14 Ways Tech Can Help You Hack Your Brain

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We’ve often heard the negative ways that technology can affect our mental health. For example, studies have shown that spending too much time on Facebook and comparing your life (and body) to those of others can cause or exacerbate depression– and most of us are constantly aware how much faster (and more stressful) life has gotten with the advent of the smartphone.

However, in my experience, the internet is full of wonderful, easy-to-use tools for you to straighten out your brain. Here are some resources that I’ve found that can make technology work for you and your mental health.technology photo

  1. Social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all have amazing recovery communities full of wisdom and insight. You can start with one page or blog and, by tracing what they share, find tons of other pages/blogs to follow. Two Facebook pages that I follow are EMPOWERed: A Healing Collective and Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training. If you’re on Tumblr, you can check out my archived blog depressionresource.
  2. You Feel Like ShitYou Feel Like Shit is my contribution to internet mental health– it’s a game-like self care guide that you can play through if you’re feeling bad. It asks questions and then gives recommendations based on your answers, including suggestions like playing with pets and drinking a glass of water.
  3. Online counseling services. Therapy can be really inaccessible for a variety of reasons. Instead of traveling to a therapist near you, you can find counseling services on the web that work just like regular therapy. Check out this list from E-counseling.com to figure out which service is best for you.
  4. Psychoeducation. Just learning about your symptoms can be a huge breakthrough and there’s tons of information about every disorder on the internet. If you have a diagnosis, start by learning the basics and then look up your symptoms for more specific information. An app that you can use for anxiety psychoeducation is SAMapp. Its features allow you to read about anxiety and then collect coping strategies that work for you.
  5. To-do apps. If you struggle with stress caused by disorganization, to-do apps can change your life. I am personally a proponent of the Bullet Journal, but I recognize that it does have its flaws. (In particular, a paper journal cannot provide reminder alarms.) One that I recommend is ToDoist.
  6. Online DBT courses. Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which was designed for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, is a selection of skills usually taught in a classroom-like setting. However, not everyone has the time for three-hour classes twice a week, even if they could really benefit from the material. Instead, try DBT Peer Connections, a YouTube channel made by a peer who wanted to bring DBT to the masses.
  7. Guided meditation audio. Meditation, and the mindfulness that results, is a super important aspect of self care. With its budding popularity, there are tons of guided meditations out there for every use under the sun. You can find free meditation audio on YouTube, but if you’re into apps, Calm might be a great choice for you.
  8. Crisis text line at 741 741. In a crisis, you may not be thinking clearly enough to use the skills and processes that you’ve been working on. That’s when the Crisis Text Line can step in– they will help guide you through your crisis and work on practical steps you can take to mitigate harm. All you have to do is send a text to 741 741. Another app you can use in a crisis is What’s Up. It includes grounding exercises, coping strategies, helpful information, a journal, and habit trackers (both positive and negative).
  9. Communication apps. Regularly keep in touch with friends and loved ones who can help when you’re feeling down. You can use text messenger services (like Facebook Messenger) or video chat (like Skype)– either way, having a strong support system can make a difference in your mental health.
  10. Woebot. Woebot is a robot that will help you with your woes. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, Woebot will respond intelligently to your messages and help you work on your mental health a day at a time. Woebot has Android and iOS apps, but you can also message it with Facebook Messenger.
  11. Food trackers. Here we have to tread carefully: apps that help you lose weight are not going to do anything for your mental health and may, in fact, harm it. However, apps that help you get enough nutrition to keep your body running at its best will help you a lot, especially if you have a history of disordered eating. Some will even help you deal with urges to engage in disordered eating behavior. Some examples include RR Eating Disorder Management and Rise Up: Eating Disorder Help.
  12. Mood trackers. Mood trackers can be particularly helpful when you’re gathering evidence so you can be diagnosed by a professional. Instead of guessing how many days a month you feel depressed, for example, you can have hard evidence. One mood tracker option is Daylio, which tracks a ton of data for you to use in your recovery.
  13. Journal apps. Some of us, for better or worse, are glued to our phones. If a paper journal isn’t for you, you can always download a good journal app to talk out your feelings and record your insights. Paper journaling has been shown to increase mindfulness, but apps are more portable, giving you the opportunity to write at any time. If you’d like to keep a digital journal, try something designed for long-form writing like the Journey app.
  14. Mental health games. Many app creators have taken the concept of gamification and applied it to mental health. Apps like SuperBetter or Habitica take your day-to-day activities and turn them into a game complete with achievements and rewards. If you’re a video game junkie, you can redirect your urge to win into meeting real-life goals.

Oxytocin: More Than Just a “Love Hormone”

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Oxytocin is a chemical produced in the brain during sex, childbirth, and breast-feeding. Research has shown that the so-called “love hormone” promotes bonding and other forms of social behavior.

But the idea that this neurotransmitter works as some sort of natural love potion is too simple. The effects of oxytocin may be more complex than we once thought.

Lei Xu, a psychologist at the Clinical Hospital of Chengdu, recently investigated the effects of oxytocin on partner preferences. Do we find different people more or less attractive after a dose of oxytocin?

