Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Vacation With Old Friends

A Vacation With old Friends

Today is my last post until my wife and I return from a vacation with two of our dear friends and their wonderful wives. The guys are two old friends that I first met in Cub Scouts.

Life-long friends are wonderful. If you have them, or redicover them, they can be a very special link to your past and warm pleasure in your present. They can be the most comfortable company. Some of what you may have forgotten, they will remember and visa versa: This can be a hoot! Reunions with old friends can be the best times of great enjoyment.

We will board a cruise and voyage through the Panama Canal. God willing, I will be posting here again on January 11, 2010.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

P.S. Look for good behavior in your loved ones and others and let them know how much you appreciate what they are doing!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mom's Christmas Trees

Mom’s Christmas Trees

When I was a small boy and when it was time, like always before, I looked out my little second story window. Out through the cold jack-frost figures, through the darkness and to the blowing swirling clouds of snow across the busy street–to that great and wonderful circle of radiant white light. They were there again!
The christmas trees had returned to red’s gas station.
And my own christmas tree was in the front room, in front of the big window. It was almost up to the ceiling and it was so very green and it smelled so sweet and special, just like I remembered.
It was a mountain of colored lights, brightly reflecting balls and other pretty things; and it was covered with wisps of shimmering-shining silver tinsel. The tinsel hung like hundreds of tiny ice- cicles on my giant tree.
Mother had the soul of an artist and her Christmas trees were simply magnificent. I wish I could remember the very first Christmas tree of Mom’s that I ever saw; but I cannot. I can only feel a wistful warm-faint-glow from a time when time was a mystery and when life was magical.
When Mom passed away in 1985 something left Christmas and Christmas trees everywhere. But for each of the past ten Christmas’s Mom has returned with a very special gift, a remembrance of love and devotion past, but not gone.

When I go to church on Christmas Eve I can never get through the singing of Silent Night without my eyes watering, my nose running, and my words choking into silence. It is then that the images of the twin giant christmas trees on the alter blur, glisten, and radiate with cherished images from my childhood.

For that moment time does not exist, the magic returns, and once again Mom dresses and illuminates not one, but two giant Christmas trees–

Just for me.


God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Dr. Tom (From Christmas, 1992)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Red's Gas Station


I will forever wonder how old I was.

We lived in an upstairs apartment where there was a little cubby-hole between a bannister, with a long and scary drop into the dark stair-well below, and a little window that looked out over our roof and across the street to red's gas station.

I didn't know about time. I didn't know about minutes, hours, or clocks; and I didn't know the months of the year or about calendars. I only knew that if I waited a long time and asked mom, "when will it be here ?" often enough, she would eventually say in a happy tone, "it won't be long now!" Then I would begin to watch out my little window.

I watched through the rain and the sleet, and eventually I watched through the glistening patterns that jack frost painted on my little window. I watched out through the snow that sparkled under the light-post and across the street to red's gas station which was bathed in a floodlit swirl of white. I watched many times each day, for “countless days”, but it did not come.

Then one tired and doubt-filled night it happened, just like before! I could hardly believe my eyes.

Out through the little frosted window and out through the night and the glistening shower of falling snow-----they were there! Bathed in a blinding glow of refracted light, they stood waiting quietly at red's gas station.

In the pure white radiance, they were a special and beautiful green, and they were as tall as they could be, and there were "millions" of them--everywhere. The Christmas trees were back at Red’s Gas Station.

It took forever-----but Christmas had come again!

P.S. Children everywhere still innocently wait and hope for the joys of similar and different miracles in their lives.

If humankind would only bless these children with the warmth of it's love and devotion, this miracle of miracles would reflect and echo for all time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (2009)

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

I will forever wonder how old I was.

We lived in an upstairs apartment where there was a little cubby-hole between a bannister, with a long and scary drop into the dark stair-well below, and a little window that looked out over our roof and across the street to red's gas station.

I didn't know about time. I didn't know about minutes, hours, or clocks; and I didn't know the months of the year or about calendars. I only knew that if I waited a long time and asked mom, "when will it be here ?" often enough, she would eventually say in a happy tone, "it won't be long now!" Then I would begin to watch out my little window.

I watched through the rain and the sleet, and eventually I watched through the glistening patterns that jack frost painted on my little window. I watched out through the snow that sparkled under the light-post and across the street to red's gas station which was bathed in a floodlit swirl of white. I watched many times each day, for “countless days”, but it did not come.

