Doing Life Together

love addictedSome of you remember singer Robert Palmer’s well-known music video, Addicted to Love. The chorus repeats the line, “Might as well face it, you’re addicted to love.”

What if Palmer was on to something here? Can people be addicted to love?

Psychiatrist Vineeth John at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, thinks this could be possible.

He and his colleagues are studying  neurobiological love to see if love could indeed be addictive. They defined love addiction as “a pattern of maladaptive behaviors and intense interest toward 1 or even more romantic partners at the detriment of other interests and resulting in a lack of control and significant impact on functionality.” In other words, love addiction would be harmful, destructive or dangerous to a person and cause much distress.

In the study, Dr. John noted that the same parts of the brain associated with substance abuse were activated when a study participant was shown a picture of his/her love. The neural circuits associated with attachment and addiction disorders were shared.

Because of the neurobiology involved, Dr. John wonders if this reflects attachment problems. He speculates that love addiction could be a form of attachment disorder that goes beyond the average person falling in love. Specially, love addiction might come in to play when a person can’t get over a broken relationship  or stays in a relationship despite danger.

Most of us can think of someone like this–a person who just can’t let go of a relationship that is not healthy.

Dr. John believes that people who might become love addicted have these qualities:

1) They have an immature concept of love.

2) They have high levels of impulsivity and anxiety.

3) They are in a maladaptive social environment.

4) They have an anxious-ambivalent attachment style.

5) They experience structural affective dependence.

Love addiction is only in the process of being studied. It is not a mental disorder or a condition psychiatrists treat with medications. It is one of those conditions that we see with people who can’t seem to let go of an unhealthy relationship and move forward with life.

In those cases, maybe he or she is addicted love!

ID-10067330“No, you can’t play with us! ”

When children are left out of activities with their peers, it is painful. No one likes to be the child that isn’t picked in P.E. or the one who didn’t get invited to a birthday party.

Researchers have looked at why some kids are rejected. Here are some of their findings related to boys:

About half of rejected boys tend to be aggressive, argumentative and disruptive. Others (up to 20%) are shy and withdrawn or socially awkward. Their immature, sometimes awkward behavior, can cause rejection, or rejection can bring out their immaturity.

Still others try to be funny but don’t understand the nuances of humor and can come off annoying.  Some kids don’t read the cues of others well enough to know when to stop talking or be less aggressive. Those kids need help recognizing “stop” signals, e.g., the person is looking or walking away.

Other kids are a poor sport, try too hard to impress others by bragging, or isolate too much.

So if your son is struggling with rejection, think about what may be driving the rejection in terms of his behavior. Also, you may want to ask his teacher since he/she observes his peer interactions and could provide feedback.

Once you have a handle on the cause, you can work on teaching more socially appropriate behavior, targeting specific areas. Finally, I have found that when a rejected child has one friend to call his own, it takes the sting out of needing acceptance from the group.

child runningA mom notices that her three-year-old son eats dirt, paper and sand. She wonders if this is normal and if he will eventually grow out of this behavior.  

A child who persistently eats nonnutritive substances like dirt, sand and paper for a period of over a month could be suffering from pica.

Pica is more common in children with autism and developmental delays, but affects other children as well. About 10% to 20% of children, ages one to six are affected by this disorder.

Pica is a type of eating disorder that needs to be evaluated by a medical doctor who can rule out anemia, intestinal blockage or possible toxins or bacteria ingested from the items consumed.

Pica can be triggered from a nutritional deficiency in which the child craves iron or zinc. So checking low iron, zinc and other nutritional deficiencies through a blood test is a first step. A physician will also look for health related problems that may arise from what is ingested.

A child therapist can then work with the child using behavioral strategies aimed at stopping the consumption of nonfood items.

Parents should monitor eating at home and put items commonly eaten out of sight. Play areas should be regularly cleaned and vacuumed often. It is also a good idea to provide activities that keep a child’s hands busy. Finally, reinforce eating appropriate items, talking about the differences of nonfood and food items.

Sometimes this problem lasts several months; others times, it can disappear on its own. However, in some cases, it can continue into the teen and adult years, but this is more common when pica is related to a developmental disorder.

marital separation2It’s tragic whenever a marriage comes to a point where two people are struggling to coexist. When a relationship becomes toxic, dangerous, emotionally exhausting or so contentious that two people can’t have a civil conversation, separation can function like a time-out. It gives a couple time to think, pray and sort out what needs to change for things to get better.

It can also be used to work on serious martial problems like addiction, abuse, and high conflict if a couple is committed to the process of doing what is necessary to correct problems. Other times it is used to begin the process of divorce.

Telling the children that you have decided to separate is never easy, but a few guidelines can help the process:

1) Timing is important. If you tell them too far out of the separation, they become anxious. Time to a very young child can seem like forever. If you wait until right before it happens, they won’t have enough time to adjust to all the changes and process what is happening. So think through the timing of the conversation–not too far out to make it feel like an eternity, but enough time to deal with the changes that will come.

2) Both spouses should tell the children together. It is important for your children to see that you will work together when it comes to them. Offer comfort and be unified in your approach and message. It helps to rehearse what you will say ahead of time.

3) Focus on telling the news and control the way you behave. This is not the time to re-engage in blame and upsetting behavior. Stay civil.

4) Don’t give too much detail. The younger, the less detail is needed. Older children will ask questions that you will need to answer, but answer with the fact that you have not been getting along and have tried to work things out, but more has to change. If you have been in high conflict, this will not surprise your children even though they will be upset.

5) Don’t lie but don’t throw each other under the bus. They don’t need to be involved in the sordid details of your problems. Again, avoid blame and intimate details of your problems.

6) Reassure them that you married for love and they were born in love. Add that you are sad about the break up because marriage is supposed to be a life commitment.

7) Reinforce as many times as possible that this is not their fault. Tell them the adults are having problems that the kids didn’t create or can fix. Even with assurance, children still feel they may be at fault so this will be a repeated message.

8) Let them know that loving children doesn’t stop or end. While adults may split up, parents and children love each other for life.

9) Give some details of immediate plans. Who is moving out? When they will see that person? What does this mean for the near future?

10) Be age-specific in your approach. Preschoolers need assurance of love, seeing both parents, and as much consistency as possible; School age children have better cognitive understanding  and may be more afraid of what happens when people don’t get along. You will see more emotion–sadness, anger, upset that needs lots of support and comfort; Teens will feel the unsettling of this and feel a lack of security during a changing time in their development; Older teens may have opinions and express their anger more directly and wonder how it will impact their lives with peers, money, etc. Let the child direct questions and answer honestly without disparaging the other, giving reassurance that you will try your best to work out issues that are troublesome to them. No matter your marital status, you will work hard at co-parenting.