All posts in Psychology

STDs CAN BLOW YOUR MIND

STdsIs there a correlation between the rise of “hookup” sites like tinder and the increase in STDs? How do you ask your new partner about their sexual health? Or, are we just a more hyper-sexualized society that just throws caution to the wind when it comes to protecting ourselves? Well, I’m not quite sure which is the right answer. However, we can take a look at a smaller sample size in the state of California, more specifically the county of Los Angeles for some possible answers.

Current studies are indicating that theses stds, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have consistently been the highest infections in California. This a real concern! It is also a difficult conversation to have or bring up with your partner. Now I’m not going to dedicate this space to exploring our sexual health, rather, it is the psychological effect that contracting an STD has on a person that I want to address in this blog.

Have you considered what happens to a person when they learn that they have an STD? What I have witnessed take place with many clients is that suddenly their emotional state of mind becomes unstable, their anxiety rises, and eventually depression follows. Simply put, the dominoes begin to fall. Rarely, do I get the client when they are newly diagnosed, rather, they have already been battling the depression, anxiety, and accompanying stress for quite some time.

In reality, when people receive their diagnosis, life is never the same again. This is extremely difficult to wrap their heads around. Many times, this revelation of a sexually transmitted disease literally brings to light previously undetected, repressed, or eschewed mental illnesses.

On the opposite spectrum, my experience with some teenagers and some adults has been a interesting choice to pursue extreme sexual activity with the knowledge that they are suffering from the effects of their mental illness related to their contracted STDs. Remember, depression can cause isolation, break off connections and make one feel like they are the proverbial “island.” The psychological impact of contracting an STD is far greater than what you think, so please think and educate yourself, partner, friends, and your family. To help, their are a number of good studies written here that I suggest you read, so click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

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Gun Control or People Control?

SB StrongIt’s horrible, unthinkable, and now fear and paranoia has taken a firm grasp on our society. Senseless violence against coworkers who are befriended for a time, a facade if you will, only to be eventually and brutally gunned down in the name of radical Islam (ISIS)? “San Bernardino Strong,” not one citizen of this wonderful community wanted to be put on the global map this way. However, they will be forever remembered for this tragedy, and I believe this will only serve to embolden more terrorists like these two radicals to commit more violent killings.

Gun sales were already at record levels with the recent mass killings in France. Now, we have been hit on our turf, it is real! Handguns and rifle sales are surging with gun ranges reporting all time highs in activity. We want protection, to be ready and safe. Meanwhile the President argues that disarming the citizenry is the best way to proceed. Interestingly, a recent Pew research study revealed that 57% of Americans believe that owning a gun helps protect people from crime. That it is up 48% from last year!

Our country is changing as is our mindset. The psychological impact that kicks in is that of “self-preservation.” On one level, this is our capacity or desire to anticipate dangerous situations and to respond to the cues that anxiety provokes in each of us. Also, this approach to self-care means that we become more self assertive in protecting ourselves and those whom we care about. This may well be one of the primary motivational reason people are buying their very first guns.

Where do we go from here? the Muslim community leadership admits that they are conflicted about having to come out and apologize for every incident that takes place with one of their own. Their people are afraid to come out in public because of the perceived and very real scrutiny. I do recognize their feelings and this is a polarizing point of growing contentiousness. There is increasing talk of possible internment camps to monitor all of the muslims, like there were with the Japanese Americans during World War II here in the United States. I’m a student of World War II and have read and known survivors who have personally sat me down and explained the horrors and atrocities of the holocaust. These discussions bring personal feelings of disgust and provoke deep swells of troubling uncertainty. The muslim community must police themselves, if not, this will quickly become something none of us wants or can stomach… EVERY LIFE MATTERS!!!

 

 

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Performance Anxiety

Excellent Average PoorThis time of year brings with it cheer and anxiety especially when it comes to those end of year performance evaluations. Yes, the dreaded sit down with your boss to discuss, explain, and defend why you should get that (fill in the blank %) increase for all the blood, sweat, and tears that were expended during 2015.

It’s always about the numbers, isn’t it? Well it is especially true if you’re in sales and trying to reach the all to often unobtainable quota. I remember the stress I felt even in the good years when I exceeded my quotas. The mental anguish that led up to the meeting was horrible. The idle chatter was excruciating, then came the evaluation, section by agonizing section with numbers attached to each one rating my performance from positive attitude to quota attainment to conference call participation to timely submission of paperwork etc. I’m sure that your review was similar.

There were horror stories of some going on for three hours, others being let go during their review. Still, there were those reviews that caused arguments to surface, yet, none achieved the intended purpose to challenge and motivate the employee. Why is that? Interestingly, it has taken companies decades to realize (with the help of the psychologists) that these reviews have a negative impact on their employees mental wellbeing.

