Other Articles

Be Thankful for Your Anxiety!

Monday, September 27th, 2010

If you have anxiety, be glad! Appreciate your anxiety for all the ways it helps you. Think not? Think again.

Imagine what your world would be like without any anxiety at all. Sounds sort of nice, doesn’t it? You awaken each day with no fear or negative anticipations. No nightmares the night before. You anticipate only joy and pleasure. Your future looks mellow, secure and serene. No problems to worry about. No need for tranquilizers and probably not for sleeping aids. What could be better than that?

Back to School: The Cursive Controversy

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

A small article about the Belmont College Mindset List appeared in the morning paper today. Each year the college puts together a list of interesting bits of information about the incoming freshman class. I was surprised by one of the items. Apparently, most of this year’s incoming freshmen do not know how to write in cursive. This fact led me to my computer where I have spent the last few hours researching cursive handwriting (of course I am supposed to be working on a book project today so the topic of handwriting had great appeal as a way to delay the inevitable).

It appears that although the majority of elementary school teachers teach cursive, it is not required in some schools and students don’t appear to be using cursive as much as they used to.

Books, E-Books and Anxiety

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

When I was a little kid in elementary school, my father used to take me to the impressive main branch of The Detroit Public Library to look up material for school assignments. He wouldn’t allow an encyclopedia in the house because it wasn’t a primary source. That was just the way it was at my house.

Another fond memory from childhood is riding my bike about two miles (without a helmet or a parent) to the local library during the summer months and filling my bike basket with books to read during the week. No one at my house paid too much attention when I read late into the night with a bright flash light under the sheet providing just enough light to read.

Our grandkids won’t ever do those things.

Mixing Anxiety and Oil

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I admit, I can be a bit of a news junky—sometimes when I’m supposed to be working at home, I can’t resist a look at online news or a quick video of some current story. I confess, the oil spill has got me riveted. That’s not good when there are outlines to finish, blogs to write, bills to pay, or articles to read. Okay, so the laundry needs sorting so I can turn on the news while hanging and folding. Those pictures of black oil gushing into the gulf make me nervous. How about you?

The current controversy is about how much oil is actually spewing out. The company originally guessed about 5,000 barrels a day was leaking, but estimates now have grown from maybe 20,000 barrels to possibly 100,000 barrels. A barrel of oil produces about 19 gallons of gas (among other things). Hey, when I fill my car up at the gas station, I usually put about 19 gallons in my tank. So, for me if the lowest estimate (5,000 barrels) is correct, I could fill my car up about 5,000 times from one day’s worth at the lowest estimate. I usually fill up about once a week—5,000 weeks, that one day’s worth of leakage will take care of my car for the next 96 years. Now, I do drive a reliable car, but…

Anxiety and Families

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Here’s a secret. When traveling, most authors go to bookstores and check to see how many copies of their books are on shelves at the local bookstore. For us, it used to be a gamble. Chuck would say, “Do you want to get depressed?” and I’d say, “Yes, let’s take a chance.”

Now, since we’ve been writing For Dummies, it’s a pretty safe bet. Today, we are in Overland Park Kansas; it’s pouring rain, and we’ve nothing to do. So off we go to the local bookstore. There are 13 copies of our books. Pretty cool. Anyway, we noticed that the 2nd edition of Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies is out. We’re proud of our work on the 2nd edition. We updated the material and added a part on what’s making people more anxious today. We included chapters on finances, violence, natural disasters, and terrorism. Chapters packed with timely information, common sense tips, and strategies for dealing with tension.

But, as walk among the shelves here in Kansas today, we’re facing another source of tension and anxiety. We’re here visiting family.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire: How to Spot a Lie

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

A few days ago I wrote a blog about why people lie. Today, I’d like to discuss how to tell if someone is lying.

First of all, the detection of a lie is not an exact science. And people with lots of practice lying can become pretty hard to detect. In fact, some liars believe that they are so talented that they are invincible (but that’s another blog). Nevertheless, there are some clues to watch for when you suspect that someone is lying. There are no single accurate lie detectors. In order to catch a lie, you must consider a series of behaviors that involve looking, hearing, and feeling.

The first set of clues relate to how the person is looking and acting. Eye contact is thought to be the easiest way to detect lying. When people lie, they tend to have difficulty maintaining normal eye contact. They may look to the left, down, or off to the side. Some skillful liars look right at the person they are lying to because they are so confident that they can get away with it. The bottom line is that eye contact is off—either too little, off center, or too much.

Looking At Lies and Liars

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Even the most honest people lie from time to time. Who hasn’t said when asked, “Oh yes, that new hair cut looks great on you,” or “The chicken casserole was wonderful,” or “What a beautiful baby!”

Children usually begin to lie around the age of 4. This is when they begin to comprehend that other people have thoughts that are different than theirs. Early lies are usually stories, exaggerations, or attempts to get out of trouble. For example, a girl might tell a story about a bear coming into her room at night, a boy might tell someone that he can fly, or a girl might blame the family cat for breaking a lamp. Children at this age don’t think about whether or not dishonesty is right or wrong. They are playing with language and ideas. Grown-ups are usually pretty tolerant of this sort of lying.

When Dummies Get Together

Monday, November 9th, 2009

To our regular blog readers: Forgive us for indulging in some stray musings today.

