Therapy That Works...

O Sleepless Nights - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 10, 2010

O Sleepless Nights - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Money worries got you down during the holidays? Ninety percent of Americans report insomnia during the holidays. But tired people are also depressed, angry, and hopeless people. If you’re looking for how to make your holidays happy – start with getting back to sleep.

Now, most people turn to the medicine cabinet next for one of a slew of sleeping pills and aids. Not so fast.

Prescription sleeping medications are fine to get us through a difficult day or two, but if there are more serious issues -- like stress, anger, and depression -- pills do not address the underlying problems. It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.

However, a combination of prescription sleep aids and cognitive behavioral therapy for sleeping issues cures over 80% of sleeping problems. Cognitive therapy addresses false beliefs about sleep, teaches techniques for lowering anxiety, helps people not to worry all night long, and relax long enough to drift off to sleep.

Here are a few suggestions from sleep experts combining behavioral and cognitive cues to get you back to sleep:

Regular Schedule: Become disciplined and keep a regular bedtime and avoid naps like the plague. Bedtimes aren’t just for children, a regular bedtime cues your brain and body that it is time to rest and sleep. Naps disrupt your body’s schedule and can really mess up your natural sleep/wake cycle.

Watch What You Drink: Do not drink anything with caffeine within four to six hours before bedtime. Also, an alcoholic nightcap will actually keeps you awake.

Don't Remain in Bed: Restrict the amount of time spend in bed waiting for sleep. If you are unable to sleep, don’t toss and turn all night! Get out of bed and go to another room, do something relaxing, and return to bed when sleep is imminent.

Bedroom for Sleeping: Reserve the bedroom for sleep. If you read, watch TV, or work in bed, your body will become confused and will have trouble shutting down at bedtime.

Elizabeth Edwards' Courage and Resilience - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

With the passing of the internationally acclaimed advocate and attorney, Elizabeth Edwards, it is important to consider not only the brave example she set for people worldwide after the infidelity of her husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards but for her lifelong example of psychological resilience she displayed to all of us.

Elizabeth Edwards will long be remembered for her advocacy for national healthcare and for the poor. She was a shrewd strategist, advocate for the less fortunate and outstanding mother to her four children. Perhaps her greatest contribution to this world may ultimately be the extraordinary courage she showed after the multiple traumas she endured.

The loss of her beloved son, Wade at age 16 in a car accident and then the humiliating discovery of her husband’s extensive infidelity were devastating. However, this extraordinary woman showed tremendous self control and class even when her heart was breaking. Elizabeth Edwards epitomized what psychologists call the "resilient personality."

Here are the personality characteristics of the resilient personality:

Challenge: These people show a special strength since they view challenges as opportunities to achieve and even flourish. Their determination to persevere is outdistanced only by their steady focus on achievement and progress.

Control: When they are "hit" with a setback, they focus on what they can control, break down their tasks into manageable goals and ignore everything else. They do not dwell on their own helplessness or ineffectiveness. Adversity is never seen as permanent or insurmountable.

Commitment: They are always committed to a cause greater than themselves. In Mrs. Edwards’ world, her unflagging dedication to the social and emotional welfare of others embodied one of her key strengths. She simply believed in a cause greater than herself. Resilient people strive for excellence because they are convinced that there is a greater meaning in life and their actions will make a significant difference.

Psychologists now know that your achievement in life ultimately depends on how you think about the events in your life.

Your thinking style or how you explain events to yourself is literally the lens through which you view the world. Your thoughts determine your emotions and your behaviors. Facing an unexpected challenge like infidelity, especially in the national spotlight, is a unique situation to encounter. Psychologists report that psychological resiliency is the key ingredient to weathering such losses. It literally may make the difference in whether you pull forward with success or allow the setback to define who you are.

Now we do know that trauma is an inevitable part of life. Up to 80% of people who seek counseling have experienced at least 7-8 distinct traumas in their lifetime. Years of research have revealed that people have four fundamental uses for resilience:

1. To Overcome Adversity: Many of us are from emotionally abusive backgrounds, divorced families or have just suffered the slings and arrows of life in the modern world. We use resilience to create and maintain a positive view of life. Through remaining resilient and optimistic, we escape emotional wounds and focus on creating the adulthood we now choose to experience.