Xu had 160 straight volunteers report to her lab. Half of these volunteers had a shot of oxytocin blasted up their nose; the other half received a placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the research assistant administering the doses knew whether each spray contained oxytocin or the placebo with no active ingredient. Afterward, the volunteers were unable to accurately guess whether they had received oxytocin or the placebo.

Next, the male volunteers were shown a series of portrait photographs of women, while the female volunteers saw photos of men. Each photo was paired with a statement about the person’s history of cheating. The person was described as someone who had committed a sexual or an emotional infidelity, or as someone who had never cheated.

Afterward, the volunteers indicated whether they would be willing to date each person.

Different effects on men and women

Although you might think that cheating is unattractive to both men and women, Xu found that 32% of men and 17% of women were interested in a short-term relationship with a former cheater. A cheater may not generally be considered a catch, but under certain circumstances men seem less perturbed than women by the prospect of an unfaithful partner, perhaps because men assume a woman who cheats will be easier to woo.

Xu also found that men who had been given oxytocin, compared to men who received the placebo, expressed a stronger desire to date women who had previously been unfaithful. There was no equivalent effect of oxytocin on the female volunteers, but oxytocin did increase women’s interest in long-term relationships with faithful men.

In short, oxytocin didn’t simply turn men and women lovey-dovey; instead, it promoted the pre-existing sex differences in men’s and women’s preferences for faithful and unfaithful partners.

Xu and her colleagues write in their paper that their findings supported their theory that “oxytocin would enhance current social and reproductive priorities in both sexes.”

Another finding was that women who had received a dose of oxytocin were more likely to remember the faces of men who were labeled faithful.

5 Things That Could Help You Improve Your Brain Function

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Unlike a bicep or a quadricep, we can’t see or feel when our brain is turning into mush through either disuse or misuse. Instead, any atrophy will instead make itself known when we’re struggling to remember a very common word, getting hopelessly lost in a part of town we’re intimately familiar with, or being driven to tears trying to figure out how to set up a personal hotspot. That last one happened to me about 90 minutes ago.

While the brain isn’t literally a muscle, its function can be positively and negatively affected by the behaviors we engage in—and ones that we don’t—each and every day. Below is a litany of habits you can pick up that could help you stop fucking with your grey matter and help enhance its function instead. If you change your ways, your chances of regaining your sparkle are good.

Sleep more

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, sleep is extremely important to all aspects of our health. Unfortunately, we’re getting less of it than ever. As recently as the mid-1900s, people slept around nine hours per night. In 1970, that number had fallen to around 7.5 hours per night. According to the CDC, over a third of American adults getting less than seven hours shut-eye per night. “Sleep is essential for optimal neuropsychological ability,” says Virginia-based neurologist and sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter. He elaborates on this in his book, The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It. “From interpreting nonverbal cues and emotional content to managing concentration and organizing information in our minds, sleep is vital—and restricted sleep can dramatically impact cognitive performance.”

Another sleep-related thing to consider: naps are not just for cranky toddlers. A small study from 2010 looked at the academic performance of two groups of young adults: nappers and non-nappers. In the experiment, every participant completed a rigorous learning task. After the first task, one group took a 90-minute nap while the other stayed awake until a second task was administered hours later. The participants who napped in between tasks did significantly better on the second task and also showed signs of improvement and learning.

The non-nappers, on the other hand, became worse at learning and their ability to retain information decreased. “Napping helps raise levels of alertness and can help with memory,” says clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael BreusHe explains that a 20 to 25 minute cat nap can help you to stay sharp when you just didn’t get enough sleep the night before, but that getting more nighttime sleep is the best solution.

Caffeinate (in moderation)

Many of us are well acquainted with coffee’s ability to get us moving in the morning, but it can also help you process things more quickly. Winter says that caffeine’s role as a performance-enhancing drug has long been known. “It helps with concentration, focus, and memory processing as well as recall,” he says. According to a study from 2012, 200 mg of caffeine (about as much as you’d find in a 12-ounce cup of coffee) can improve a person’s verbal processing speed. By providing a group of adults a 200 mg caffeine pill in the morning and then asking them to complete word-recognition tasks, researchers discovered improved speed and accuracy compared to when they completed these tasks without caffeine.

Put the bottle down once in a while

In a study in the British Medical Journal, researchers looked at the impact of moderate alcohol consumption on the brain through the cognitive ability of more than 500 adults over 30 years. It was demonstrated that people who drank between 15 and 20 standard drinks per week were three times more likely to suffer from hippocampal atrophy—damage to the area of the brain involved in memory and spatial navigation.

Overall, drinking doesn’t “kill your brain cells,” but drinking too much too often can damage the part of your brain responsible for remembering things, which is almost as bleak. That actually leads me to my next suggestion.

Give Google a break

If you’re older than say, 35, you can probably remember a time when you had at least a dozen phone numbers committed to memory. You may also recall certain mental tricks you may have employed to help you do so, such as associating certain number sequences with the location of their keys on the dial pad, or “clustering” the numbers into groups to help you retain them. Guess what? That’s called using your brain.

