Video Game Detox

There has been a lot in the news about video game and internet addiction.  From the controversy surrounding internet/technology addiction NOT being included in the latest edition of the DSM (for the record, I think it should have been), to the first inpatient treatment program for internet addiction opening in Pennsylvania, to this most recent video showing a boot-camp-style detox program for “internet addicts” in China.

The video is worth watching, it literally brought tears to my eyes watching these young men suffer.

But the real question is, is it necessary? Do we really need detox programs for internet addiction?

China seems to think so…and that makes me wonder if the US isn’t far behind.

What do you think?

Flash-Mobbing for Mental Health?!

I recently had the opportunity to participate in my very first flash-mob.  Holy cow!  It was a FANTASTIC experience! Me and about 50 other folks spent about an hour learning the moves to Thriller before flash-mobbing in the lobby of our gym.  What a rush!  After the event I started thinking about how the experience might be related to mental health.  And I think flash-mobbing has a lot to offer, psychologically speaking:

  • Being part of a larger group and working on a common goal can go a long way toward feeling connected to others and being part of a community – important aspects of mental health
  • Experiencing the adrenaline rush of being “on stage” and performing for a crowd is a natural, healthy “high”
  • Trying something new and then succeeding at it can boost confidence and thus self esteem
  • Acting like something that you usually aren’t (in my case a dancer, a performer and someone slightly younger than my real age) can be a fun break from everyday stressors, worries and roles

Who knew that doing something so light-hearted and seemingly un-related to psychology could have such a big impact on mental health? And it’s free and fun!

Want to watch the Thriller flash mob? Click here!

Thanks to Ryan Krol and Sarah Zook for organizing the event and taking the video!

Thanks to Ryan Krol and Sarah Zook for organizing the event and taking the video!

Another favorite flash-mob:

What Glee Taught Me About Resilience

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 10.11.54 PM

I have to admit that I have asked that question…what is resiliency in mental health and psychology?

It’s a concept that is mentioned in mental health all the time.

Here’s what I knew before tonight:

  • It’s something we’re supposed to build
  • It’s something that can protect us from experiencing mental illness in some cases
  • Having resilience can help us cope with the ups, downs, traumas and tragedies in life

I knew these things. But I didn’t really know what resilience looked like.  Until tonight.

Gleeks will know that tonight was the season premiere of Glee; and the first episode after the death of it’s star Cory Monteith.  We all knew it was going to be a tear-jerker. But what I didn’t anticipate is that we would get to see psychological resilience personified in Lea Michele as she opens the show by singing Yesterday by The Beatles.

It must have been difficult; returning to work after her co-star and boyfriend’s death.  And it must have been a struggle to sing; let alone sing a sing so filled with meaning.  And I can’t even imagine the strength it took to do it all, in front of all of us.

But she did.  And that’s resilience.

Thank you Glee and Lea Michele for teaching me something about psychology tonight.



Party at the VMA’s: Miley, Gaga and Why We Missed the Best Part

Ahhhh…the Video Music Awards.  Who can resist the yearly display of pop culture including good music, crazy fashion, wild dances; and let’s not forget the annual controversy.

Madonna kissed Britney in 2003:

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 9.26.14 PM

Kanye stole Taylor’s thunder in 2009:

…and who can forget Lady Gaga’s meat dress in 2010. Delicious:

When I turned on my computer this morning, everyone was talking about the performance delivered by Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) at last night’s VMA’s.  This Disney-star-turned-sex-kitten’s (was that what her costume was?) song was the most talked about of the night. She gyrated, stripped down to a skimpy outfit and danced in a super provocative way with Robin Thicke (even causing the host to comment that she might have become pregnant from all the grinding).

Here’s the thing: people are flipping out about her performance. And for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Yea, it was sexy and risque, but so was Lady Gaga’s number.  Come to think of it, there were plenty of scantily-clad women shaking their booties to hither and yon. What’s the big deal? I really have no idea.

Sadly, I think we are all missing the most provocative, exciting performance of the night: Macklemore.  Forget all the hoopla surrounding Miley and check out Macklemore’s touching performance below:

In a few years we will look back and feel bored at Miley’s gyrations, but Macklemore’s words about acceptance, human rights and loving one another are timeless and meaningful no matter when they are heard.




Facebook: Good or Bad for Self Esteem?

I was recently interviewed for this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about whether and how Facebook use affects self esteem.  The cool thing about the article was that it was written by a high school student.  And while I think of myself as young, and try so hard to be cool and relevant; I just can’t keep up with a teenager in terms of technology and social media and their effects on our psyches.

I’ve written about stress, self esteem and Facebook before, but was interested to read this author’s take on how Facebook use can affect self esteem in teens specifically.  She brought up some points I never would have thought of.  The number of “likes” one receives on posts or pictures, and the number of “friends” one racks up for instance.  As someone who is long past the teen years, I notice other things affecting my self esteem.  Things like friends’ vacation destinations, career accomplishments, and children’s behavior.