2. Steer Through Daily Hardship: Every life has its ups and downs. If you are resilient, the daily tribulations of life will not interfere with your productivity and well being. In fact, you will view the setback as manageable and surmountable. Having an inability to navigate past daily hardships is where most people get "stuck."

3. Bouncing Back: Most of us encounter a major setback at some point. Depending upon our resilience, we will become helpless and deeply mired in resignation. Bouncing back is a sign of strength and courage.

4. Reaching Out for Good: This use of resiliency is the hallmark of Mrs. Edward’s legacy. As she demonstrated, moving past our own self interest to benefit others is a key sign of psychological resiliency and happiness. At the time of greatest pain, she still championed the welfare of others including writing and teaching about psychological resilience.

People often wonder why some people are so strong in the face of vast suffering and strife and others are not. We do know that some people are simply born with an innate wisdom that cannot be explained by their psychological or genetic background. Intellectual ability only contributes around 20 percent to one's success in life.

We have discovered that emotional intelligence—the ability to accurately identify our emotions and to process them to our advantage-- is really the bottom line in sustaining resilience.

Individuals with more sophisticated social and cognitive skills have better problem solving skills under stress and are better able to understand another person's perspective, even when they are challenged or stressed.

In the end, the life of Elizabeth Edwards reminds us that we all have a choice in the attitude we use to face the world. The loss of her son and the loss of her marriage to infidelity could have overwhelmed the less resilient soul. But her life taught us that we can view setbacks as chances to grow and flourish and to discover our better nature. Choosing to allow our failures to define our lives and to direct our choices was not an option for this magnificent woman. In the end, she demonstrated that wisdom in life involves not only emotional accountability but remaining doggedly hopeful about the future. We are never better than when we remain constant to those values.

Road Rage At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Road rage is a national concern with over 45,000 Americans admitting to driving too aggressively. With the holidays right around the corner, stress levels are climbing while patience in traffic is declining.

There are several points to keep in mind when you’re on this road during the holidays:

Road Rage Builds: We do know that road rage is the result of a progression of frustrations throughout the day that culminates in an incident on the road.

Immediate Gratification: Especially with the holidays, we want speed and we want it now--quick purchases, fast service, and a speedy getaway. Time urgency concerns explode during the holidays since we have more to do than we have time to do it in -- a perfect environment for creating road rage.

Holiday Party Circuit: Road rage brews in a mixture of sleep deprivation, too much sugar, and a whole lot of alcohol. With the holidays upon us, many of us are hitting the party circuit and we are just drinking and eating things we shouldn't consume, and as a result, we don't sleep well and we hit the roads tired, irritable, and grumpy.

Here are my tips to avoid road rage this holiday season:

Get Comfortable: Make your car comfortable by regulating the temperature, wearing comfortable clothes and having the seat adjusted for your body.

Distract with Music and Breathe Deeply: It is impossible to be upset if you are listening to great music. Take seven or eight slow breaths per minute from the diaphragm and stop stressing out.

Develop Empathy for Other Drivers: When someone is rude on the road, don't assume you know why. Comfort yourself with a positive explanation.

Take Responsibility: We all like to credit events and other people for our reactions rather than remembering that we have control over what goes through our heads.

Limit that Alcohol: Although everyone likes to party, the sugar surge enhances every emotion. Limit your alcohol and sugar during the holidays and get enough sleep. Remember that the holidays are a time of connecting with others, not a time for losing your temper.

Bad For Your Health: Road rage is lethal for your health. Since rage is a central symptom of Type A, it can extremely harmful over time. Road rage floods the body with harmful stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The body is in perpetual hyper-vigilant mode and you’ll have an especially hard time calming down and controlling yourself. Try some relaxation techniques or just taking some time off to cool down.