In today’s connected world, we’re storing information basically everywhere else. In a 2011 paper entitled Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips, college students were shown to recall less information when they knew they could search for it instead. Winter says that stress can be helpful in memory formation. Knowing that you have access to all the information you’ll need “might reduce memory capacity,” he says.

Have more sex

Sometimes, after a long, hard day, the thought of energetic humping can seem so daunting that you and your partner agree to a half-assed snuggle instead. But if you’re not making sex a priority at all, it might be worth checking out some of the research that touts the benefits it might have on our brain function.

In a small 2017 study published in the Journals of Gerontology, researchers asked a group of older adults questions about their sex lives and then had them to take a standardized test. This revealed a link between sex frequency and intelligence: People who claimed to engage in sexual activity weekly wound up having higher test scores than people who did not. It’s important to note that we can’t be certain of the direction of this effect—people who feel sharper might be more likely to be having more sex.

Still, other recent research has demonstrated a strong link between getting wild and getting smart. In 2017, another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior looked at the effect of sex on the cognitive abilities of 78 women aged between 18 and 29. Controlled for other factors such as menstrual phase and relationship length, researchers found that women who had sex more often had better recall of abstract words on a memory test. In fact, the bulk of research done on the benefits of sex on the brain revolves around memory. People who are getting some on a regular basis may be less depressed and more emotionally satisfied too, Winter says. This, he adds, could line up with sex being cognitively beneficial and helpful with focus.

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How Can I Get on a Better Sleep Schedule?

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Sleep schedules vary a lot from person to person. Some are naturally “larks”—early to bed and early to rise—while others are “night owls.” Schedules shift with development, too, with babies typically being larks compared to older children; adolescents in particular often are on a later schedule, which can make it difficult to accommodate early classes.

Thankfully even night owls generally can align their schedules with the rest of the world. However, at times they may find themselves stuck in a cycle of late to bed, late to rise that’s hard to get out of.  For example, college students may go to bed and wake up later and later during winter break, and need to shift their schedule to one that’s compatible with academics as the new semester approaches.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some recommendations for effectively getting on an earlier schedule.

1. Start in the morning.

Most people who try to change their sleep habits start by trying to go to bed earlier. Since sleep has a beginning and an end, it makes sense intuitively that we should adjust the start time. Unfortunately this approach is very likely to fail.

The problem is that you won’t have been up for enough hours in order to fall asleep easily, and so you’re likely to lie in bed for hours; the next morning you’ll probably stick to your typical wake time. There’s also a good chance you’ll get stressed out about not sleeping, which can lead to insomnia as your bed becomes associated with anxiety.

The better method is to think of being awake as having a start and an end, and adjusting when you start being awake. In other words, start by getting up earlier.

Ideally you can make this change gradually, so it’s not too difficult. For example, if you’ve been getting up at noon, start by setting an alarm for 11:30 AM. Gradually shift your wakeup time 15-30 minutes earlier as your body adjusts.

2. Get natural light early in the day.

One of the most effective ways to shift your 24-hour internal clock (or circadian rhythm) is to have exposure to bright light at the right time of day. For moving to an earlier schedule, that means getting natural light early in the day—preferably as soon as you wake up.

It doesn’t have to be for a long time (even 15 minutes helps), and you don’t need the Florida sun—being outside on an overcast day or sitting near a south-facing window can be enough. The light will signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, and will suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body and brain when to expect sleep.

On the flip side, avoid bright lights late in the day, like the glow of your tablet or phone, which can turn off melatonin production right when you need it.

3. Avoid caffeine later in the day.

If you’re getting up earlier, chances are you’re going to be sleepy at times during the day. The temptation to use caffeine to cope can be strong, especially around the mid-afternoon slump. However, it’s likely to keep you awake at bedtime, pushing your wakeup time later and delaying your ability to change your schedule.

What’s “later in the day”? A safe rule of thumb for most people is to avoid caffeine after lunchtime. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, it may need to be even earlier. (Of course, if your sleepiness is a safety concern—like while driving—do what you need to do.)

Instead of caffeine, try something like going for a brisk walk or doing calisthenics. If you’re able to go without it after lunch, you’re more likely to be ready for sleep come bedtime.

4. Be careful about naps.

Napping can have a similar effect to caffeine, making it harder to fall asleep when you’d like to. Our drive for sleep depends on how long we’ve been awake, and naps reduce that drive.

As with caffeine, the time of the nap is important; a 7:00 PM nap is going to be a bigger problem than one at 2:00 PM. If you do nap, aim to keep it short—no more than 20-30 minutes. And again, nap for safety reasons when needed.

5. Go to bed when sleepy.

Finally, be careful not to go to bed too early. It’s best if you feel like you could fall asleep relatively quickly once you lie down, to avoid spending a long period of time trying to wrestle your brain to sleep (see the first point, above).

On the other hand, you may be able to go to bed earlier than you think. Many people find that they get a “second wind” if they stay up past a certain hour, even if they were ready for bed earlier in the night. So take care not to push though sleepiness at night. By going to bed when your body is ready, you’ll have a better chance of getting up when your alarm goes off.

Some individuals on a late sleep schedule could have a condition like a Delayed Sleep Phase Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorder that may require consultation with a professional. As always, consult a qualified medical professional before making major changes to your sleep. 

