In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

Archive for March, 2008

Too much info about politicians

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 27, 2008

Following the latest Spitzer then Paterson scandals, a tongue in cheek article in New York Magazine asks how much sordid info on our politicians is too much? It’s a question that I’m asked all the time. Not withstanding the ha-ha value of the New York Magazine piece, this is actually an important issue.

The media has incredibly sophisticated abilities to not only pry into the minutiae of politicians’ lives with intensity and drive and then broadcast within seconds across the globe in a way that can legitimately wipe out a politician’s career. In some cases they should be wiped out…Spitzer I think is a good example of this. 

But, I wonder…are there talented, competent individuals who refuse to even run for office at high levels because they are afraid that issues in their background–having nothing to do with their current morality or competence–will be dragged out and thrown in their faces? Take Paterson. Do we care that he used drugs as a teen or young adult? Or even about his marital problems? Will it impact on his ability to do his job now. Not that teens should use drugs of course! And guess what a huge percentage of married people have affairs.

But perhaps the Republicans are stuck with a 71-year old McCain (not that he’s a bad choice, just that he’s really old!) because so few others had the guts to open up their private lives to the media that needs to be constantly fed. It’s unlikely that politicians 20 years ago were anymore moral or ethical than they are now. We just didn’t know what was going on. Maybe it was better that way. It’s possible to be good at some parts of your life–say running a country, but not as good at others–like running your own life. I see this with the people who come to me for help every day. I’m not sure that we should be narrowing our pool of competent politicians based on the media’s need to dig for dirt.

Your life is private, why shouldn’t theirs be too?

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Are teens flawed or the research?

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 14, 2008

A study,  released this week by the CDC is sending panic through the nation–it proclaims that 26% of teenage girls have sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), most of them black black girls. I have two serious problems with this research.

It is basing these findings on 838 girls. The CDC extrapolated findings of an ENTIRE nation from a sample of fewer than nine hundred!! They’ve got to be kidding, right?! This is a “nationally representative sample”? Shame on them–a waste of time and money.

To make matters worse is my second problem. The study is based on data that was collected FIVE YEARS AGO. Teens are like technology. Five years ago is irrelevant. Why didn’t the CDC team up with MTV now–they would have collected 10, 000 interviews in five minutes and had real, current data to analyze. Instead they’re relying on a pathetically small sample size that’s completely outdated.

But what amazes me is that doctors and the media are buying it, accepting it, panicking about it…but not questioning it. I’m not saying that girls don’t have STD’s or that we shouldn’t be concerned. Of course we should! I speak to hundreds of girls every year about practicing safe sex. I believe in the new HPV vaccine–although I don’t think we should be giving it to 9-year olds because we don’t know how long it lasts. But the truth STD’s may or may not be a huge problem for teenage girls. Are they? Based on this study, I have no idea and neither do you!!!

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Spitzer:another politician who just destroyed his career…

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 12, 2008

…and his family. The two top questions I’ve been asked in the last couple of days–by friends, the media and my 14-year old son are WHY do men in power blow themselves up in this manner and WHY do their wives stand by their side–literally–when they admit their self-destruction to the world on national television? The first is more obvious–the power of the position makes them feel invincible. It’s a bit like adolescence really, but in a sociopathic, rather than developmental way. They can’t imagine anything could ever touch them, so they take greater and greater risks, feeding their sense of indestructibility, of narcissism, of power. Until eventually they’re caught red-handed, or in this case red-….uh, well you know.

The second question is more complex. Perhaps the wives are paid. Maybe Silda was offered 10 million dollars to stand up there next to her husband during his admission and resignation–straight into a personal account in her name. That might make it easier to swallow. I hope she was. Maybe they do it for the kids. But, really it would be better for kids to see their mother stand up for her own self respect, not next to a husband that betrayed her so publically. Perhaps the wives of politicians have become so used to standing in their husbands’ shadows that they do it automatically. Or, perhaps, like Hillary Clinton, they have a future agenda–she’s calling in her chits now! I’m sure each situation is different but in Spitzer’s case, I’m guessing this is not the first time he cheated on his wife and I’m imagining that it will take a lot of therapy to put this marriage back together again if that’s even in the cards. I hope that Silda Spitzer stands up to her husband rather than next to him over the next several years. She needs that for herself and her daughters need to see that too.

