News Blog

Apr 22

Extreme Texting in the Formative Years Can Inhibit Child Development

Talking on the phone is passé. You know it, the phone company knows it, and most of all our kids—and grandkids—know it. Texting is the new norm. Interpersonal relations have become the stuff of keystrokes rather than face-to-face emotion. Why? Several reasons, the first of which is that we can. 2. Actually talking on the phone requires more energy than texting—all that listening and evoking. 3. By putting more space between us texting emboldens and gives us a feeling of more control. Time is also factor in this arrangement. We text, we wait, we read, we think, we reply—or maybe we don’t. This back and forth time delay takes us just enough out of the moment such that we are able to communicate more accurately the thoughts and emotions we want to.

  Conflict resolution issues also benefit from a little extra time to formulate calmer, more reasoned responses. The downside of texting is that it diminishes our ability to articulately read exactly where our fellow texter is “coming from.” Is Mom really happy Dad wants you to stay with him an extra night this weekend or is she just faking it? Is Dad really mad you want to go home a day early or is he just kidding? Are they happy about being mad or mad at being happy? Maybe they are really furious but pretending to be indifferent? Are they hurt? Because you are not able to watch their bodies and look into their oxytocin eyes you can’t really be sure. You are only 7 years old and you are just too young and you don’t know, so the conflict remains open-ended.

  A fundamental component of child conflict resolution skills starts with an authentic interpretation of what is going down. Young kids in the formative years need to learn how to accurately interpret the correct, honest emotions of others. If there is conflict going on they need to be able to look into the eyes of that person where they can get a more honest read. According to developmental psychologists this is the problem with too much texting. 7 year olds aren’t able to extrapolate complicated human emotion during texting sessions. They just aren’t there yet. Their interpersonal skills are just forming; they are not as capable of emotional assessment without fundamental body language cues.

  MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle is doing a lot of research on this subject. She believes that having a conversation with another person teaches kids to, in effect, have a conversation with themselves—to think and reason and self-reflect. “That particular skill is bedrock of development,” She says.

  “Saying you are sorry and hitting send is the best example of what is wrong with communicating honest emotion via texts. A full-scale apology means I know I’ve hurt you; I get to see that in your eyes. You get to see that I’m uncomfortable, and with that, the compassion response kicks in. There are many steps and they’re all bypassed when we text.” Phone apologies are not perfect but they are better. Even though the visuals are not there the voice is, and much can be garnered from that.

  To be sure, texting an apology from afar is part of texts appeal. It softens the blow. Adult texters, especially shy ones, can navigate their relationships from the confines of their texting “space” to the point where they recede deeper and deeper into their comfort zones that looks a lot like emotional agoraphobia. Hiding and functionally afraid to converse, their lives could almost be said to exist at a point somewhere between being and nothingness. Turkle says, “I talk to kids and they describe their fear of conversation. An 18-year-old I interviewed recently said, ‘Someday, but certainly not now, I want to learn to have a conversation.’”

  In their formative years children need all of the nonverbal visual cues they can get their eyes on. That’s why they are so easy to manipulate with lies like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and Santa. Children are functionally illiterate when it comes to the subtitles of facial inflection and expressions. That only comes with face time and a lot of experience. To deprive your kids of this in the formative years is to jip them of a very valuable skill set and possibly foster even more shyness.

  Texting is here to stay and that is a good thing. It has miraculously brought us back to a lifestyle of writing words to communicate. This epistolary—letter writing—tradition is marvelous; however it is not a substitute for the real thing, especially with shy children. They should be encouraged put down the phone and spend more face time even if it is only on Skype. Too much texting, Turkle warns, amounts to a life of “hiding in plain sight.”
Apr 21

Selfie obsession, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and depression quiz

Practically everyone is snapping pictures of themselves these days, in every imaginable context, even some very dangerous ones. 5 hours ago a 19 year old kid from North America vacationing in South America nearly got run down by a train taking a selfie. He would have been clipped and probably killed had the conductor not kicked him away in the nick of time. Selfie production —via still or video—is the fastest way to fill social network sites—Facebook, tumbler, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest oh and let’s not forget Google Plus—with absolute evidence that you are one good looking, fascinating, courageous, kinky, multidimensional, crazy, cool . . . . person, right?

