Therapy That Works...

Jet Blue Captain Meltdown - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the recent Jet Blue pilot's meltdown - click here.

Profile of the Ohio School Shooter - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 27, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the tragic Ohio high school shooting - click here.

With the tragic news of a school shooting at an Ohio high school this week, many Americans are shocked that shootings continue to occur in a post-Columbine world.

Since the tragic Columbine shootings in April 1999, psychologists have assembled a list of common denominators between school shooters.

Teenage Males: They are usually Caucasian males between the ages of 11 and 18 with the average age being 16 who are engaging in their first act of lethal violence. Boys between the ages of 13 and 19 commit about 1/3 of violent crimes.

Rural Settings: School shootings usually occur in the rural or suburban areas outside larger cities. The kids are from a blue collar or middle class backgrounds.

Seasonality: Time of year has a lot to with this kind of crime with most of them occurring between December and May (usually in the Spring).

Tough Home Life: Family background is usually highly dysfunctional and attachment to the parents has been compromised in some ways. The family often looks fairly normal to the community and people are often surprised that the child becomes a murder. Discipline is overly harsh and applied inconsistently.

Cold Blooded: Premeditation is a central part of the crime. Smuggling a gun or guns into a school takes forethought and cunning. There is a plan that has been carefully constructed somewhere along the way. Acquisition of firearm—almost always from the home-- is necessary as is the requisite clothing to hide the firearms as the enter the school.

What would push a teenager to engage in this type of lethal crime against his peers?

Vengeance is the primary motive for almost all of the school shootings and again, this teenager has a history of being bullied and being socially isolated. The second motivation is to achieve notoriety.

The shooters are often perceived as nerdy and physically unattractive and are the common targets of ridicule from other children. Anger and resentment build up over time.. Suddenly there is a precipitating event that forces them to lose control and to lash out in a murderous rage.

If the target is a school official, then a teacher or a principal has had to take disciplinary action against the child.

If the targets includes peers, those who are deemed responsible for the torment are targeted almost exclusively. Many of the kids who have been shot in the past are the more popular or successful kids who are perceived as having wronged the shooter at some point in time.

What are these kids like emotionally and psychologically?

Socially Withdrawn: Most of the time, school shooters are emotionally immature, isolated and socially withdrawn. The emotional centers of the brain are not fully connected to the logical analytical parts of our brain that tells us that “no injustice is worth taking someone else’s life.”

Violence Unites Them: If they do have friends, the friendships generally revolve around their dark view of the world—militaristic, violent, “dog eat dog” kinds of views that justify their social isolation and bond them to one another. They enjoy bragging about their interest in violence and killing and are fascinated by the weapons of violence—guns, bombs, knives, and online or media depictions of violence or death.

Hypersensitive to Criticism: Cognitively these kids are very rigid and simplistic in how they view others. They don’t examine their judgments of others and are quick to assume that others are criticizing them. They are distrustful and view themselves as victims of others. Hypersensitivity is common and they anticipate rejection. They do not usually trust adults.

When does the child cross the line to violence?

Prior to the crime, the child begins to:

  • Feel justified to kill
  • Perceive few or no alternatives
  • Believe that the consequences will be worth it

Here are some warning signs if you are concerned about your child:

Learning to predict violence is the first step to preventing violence. Remember that most of the time, these crimes are well rehearsed. The school shooter fantasizes about revenge against those who are perceived to have harmed him. They often have protracted mental and behavioral rehearsals of their acts of violence in which they carefully select the victims, the time, location, means of killing and how it will play out.

Remember that their violence is calculated--it is not a crime of impulse or passion. It is a crime of intentional revenge.

Here are some warning signs of school shooters:

  • Lack of Conscience
  • Angry Outbursts
  • Depressed, Sullen Behavior
  • Tendency To Follow "Leaders" No Matter What
  • History of Oppositional Behaviors
  • Actual Threats—Written or Spoken
  • Past Acts of Violence
  • Access to Weapons
  • Past Suicide Attempts
  • Family History of Violence or Bullying
  • Cruelty to Animals

Sources:

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

The Classroom Avenger by James P. McGee Ph.D. and Caren DeBernardo, Psy.D.