Adult Child Anxiety! - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Adult Child Anxiety!: Why Parents of Twentysomethings Can’t Calm Down

Even though your children are grown, do you still worry about them? Trust me, you’re not alone. You will always be your child’s parent, and that means you will always worry about them. New research says that if you think your child has a problem, it will make you unhappy.

But this is only for parents with adult children who are really in trouble, right?

Nope. The study found that having even one child who has a physical, emotional, lifestyle, emotional, or behavioral problem can have a negative effect on the parent. It didn’t matter if the other kids were successful – just one child with one kind of problem was enough to tip the scale.

Parents, here’s what you can do to pick up your mood and stop worrying so much – become emotionally fit:

Courage Under Fire: You must learn to remain calm under fire. Resilient people have an awesome ability to control their emotions even when things get stressful. Try taking a walk, count to ten, or distract yourself before you react to upsetting events.

Count Your Blessings: Focus on the positives in your child and remember that positive emotions literally undo negative emotions.

Say "Thank You" Often: Expressing gratitude to others is a huge step in becoming emotionally fit. Too often we take for granted the enormous blessings that surround us. Give thanks that you have a healthy child who is working to change their lives!

Acts of Kindness: Giving to others is a huge boost for emotionally fit people. Try volunteering around the community or do things for your children without asking for anything in return.

Make a Friend: Make a friend and see them often. Friends are the cheapest medicine, bar none! People with many friends have the lowest mortality rates, lower risk of disease, and a much higher satisfaction with their lives.


“Adult Kids’ Problems Still Affect Parents’ Mental Health” by Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY,

Eat, Pray, and Love From Home - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eating, Praying, and Loving From Home

How To Have A Journey Of Self-Discovery On A Budget

By Dr Sylvia Gearing

With the release of the movie, “Eat. Pray. Love.” this past weekend, millions of Americans witnessed the journey of a woman’s self-discovery through the countries of Italy, India, and Indonesia. But in this tough economy, not everyone can spend a year living, laughing, and loving abroad. Not to fret – if you’re looking for a quest akin to Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing saga, there’s plenty you can accomplish right here at home.

Remember that the Point of the Quest is to Find Yourself, Your Beliefs and Your Soul Mate


Your body is the temple of your soul and is extremely important in any journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. The body, your center for “worldly pleasures,” is stimulated by the five major physical senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound.

Taste and Pleasurable Eating:

Did you know that we have over 10,000 taste buds, but taste is the weakest of the senses? In an age of fast food and 80-hour workweeks, we don’t take the time to really savor our food.

Here’s How to Use Taste:

  • Slow down, sit down and calm down when you eat!
  • Eating should be a relaxing, sumptuous and even sensuous experience.
  • Try fresh foods from farmers markets or preparing your own food from simple, international recipes. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to cook gourmet food!

Touch and Tactile Experiences:

Touch is an undervalued sense but it’s extremely important to pleasure.

Here’s How to Use Touch:

  • Buy Clothing: Sensual lingerie, soft, flowing clothing, silky bed sheets, plush throws, and plump pillows are comforting and enticing.
  • Pet The Dog: Don’t forget to cuddle up to your cat or dog—they are great sources of nurturing.
  • Get A Massage: Nothing relaxes people more than being touched. Hire an expert and indulge yourself.

Sight and Visual Experiences:

Have you ever been to a place that just clicked with your sense of style? Maybe the Coliseum or your childhood home, visual beauty is enchanting for all of us. Surround yourself with beautiful colors, textures and arrangements.

Here’s How to Use Sight:

  • Take the Time to Notice: Nurturing visual experiences are everywhere—a sunset, a stunning candle in your bedroom, a gracious moonlit night, the drape of a towel on a chair, or even the colors of your favorite flowers.
  • Take the Time to See: All of your world can be visually savored if you just take the time to notice and acknowledge the beauty right in front of you.
  • Bring Beauty To You: Take some time and assemble your personal list of beauty—candles, soaps, china, crystal, pictures of travel destinations, favorite pieces of art, pictures of your friends and family, flowers, etc.

