Therapy That Works...

Suicide - The Rising Rate of Teen Suicide - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the rising rate of teen suicides, why American teens need more help than ever, and some of the warning signs of teen suicide - click here.

According to the CDC, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

The American Psychological Association reports that teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for people who are 15 to 24 years old. So why would a teenager with every thing to look forward to in life choose a permanent solution such as suicide?

Most teen suicides begin with a perfect storm of upsetting events, like getting dumped by a significant other or losing a family member, that leads to overwhelming depression. If they lose hope and think that their life will never change for the better, they may begin to think about committing suicide. At a basic level, these adolescents lack the necessary coping skills to think accurately about temporary setbacks and how to overcome adversity.

There are several factors that can lead to teen suicide:

No Hope For The Future:

Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the best predictor for a suicide attempt. Hopelessness is the most common emotion in those who attempt to end their lives.

Escaping Unsolvable Problems:

The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex. In most cases, they are trying to escape depression and loss, debilitating anxiety, or a situation they regard as being unsolvable such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the greater the likelihood that their suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

Hidden Mental Illness:

Mental illness, such as clinical depression or general anxiety disorder, is the top risk factor in suicide and accounts for 90% of all suicides. Clinical depression is the most common disorder linked to suicide. Children and adolescents are particularly skilled at hiding their mental health challenges since they do not know how to fully describe their thoughts and feelings. Since they are confused about what is going on inside of their minds, they don’t know when they need to ask for professional help.

Masking Their Pain:

Adolescents will not always articulate their pain because they often don’t understand the serious nature of their feelings. In fact, they may even present a happy façade. Psychologists describe this condition as a “smiling depressive” since they are hiding their clinically depressed thoughts behind a mask.

A lack of emotional coping skills combined with overwhelming situational stress can drive children and teens toward suicide. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov

The Higher Risk of Suicide In The Baby Boomer Generation - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on KTXD 47 discuss the recent teen suicides in Rockwall, TX and why suicide is more common in the Baby Boomer generation - click here.

The Thousand Steps To Violence - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some pre-incident indicators of violence and how violence is caused by thousands of small decisions and actions - click here.

Most of us think that violence is unpredictable and that people “just snap.”

However, violence is a progressive action made up of hundreds of decisions and actions that climax in a violent act. There are often a series perceived slights, thoughts that they are not being properly recognized or praised, or the belief that someone or something is out to get them. Perpetrators tend to alternate between feelings of humiliation and righteous indignation. Slowly and steadily, they begin to find justifications for violence against others.

Here are some of the pre-incident indicators to watch out for:

Gathering Evidence

In the beginning, the troubled mind relentlessly seeks out and gathers the evidence to support their negative worldview. They will ignore or negate any evidence to the contrary and only focus on how they are the victim. At some point, frustration is replaced by total indignation and rage that pushes the person to begin to consider violence.

Planning The Act

At some point, retribution becomes the only solution. To them, thoughts of violence and retaliation are soothing and offer temporary relief from the tremendous rage that brews and festers. When they are around other people, they may act extremely cool and calm - even to the point of seeming robotic or cold. They are channeling all of their rage into planning their revenge.

Rehearsing Violence

Mental and even physical rehearsal of the violence begins to take center stage. Their revenge consumes all of their time and attention. They focus on the satisfaction they will feel from their revenge, the mental images and planning of the act, and the erosion of accurate judgment and self-control.

Friends and family often miss these pre-incident indicators, but in retrospect they are crystal clear.

If you are worried about someone you know, be on the lookout for the signs of the downward spiral of a vulnerable mind. Please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist to help you understand the signs of violence and what you can do to help.

Sources:

The work of Gavin de Becker

The work of Dr. John Exner

The Violent Influence of Siblings - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 29, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how siblings can make each other more extreme in their views and more violent toward the world - click here.

