Oxytocin: The Key to Love and Happiness?

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If you have ever read my blog before, you know I am a full-on nerd. Today’s post is the nerdiest yet. This information can be found, like the last few weeks, in Love Sense by Sue Johnson, but it has also become common knowledge and can be found many other places as well. (But buy Love Sense: it will change your life!)

You may not have heard of oxytocin before, or you may not be familiar with its important role in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone and a nuerotransmitter.

Your brain gets a rush of oxytocin when you look at a loved one, remember a happy event with a loved one, hold hands, hug, breast feed, hold a baby, or even play with a pet. Snuggling on the couch, rocking a child to sleep, or cuddling with your cat or dog will all produce that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from oxytocin. The biggest rush of oxytocin comes from orgasm, which is why we like to cuddle after sex. It is also the hormone that sends a pregnant woman into labor (pitocin, the drug they may have given you to induce labor, is the synthetic form of oxytocin), but that is in a whole different quantity than what we usually have in our body.

Oxytocin is only found in mammals; the presence of oxytocin is part of what causes a mother to care for her babies after they are born, often at great cost to herself. (I know birds take care of their babies too, but I haven’t read what causes that behavior in non-mammals.) Oxytocin increases our tendancy to trust, to have empathy, and can actually reduce the perception of physical pain. With the presence of oxytocin, the amgdala (the fight/flight/freeze/f–k part of the brain) calms down, allowing the person to feel calmer and safer.

So what does this mean for you and your relationships? It means that when you feel sad, angry, hurt, lonely, depressed, or anxious, getting a hug or petting your cat really does make you feel better. It means that your romantic relationship can be improved by holding hands and having sex. It means your kids will be calmer and happier after a bedtime snuggle. All of this has been folk wisdom for centuries…but now you know the science behind it.

You are BEAUTIFUL!

 

I am BEAUTIFUL!

You are so stupid! How dumb can you be? Wow, you are so fat! Look at all those zits on your face! As you stare in the mirror and remember those awfully mean words that were spoken over you years ago, you realize they are still staring you straight in the face. Do you find yourself overly compensating those specific areas in your life because you have started to believe all of those toxic words?

Words carry such enormous weight and can impact people for decades. Negative words can damage you if you allow them to. The Bible tells us that reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).  We can break those toxic words out of our lives by separating the truths from the lies. Try writing all the truths about you on one set of index cards and the negative lies on another set. Look in the mirror and speak those truths over you. Say, “I am beautiful, I am smart!”

Get scriptures that coordinate with what God’s word says about you and speak those things over yourself. For example, Psalm 139:14-16 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them”. When these scriptures are repeated over and over  the truth of God’s Word will start to sink deep into your heart which will change you deep within. And those negative index cards; rip them up and rebuke those thoughts because they are not of God. God has great plans for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

Who Wants That Perfect Love Story Anyway?

 

Who Wants That Perfect Love Story Anyway

Who wants that perfect love story anyway?

 Who wants that perfect love story anyway? In my best Beyoncé voice and inspired by her collaboration with Jay Z on the song “On the Run”, I sing…. Cliché, Cliché, Cliché. Yes, I am being cynical but really, who doesn’t want the perfect love story? Roses just because. Beach vacations every summer. White picket fence with 2 children and a dog. Love letters on the refrigerator every morning. Sex every night. Best make-up sex after a big blow-up. Chills down your spine at the sight of him or her. You get it right… Cliché, cliché, cliché. How about a little dose of reality. Roses are just for special holidays. Love letters, what are those? We can’t afford the picket fence yet. Sex is two, maybe three times a week. And sometimes there is just no making up! Sometimes love doesn’t measure up to our unrealistic expectations because they are, KEY WORD: UNREALISTIC! The foundation of our love story can’t be built on the inconsistencies of material possessions, unrealistic ideas of what love should be, or other inadequate measures. Society which includes celebrities, friends, and our families show us a very warped view of relationships. Either it’s the perfect love story OR your worst nightmare. WHERE’S THE BALANCE???? In my experience, the perfect love story is one that my partner and I are creating that is unique to our experiences with one another. And guess what?? It is not perfect in the dictionary sense of the word, but it’s perfect for us. It’s hard work and it’s easy, it’s pain and it’s pleasure, it’s frustrating and it’s understanding, it’s hurt and it’s healing, it’s bad and it’s good. It’s mine, it’s his, it’s ours! So I’m toasting in celebration of this cliché, “Love is what we make it.” So are you ready to create your perfect love story?

I invite you to journey with me on this quest of love. I’ll give you my perspective and experience of love as both a single woman and a committed partner. It is my hope that it will be an inspiration for both singles and partners alike. Stay blessed and beautiful! See you next week!

#SoulSurgeon

ADHD Epidemic

Multiethnic Arms Raised Holding ADHD

 

The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind The A.D.H.D. Epidemic

ADHD is definitely an epidemic that has risen to enormous heights in the last 5 years.  I see it everyday working with children and families in the office where I am employed.  This article by The New Your Times is so on point and it explains the reason behind the ADHD epidemic.  Check it out please this is republished from that  article by Kimberly Hutchins, LPC Intern.

