Category Archives: Mental Health

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

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What is a shopaholic? While some of us may enjoy the thrill of an occasional splurge or spending more than we bargained for during a big sale–that doesn’t make you a shopaholic. But that rush or feeling you get when you make a good purchase is what some shopaholics describe as a retail high, which in turn will lead a compulsive shopper to want to buy more.  Shopaholics are individuals who can’t control spending and have extended periods of uncontrolled spending sprees and impulse buys.


Is being a shopaholic an addiction? It is actually considered an impulse control disorder.  One purchase leads to another and the thrill of buying often outweighs consideration of the consequences that follow. And it does lead to addictive like feeling. When a shopaholic makes the purchase, the brain gets flooded with dopamine, the same chemical that the brain releases during drug use. Then, after the shopping high, the buyer crashes and feels depressed /distressed. The cycle starts all over–again.

Signs you may be a Shopaholic?

Check your closet.  Do you have many unopened items?
I am not talking about the sweater your aunt gave you last holiday season, but about items you selected on your own that are unopened or still have their tags attached. You may have even forgotten about some of these possessions – that’s a problem.

You often purchase things you don’t need or didn’t plan to buy.
You are easily tempted by items that you can do without like that tenth iPod case.  Additionally, you may be particularly vulnerable to compulsive buying if you have a specific materialistic “obsession,” like shoes or designer handbags. Just because splurges tend to stick to one category doesn’t make them any more rational.

A bad mood sparks an urge to shop.
Compulsive shopping is an attempt to fill an emotional void, like loneliness, lack of control, or lack of self-confidence. Shopaholics also report feelings of being “out of sorts” if they haven’t had their shopping fix. So, if you tend to shop after a bad day or shop to pick up your mood, you may have a problem.

Tips to avoid being a Shopaholic!

Identify triggers.

Take note of what’s likely to send you off to the nearest department store . When these feelings overcome you, resist shopping at all costs and find a healthier way to work it out. 

Carry only enough cash to buy what you need.

Leave your debit and credit cards at home. Create a shopping list with estimated costs, and stick to it when you’re at the store. And stay out of your favorite store if you can’t resist the merchandise.

Ask for help. 

If you’re still struggling with compulsive spending, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can start with self-help books or by asking a friend or family member to help keep you in check, but it might also be wise to enlist professional help. Consider therapy, resources such as Debtors Anonymous and a therapist who specializes in OCD and addiction.

Shopaholics are all types. 

Compulsive shopping does not only affect women, but it is now believed to affect both genders almost equally. It is blind to income, race and age, and compulsive shopping negatively affects more than one out of every 20 Americans.


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Seasonal Affect Disorder and Post-Holiday Blues

When winter is in full force, even the best of us can get a little down. Realize it or not, weather affects your mood. And for many, the winter blues is beyond one’s self-control.

Brain chemistry is actually altered by cold weather and shorter days. Melatonin and serotonin are hormones that play a part in controlling moods, energy levels, and sleep. Melatonin helps your sleep and serotonin is connected with happiness and wakefulness. Exposure to sunlight causes levels of these hormones to fluctuate.  In the colder months, the brain produces more melatonin making sleep seem more desirable and less serotonin which can make you mildly depressed. For some, cold weather depression is too much to handle and can result in Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), a seasonal debilitating depression.

[Audio] Listen to Dr. Russell Hyken discuss why some people are depressed in the month of January

For those suffering from SAD, snow can bring about a whole other kind of feelings, such as guilt, loneliness, and feelings of being overwhelmed. The thought of leaving the house, playing with the kids, and putting on their snow clothes is too much too handle. A snow day doesn’t inspire one if they are already feeling down.

Additionally, school snow days can actually cause ‘more’ stress and worry to someone who’s already experiencing a low mood. When the texts messages start inviting the family out to play, build snowmen and have a big social affair, many feel even more depressed. Similar  to other ‘bright occasions’, such as Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays, a snow day can force one to see how lousy they feel in comparison to the cheeriness of  others around them.

And to further complicate one’s mood during this time of year, many also have the post-holiday blues. The gifts have been unwrapped, the songs have been sung, and the cookies have been baked and eaten. It is time to pack up the holiday mementos and move on. Unfortunately, many experience feelings of guilt from overindulgence, feel bad due to unmet expectations, and miss the activity and social aspects of the holiday.

This is not, however, as depressing as it sounds, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and to get yourself back to feeling normal.

1.     Exercise and Eating
As if we needed another reason to stay healthy.  Exercise is great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. And what you eat has a great impact on your mood. Foods that are devoid of nutrients (refined sugars, fatty foods, etc.) will zap your energy levels.

2.     Act on or make some Resolutions/Goals
This is a great time of year to set some new healthy goals. There is strong link between healthy behaviors and elevated moods. Those who continually engaged in healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, eating better, regulating sleep, etc.) are less sad and depressed than those whose behaviors are less than healthy.