Why Do We Think About Embarrassing Memories Years Later? Here’s What A Psychologist Has To Say

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Have you ever been walking through the grocery store or trying to fall asleep when, all of the sudden, you’re hit with a wave of embarrassment over something that happened a long time ago? Maybe it was the time you dropped all your textbooks in a quiet school hallway in seventh grade, or maybe you told a server at a restaurant to also enjoy their meal last week. If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone: Dealing with the occasional flashback to a cringe-tastic moment that seems to come out of the blue is a pretty universal experience. Bustle spoke with an expert about why people think about embarrassing memories years later — and about when this normal habit becomes unhealthy.

While most people would probably prefer to go their entire lives without having to deal with an embarrassing situation again, this dreaded feeling actually serves an important psychological purpose. According to Psychology Todayembarrassment is considered a “self-conscious” emotion. Simply put, it helps you examine your behaviors, thoughts, and how you conduct yourself in social situations, so you can learn and grow as a person in the future. As Forbes reported, a 2012 study found that people who are easily embarrassed are more trustworthy — and more generous — than their peers. Furthermore, as fellow Bustle writer JR Thorpe explained that the physical signs of embarrassment, such as blushing, have been shown to help foster closeness in social circles, and makes folks more prone to forgiving the person feeling embarrassed.

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“Thoughts about past embarrassing experiences may certainly be a part of anxiety or depression, but they can also pop up as a part of normal day-to-day life,” Jacob Goldsmith, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and coordinator of the Emerging Adult Program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, tells Bustle. “Sometimes the thought is meaningful, and sometimes, it is not.”

Like the emotion itself, Goldsmith explains that thinking about old, embarrassing memories is both “healthy and normal,” and may be a sign that you need to tweak or change some of your behaviors, especially when it comes to social situations. This “change” could even be something as simple as remembering to lift your feet when walking over different areas of the sidewalk, because you tripped before at the same spot.

“The trick is to be open to receiving the message — that is understanding that I need to make a change — without getting caught up in a spiral of rumination, and shame that doesn’t contribute to positive change,” Goldsmith says. “If you think the embarrassing thought points to something you can and should change, actually taking action, and making change will go a long way to stopping the rumination.”

Science has shown our brains are hardwired to think more negatively, and it can actually be tricky (but definitely not impossible!) to train your mind to into being more positive on a regular basis. So for some people, Goldsmith says, the habit of ruminating on humiliating moments may reinforce negative thinking — especially if “a person feels sad or ashamed, and digs through unresolved past experiences for memories that support these feelings.” He adds that, “In this case, the embarrassing memory is a signal that a person needs to work to build self-compassion and self-esteem, and break the cycle of negative thinking.”

Miss. Maneerat junlobun/Shutterstock

Lacking in self-compassion and positivity aren’t necessarily indicative of a mental health issue, but when previous embarrassing moments become all-consuming, it may be a clue that you’re dealing with an underlying disorder. Rumination is a common symptom of anxiety, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), around 40 million people in the U.S. every year are affected by an anxiety disorder. Specifically, the ADAA estimates that social anxiety disorder alone affects around 15 million people. “Remembering embarrassing experiences from the past become unhealthy when it is part of a pervasive pattern of negative thoughts about self, [and] anxiety about the past or future. Or, when it causes significant distress and interferes with day-to-day life,” Goldsmith says.

Luckily, once you’re aware of this thought pattern, there are ways to overcome it. “If you have these sort of thoughts often, prevention becomes important,” explains Goldsmith. He says that, in addition to using distraction as a coping skill, it’s important to “build understanding of the sort of thoughts and feelings that lead to ruminating on past embarrassing events, and work to either avoid or mitigate those triggers. […] you don’t have to deal with rumination alone. Try reaching out to someone you trust, both as a reality-check, and for compassionate support.” This may even mean seeking out the help of a therapist if embarrassing memories from the past impact your life and wellbeing.

In short, having — and occasionally reliving — embarrassing moments is an all-too-normal part of being human. This habit may propel you to make positive changes to your life, feed into negative thinking, or it could make you more aware of your mental health than you were before. The bottom line is, embarrassing memories from the past are pretty much unavoidable, but how they impact you comes down to the skills you learn to deal with these pesky thoughts when they pop up.

Relationships Can Help in Borderline Personality Disorder

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For people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), relationships can be a struggle. The people close to these individuals themselves face significant challenges. With symptoms of the disorder that include difficulties with boundaries, instability of self-concept, inability to regulate emotions, and frequent attempts at self-harm, the individuals who meet this diagnosis may expect too much out of their relationship partners, react with outrage when they feel they’re being rejected, and be demanding of excessive reassurance and attention. Treatment for people with borderline personalitydisorder is generally given only to the individual instead of to the individual and close relationship partners. Such an approach not only leaves those partners out of the therapy loop, but also may fail to take advantage of the “data” a relationship partner can provide about the individual’s behavior outside of the therapy context.