Sense of Smell and Aromas:

Smell is the number one sense tied to memory and it really makes an impression – whether it’s the sweet scent of your mother’s cookies in the oven or the smell of cedar burning on a cold night.

Here’s How to Use Smell:

  • Burn lightly scented candles for your meals, your relaxation time and “just because.”
  • Bring highly fragrant flowers to your office
  • Use your own special perfume or cologne as your personal scent signature.

Hearing and Sound:

Pleasurable sounds are stimulating for your mind. Brain scans show that music—in particular—stimulates certain pleasure areas of the brain and lowers anxiety.

Here’s How to Use Sound:

  • Relax or meditate to natural sounds like the ocean tide or thunderstorms.
  • Listen to music all the time, whether it’s Beethoven or Lady Gaga. Music enhances any ordinary experience – whether it’s cleaning the house, talking to your friends or working out.
  • Sing loudly. Anxiety diminishes enormously when we’re belting out our favorite tunes.


Spirituality asks the most important questions about life—why we’re here, why things happen, and where God is in all of this. Spiritual practice, irrespective of which religion you use, nurtures the most of important parts of ourselves—our minds, our hearts and our souls.

Here’s How to Enhance Your Spiritual Self:

Stillness and Thought:

An essential first step is mastery of some sort of meditation or self-reflection – whether it be through prayer, meditation techniques, long thoughtful walks, centering yoga, deep breathing exercises, or even just quiet time! Shut off your cell phone, exit your e-mail, and close your laptop for even an hour a day and ground yourself with one of these practices.

Attend to the Now:

Be present in every single moment of your life and live in the now – I call this “mindfulness.” This may sound a little “Zen” of me, but it really works. Give your anxiety a break, and suspend your thoughts while you focus on what is right in front of you. Combine the mindfulness mindset with the above steps for stillness and meditation for a real “one-two” punch of spirituality.

The Sound of Silence:

Silence leads to self-discovery and to understanding someone else. Silence lets you think effectively. Silence allows the world to pour into you while you contemplate, rather than react, to events. It is the elixir of creativity and perspective.

Gratitude and Reverence:

Experience your life with a true sense of gratitude and reverence for the things around you – whether it’s for your kids, your partner, your job or for the many blessings in your life. Viewing life through the lens of gratitude leads to higher levels of optimism, hope, and plain old happiness.

Acts of Altruism:

Try doing something fun and then try doing something altruistic. Studies show that you will remember your acts of altruism longer and more fondly than the “fun times.” In fact, selfless giving to others can even make you happier over the long haul.


Soul mates come in different packages—a sister, a best friend, or a lover. Now, with your physical and spiritual sides in balance, you’re ready to share your world with someone else in an effective, intelligent way. By balancing your physical and the spiritual selves, you’re more discerning, less needy with others and more perceptive about what you need from anyone that walks in and out of your life.

Your combination of the worldly and the spiritual perspectives prepares you to define a relationship on both shared and individual terms. You have to nurture your physical self and embrace your spiritual self to fully experience and love another person.

Here’s How to Find Your Soul Mate:

Maintain Boundaries!:

Elizabeth Gilbert observed (rather wryly) that as she visited the ninth generation medicine man in Bali, she didn’t want to ask him about the meaning of life or what happens after we die. Instead, all she could think to ask about were her “boy troubles.” A common misstep is to let our relationships carry us away, and we end up leaving ourselves behind! Define yourself as an individual first—both physically and spiritually before you step into a relationship!

Shared Terms:

Women are so programmed all our lives to orbit around the needs of others—“accept me and I will do anything for you!” That kind of thinking was great two hundred years ago, but our new world requires self-sufficiency AND interdependence. We have to love him and leave him everyday to become ourselves in our jobs, our roles and our minds. But at the end of the day, we come home to him relaxed, refueled, and ready for intimacy.

The Golden Rule:

The great Greek philosophers taught that there was one golden rule for life – balance, in all things. Balance in our work, in our consumption, and in our relationships. Maintain the balance between worldly pleasure, divine transcendence, and experiencing and loving those around you.