Then one tired and doubt-filled night it happened, just like before! I could hardly believe my eyes.

Out through the little frosted window and out through the night and the glistening shower of falling snow-----they were there! Bathed in a blinding glow of refracted light, they stood waiting quietly at red's gas station.

In the pure white radiance, they were a special and beautiful green, and they were as tall as they could be, and there were "millions" of them--everywhere. The Christmas trees were back at Red’s Gas Station.

It took forever-----but Christmas had come again!

P.S. Children everywhere still innocently wait and hope for the joys of similar and different miracles in their lives.

If humankind would only bless these children with the warmth of it's love and devotion, this miracle of miracles would reflect and echo for all time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (2009)

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wake-Up America---Rules Rule!

Wake-up America—Rules Rule!

Whether you are a Christian, a member of some other God-Fearing (where did the fear go) belief system, an agnostic or an atheist, rules are rules. In the world, when you break its’ rules for survival, you will suffer the consequences.

And it matters not, whether you see the world as a happy confluence of improbable events, or as the act of a Supreme Being. If you jump off the Empire State building, without a parachute, you will go splat.

You may rage at the rules of the universe, or you may pray to God on your way down, but you will go splat.

What happens to you after you go splat is a debatable issue, and I will not debate it here. You may believe what you will on the matter of an after-life with no argument from me.

Whether a confluence of improbable events or an act of God, you and I are here together and so are around 308 million of our fellow Americans. The rules upon which this great Nation was created were thought by our founding father to be God’ rules. You may view them as “rules of nature”, if you so choose.

Being a little ol’ fashioned, I prefer the former assumption to the later.

Anyway, make your own choice. Because with respect to what governs the quality of our collective behavior, good or bad, the rules and consequences that we apply to ourselves through our elected local, state, and federal governments will determine our success or failure in the world. These rules and consequences that we apply to ourselves will have a very large impact upon the future viability of our culture.

To live well requires that you learn God’s (or Nature”s) physical rules and the rules of human behavior. The physical sciences and the behavioral sciences have discovered much that we need to know. Now, what we must do is live by those rules and also help others learn to live by them.

I cannot discuss all of the rules in this short posting, but the following few Principles of behavior are a good start.

The Law of Effect: Consequences control behavior. Reward bad behavior and it will increase in frequency. Reward good behavior and it will increase in frequency. Punish good or bad behavior (or withhold rewards from them) and these behaviors will decrease in frequency.

The Law of Contiguity: Those stimuli that are paired or associated together tend to occur together more often in the future. In other words the infidelity, sex, drugs, violence, irreverence, disrespect and violence shown in our entertainment media will occur in certain situations or contexts and all of this will be associated with and the feelings we have when watching them (happy, excited or titillated). What is called Propaganda affects the ways humans think, feel, and behave in the same ways. Also, through repeated presentations and the behavioral principle Habituation, we naturally adapt to or ”get used to” that which formerly offended, upset or disturbed us.

Through rules and Principles of Social Learning a great deal more of what we see and experience affects our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. In short we tend to remember and imitate the behavioral patterns of those with power, those with fame, and those who we find attractive. They become our models and we are inclined to imitate their actions. Contrary to modern thought,” the whole” of the behavior patterns of our media-popularized celebrities (entertainment, sports, political) do matter. We are inclined to imitate much more of what they do than their ability to sing or dance, make a basket, make a touchdown, swing a golf club, or look good and talk persuasively. On this issue, you can fill-in your own celebrity names and think about their effects upon the behavior of our youth and impressionable adults. I will say no more on this, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Beyond God’s-Given rules to live by, or Nature’s rules if you prefer, is another matter.
This matter is one of motivation. What will best motivate a great population to follow certain rules that bring increasing patterns of good behavior?

If you think that the best strategy is to simply teach humans that they should be good and treat the earth and other living things with kindness and respect, you had better think some more.

Please take the time to view the following video on the role of faith in America’s past successes.

I want to thank Linda Mawhinney for forwarding this video to me.

Dr. Tom 12/19/09

Friday, December 18, 2009

From The Golden Rule

From The Golden Rule

A wonderful rule to live by is the Golden Rule. It is not easy to do, but trying to live by the Golden rule is worth our effort. Normally, very very good things emanate from this religious and philosophical guide to our behavior.

We have such deep feelings of love, affection and tenderness for our children. Looking at my own young children, and now at my young grandchildren, I have found myself fervently hoping that that other people in their future will also treat them in loving, kind, and gentle ways.

