Doing Life Together

little-boy-1635065_1920Reader Question: My daughter has been diagnosed with depression. The pediatrician is recommending she take an antidepressant. She is only 11-years -old and I am not sure this is a good idea. She is depressed and there are reasons for her depression. What are your thoughts about putting children on antidepressants?

 Trust me, you are not alone asking this question. It is estimated that 9,614,000 children (ages 0-19 years of age) are on antidepressants. 1,026,000 of those children are between the ages of 0 and nine years of age. The problem is that there is limited research about many drugs and their impact on children. Side effects are always an issue and can be different from adults taking the same drugs. In fact, studies show that children who begin an antidepressant can be at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The risk is small but greater than those not taking antidepressants. Thus, the FDA requires all antidepressants to include a black box warning-the strongest safety warning possible on a prescription medication. Of course, the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors are present with depression.

Regarding the number of children on antidepressants, Dr. Benjamin at the National Institutes of Health is leading a team to study dosing and safety issues in medicating children. My opinion, based on years of working in psychiatric hospitals and in medical schools, is that non-drug alternatives should always be explored and tried before medication is considered.

However, it would be irresponsible of me to say that in no case should a child be given these medications. If medication is given, talk therapy should be provided along side medications. And the child must be monitored closely because children do not communicate side effects. In addition, antidepressants usually take one to three weeks before benefit is felt and several medications may have to be tried before one is found that works. That said, I would encourage you to speak with your pediatrician about non-drug options first, as many types of depression can be treated successfully without medications.

And I would highly recommend that you have your child evaluated by a child psychiatrist as well. He or she may be more familiar with treatment of childhood depression. The risk of medicating and the risk of non medicating are greatest in the early years of a child’s life, so this has to be a conversation with a well trained doctor who can help you assess all the risks and options.


Source: *Statistics reported in the Wall Street Journal, Personal Journal Section December 28, 2010

“Comparative Safety of Antidepressant Agents for Children and Adolescents Regarding Suicidal Acts,” Pediatrics, May 2010.

upset-534103_1920Americans are losing their common sense. We are becoming offended by almost anything. Here is the latest thing that simply defies reality.

Students at University of California Fullerton were asked to provide a list of “inappropriate” words because they are too gendered. Too gendered? I don’t even understand the assignment. What does it mean to be “too gendered?”

For example, the word “secretary” is on the list. Help me see the gender in that word! A secretary can be male or female. The word is not biased, but since the Cal students think it is, put it on the list. It’s all about what we feel to be true!

Miss or Mrs are problematic too. Apparently distinguishing your marital status is inappropriate. It is too exclusive. Look, if someone doesn’t want their marital status identified, they can go with “Ms.” But don’t tell my kids they can’t call the neighbor, Mrs. Smith. Actually, Mrs. Smith was offended by Ms. Smith!!!

The use of “guys” made the list.  I grew up in the north where everyone refers to “guys” as gender neutral. So who decided it only meant guys? People (the more correct term) who use “guys” did not have a gender in mind–until now. You people decided this, not the north!

And seriously, “man the desk” should be replaced with “staff the desk!” Imagine this conversation…

“Hey, I am leaving to use the restroom, would you please staff the desk.” “How do I do that?” “You know, staff it.” “You mean hire someone?” “No, man it, but not necessarily with a man. Maybe a man, but it could be a woman. So don’t say man. “And don’t say “he” or “she” either–make sure you say ‘they.” “So I need more than one person?” “No just get one person!”

New level of absurdity for sure. Do not write me and tell me how insensitive I am because I am not. And I do recognize the power of language in shaping opinion, but it feels like (so it must be true)  we are looking to find offense.

So Cal Fullerton students, I recommend you spend less time on deciding what words you feel are offensive to anyone and everyone, and actually try to learn something while in college. Perhaps a focus on resiliency is needed in order to prepare you for the real world. In the real world, people don’t spend their time and energy trying to craft a perfect sentence. In the real world, someone will slip and say, “guys!” Then what?

