Is Porn a Public Health Issue?

Pornography is a hot topic these days.

The Governor of Utah recently signed a resolution describing pornography as “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”  The resolution also reads that porn “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”  Finally, the resolutions states that there is a need for “education, prevention, research and policy change…in order to address the pornography epidemic…”

Read the resolution in its entirety here.

Time Magazine is also talking about pornography, with a recent issue dedicated to covering the topic:

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According to Wikipedia, a public health crisis is defined as follows:

A health crisis or public health crisis is a difficult situation or complex health system that affects humans in one or more geographic areas (mainly occurred in natural hazards), from a particular locality to encompass the entire planet. Health crises generally have significant impacts on community health, loss of life, and on the economy. They may result from disease, industrial processes or poor policy.

So, does porn qualify?

I’m not sure, but I think it is becoming more and more clear that the easy, free access to pornography on portable electronic devices is having a pretty big impact on kids and adults.  The fact that these titillating images (and movies) are just one click away at all times is just such a big change from the past when porn could only be viewed if you:

  • Made a trip to the gas station and asked for the magazine behind the counter
  • Went to a strip club in person
  • Found an adult store/movie theater and had the guts to go inside

In short, it was much harder to access – and took a lot more planning and nerve.  Nowadays, it’s almost hard NOT to stumble into porn at some point while browsing the web.  And that’s one thing for adults, but quite another for kids who often don’t have the resources to:

  • Make sense of what they’re viewing
  • Understand the difference between reality and fiction when it comes to sexual acts
  • Stay away from sexualized content (it’s pretty exciting, after all)

So, the question remains…is pornography is a public health crisis? Perhaps Utah is on the cutting edge of dealing with this issue – maybe they’re over-reacting.  Either way, it’s an important conversation to be having with ourselves, our kids, our partners and our communities.

 

 

 

Some Thoughts About Sex and Mental Health

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I recently participated in an event that included a talk about sex.  The speaker was a physician whose office is around the corner from mine, Dr. Gloria Oberbeck.  The audience was a group of women ranging in age from about 30 to about 75.  And boy did we have a lot of questions for the good doctor!

Sex is something that is all around us almost all the time, but paradoxically is something we almost never talk about in any kind of meaningful way.  Where are we to turn when we have questions like:

Why does sex hurt?

What can I do if I don’t have a partner, but still want to be a sexual person?

Why does my interest in sex wax and wane?

All are orgasms created equal?

These questions (and many more!) were asked during the talk and I took some notes.  Here are a few things I learned:

  • The vast majority of us like sex and chocolate.  The way they work on our brains is pretty similar.  And most of us don’t get enough of either one.
  • It’s a myth that men want sex more than women.
  • Regular sex helps us be more resilient to the stressors in our lives. As in: more sex = better able to cope with our annoying boss
  • Orgasms achieved by…um…machines might be fun, but they don’t result in the same overall health benefits as orgasms achieved through skin to skin contact.
  • Studies have shown us that most people want more sex than they are having
  • When sex isn’t possible (because of lack of partner, physical limitations, etc), skin to skin contact with another person can be the next best thing.  Holding hands, hugging, etc all have powerful effects on our bodies.

It was a fun, and very informative talk.  I’m already looking forward to Part 2!

Election Stress: When Politics Make You Want to Scream

I don’t care who you are or where you live: no American is immune to election stress.  Even when we want to escape the coverage of the candidates, the caucuses, the primaries – it’s next to impossible to do so! And the really frustrating thing? It’s not even close to being over (or reaching its peak, for that matter).

Way back in 2012 I wrote a post about Pre-Election Stress Disorder.*  Remember 2012? We thought we had it rough then! Fast forward 4 years and here we are in the midst of the nastiest presidential race in my memory (and I’m not that young).

I was recently interviewed by the Huffington Post about how to cope with election stress this time around.  The tone is a little silly and tongue-in-cheek, but I think the issue is real.  Constant election coverage, and the often negative banter of folks on ALL sides can have an impact of mental health.  In the article, I offer a bunch of ideas about how to cope when you notice your stress level rising.  My favorite? Check it out:

Remind yourself of the good.

A little compassion goes a long way. Research shows that generosity is cyclical: Kindness makes you happier, and happiness makes you kind. Try to engage in that behavior when you’re stressed about the negativity of the news. Volunteer at a local charity, like an animal shelter or a food bank.

“There are still a lot of wonderful things happening in the world and people making positive change,” Smith said. “That’s hard to remember when candidates rip each other apart, so actively remind yourself of that.”

Read the entire article over at Huffington Post Lifestyle.

 

 

 

Sexuality Through the Lifespan

Calling all local (Northern Colorado and Denver Metro) readers! On Thursday February 25th I will be participating in a FREE event aimed at helping women learn about sexuality throughout the lifespan.

A conversation about sex that goes beyond 50 Shades of Grey and bikini-ready bodies.

The event will be held at the Erie Community Center at 6pm.  Dr. Gloria Oberbeck will be our keynote speaker.  Bring your mom, sister and friends!

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When You’re Afraid to Take Your Kids to School

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…or go to the movies

…or go to the mall

…or go the the holiday parade

Sadly, many of us are questioning our time in large crowds these days.  What seems like a constant barrage of terrifying reports of shootings has all of us scared.  While we know that the vast majority of us will be safe as we go about our day-to-day routines, it can be easy to wonder:

What if my family is the next one to experience violence?

Calming our nerves (and the nerves of our kids) can be tough, but it’s possible.  Here’s how:

Keep doing what we’re already doing.  Most of us have some pretty good stress-management strategies on board already.  Knitting, praying, walking, talking with friends  – these are all examples of ways to cope with stress.  The key is to keep using them now that we need them most.