After many years of marriage it is all to easy to take our life-partners for granted.

As an extension of the Golden Rule we should treat our husbands, wives or life-partners with the same love and gentle kindness that we have shown to our children..and also in those ways that we fervently hope unknown others will treat our children during the rest of their lives.

Dr. Tom

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rewarding Good Behavior and Ignoring Not-So-Good Behaviors

Rewarding Good Behavior and Ignoring Not-So-Good Behaviors

It is important to look for good behaviors in our children (or adults) and to naturally reward them when they occur. By strengthening good behaviors in this way, you naturally weaken bad behaviors.

A way to help this excellent approach to be even more powerful is to develop the habit of ignoring not-so-good behaviors. Withholding your attention from mildly bad behaviors can often reduce their frequency over time. All too often, criticising, scolding, lecturing, showing irritation and anger, even spanking, can actually cause bad behavior to happen more frequently in the future. Remember, any form of your attention (even negative attention) to your children's not-so-good behaviors can be a reward for them.

When bad behavior is not dangerous and not too disruptive it is normally best to ignore it. Then, wait until your child is behaving well and praise these good behaviors at a later time.

The rule of thumb is: look for good behavior that is incompatible with the bad behavior that is of concern. That is, good behavior that will interfere with the bad behavior of concern. The following are several examples of what I mean.

Ignore/ Praise

Running/ Later praise walking
Talking Too Loudly/ Later praise talking quietly
Whining/ Later praise being patient and pleasant
Being unkind to others/ Later praise being kind to others

Watch your child's behavior. When you see not-so-good actions, think of the good behaviors you want to replace them with. Then be sure to look for these good behaviors and naturally reward them with your attention (hugs, praise to them, praise in front of others, and special favors, etc.)whenever you see them or similar behaviors.

God Bless,
Dr. Tom 12/17/09

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reward Good Behavior

Rewarding Good Behavior

As I have said before, it is important to "look for" good behavior in our children to reward.

The rewards that I refer to are very natural ones that we have all enjoyed while growing up, and even now.

Descriptive praise is one example. Descriptive praise includes an enthusiastic description of the good behavior you see and a brief statement about why the behavior is good to do. The following are some examples:

* You picked up after yourself! It's so nice of you to help us keep our house clean.
* You helped your brother! That's a good way to show your love for him.
* You are going to bed so well. That helps you to grow strong and be healthy.
* Good, you are holding my hand when we cross the street. Keep watching for cars so we can stay safe.
* I like the way you are brushing your teeth. That keeps them nice and white and healthy.
* Look at you eat your vegetables, good for you! They help you grow big and strong and smart.
* Thanks for doing what I asked you to do! You are really a good helper and I'm proud of you.

The idea is to label the behaviors your child does as good, kind, happy, helpful, caring, unselfish, brave, cooperative, courteous, respectful, gentle, loving, sweet, etc., and then tell them why you appreciate what they did.

The best way to reduce bad behavior is to reward good behavior. Yes, this approach takes vigilance and energy, but in the long-run it really works the best.

Think of it this way: The more good behaviors your child does, the less time they have to do bad behaviors. Remember, its hard to do a good behavior and a bad behavior at the same time.

When you use rewards skillfully, you help your child's good behaviors win the contest!

God Bless,

Dr. Tom 12/15/09

P.S. Descriptive praise works well with adults too!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Moral and Ethical Clarity

Moral and Ethical Clarity

I do not wish to get too political on this Blog, specializing in individual and family coping skills. However, some political events impact with great damaging force upon individuals and families and the issue that follows is one of those. Therefore, I am posting it here as well as on my Blog related to cultural affairs

I have several friends who bemoan the fact that our politics today are so fractious and polarized. They long for compromising attitudes among our elected officials and among our citizens. Frankly, so do I.

However, some of the issues that are being forced upon us in this Post-Modern Era are not ones that can be settled through compromise.

There are some issues that are literally life and death issues. With regard to these, there can be no compromise. Many of these issues that are being imposed upon us by secular progressive ideology---the overbearing Religion of the radical Left.

I hope you will read the following article by Ken Connor, appearing on

Mr. Connor discusses the immorality of compromise on a few essential matters with great clarity. Also, please do not fail to click on his attachment, "Principles that we are unwilling to budge on", for another treat to moral and ethical clarity.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

The following are the words of Mr. Ken Connor.