How To Protect Yourself From Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 27, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube explain how you can protect yourself and the ones you love from domestic violence - click here.

A recent study released by the CDC found that one in four American women have been severely beaten or assaulted by a romantic partner.

Here’s how you can protect yourself from a violent partner:

Denial Is Your Biggest Liability: Most women underestimate the threat and do not recognize the warning signs such as a history of possessiveness, intimidation, and overly jealous behavior. These are psychological "red flags" warning you of potential danger. Pay attention.

Intuition Is Your Best Defense: Thirty one thousand women die each year in America and the majority die at the hands of a romantic partner. Respect your own intuition about your partner and don't talk yourself down or normalize violent behavior. Stop debating and prosecuting your own observations. Your brain is hardwired to protect you, pick up on signs of danger, and tell you to run.

Speed Is Your Best Strategy: If you are threatened, respond quickly. Do not hesitate and remain frozen. Experts estimate that you have approximately five seconds to make a difference in your own self-defense and potentially save your own life. Move quickly and get out of the dangerous situation.

If you fear your partner, you must surrender your life to getting away from him and remaining safe. Remember that you cannot reason with him, convince him, or change him since he is intent upon reclaiming you as a possession. He only wants to regain control.

Make sure to not take this step on your own – please contact a local group, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or visit TheHotline.org. These organizations can help you find a safe place to live, set up new jobs and bank accounts, and can help you take care of your kids. They all have the strategies and knowledge to help you leave safely and successfully.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker

The Warning Signs of Potential Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on YouTube discuss warning signs that you may be in danger at home - click here.

A recent study issued by the CDC found that one in four women had been severely beaten or assaulted in a previous romantic relationship. Many women are wondering how they can protect themselves against a possible threat at home.

Here are some warning signs of a potentially violent partner:

Fast Paced Relationships: Societal definitions of how long a couple should be together before getting married were established for a reason. Many violent men and predators want to move very quickly in a relationship and go too fast. They are trying to establish control over you and get you into a bad situation.

Won’t Take No For An Answer: Anyone who will not hear “no” as an answer is trying to control you. Too often, when men say “no” that is the end of the conversation. However, some men view a “no” from a woman as the beginning of a negotiation. When you say no, mean it and follow through on it. Whether it’s for coming upstairs after a date or a marriage proposal, don’t let him bully you with what looks like persistence.

Symbolic Violence: This behavior includes the destruction of objects dear to the partner or symbolic to the relationship. The intention is to intimidate the other person and cause emotional havoc. Destroying wedding pictures, personal items like perfume or lingerie, or even violence against a beloved pet are all efforts to symbolically bully.

Physical violence can never be undone and has permanent effects on relationships. Make sure to protect yourself and watch out for these red flags in your relationship.

Check back tomorrow to learn how to protect yourself from domestic violence and how you can stop it.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker

Why Abusive Men Move To Violence - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube describe why abusive men move to violence against their romantic partners - click here.

There are two broad categories of men who become violent in relationships:

The first is the man who controls at all costs:

- They usually have controlling and contemptuous personalities – they seem like leaders and social people, but they always want to be in control.

- They regard their wife or girlfriend as a possession, not a person.

- They show the classic signs of anger management issues – flashes of anger for no reason, violent behavior such as punching the wall, and regularly overreacting to innocent comments.

- Finally, they are unable to take responsibility for their behavior - the other person made them do it or it was someone else’s fault.

The second type is the overly emotionally dependent man. He needs constant attention and adoration from his partner to feel worthy:

- When his partner disagrees or attempts to individuate with friends or family outside the relationship, he is devastated.

- He seeks to isolate her and establish control by becoming all she’s got.

