When most people are asked to identify their goals in life, what they really want in life, most people say they want to be happy. A "happy" life is then defined by a feeling of contentment and satisfaction with oneself, one's family and relationships with others, one's job, one's home, etc., yet there is always room to strive toward unmet goals or facets of one's life to be improved. In some respects, we all continually strive to be happy in one way or another for the duration of our lives. "To feel good" or "to be happy" is a common therapy goal identified by our patients when they initially meet with us, but what does it really mean to be happy and how does one achieve this sense of satisfaction?
Oh, the outrage! Well, not really. It’s more like mass confusion. Several new diagnoses will appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-V). But, has the firestorm of criticism grounded the manual before it even takes off? Even Dr. Allen Frances, psychiatry professor emeritus at Duke University, who chaired the DSM-IV task force, called the day on which the DSM-V was approved “a sad day for psychiatry.” Of greatest concern to many, is the new manual’s potential to over-pathologize human behavior, calling into question the validity of new diagnoses.
Several new diagnoses will appear in the soon to-be-released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-V). In fact, quite a bit of controversy surrounds the inclusion of several of these new “disorders” in what is considered to be the mental health world’s diagnostic “bible,” as many question their validity and appropriateness for inclusion. Among the new DSM-V disorders is Excoriation (Skin Picking) Disorder, classified within the Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders. It is understandable that the initial public reaction to this release of information has been skeptical (at best). News outlets have begun to question the validity of the diagnosis. Readers have begun to leave comments such as, “Great, now we’re all mentally ill.” Yes, everyone picks at his or her skin at some point; however, Excoriation Disorder far exceeds “normal” grooming behavior. Think of grooming behavior as occurring on a continuum, with normal, washing and exfoliating on one end of the continuum, extending to picking, scraping, or gouging that results in scarring or disfigurement on the other end.
Today, it’s personal. This isn’t about evidence-based therapy or psychological disorders - not this time. This will, however, come full circle to quality “Therapy That Works” though, so hang in there. Trust me on this one. If you read the news, you have likely read about Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, and her recently published book, “Lean In,” a declaration that women need to become more assertive in the workplace and assume more leadership roles. She notes that for the past 30 years, despite earning more college degrees than men, women account for only 4% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. This number should definitely give us pause and I have a great deal of respect for Sheryl Sandberg and what she has accomplished, but I do believe her declaration only applies to those who are willing to “lean in” to that environment. Sheryl Sandberg stated that too many smart, talented women become intimidated by work environments and their potential for leadership due to their aspirations of marriage, children, and family life. They therefore, instead of leaning in and achieving great things, lean back, essentially sacrificing career for personal goals. I am not willing to lean in.
Everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety is our body’s reaction to what we perceive as threatening. Anxiety can be a healthy and adaptive response to stress. But, anxiety occurs on a continuum, ranging from normal, healthy concern, on one end, to worry, anxiety, and panic toward the other end. Normal caution and concern can help to motivate you, to estimate risks, and to get things done. Worry, anxiety, and panic are more akin to apprehension or fear. They can dominate your thoughts and make things harder for you. They don’t help you solve problems. They create more problems. Where do you fall on the anxiety scale? Test your level of anxiety and discover ways to manage your daily stress.
We know that when we get anxious, the fight-or-flight response is triggered and our bodies experience many physiological changes and symptoms that we find stressful and unpleasant. But, do you know what causes us to get anxious? It may not be what you think. No, it’s not that upcoming presentation at work or that plane flight next week. It's not something external. I’m a psychologist, so I’m going to try to help you discover the answer. Here’s an example. You and a friend are out on a morning walk and a neighborhood dog barks loudly. You love dogs and this makes you smile as you comment, “He’s up bright and early.” Your friend, on the other hand, is startled. Her heart begins to race and she finds herself a bit breathless, as she comments, “Oh my! Where is it? I don’t like dogs.” Same situation. Very different reactions. Okay, now do you have an idea of what causes anxiety?
Anxiety...the word alone can make you feel uneasy. It can come out of nowhere or be easily anticipated. Why is it that anxiety affects so many of us and how can we harness it to be helpful, rather than stressful? Let's look at anxiety and in plain English, answer some of the most common questions asked. 1. What is the difference between stress and anxiety? Stress is a state of mental and bodily tension you experience when faced with a demand. We feel stress when we have a long to do list and very little time to accomplish it. Anxiety is the fear we may experience when we think about what may happen if we don’t complete our to do list. -- Stress and Anxiety both involve tension. Both involve some of the same physiological responses such as the release of adrenalin, but anxiety involves fear. Stress does not.
There’s no greater skill to easing anxiety and physical tension, than learning to relax. It sounds silly, perhaps, to think of relaxing as a skill, but think about how many times you’ve said or heard someone else say, “relax,” “calm down,” “settle down,” or “chill out.” And, if you’re on the receiving end of that comment, it’s not as easy as it seems.
It was a brilliant idea, inviting the best scholarly minds around the world to record brief, succinct videos on very specific topics of their special interest. And, so, the TED talks were born. Ranging across a very wide array of topics from science and religion to art and communication, TED talks share the best of what the best have to offer. Here are 6 of the best mental health TED talks to inspire you to think outside of the box, question your understanding of the world around you, and explore: 1. How Meditation can Reshape our Brains - Sara Lazar, Ph.D., Research Associate, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School Dr. Lazar shares her experiences and her research on the positive effects of meditation on the brain.
Compulsive hoarding has attracted a great deal of media attention. These media portrayals, whether they are television, newspaper, or other illustrations of the problem, tend to be somewhat unidimensional. Yes, these individuals’ homes are frequently difficult to navigate, and, yes, these individuals appear to be excessively attached to items that many of us view as of very little or no value. However, these snapshots into the lives of these individuals sometimes lack the depth of difficulty these individuals have in their lives. Let’s look at a few of the challenges that are often under-conveyed, but that are very real, very significant challenges to individuals, their family members, and to us, as psychologists who treat them.