There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

-Jim Hightower, Texas commentator and humorist

As the political seas continue to churn over issues such as abortion, healthcare, cap-and-trade, bailouts, the war, and Climategate, the ideological divisions between the two major parties appear to run deeper than ever before. On top of this, it's become clear that both the Democrat and the Republican parties are experiencing an internal identity crisis?a problem that makes it difficult for either group to articulate a clear and unified agenda.

Desperate to find a way forward, politicians and pundits are stressing the need for Americans everywhere to set aside the "hot button" issues in favor of working together to find common ground. Focusing on what unites, rather than divides, us?so the thinking goes?would enable "productive dialog," which would lay the groundwork for unity, understanding, and healing.

The middle ground, after all, is where the moderates live; and that's where the majority of Americans hang their ideological hats?or so we are told. It's the "extremists" that are the problem. The muckrakers of the liberal Left and the fundamentalists of the religious Right?they are the ones destroying any chance for America to regain the national spirit that made this country great. If someone could muzzle the fringe, America could make real progress once again.

This proposed solution overlooks several serious questions: Where is this mythical common ground, what does it look like, and what kind of person lives there? What foundational moral, ethical, and philosophical principles guide the "common-grounders?" (Or does the embrace of political pragmatism foreclose consideration of the stultifying dictates of principle?) Where, for example, can one find the common ground between a person who believes that abortion is a fundamental human right and one who believes that all human life is sacred? How does the body politic meet in the middle when some believe that marriage is an institution ordained by God involving the union of only one man and one woman, and others believe marriage is a civil right to be exercised in whatever form or fashion the participants deem fit?

The truth of the matter is that when it comes to the most fundamental questions about human society, culture, and government, the middle ground is not a sensible place to occupy. When it comes down to the fundamentals, things are either right or they are wrong; to suggest that they may be right for me and wrong for you is nonsense. Moral relativism comes into conflict with the Law of Non-Contradiction when operating at the level of fundamental values.

There are, as our forefathers recognized, certain universal and self-evident truths. Human beings?for example?have been endowed by their Creator with an unalienable right to life. It is, therefore, wrong to murder an innocent human being, regardless of whether they are in the womb or in a nursing home. The act of murder is wrong regardless of who makes the decision to carry it out (mother, doctor, family) or how it is denominated (abortion, mercy killing, euthanasia). The character of an act is not changed by the rhetoric that accompanies it or the person who performs it. Such an act cannot be both right and wrong?right for you and wrong for me. It is either right or wrong?period.

There are certain principles that define the world view of Christian conservatives, principles that we are unwilling to budge on.

Here's just one example: We believe that this earth and everything in it bears the signature of a divine Creator, who so loved the world that he sent His only Son to die on a cross for the sins of humankind. Human beings are created in his image and because of the sacrifice made to redeem them, every individual is of infinite worth, value, and dignity. Therefore, all persons?rich or poor, black or white, whole or handicapped, born or unborn?have a God given right to life. That right should be protected by law and respected by society, no matter how "unwanted" or "inconvenient" it may be to others. Government should protect innocent life from the moment of conception until natural death. No public program that uses tax dollars to fund abortion or promote euthanasia should ever be foisted on the American taxpayer.

There are other principles that guide our thinking on marriage, freedom, and the role of government in a free and open society. These principles warrant discussion and debate and critical analysis. But rest assured, we will not yield on these principles no matter how much we are vilified, cajoled, or threatened?and regardless of whether leaders in the House and Senate pitch a hissy fit and the pundits rant and rave until they turn blue. And if we lose in the short term, we will continue to advance these principles in the long term. There are, after all, some hills worth dying on.

In short, there are certain issues in life that are non-negotiable, no matter how seductively the siren song of "compromise" may beckon. We understand that the way of Washington, particularly in the game of politics, is to "go along to get along." However, at some point a line must be drawn, lest you find yourself slicing and dicing away at your core beliefs until you are left with nothing to believe in. As the songwriter says, "you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything
." Truer words were never spoken.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taking Loved Ones For Granted

Taking loved ones for granted

Our loved ones are normally the most precious gifts of our lives.

The older we get, the more of these wonderful people we loose...and the more we find ourselves regretting that we were too busy to call, write, or to go see them. We may also regret that we did not tell them often enough how special they were to us. This unfortunate and common oversight is an all-to-easy thing to do.

Of course we are often very busy. But we and our loved ones will not be together forever. This is an unpleasant thought and so we have a tendency not to think about it. Therefore, we tend not to be as motivated to express our love for each other as often as someday we will wish we did.