Two corporate giants have already taken a different approach to how they will evaluate their talent which will dramatically reduce the negative mental impact while fostering personal growth in a low stress environment. Conversations need to take place all year long. For that matter, coaching moments needs to happen too. You cannot expect to show up at years end and expect a motivational conversation to unfold. Again, If these discussions are taking place throughout the year, communication increases, plans are adjusted, anxiety is reduced, teamwork is nurtured, and goals are realized. The article provides some valuable insight on what performance reviews actually do to employees receiving them…

Want to know if their review will be excellent, average, or poor then click HERE

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Alone or feeling lonely?

alone on the roadInteresting title, isn’t it? Did you realize that 4 in 10 people (40%), in our population will experience some sort of loneliness at different times in our lives? It hurts, it feels empty and cold. However there is an important distinction between feeling lonely and being alone. Understand that there are people who feel alone and really are alone. On the other hand, there are those people who actually choose to be alone, but, are not really alone.

Of course, we have all either been left alone, experienced the feelings of being alone, or possibly both simultaneously during some point in our lives, right? I think back to when I had to relocate to a new state and when I had to start different jobs throughout my career. I did not know anyone which really caused a lot of anxiety and those ugly feelings of loneliness took a toll on me. Naturally, these experiences can produce solitude and loneliness. So, if we are not careful, these feelings can have a negative impact on our physical health, as well.

Now, I want to point out that there is both a medical and psychological element attached to this discussion that I will touch upon. We do know that being alone, which we often refer to as solitude, can arouse one’s artistic talents and boost our concentration, yet, there is a frightening effect on your health. Mind, body, and our ageing process are all  negatively affected when we socially isolate ourselves.

Scientists have identified that our loneliness is tied to our genetic makeup. More specifically, those who experienced what we call “chronic loneliness,” their genes expressed a distinct pattern that produced inflammation in their immune system.  So, what does that really mean? Well, it means that lonely people have a higher probability of dying earlier because their immune system is not strong enough to fight off infectious diseases.

Psychologically, the impact is just as uncomfortable. Loneliness can lead to a mood disorder widely recognized as depression. It can wreck one’s self-esteem.  Confidence becomes fleeting as the tentacles of loneliness squeeze any and all feelings that one might yet have regarding being worthy of the attention of others.

If you sit back and really think about it, we as a collective society are are a social  bunch. We are wired to be that way since we were kicking to get out of the womb! We really do need to interact with each other to feel connected, be alive, and progress. Just as important, is cultivating an environment around yourself with those who you can mutually enjoy meaningful relationships with are, at least in my opinion, the best medicine.  Enjoying a life that you can be content with, active in, and flourishing is in itself the treasure of being connected.

 

 

 

 

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“Life Events,” What do these mean?

Life EventI’ve seen a tremendous number of clients who have come to me seeking understanding and healing either during or after serious life events. Sadly, some of these client’s relationships go painfully the way of divorce. However, most are at that point in their relationship where they realize that help is needed or there won’t be one.

So, what are “Life Events” and have you experienced them?” Well chances are, yes, you have! Here are the biggies: Chronic Illness (like Cancer), Unemployment (job hunting), Childbirth (who wanted the baby more), Living Apart (thinking about our men and women in the military being deployed), Trauma (could be death of loved one, serious accident, sexual assault etc), and Unfaithful partners. You’d be very surprised, but, this last one seems to be the motivating factor in bringing couples in for therapy. All the cards are laid on the table so to speak and everything can now be addressed openly and with honest candor.

These life events are terribly painful, deeply personal, they drain our mental capacities, and tax us physically. The truth is that none of us will be able to leave this life without experiencing most of these “Life Events.” Did you realize that there are also “turning points” with regard to these events, as well.  Let me explain. A turning point is not just a temporary change in our pathway, no, it is a permanent shift that only becomes recognizable to us as our life moves forward.

The psychological impact can be profound or subtle depending on our understanding of the turning point. Some of us may well experience a turning point that brings to us a much needed opportunity, or possibly brings one to a close. Others life events may create an environmental transformation that is more permanent. Still, one may feel that their life event has caused their turning point to be so deeply personal that it has provoked a complete restructuring of their self-worth, belief system, and expectations for themselves and the world around them. However, let’s remember that for  in many of us these life events cause a turning point in many individual’s lives, yet, for some it may be less severe and therefore the transition doe not transform them.

