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Self Harm Social Media and Social Contagion

Parent Alert – What do smart phones have to do with self-harm? An epidemic among our middle school students – YES!!!!

We all know that the Internet has dramatically changed the lives of humans all over the world. While majority of it is positive, the dark sides of it walk into our therapy offices all day long. I write this article as an appeal to parents of 5th through 11th grade students. PLEASE, please, please think twice before you give your “child” free access to a playground that has no monitors.

As a Psychologist who has been treating teens here in San Diego for almost 30 years, I am blown away by the hoards of teens who are self harming in the last 1 to 2 years.

Cutting is a behavior that traditionally has had roots in trauma, mood instability and often girls or boys who are not able to “find” feelings or name “feelings.” As mental health providers, our work tends to be in the arena of working through the traumatic events, finding ways to cope with the emotional rollercoaster that can be present with the teen brain and identifying feelings and learning how to cope with negative emotional states.

How does one connect smart phones to cutting and self-harm?  Celebrities use social media to spread the virus through sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. When we have Demi Lavato, Myle Cyrus, Brittney Spears, Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga openly talking about their “recovery” from self-harm, girls who worship them begin to see this as normal behavior. Some of these celebrities are well intentioned, in that they are trying to prevent other girls from going to these behaviors.

This mimicry is called social contagion. In very simple words – contamination! The epidemic of self-harm is completely being transmitted virally via social media and the Internet. There are hundreds of blogs in the Internet that glorify self-harm. Middle school girls feel an enhanced sense of belongingness when they are part of “the” club that cutsL Other blogs glamorize the “thigh gap” and yet others glamorize anorexia and bulimia.

To understand social contagion, we have to understand some brain science. We are all born with mirror neurons, which give us empathy and connection. These mirror neurons are responsible for the “copying” behaviors that we all do. Most teens will say they do not want to be like everyone else, yet they are constantly trying to fit in, and be in a group. Teen angst is all about finding your self, and looking for people to emulate and inspire you. The teen brain is under construction and will not be fully developed till age 25. When Demi Lavato who is so strong, powerful, vibrant and rocks the preteen and teen world speaks, they ALL listen.

If someone has the flu and you are nursing them, chances are you may develop the symptoms in a few days since you got exposed to the virus. The PROXIMITY put you at risk for the flu. Social media “contaminates” millions of girls and boys across the globe. Cutting is a maladaptive behavior, and this social acceptance makes it an adaptive, socially accepted, even approved behavior.

The most protective factor a parents can create is to not have your child/teen have a smart phone till they are 17 or older, keep the computer and ipads out in the open in the family, have discussions about which social media their kids are on, and who do they follow? If the bird flu were going around what protective factors would you create around your teen? Be a parent please?

Posted on 6/23/2014

Natural Relief for Migraines – The Neurofeedback Solution

Today, medical experts estimate that more than 45 million people in the United States alone deal with headaches on a regular basis. If you suffer regularly with tension or migraine headaches, then you know all too well how debilitating they can be. In severe cases, both types of headaches can actually prevent a person from working, going to school, and living a normal life. If you have tried over the counter and prescription medications without much or any success, you might want to consider the benefits that Neurofeedback provides.

Migraine headaches are usually localized in certain areas of the brain and this varies from person to person. The most commonly misdiagnosed headache is the sinus headache that is often a migraine, and not accurately diagnosed. It is very possible to have a migraine without any of the classic symptoms of migraine such as nausea or throbbing pain. Migraines tend to run in families.

Migraines are the result of turbulence in the brain that appears to have very slow wave activity. Theses inefficiencies in the brain can result in a series of symptoms including headaches, poor memory, loss of concentration, eating and sleep.

The brain receives the feedback from itself (almost like watching itself), and it learns to regulate the Central Nervous System that is the source of the migraines. As the brain is watching itself through the Neurofeedback process, it learns to detect where the turbulence is and changes itself to have a better outcome.