We can avoid being sorry that we did not spend quality time with our loved ones when they are going or gone---or when we "are going or gone"! ;-)

I recommend that we do the best we reasonably
can to let our special people (parents, grandparents, spouses, children, or other relatives and Friends) know how much we care for them and how very special they are to us.

Many years ago I was a consultant at a residential center for developmentally impaired children. One of the many wonderful direct-care staff I worked with was a short, heavy-set woman who was called by her last name (the common practice there). Diggins was a very jolly, and outspoken woman who loved the children she cared for. She was also very loving and kind to all of us who worked with her.

Diggins would sometimes laugh loudly and sing-out: "Give me my flowers now! Don't be wait'in till I'm gone!"

Do this for your loved ones and everyone will be happier, both now and in the future.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Friday, December 11, 2009

Look For Good Behavior!

Look For Good Behavior!

The rewards that we provide others are important because they do influence the behavior of their actions. The smiles, praise, touches, favors, treats, etc., that we provide to others following their behavior encourages them to do those behaviors more frequently in the future.

It is all too easy to notice bad behavior. Bad behavior is often irritating and it naturally grabs our attention. Be careful not to focus on bad behavior too much and to accidentally reward it with your attention more often than you reward good behavior with your attention. If you do this your children and loved ones may start to show more bad behavior to you than is good for anyone.

When we are too busy, tired, or otherwise distracted we are prone to not notice and praise, hug, smile-at, thank, touch, or kiss, etc., the good behaviors when they occur

It takes a mind-set and a goal to look-for and notice good behavior in our children and even our adult loved ones. Good behavior is frequently quiet, subtle, even expected, and therefore it is too often ignored. This is a mistake we cannot afford to make.

Like every other precious thing in our lives, good behavior needs some maintenance or it may malfunction and happen less and less.

Reward good behavior in others in natural, kind and loving ways and you will see more of it!

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Individuals with Generalized Disorder have excessive anxiety and worry, more days than not, for at least six months. They feel that they just cannot help worring about things and having almost constant feelings of anxiety. The anxiety and worry are often far out of proportion to the troubles that would be caused by the actual event, should it occur. Levels of generalized anxiety are apt to lead to restlessness, fatigue, problems with concentration, irritability, muscle tension and troubled sleep.

Because of the great variety of worries involved in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the pattern is often refered to as "free floating anxiety". This disorder may can begin at any age, but it most often starts in childhood or adolescence. The prevalence of General Anxiety Disorder was about 3% in a community sample, but about 12% of people treated in clinics are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Possible Causes

There are many pausible explanations of generalized anxiety disorder. Rapid social and cultural changes are stressful to individuals and can produce anxiety symptoms. Media reports of murders, rapes, child abductions, and negative economic trends terrorism and war can do likewise.

The actual problems of living in poverty with its increased crime rates, fewer opportunities for education and employment, poor lowered incomes and job instability, and various threats to family cohesivness and child welfare can all lead to heightened levels of anxiety.

Some psychologists believe that generalized anxiety disorder is related to a childhood history of a lack of what is called unconditional positive regard. From this perspective, children learn “conditions of worth”, meaning that they feel they are worthy of respect only when they are living up to certain parental standards. It is thought that such individuals have learned to be overly critical and harsh in their judgement of themselves. These individuals may try to defend themselves against feelings of inadequacy, but when the defenses fail they may feel anxiety and/or depression. Others see a connection between early abandonment, physical abuse, withnessing violence, and/or experiencing frightening unpredictable chaotic environments.

Another psychological perspective refers to “existential anxiety” as a universal fear in humans about the responsibilites that one has for their own existence, including both the limits and freedoms that they must confront. When faced by the challenges of life, it is thought that many are not authentic, but rather give-in to conformity, fail to exercise their freedom of personal choice, and deny and avoid those things they fear. The avoidance of personal responsibility in these struggles is thought to lead to a variety of anxiety problems.

Cognitive explanations of generalized anxiety have to do with the maladaptive thoughts,assumptions or beliefs that people adopt about themselves and others in their lives. For example some people foolishly believe--to the extreme--that they must be loved and approved of by everyone that they find significant; that it is horrible, awful and catastrophic when things do not go the way they want them to; or that if something could be dangerous or fearsome, one should be highly concerned and upset about it and should dwell upon its possible occurrence. Other psychologists have implicated automatic thoughts that cause anxiety such as “People will know that I am stupid”; “I will make a fool of myself”; “They will laugh at me”; “I know that I will fail”, etc. Indeed, such self-statements can cause one to feel anxious.