Your feet on the ground, your heart fully opened and your soul finely tuned will lead to wise choices, magical moments, and mastery of the art of exuberant living.


Dr. Martin Seligman on

“Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness by 25%” on PsyBlog (

The Andrew Koenig Story - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Andrew Koenig Story: Suicide and Stereotypes

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 26, 2010

Today’s startling revelation of child actor, Andrew Koenig’s suicide has left millions of fans wondering what could have caused such a tragic event. Here to explain more about stereotyping, depression and suicide is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Anchor: We know that Andrew Koenig played what many considered a comical character for many years on the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains.” His family and friends felt that Andrew never moved past the role and often felt “typecast” by those around him. In everyday life, we all deal with being typecast by others. How much does this kind of social “typecasting” contribute to low self-esteem and self-image?

Self Image: The social community is the primary place where people develop their self-image. How well do we play, communicate and learn with our peers has a lot to do with our view of our own adequacy in a variety of social competencies. Unfortunately, the community at large can be cruel and unfair since social perceptions are primarily simple, rigid and unyielding. In childhood, our beliefs about ourselves can become negative and we begin to typecast ourselves negatively. Such belief systems can follow us into adulthood.

Anchor: Is this kind of typecasting increasing?

The Age of Information Overload: We are inundated by too much information and stereotyping others is at an all time high. Unfortunately, these quick, unyielding judgments lack perspective and wisdom and we can label someone unfairly. Andrew may have felt that no one knew or wanted him but rather his character “Boner” on “Growing Pains.”

Rise of the Culture of Narcissism: Modern society is obsessed with individualism and personal expression. We now cultivate images on Facebook and Twitter that are detailed, exhibitionistic and packaged with flattering information. Personalized clothing and lower back tattoos are a physical reminder of just how “unique” some people are. In general, psychologists are noting the rise of a “culture of self-preoccupation” in modern society.

Trying To Make Sense Of It All: As a result of this avalanche of individualism, people are locking down on stereotypes in an effort to just make sense of all this social information. We decide about people more quickly without referencing the context of their behavior or their motivations. Our brains want to categorize and organize all of this new information into nice, neat packages.

Stereotyping and Depression: This increased stereotyping can lead to people losing their sense of themselves and their social role, especially if they have had negative experiences with others. By comparing themselves to others, they continue to assault their own sense of achievement and worth. They disregard other invaluable attributes and accomplishments and descend into clinical depression. Depression flourishes in such an environment and is now at epidemic levels.

Anchor: How does this depression begin?

The origins of depression are complex and are often biochemically generated. However, we do know that depression can come from growing sense of alienation stemming from an over reliance on the opinions of others. We call these acceptance beliefs and they can dominate a personality. Many child stars grow up with lavish praise and they may not develop an accurate view of themselves. They don’t understand that life successes come and go. They can become overly reliant on the approval or affirmation of others since they have not adequately developed a sense of themselves as one who succeeds and fails. They over emphasize performance and success without an accurate appreciation of other virtues.

Anchor: What tips do you have for our viewers who may be worried about depression or even suicide in those around them?

Depression Is Now An Epidemic: Depression has increased tenfold over the last century and strikes a full decade sooner than it did fifty years ago. In fact, The Center for Disease Control now reports that anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America. Here are some warning signs if you are worried:

  • Increase in Intensity or Frequency of Angry Outbursts
  • Increased Withdrawal from Others
  • Increased Need for Sleep, Low Appetite
  • Tired, Sullen, Bored or Disinterested Mood
  • Risk-Taking Behavior
  • Drinking, Drugs, Promiscuous Sexual Activity
  • Inability to Cry or Too Much Tearfulness
  • Denial of Pain: Insistence on Handling Things Himself

Suicide Has Warning Signs: Here are warning signs for suicidal thoughts or tendencies:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to guns, pills or other means.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of ordinary for the person.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or feeling a need to seek revenge.
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
  • Feeling trapped, or like there’s no way out of a situation.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society.
  • Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep. Or, conversely, sleeping all the time.
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes.
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose of life.