The most exciting news is that Migraine sufferers are shocked that such a treatment was not available to them prior to all the medications they took over the years. Usually it takes about 10 sessions to experience relief from the migraines. Permanent lasting change will take effect in about 20 to 40 sessions.

This non medication treatment modality is not presented enough in the media for headache sufferers to see that there are non medication modallities that are there that one can tap into.

The following are research articles on migraines and effectiveness of Neurofeedback:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21309444

http://www.eeginfo.com/research/migraines_main.php

Stress: The Silent Killer

The perils of modern life seem to be lurking in the hallways of our psyche through the pathways of stress. When one thinks of defining stress it is hard to pinpoint where it actually resides. Symptoms of stress are so global that they affect all areas of a person’s functioning from headaches to digestive issues, depression and a feeling of impending doom. Typically when a person is feeling stressed it is because there are some areas of their life that feel off balance and they are not coping as well as they could and should under different circumstances.

This is a key factor to keep in mind when it comes to handling stress. Often when we feel powerless and a loss of control the sensations increase and the body responds by throwing out more cortisol to deal with the threat.

When the body is experiencing stress it is in a total fight or flight mode and it has no way of knowing what the dangers are and when the dangers may subside. It is the heightened cortisol that damages the cells in the body and creates the illnesses that we experience that are a result of stress.

It is imperative to understand how stress manifests’ itself so that we are aware of all the possibilities that are there for us to counteract the cellular damage that the cortisol is creating.

The stress hormone can be directly reduced by the following simple ways:

  • Breathing – breath work through 5 minutes of daily meditation
  • Attitude adjustment that says “this too shall pass” keeping in mind that all events are of a transitory nature
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise boosts our immune system and directly reduces cortisol in the body
  • Brain training to balance the brain – Neurofeedback is a treatment modality that helps the brain to be retrained so that the brain regulates itself and does allow stress to dysregulate the other body functions. Neurofeedback works to regulate the entire brain so not only does it help with the stress, but it also helps with anxiety, depression, sleep irregularity and headaches. Neurofeedback is a way we are teaching our brain to meditate and balance itself
  • Eat fresh, healthy foods that are all colors of the rainbow. Fresh foods have antioxidant qualities that boost the cells back to health and get rid of the oxidative stress that the cells are experiencing. Fresh greens essentially flush out the stress from the body!
  • Dance and do social activities that rejuvenate the brain and then you will feel happier since the brain likes it when we create new adventures that excite and delight our senses.

Stress is an inevitable part of our day-to-day life and how we manage it truly determines the quality of our life and the joy and meaning we are able to tease into each day. Research has shown that the people that are the happiest are people that actually give back more than take. Do not let stress overpower you – instead look for ways you can try to make a difference in your community. This is the best stress buster of all!

Relationship between Debt, Depression and Death by Suicide – The Deadly D’s

Consumerism is the aliment of the 21st Century and advertising that makes us feel inadequate constantly bombards us if we don’t have the latest gadget or the best clothes or the fastest car. The advertising “world” spends $200 Billion dollars a year seducing us to buying various products so that we develop brand loyalty and remain addicted to buying.

As a Psychologist I treat addictions of all types and spending beyond one’s means is one of the ailment that brings people into treatment at our Healthy Within Brain Institute. A dysregulated brain is bound to be impulsive, thrill seeking and anxious.

In popular media we will often have jokes about “retail therapy” where one truly does get a dopamine fix when they go shopping when depressed.

Even though a person may be aware that they don’t have the money to pay for a particular item, they will still shop because they are going for the ‘fix” just as the cocaine addict would go for cocaine even though they know it creates huge problems for them.

Dopamine is also known as the “craving molecule”

Here are some signs of a shopping addiction:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/shopaholic-7-signs-addicted-to-shopping_n_1883751.html

Here are some thoughts that exist when one is so distorted in their thinking that they are contemplating suicide:

http://getoutofdebt.org/16841/my-debt-is-making-me-depressed-and-suicidal-tim

DEPRESSION LEADS TO DISTORTED THINKING

Recent studies have shown how suicide rates are increasing among the middle aged. The following article points to some reasons why:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/05/02/180545035/suicide-rate-climbs-for-middle-aged-americans

The baby boomer generation is the one that has been affected the most by the economic downturn since they were close to retiring and had most of their money in stocks, bonds and funds. The were hit the hardest economically and since many of them were nearing retirement age, the effect was very powerful on them.