Two brothers planned, built, and detonated multiple bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Many people are wondering how one brother with a promising future could allow himself to be lead astray by his troubled and angry older brother. What would lead him to abandon and attack the city that had celebrated and rewarded him?

Absent Parents

Parental absence in late adolescence can be highly damaging with certain children. Without their parents around, they may have no one to keep them in line and remain a positive influence. A teenager can become involved in social movements and militant causes without fully understanding the motivations and implications of such activities. It is easy to overestimate the maturity of a late teen or early twenties child who is still mentally developing and defining who they are.

A Convincing Sibling

An older sibling who champions extreme or militant causes may be impossible to resist. They can be a strong influence on an insecure younger sibling who lacks immediate parental guidance and insight into the older sibling’s troubles. The younger teenager may be mesmerized and convinced by a sibling out of control.

Tests of Love and Loyalty

Particularly when there is a specific cause or injustice to be avenged, a trusting and naïve teenager can be convinced by the irresistible arguments of their older, more experienced sibling. Older siblings often frame the cause as a test of the younger sibling’s love and loyalty.

The Bond of Violence

Violence can be an alluring bond for young men who are lost. Anger and violence are unfortunately a legitimate way to connect for boys and men. If there is a common goal to avenge a perceived injustice, any prohibitions against violence or murder may diminish and fade away.

A Developing Mind

In late adolescence, many adolescents still lack consistent, critical thinking skills necessary to reason their way through an ambiguous situation. They simply may not understand how irrational and extreme ideas can sound plausible and logical at first. Faulty, paranoid assumptions can sound reasonable to an inexperienced mind that is impressionable and naïve. Our fully developed frontal lobes and our critical thinking skills restore reality by reminding us of alternative explanations that are more realistic and often more accurate.

In the end, sibling bonds often last a lifetime and most of the time only lead to benefits for both parties. The crimes in Boston teach us once more that misplaced loyalty can be one of life’s greatest mistakes.

Sources:

The work of Gavin de Becker

The work of Dr. James Masterson

The work of Dr. John Exner

Growing Kids Strong - The Dangers of ADD & ADHD - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describes the dangers of ADD & ADHD for your child and the signs you can watch out for - click here.

Attention issues can compromise even the brightest children and sabotage the most promising of lives.

According to the CDC, eleven percent of elementary school children and nineteen percent of boys in high school have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. The New York Times reports that around six and a half million children have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives. That is a 53% increase over the past decade!

Since ADD and ADHD are so prevalent, it is important to have your child complete a thorough evaluation with an experienced psychologist. ADD and ADHD are very treatable with proper medicine and behavioral interventions.

But if the symptoms are not controlled, ADD and ADHD can have dramatic effects on your child’s life including:

  • Lower performance at school
  • Difficulty keeping a good job
  • Struggles with impulsivity and decision-making
  • Problems with concentration and performance
  • An inability to develop mature judgment and self-control
  • Higher rates of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder over the lifespan

Sources:

The U.S. Center for Disease Control

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.ADAA.org)

“One in 10 U.S. Kids Diagnosed With ADHD” featured in US News and World Report (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/04/01/one-in-10-us-kids-diagnosed-with-adhd-report)

Social Skills - What is Asperger’s Syndrome? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describes what Asperger Syndrome is and signs you should watch out for in your child - click here.

Many people confuse Asperger’s Syndrome with Autism, but they are actually very different.

Children with Asperger’s often are socially aware, but they lack vital skills to create and sustain long-lasting relationships. These children may seem socially awkward to others, and they find relationships to be confusing and uncomfortable. Peers can seem rejecting and difficult to decipher and over time, they may stop trying to make and sustain friends.

Kids with Asperger’s show no delays in language or intellectual development but they often struggle socially. When they are approaching adolescence, the social deficits may compound and the young teenager may become acutely aware of their difficulty to think socially. Depression and anxiety can flourish in a mind that is chronically confused and frustrated by social problems that it cannot solve.