Finally, please take depression and suicide very seriously. If you are concerned about either of these issues in a loved one, seek help immediately from a psychologist.

For more information on this and Dr. Gearing, please visit


The National Mental Health Information Center

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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

Suicide and Children - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suicide and Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

January 22, 2010, TXA 21 News

Today’s story about the apparent suicide of a nine-year-old Colony boy has once again raised the issue of depression and suicide in children.

Why do children kill themselves?

Suicides of Children Are Increasing: Although childhood suicide is relatively rare, it is increasing. For children under age 15, about 1-2 kids out of 100,000 will commit suicide. For kids between 15-19, the rate jumps to 11 out of 100,000.

Fourth Leading Cause of Death: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for teenagers between 15-19.

Values Change: In general, our society is more narcissistic and more callous toward individual concerns. Troubled children are often overlooked in a society concerned with achievement, a struggling economy and overworked parents. The child in a family with busy, overworked parents is often marginalized and neglected. Depression flourishes in such situations and the child gives up all hope.

Here’s what makes a child more likely to commit suicide:

Depression is Epidemic: If a child has clinical depression, he is seven times more likely to try suicide. Depression is at epidemic levels now and strikes a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Severe depression recurs in about half of those who have had it once and since it strikes so early in life, there are higher rates of reoccurance.

Motivations for Suicide are Complex: The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex but the main motivations include a desire to escape depression and hopelessness, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being hopeless such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

But do bullied kids have higher rates of depression?

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Bullied kids have a much higher rate of depression and the effects linger into adulthood. Bullying victims are much more likely to think about suicide. 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. We know that 34% of elementary students are bullied and that bullying peaks in middle school. It is a group activity with a mob mentality that is crushing to kids who are victimized.

You may be wondering what happens to kids psychologically who are bullied or who bully others?

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety. However, research reveals that the act of bullying actually claims three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses. Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. We find that witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and allow it to happen without a second thought. The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

What happens to the parents who lose their children through suicide?

This kind of loss is emotionally “disfiguring.” They will most certainly experience a post traumatic stress disorder that will need to be treated. When a child dies, the trauma lingers for years and de-regulates the parents’ emotional and cognitive functioning. Traumatic bereavement includes guilt, devastating depression and a lingering sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Here’s what you can do about bullying:

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. This can lead to tragic consequences in the future.

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 to stop bullies for good.

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.

Educate yourself about the signs of depression:

  • Talking About Dying: Any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself or other types of self-harm
  • Recent Loss: The loss of someone through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self confidence, self esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.
  • Change in Personality—sad, withdrawn, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
  • Change in Behavior: Cannot concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
  • Change in Eating Habits: Loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
  • Fear of losing control: Acting erratically, harming self or others
  • Low self esteem: feelings of worthlessness, shame, overwhelming guilt , self hatred, “everyone would be better without me.”
  • No hope for the future: Believing that things will never get better, that nothing will ever change.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia please go to


"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Psychological Association

The National Association of School Counselors

American Association of Suicidology

Optimistic Women and Heart Disease - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Optimistic Women And Heart Disease

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Jan 21, 2010

Twice as many women die from cardiovascular disease as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Now a new study from the American Heart Association shows that women with sunny outlooks may have better heart health and live longer.

But how does “seeing the glass half full” protect you from developing heart disease?

The Mind Controls the Body: This study illustrates once again the interrelationship of the mind, i.e. attitude and its direct effect on the body. Of the 97,000 women studied, optimistic women were 14% less likely to die over eight years than their pessimistic counterparts. They were 9% less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 30% less likely to develop heart complications.

Well-Being and Optimism: Optimism infuses the mind and the body with a sense of well-being and self-esteem during the good times and serves as a buffer to disaster when adversity hits. Your body is not constantly bathing in stress hormones and your immune system remains hardier and unchallenged.

Better Health Habits: We also know that optimistic women have better health habits. They rest and exercise more, they eat better and they are less likely to smoke or to be obese. They have lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. An optimistic woman is simply less likely to stress herself out and develop these chronic health issues.