We’re hanging out in the San Francisco airport waiting for our flight back home to New Mexico, reflecting on the unique conference that just wrapped up. Actually, it was an unconference, meaning that it was designed to be interactive and collaborative rather than a series of lectures. In addition, the participants were all proud to call themselves Dummies. That’s because we all have written one or more books in the For Dummies series.

What an interesting collection of people! The authors came from both coasts and all walks of life. The group included professors, computer geeks (umm, actually wizards!), business consultants, mathematicians, medical doctors, web designers, psychologists, a photography guru, and a very funny cartoonist. Our purpose was to collaborate on how to spread the word about the quality of the For Dummies series of books and the people who write them.

The weekend began with a cocktail party on Friday evening at the home of Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Thyroid For Dummies. We hitched a ride with Acne For Dummies. We were a little nervous about our own reception given our moniker, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Depression For Dummies (after all, who would want to talk with two people carrying so much emotional baggage?).

Nonetheless, we were warmly welcomed by LinkedIn, Starting an Online Businesses For Dummies, and Starting an iPhone Application Business For Dummies. We were engrossed in a surprisingly interesting conversation with Algebra I, Algebra II and Business Math For Dummies. Java For Dummies was delightful, though we never did quite figure out what Ruby on Rails For Dummies was all about. Accounting For Dummies talked about the old days of former publishers of the For Dummies series-Hungry Minds and IDG as well as his dreams for the future. Speaking of dreams, Dreamweaver & Creating Family Websites For Dummies arrived late accompanied by the 5th Wave (cartoonist). Those two perked up the evening so much that everyone chatted for …

Taking a deeper look at impulsivity

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Our last blog discussed impulse control disorders such as Tricotillomania and Kleptomania. We wrote a bit about how they can be compared and contrasted to compulsive disorders such as OCD. Both impulsions and compulsions can be considered urges to carry out some action either physical, like washing hands, pulling hair, or mental like counting, chanting, or yelling.

People with other mental disorders also have problems with impulsivity. For example, many people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have this trouble. They tend to speak without thinking, interrupt others, or have difficulty waiting their turns. Impulsivity is a characteristic of Bipolar Disorders, as well as Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. People with substance abuse problems, kids with fetal alcohol syndrome, and those who suffer some types of brain damage also act impulsively.

Most of us think about impulsivity as acting (or speaking) without thinking. We all do that from time to time. But impulsivity appears to have four separate components and people with impulsivity don’t always have all four of these issues. The following examples will illustrate each type of impulsive factor:

1. Aaron likes to take risks. He enjoys rock climbing, hang gliding, and tends to drive too fast. He craves excitement and sometimes takes excessive risks. Aaron’s impulsivity is called sensation seeking.

2. Beth has dropped in and out of college. She gets excited about a career or area of study then finds herself losing interest. At home, she has difficulty finishing books, tasks; she lacks discipline and flits from one thing to another. Her impulsivity is called lack of perseverance.

3. Cathy is very bright and energetic. She has big ideas but rarely gets them off the ground. She has huge credit card debts, can’t seem to give up smoking, and fails to plan for the future. Her type of impulsivity involves lack of planning.

4. David’s relationships are constantly conflicted. He becomes excessively enthusiastic, and then quickly gets bored. He can’t seem to handle stress very well. His reactions are instantaneous and often rash. His type of impulsivity involves acting without thinking.

So, you can think about impulsivity as …

Uncontrollable Behaviors: Are they all OCD?

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Many people exhibit various types of problems that occur repetitively, cause harm to the person, and seem virtually uncontrollable. Sometimes we’re asked if these problems are examples of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Although these other disorders have similarities to OCD, they usually are not considered to be in the same category. What are we talking about here?

Specifically, we’re referring to the category of emotional disorders known as Impulse Control Disorders. The similarity to OCD is seen in the fact that they are all repetitive and very difficult for the person to bring under control. Furthermore, like OCD, they greatly disrupt and impair the sufferers’ lives.

Impulse Control Disorders also differ from OCD. Impulse Control Disorders, unlike OCD, often do not cause those afflicted great distress unless or until legal authorities are called in. Furthermore, anxiety and/or distress do not play a very large role in most Impulse Control Disorders. Finally, many of those with Impulse Control Disorders actually report feeling pleasure from their behaviors even though their lives are impaired by them.

Some of the major types of Impulse Control Disorders include:

  • Pyromania: People with this problem find themselves drawn to setting fires. They aren’t out to make money as some arsonists are; rather, they set fires for the excitement of it. Regardless, their behavior often brings attention from law enforcement agencies.
  • Pathological Gambling: Not just anyone qualifies as a pathological gambler and thus have an Impulse Control Disorder. Only those who gamble themselves into serious problems financially over and over again receive this label. These folks sometimes even steal or engage in other illegal behavior just to keep their habit going. They may “know” what they are doing is a problem, but report feeling unable to stop.
  • Kleptomania: These folks find themselves stealing repeatedly, yet they rarely need the things they steal. Rather, they feel tension prior to stealing and great pleasure and excitement when executing the theft. Later, they may feel remorse, but it never stops the behavior. As you can imagine, more than a few of these people eventually wind up in jail.
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder: People with this problem report feeling unable to put the brakes on …

Purchase Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies now! Purchase Child Psychology and Development for Dummies now!

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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