According to the psychologist, Dr. Susan Williams White, some of the most common social skills deficits in Asperger kids include the following:

  • Problems indentifying and correctly interpreting my own thoughts and feelings
  • Inability to understand the emotions, motivations, and reactions of others
  • Difficulty predicting how others will act or respond to actions
  • Failure to provide context or background for conversations and stories
  • Difficulty deciphering or completely miss nonverbal communications such as eye contact, tactile contact, and facial expressions
  • Rigidly about everyone following the rules of the situation
  • Unintentionally blunt in communications even to the point of being offensive
  • Failure to notice and process the emotions and cues of those around them

If you think that you or someone you know may have Asperger’s Syndrome, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist. They can help with social thinking and how to communicate more effectively with others.

Sources:

"Social SKills Training For Children With Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism" by Susan Williams White

The work of Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP

Growing Kids Strong – How To Create Self-Efficacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how to help your child develop self-efficacy for a life of success - click here.

Our children deserve a chance to become resilient and self-confident.

Dr. Albert Bandura created the concept of self-efficacy, which describes your belief in your ability to handle any situation with creativity and courage.

Stress is always worse when we feel that circumstances are beyond our control. This is especially true for our children who are often caught in circumstances beyond their control such as in their parents’ divorce or the loss of their community when their family moves to another house or city. Children become more helpless and hopeless when they do not see any way to control or influence the outcome of events.

On the flip side, children with self-efficacy are able to face a problem, envision a solution, and execute the necessary steps to fix any problem or situation. They experience less anxiety and they are able to analyze their environment and create solutions quickly and more effectively.

Dr. Bandura argues that children develop self-efficacy from four major sources:

History of Achievement:

According to Dr. Bandura, performance and accomplishments are especially effective at building self-efficacy since they are based on personal experience. Strong performance in dealing with a specific challenge builds a sense of personal achievement and confidence in their own ingenuity. Future setbacks are handled better if your child has a history of high performance.

Watch and Learn:

Children can also learn how to deal with adversity from others. Pushing through on a challenge is easier when we see other people handling a similar situation well. We generate the belief that we too can deal with the situation and overcome any adversity. Positive role modeling can be incredibly beneficial for a child’s sense of self-efficacy.

Words of Encouragement:

Telling your child that they can handle any adversity can be highly persuasive. Words can create images for children that are inspiring, soothing, and hopeful. Children who are asked to envision themselves achieving are more likely to hang in there and push through when things become difficult. Bandura is careful to note that influencing others with words is useful, but it is no substitute for the child’s personal experience.

Staying Positive:

Many of us focus on our own emotional and physical reactions to stress. If we see that we are in control of our emotions during stress, we gain confidence in ourselves. Anticipating a negative outcome will not only make us anxious, but it will undermine our sense of effectiveness. Children who refuse to dwell on negative thoughts and who choose to place their thoughts on positive, empowered outcomes are more likely to remain resourceful and effective in the future.

Source:

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Anxiety, Part 2 - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what to watch out for if you are worried that your child may have an anxiety problem - click here.

Our children experience anxiety early in their lives.

Normal events like surrendering a toy, losing a game, or saying goodbye to a beloved grandparent teach our kids to experience and resolve anxiety. Resilience and a positive attitude should equip our children to weather regular life events. However, every year childhood anxiety is becoming more widespread and more extreme. Children are becoming more fearful and more anxious at home, on the playground, and in the classroom.

Anxious emotions can become the defining influence on your child’s worldview. In some cases, anxiety can become extreme and even a debilitating problem. Anxious children begin to narrow their worlds by refusing to participate in activities like playing with friends, sleepovers, school events, and visits with their extended family. As time goes on, they become more fearful, avoidant, and justifying of their anxious worldview.

