Archives for June, 2011


Anxiety, Fire and Radioactive Waste

Many of our readers know that we live in New Mexico. Once again, fires in New Mexico are devastating our beautiful forests and tragically, quite a few homes. What seems astounding to us as our eyes water, noses drip, and we watch what are usually blue skies fill with smoke, is that this natural disaster is once more threatening the homes of those in Los Alamos and our National Labs. More than 12,000 people have been evacuated with no end in sight.

Just about ten years ago a similar fire threatened the Labs and burned over 400 home in Los Alamos. Surely, that fire should have provided ample warning to prepare for another such eventuality.  It’s utterly outrageous that this is happening again. Although local officials reassure residents, it seems odd that thousands of barrels of nuclear waste sit relatively unprotected. Some experts worry that these barrels could explode like popped corn, releasing radioactive toxins to the blowing wind. Oh yeah, and it only takes an incredibly small particle of this lethal material to cause lung cancer. Furthermore, New Mexico is well known for its winds—especially this year.

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Listening: A Lost Art?

Usually, I like to write about issues that are well grounded in data and evidence. That’s not the case with today’s blog. Maybe someone has data that contradicts what I plan to write, but I’m not so sure. I do know that a clever social psychologist could readily conduct research on this topic. So what am I talking about?

Listening. It seems to me that people hardly listen to each other anymore. More frighteningly, maybe they never have and I’m just becoming more aware of it. Do you agree or see it differently? Before you form a firm opinion, consider observing a while.
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Borderline Personality Disorder

Helping People with Borderline Personality Disorder

A few years ago when Chuck and I were asked to write Borderline Personality Disorder For Dummies, we knew we would be looking closely at the work of Marsha Linehan, the creator of a program called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

We had both been to a number of workshops offered by Dr. Linehan. Once, we spent a lovely week at Cape Cod taking morning classes and having the rest of the day to explore.

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Normal Versus Abnormal: Not So Black and White

Not so long ago, we finished writing Child Psychology and Development For Dummies. We enjoyed writing it and helping parents, teachers, and childcare providers understand how children develop and what makes them tick.

Even though we had separate sections on normal and abnormal development (as most such books do), it occurred to us that this distinction is not as clear-cut as you might think.

That’s for two major reasons:
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Apple Anxiety

Today is the first time I have tried to write a blog from my Ipad. I am having a lot of anxiety as I type away, making mistakes, not knowing how to save a file on pages, feeling pretty clumsy.  My typing speed is down to about two words a minute. I am writing this while waiting for a plane, which is the main reason for attempting to master this technology.

It seems that getting through security is becoming more and more of a hassle. By the time you take off your shoes, empty your pockets, take off your jacket, take your net book out of its case, hold your boarding pass in your mouth, shove all of the rubber trays through X-ray, then walk through the x-ray while an agent glares at you and you haven't even gotten on the plane and you're already exhausted....well, I thought maybe getting an Ipad that I could stick in my purse might help.

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Schools and Parents: Buyers Beware!

Yesterday, I read an article in the Albuquerque Journal about what seemed to be a terrific program for the prevention of bullying. The program is called “The Way of the Snail” and focuses on building self-esteem, confidence, “love of self,” and self-control. The program uses a variety of techniques for accomplishing these goals such as looking in the mirror and proclaiming that one sees a beautiful person and learning to hold one’s arms out as long as possible (presumably to teach self-control).

Frankly, I see articles like this one rather often. Schools across the country frequently buy into spiffy sounding curriculums with lofty, noble sounding goals much like investors having a feeding frenzy over the latest hot stock IPO. And what in the world could be wrong with jumping in on new programs designed to help kids to overcome problems and plow through obstacles?
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The Complexities of Step-Families

John Rosemond, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of many parenting books, recently wrote an article about step-families. I met John about 10 years ago after he agreed to write a forward for our first book. I like his practical down to earth style and agree with much of what he writes.

His article, “Today’s step-families have little or no sense of family,” concerns the high divorce rate of step-families. John believes that one of the reasons that so many marriages involving blended families end in divorce has to do with confusing and undefined roles in the new family.

He claims that the majority of mental health professionals, including famous media mental health personalities such as Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura (I’m not the famous Dr. Laura), recommend that stepparents stay out of disciplining their stepchildren. John writes that stepparents who follow that advice “create an us-and-them family that isn’t really a family at all.”

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Dating, Breaking Up, and Children

Almost a third of children are being brought up by single parents. Lots of those parents date. Concerned single parents worry about how to manage relationships when children are involved. Common questions include:

When do I introduce my child to someone I am dating?

How do I manage an intimate relationship when I have children?

What happens if my relationship ends?

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Hoarding OCD: OCD or Something Else?

Of all the various types of anxiety disorders, we’ve always found Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to be the most interesting. Most people with OCD have both obsessions (extremely upsetting or worrisome thoughts and images) and compulsions (behaviors that help reduce distress by engaging in them). However, the stress reduction that compulsions provide prove to be quite fleeting and so a cycle ensues in which the person feels distressed by thoughts (such as I may have gotten germs from touching that doorknob) followed by compulsions (such as hand washing) which only briefly alleviate their difficult emotions.

OCD comes in a variety of different subtypes (such as fears of contamination, checking and doubting, superstitious OCD, and concerns about symmetry). However, Hoarding OCD is a subtype that is particularly curious and distinctly different from other forms of OCD. In fact, it’s so different that some psychologists believe Hoarding OCD should be given its own diagnostic category, separate from OCD in general.

Briefly, Hoarding OCD involves three major characteristics according to those who have studied the phenomenon most intensively:
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