic symptoms. Hypomanic episodes are different from manic episodes in their duration. That is, hypomanic episodes don't last as long.

Mental health concerns affect the entire family system, and they can be scary. As important as it is to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness, it is just as important to respect someone's privacy. Hence my question:  why is Catherine Zeta Jones going to a mental hospital news?

Obviously, she has fans and they are concerned about her. However, this "headline" seems to be invasive. Jones made it very clear on Good Morning America that this is not the platform that she wanted. Just like there is a coming out process to homosexuality and other social minorities, there is a coming out process for people with mental illness. Not everyone wants to shout to the world that they are living with Male Erectile Dysfunction, which can be a psychological disorder. Not everyone wants to talk to others who are suffering with social anxiety.

We need to send positive energy Catherine's way so that she feels better and finds a treatment regimen that keeps her as stable as possible for as long as possible. We also need to keep in mind that she is not bipolar; she has bipolar. People aren't disorders; they have disorders.

Catherine Zeta Jones is a lot of things...wife, mother, accomplished actress, daughter...

Bipolar is no where on that list, and shouldn't be. 

Psychology IEverywhere!

Will You Have Tattoo Regret?

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 8:09 PM Comments comments (68)
Human beings have the most complex brains on the face of the earth, so it makes sense that creativity and self expression flow naturally from us. We express ourselves in a myriad of ways like singing, dancing, writing poetry, playing an instrument, cooking/baking, drawing, painting...tattooing?

Nowadays everyone is using tattoos to express themselves. It's a way to show the world who you are without saying a word. If you love ladybugs, then you get ladybugs tattooed crawling down your back. If you love Jesus, then you get a cross plastered on your arm. If you love your kids, then you get their names forever painted on your wrists. Tattoos have become an outward expression of what is near and dear to you.

In theory, this makes sense. If something is important to you, then permanently placing it on your body would demonstrate your level of commitment to that person or thing. The only problem with this theory is that as you change, what is near and dear to you changes, and eventually you may just end up with a dreaded case of tattoo regret.

It's not a clinical diagnosis, but it's definitely real. Thousands of older adults (35+ years old) are affected by the passions that they held "back in the day" as younger adults. Interestingly, 18-34 year olds have the uncanny ability to believe that how I feel now is how I will always feel. It's actually a hallmark of their psychological development, and it's been that way since the beginning of time. So people haven't changed. However, our access has changed. Now, ordinary citizens have easy access to tattoo parlors and artists 24 hours-a-day.

Unfortunately, how you feel at 17 is most likely not how you will feel at 37. I know it feels like you will love Sarah forever, even if you break up, but you really won't. Just consider Johnny Depp who got a 'Winona Forever' tattoo. It turns out, she's not forever. As an aside, he has since changed the tattoo to read, 'Wino Forever.'

You may be thinking, but I will always love Jesus, so tattoo regret doesn't apply to me. Actually, you are only partially right. You may always love Jesus. However, by the time that you reach 50 years old you just might have learned that having a tattoo of a cross doesn't make you any more of a Christian than someone who doesn't have one. Furthermore, you may have read more of the Bible by 50 and know that God has actually addressed the issue of tattoos in the Old Testament. Leviticus 19:28 says, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord." 

Let's hope that you always love your children. However, getting a tattoo isn't going to make your children feel loved by you. Memorializing a loved one with a tattoo isn't going to keep that person's memory alive. If you want to show someone that you love him/her, why not love deeply, forgive quickly and surprise often? Tattoos can't do any of these things.

It makes sense that young adults want to shout to the world, "I'm here and this is what I believe in." Every generation has done so. Young American women in the 40's went to work to support their families while their husbands were at war, an unprecedented move. Young blacks staged sit-ins in an effort to combat racial discrimination in the 60's, which ultimately changed the trajectory of our country. And, young women of the 70's burned their bras to protest the social inequity between genders. 

Expressing yourself is a natural part of the psychological growth process. However, as you change psychologically, your priorities change...but tattoos don't. Also, your ability to deal with pain may decrease as you get older, so getting tattoos removed may cost you more than they were actually worth.

Psychology IEverywhere!

New Option For Unwanted Pregnancies

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 9:33 PM Comments comments (20)
Within several weeks you could go to Walgreens to get some cough medicine, vitamins, bandages...and emergency contraception?! Yup! Late last week a judge ruled in favor of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowing the Plan B pill, also known as the Morning After Pill, to be sold over-the-counter (OTC). As it is now, young women who are under 17 years old need to get a prescription for the drug, while women 17 and older can get the drug simply by requesting it from the pharmacy and showing their ID.

Plan B One-Step, which is sold as an emergency contraceptive and has very few side effects according to the FDA, stops a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine wall, which ultimately boils down to no pregnancy. The theory behind using the pill is that, when primary contraception fails (i.e., a condom breaks), a woman still has an option of preventing pregnancy. The catch is that you must take the pill within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.