If you don’t think that a pessimistic outlook is a problem, you should reconsider:

Negative women pay a distinct price for their reactivity in their physical and psychological well-being. If you are stressing out all the time, you will slowly destroy your immune system and you will die at an earlier age. Women live close to their emotions and they affect all aspects of our lives. The more negative you become, the more depression and stress increases. Creativity disappears, problem solving slows and social relationships dwindle. Efforts to improve your circumstances decrease along with your physical and emotional health. Clearly, this study shows us that optimism is a disease prevention attitude.

Beyond these two groups, there is another more specialized population – “cynical hostility.”

The study found that women with “cynical hostility” (having negative, hostile thoughts toward others along with a general mistrust) were 16% more likely to die during the eight-year time span of the study. Other studies have shown that cynical women are 29% more likely to suffer a premature death and these findings hold even after classical risk factors are factored in (smoking, obesity, etc). The bottom line is that negative attitudes alienate other people and ruin your physical health in the long run. Strong social ties are a health prevention strategy, especially for women. People with high social involvement have the lowest mortality rates while isolated people have the highest rates.

Are you worried? Here’s how to change your outlook to avoid the penalties of pessimism and maximize your life!

There are a couple of major strategies you can implement immediately:

Inventory of Friends: Assess the negativity level of your friends. Emotions are contagious and one negative person in your life can be optimism “killer.” Toxic friends are bad for your health and they need to be either seen in measured doses or completely ushered from your life.

Increase Your Emotional Muscle: Emotionally resilient people tend to specialize in emotional self-control. They face adversity with optimism and don’t wallow in setbacks that are inevitable parts of life. Resilient people tend to do the following:

Permanence: They interpret good things as permanent and bad things as temporary.

Pervasive: When good things happen, they celebrate all of life and infuse themselves and other with good cheer. When adversity hits, they do not view their entire lives as difficult and defeated.

Personal: Well-adjusted people take responsibility for their mistakes but they are realistic in assessing self-blame. They do not blame themselves automatically when adversity hits, but focus on what they can do to change the outcome for the better.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia, please go to


"The Resilience Factor" by Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatte

"Mind Body Health" by Brent Hafen, Keith Karren, Kathryn Frandsen and N. Lee Smith

Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association

Think Yourself To Sleep! - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thinking Yourself To Sleep

September 10, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Insomnia strikes 30% of Americans according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and this trend has only worsened during these challenging economic times. Millions of us have turned to prescription sleep aides but a new study from the Mayo Clinic now reports that improving your attitudes about sleep may be the real key to getting that elusive good night’s sleep.

Most of my sleepless patients begin by asking me why it is so difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Here are the facts:

  • A Lot on Our Minds: Stress is the number one cause of short term sleeping difficulties and the number of people struggling with sleep has doubled since 2001. Forty million Americans struggle with over seventy different types of sleep problems with insomnia being the most common. You cannot sleep if you have adrenaline coursing through your body while you worry about your job, your school, your kids or your money. Such chronic stress can even erode your immune system.
  • Sleepless Youth: Insomnia is not confined to the middle aged or the elderly anymore. The use of prescription sleep medications by the 18 to 24 year old crowd has nearly tripled since 1999. Access to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and texting keep us plugged in and sleepless.
  • Insomnia is Progressive: Sleep problems are progressive disorders. Unaddressed, short-term insomnia becomes long term, chronic insomnia. We begin to think that we cannot sleep and adopt attitudes that make it more difficult to sleep. We create an entire personal “culture” around why we cannot sleep.

Now that all sounds pretty bad, but it gets worse when we look at how sleeplessness actually affects its victims.

