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

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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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ImageAs students head back to school for the new academic year, there are naturally a new set of social changes and shifts in status that take place. Some kids/adolescents may attempt to highlight a different aspect of their personality during the new school year and change the label which may have been placed on them. Unfortunately, some of these individuals will choose the bullying route to achieve their personal goals: they will choose to take the route of belittling and tormenting others as a means of elevating this own status. In other words, they will bully others to elevate their own position in their social circle. This is a time when adults need to be hyper-vigilant and attuned to the experience of possible victims of bullying.

Some signs to watch for may be a change in the individual’s overall mood. Be aware of whether your child is suddenly more quiet, more angry, more irritable, etc. Also, pay attention to any physical changes that may be taking place such as wearing different types of clothing (i.e. covering up, dressing provocative, etc.). Another change that may need to be addressed is a sudden increase in the use of accessories such as stacking bracelets: this may be an attempt to cover up proof of self-harm.  Try to be aware of whether your child is quickly gaining or losing weight because this is usually a sign of some type of emotional turmoil. In addition, a change in your child’s usual routine may be an indicator that possible negative social changes may be taking places for him/her (i.e. she used to talk on the phone with her best friend for hours but suddenly has nobody to talk to). It is also important to take notice of any changes in your child’s use of social media and the internet. Is your child who used to be on the internet constantly, suddenly avoiding it?  Or vice versa?

It is important to note that neither one of these behavioral changes individually mean your child is being bullied but instead, it is usually any combination of these changes that should alert your sense of awareness as a parent. The underlying theme in all these possible signs of cyber-bullying is CHANGE in behavior. The most critical thing that a parent can do for his/her child who is being bullied is to first, notice the changes in your child’s behavior and the possible signs that your child may be in a state of depression, and second, to help them advocate for themselves or if need be, to step in and advocate on their behalf. The best thing that you can do for a child who is being cyber-bullied is to notice and to show that you care.

If you determine that your child is being bullied in any way, it is recommended that you add a psychologist to your team in helping your child process and make sense of the feelings and experiences that he/she has endured.

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


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


I read about a study today that peaked my interest.  Professor Brashears from Cornell University recently conducted a study in which he discovered that Americans today have 1/3 fewer true friends or confidants as was the norm 25 years ago.  Studies done about 25 years ago noted that Americans, on average, had 3 friends that they would trust to turn to in times of emotional difficulty.  The study that he conducted recently has found that number has currently dropped to 2 friends.  In a world of social media and the ease of staying connected, one would think that we would all be closer to one another, but this does not appear to be the case.

Let’s look at reasons that this finding may be true.  First off, although it is nice to stay in touch with people on Facebook, the truth of the matter is that the majority of our Facebook friends would have been completely disconnected from us had social media not been an option.  Therefore, I wouldn’t really call them friends… they’re acquaintances if anything.  Therefore, the fact that someone may have 100+ Facebook friends does not have any connection to their true friendships.  On the other hand, I believe that the option of using social media such as Facebook makes us lazier in out true friendships.  Truth be told, it’s just so much easier to FB message someone or text them with what you actuallywant to say as opposed to picking up the phone to call them and having a drawn out conversation before getting to the point of why you were calling in the first place.

I’m conflicted about whether I like to have the ease of social media at my fingertips.  As much as we feel too tired to call a friend and talk about how we are doing and how they are doing, that conversation serves a strong purpose in maintaining and growing that relationship.  First off, it allows you to catch up regarding the details of one another’s lives.  Second, it helps preserve your sense of empathy because you can actually talk about how the other person is doing and not just focus on getting your needs met at that given moment.  Finally, it creates new opportunities to connect over topics that would have not come up over text messaging. 

However, another reason  we may have less real friends as a society may be due to the fact that we are more stressed out as a society.  Financial stress, longer work hours, more responsibilities at an early age, etc are all contributing factors to our need to focus on ourselves and slowly drift away from our friends.   These factors cause the majority of us to isolate and try to figure it out on our own, but as a result, we end up drifting away from the very people who may have been able to help us through those difficult times.  The lonelier we feel, the higher our rates of depression.  Therefore, it is important to share not only our good and happy moments with our friends, but to trust them in also sharing our difficult times with them.  Once this can be done, that is when that person can truly be call a ‘friend’.

If you know anyone who appears to be isolating and shutting down in sharing their emotions and experiences with you, try to have that conversation with them and be there for them.  If you feel that it is becoming a real problem, it may be helpful to encourage them to talk to a psychologist about the possibility and treatment of depression.

In conclusion, social media serves a great purpose in giving us the opportunity to stay connected with the extended people in our social circle.  However, it becomes dangerous when it is used as the primary means of communication with those that we actually love and trust.  In the end, if you genuinely care about someone, pick up the phone and call them.  Otherwise, in the long run, you may not have as much to talk about as you do now…

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


We’ve all heard the saying ” I perform better under stress”.  Although this may be true for some of us, it is not the case for everyone.  A recent study from the University of Chicago found that during times of stress (measured by elevated levels of cortisol), people who tend to perform better are the one’s who have a higher level of confidence to begin with.  However, people who are anxious and unsure of themselves tend to perform poorly when faced with situations of increased stress.  It appears that the cortisol associated with stress helps individuals who are confident but it hinders those who are anxious.

This study is very helpful for individuals living with anxiety as well as for the general public.  It also brings home the importance of self-confidence and esteem in future success.  It appears that stress is a benign entity, but rather, it’s your mind’s interpretation of that stress that causes one to succeed or to fail.  Confident people seem to interpret the stress as a driving force.  On the contrary, anxious people interpret this same stress in a negative manner, engage in a series of negative thoughts regarding themselves, end up failing or performing poorly, and  as a result of the poor performance, they increase their negative thoughts and level of anxiety.  It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be addressed.

