Discussions Regarding the World of Psychology (www.lapsych.com)

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Mindfulness is more than just a trendy, buzz word. It’s goal is to help us learn to stay in the present and reduce how often our mind wanders. It has been shown to improve individual mood and cognition, as well as increase a sense of empathy in relationships. This, in turn, leads to better relationships, both in the workplace (as discussed in a new comprehensive study done at Case Western Reserve University) and your social life. It can take as little as 5 minutes a day so it’s hard to find and excuse not to give it a try! There are several free apps to guide you through it if you’ve never tried it before. If you prefer individualized training to learn the practice of mindfulness, a few sessions with a psychologist or mindfulness practitioner would be a great resource. What a great way to start your week!

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


A new study from the University of Kent found that due to the increased activity on the right side of the brain of individuals with elevated levels of anxiety (due to an active need to constantly inhibit and regulate thoughts/behavior), their walking trajectory tends to align to the left side when they are instructed to walk with their eyes closed. This cannot be used to diagnose anxiety in and of itself, but it is a good way to support a diagnosis. It can also be a good option to incorporate mindfulness techniques into treatment to calm the right brain activity and reduce anxiety. I would be curious to see if the trajectory shifts before and after practicing mindfulness.  

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


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A new study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior supports the notion that certain facial irregularities which are developed during the first and second trimester of pregnancy are positively correlated with future pedophilia. This study also found that left-handedness is also more common in pedophiles. I see positive and negative implications of this study based on the way it can be interpreted by people with various agendas. If used as a potential tool for early intervention, I believe that it can be a great benefit to help kids and adolescents who are at risk for becoming potential future pedophiles learn their triggers and coping mechanisms for such urges. However, if this study is misinterpreted by individuals, it can be used to alienate and red-flag individuals with possible features and can lead to discriminatory actions. It also brings up the argument of nature versus nurture and how much of this behavior is controlled by genetic predisposition or the environment and manner in which one was raised. Very interesting study…

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


probioticsWe all know that probiotics are great for our digestive health, but a new study has found that they may be doing more good than we thought! As reported in Science Daily, a study recently published in the journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, determined that taking probiotics every day for four weeks can significantly alter ones mood and thinking to be more positive and less focused on negative feelings and worries. The study consisted of 40 participants, of which 20 were given a placebo powder and 20 were given multi-species probiotics to take on a daily basis. The probiotic group demonstrated a significantly reduced incidence of ruminative thoughts involving their mood, as demonstrated by the completion of a questionnaire assessing their sensitivity to depression both at the beginning and at the end of the study. Although the group who took the placebo powder did not demonstrate a shift in their thought pattern/mood, the group who took the probiotics demonstrated a reduced level of negative thinking. This study can have huge implications in the field of mental health.

First and foremost, probiotics are known for being great for your health. However, if they come with the added benefit of improving your mood and thought pattern, then I see this as a win-win! During a consultation that I had with licensed acupuncturist, Kristine Parikian, I learned that the health of one’s gut is very important in the general health of one’s body. When the gut is balanced with healthy bacteria, it naturally improves the body’s immunity to various ailments. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that the balance probiotics provide in the body would translate to improved mental health as well. When all parts of the body are functioning as intended and are well geared to fight the daily germs/viruses that exist, the brain is also able to function at it’s best and is not stressed with the need to manage pain and illness. This, in turn, leads to greater mental clarity and improved mood.

My hope for the implication of this study is that it will encourage clinicians and doctors to explore one additional avenue of treatment for patients who enter their office with mild symptoms of mood disorders. Probiotics may not be the solution for all cases of mood disorders, but they’re a good place to start. For individuals with major depression or other significant diagnoses, this option is not likely to be enough, but individual therapy along with medication management is the most validated approach. However, for the majority of people who are struggling with daily stress and feel like it’s hard to keep mental balance in light of all this stress, it may be worth giving probiotics a try!

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


Did you know that when adolescents enter puberty, their circadian rhythm naturally shifts by 2-3 hours? This means that their bodies don’t feel the need to fall asleep until later in the night and are not ready to wake up until later in the morning. How do you think this effects them when we expect them to be awake, alert, and focused in class at 8 am? Some middle schools and high schools have shifted their school hours to start and end later due to this fact and results show that attendance has increased, tardiness has decreased, and the students and generally performing better in their classes. Food for thought…

Instead of being hard on your teenager about their morning routine, try educating them about this fact and work on coming up with a game-plan together about what they can do to make the best of their night and morning. For example, trying to get to bed a few minutes earlier every day, trying to relax before bedtime, etc.  If you are having trouble parenting your adolescent or are unable to communicate in a healthy manner with him/her, consider seeking the help of a psychologist.