Life events can bring upon us stress, anxiety disorders, depression and physical illness. Importantly, all of the life events that we will experience do require some form of change or adaptation by us. It can be unpleasant or pleasant. However, these can be valuable life lessons, as well. Can we ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this, and what can I share with others about my personal experience that might help them?” If you are in pain, thinking that you are suffering from depression, anxiety or another psychiatric disorder, get help. You don’t have to do this alone…Be well.

 

 

 

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Let it go, how?

washing-hands-350Sometimes I feel like I cannot write a single sentence unless it’s grammatically perfect. The screen sometimes remains blank for quite a while for fear I’ll say something that might be misunderstood. Wait, is that a smudge on the screen, got it, that’s better. Hold on a minute this keyboard feels dirty…I just need to clean that up too, yeah that’s much better. Now where was I? Ah yes, I was putting my colored pencils in order from brightest to darkest colors, I think. Wait, I need to go wash my hands again.

Does this sound like you, or someone you know? Do you find yourself unable to let unwanted thoughts go? Maybe you perform some rituals like counting, checking, or washing your hands in an attempt to control your thoughts. It’s not helping though, is it? These rituals are compulsions and the unwanted thoughts that you cannot let go of are obsessions. These compulsions (rituals) can become so intrusive that your life begins to revolve around these rituals. This is what we call impairing your daily functioning.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I find,  is often an under reported and underdiagnosed disorder. OCD typically develops in early adolescence and can be easily overlooked as quirky behavior. However, as children grow into their teens the obsessive thoughts and compulsions become more obvious to those most closest to them.  I find that my clients have become expert at masking their symptoms to the outside world, but, it takes a terrible toll on their self-esteem, happiness, and as a result they really struggle to find meaning in their lives.

However, there is hope, there are tools, and there are medications that can all help you manage these symptoms of OCD. Remember, as with everything in life it will take consistent effort, patience in the process, a trusted therapist, a good psychiatrist, and family support. You must see the process through to the finish. There is guilt and shame to work through, as well. At times, you may battle the ugliness of depressive feelings, or debilitating symptoms of anxiety.  Take heart, you will get through this with a good therapist, learned tools, family support, proper medication, and perseverance. I have witnessed this time and again with my clients! So, do your research and become educated. Please do not beat yourself up, but, do get help!

 

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Fear or Not?

fear of heightsThe horror of the mass killings all over Paris this past weekend has literally paralyzed us. The media is awash in perpetuating what is around the clock fear. More information is coming out regarding the attackers and, as we all suspected, it is ISIS. Blame is being cast on the recent mass immigration of Syrian refugees to France’s rigid gun control laws.

Here in the United States, the Governors of both Louisiana and Texas have pushed back on President Obama’s effort to place up to ten thousand Syrian refugees in each of their states. Of course, this is strong reaction to the claims that thousands of radical Islamists have flooded into Europe under the guise of immigrants. The repercussions will be long lasting against the Muslim population as we will see as the weeks unfold. We did witness France take action by sending their air force to bomb Isis positions in the middle east. Across the world there was cry for solidarity as we mourned with the victims and their families in France.

Now, Isis is sending out threatening videos promising more attacks on the scale of those in France. Naturally,there is much fear and uncertainty in our populace and worldwide. Globally we are on high alert. I saw an article that described how this mass killing has now put the proverbial dagger in the heart of the liberal French society. Fear has taken over the mindset of the people. We are looking over our shoulder. If and when we see someone who looks or dresses like they are of the Muslim faith do we stare, become nervous, will our anxiety surge, will fear take hold. Now we are being told to be aware and report any suspicious behavior. Yes, it is really about fear!

Let’s look at why we fear. Of course, we need it at some level because it’s necessary for our protection from dangerous life events. Can you imagine sitting near a campfire and a spark touches your pant leg which then causes your pant leg begin to catch fire. Now, if you didn’t fear getting burned, you would burn to death, right? Again, protection and easy to understand. Fear creates a “fight or flight” mentality. Fear causes us to change our behavior, alter our routines, and diminishes our ability to trust. We become more cynical, suspicious and highly critical. Additionally, we become more prone to depression and anxiety. If we are not able to manage ourselves we may well spiral into an emotionally paralyzed state. Instead, let’s be more more cerebral about what types of fears there are and what we are dealing with. So educate yourself a bit with this article to determine your degree of fear and see if you’re slipping…There are 5 fears, which one are you suffering with…click HERE

 

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Depressed? I’m here for you.