Of course Facebook is not all bad.  Connecting with long lost friends and family members is great, and so are the birthday wishes that come through on our timelines.  How does Facebook affect you? What about the teens in your life – does it affect them differently?  Check out the full article below:

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Debate over Facebook's effect on self esteem 04/07/2013

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Debate over Facebook’s effect on self esteem 04/07/2013


ImproveYour Mental Health: Cut Back on Facebook

Yesterday I wrote an article about Facebook Addiction*.  Namely, I provided some questions to ask yourself to determine if your Facebook use is having a negative impact on your mental health.  Take a look.

Today I am thinking about how to make changes in our Facebook use.  Keeping in mind that Facebook is not necessarily an evil force in all of our lives, but that for many of us it can cause some pretty negative and unnecessary emotions.

Some tips for changing your Facebook use so that it adds to your mental health (rather than taking away from it).

  • Set a time to check your Facebook account.  For example, check it on your lunch hour only.  The rest of the day is Facebook-free time.
  • Set an amount of time to check/post to Facebook.  For example, set aside 3o minutes/day to read and post – the timer on your phone or computer can come in handy with this one.  When the time is up, leave it alone until the next day.
  • Hide people whose posts upset you.  Why do I still read the “friend’s” posts that make me mad? We all have friends who post things we would rather not read.  Take the control Facebook gives you and hide their posts from your feed.
  • Don’t accept every friend request.  This may be a generational thing, but I don’t think we need to be “friends” with everyone.  As in the above tip, use the control you have and be selective of the people you let in to your Facebook world.
  • Consider a Facebook holiday.  I have a friend who is giving up Facebook for Lent.  If you really want to know how Facebook is affecting you, run an experiment and notice your mood now, and then after giving it up for a few days or a week.  See a big change for the better? Perhaps it’s time to give it up for good.

*Please note that Facebook Addiction is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-IV (or V as far as I know).  While it is not a “real” diagnosis, overuse of Facebook can certainly be detrimental to mental health.

Are You Addicted to Facebook?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about Facebook.  She was wondering why so many of us continue to use Facebook when it makes so many of Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.39.48 AMus “crazy.”  And by crazy I mean: frustrated, sad, unworthy, annoyed, angry, jealous, and/or pissed off.  You know what I’m talking about: Facebook use can result in all types of emotions, many of them not so great.  For example, spending just a few minutes looking at my Facebook account this morning resulted in the following emotions:

  • excitement over a friend’s news that she is pregnant with baby #3
  • bewilderment/irritation over a couple distant friends and family member’s persistence in posting potentially offensive religious and political posts
  • jealousy over a friend’s pronouncement that she can still fit into her senior prom dress
  • revulsion/anger at the NY Times article about junk food science making the rounds in social media

So why do we continue to subject ourselves to this? Do we really need this extra stress in our lives? How do we know if we are “addicted*” to Facebook?

Some important questions to ask ourselves:

  • Is my time on Facebook keeping me from fulfilling my other duties in life (taking care of self and/or children, doing my job, etc)
  • Does my time or activity on Facebook cause problems at work?
  • Does my time or activity on Facebook cause problems in my interpersonal relationships?
  • Do I neglect “real” people or responsibilities in order to spend more time on Facebook?
  • Does what I read on Facebook have a significant impact on my mood everyday or most days?
  • Do I ever lie about my Facebook use, or hide it from others?

If you answered “yes” to more than 2 or 3 of these questions, it sounds like your Facebook use has a pretty huge impact on your daily life.  This might not be the best thing for your mental health.  Perhaps it’s time to change the way you use social media, and Facebook in particular.  Stay tuned for tips on how to cut back on Facebook.

*Please note that Facebook Addiction is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-IV (or V as far as I know).  While it is not a “real” diagnosis, over use of Facebook can certainly be detrimental to mental health.

Thrift Shops and Mental Health

Hello Dr. Stephanie readers! I apologize for being absent for the the last few days.  I am prepping for an exciting event this afternoon! I will be sure to post details after it has happened (and is published!).

My posts so far this year have been pretty serious, so I thought I would keep it lighthearted today – it is Friday after all!  For those DIY’ers out there, you may already be familiar with the blog Young House Love.  It’s a blog written by a young couple as they tackle home projects including construction, decorating, yardwork, etc.  It’s fun to read with lots of cool photos.  Even if you are not a DIY’er it is worth checking out.  Anyway, they posted a thrift shop challenge last week inspired by this song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (note: this is the clean version, so may be OK to share with the kiddos in your house):

I am going to forgo my urge to write about the merits of this song (because it encourages originality in dress and thinking, promotes inter-generational understanding, and challenges our materialistic culture that makes us feel as though we need to spend $50 on a t-shirt to be cool).  I am also going to resist writing about the pitfalls of this song (trashy language galore).  Instead I am going to focus on the FUN of it!  It simply makes me smile.