ImageAlthough many women have certain plans regarding when and after which achievements they would like to establish a family, some are unfortunately faced with the realization that just because they are now ready to conceive, that doesn’t mean that their body will follow suit. Difficulty conceiving and/or having a viable pregnancy can be an extremely stressful experience for many women and couples. A new study published in the journal of Human Reproduction focuses on this issue by studying the various stress points that challenge women as they struggle to become pregnant.

The study examined 445 women, between ages 18 and 44 years, who were experiencing difficulties in conceiving. One third of these women stated that they felt some level of worry from the moment that they started trying to become pregnant. In addition, nearly half on this group reported that they felt ashamed and that they were a failure as a woman. Infertility often has many psychological side-effects on women including depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. These feelings are extremely difficult for a woman to process, especially if she tries to keep them to herself and does not have a strong support system. In these circumstances, it is imperative that she work with a psychologist on a regular basis to process the feelings associated to infertility and to better her coping mechanism to get through this difficult time in the best possible way.

In addition, it is important to note that dealing with infertility can be extremely taxing on the relationship between husband and wife. Many times, the individual who is the primary source of the difficulties feels that they are at fault and the other individual may not know the best way to show support. In addition, they may have different perspectives regarding the lengths that they are willing to go through to become pregnant and may not know how to address this issue with one another. It is very important for a couple going through this difficult time to communicate honestly and sensitively with one another. For many, couples therapy is an ideal way of doing this because they feel safe and comfortable knowing that they are in the presence of an unbiased individual who can facilitate the conversation. The decision of whether to begin fertility treatment can be very difficult one, but this study found that when women began fertility treatment, the majority (63%) reported feeling that they got closer to their partner and that their partner was supportive throughout the process.

As with any stressful time in one’s life, it is extremely important to acknowledge and express the feelings that the experience has caused for the woman and for the couple. Stresses such as infertility can be difficult and detrimental to an individual and a marriage if they are not addressed correctly; however, if one chooses to get help from a psychologist regarding their emotional struggles, they can use this difficult time in their life to become a stronger individual and a healthier couple.

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


It seems like, more and more, there is a trend in attempting to teach infants to read.  Many of us have seen the infomercials for Your Baby Can Read and are taken aback by these infants’ and young toddlers’ abilities to read not only simple words, but even books.  I have to admit that even I was amazed by their stories of success and ordered the product myself to try it out on my toddler.  (And yes, for a moment, I had visions of my child being a genius and reading books at the age of 1).  So when the program arrived, I read all the instructions on how to progress with the teaching process and began practicing with her on a daily basis.  The end result?  The truth, from my experience and in my opinion, is that if you follow the program accurately, your baby can actually begin to read words and probably even books.  My daughter got to a point where she was reading about 30 words with no help or prompting at the age of one and a half.  But then I started to think about what this really means.  Is my daughter really learning to blend individual letter sounds into words or is she just associating the way the word “DOG” looks to the picture of a dog and then learning to say ‘DOG” every time she sees the word.  The more I thought about it, the more this reminded me of Pavlov’s dog  and classical conditioning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_conditioning).  Although I was not blatantly rewarding my child with a cookie, I was providing social reinforcement (i.e.: hugs, kisses, excitement) whenever she identified the correct word.  It was at this point that I decided to stop the program and to teach my daughter to read by providing her with books and by interacting with her to make this process fun and enjoyable for the both of us.

In all fairness, my daughter actually did enjoy the program with the videos and the word cards.  However, I feel like the aspect of it that made it fun for her was my own enthusiasm regarding her progress.  This became a positive experience for her and that, in and of itself, is a good thing for her sense of self and her confidence.  Although learning to read is essential in later life, I believe that infants do not need to have reading thrust upon them during the first year of life.  It is more important for their healthy psychological development to sit in their parents lap, experience their parents touch and smell, and feel safe and loved in this experience.  The primary goal of reading to an infant should be to create a nurturing and safe attachment between the parent and child.  The secondary benefit is that it introduces them to language, exposes them to a greater vocabulary, and begins teaching them phonics.  Please keep in mind that this discussion pertains specifically to infants and young toddlers.  If a child is struggling with reading in the early elementary school years and his/her teacher has noticed that they are falling behind, it is very important to address this issue by having them assessed by a psychologist and to provide them with the necessary resources to help them catch up before they fall too far behind.  You can read more about the assessment process by clicking on the following link, http://www.lapsych.com/psycho-educational.asp

In conclusion, I feel that it is important to introduce infants to books and to read to them from a young age.  The brains of children are most receptive to language between the ages of 0-5.  However, the focus of this process should not be for them to actually learn to read by the age of 1 or 2, but instead, to help create a positive association with the concept and process of reading while giving them a sense of safety and nurturance.  In infancy, the most critical goal to meet is for the infant to create a healthy attachment to the primary caregiver and to feel a sense of safety and love in the world.  If they can also begin to learn the process of reading while experiencing this sense of love and safety from their caregiver, then that’s just topping on the cake.   

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian



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