Have you seen those commercials where two women are sitting at a table in one of their backyards, or walking side by side in a public park? Well, the conversation plays out like this, one women says to her friend, “Tom and I just found out Jenny has been doing drugs,” then comes the awkward pause. Her friend finally says, ” oh it’s probably just a phase, she’ll grow out of it.” Pan the camera to Jenny’s mother, yep, she has a stunned look on her face. The other scenario in the park plays out in a similar manner. As I said, they are walking, but then one woman stops and says (with a painful look on her face) ” We discovered that Jimmy(her son) has been stealing Bob’s(her husband) pain medication.” Again, the awkward pause, then her friend leans in and hugs the woman (who is not sure what is happening). The commercial ends with her friend awkwardly continuing their stroll without saying a word.

The above commercials, which are quite dated, serve to illustrate my topic. “Learn what to say to people who are depressed.” The above scenarios related to learning how to talk about drugs. I wish to address how we need to speak to coworkers, friends, and family members who are dealing with or we suspect are depressed. It seems that the stigma continues with regard to depression, however, as more celebrities come forward, the public appears to become more comfortable about discussing this topic and recognizing its effects.

Let me just say that depression is a battle. I treat a lot of depressed clients. I equate depression to a psychic blow that is so intense and emotionally paralyzing that you cannot fully understand unless you have been depressed. Sensitivity is critical, so, as my title illustrates let those you care about suffering with depression that you are there for them. Depression causes the sufferer to feel isolated, lonely, (and depending on their depth of depression) numb as they have lost interest in the world around them. Suicidal thoughts begin to be more common in their everyday thoughts. Remember, if you say it, be there for them. So, check in because it matters to them.

Do you get stuck sometimes? Not sure what or how to encourage someone who is depressed…click HERE

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Doubt your Doubts!

woman low esteemSomeone compared low self esteem to driving thru traffic with the emergency brake on. Are we guilty of this? The truth is we all, at various times, suffer with low self esteem. What causes it and more importantly how do we overcome it? To answer these questions we have to first look at the causes, or better yet, the triggers, that cause us to feel less about who we are and what we can do.

First, we really need to clear out the negativity that clutters our mind, a sort of rewiring if you will. Too often, we listen to that parasitic inner voice that points out all our imperfections and lists all the reasons why we are not good enough to do or achieve what we want in our lives.  Once we have identified these self defeating thoughts, they must be replaced with thoughts that uplift and inspire us. These may be favorite quotes, inspirational songs, motivational goals that have been set (be creative). The idea is to replace the dread of self doubt with the light of hope and promise of something much better to strive for. In other words this is how we are able to change our complete mindset.

Remember to avoid the pitfalls and ugliness of unhelpful guilt, those fluctuating or persistent thoughts of failure,  the anguish of trying to be a perfectionist, and playing this, ” I wish I had done this, or, if I had done that, my life would be better now, regret game over and over in your head. These self destructive habits will only paralyze you emotionally and you too will become the walking dead. So, don’t be an oxygen thief…

Do you you want to know more, then read HERE

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“I’m sorry, did you want a conspiracy?”

EvilThe “Blood Moon” is rising, as is our collective anxiety, and so is Donald Trump who has started an unexplainable movement across America, much to the dismay of Megyn Kelly and the rest of the liberal media. Oil prices are crashing, (at least it means lower gas prices at the pump for us), robots may well be taking over our jobs, driving our cars, flying our planes. Let us not forget the in upcoming election shenanigans that will take center stage in 2016 and all the allegations that will be revealed against whomever is left standing. WAIT, STOP! This all points to the conspiracy theorists running wild with their outlandish propositions and fear mongering ploys.

Yes, there have been times when I was younger that I too succumbed to their enticings, like the supposed end of the world in the year 2000. Wow, was I really sucked into that one believing that the world would just shut down. Of course it didn’t. However, I have learned quite a bit about conspiracy theorist since that time. Also, we need to recognize how they can get into your head (if you let them). Interestingly, fifty percent (50%) of Americans believe in at least one (1) conspiracy theory, just saying.

Unless you operate in the world of psychology, you would not really be familiar with the term cognitive dissonance. It really fits in well as we discuss the psychological impact that conspiracy theories can have on our thought process. Let me break it down, you see cognitive dissonance is the scientific word that describes the internal discomfort that we experience when we are faced with two (2) or possibly more conflicting ideas, values, or beliefs. Does that make sense?

Ok, so let’s apply this to conspiracy theories. We so desperately want to hold on to all our beliefs, even the attitudes that have shaped us throughout our lives. We want to avoid any and all pain and discomfort that any new idea, belief, or new evidence might yield like the ebola virus. So what do we do?  Too often, we buy the misinformation, believe the lies, and passively look pass the fraud. Why? It takes effort to question, research and really look, examine and dissect the evidence. It’s just easier to buy into it…

I’m not really buying what he’s selling, well then click HERE

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