Not if you do it all the time. Let’s clarify something here. Selfie addiction is not an addiction. It is the symptom of a pathology that has been linked to past bullying and low self-esteem called BDD, Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Another poster boy for this affliction is a 15 year old kid who has been on the news for taking up to 80 selfies before leaving for school in the morning. As his addiction worsened, he lost weight (binging only on selfies) and dropped out of school. He eventually attempted suicide with an overdose of pills. He wanted to be a model and his Facebook friends told him his body was all wrong and he had bad skin. Describing this as sad denies the word substance. It is positively scary.

Are you one of those people who go crazy taking selfies? If so your narcissism has just found another way to run amuck. Not sure? Take the quiz below. Young people today have enough technical ability to be their own one person production team. With this ability to photograph, edit, and score almost any image or short vid they can mount daily productions of their lives. The effect of this ability is that they are now in a position to morph and re-morph into a constantly different identity, effectively redefining themselves for instant feedback from sites like Facebook. Men and women, boys and girls with Body Dysmorphic Disorder are then being trapped into believing appearance is their only value. Selfies have become the way to check for flaws. Other compulsive repetitive behaviors designed to hide or improve perceived physical flaws are: constantly checking in a mirror, excessive grooming, excessive exercise, constantly changing cloths, comparing your body parts to other people’s body parts. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you might have BDD.

  1. Are you very concerned about the appearance of some part(s) of your body which you consider especially unattractive?
    If yes: Do these concerns preoccupy you? That is, do you think about them a lot and wish you could worry less?
  2. How much time do you spend thinking about your defect(s) per day on average? Add up all the time you spend on this.
    Less than 1 hour a day
    1-3 hours a day
    More than 3 hours a day
  3. Is your main concern with how you look that you aren't thin enough or that you might become too fat?
  4. What effect has your preoccupation with your appearance had on your life?
    a. Has your defect(s) often caused you a lot of distress, torment, or emotional pain?
    b. Has your defect(s) often significantly interfered with your social life?
    c. Has your defect(s) often significantly interfered with your school work, your job, or your ability to function in your role (e.g., as a homemaker)?
    d. Are there things you avoid because of your defect(s)?

You're likely to have BDD if you gave the following answers: Question 1: Yes to both parts Question 2: Answer b or c Question 3: While a "yes" answer may indicate that BDD is present, it is possible that an eating disorder is a more accurate diagnosis Question 4: Yes to any of the questions. Please note that the above questions are intended to screen for BDD, not diagnose it; the answers indicated above can suggest that BDD is present but can't necessarily give a definitive diagnosis.

Effective treatments are available to help BDD sufferers live full, productive lives. On such therapy is Cognitive-behavior therapy. CBT teaches patients how to recognize irrational thoughts and change negative thinking patterns. Patients learn to identify unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving and replace them with positive ones. CBT has had a measure of success but doesn’t work for everyone. The second mode of treatment is ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT incorporates the core concepts of mindfulness, acceptance and value based living.

Another way to go is antidepressant medications. The most popular for BDD are the SSRI’s because of their ability to address the obsessive and compulsive symptoms. Natural ssri’s include St. John’s wort and Sceletium Tortuosum. Click on this link for a complete list of all natural antidepressant options.
Apr 01

Sceletium Tortuosum Homeopathic with neurotransmitter cofactors

Have you ever walked into a room and forgot why you were there? We all have. It’s called having too much on your mind, or being tired, or maybe one of your medications is causing a little memory slip. For example, if you are taking Paxil for depression, Tagamet for heartburn, Ditropan for an overly active bladder, an ACE inhibitor for high blood pressure, Claritin or any non-sedating antihistamine for a cold or allergy you can become forgetful. Maybe you are drinking too much alcohol? Forgetfulness can also be a sign of depression. Maybe it is just garden variety stress and anxiety over a protracted period of time?