Psychologically speaking, this is a triumph and a problem. As a psychologist who treats a lot of women with trauma histories (particularly rape and incest), I see the devastation that sexual violations bring. It is even more terrifying to think that your rape experience could result in a pregnancy. In this vein, the Plan B pill might offer some relief to women who are already traumatized.

Additionally, the drug offers an option to teenagers who have been sexually violated by male figures who still live in the home. As it stands, if Sandy's father rapes her and she becomes pregnant, she would have to get her mother or her father's permission to get access to this drug. While it would be a good thing to report this abuse, it means that she has to deal with the repercussions of her disclosure. 

Interestingly, a lot of concerns prohibit children from reporting their sexual abuse. Survivors of childhood sexual trauma have discussed fears like nobody will believe me (not even my mother) or the threats that dad made will come to fruition (i.e., "I will kill you if you tell."). Other concerns include worrying that others will blame them, fearing that dad will go to jail (often survivors of abuse love their abusers, but want the abuse to stop) or worrying that the family will be broken up.

However, there are some downsides to making this drug so readily available. People tend to change their behavior when they realize that things can be reversed. One concern is that women who know that they have this option will be more careless (or carefree) when it comes to having protected sex. In other words, is this pill going to become the new abortion? After all, there are some women who use abortion as a method of contraception.

Another concern is that women will miss the allotted time period (72 hours) and take the drug after the fertilized egg has already implanted. What this drug does to an unborn child has yet to be determined?

These are only questions that will be answered with time. In the meantime, we can celebrate for triumph for survivors of rape and incest and hold our breath for the drawbacks of this issue.

Psychology IEverywhere!

When Will This Be Over? Understanding Suicide

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 5:49 PM Comments comments (11)
This weekend we learned of sad news for Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California and author of The Purpose Driven Life. His son, Matthew Warren, committed suicide on Friday, April 5, 2013. Pastor Warren, who provided the opening prayer at President Barak Obama's first inaugration, sent a message to his congregation and staff asking for prayers.
 
The Saddleback Church, which has several church locations in southern California including the main location in Lake Forest, will deal with this tragedy "as a church family," according to Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at the church. Twenty-seven year old Matthew, who was the youngest of his three siblings, had been out with his parents just prior to shooting himself at home. According to his father, he had been battling depression for years and had been unsuccessfully treated.
 
Psychologists' hearts ache when someone commits suicide, even when we don't know the person. It is even more disheartening to hear people say things like, "The most selfish thing that you can do is commit suicide." Take it from someone who has treated murderers, drug users and dealers, and sex abusers, suicide is not the most selfish act that you can do.
 
Most people have never felt what it's like to wake up and realize that you may feel unbearable hopelessness and helplessness for the next 50 years. We're not talking about the person commits suicide to evade legal responsibility. We're talking about people who are plagued with questions like:
 
When will this end?
Why can't I experience the true happiness that others feel?
When is the cloud that is perpetually hanging over my head going to find another home?
Where are my sunny days?
 
Think about the level of despair that you would feel if you didn't enjoy anything. What would it be like to be in such emotional and physical pain (yes, a symptom of depression is physical pain) that all you could focus on was the day that it was over?
 
Fortunately, I have never felt these feelings for an extended period of time, but I have felt them. I experienced depressive symptoms during each of my three pregnancies in the first trimester, not after having my children (known as Post-partum Depression). For a lot of women, the drastic hormonal changes in your body during the first trimester can feel a lot like depression. I remember feeling unmovitated, indecisive, unhappy and drained. And, the scariest part of all was that I thought that those feelings would last throughout my pregnancy. Thank God I had a mentor who explained that those symptoms would probably lift when I got to my second trimester, and thank God she was right!
 
There was one big difference between the depressive symptoms that I felt when I was pregnant and Major Depressive Disorder. The difference was that I had the answers to those questions; Matthew probably didn't.
 
When will this end? When your second trimester starts
 
Why can't I experience the true happiness that others feel? Because you are pregnant...wait it out.
 
When is the cloud that is perpetually hanging over my head going to find another home? When your second trimester starts
 
Where are my sunny days? They are coming soon...just ___ more weeks.
 
For Matthew and millions of other people, the sunny days just can't come soon enough. And, it's hard to navigate in a sea of depression where you just can't seem to get your legs under you. Adding judgment to the mix, instead of empathy and compassion, doesn't help.
 
The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy. ~ Meryl Streep
 
Psychology IEverywhere!

Are You Burnt Out at Work?

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 3:09 PM Comments comments (13)

You might think that you are depressed or just a pessimistic person, but you may actually be burnt out. Every year millions of people are burnt out at work and don't know it. Most people think burn out is only related to your occupation; however, you can be burnt out at school or even in a relationship.   Check out information on article on burn out and measure yourself up.

Also, consider the other parts of your life where you may be burnt out. Taking care of yourself is the best gif that you can give the ones who love you.