According to new research by Rutgers University’s Skye Fitzpatrick and colleagues (2019), early childhood relationships are important factors in the development of this disorder. However, theorists and researchers may pay less attention than they should to adult relationships. A biopsychosocial perspective to BPD emphasizes how the disorder is maintained within the close relationships that people have in adulthood. As the authors note, “When emotional intensity increases in people with BPD, SOs (significant others) attempt to escape the intense emotion rather than engage in effective problem-solving, emotional validation, or emotional tolerance” (p. 2). As a result, the SOs become less supportive and more judgmental, and can become demanding, critical, attacking, and withholding of affection. A downward spiral ensues, only exacerbating the individual with BPD’s distress and hence, dysfunctional behaviors within the relationship.

Fitzpatrick and her colleagues note that SO’s are involved in many other types of treatments for a range of other disorders from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. BPD would be an area particularly suitable for such interventions, given that the symptoms are so closely linked to relationship factors. Although some studies have included relationships with family members, they do not take into account the very important contributions of nonfamilial relationships. There are, Fitzpatrick et al. note, a number of potential targets of treatment if close intimate partners are involved in the process. These include reducing BPD symptoms in the individual but also reducing the distress of the SO, and thereby reducing the general distress in the relationship. SOs could also be used in therapy as “coaches,” as targets of education about the disorder, and to help the couple work on reducing their relationship distress in general.

Using this as a background, the Rutgers University researchers examined the existing literature on the most well-established approaches to BPD therapy that fall into these three categories. The first, are those coachinginterventions in which the SO actively participates in treatment. In what is called “Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem-Solving (STEPPS),” clients themselves learn about such well-established therapeutic approaches as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, which encourage clients to challenge their thoughts, learn to manage their emotions, communicate effectively, and manage their behaviors. SOs are brought in for one 2-hour session so that they can learn about these techniques. They can bring the therapy home by asking the individual with BPD such questions as “Have you tried a skill?” when they are distressed. STEPPS was shown, in two well-controlled randomized trial interventions, to show improvement in BPD symptoms that persisted past the end of therapy.

The second way of involving family in treating people with BPD uses education and family-based interventions. In “Family Connections,” family members of people with BPD participate in 12 weeks of group therapy in which they receive information and support. They also are taught some skills from dialectical behavior therapy to learn how to build healthier relationships with the individual with BPD. The tests of this approach were mixed, and compared to STEPPS, did not appear to provide substantial improvement, and it therefore appears to work more as a support group than as a therapeutic intervention. One variant of this approach involves family skills training in methods shown to work for individuals with BPD in traditional therapy, but there are no empirical studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Small positive effects of treatment were shown in what’s called “Staying Connected,” that focuses on the SO’s distress rather than on the partner with BPD. However, there were not enough studies to support this approach’s effectiveness.

Disorder-specific therapies involve SOs in forms of therapy ordinarily used for individuals alone. In couple dialectical behavior therapy, couples are seen as trapped together in a cycle of “high emotional arousal, inaccurate expression of emotion, and invalidation” (p. 7). Therapy attempts to reduce suicidal, self-injurious, and aggressive behavior. The couple then goes on to learn how to reactivate their relationship by engaging mindfully in joint activities. They learn how to identify and express their emotions in an accurate manner, and acknowledge the feelings of their partners. The couple also learns how to manage conflict in ways that reduces destructive communication and helps to restore feelings of closeness. Couple dialectical behavior therapy, although tested only in one randomized study, showed positive effects on relationship quality as well as the SO’s levels of passion.

The next BPD-specific therapy tested in the context of couples counseling was “couple emotion dysregulation treatment.” Across 3 phases of a 16-week treatment, couples learn methods of dialectical behavior and couples cognitive behavioral treatment with the goal of reducing the couple’s levels of distress. In the couples cognitive behavior phase of the treatment, for example, couples learn to differentiate between sharing and problem-solving, and in the process learn to soothe each other and express emotion. Unfortunately, the one study testing this approach was an uncontrolled pilot study, but the results suggested that the method did yield some positive effects on relationship satisfaction that persisted beyond the end of active treatment.

Given that these studies are just a beginning, the authors believe that the involvement of SOs in treatment of people with BPD shows promise. One common feature of all these approaches is their focus on training in emotion regulation skills. Using skills taught to the individual’s partner, such an approach helps to provide consistency outside the therapy session and in the home, both in terms of the feedback the individual receives from the partner as well as through modeling. Another positive feature of this approach is that the SO learns to regulate his or her own emotions, helping to break the destructive cycle in communication that can result when their anger and frustration start to get out of control.

As noted by the Rutgers researchers, the studies that incorporate SOs have additional limitations in that most of the individuals with BPD were female. Furthermore, other theoretical underpinnings in the causes and maintenance of the disorder were not tested in the intervention context. The other major limitation, of course, is that couples treatment was not compared to treatment involving individuals alone.

To sum up, Fitzpatrick and her collaborators have laid the groundwork for a potentially crucial area of intervention research with individuals who have BPD. Taking into account the relationships that make up such an important context for the lives of people with this disorder should help advance not only the theories of BPD in adulthood, but also the everyday contexts in which this disorder affects people’s lives.