- If he cannot assume or resume control or connection, his obsession will lead him to a total self-destruction or maybe even a psychotic episode that could include dangerous or life threatening behavior.

Watch out for these signs and protect yourself from abusive men. It’s much easier to get out early in the relationship than later on.

Check back tomorrow the learn to spot a potentially abusive partner and the warning signs for when a relationship could become violent.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker

High Rates of Domestic Violence In America - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 23, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on Viddler discuss why domestic violence rates are so high in America - click here.

A recent study released by the CDC found that one in four women have been severely beaten by their intimate partners while in a relationship. With the rates of violence so high, many women are concerned about their safety.

But first, why are relationship violence rates so high?

We’ve known for years that women are more often the victims of domestic violence, but these numbers speak to a deepening problem in American couples. Too many modern couples replace words and negotiation with intimidation and bullying.

Bullies believe that if they don’t get their way, that they can threaten or intimidate others to control the outcome. Such behaviors in general society have translated into how we act in our marriages. These violent habits now thrive in intimate relationships where there are no witnesses and very sadly, no accountability.

Check back tomorrow to find out how relationship violence develops in relationships and how it can get out of control.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker

Suicide and Teens - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 16, 2012

With the shocking news this weekend that a Texas teenage committed suicide by jumping off the 18th floor of the Dallas Hyatt hotel, many Americans are worried about their own teens and the risk of suicide.

So, why would a teenager choose to end his life?

Feeling Hopeless: Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the attitude most highly correlated with those who attempt to end their lives. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 10 and 24.

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 loss, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being unsolvable such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to their own interpersonal conflicts.

Are our children more depressed or are we just better at detecting depression?

Both statements are true since this generation's children are more depressed but we also have more safeguards in place to detect the depression. That being said, depressed kids are vastly underserved in our society with very few being seen by a psychologist. We know that depression has increased tenfold over the last century and strikes a full decade earlier than it did fifty years ago. Severe depression reoccurs most of the time—about 50% of the time. In fact, The Center for Disease Control now reports that anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America. We are much more likely to battle depression and other mental illness for our entire lives.

What about those teens who are depressed and make attempts to hurt themselves but are never brought to the attention of medical professionals?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 150, 000 kids between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical attention at the emergency room because of self-inflicted injuries. But that is when the denial kicks in. Very few of them actually follow up with psychological treatment or counseling. They tend to downplay what happened. They feel that they just need to get their child home and figure this out. No matter what recommendations are made by doctors or other healthcare professionals, families tend to blow it off. Kids can be very depressed and hide it well.

However, the numbers do change after the second attempt. Families do seek treatment after a second suicide attempt as they begin to realize that this is more of a chronic issue and is not a fleeting crisis.

Are there gender differences in completed suicides?

Eighty four percent of completed suicides are committed by boys, even though girls are much more likely to attempt. Suicide remains a health threat for men throughout adulthood with four times as many males dying by suicide as females. The reason for this large gap is that boys and men use much more violent and lethal means of committing suicide with guns, cars, or in this case - jumping off of a building. Girls and women choose much quieter means of suicide such as poison or overdosing.

This country has a double standard of masculinity. We want our boys to be strong and courageous and virile and yet have access to their emotions. Too many boys are confused about how to express their feelings. Anger is the only emotion some boys feel that they can express. When depression strikes, they are more reluctant to admit that they are vulnerable and that they are struggling. Depression is a progressive illness and can lead to suicide if it becomes too severe and too intense, but it can also be treated and success rates rise exponentially depending on how early in the depression the child begins treatment.

Here are some warning signs if you are worried about your teen:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of Depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Stressful life event or loss like a relationship breakup
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Increased withdrawal from others
  • More angry outbursts
  • Increased Need for Sleep, Low Appetite
  • Dramatic Mood Swings

Christmas Shootings In Grapevine, TX - By Chris Gearing

Monday, December 26, 2011

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the Christmas day shooting in Grapevine, TX - click here.