Turn off the TV already.  It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to media coverage of current events.  Normally that’s OK, but when it comes to difficult, distressing stories less is more.  Learn the basics then turn it off.

Help someone else.  We know that volunteering helps our community, but what we sometimes forget is that it’s good for our mental health, too.  There are about a million opportunities to give our time and resources this time of year, making finding volunteer options as easy way to cope with the stress of the news.

Want more ideas about how to cope with violence in the news? Check out this helpful article over at APA.

 

Coping With the Tragedy in Paris

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Even though we’re thousands of miles away from Paris, many of us still feel a sense of pain, loss and fear after the horrible violence that occurred a few days ago.  Watching coverage of the events and the people who lost their lives, some of us begin to remember other, similar tragedies:

  • 911
  • Columbine
  • Sandy Hook
  • Aurora

The memories and constant news coverage of the event can start to have a real effect on our mood – even if we weren’t personally affected or involved.

The American Psychological Association offers several tips for coping with tragedies and mass shootings.  My go to? Turn off the TV, internet, social media on a regular basis.  Information is good, but emotional overload can happen quickly.  For more tips check out APA.

This Psych Major…

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If you weren’t a psychology major in college, you may have missed the kerfuffle Jeb Bush caused last weekend when he said this:

“Universities ought to have skin in the game,” the former Florida governor said at a South Carolina town hall with Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy. “When a student shows up, they ought to say ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working a Chick-fil-A.'”

Oh boy.

Normally I wouldn’t weigh in on a political issue.  Too divisive. Too unproductive.  But this time I’m going to, because:

  • I was a psych major
  • I went on to earn both master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology
  • I believe whole-heartedly in the power of psychology to change lives
  • Mr. Bush will be debating tonight at the very institution where I received my (not-so-useless) psychology degree (Go Buffs!)

So here goes:

Psychology is an interesting, useful and relevant course of study.  Why? Because all of us can relate.  We all have brains, emotions, families and friends.  We all interact in groups and communicate with other people.  We all start out as infants, develop, grow, learn and age.  We all have a state of mental health, sometimes it’s good – sometimes not – but, it’s always there.  We all deal with issues like motivation, addiction, shyness, jealousy, and creativity.  Most of us become parents, even more of us enter marriages or committed relationships.  And almost everyone – at some point in their lives – has to deal with a boss, neighbor or family member that they would rather not.

Guess what? All of these things (and more, of course) are in the field of psychology.  What could be a better course of study to prepare a student for life? I can’t think of one.

And, what’s wrong with working at Chick-Fil-A, anyway?

 

 

 

 

Coping With the Holiday Blues

Image: This BettyTurbo card on Etsy cracked me up!

Image: This BettyTurbo card on Etsy cracked me up!

I have been writing a short series on the Holiday Blues.  Yea, yea I know it’s still a million degrees out and the leaves have just started changing.  Believe it or not, it’s this time of year; with ever-shortening days, and ever-expanding store holiday displays, when the Holidays Blues can begin to strike.

Last time I wrote about the signs and symptoms of the Holiday Blues.  Today I’m going to offer some tips about managing the Holiday Blues, with the hope of actually enjoying the last 3 months of the year – holidays included.  Here goes:

Take it a day at a time.  Sure, the holidays take some prep and planning.  But unless you make your living on Pinterest, you probably don’t need to get into holiday mode quite yet.  It’s still a month until Halloween! Instead of stressing about how the holidays are going to plan out, try enjoying the fruits of the current season instead.  Cider, anyone?

Manage your mood now.  If the signs of the Holiday Blues hit close to home, try doing something different NOW, before your mood really goes downhill.  Socialize more; change up your exercise routine; return to hobbies or organizations that give you joy; talk about your stress.  Whatever it is: do something to mix it up.

Do something different.  Are the holidays always a difficult time of year for you?  If so, you might consider doing something totally out-of-the-box and different than what you normally do to celebrate.  Go to a creepy movie instead of handing candy to kids on Halloween. Go camping on Thanksgiving.  Volunteer at a shelter on Christmas.  You get the idea.

Seek professional help.  If none of the above tips help, consider seeking professional help.  Psychologists can help you look at your situation differently, help create new strategies for coping, or help you understand your circumstances in a different way.

 

 

Signs You Might Have the Holiday Blues

Photo: Getty Images/Fickr RF

Photo: Getty Images/Fickr RF

The other day I wrote about the holiday blues, and how they can start even when the weather’s hot and the leaves are on the trees.  Check out the full post here.

Today I’m going to talk about some of the signs and symptoms of the holiday blues.*

The thing about our moods is that we often don’t notice what’s happening with them.  Very few of us sit around pondering the state of our mental health:

“Hmmmm, am I happy or sad today?”

“What is the word that best describes my current psychological state?”

To carry on like that for too long would be annoying for all involved.  On the other hand, it’s because we don’t often pay much attention to our mood that changes can sneak up on us, and catch us by surprise.  Mood often changes slowly, with subtle signs and symptoms along the way.  If we pay close attention, we’ll notice the changes.  Check these out:

  • increased irritability (everyone is driving me nuts!!!!)
  • decreased motivation (it’s hard to get myself to do anything)
  • decreased pleasure (I don’t look forward to reading Us Weekly like I used to)
  • increased worry (I am stressed about everything!)
  • low mood (I just feel kind of down)

As with most things, the sooner we become aware of a problem, the easier it is to fix it.  Stay tuned for tips on how to manage the holiday blues before they get out of hand.

*Please note, “the holiday blues” is not a diagnosis recognized by the DSM-IV or ICD-10, but rather term used by this author to describe a non-clinically significant cluster of symptoms.