It’s pretty scary when you are in a stage what I call the “Blah Factor.” I say this because when you don’t feel anything you become numb to nothing. You don’t care and with a mental disorder like manic depression that blah blah feeling can lead to despair. What to do when you are face with the black factor? Hello, I’m Sunny Larue blogger, writer, storyteller, music lover and martini admirer. My blogs are about self-discovery with a positive vibe. My stories are about love and loss inspired by real life events. And this is the Blah Factor.

via THE BLAH FACTOR — Sunny Larue

How Oxytocin Can Help Us Be More Neurologically Productive

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Invariably, a hoard of studies exploring the famously ambiguous hormone knows as oxytocin begin to pepper the internet around Valentine’s Day. What we do know about the pituitary function however-its profound effect on childbearing, empathy and social interaction, is more than enough to warrant its dubbing as “The Love Hormone.”Tend and defendThe endocrinology is simultaneously a punch to the gut and a pat on the back.On one hand, it’s a little underwhelming to know that all of the things that make us feel warm and husky can be traced to a gland residing in the rotting meat in our heads. But it’s somehow concurrently comforting to know why and how we love someone can be vividly sketched by neurology.

As it turns out love is encouraged and mediated by a temperate-mathematic entity; every kiss and hug funded by a network of hypothalamic animations. But oxytocin doesn’t retire once bonds have been successfully established between mates.

The neuropeptide is expressed primarily in women as it helps with increasing uterine contractions during labor and cervical dilation. It promotes the nurturing maternal link by surging in accordance with things like a child’s cry and suckling.

Oxytocin levels increase in recent father’s as well, though its stimulation belongs to different factors; arousing play, focus on joint exploration, and stimulatory touch specifically.

More grimly, the neurotransmitter has been proven to inspire intolerance. A study conducted back in 2014, examined two groups of Dutch men: one group given oxytocin, the other given placebos.

Both groups were tasked with choosing five men they would give lifeboats to. The ones on oxytocin were found to be more likely to reject Muslim or German-sounding names, while the placebo group’s decisions were notably less informed by superficial factors.

The hormone’s mission to tend and defend makes us more prone to form allegiances towards those with similar characteristics and just as well more readily aware of distinctions.

We are genetically presupposed to crumble in the presence of tribalism.

Neuroeconomics

There are less obvious by-products of the hypothalamus as well.  Because oxytocin impacts our ability to process social cues, it indirectly correlates to our productivity in the workplace.

In an attempt to better comprehend the effect neurology has on a healthy corporate community, neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak, successfully administered synthetic oxytocin into living brains during an experiment in the early 2000s.  His team of researchers found increased levels of the hormones to have a clear effect on the firm’s profitability and the feelings of fulfillment in those cohabiting it.

According to Zak, productivity lives and dies by one stipulation: a strong community composed of members that have a clear understanding of their purpose within it.

Being rewarded trust by another increases levels of oxytocin significantly. Individuals with higher levels of oxytocin are found to have lower levels of stress, depression and be more apt at social interaction.

The same tend and defend mechanic can apply to a corporation. Employers are biologically incentivized to work harder for those they feel bonded towards.

Zak remarks: “These laboratory studies showed that when trust between team members is high, oxytocin flows and work feels less like, well, work, and more like doing interesting things with friends. ”

Organic methods of raising oxytocin

The production of oxytocin is all about catering to all the things that bring you joy. Considering the intimate things that make us happy is sort heretical in the corporate world, but it has an undeniable affect on its ability to thrive. Pet a dog, listen to music, copulate, take a bubble bath, hug a baby, (your own baby please).

The great thing about oxytocin though is that it responds equally to feeling good as it does to making others feel good. Giving gifts has been studied to raise levels of the hormone. Perfect timing too. People that receive chocolate and flowers exhibit higher levels of oxytocin, as do people that bequeath them.

It’s an evolutionary mistake not to revel in love and empathy.

15 Signs That You’re An Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety

Author Article

Anxiety is the voice in the back of your head that says, “something bad is going to happen.” It’s what keeps you awake at 2 a.m. thinking about something embarrassing you did — five years ago.

Not all introverts have anxiety, and extroverts and ambiverts can struggle with it, too. To be clear, introversion and anxiety aren’t the same thing. Introversion is defined as a preference for calm, minimally stimulating environments, whereas anxiety is a general term for disorders that cause excessive fear, worrying, and nervousness.

However, for many introverts, anxiety is a regular part of their lives. And indeed, anxiety is more common among introverts than extroverts, according to Dr. Laurie Helgoe.

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?
Sometimes anxiety is obvious (think: panic attacks and sweaty palms), but that’s not always the case. Many people live with a secret form of anxiety called “high-functioning anxiety.” Outwardly, they appear to have it all together. They may even lead very successful lives. No one can tell from the outside that they’re driven by fear. Sometimes they don’t even realize it themselves.

Do you have high-functioning anxiety? Although not an official diagnosis, high-functioning anxiety is something countless people identify with. It’s closely related to Generalized Anxiety disorder, which affects 6.8 million adults in the U.S., women being twice as likely to experience it as men.

Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety
Here are fifteen common symptoms of high-functioning anxiety.