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cutting research-sort of…

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 11, 2008

A newly reported study about cutting looks at the relationship between girls who cut, their serotonin levels and their relationships with their mothers. I VERY reluctantly provide this link to the Science Times which, in such unbelievably irresponsible reporting, in it’s headline, makes it seem as if it is primarily a poor mother-daughter relationship that leads a girl to cut. Thankfully, in the body of the article this is cleared up–in fact, the relationship between cutting and serotonin levels is stronger than that between cutting and a conflictual mom-daughter relationships. The combined relationship is the strongest.  Okay this makes sense. What isn’t explained, at least in the Science Times, is whether the girls had high serotonin levels before they began cutting (i.e.–they were predisposed to becoming cutters) or whether the cutting behavior changed their serotonin. Do the researchers know this? Next, I treat cutters–lots of cutters, so I know that their are MANY things that stress a cutter out, not just their relationship with their mothers. Yes, this can be a factor, but these researchers could just have easily studied dads, boyfriends, biology teachers, waking up early for school, finding the perfect outfit to wear…it’s possible that any of these, when combined with a teen biologically predisposed to cutting, could significantly increase the odds of her becoming a cutter or triggering an episode. Last, but not least, being a cutter does NOT make you suicidal. In fact, the vast majority of cutters do so to reduce their anxiety, depresssion or other emotional pain, sometimes to help themselves avoid becoming suicidal. This is part of why it is addictive. Other than this…not such a bad article, uh yeah.

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Take the TV out of your child’s bedroom

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 7, 2008

I’ve been encouraging parents for years to keep the TV out of their kid’s room but it sure is nice to have the NY Times agree with me. For one thing, when your child has a TV in their room, you don’t even know how much they’re watching and trust me, you’re underestimating–and by a lot!! Also, you don’t know what they’re watching. Then there’s the issue of the ‘closed door, we never see you except for meals’ problem. Well, you created it–they have the TV, probably the computer too, so what do you expect. Children with TV’s in their room are more likely to be overweight. They’re also more likely to do more poorely in school. NO, it’s not the only cause of these problems–but it is something you can control and since there are so many negative factors in the world that you can’t control, this is one that you should!

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depression is dangerous!

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 5, 2008

A new study shows that depressed and anxious people are more likely to be obese, and to smoke and drink heavily. I hope they didn’t spend a lot of money on this study because I, and any good clinician could have told them this years ago! What particularly infuriates me about this research is that it declares that given this data we should now pay attention to depression and anxiety in a whole new light. You mean before this did these researchers really think that those treating depressed people weren’t helping them with related issues like emotional eating, alcoholism and other addictions. Research like this is a waste of time and money in my opinion and perhaps these scientists need to get into the real world for at least a short while.

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You need to really TALK to your teen

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 4, 2008

I love this new research, being reported in the Journal of Pediatrics which tells parents that one big talk about sex isn’t enough! It’s great advice… talking to your kids more frequently about intimate topics will improve your relationship with them overall. In addition to this, you can’t expect to be able to spring a talk about sex on your teen if you haven’t been talking to him or her all along about everything else in life. Intimacy needs to be built over time–this is true in all relationships and it can’t begin with sex–even in conversations! So talk to your kids about everything and even more than that–listen!!!

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Eat breakfast!

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 3, 2008

A new study finds that teens who eat breakfast, tend to weigh less, exercise more, have a healthier diet, and are healthier overall. Interesting. There has actually been lots of research and clincal confirmation over the years that supports the theory that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. First, when you don’t eat breakfast, you’re starving by later in the day and tend to binge on high carb foods. Next, you also have an energy slump and are less likely to be active or to be able to focus well. Of course there are many who disagree with this theory–teens and others. They say they’re not hungry first thing in the morning. Okay, I can see that, but then take a bar or some fruit for mid morning whe you do get hungry–just don’t skip the meal all together.

I strongly recommend that parents make sure that younger kids eat breakfast, even if it’s just something small. The message you want to give your kids…and your own body…is that there is always time for self-nurturing

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