Our experience with the very successful treatment of depression utilizing Neurofeedback actually helps in a more globally because when one has depression, chances are they have tried a number of ways to resolve the depression. With each successive attempt at trying “empty fixes” the problem worsens and thereby puts the person at higher risk for a successful suicide. An additional component of debting is impulsivity and Neurofeedback plus psychotherapy help the person use much more of their thinking brain versus the emotional brain.

Neurofeedback is a completely drug free non-invasive treatment modality that assists the person in a complete reset of their brain regulation. Medications often have side effects that are unwelcome and compliance with medication is low.

How Laughter Impacts the Brain

Laughter, such a joyful, intense emotion yet very poorly understood from a brain perspective.

As a Psychologist I work to cultivate resiliency in my clients, with one of the prominent factors of resiliency being a sense of humor. We all intuitively know that a sense of humor is a precious commodity and yet we do not “invest” in as heavily as we probably could!

Within the field of neuroscience, we have become increasingly excited about the range of new tools we have to measure various regions of the brain as they get activated by experiences and emotions. Functional MRI’s and qEEG maps are new brain mapping techniques that are giving us a peek into some regions of the brain we had not previously explored.

Laughter is definitely a WHOLE brain activity that bathes the brain with wonderful neurochemicals that boost a person’s immune system, heal “broken neurons” and most importantly regulate the brain.

Scientists that have studied the brain notice that the entire cerebral cortex lights up when a person laughs. There are specific regions of the brain that are involved when one laughs. Each region regulates a specific biological function in the body, which is why laughter has such a positive effect on the overall health of a person.

Here is an article that gives the exact regions of the brain that are activated with laughter:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/laughter3.htm

The following are articles that are research based and these can be cited in my appearance:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2249748/

What is most exciting in Neuropsychology and Brain research are treatment modalities that are being utilized much more in balancing the brain. One such treatment modality is Neurofeedback, which is one of the primary treatment modalities we utilize at Healthy Within Brain Institute. Neurofeedback regulates the positive and negative charges in the brain which result in an identical response as one has with laughter!!

This is exciting because it means we can actually treat the brain and cultivate a sense of humor through Neurofeedback. This then results in more heightened resiliency, better stress response, better health and cheaper medical costs! Perhaps we can use laughter to overhaul the medical system!!!

From Farm to Table – College campuses and veganism

College dining halls are now riddled with incessant choices of foods with specific markers on the food identifying vegetarian, vegan, kosher, gluten free, etc. As confusing as it is, these options also are the doorway to college students learning new and different ways of eating.

The following statistics highlight the body image disturbances that are all too prevalent in our youth today:

  • 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. Overweight girls are more likely than normal weight girls to engage in such extreme dieting (Boutelle, Neumark-Sztainer, Story, &Resnick, 2002; Neumark-Sztainer&Hannan, 2001; Wertheim et al., 2009).
  • Even among clearly non-overweight girls, over 1/3 report dieting (Wertheim et al., 2009).
  • Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
  • The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds. The average Miss America winner is 5’7” and weighs 121 pounds (Martin, 2010).
  • The average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from around 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s. The World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 and 24.9 (Martin, 2010).
  • 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, Levine, Spencer, Colditz, & Stampfer, 1996; Neumark-Sztainer, Haines, Wall, & Eisenberg, 2007).
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995).
  • Of American, elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight (Martin, 2010).
  • The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women TRIPLED between 1988 and 1993 (Hoek& van Hoeken, 2003).

College is a time of discovery and exploration of the self and one is easily influenced by what the peers are doing on campus.