1. You’re always prepared.
Your mind frequently jumps to the worst-case scenario in any given situation. As a result, you may find yourself over-preparing. For example, you might pack underwear and makeup in both your checked luggage and your carry-on, just in case the airline loses your suitcase. People see you as being the reliable one — and often your preparations do come in handy — but few people (if any!) know that your “ready for anything” mentality stems from anxiety.

2. You may be freaking out on the inside, but you’re stoic on the outside.
Interestingly, many people with high-functioning anxiety don’t reveal just how nervous they are, which is another reason why it’s often a secret anxiety. You may have learned to compartmentalize your emotions.

3. You see the world in a fundamentally different way.
Your anxiety isn’t “just in your head.” Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel found that people who are anxious see the world differently than people who aren’t anxious. In the study, anxious people were less able to distinguish between a safe stimulus and one that was earlier associated with a threat. In other words, anxious people overgeneralize emotional experiences — even if they aren’t threatening.

4. You constantly feel the need to be doing something.
Which can be a real problem if you’re an introvert who needs plenty of downtime to recharge. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re attending lots of social events; instead, you may feel a compulsion to always be getting things done or staying on top of things. Staying busy distracts you from your anxiety and gives you a sense of control.

5. You’re outwardly successful.
Achievement-oriented, organized, detail-oriented, and proactive in planning ahead for all possibilities, you may be the picture of success. Problem is, it’s never enough. You always feel like you should be doing more.

6. You’re afraid of disappointing others.
You might be a people-pleaser. You’re so afraid of letting others down that you work hard to make everyone around you happy — even if it means sacrificing your own needs.

7. You chatter nervously.
Even though you’re an introvert who prefers calm and quiet, you chatter on and on — out of nervousness. For this reason, sometimes you’re mistaken for an extrovert.

8. You’ve built your life around avoidance.
You’ve shrunk your world to prevent overwhelm. You stick to routines and familiar experiences that give you a sense of comfort and control; you avoid intense emotional experiences like travel, social events, conflict, or anything else that might trigger your anxiety.

9. You’re prone to rumination and overthinking.
You do a lot of negative self-talk. You often replay past mistakes in your mind, dwell on scary “what if” scenarios, and struggle to enjoy the moment because you’re expecting the worst. Sometimes your mind races and you can’t stop it.

10. You’re a perfectionist.
You try to calm your worries by getting your work or your appearance just right. This can bring positive results, but it comes at a cost. You may have an “all-or-nothing” mentality (“If I’m not the best student, then I’m the worst”). You may have unrealistic expectations of yourself, and a catastrophic fear of falling short of them.

11. You have aches, repetitive habits, or tics.
According to psychotherapist Annie Wright, your anxiety might manifest physically in your body as frequent muscle tension or aches. Similarly, you might unconsciously pick at the skin around your nails, tap your foot, scratch your scalp, or do other repetitive things that get your nervous energy out — even if you appear composed in other ways.

12. You’re tired all the time.
Your mind is always going, so you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Even when you sleep well, you feel tired during the day, because dealing with a constant underlying level of anxiety is exhausting.

13. You startle easily.
That’s because your nervous system is in over-drive. A slammed door, an ambulance siren, or other unexpected sounds really rattle you.

14. You get irritated and stressed easily.
You’re living with constant low-level stress, so even minor problems or annoyances have the power to frazzle you.

15. You can’t “just stop it.”
Anxiety isn’t something you can tell yourself to just stop doing. In fact, the above-mentioned researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science found that people who are anxious have somewhat different brains than people who aren’t anxious. They noted that people can’t control their anxious reactions, due to a fundamental brain difference. (However, you can learn to cope with your anxiety and greatly lessen it — see the resources below).

How Anxiety Can Transform Normal Into Extraordinary

Author Article

People often wonder if they can live a normal life with anxiety. Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy. Living with that tightness in your throat, those butterflies in your stomach, those racing thoughts of “what if’s” spinning through your mind, and the constant feeling that something just isn’t right can be miserable. Anxiety can be overwhelming when it strikes, feed on itself, and leave you wondering if you’re losing your mind.

Close to 40 million Americans live with some form of anxiety in their lives. And while those numbers may seem unreasonably high, anxiety symptoms are highly treatable, and moderate anxiety can actually enhance your life when you think about it positively, and know how to harness it for good in your life.

My new book, Hack Your Anxiety, lays out the science and sense of using anxiety to your advantage. And while there can be many downsides to anxiety, and its discomfort, there can be powerful upsides too.

One thing anxiety does exceptionally well is harness your attention; it simply refuses to be ignored. There is no escaping anxiety’s grip once it starts, and fighting anxiety is almost always in vain, more often escalating its symptoms than deescalating them.

The key to knowing how to use anxiety effectively and keep it fueling growth, is to recognize it as a fundamentally normal – even helpful – part of a full life.

Normalizing your anxiety, and even using it to moderate levels to inspire you to be your best self, is absolutely possible. Keeping these 10 anxiety facts in mind can help you maintain a more positive mindset that in turn can help you access this powerful resource.

