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Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Do Peers Make Teens Stupid?

posted by Linda Mintle

Why do teens do things with their friends that they would never do by themselves?

A part of the answer might have to do with the developing brain of a teen. Specifically, adolescents are wired in ways that lend to risk taking when in the presence of their friends.

Researchers at Temple University tested the brains of adults and teens by attaching them to brain scan machines while simulating a driving game. What they found was that when teens were not observed by friends, they drove basically the same as the adults in the study. However, when teens had friends observing them, something interesting happened. A part of the brain associated with reward lit up and the teens took more risks. They had more crashes and reckless driving behavior.

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This study lends credence to the idea of teens doing stupid things together that they would not do alone. The psychologist who ran the experiment, Laurence Steinberg, a national expert on adolescent development, thinks this finding may be applied to other areas of teen life like bullying. Maybe, the peer approval and possible social advancement associated with bullying is enough to light up the reward centers in the brains of teens who bully. He suggests that the short-term pleasure of the moment with peers may override judgement. This also means that giving teens more information on bullying or any other negative behavior is not going to prevent much. In these cases, knowledge is not power. It takes maturation to make good decisions.

Instead, it would be better to limit opportunities for immature judgement that could harm others. For example, I didn’t allow my teens to drive with other teens in the car when they first started driving. I limited the opportunity, knowing that the risk taking increases when other teens are present. In the case of bullying, working on the peer group to approach bullying as a negative and not a peer enhancing activity would change the context. When teens come together to advance kindness and empathy, we may have an effective strategy. And those values are usually taught at home.

 

Source: Steinberg, L. (2007). Risk-taking in adolescence: New perspectives from brain and behavioral science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(2), pp. 55-59.

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Guest Blog: Dr. Rita Hancock on Hope For Pain Sufferers

posted by Linda Mintle

Guest blogger Dr. Rita Hancock, Board-certified Pain Management, treats people holistically. Author of Radical Well-Being and The Eden Diet, you can find out more about her at her website, www.RitaHancock.com

 

As a pain management specialist, I see patients on a daily basis who have pain conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, disc problems, muscle spasms, jaw pain, migraine headaches, and others.

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In order to figure out who needs what kind of treatment, I talk with my patients extensively, examine them thoroughly, and order all the necessary tests. However, sometimes, no obvious diagnosis emerges and I’m left scratching my head about what’s causing the patient’s pain.

Especially in light of the high rates of addiction and prescription narcotic abuse, I try very, very hard to discern who among my patients needs narcotic pain medicines and who needs emotional or even spiritual support, primarily.

One of the main things I consider is how the patient’s emotional state—how much stress, anxiety, and/or depression that person is experiencing—can affect his or her perception of pain. Maybe the tests came back negative because the patient has only a little muscle spasm, and it just feels like excruciating pain to the patient because of other things that are going on at home or at work.

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Think about it! There’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the physical aspect. It’s when your nerve endings fire and tell your brain, “Hot stove! Quick—Pull your finger away!” In contrast, suffering is your emotional reaction to that pain. “AAAAAaaaaarrrrrrgghhhhh!!!!!!” [piercing, exaggerated, melodramatic screaming and crying….]. “My life is ruined now that my finger is burned! Where’s that bottle of pills?”

If you’re an anxious or depressed person who was abused, neglected, or abandoned as a child, you may have fewer coping skills as an adult to deal with stress. As a result, you might experience physical pain more profoundly [or dramatically] than the next person, and you might even more inclined than average to reach for those pills.

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In addition, understand that physical pain can serve as a distraction from your emotional issues. It feels less personal to fixate on, “My back hurts” instead of, “My life feels completely out of control and I’m scared!” Your brain can play tricks on you—making you fixate on pain as being a bigger problem than it is. That way, you don’t have to deal with more emotionally threatening thoughts.

In case I described you, don’t worry. There’s a lot of hope for you to feel better.  Through a combined approach that includes not only the proper medicine but also counseling and prayer (as well as extending forgiveness to those who hurt you in the past), you can achieve greater control and freedom from emotionally-induced pain.

That way, you can snuff out your pain out at its emotional root cause—without having to rely on addictive narcotics or expensive, painful, time-consuming medical tests prescribed by pain management doctors like me.

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Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

posted by Linda Mintle

NATIONAL EATING DISORDERS AWARENESS WEEK ends today. Be informed. Encourage someone who struggles to get help!

What causes eating disorders?

This simple question has a complex answer. Families are mystified as to what makes a 16 year-old jeopardize her health. Friends are disgusted by the vomiting sounds heard in college dorm room bathrooms. Husbands are baffled by their wives seeming inability to love themselves. Why do women and men abuse their bodies with food?

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There is no one thing that predicts whether someone will submit to the bondage of these disorders. What we do know is that the causes are multiple, interactive and complex. No one factor stands alone. Keeping that in mind and knowing we don’t have definitive answers, here are some of the risk factors thought to lead to the predisposition and development of an eating disorder:

·History of a mood disorder (increased risk for bulimia) or family history of mood disorder

·Traumatic life events

·Genetics:  Eating disorders do tend to run in families. Usually females are most affected. This may suggest that some people are predisposed to these disorders, but it certainly doesn’t eliminate the role other factors play. Research is currently being conducted looking carefully at the role of genetics. Heritable factors may be involved in the development of an eating disorder. However causation is difficult to determine given other contributing factors.

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·Family history of substance abuse may increase the risk for bulimia

·Odd family eating habits and strong concern about appearance and weight may translate to family members

·Dissatisfaction with body and desire to be thin

·Dieting appears to be an entrée to an eating disorder for women and exercise for men

·Normal development events such as the onset of puberty, leaving home, the beginning of a new relationship, particularly with the opposite sex.

·Repeated negative comments on appearance

·Emphasis on thinness among upper and middle class women and female adolescents

·Positive family history of eating disorders coupled with dieting

·Personality traits: For anorexia the risks include affective over control and intolerance, lack of self-direction and personal effectiveness, and difficulty adapting to developmental tasks. There is some evidence for the contribution of affective instability and poor impulse control in developing bulimia.

 

If you know someone who struggles with an eating disorder, tell him or her to get help. Treatment works and help is available

 

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Free and Easy Stress Buster

posted by Linda Mintle

I’ve written about it before. I trained residents, librarians, social workers, teachers and others in this easy stress buster.

It’s free, it’s easy and it will save money on your health care costs.

What is it?

SMILING! Your facial gestures influence your mental health!

In a study published in Psychological Science (November 2012), researchers found that smiling reduced stress. Using a rather imaginative approach, researchers had people smile unknowingly. Here is what they did. During a stress task, subjects had to place chopsticks in their mouths. The chopstick positions forced three different types of facial response. One produced a neutral expression, the second produced a smile and the third a full smile. This way, each subject didn’t know he or she was smiling. Tricky!

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The smiling people reduced their stress. The muscles involved in the smile sent a message to the brain, signaling safety, and lowering heart rate.

So here is your charge–smile often and big!

Smile at other people as it seems to be contagious. People smile back at you and you are de-stressing them as well!

Smile at your job and on a date and you will project a more positive image.

Smile when someone cuts you off in traffic and you will lower your heart rate.

Make smiling your favorite exercise.

Mother Theresa once said, “Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Sounds like it is also a gift to yourself.

NOW GET OUT THERE and SMILE!

 

 

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