3.     Get Social Support
Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Who can you turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up? Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email can brighten your mood.

4.     Get Some Sun
Sunlight provides us with Vitamin D, which improves your mood. Try to spend some time outdoors keep your shades up during the day, and sit next to widows

Even if you don’t typical have mood concerns.  Winter weather often brings on some mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy. Don’t despair; rather, recognize your emotions and do something about it.

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Are you a Procrastinator?

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What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference of more urgent tasks or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable things.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

People procrastinate for different reasons, but, for the most part, there are three basic types of procrastinators.

  • Thrill Seekers – Those who wait until the last minute so they can get that euphoric rush that goes with completing the job right before the deadline.
  • Avoiders – Those who avoid tasks due to fear of failure or due to a fear of success. In either case, these individuals would rather have others believe they lack effort than lack ability.
  • Decisional Procrastinators – Those who choose to avoid making decisions so they can be absolved of the responsibility or the outcome of an event.

What are the costs of being a procrastinator?

  • For yourself, procrastination causes stress and anxiety. This physiological response can compromise the immune system and make one more susceptible to colds, the flu, and gastrointestinal problems.
  • For the spouse of a procrastinator, resentment often builds because it shifts many of life’s responsibilities onto to them.
  • For the child of a procrastinator, a procrastinating parent models bad work habits and may create a procrastinating child.

Tips to Avoid Procrastination.

  • Make a good to do list– Focus on items you typically avoid and then set a deadline to do those evasive tasks.
  • Break down big tasks into little ones – Devote short chunks of time to a big project. Once you make some progress, the momentum builds and most will want to keep moving forward.
  • Choose appropriate surroundings -Make sure your work environment works for you and not against you.  Placing yourself in situations where you don’t get much done such as “studying” in bed or working at a café can actually be a method of avoiding work.
  • Stop checking your email, Facebook, Youtube, etc. – Digital distractions are the arch enemy of the procrastinator. It is too easy to get sucked in to the electronic vortex and waste hours of valuable time.

Procrastination is one of the most sure-fire methods to avoid success in life. Procrastinators sabotage themselves by placing obstacles in their own path and also choosing paths that hurt their performance. Procrastinators can, however, change their behavior but doing so consumes a lot of psychic energy. Commit to change and find a therapist or life coach if you can’t do it on your own.

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Moms with ADHD

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If you have a child with ADHD, there is a 60 percent chance that either you or your mate also has ADHD.

What is the difference between childhood ADHD and adult ADHD? Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating, can’t seem to follow directions and are easily frustrated with everyday tasks. Some will move constantly and act impulsively not stopping to think before they act. Adults with ADHD have some slightly different or additional symptoms which often include issues with time management, organizational skills, and goal setting.

Life is extra difficult when you’re a parent with ADHD. Being a mom, in general, is a hard job, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a busy professional trying to balance a career, kids and everything else. Yes, it is true that in recent years, men have been more hands-on with household and childcare responsibilities; the bulk of the work still, however, lands on the woman. Balancing a slew of commitments can get overwhelming for anyone, let alone a person with ADHD.

It can be difficult to identify adult ADHD because many women who have ADHD also have depression, anxiety or some other co-occurring condition often as a result of behaviors associated with their undiagnosed ADHD. You feel bad because you can’t focus or organize life. Further, when treating those other mood issues one does start to feel better, but the ADHD symptoms are still present.

ADHD must be addressed as a family issue when the mother has ADHD. Most mothers are so used to tending to the needs of others that they often overlook their own needs. It can be difficult for many women to admit that they can’t do it all. Accept your attention challenges and go with it.

Here are a few tips to manage your ADHD, but, in reality, they are good for any parent, not just attentionally challenged ones.

  1. Create Structure –Structure is the key for calming the sensation of being overwhelmed. Without it, inertia can set in, leading to even more stress over time. When creating a structured schedule, record everything you need to do each day and make sure to block free time, too.
  2. Take a Step BackReassess your situation and options. Can you switch your work schedule to better accommodate your life obligations? Do you need to hire some help…..a housekeeper, professional organizer, or baby sitter. Don’t think of this as a luxury; rather, as an accommodation so that you can manage your schedule without falling apart – which could really be expensive.
  3. Set Limitssay ‘no’ to the things that are not a good use of your time, or things that do not make you happy. Saying no can feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re a people-pleaser. Determine which activities provide energy and which drain you before agreeing to anything.
  4. Revise Your Expectations Avoid setting the bar too high by comparing yourself to others. Don’t expect your home to look like your neighbor’s or sister’s. Give yourself some slack. Create a happy environment not a perfect one.

Having ADHD doesn’t make you a bad mother! On the contrary, having ADHD gives you the ability to empathize with your children, come up with creative solutions for problems, and create a loving, nurturing and exciting home for you and your family. Learn to appreciate the gifts and minimize the weaknesses of ADHD.