Between the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2012, people across the United States suddenly found themselves unable to get their hands on A.D.H.D. medication. Low-dose generics were particularly in short supply. There were several factors contributing to the shortage, but the main cause was that supply was suddenly being outpaced by demand.  

The number of diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has ballooned over the past few decades. Before the early 1990s, fewer than 5 percent of school-age kids were thought to have A.D.H.D. Earlier this year, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 had at some point received the diagnosis — and that doesn’t even include first-time diagnoses in adults. (Full disclosure: I’m one of them.)

That amounts to millions of extra people receiving regular doses of stimulant drugs to keep neurological symptoms in check. For a lot of us, the diagnosis and subsequent treatments — both behavioral and pharmaceutical — have proved helpful. But still: Where did we all come from? Were that many Americans always pathologically hyperactive and unable to focus, and only now are getting the treatment they need?

Probably not. Of the 6.4 million kids who have been given diagnoses of A.D.H.D., a large percentage are unlikely to have any kind of physiological difference that would make them more distractible than the average non-A.D.H.D. kid. It’s also doubtful that biological or environmental changes are making physiological differences more prevalent. Instead, the rapid increase in people with A.D.H.D. probably has more to do with sociological factors — changes in the way we school our children, in the way we interact with doctors and in what we expect from our kids.

Which is not to say that A.D.H.D. is a made-up disorder. In fact, there’s compelling evidence that it has a strong genetic basis. Scientists often study twins to examine whether certain behaviors and traits are inborn. They do this by comparing identical twins (who share almost 100 percent of the same genes) with fraternal twins (who share about half their genes). If a disorder has a genetic basis, then identical twins will be more likely to share it than fraternal twins. In 2010, researchers at Michigan State University analyzed 22 different studies of twins and found that the traits of hyperactivity and inattentiveness were highly inheritable. Numerous brain-imaging studies have also shown distinct differences between the brains of people given diagnoses of A.D.H.D. and those not — including evidence that some with A.D.H.D. may have fewer receptors in certain regions for the chemical messenger dopamine, which would impair the brain’s ability to function in top form.

None of that research yet translates into an objective diagnostic approach, however. Before I received my diagnosis, I spent multiple sessions with a psychologist who interviewed me and my husband, took a health history from my doctor and administered several intelligence tests. That’s not the norm, though, and not only because I was given my diagnosis as an adult. Most children are given the diagnosis on the basis of a short visit with their pediatrician. In fact, the diagnosis can be as simple as prescribing Ritalin to a child and telling the parents to see if it helps improve their school performance.

This lack of rigor leaves room for plenty of diagnoses that are based on something other than biology. Case in point: The beginning of A.D.H.D. as an “epidemic” corresponds with a couple of important policy changes that incentivized diagnosis. The incorporation of A.D.H.D. under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act in 1991 — and a subsequent overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration in 1997 that allowed drug companies to more easily market directly to the public — were hugely influential, according to Adam Rafalovich, a sociologist at Pacific University in Oregon. For the first time, the diagnosis came with an upside — access to tutors, for instance, and time allowances on standardized tests. By the late 1990s, as more parents and teachers became aware that A.D.H.D. existed, and that there were drugs to treat it, the diagnosis became increasingly normalized, until it was viewed by many as just another part of the experience of childhood.

Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, has found another telling correlation. Hinshaw was struck by the disorder’s uneven geographical distribution. In 2007, 15.6 percent of kids between the ages of 4 and 17 in North Carolina had at some point received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis. In California, that number was 6.2 percent. This disparity between the two states is representative of big differences, generally speaking, in the rates of diagnosis between the South and West. Even after Hinshaw’s team accounted for differences like race and income, they still found that kids in North Carolina were nearly twice as likely to be given diagnoses of A.D.H.D. as those in California.

Hinshaw, as well as sociologists like Rafalovich and Peter Conrad of Brandeis University, argues that such numbers are evidence of sociological influences on the rise in A.D.H.D. diagnoses. In trying to narrow down what those influences might be, Hinshaw evaluated differences between diagnostic tools, types of health insurance, cultural values and public perceptions of mental illness. Nothing seemed to explain the difference — until he looked at educational policies.

The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, was the first federal effort to link school financing to standardized-test performance. But various states had been slowly rolling out similar policies for the last three decades. North Carolina was one of the first to adopt such a program; California was one of the last. The correlations between the implementation of these laws and the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis matched on a regional scale as well. When Hinshaw compared the rollout of these school policies with incidences of A.D.H.D., he found that when a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized-test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward. Nationwide, the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented.

To be clear: Those are correlations, not causal links. But A.D.H.D., education policies, disability protections and advertising freedoms all appear to wink suggestively at one another. From parents’ and teachers’ perspectives, the diagnosis is considered a success if the medication improves kids’ ability to perform on tests and calms them down enough so that they’re not a distraction to others. (In some school districts, an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also results in that child’s test score being removed from the school’s official average.) Writ large, Hinshaw says, these incentives conspire to boost the diagnosis of the disorder, regardless of its biological prevalence.

Rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis also vary widely from country to country. In 2003, when nearly 8 percent of American kids had been given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., only about 2 percent of children in Britain had. According to the British National Health Service, the estimate of kids affected by A.D.H.D. there is now as high as 5 percent. Why would Britain have such a comparatively low incidence of the disorder? But also, why is that incidence on the rise?

Conrad says both questions are linked to the different ways our societies define disorders. In the United States, we base those definitions on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), while Europeans have historically used the International Classification of Diseases (I.C.D.). “The I.C.D. has much stricter guidelines for diagnosis,” Conrad says. “But, for a variety of reasons, the D.S.M. has become more widely used in more places.” Conrad, who’s currently researching the spread of A.D.H.D. diagnosis rates, believes that America is essentially exporting the D.S.M. definition and the medicalized response to it. A result, he says, is that “now we see higher and higher prevalence rates outside the United States.”

According to Joel Nigg, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, this is part of a broader trend in America: the medicalization of traits that previous generations might have dealt with in other ways. Schools used to punish kids who wouldn’t sit still. Today we tend to see those kids as needing therapy and medicine. When people don’t fit in, we react by giving their behavior a label, either medicalizing it, criminalizing it or moralizing it, Nigg says.

For some kids, getting medicine might be a better outcome than being labeled a troublemaker. But of course there are also downsides, especially when there are so many incentives encouraging overdiagnosis. Medicalization can hurt people just as much as moralizing can. Not so long ago, homosexuality was officially considered a mental illness. And in a remarkable bit of societal blindness, the diagnosis of drapetomania was used to explain why black slaves would want to escape to freedom.

Today many sociologists and neuroscientists believe that regardless of A.D.H.D.’s biological basis, the explosion in rates of diagnosis is caused by sociological factors — especially ones related to education and the changing expectations we have for kids. During the same 30 years when A.D.H.D. diagnoses increased, American childhood drastically changed. Even at the grade-school level, kids now have more homework, less recess and a lot less unstructured free time to relax and play. It’s easy to look at that situation and speculate how “A.D.H.D.” might have become a convenient societal catchall for what happens when kids are expected to be miniature adults. High-stakes standardized testing, increased competition for slots in top colleges, a less-and-less accommodating economy for those who don’t get into colleges but can no longer depend on the existence of blue-collar jobs — all of these are expressed through policy changes and cultural expectations, but they may also manifest themselves in more troubling ways — in the rising number of kids whose behavior has become pathologized.

 

The Concept of Attachment

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The Susan Johnson discussion continues!

During the first half of the 20th century, the need for connection between mothers and babies was not understood. In fact, mothers were discouraged from picking up a crying baby, because it was thought that reinforcing the crying behavior would spoil the baby. It was not until John Bowlby performed research on orphans, and then children and mothers, that western society came to understand and accept that babies NEED to attach to their caregiver in order to develop properly.

Here are some of Bowlby’s findings, many of which may seem normal and intuitive to you. But remember, this was revolutionary 60 years ago:

*The drive to bond is innate, not learned.
*We are designed to love, emotionally attach, and depend on a few precious others who will be there to protect and attend to our needs. This desire for connection lasts “from cradle to grave”.
*One’s emotional tie is wired before birth and automatic
*Forming a deep mutual bond with another is the first imperative task of the human species.
*We seek out, monitor, and try to maintain emotional and physical connection with our loved one.
*We reach out for our loved ones particularly when we are uncertain, threatened, anxious, or upset.
*We miss our loved ones and become extremely upset when they are physically or emotionally remote; this separation anxiety can become intense and incapacitating.
*We depend on our loved one to support us emotionally and be a secure base as we venture into the world and learn and explore.

Next week we will discuss how attachment applies to adult romantic relationships.

The Concept of Adult Romantic Attachment

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Continuing our discussion of Sue Johnson’s book Love Sense, this time we will talk about adult romantic attachment.

Adults’ attachment style is influenced by the attachment style they experienced with their mother (or other primary caregiver). Just like children, there are three types of attachment:
1. Secure attachment: is the optimal style. It is built based on the trust that one can count on his/her partner to be available and receptive when needed.
2. Anxious attachment: take places in a relationship where partners are inconsistently responsive and/or neglectful toward each other’s needs. Individuals with anxious attachment have difficulty trusting others due to doubt and insecurity.
3. Avoidant attachment: people with this style of attachment tend to suppress their emotions and desires for connection as a result of fear of abandonment and rejection. Adults with avoidant attachment view others as unreliable and/or untrustworthy.

Just like children, adults experience attachment threats in this way:
First step: anger and protest
Second step: clinging and seeking
Third step: depression and despair
Fourth step: detachment (the worst one).

Just like children, adults need a “secure base” in order to feel confident and able to meet their potential. Needing a partner is not pathological or weak, it is the way we are made. We desire to love and to be loved, to share ourselves with an intimate partner. When this relationship is threatened or does not exist, we may feel lonely, desperate, depressed or otherwise unfulfilled.