  • Thinking Less Effective: A weary mind cannot process the emotions of today and sleep deprived people overreact, snap at others and fail to concentrate and follow through. We end up with muddled minds and compromised careers.
  • Psychomotor Reactions are Compromised: We are simply clumsier when we are tired. Chronic insomniacs have four times the incident of car accidents. This phenomenon costs the U.S. up to $100 million a year in indirect costs. Falling asleep at the wheel causes half of all fatal accidents.
  • Increased Substance Abuse: People with sleep problems have 2.4 times more alcoholism than average. If they can’t sleep, many people turn to substances like alcohol and drugs to relax. This is dangerous especially since tolerance develops and we use more alcohol to get the same effect.
  • Sleepless and Blue: Insomnia does precede depression in most cases, and studies have shown that if you deprive a normal person of just two hours a night for five nights that they will begin to show symptoms of depression. Up to 90% of depressed patients have insomnia, and insomniacs have 35 times the rate of depression when compared to good sleepers.

The good news is that you can improve your sleeping habits by simply changing how you think!

When insomnia develops, it is often because of temporary circumstances that cause transient sleeplessness. We begin to believe we cannot sleep on our own and with $300 million spent on marketing last year by the top makers of sleep medications, we are often persuaded to take a pill. Unfortunately, experts are now reporting that medication may be more like a band-aid. The crisis may pass but our underlying attitudes and habits have shifted and are never addressed.

Are you ready to take the first step? Here’s what you should do:

Filling our minds with catastrophic outcomes keeps us up at night. The antidote, other than sleeping pills, is to focus on shifting your thinking from stressed to more logical, realistic thinking that is calming. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you to control or eliminate worrisome thoughts about current stresses and about sleep issues. Remember that 70 to 80% of people with chronic insomnia seem to benefit significantly from CBT. It is natural, reasonably priced and lasting.

Here is an example of CBT steps:

  • Step One: Catastrophic Beliefs. Think of a current stressor that is troubling you. List the future-threat catastrophic thoughts that were produced by this adverse situation, and then record all the thoughts and emotions that you experienced. These catastrophic beliefs often “chain together”, meaning that one catastrophic belief will provoke and flow into another catastrophic belief. The downward spiral is difficult to escape.
  • Step Two: How Likely Are Your Fears? Most of us worry about what bad outcomes could occur without any concern about likelihood. The key to ending your catastrophizing is to break free of the future-threat beliefs. The best way to do that is to emphasize what you do know as fact. Usually, the only solid fact in the catastrophizing chain is the original adverse event that started it. The rest is guesswork and supposition. Use that fact to estimate the probabilities of your worst-case fears. Just how likely is it that all of the awful events in your negative chain actually will happen? Try to estimate a numerical probability of the likelihood that each event in the chain will occur. Is it 75%? Is it 50%? Is it one in a million?
  • Step Three: Best-Case Beliefs. Generate a best-case alternative for each of your worst-case outcomes. This forces you to escape your worst-case scenario thinking, at least temporarily. You are now beginning to think logically and to solve the problem. Suddenly, when you take a break from catastrophic thinking, you will be better able to create the positive outcomes because you’re not dwelling exclusively on the catastrophic outcomes.
  • Step Four: Focus on Realistic Outcomes. Often, your identification of the most likely outcomes will be negative, since your mind is already thinking negatively. When you focus on the more realistic probabilities of bad things happening (1 in 10 million), and then compare those probabilities to the odds of good outcomes occurring (such as 50% to 70%), your thinking and mood will automatically shift to the positive. Avoid catastrophic thinking by filling your mind with realistic, positive outcomes with a high probability of occurring. You will then be ready to tackle the problem creatively and forcefully.
  • Step Five: Pro-Active Solutions. Now it is time to generate the realistic action steps you can take to remediate the problem. Relax, breath deeply and begin to focus on concrete actions that are reasonably implemented to solve the problem. Implement as soon as possible. Remain calm. Again, stay away from catastrophic thinking since it is just a distraction from solving the problem and is a complete waste of your mental energy. The positive solution is at hand. You just need to problem solve to generate it.


“Cost Effective Ways to Fight Insomnia” in the June 6th, 2009 New York Times

“Get A Great Night’s Sleep Every Night” from Good Housekeeping

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

“Insomnia Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy instead of Sleeping Pills” from

“Suffer From Insomnia? Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” from U.S. News and World Report

“The Resilience Factor” by Karen Reivich, Ph.D. and Andrew Shattle, Ph.D.

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