Therapy That Works...

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.

Courageous TV Anchor Responds To Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discusses the courageous response from a TV anchor to her bully - click here.

Why would someone write an email like this?

This is a classic example of workplace bullying. This man was shaming, disrespectful, and embarrassing to this woman. His comments emphasized the imbalance of power—he could reprimand her from a distance without direct response. I doubt if he ever dreamed that she would respond live on the air.

This is the pattern that we see in online bullying. Bullies feel like there are no consequences. I can slam you and lie about you without any consequence for me. In a fair fight, the victim gets a chance to respond, but this man chose to humiliate her anonymously over nothing except his own prejudice.

What about her response?

It was a masterful, eloquent statement that directly discredited his attack. She pointed out what all women know—we come in all shapes and sizes and they are not only acceptable but beautiful. She did the right thing by speaking up since silence perpetuates injustice. Injustice then builds helplessness, and this anchor was by no means helpless. She used the very tools of her own professional success—her verbal agility, on air presence and organizational skills—to make this man look ridiculous. A great lesson for children in America.

Why was she targeted?

We live in an epidemic of eating disorders. Around 40% of college aged women engage in some sort of eating disorder behavior. Being thin is sadly linked with being powerful or attractive, and this myth has gathered momentum over the decades. Appearance is still too defining of our worth as women. But change starts with us. Women need to refuse to buy into silly prescriptions of who we are and how we should look.

Is this kind of bullying increasing or are we just more aware of this kind of harassment?

I think both statements are true—bullying is increasing AND we are more aware. With the infiltration of technology and social media into our lives, we all go online to express our opinions and to share with the community. However, such access to others can turn ugly, as we see in this case. A shot at another person, especially a woman with notoriety and power, is easier to do than ever.

Remember that bullying flourishes in an environment of anonymity. This man hoped that she would internalize what he said and feel badly about herself. He tried to offload his own prejudices onto her and she refused to take it. Good for her and good for all of us!

A generation ago, we lived in a society that was more accountable. There was a community that reinforced that accountability. Now with the Internet, you can be savage without your community really knowing how poorly you behaved.

What can women do to support her?

Please support women who choose to stand up and speak out about this kind of prejudice. Refuse to be a victim of others who tell you how you should look. Remember that there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a woman who knows who she is and refuses to be silent about her gifts.

SOURCES:

www.APA.org

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.

Does Attachment Parenting Go Too Far? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, May 11, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on CBS 11 discuss the new TIME Magazine cover about Attachment Parenting and whether or not it goes too far - click here.

When Child Abuse Becomes Murder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia on CBS 11 discuss how child abuse can lead to murder - click here

Why would a parent do this to their own child?

Abusive parents have a lack of conscience along with a lack of self-control that combusts when the child does something that frustrates or angers them. The child is often just being a regular kid and the parent takes his own irritation out on an innocent child who is utterly helpless to defend himself. Remember that parents who resort to such heinous behavior (such as starving a child to death) lack the fundamental tools to parent effectively. The starvation of this child was most likely the end point of a lifetime of abuse and neglect.

What are the characteristics of these parents?

Cycle of Abuse: Abusive parents have often been abused or neglected during their own childhood. One study estimated that approximately one third of abused children will grow up to become abusers themselves. Remember though, that two thirds of kids who are abused do not grow up to abuse others.

Substance Abuse: Substance abuse is highly correlated with the parental mistreatment of a child.

Harsh Discipline: Harsh interactions with the child are typical. They do not reward the adorable things that children do and remain either detached or critical. Studies find that physically abusive mothers are more likely to use harsh discipline strategies such as hitting, isolation and verbal aggression.

Isolated, chaotic, and financially challenged families are more likely inflict harm on a child who is both invisible and marginalized.

Unrealistic Expectations of the Child: A parent’s negative attitudes, misunderstanding, and attributions about a child's behavior may contribute to the abuse. Moms who physically abuse their kids have higher and more negative expectations for their children. These expectations are inaccurate and unjust. Unmet expectations can lead to lashing out at a helpless child.

Viewing the Child as an Object: Tragically some parents relegate a child to the status of a mere object in their lives. The child has no rights, no voice and is never shown compassion in the face of frustration. Such parents are devastating in the life of a child.

What are some signs that concerned adults could look for in the child we’re concerned about?

Remember that many kinds of serious child abuse are often invisible, inaudible and almost always usually committed behind closed doors. However, there are specific signs that you can detect to if you are concerned about a child:

Acts of Humiliation: The active belittling of a child with contemptuous language and behavior. The child is the focus of reprimands and criticisms that make the child feel unworthy and helpless.

Abandonment and Rejection: The child is pushed away either with words and actions.

Isolation: Often the child is alone in this abuse, unable to really explain what they feel or articulate what is going on at home. It is very difficult to complain about your parent who is supposed to be the guardian of your welfare.

Exploiting Trust and Good Will: Child abuse is the ultimate betrayal of a child at the hands of a parent. Our parents are charged with our protection and any abdication of this role—in any way-- is unacceptable.

What are the long-term effects on children who go through this kind of experience?

Invisible and Marginalized: They feel relegated to the role of an object. In those invisible moments you are being emotionally annihilated. You do not develop the sense of yourself that originates in the interactions with others. Normal developmental milestones-- emotional, cognitive and physical are not completed.

Social and Academic Delays: Academic and intellectual delays are common in kids who are treated this way. Social relationships are often immature.

Emotional Scars: Problems in emotional self-regulation is most common and the most significant. If you cannot control your reactions—both emotional and behavioral, you cannot achieve anything. The child who is systematically abused cannot calm down without avoiding. As they grow up, they begin to turn to alcohol, acting out at school or at work, oppositional behaviors and a host of other problems that indicate a basic problem in emotional self-regulation. They cannot tolerate ordinary stress and underperform in life and in relationships.

What can our parents do to avoid all types of emotional abuse?

Accountable to your Child: First of all, audit your own choices and behaviors. It is easy to harshly turn on our kids in lives overrun with stress and discord. However, your first and final responsibility is to your child. Remain accountable to yourself by maintaining strict standards on verbal and emotional blowups and over reactions with your child.

Parents Must Self-Regulate Emotions: Emotional abuse by parents always comes from either a sense of helplessness or a lack of conscience about the welfare of the child. Do not allow your helplessness to morph into verbal and behavioral unkindness to the child who is under your care. If you perceive your own lack of self-control in this area, see a psychologist and learn the emotional regulation skills that you must in turn, teach your child.


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