Orthorexia is a common term used for when a person has developed an unhealthy obsession with eating “clean”. In the last 5 years since there has been a growing movement towards organic farming and clean eating coupled with rejecting the industrial production of food. With increasing headlines discussing the “Obesity Epidemic” and a college student’s fear of gaining the so called “Freshmen 15” it is easy for a college student to be exposed to the manipulation of the American diet and as he/she is becoming a critical thinker about these issues, a natural point of rebelling the system would be to become vegan.

Just as in the drug world we reference pot as the gateway drug, “veganism is the gateway to developing an eating disorder such as orthorexia. The college student innocently walks into this landmine of healthy eating. Dining halls are very user friendly to cultivating eating disorders since abundant supplies are made available and they will cater to the variety of palates.

The person who will be prone to developing this extreme form of eating, and for whom this can lead to a life threatening obsession will tend to be someone who is very perfectionistic and detail oriented. The perfectionism means that they will want to do it “extremely” well and this will fire off the gene.

With the 28 years of experience in the treatment of eating disorders orthorexia has become more prevalent in the last 5 to 7 years in our clinic. This time frame coincides with the farm to table movement that is growing in such popularity. Books such as Micheal Pollan’s  In Defense of Food are common reads among high school and college campuses. For a person who is highly influenced by societal trends this can then become a triggering event as can a variety of other community movements.

For those college students who have developed Orthtorexia it is critical that they see a Psychotherapist at their counseling center who specializes in eating disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They will need to relearn how to not be afraid of food and cultivate a balanced approach to “eating healthy.”

In general college campuses are HUGE breeding grounds for eating disorders. For us clinicians the contagion component of eating disorders is very apparent to us. Teaching the student how to not war on their body at a time of extreme stress and change is extremely gratifying for our center staff!

Healthy Within Brain Health Institute Launches Summer Brain Training Program

Sessions begin May 15th and assist children with ADHD regain focus for new school year

(San Diego, CA – May 1, 2013) – According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, roughly 10% of all school-aged children in the United States, totaling over 5 million, have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.  Recent studies have confirmed that the use of Neurofeedback, or Brain Training, is the most successful, non-invasive treatment option for children with ADHD.

San Diego-based Healthy Within Brain Health Institute is pleased to announce its Summer Brain Training Program designed to increase a child’s focus, productivity, organizational skills, and social independence.  Beginning May 15, 2013, children suffering with ADHD can attend weekly interactive and individualized brain training sessions to engage their brain’s natural abilities and increase retention and confidence.  The tools utilized are non-invasive and mimic that seen in educational video games designed to engage the brain’s natural functions.

“Neurofeedback Brain Training is ground-breaking for the treatment of ADHD as well as dozens of other disorders attributed to brain function,” said Divya Kakaiya, PhD, Program Director for Healthy Within Psychological and Brain Health Institute.  “Healthy Within’s ADHD Brain Training Program focuses on the individual needs of each child and is an ideal treatment model to assist them in regaining their focus and productivity – enabling each child to begin a new school year with restored hope and brain health.”

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive brain based method of treatment that re-trains the brain to function and regulate itself in a more effective way. It teaches the brain to become more effective, adaptive, efficient and effective. Through the use of EEG brainwave recordings and audio, visual and tactile signals, the Neurofeedback system monitors the brain waves and re-trains it through auditory and visual stimulation. It is pain free and non-invasive.

To enroll in Health Within’s ADHD Brain Training Program, call 858.622.0221 or log on to healthywithin.com. Deadline to register is May 14, 2013.

About Healthy Within – Restoring Hope through Brain Health

Founded by Dr. Divya Kakaiya, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, who has been treating all ranges of Psychological conditions since 1985, Healthy Within Brain Health Institute and Psychological Center offer the latest, cutting edge therapies that provide effective and life changing treatments options for children, teens, adults, seniors, military men and women through Neurofeedback Brain Training, individual psychotherapy, family therapy, couples therapy and group therapy.  For more information, visit healthywithin.com

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