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The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has increased by 66% over the last ten years. While this number may be shocking, it’s not all bad news. Dr. Hyken was on Fox2Now discussing the symptoms to look for, how to be tested and the available treatments.

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Bullying Knows No Age

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Today’s bullies are much more sophisticated than the troublemakers of my youth. Victims, these days, don’t typically have a black eye or bloody nose; rather, they arrive home with internal scars that are unnoticeable to their parents and more emotionally damaging than a punch to the stomach.

One thing that has not changed over the years is the definition: Bullying is unwanted or aggressive acts among individuals of all ages that involve a real or perceived power imbalance. These acts are continually repeated over time and may range from physical harassment to complicated emotional abuse such as exclusionary tactics and rumor-spreading.

Unfortunately, thousands of children wake up every morning afraid to go to school because they fear their peers, and it is a problem that affects kids from kindergarten through senior year and beyond. Interestingly, some children–especially younger ones–often are unaware that they are hurting others, but older adolescents will employ intentional tactics aimed at devastating their targets.

As kids enter into kindergarten, they begin to understand social norms and rules but have difficulty grasping expectations. Playground cliques emerge as some kids enjoy sports, others play house, and many climb on the jungle gym. When an unwanted peer tries to join the fun, a popular member may belittle the unknowing child to the amusement of his friends. Enjoying this new-found attention, the group leader becomes a playground bully.

While it is true that the elementary years are a time of innocence for most, it also is the period where many begin to notice that others are different. Children begin to tease their classmates because of height, weight, interests, learning issues, clothes, hair color and other unimaginably unique qualities. Sadly, frequent teasing often leads to more than just tears as even first-graders can become anxious and depressed.

When kids enter middle school, bullying becomes more common and more vicious. Peer pressure, pack mentality and an undeveloped moral compass can foster unrelenting meanness toward others. Some even become overly aggressive to establish their social status. Furthermore, it can be developmentally difficult for a tween to understand that he has ‘crossed the line,’ resulting in some viciously persistent harassment. Victims become isolated, and it also is common for the abused to physically fight back.

The middle-school mentality still exists in high school, but teen bullies often engage in a much wider spectrum of abuse. Furthermore, different sexes use different strategies: Boys typically are more direct (physically and verbally), while girls are more indirect, often engaging in relational abuse such as crowding an unwanted individual out of a lunch spot. Technology also enters the picture and cyber-bullying provides the opportunity for 24/7 attacks. Unfortunately, older adolescents are less likely to report acts of aggression and more likely to suffer serious mental health concerns.

No matter the age, persistently bullied children suffer long-lasting biological effects as structural changes occur in the brain as a result of the emotional damage. Bullied children produce more stress hormones, which creates a constant awareness and sensitivity to potentially stressful situations. For this reason, students spend more time scanning the environment for threats, making it difficult to concentrate, learn and relax. Furthermore, many victims don’t properly develop the needed emotional and cognitive abilities to lead successful lives because they are continually worrying and protecting themselves from others.

If you feel your child is the victim of continual harassment, take appropriate action. Call or email your child’s homeroom teacher or principal, and objectively report your concerns. Find a therapist who has school experience. And, most important, involve your child in a new activity that introduces him to other kids with similar interests.

At some point during the educational years, most students will be victimized. A recent American Justice Department study indicated that 77 percent of all students have been bullied, and 15 percent of those kids reported that they were treated severely and suffered long-lasting effects. To ensure that your children stay safe, stay involved in their lives. Continually connect with your kids so they feel comfortable speaking to you about any topic.

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Facebook, Depression and Children

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The use of Facebook is a prevalent form of communication among young people today. However, does it lead to depression? There is some debate about that, which Dr. Hyken addresses on KTVI-TV Fox 2 in St. Louis, MO.

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Facebook May Be Harmful to Your Health

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According to a published report in the Journal of Pediatrics‘ “Clinical Report-The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families,” there is a growing concern about a new phenomena called “Facebook depression.” Facebook depression is defined by these professionals as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic signs of depression.”

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Teenage Depression

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According to The National institute of Mental Health (NIMH) it is estimated that depression affects 11 percent of adolescents. As awareness for teenage depression grows, more people are recognizing its effect on their lives. Depression is a general state or sad and hopeless feelings, expressed over along period of time. “People with depression usually have low energy and low motivation.” Dr, Russell Hyken, a notable St. Louis child and adolescent psychologist said. Poor appetite, trouble sleeping, change in friends, poor grades and frequent illness are all signs of depression. Depression is constant sadness. Bad moods and stress are expected from teenagers. “Depression is not about having a bad day or a bad week. It is about having many bad weeks and months,” Hyken said, “too much stress ties closer to anxiety than depression.”

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Video Game Addiction

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According to the American Medical Association, approximately 90 percent of American youth enjoy video games. Eight and half to fifteen percent of those gamers play so excessively that they are addicted.

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