Based on your occupation, where would you say you are on the burn out meter?
I'm off the charts.0%
I'm at the top...I can't take any more.0%
I'm quickly approaching the top...and I need to slow down.0%
I'm no where near burnt out.0%



















Psychology Is Everywhere!

Is Amanda Bynes Going Crazy?

Posted on April 5, 2013 at 11:07 PM Comments comments (21)
Geez, you have to feel sorry for Amanda Bynes these days. If you tune into her musings on Twitter, she seems to be in a lot of emotional turmoil lately.

The 26 year-old actress, who has been "working" in television since she was 7 and starred in her own Nickelodeon show for three years, has been pretty outspoken about her disdain for bloggers and tabloids. Aside from her request that "@drake...murder my vagina,” she has been talking about her struggles with healthy eating.

She indicated that she is pursuing legal action against "...certain blogs and magazines [for] saying I have a mental illness!...I have an eating disorder so I have a hard time staying thin." Instead of being concerned about her invasion of privacy, she is more concerned with being labeled as "crazy." 

Poor girl. It would be helpful if a professional explained to her that an eating disorder is considered mental illness. There are three different eating disorders currently recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association

Bulimia Nervosa, which is a mental illness that involves binging on high calorie foods in a short amount of time and then purging that food somehow, is one ED. Purging behaviors include vomiting food after it is consumed, excessively exercising after eating or taking laxatives to name a few.  

Anorexia Nervosa is another eating disorder. Symptoms of this mental illness include restricting caloric intake so much that there is a failure to maintain at least 85% of your appropriate body weight.

Lastly, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) includes all of the symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa without the purging. Therefore, people with this disorder binge on food, but don't use any elimination tactics to rid their bodies of the food.

While eating disorders definitely have a medical component, they are certainly listed among the 400+ disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition-Text Revision). Bynes doesn't go into detail about which eating disorder she has; however, it is clear that she is concerned about being seen as mentally ill. The irony here is that her Twitter rants make her look more psychotic than having an eating disorder does. By the way, eating disorders don't have anything to do with having a hard time "staying thin." The issues at the heart of eating disorders include control, an unattainable quest for perfection and a poor self image.

Amanda, sweetheart, don't worry about what others think of you. It's really none of your business. Just work on getting well. Anorexia has the highest rate of mortality of all of the psychiatric disorders (around 20%). This means that more people die from this psychiatric disorder than any other mental illness. Lastly, use an actual journal to journal your reactions to the media so that it really doesn't look like you have lost your mind.

What Activity Can Decrease Your Risk of Cancer?

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 10:56 AM Comments comments (29)
The benefits of breastfeeding just keep rolling in. You may already know that 'breast is best' when it comes to the health of your baby. Research shows that breast milk has nutrients in it that strengthen a baby's immune system, which is extremely important for our little cuties.

Think of your immune system as your body's army. When another country even thinks about attacking America, we send our troops to meet them to the shores, boarders and invisible airways of our country to stop them. Sometimes, we even have to kill others to prevent them from hurting us. 

Your immune system acts in the same way. Any time bacteria gets into your body and tries to take over your organs, which could result in some type of infection, your immune system sends cells to meet and destroy the bacteria before the little buggers affect too much of you.

Having a strong immune system is important for everyone; however, it is extremely important to our vulnerable populations (i.e., babies, older people, and those who may have physical difficulties or chronic illnesses). Unfortunately, a baby's immune system is hard at work nearly every waking moment because almost everything that they encounter goes into the pie hole.

Aside from a healthy immune system, research has connected breastfed babies to having higher IQs, lower rates of obesity as they develop and less ear infections. Also, breastfeeding offers bonding time between mom and baby, which hugely important for attachment.

There's more great news! Breastfeeding has been linked to lower rates of a number of diseases in moms too! Moms who breastfed for at least six months were found to have lower rates of heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes. If you are a young woman with a history of cancer in your family, you may want to seriously weigh the benefits and drawbacks of breastfeeding. 

As a mom of two boys who were breastfed for six months, the biggest drawback that I found was that no one else could feed my little ones. Breastfeeding can get draining, so with my first son, who ate every two hours for the first four weeks of his life, his pediatrician suggested that I incorporate pumping once per day (when he was three weeks old) and let my husband feed him. This gave me a four-hour break every evening. I would breastfeed at 6 p.m. and then immediately pump. Then my husband would feed him at 8 p.m. from a bottle and I didn't have to feed from the breast again until 10 p.m. What a relief! However, you should be careful about incorporating a bottle too early because it can confuse some little ones.

Interestingly, I ran a weekly psycho-educational group for pregnant women for about one year and the one perk to breastfeeding that really got my pregnant ladies excited is that your menstrual cycle doesn't start back up until you are done breastfeeding. Therefore, you can extend your menstrual cycle break from 40 weeks (during pregnancy) to 64 weeks (40 weeks of pregnancy plus 24 weeks of breastfeeding).

The list of benefits to breastfeeding keeps growing for babies and moms, so carefully consider your feeding plan.

Happy Feeding!