Angry bossJim made an appointment to be seen by a therapist for anxiety problems. Little did he know that behind his anxiety could be an anger problem.

As the therapist dug deeper into Jim’s history, it was discovered that Jim had years of holding on to anger at a relative who did him harm. The more Jim talked about this person, the therapist concluded that repressed anger was at the root of his anxiety. Finally, Jim exploded. All that repressed anger took a toll and led to feeling anxious.

The mind and body are linked so holding on to anger disrupts feeling of well-being. What you feel and believe impacts your physical health. In fact, repressed anger activates stress hormones and makes us more prone to illness. [1]

Repressed anger is when you feel anger, but do not acknowledge or express it. You feel it, but deny it. You may have learned this growing up. Maybe you were told not to get angry. Maybe your parents repressed their anger because they didn’t want you to be afraid. Maybe you’ve had bad experiences with anger and feel out of control. Whatever the case, anger behavior is learned.

Repressed anger builds up and leads to resentment. Dr. Theodore Rubin, a New York psychoanalyst, believes repressed anger is the source of much anxiety. In his book, The Angry Book, he talks about repressed anger as a major root of anxiety disorders. Repressing anger can be a temporary solution to not dealing with an issue but one that causes physical and emotional problems.

Jim had a choice as to how to proceed. He could repress anger, erupt again or admit to the anger.

He chose to admit to the anger and develop a strategy to deal with the conflict with his relative. Once he was able to talk through the conflict, his anxiety lessened. The offense by the relative hit  hard, but he no longer carried the burden of pretending.

Jim had a choice. He could carry the anger around and pretend it wasn’t there, or tell the truth and address the issue. He could do this on his terms, when he felt prepared and ready. When he did, the anxiety of carrying the burden was lifted.

We always have a choice. How we deal with anger is in our control. Don’t repressed it and hope it doesn’t affect you. Instead, deal with the issue and let it go. Often, that requires adding forgiveness to the process.



Adapted from We Need to Talk but Dr. Linda Mintle, Baker Books, 2015

[1] Sapolsky, R. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1998) p. 308.


mother-1327186_1280No matter how difficult our relationships can be, most adult children want a good relationship with their mothers. Whether your  relationship is great, terrible, or somewhere in between, mother-daughter relationships are powerful and partially define who we are. The more you work through issues with your mom, the better all your other relationships will be. Here are a few simple tips to help you develop a more meaningful relationship with mom.

Learn who you are first: Having a great relationship with mom doesn’t mean you lose who you are in the process. It is just the opposite. The more you define who you are, the better you can be with her without becoming defensive or constantly needing her approval, not because someone else thinks you should or is pressuring you to change. Once you have a better sense of yourself, you are open to being more empathetic, can listen better, and can focus on who she is as a person. The goal is to develop your own self while staying connect to this all important person.

Stay in touch. No matter if she is good or poor at communication, check in regularly and value the relationship. You can’t build a meaningful relationship with anyone unless there is regular and intentional contact. And it needs to be in person when possible. Take the time and be intentional about staying in touch.

Have a child of your own: A big equalizing factor for many adult daughters is when they have a child of their own, particularly if that child is a girl. Having a child or children of your own usually creates more empathy for the job. When an adult daughter begins to grasp what her mother went through and how really tough parenting can be, it usually leads to more grace, forgiveness and acceptance. And often we see another side of our moms once they become a grandparent.

Build biblical foundation: Build your mother-daughter relationship on principles in God’s Word. Although the oneness we had with our moms before birth is the closest to oneness with God, human relationships will always have flaws. A daughter’s yearning for intimacy and closeness is ultimately one that only God can truly satisfy. Look for the expressions of God’s love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13 as we mother and are mothered. Love opens up possibilities. Because of love, we can and should find a way to honor and connect with our moms.

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