Too be sure, stress can encumber brain function in a major way. Among other things, stress releases cortisol. Cortisol gets a lot of bad press but like all good antiheros it isn’t all bad. A little cortisol is actually good, especially when it is releasing insulin for your blood sugar maintenance, triggering your immune function, lowering your sensitivity to pain and giving you a quick burst of energy. Not so much when it causes you to take on belly fat and elevating your risk of heart disease or affecting your ability to remember things and think straight.

Initially, stress and anxiety releases adrenaline into our bloodstream, cortisol comes second. Adrenaline is largely responsible for the immediate reactions we feel when stressed. We have all had close calls driving the car and felt our hearts instantly rev to 8000 rpm, sweat to instantly pop and experienced wilder breathing. That's adrenaline. Cortisol needs more time, minutes, rather than seconds. Releasing cortisol is a multi-phase progression involving two other hormones as well. Once our amygdala (subcortical brain structure linked to fear and pleasure responses) recognizes a threat it sends a message to the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that produces hormones that control body temperature, hunger, moods . . .) which releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which instructs our pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which orders the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

But, and here’s the rub, adrenaline exits fast, about two minutes. Cortisol remains in your body much longer than adrenaline does which is why it has more time to negatively affect brain cells. When we stew on some problem cortisol chronically elevates, washing into the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that manages working memory, attention, judgment and decision making. A few days of stress is one thing, a few weeks, months or a lifestyle that causes constant cortisol release will take its toll on every aspect of your life.

The good news is that experiments based on cortisol lowering behaviors and side effect free medications like the Homeopathic Sceletium Tortuosum with neurotransmitter cofactors can reverse memory impairment and depression issues. "Ducks walk out of a lake, flap their wings and they fly off." "When you face something stressful, particularly if it's is likely to repeat, it will have a long term negative impact on your emotional and physical health. Don’t become attached to it. It is not noble. Like water off that ducks back, shake it off and move on with your life."

Mar 10

St. John's Wort and Health Belief Model

History and Orientation

The Health Belief Model (HBM) is a psychological model that attempts to explain and predict health behaviors based on an individuals attitudes and beliefs of individuals. It was first developed in the 1950s by social psychologists employed by the U.S. Public Health Services. The most recent work has been executed to explore the long- and short-term health behaviors affiliated with sexually risky behaviors such as HIV/AIDS transmission.

Core Assumptions and Statements

The HBM is based on the understanding that a person will take a health-related action (i.e., take St. John's wort) if they:
  1. Feel they are experiencing feelings of depression can be avoided,
  2. Have a positive expectation that by taking St. John's wort (or any other doctor recommended action) to avoid further feelings of negativity.
  3. Believes that he/she can successfully commit to the above with confidence.
The Health Belief Model is predicated upon four perceived threats. 1. Perceived susceptibility 2. Perceived severity. 3. Perceived benefits 4.Perceived barriers.

These concepts were proposed as accounting for people's "readiness to act." An added concept, cues to action, activate that readiness and stimulate overt behavior. Recently, the Public Health Services has added the concept of self-efficacy (or one's confidence in the ability to successfully perform an action) to help the Health Belief Model to better fit the challenges of changing habitual unhealthy behaviors, such as engaging in negative esteem behaviors like: taking illegal drugs, alcohol, no exercise, overeating . . . Please review the following table appropriated from, "Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice" (1997)
Concept Definition Application
Perceived Susceptibility One's opinion of chances of getting a condition Define population(s) at risk, risk levels; personalize risk based on a person's features or behavior; heighten perceived susceptibility if too low.
Perceived Severity One's opinion of how serious a condition and its consequences are Specify consequences of the risk and the condition
Perceived Benefits One's belief in the efficacy of the advised action to reduce risk or seriousness of impact Define action to take; how, where, when; clarify the positive effects to be expected.
Perceived Barriers One's opinion of the tangible and psychological costs of the advised action Identify and reduce barriers through reassurance, incentives, assistance.
Cues to Action Strategies to activate "readiness" Provide how-to information, promote awareness, reminders.
Self-Efficacy Confidence in one's ability to take action Provide training, guidance in performing action.

