Therapy That Works...

How Parents Can Overcome The Empty Nest - By Chris Gearing

Friday, March 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how parents can cope with the empty nest - click here.

Eating Disorders: Bulimia Nervosa - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Bulimia Nervosa is and how it begins - click here.

Bulimia nervosa is an insidious mental health disorder that can cause extraordinary pain and suffering.

Women are more likely than men to develop Bulimia and sufferers tend to start the cycle of Bulimia in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Bulimia begins with eating an unusually large amount of food, often in an impulsive but ritualized manner. During the binge eating, it’s almost as if another consciousness takes hold and the food is their total focus. Afterward, they’re often consumed with overwhelming feelings of self-loathing and remorse. Binging is often followed by getting rid of any evidence of the binge and then different behaviors to curb any weight gain – like extreme amounts of exercise, harsh food restriction, use of laxatives, or even purging the food from their system by vomiting.

These post-binge behaviors come from a need to reverse the damage they have done to their body and to lower their soaring anxiety. Ironically, these efforts often end up causing more damage to their bodies and increasing their anxiety instead of helping to resolve the problem.

Similar to other eating disorders, people with bulimia often are highly self-critical, scrutinize their bodies, and hold themselves to an impossible standard. There can be considerable distortion about what they look like and they may be extremely inaccurate about their appearance. Relentless cognitive self-criticism can easily lead to destructive eating habits that are not only bad for their physical health but are emotionally addictive. The binging and purging become a coping mechanism that temporarily allows them to feel less anxious, in control, and even euphoric in some cases.

Eating disorders such as bulimia are difficult to beat even under the best of circumstances.

According to some studies, people with bulimia have higher levels of depression, anger, and shifting moods. Since they primarily involve problems in emotional regulation, cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are extremely effective and have high rates of success.

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Binge Eating and Bulimia" by Debra L. Safer, Christy F. Telch, and Eunice Y. Chen

The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org)

How Eating Disorders Begin - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how eating disorders begin and what you should watch out for - click here.

Eating disorders are a tenacious mental health disorder that can be highly lethal if left unaddressed.

The disorder usually begins in adolescence and can last a lifetime. Current researchers recognize that the earlier the eating disorder develops, the more serious and stubborn the condition.

Society’s Message of Perfection:

One of the chief reasons that eating disorders persist is that our society continues to value being thin as a desirable characteristic, for women especially. Others who view the decreased weight as a sign of self-discipline or ambition tend to reward very thin people, often unintentionally. When the social environment is so reinforcing, the young man or woman learns to focus on external approval of appearance rather than creating a more mature, internally derived sense of self.

At a Young Age:

Another reason that eating disorders persist is that they often occur at such a young age. According to authors, Dr. James Lock and Dr. Daniel Le Grange, most cases of anorexia begin between the ages of 13 and 14 but can occur as young as 8 years old. The authors emphasize that the eating disorder usually begins casually with dieting. The progressive elimination of foods leads to pronounced weight loss and social approval, which reinforces the potentially malignant eating habits. Once firmly entrenched, the eating disorder can begin to disrupt a young person’s life with stress. Over the years, it will come and go at times of peak anxiety and challenge.

Thin Equals Power:

Tragically, weight becomes a scorecard of adequacy and many women equate being excessively thin with being in control and powerful in their own lives. The eating disorder is likely to linger into young adulthood especially if there has not been a strategic intervention by parents and psychologists. During this pivotal time, stressors that should be handled with healthy coping skills are dealt with through weight and rigid eating habits. Young men and women do not learn the coping skills required for handling food competently and for living a mature life. Instead, they are defeating stress and adversity through the eating disorder. Developmentally, they are not progressing as their same age peers and may continue to act out with food for years.

Older Women Also Affected:

Eating disorders are not only an affliction of the young. Current estimates of eating disorders in older women indicate that it is on the rise with up to 13% of older women reporting an eating disorder. The International Journal of Eating Disorders reports that 13% of women ages 50 and older stuggle with the problem and that the eating disorder may be a new phenomenon in older women. According to the author, Dr. Cindy Bulik, 79% of the women polled reported that their shape and weight affected how they viewed themselves.

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

The work of Dr Christopher Fairburn

What Is An Eating Disorder? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 18, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain what eating disorders are and when you should get professional help - click here.

Eating disorders affect millions of people every year.

They happen to people across all socioeconomic levels, all ages, to both genders, and they can vary in intensity and duration. Fundamental to all eating disorders is the presence of unhealthy eating habits that are disruptive to a person’s health.

Eating disorders take over peoples’ lives and become central to how they define themselves. They’re often difficult to detect since they start with small changes that become large problems, and they are usually well hidden – particularly when they start. The chief reason that eating disorders begin and flourish is heavy doses of denial. They come out of nowhere and can become very serious, very quickly.

From my clinical practice, I’ve learned that patients develop their eating issues for a variety of reasons including the following:

Trauma Disorders:

Eating disorders can be triggered by a trauma like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a stable life style (like the divorce of parents or the loss of income), or an event or series of events that threatened their safety or even their lives.

Perfectionism:

The psychological need to be perfect can be overwhelming. These individuals are excessively dependent on the opinions and the approval of others. In their own minds, they are only as good as their last success.

In Control:

Some people have a relentless need to be admired and an entitlement to being the center of attention. Controlling their weight is a method of controlling others.

Affective Disorder:

In some cases, affective disorders like depression and anxiety are the basis of the eating disorder. An underlying depression can cause abnormalities in many areas of life including eating and self-regulation.