Domestic Violence In Relationships - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why are relationship violence rates so high?

These numbers speak to a deepening problem in American couples. Too many modern couples replace words and negotiation with intimidation and bullying. Relationship violence can easily get out of control. We are more exhausted, less affluent and less conscientious about doing the right thing even when no one is watching. We live in a society now that rewards the intimidation of others. Bullis believe that if they don’t get their way, that they can threaten or intimidate others to control the outcome. Such behaviors in general society have transferred to our marriages. These violent habits now thrive in intimate relationships where there is no witness and very sadly, no accountability.

How does this kind of relationship violence get started?

Malignant Trend: We already knew that about 70% to 80% of distressed couples could resort to occasional pushing and shoving when there is chronic tension. But this survey speaks to a more malignant trend in relationships. Relationship violence usually starts suddenly with a slap or a shove. There is shock at the beginning as the intensity and the frequency progressively increase.

Violence Becomes the Norm: The woman is intensely harmed—hit hard, kicked, violently attacked, choked, beaten, shot or slammed against a hard surface by her partner. Her denial kicks in and she pretends that this is either her fault or a normal part of life.

Witnesses to Violence in Family of Origin: Many women of the current generations have witnessed domestic violence in their parents’ relationships. When they grow up with violence, they are twice as likely to accept or normalize violence in their own relationships.

Overwhelming Trauma: The emotional damage is exponentially worse when you are traumatized at the hands of your partner. The person who is supposed to protect and honor you is now torturing you with bullying and intimidation. Twenty nine million women say that they have suffered this type of severe and frightening physical violence from their boyfriend, spouse or intimate partner.

Why do men move to violence against their wives?

There are two broad categories of men who become violent in relationships:

Men Who Control at All Costs:

  • Controlling and contemptuous personalities.
  • Regards the wife as a possession, not a person.
  • Anger issues
  • An inability to take responsibility for his behavior.

Emotional Dependence on the Wife/Girlfriend:

  • When she elects to reject him or disagree, he is devastated.
  • He becomes psychologically disorganized and seeks to isolate her and reestablish control.
  • If he cannot resume control and/or connection, his obsession will lead him to a total self-destruction that can include dangerous behaviors.

What are the warning signs of potential violence?

Physical Violence: Once he crosses the line, you have changed the relationship forever.

Symbolic Violence: This behavior includes the destruction of objects dear to the partner. The intention is to intimidate the other person. Wedding pictures, personal items like perfume or lingerie or even violence against a beloved pet are all efforts to symbolically intimate.

Fast Paced Relationships: When the pace is accelerated at the beginning, this is a control strategy.

Persistence: Anyone who will not hear “no” as an answer is trying to control you. Too often, when men say “no” that is the end of the conversation. When the woman says “no” in a potentially violent relationship, this marks the beginning of the negotiation.

What can women do to protect themselves?

Unavailability at All Costs: If you fear your partner, you must surrender your daily life to separating from him. Remember that you cannot reason with him, convince him or soothe him since he is intent upon reclaiming you as a possession. He only wants to regain control.

Worst Safety Threat is Your Own Denial: Women underestimate threat and do not recognize the warning signs such as a history of possessiveness, intimidation and sexual jealousy. These are the psychological "signposts" warning you of potential danger. Pay attention.

Intuition is Best Defense: Respect your own intuition and don't talk yourself down. Stop debating and prosecuting your own observations. Thirty one thousand women die each year in America and the majority die at the hands of an intimate partner.

Speed is Your Best Protection: If you are threatened, respond quickly. Do not hesitate and remain frozen. Experts estimate that you have approximately five seconds to make a difference in your own self defense. A failure to act may cost you your life.

Why Are Some Kids Killers? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss why some children kill on CBS 11 - click here.

What would drive an adolescent to kill someone?