Most children experience anxiety like a slowly building wave that crashes down and then resolves quickly. Specific fears of things like storms, animals, and strangers may come and go with age, but a child’s confidence and resilience should increase as the years go by. By the time they enter school, children should be able to soothe themselves independently, govern their behavior responsibly, and listen attentively to their teachers without any feelings of anxiety.

Anxious children do everything they can to avoid activities or situations that make them anxious.

If you are worried that your child may have an anxiety issue, here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Intense fears about the safety of parents and siblings
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Regular complaints of physical aches and pains
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Intense fears about a specific object or situation
  • Performance fears about recess or in the classroom
  • Refusal to participate in activities with peers
  • Constant worrying
  • Intrusive thoughts of potentially harmful situations
  • Inability to be comforted or calmed by others

Sources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.ADAA.org)

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 25, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the epidemic of childhood anxiety and how it could compromise your child's future - click here.

Why do kids feel so much more anxious today than they did in previous generations?

Psychologists are now seeing record numbers of children who are overly worried, panicked, and compromised by anxiety. In fact, clinical depression now strikes our children a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Childhood should be a time of enchantment, exploration, and play! Our kids should have no fear and endlessly dream of the better tomorrows that they will soon experience. So, why are we seeing record rates of childhood anxiety and depression?

Contagious Negativity:

We live in a culture that focuses on the negative. We see this trend in many areas like the pessimism in the nightly news or the angry bully on the playground. All of us, young and old, absorb the thinking style and emotions of the people around us. Pessimistic news travels quickly and if children are inundated with negativity, their explanatory view will increasingly skew to the anxious.

Learning To Fail:

We shower our children with recognition and praise when they do well. That’s the easy part, and it’s the fun part for us. Many parents forget the enormous value found in teaching children how to handle and overcome failure. Rebounding after setbacks, resolving disappointments, and moving past frustrations effectively allows us to regain a sense of control, self-efficacy, and purpose. Kids who can rebound psychologically are much less anxious since they keep their expectations realistic and believe in their ability to solve the problem.

Outcomes Cannot Be Controlled:

Winning is not something that can be controlled. In fact, effort does not always guarantee the outcome we had hoped for. It is important that children learn the complex relationship between effort and outcome. Learning that their hard work and good intentions are more important than any outcome is vital for managing anxiety.

Sins of the Parents:

If a child is reared in an anxious household, their view of the world can become increasingly pessimistic and dark. They often emulate their parent’s explanatory style and view of the world. Their parents teach them to think in an anxious manner and how to always be waiting for the next problem. Constant vigilance can create more anxiety, and a negative cycle can be set up in the child’s mind. Childhood is the time when we learn to control our anxiety. If their parents aren’t fully in control of their own thoughts and emotions, it will be difficult for the child to learn and develop their own emotional regulation skills.

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Social Skills - Three Types of Social Deficits - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 18, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain the three types of social deficits in children and how they can affect your child at school - click here.

One of the most important skills for your child to learn is how to relate effectively to others.

Success at school, with friends, with boyfriends and girlfriends, and even in their future jobs will rely heavily on their ability to accurately read and interpret social cues. When a child misinterprets someone else’s behavior, they can’t respond appropriately and they’ll have difficulty decoding social situations. When they reach high school, social interactions will only get more intense and complex, and your child may fall behind their peers.

Many kids with social skills issues know that they struggle with peers and maintaining friendships, and these challenges early in life can have a profound impact on how they feel about themselves. We live in a world made up of relationships and the ability to communicate effectively with others is an essential life skill.

Social skills challenges are usually different for each child. The work of Dr. Frank Gresham describes three distinct types of social deficits:

Skills Acquisition Deficits:

Children lack the specific steps and strategies for successful social interactions, and they often don’t know what they need to change.

Performance Deficits:

Children know how to interact successfully with friends and peers, but they fail to use the skills at appropriate times or they may be too anxious to seize social opportunities.

Fluency Deficits:

Children understand the strategies and timing of social interactions, but their application of skills in social situations is awkward or inappropriate.


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