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.
Although 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.
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…
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