Conceptual Model

Source: Glanz et al, 2002, p. 52

Scope and Application

The Health Belief Model has been applied to a broad range of health behaviors and subject populations. Three broad areas can be identified:

  1. Preventive health behaviors, which include health-promoting (e.g. diet, exercise) and health-risk (e.g. smoking) behaviors as well as vaccination and contraceptive practices.
  2. Sick role behaviors, which refer to compliance with recommended medical regimens, usually following professional diagnosis of illness.
  3. Clinic use, which includes physician visits for a variety of reasons.


This is an example from two sexual health actions. (

Concept Condom Use Education Example STI Screening or HIV Testing
1. Perceived Susceptibility Youth believe they can get STIs or HIV or create a pregnancy. Youth believe they may have been exposed to STIs or HIV.
2. Perceived Severity Youth believe that the consequences of getting STIs or HIV or creating a pregnancy are significant enough to try to avoid. Youth believe the consequences of having STIs or HIV without knowledge or treatment are significant enough to try to avoid.
3. Perceived Benefits Youth believe that the recommended action of using condoms would protect them from getting STIs or HIV or creating a pregnancy. Youth believe that the recommended action of getting tested for STIs and HIV would benefit them — possibly by allowing them to get early treatment or preventing them from infecting others.
4. Perceived Barriers Youth identify their personal barriers to using condoms (i.e., condoms limit the feeling or they are too embarrassed to talk to their partner about it) and explore ways to eliminate or reduce these barriers (i.e., teach them to put lubricant inside the condom to increase sensation for the male and have them practice condom communication skills to decrease their embarrassment level). Youth identify their personal barriers to getting tested (i.e., getting to the clinic or being seen at the clinic by someone they know) and explore ways to eliminate or reduce these barriers (i.e., brainstorm transportation and disguise options).
5. Cues to Action Youth receive reminder cues for action in the form of incentives (such as pencils with the printed message "no glove, no love") or reminder messages (such as messages in the school newsletter). Youth receive reminder cues for action in the form of incentives (such as a key chain that says, "Got sex? Get tested!") or reminder messages (such as posters that say, "25% of sexually active teens contract an STI. Are you one of them? Find out now").
6. Self-Efficacy Youth confident in using a condom correctly in all circumstances. Youth receive guidance (such as information on where to get tested) or training (such as practice in making an appointment).
Jan 17

A severe case of the blues? (“Un gros cas de blues.”)

Frances first girlfriend, 48 year-old journalist Valerie Trierweiler, has “Un gros cas de blues.” (“A severe case of blues?”) after French President Hollande spent the night with 41 year-old actress Julie Gayet. The point of this blog is not to speculate on whether Holland was technically cheating on Trierweiler, nor is it to discuss if the French press is becoming more Americanized in their graphic expose of Hollande scooting through Paris on his Vespa for all-night trysts. I am more interested in the fact that Trierweiler checked into a hospital for Sleep Therapy to deal with her depression.

The link between depression and lack of sleep is well established. More than half of the depression sufferers struggle with insomnia. It was long thought that insomnia was a symptom of depression, it now seems that in many cases, insomnia is a set up for depression and often doubles the risk of becoming depressed. New research shows that treating insomnia can synergize other depression protocols in the battle against depression.

Many children and adolescents with depression who suffer from both insomnia and hypersomnia are more likely to have severe and longer-lasting depression. They are also more likely to suffer from anhedonia (an inability to feel pleasure). Additionally, a 2006 sleep poll focusing on children aged 11 to 17 found a strong association between negative mood and sleep problems. Among adolescents who reported being unhappy, 73% reported not sleeping enough at night.

Four studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health are set to be released in 2014 on the topic of sleep and depression. The first has already been completed, and the promising findings were presented at a November 2013 convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. The study found that 87 percent of depression patients who resolved their insomnia had major improvements to their depression, with symptoms disappearing after eight weeks whether the person took an antidepressant or a placebo pill. “The way this story is unfolding, I think we need to start augmenting standard depression treatment with therapy focused on insomnia.”

There are several natural antidepressants that not only address depression through various pathways, elevate serotonin with 5-htp, inhibit serotonin reuptake with Sceletium Tortuosum AKA Zembrin, enhance sleep with L-tryptophan