Anxiety versus Depression, Nature Versus Nurture, and Monkey F*cking Emails

Monday, January 26, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Emails are fun. Take this one for example, which started out with: "Why the fuck do you talk about monkeys all the time?"

It's a valid question, and to be honest, I like the ballsiness of the writer. So, let's do this. 

Because, friends, monkeys matter if we want to understand the interaction of environment, social influence and biomedical contributions to common mental health issues. This is especially true if we are trying to decide how genetics might be contributing to your depression or how early experiences with your mother contributed to your anxiety. Monkeys might help us decide what we should do about it. 

Clinical Assessment of Mental Illness and The 15% Principle

Shrinking it up takes looking at a million different variables in any one person. But, as the authors of Darwinian Psychiatry note, each larger category probably only explains around fifteen percent of the total picture1

Fifteen percent. That's way less than the percentage of the pot of coffee I am going to drink while writing this....  continue reading

Hurts So Good: One Woman's Struggle with Skin Picking Disorder

Friday, January 16, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Excoriation, or skin picking disorder, is a condition categorized in the DSM-IV with not otherwise specified impulsivity issues such as trichotillomania (hair pulling/twirling), pyromania (fire starting) and kleptomania (stealing). Though it is usually identified as being on the obsessive compulsive spectrum, excoriation may come about for a number of reasons, discussed more in the post What is Skin Picking Disorder? Excoriation and Why You Should Avoid Rush Limbaugh

But insight matters and no one can describe the emotional impact of excoriation quite like one who suffers. So I have invited a friend of mine to share her experience. If you suffer from this condition, you are not alone....  continue reading

What is Skin Picking Disorder? Excoriation and Why You Should Avoid Rush Limbaugh

Monday, January 12, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under General

While many pick or scratch their skin, Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder—sometimes known as Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP), Pathologic Skin Picking (PSP) or Dermatillomania—is present around 1.4% of the population1. The beginnings tend to be benign, a small injury or pimple that gets scratched or worried into a larger injury. With repeated picking of the scab, it remains itchy encouraging further picking to relieve it, and eventually becoming a habit. In hindsight, most note that they started picking after a stressful event or life change and may have subconsciously relied on the behavior as a way to reduce that strain. 

I know I get all picky when I listen to Rush Limbaugh. But I digress. 

Some women may find that these behaviors fluctuate with hormonal shifts, such as the menstrual cycle, and others have these behaviors begin around larger alterations such as menopause, suggesting that hormonal balance may play a role. There may also be genetic or environmental components that are as of yet undiscovered, as some animals also engage in self chewing, the non-opposable-thumb equivalent of skin picking and other compulsive behaviors. And those with anxiety disorders and depression might be especially vulnerable to these issues as a way to process excess stress....  continue reading

5 Reasons We Suck At New Year's Resolutions (And What To Do About It)

Friday, January 09, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Let’s be clear up front: this is not an article about how to stick wholeheartedly to your resolutions. I won’t tell you to set your alarm across the room so you can’t hit snooze if your goal is to work out every morning. I won’t tell you to throw out all the cookies in the house because you gave up sugar “from now on.” 

Plus, life without cookies? Puh-lease.  Screw that noise. 

Here’s the thing, guys: resolutions are bound to fail. Resolutions come and go partially because no one really expects that they will stay for any length of time. It’s the ultimate joke for many. 

“Oh, you resolved to give up yoga pants? See you at the grocery store wearing Yogi’s special in a week, girl.”

It’s not your fault, though. It’s the way we approach the goals that somehow became critical at the first of the year when we were still coming out of that sugar and carb coma that makes the holidays so damn delightful.

“SO MUCH SUGAR! Staring January first, I’m never eating sugar again!”

Except you will. You know it too....  continue reading

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Understanding Introversion and 8 ways to Cope With Social Obligations

Monday, December 15, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

I have argued with a few people about whether or not I am an introvert. Because I, in no way, come off as “shy”. I’m confident. I will talk to anyone about anything and I have a tendency to be outspoken. The stage doesn’t bother me much and I have been known to do impromptu piano recitals in front of large groups of people.

But, I assure you, I am about as introverted as they come.

Introversion isn’t about shyness, though some introverts do feel very uncomfortable in larger groups. Shyness comes with discomfort, anxiety or fear, as explained by Schmidt and Buss in The Development of Shyness and Social Withdrawal1. Shyness is more a social status thing, a worry about what others might think, perhaps a throwback to the days when social conflict mattered more because it might have meant life or death

For me, worrying about what other people think is on my list entitled "Things Ain’t Nobody Got Time For". ...  continue reading

Reducing The Fear of "Wrong": Test Anxiety, Learning and the Importance of Attitude

Friday, October 10, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Some parents are pushing for the removal of testing from public schools, advocating for more child-centered models of learning that focus on creative exploration even in higher grades. 

But no tests. Because that shit is whack. 

While IQ tests and other standardized tools do have biases in terms of the type of intelligence being tested (which tends to vary worldwide), I think testing, if done correctly, can serve as a tool for learning. If you’ve ever used flashcards, games or asked your children questions related to a book they read, you’ve engaged in testing. 

Where we run into problems is how we conduct these tests and in our interpretation of what those tests mean. Because while testing might enhance learning for a few reasons I will get into below, those enhancements don’t work when you’re stressed the fuck out about what your grade is going to be. And test anxiety can thwart even the brightest person when it comes time to fill in the blanks. 

It’s not your fault, either, nor is it the fault of our children. It’s a function of how we see learning and how we see testing and how we see ourselves because of it. Let’s take a ride....  continue reading