I had a professor in graduate school who frequently warned that “happiness is not a hot dog.”  I’m still – 10+ years later! – trying to figure out what that means, but I think it has something to do with not expecting happiness in things, food, or anything else external.  True happiness comes from within.  That may be, but sometimes silly, funny, and charming things do the trick in the short term.  Those are important pieces of mental health too.

I’m signing off now and keeping the rest of my psychology-heavy thoughts to myself.  Have fun listening, watching and thrifting!

Sexuality, Gender and Glee

It’s been a while since I have written about my fave TV show, Glee.  While my newish subscription to Netflix has opened up great new worlds of television programming (Downton Abbey, anyone?), I am still partial to Glee.  As I’ve written before, I love the music, the dancing, and the over the top dialogue.  But this year – perhaps even more than previous seasons – I am appreciative of Glee’s portrayal of gay teens.

Everyone loves Glease!
Photo: Glee on Fox

Glee and its actors have received awards in past years for their representation of teenage homosexuality.  These awards have been well-deserved.  But the cool thing about this season is that the fanfare seems to have died down, but the writers are still doing their thing, writing about love affairs of the straight and gay variety.  It seems to me that sexual preference  has become a bit of a non-issue over at McKinley High.  In fact, one of the newest students seems to be questioning his gender, together with his sexuality.  The sort of live-and-let-live attitude embraced by the fictional folks at McKinley High may not be representative of what is happening at all real life high schools.  But if life does in fact imitate art, sexuality and gender may one day be a sideline issue for all of us.  Something we notice in people but don’t allow to define them.  Something we allow young (and old!) people to explore and express as they may, when they may.

Adolescence can be rough on mental health.  Coping with the stressors of changing bodies, hormones, friends, academics, and the future – even the luckiest kids can struggle with bouts of depression and worry.  Add to the mix questions of sexuality and gender (and perhaps bullying by peers) and the chance of psychological distress can go up significantly.  Programs like Glee which normalize a wide range of sexual expression and gender orientation give all our kids a better chance at navigating the rough road of adolescence with a steady hand.

*Know a LGBTQ teen who is in crisis and in need of help?  Check out the Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.  Click here for their website, or call 866-488-7386 for their Life Line.

Post-Election Stress Disorder

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a couple posts on Pre-Election Stress Disorder.  What started out as a sort of tongue-in-cheek post ended up as one of my most popular, and even led to a radio interview on WHYY FM in Philadelphia.  When I was contacted yesterday by a reporter for comments about POST-Election Stress, I figured I should write something about that, too!  Here goes:

There can be several reasons for feeling stressed, sad, or just plain overwhelmed after the election.  Some would argue that the protracted election brought out some of the worst of our country (nasty ads, downright lies, unproductive and sometimes ugly debates).  This alone can be reason to feel disappointment and anger at the process and the players involved.

Of course one can also feel stressed and angered about the outcome of the election.  And let’s not forget that the position of the President wasn’t the only one for which we were voting.  Representatives at all levels were chosen last night, as were local ballot measures affecting how our communities operate.  It can be easy to forget – with all of Obama and Romney’s hoopla – that folks might be struggling with the outcomes of these “smaller” ballot questions too.  (I for one have very strong feelings about the legalization of a certain fringy-leafed plant in my state – but the reasons for that are for another post).

So how can we cope with our disappointment, stress, anger, or fear?

Keep on Keeping on.  Most of us have some pretty good stress management strategies on board already.  Whether it’s walking, talking to a trusted friend, playing cribbage, doing yoga, reading, or praying – most of us can cite at least one thing that we are already doing that helps manage stress.  Trouble is, when stress hits, we sometimes abandon these good coping tools – just when we need them most!  Today is the perfect day to carve out a few minutes to practice the stress management skills you already have.

Take a Step Back.  The cool thing about this country is that it keeps on ticking no matter who is in charge.  You may be able to point to great presidents and not so great ones, but the fact is: times marches on.  Instead of focusing on today, try taking a longer view of both our history and our future.  Putting things in perspective can be a highly effective way to manage stress in the here and now.

Do Something.  As I mentioned in my post about Pre-Election Stress Disorder, there are lots of things we can do to affect political change in our country (and what an awesome thing that is!).  These include things like: volunteering for a political campaign, donating money to a candidate or cause, or running for office yourself.  Doing something productive and worthwhile (this does NOT include posting nasty messages on Facebook, etc) can again be a super antidote to feelings of stress, anger, and anxiety.

Turn it Off.  The election is over, we know the results, they are not going to change.  The media continues to talk about it, analyze it, and second guess it because they have to – they have lots of airtime to fill.  The good news is, you don’t have to watch it!  Re-hashing the nitty gritty of the election isn’t good for anyone – especially if you are unhappy with the outcome.  So turn off your TV, radio, and political websites and get out and do something fun!

*Disclaimer: I made up Post-Election Stress Disorder – it is not a real psychiatric diagnosis.  However, the stress, worry, and anxiety that folks feel around this time every 4 years is very real.  If worry and anxiety about this (or other) issues are negatively affecting you, please contact your health care provider.