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Doing Life Together

Teen girlTest your knowledge on self-injury: Take the True or False Quiz 

Self-injury is:

1) A suicidal behavior. False. It is an attempt to self-soothe, control emotions, communicate what is difficult to say, or control and punish oneself through trauma reenactment. It helps a teen avoids suicidal feelings that are unbearable. This is an attempt to stay alive, to stay connected to something and not check out for good.

2) An addiction. False.  It is addictive-like in that it helps people feel better, though temporary, and it often increases in severity and intensity over time.

3) Any type of physical harm. False. The thing that distinguishes self-injury from other forms of physical harm is the elevated mood a teen experiences after self-injury.

4) A behavior that means a person is psychotic. False. The person is in her right mind but tormented with issues enacted through self-harm.

5) More than an attention getter. True. Some people think this is just a way to get attention when actually it is a cry for help and indicative of emotional pain.

6) A way to feel alive.  True. It breaks emotional numbness and reconnects the person to her body after a dissociative experience. She feels something, often feels alive due to the physical pain.

7) A sign that a teen can’t feel pain. False.  Even though the self-injurer may not feel pain while inflicting the wound, he or she will feel pain afterward.

8) A way to express what can’t be spoken. True. Even though this is indirect communication, self-injury communicates a need.

9) A form of self-loathing. True. It serves as a punishment for having strong (usually negative) feelings.

10) Something that a teen will typically outgrow. False. The teen needs help and new coping skills taught.  The most effective treatment is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In the DBT model, self-injury is viewed as an ineffective way to solve problems. Therefore, the goal of DBT is to stop self-injury, and teach better problem-solving and distress tolerance. It is a structured treatment that incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy.

boy gamingJust a word of warning.

If you are a gamer or tied to the video gaming industry, you won’t like this report given to the American Psychiatric Association’s 2014 Annual Meeting.  It has to do with a review of 13 published articles that look at Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) especially those addicted to Internet gaming) and brain abnormalities.

Now, keep in mind that IAD is not a DSM V disorder, but one that is under study at present time. The interest in IAD is because we have a number of studies that show IAD associated with depression, suicide, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD and more.

American youth are more Internet addicted (26.3%)  than drugs and alcohol. And teens who are addicted are more at risk for depression and suicide.

Here are four findings from the review:

1)  Internet addiction is associated with changes in blood flow in the brain. Increased blood flow is seen around the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, with decreases in blood flow around areas associated with hearing and visual processing.

2) Internet addiction is associated with dopamine changes in the brain. Prolonged use can lead to a reduction in dopamine transporters, a state we see in other addictive disorders.

3) Prolonged use can also give a sense of out-of-body feeling and euphoria.

4) Prolonged use can lead to feeling indifferent to consequences of a person’s behavior such as decreased sensitivity to monetary loss.

So while there are no definite conclusions, we continue to look at the impact of the Internet on our connectedness and how it might be changing the brain in good and not so good ways. There is enough information to suggest that Internet addiction is real for some people, but more study is needed.

 

 

Source: American Psychiatric Association’s 2014 Annual Meeting. Abstract NR7-33. Presented May 4, 2014.

childIf you have a chance to listen to Geneticist Wendy Chung’s TED talk on autism, do so. She briefly summarizes where we are on better understanding the Autism Spectrum Disorders. Here are a few of her points:

1) Autism is a spectrum disorder which means it looks different in different children. There is a wide range of symptoms and functioning.

2) Better awareness of the disorder and symptoms  and a wider definition of the disorder have led to more diagnoses. This may explain why the rate of 1 in 88 is higher than previous decades.

3) While we are still unclear as to why some children develop autism, we are clear that vaccines DO NOT cause autism. The original study associating vaccines has been pulled by the Lancet because it was fraudulent and the author has lost his medical license. Furthermore, the ingredient in the vaccines thought to be the culprit was removed from the vaccines in 1992 and the rate of autism has not decreased.

4) A few associated factors are paternal advanced age, exposure to certain agents during pregnancy and genetics.

5) Genetics play a role but the role varies. In some children, there is no family history of autism. Thus a gene or combination of genes are mutated or changed creating the condition with no passed down genetics. In others, there may be a genetic link.

6) The disorder can result from a single gene or a combination of genes. In fact, there can be 200-400 genes that form certain combinations. This is why we see such variety of symptoms.

7) One new direction is to identify specific genes in order to target specific drugs as potential treatment; other areas of development are the use of educational strategies and technology to train the brain.

8) Families can join the Interactive Autism Network in order to help clinicians and researchers better understand autism spectrum disorder.

9) Despite the progress on identifying genetic markers, we still do not know a lot.

10) The 4 to 1 ratio of male to female is still not understood. Early identification is key. Strategies such as looking at infants biomarkers that put them at risk, e.g., not socially connecting and tracking with eye movements, are being developed.

 

tanI’ ve written several articles on the dangers of tanning to the skin, but now we may have additional concerns when it comes to mental health, especially the mental health of our teens.

The teenage years are marked with insecurity and a desire to fit in and be noticed. When it comes to appearance, teens are under major pressure to have the perfect body. Those who don’t feel they measure up often struggle with depression. Tanning is one way to try and boost appearance and mood despite the possible dangers to the skin. So one group of researchers decided to study teens and frequent tanning to see if there was a correlation between tanning and mood.

The conclusion of the study conducted on several high school students who excessively tan was that excessive indoor tanning habits are associated with depression and suicide attempts among teens.

Excessive tanning was defined as 40 or more sessions in a 12 month period. Specifically, the study noted that students who excessively tanned had more depressive symptoms and were more at risk for suicide attempt and ideations according to researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. In other words, frequent tanning could be a marker of depression.

The investigators of the study felt that because of the increased risk of depression and suicide attempt, depression screenings could be helpful for students who excessively tan.  However, screening kids then needs to be followed up with treatment.

So parents pay attention to your teen’s tanning behavior. Frequent tanning could be used as a way to improve mood or appearance, but may indicate depression. And suicide is the leading cause of death among teens.