1. Anxiety is an expression of how much you care.

As if to highlight our highest priorities in life, anxiety helps bring our focus and energy to protect the things that matter most to us. We worry because we care, not because we are crazy. Anxiety can’t happen without caring. Thinking about anxiety as a reflection of our top priorities can help us embrace it as a resource.

2. Anxiety is uncomfortable for a reason, forcing you to focus.

Like an alarm clock that won’t turn off until we wake up and deal with it, anxiety keeps hassling us to pay attention and tend to the problem at hand…until we do. It plays dirty this way. We can distract ourselves, even ignore it temporarily, but ultimately it will keep coming back until we allow it to direct and keep our attention.

Contrary to popular beliefcurrent science suggests anxiety may have more to do with harnessing attention and focus, than promoting fear. In this way, anxiety can be a huge help when it comes to managing our increasingly distracted attention, and forcing us to pay attention to the things we care about most. Anxiety reminds us when we start to slip, and nudges us to stay focused on our top priorities.

3. Beware of the quicksand of resistance

It’s natural to resist anxiety, but beware of the boomerang effect of actively resisting it. The more you worry about your anxiety, the harder it becomes to manage, and the more acutely you will feel it. Even trying to suppress anxious thoughts can have the effect of raising anxiety levels in experiments. There is simply no effective way to avoid anxiety, and its effects.

4. Name anxiety to tame it.

Naming how you feel can deliver control over your experience. The simple act of naming our emotions is a well-documented, powerful tool in gaining control of them. And while you’re at it, why not label it as positively as possible? How you label your anxiety actually defines how you will experience it – if you label it as terrible and miserable, it will feel terrible and miserable. Whereas if you label it as positively as you can (i.e., excited, fired up, or ready to focus), you will likely experience it more positively.

5. Anxiety can be good for your brain.

Stress hormones can facilitate optimal performance, and also help us learn from our experiences so that we can do it again, with increasingly less effort. Acute bouts of stress can help boost neural growth and memory, according to recent research from Berkeley. Just as straining muscles and bones are how we build strength, working with stress helps us get stronger and better at it.

6. Anxiety fuels needed motivation and solution-finding energy.

Anxiety is energy waiting to be utilized. Thanks to its activation of our threat response, anxiety grabs our attention and stirs our motivation to act. Can’t stop worrying about those bills that need paying, or that yardwork that keeps waiting? You probably won’t until you actually get to them. This is your anxiety nudging you to take care of the tasks of life that matter to you, even if you might not feel like it.

7. Optimal sleep helps you use anxiety effectively.

Research keeps coming how important sleep is to function at our best. Our brains need sleep to absorb new information as well as flush toxins. Sleep allows for recovery, and thus prepares us to make the most of stress and anxiety in our life. Inadequate sleep does the opposite, and has been shown to exacerbate anxiety. 7 – 9 hours per night is the recommended amount of sleep that allows you to use anxiety most effectively.

8. Healthy anxiety can fuel optimal performance

Anxiety offers within it the seeds of our deepest desires and values. Worrying about doing your best at work or home can fuel you doing your best. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, researcher and positive psychology expert, coined the term flow to describe a state of mind where your actions, thoughts and bodily responses are aligned, tasks are done with ease and clarity, and there is a feeling of effortlessness and utmost concentration. It is also a state of moderate arousal and stress – an uncomfortable place – where we actually experience our highest achievements in life.

Stress – even anxiety – is always part of our best effort, creating the focus, drive, and energy to take action. Action creates momentum that in turn channels more productive action. Being in flow promotes a powerful sense of positivity and well-being, but importantly, such a state is not comfortable: it is born of stress, and often anxiety.

9. Anxiety Can Give You A Competitive Edge (even when you think it can’t)

Athletes know this feeling as well, as do high level performers, describing an experience of being “in the zone” when they are most likely to achieve their goals. The beloved fable of the tortoise and the hare illustrates the fuel anxious feelings can bring to our lives. So confident and relaxed in his race against the tortoise that the hare allows himself to stop trying, and take a fateful nap. Meanwhile the slow, steady, and undistracted tortoise channels the stress of his disadvantage into momentum that ultimately wins the race. Stress and anxiety can provide the energy and focus we need to try our best – using its fuel can help us stretch for our best.

10. How you think about anxiety controls how it affects you

Perhaps the most important fact about anxiety to know is the power we all have to control our thinking about it. In fact, a large scale study has found that how you think about stress actually defines the impact it has on your life; the more you see it as a positive resource, the more positive it will be, and visa versa. People with a healthy relationship with anxiety tend to view anxiety and stress as a normal part of life, and appear to bounce back from stressful times more easily than those who worry about their worries. Not only is it healthy to keep a positive attitude about anxiety, a healthy attitude can actually help keep anxiety’s impact healthy.

Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy and it can be hard to feel normal when you struggle with it. Not only is anxiety both a normal emotion and a normal part of life, it can be a powerful resource to channel our best effort. Thinking about it this way allows it to be.

If you want anxiety to be a healthier part of your life, changing how you think about it is a critical first step that can allow you to harness its energy and motivation toward your highest goals. This is how anxiety can fuel the extraordinary.

This post originally published on Dr. Clark’s blog