Psychological treatment can be very helpful for individual with anxiety.  With the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, one can learn to identify the negative thoughts and work toward stopping and replacing them with positive ones.  In addition, therapy can help one identify the source of their anxiety and work through those issues.  In addition, this study brings up thoughts of the importance of positive parenting.  More than ever, the research is showing us that the most important thing that we can give our children is a high level of self-confidence.  It is more important for them to believe that they will be able to solve a problem as opposed to being the first to solve it.  For example, it’s more crucial for the healthy development of a child for his/her parents to teach the child to believe that he/she is good at math as opposed to instilling in the child the need to get the answer correct every time.  We can’t be next to our children at every moment to make sure that they do every problem correctly, but we can instill the self-confidence and positive thought patterns to help them get through those future stressful situations in a successful manner.  It’s not the stress that causes us to fail; it’s how we interpret the stress that makes or breaks us…

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


I often see/hear discussions in the community regarding how children/adolescents are posting too much personal information on social media sites such as Facebook and I feel that this is legitimately a source of concern for parents.  Therefore, I found a new study from the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science which addresses the issue to be very relevant.  The study found that the amount of personal information that teens share on FB is actually similar to the amount of personal information that their parents share.  The only difference is that teens spend more time on these kinds of sites.  This, in turn, gives them more time to post content that is personal.  On average, it was determined that teens spend 55 minutes per day on Facebook, whereas adults spend 38 minutes/day.  However, the personal nature of the posts (i.e. pictures, locations, etc) between parents and children is similar in content.

One thing that this study brought to mind for me is that although the personal nature of the posts between the parents and children may be similar, that does not account for the content of the posts.  In other words, although a parent may feel it appropriate to post a picture of him/herself with their spouse, the content of that picture may be more conservative than a picture that their teen may post of him/herself with their boy/girlfriend.  I would appreciate a study that would further look into this issue regarding if the personal posts uploaded by teens place them in a more compromising position than the personal posts uploaded by their parents. 

That said, I believe that social media is a territory that parents need to address and discuss with their teens.  It is not something that is going away anytime soon and generally speaking, can actually be a great way for teens to express themselves.  However, like any other aspect of raising teenagers, limits and boundaries need to be set around its use and occasional monitoring is needed.   Most importantly, it is critical to talk to your teens about the consequences of the information they choose to post on social media sites and the permanent nature of the content they place on the internet.  Open communication and trust are vital aspects in a parent and teen relationship.  This does not mean that you should treat your teenager like they are your friend but that you are there to be a sounding board for them if/when they are having issues.  If your teen then chooses to follow a path that you disapprove of as a parent, that it when it is necessary to give them a consequence.  If you are struggling in communicating effectively with your teen, it is important to address the issue by seeing a psychologist before it gets out of control.  However, just try to keep in mind that they are going through a difficult time in their lives in which they are trying to determine how their personal values/beliefs align with the social environment in which they exist and how to go about being accepted in light of who they are.  For some, this struggle does not end in adolescence, but is a lifelong journey…

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


 Have you ever wondered if your infant realizes it when you’re upset or arguing with your spouse?  New research shows that although infants may not be able to tell us how they are feeling, a conflictual relationship between their parents stresses them out, as demonstrated by the effect that it has on their sleep  patterns.  Research recently published in the journal  Child Development explains that marital instability when the infant was nine months old was related to child sleep problems at 18 months, including difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep.  Although all infants and children go through periods of sleep difficulty, it is important to consider whether exposure to a conflictual relationship may be further worsening the problem.  In other words, not all sleep difficulties in children are due to parental conflict, but if parental conflict is present and your baby is experiencing sleep difficulties, it is likely that the exposure to conflict is having a negative impact on the baby’s sleep pattern.

Sleep in crucial to the healthy development of infants as discussed in a research study from Emory University, which was recently published in the journal SLEEP.  The study shows that longer bouts of sleep in infants end with an increase in weight and body-fat composition tied to an increase in length.  In other words, sleep affects a baby’s physical development by helping them get taller and it also increases the baby’s weight and abdominal fat.  Therefore, preventing a baby from achieving optimal levels of sleep due to environmental stressors such as marital conflict can impact not only their emotional, but also their physical development. 

Although parents do not intend to hurt their infants when arguing with their spouse in front of the infant, it is important to know that it does have an impact on them.  Most parents assume that during infancy, babies have no idea what is going on in the world, so they do not need to filter their behavior or language as they would if they were upset at their partner in the presence of an older child.  More and more, however, we are seeing that this assumption is not true.  Although babies do not have a clear sense of what is being said or why, they sense the emotions that are involved in the relationships surrounding them.  In other words, if you are yelling at your partner, the baby does not understand what you are saying, but they understand that you become angry when interacting with your spouse.  This, in turn, affects your baby’s emotional state and (as this study shows us) their physical development.  Therefore, it is important to stay composed and contain the expression of negative emotions in the presence of infants as one would in the presence of an 8-year-old child.  Otherwise, it can affect their ability to emotionally and physically thrive ( as well as your ability to get a good night’s sleep).   It is important to seek the services of a psychologist if you feel like your baby’s sleep difficulties are caused by emotional difficulties in the home.  Family and/or couples therapy is very helpful in providing healthy outlets for the communication of negative emotions in relationships. 

Dr. Melkonian



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