Family System:

Certain families emphasize performance and weight can become a central focus, especially in females. Issues of adequacy emerge and the eating disorder becomes a defining way to control anxiety.

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

The work of Dr Christopher Fairburn

Talking To Your Children About The Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how to explain to your children about the terrible school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT - click here.

Horrific School Shooting At Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 14, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the terrible shooting at a school in Connecticut - click here.

Does the shooter fit the profile of a mass murderer?

Mass murderers intend to inflict suffering and death on as many people as possible—a lethal strike—and may have no articulated agenda except to inflict death.

Sense of Revenge: Mass murderers kill for revenge. They are convinced that someone or something has wronged them, and their acts of violence are retribution against others. This kind of “punishment mentality” stems from a pattern of systematic grandiose thinking and narcissistic tendencies.

Grandiose Thinking: Grandiose thinking is a reflection of a narcissistic personality disorder, where a person believes that they are special and infallible. When they perceive an abuse, they overreact and lash out. Such revenge can become violent as we saw in the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

Scale and Single Event: Mass murderers have a specific target and want to take down as many people as they can. They often realize that their murderous acts will most likely be the last thing that they ever do. They plan to inflict as much suffering as possible. In a delusional mind, this was a manly exit and a final statement of revenge and anger.

Why would he turn the guns on the children?

The children were regarded as collateral damage and he justified their slaughter through his deranged and delusional thinking. Obviously, he regarded the children as an extension of his mother’s influence. To kill the children, in some awful way, was to hurt his mother in the most fundamental manner.

You are most likely wondering, “Why would someone engage in such irrational behavior?”

Highly Regressed Thinking: Clearly, he was not thinking with a clear mind. His online diary indicates fragmented thinking, cognitive distortions, delusional ideation and paranoid thinking.

Anger As An Approved Emotion: Anger is a socially approved emotion for men. You can’t be sad but you can be angry. Anger is also energizing. Anger feels empowering and it protects them momentarily from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience.

Normal Façade: It is important to remember that severely mentally ill people can assume a normal façade. This is especially true when there is paranoid ideation of any kind. They may harbor delusional beliefs that they carefully hide from others. Skillful at promoting one version of themselves to the public, they tend to engage in a private world of fantasy, defend themselves from perceived threats and even commit violent murders, as in this case.

Pervasive Distrust: The essential pattern is a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others. They assume that someone—and individual or a group (as in this case) will harm or exploit them even if there is no evidence to support their argument. Reality simply disappears.

Under the Radar: They generally do not come to the attention of the mental health system since they consider themselves perfectly normal. They fly under the proverbial radar.

If you are worried about the potential violence of those around you, here are some warning signs to look out for:

People need to know that forensic psychologists argue that mass murders come with warning signs. There are predictive characteristics to these crimes including the following:

- Typology of Language: Meaning and perspective behind words are the chief indicators of murderous intention.

- When someone is planning to commit violence, they tend to use one of these types of words or statements.

  • Rejection
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity
  • Attention Seeking
  • Revenge
  • Irrational Attachment (Behaviors like Stalking)

Reasoning for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they perceive four issues in a justifying light.

  • They believe that they have justification
  • They have no alternatives for the outcome they want
  • The consequences for their actions are acceptable
  • That they have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out the mass murder.

Coping With The Empty Nest - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia on KTXD Channel 47 discuss how empty nesters can cope with their new found freedom and their kids returning home for the holidays! click here.

Handling Freshman Stress - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dr. Sylvia Gearing on Texas Living discussing how to handle college freshman - click here.

The Back To School Bullying Epidemic - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss Back To School Bullying and what you can do about it - click here.

Bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in some sort of bullying as either the bully, the victim, or a bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can turn deadly with 2/3 of school shooters reporting that they were being chronically bullied at school.

What are the specific characteristics of bullying?

Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.

Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of elementary school students reported being frequently bullied at school.

Middle School Peaks: Bullying peaks in middle school. Seventh grade is the worst year.

Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

Popular Kids Often Bully: Kids use the bullying of others to gain status and to exhibit their intimidation skills.

Here's why a child would begin bullying others in the first place:

Modeling their Parents: They are often victims of physical and emotional bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger and self control. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control.

Intimidation and Revenge Justified by Parents: Parents who tend to intimidate others rear kids who do the same. Bulling others becomes a justified behavior. Family values that include rudeness, entitlement, the intimidation of others, revenge, character assault of others or deliberate treachery create children who are much more likely to engage in bullying.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about bullies reveals that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They simply lack a conscience. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid punishment and are deceptive with others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

But what about the recent surge of online bullying?

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person by emphasizing the imbalance of power. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

We all know that bullying can have life long traumatic effects on a victim, but research shows that bullies and bystanders are also deeply effected by the act of bullying:

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty.

Victims Develop Serious Depression and Helplessness: Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety.

Bullies and a Lifelong Pattern of Oppositional Behavior: Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and develop alienation from school and the community. Chronic oppositional behavior is typical of such children leading to a lifetime of hardship.

Bystanders Grow Apathetic and Uncaring: Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and do not take responsibility for allowing such cruelty to occur.

The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Here's what you can do to help your child with bullying at school:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

"Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups," Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003. Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S. (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D., Napolitano, S. "Bullying: Prevention and Intervention," 2009

Are Teenage Girls Getting More Violent? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss why teenage girls are becoming more violent - click here.


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