Emotions are Contagious: In the heat of the moment a group of kids can turn into a vicious mob with little provocation. The negative influence of the group can override the good common sense of even a good child. In some cases, such as in this crime, the actions turn deadly very quickly.

Developing Brain: The adolescent brain is still developing and as a result, it is highly vulnerable to the influences of the crowd. The emotional centers of the brain are not fully connected to the logical analytical parts of our brain that tells us to “turn back” or “get out of there.” Instead, the emotional centers begin to fire, the bullying behavior begins, and the anger and taunting become contagious. The crowd of kids literally feeds off of the fear of the victim and things spiral out of control.

How common is this kind of crime?

We do know that teens tend to kill other teens. Here are the numbers:

Boys between the ages of twelve to nineteen commit one third of violent crimes.

Homicides are the second leading cause of death of this same age group.

Young males are FOUR TIMES more likely to be murdered than are females.

Eighty five percent of murdered teens are male and most were involved in some sort of physical fight that led to murder.

Are adolescent males more prone to this type of violence?

Anger is an Approved Emotion: Absolutely they are since anger is a socially approved emotion for young boys. 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. Group violence has become a ritualized outlet for boys to express their frustration.

Group Bullying Behavior is Rampant: This event that resulted in the death of a child is currently in the news, but bullying happens everyday to millions of children. Bullying behavior is almost always a group activity and it is rampant among males.

Violence is Normalized: In a group of adolescents, boys are normalizing and even glorifying the physical violence they exert against one another. They think that by pitting themselves against an adversary, they demonstrate their machismo, defend their honor, and show how tough they really are. It is a futile attempt to connect with each other and to give them an illusion of being tough, invincible and undefeatable.

What happens over time when a child engages in this kind of group bullying behavior?

Blood Sport: They become increasingly more violent because they become desensitized to violence and it becomes a sport. They have to “up the ante” to get the same thrill. Getting away with it this time means that you may get away with it next time. The violence tends to escalate to bond the group, provide a larger thrill, and display the power and domination of the bully.

Viral Violence: Violence is symptomatic of the basic problem American boys and men are experiencing. From early childhood, they are socialized to express themselves primarily through their actions and achievements instead of careful introspection and verbal expression.

Lack of Emotional Intelligence: Over time, many boys fail to develop the age appropriate emotional intelligence necessary to manage themselves effectively. They can’t communicate, they can’t recover from failure, and they sink into a scrambled, childlike view of the world on a dime. They become disconnected from what they feel and use a limited number of emotions to navigate their relationships and to make their decisions. This doesn’t just impact their friends in high school, but also future employment, family relationships, and basic beliefs about the world.

What are the warning signs if parents are concerned about their child?

Homicides are highly predictable if we pay attention to what we are observing. Learning to predict violence is the first step to preventing violence.

Here are the warning signs in teens:

  • Lack of Conscience
  • Angry Outbursts
  • Tendency to follow others no matter what
  • History of Oppositional Behaviors
  • Actual Threats—written or spoken
  • Past Acts of violence
  • Access to Weapons
  • Past Suicide Attempts
  • Family History of Violence or Bullying
  • Cruelty to animals

What pushes a teen over the edge into homicide?

A person arrives at a tipping point and decides to act violently when four conditions are met:

  • They feel justified
  • They perceive few or no alternatives
  • They believe that the consequences will be minimal
  • They believe that they have the ability to get away with it

What should parents know if they are worried about their children?

The worst mistake parents make is to ignore what they are seeing right in front of them. Intuition is the warning system built into our brains to allow us to predict violence and to avoid it.

Here are normal signals from your intuition:

  • Nagging Feelings and Persistent Thoughts
  • Black Humor—Jokes such as “He’s just going to shoot us all!”
  • Hunches and Gut Feelings
  • Hesitation and Suspicion
  • Uncontrollable Fear

Many adults prefer to view violence as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please educate yourself about child violence and train yourself to recognize it when you see it.


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