From a biological perspective various studies have found that generalized anxiety disorder is more common among blood relatives and identical twins than among more genetically disimilar individuals. Also, a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) has been implicated in generalized anxiety disorder. Medications that help neurons to receive GABA molecules appear to allow for increased GABA signals within the brain so it can slow down various anxiety signals that the individual must cope with.

Finally, there is evidence that teaching relaxation methods to those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorders people can offer some help in aiding sufferers to manage this problem more effectively. This and other cognitive interventions suggests that anxiety, to a significant degree, can be helped by personal skills that have been learned.

Those with anxiety problems should see their physician for a physical check-up first and then seek professional help from a psychologist specializing in anxiety management.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder consists of a series of panic attacks that are unexpected, spontaneous, and without apparent cause. Panic attacks are often described by the sufferer as coming,"out of the blue." A panic attack is an interval of very intense fear and anxiety comprised of a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms include a growing sense of discomfort, immediate danger, impending doom, and an increasingly intense desire to escape the situation. During the attack, people variously report experiencing a fear of loosing control of themselves or "going crazy", fear of dying, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating and trembling/ shaking, a sense of smothering, chest pain or discomfort, nausea, dizziness, stomach upset, and chills or sweats. These symptoms arrive quickly, usually peak within ten minutes, and can last for 40 minutes or so.

Panic disorder has about a 1% to 2% prevalence within one year. Major Depression also occurs in 50% to 65% of individuals with panic disorder.

About 33% to 50% of individuals who have Panic Disorder also suffer from Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a condition in which those with Panic Disorder also avoid or escape situations that they fear they cannot easily get out of, or fear they would be embarrassed trying to escape from. People with Agoraphobia may also fear that they cannot get help while there in that place (for example, a busy highway, a crowd of people, or a shopping mall). It is thought that Agoraphobia develops out of past panic attacks that have become associated with such situations, or that the individuals begin to worry that their panic attacks could happen in these circumstances and they would loose control of themselves, or could not escape.

Possible Causes

Panic Disorder tends to run in first degree relatives of those who are so diagnosed. Twin studies suggest that panic disorder can have genetic heritability.

Neurobiological factors are also implicated. It is possible that irregular norepinephrine activity in the locus ceruleus of the brain may be involved in panic attacks.

Interestingly, antidepressant medications that alter the activity of norepinephrine reduces panic attacks.

From a cognitive perspective, psychologists believe that how a person thinks about their lower intensity anxiety symptoms determines who will develop panic attacks. From this perspective, a person may be very sensitive to changes in their body and arousal levels. But, such individuals may then create an increasing anxiety spiral ,into a full panic attack, by greatly fearing a loss of control of their anxiety. Throughout this upward spiral, perceived increases in anxiety are noted with increased alarm and even more anxiety. This upward spiral in anxiety eventually reaches a level that we call a panic attack.

Training panic attack sufferers to understand this upward physiological spiral and to control this vicious progression has been very successful. The effectiveness of this intervention lends support the cognitive “fear of fear” theory.

A Case Study and Recommendations

One middle-aged salesman complained that he had recently started to have anxiety episodes while driving his car which were identified as panic attacks. He was already beginning to fear driving, especially on multiple lane city roads with heavy traffic, with few places to easily pull over.

Being able to drive and automobile was essential to his ability to make a living for his family. He was gravely concerned. Psychological testing and clinical interviews led to the diagnosis of Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia, though agoraphobia was in the process of development.

The man was also diagnosed with Major Depression. Antidepressant medication and behavior therapy were successful and this man reported his panic attacks stopped and that his depression improved significantly.

If you or a loved one has similar anxiety symptoms, see your family physician for a physical examination and consider a referral to an psychologist experienced in the practice of Behavior Therapy for Anxiety Disorders.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

We are all familiar with what anxiety feels like. This uncomfortable gnawing feeling in our body, the fear that we might not be in control, the sense that we are vulnerable, or that something bad or awful could happen is not something that we look forward to.

Occasionally, We may experience an even more powerful emotion that is attached to a situation, event, or stimulus that is a physical danger or threat. Strong anxiety attached to these specific things is called fear. Fear is not always bad. For example, fear related to drowning when around water, being out from cover in a lightening storm, or driving in fast and congested traffic, etc., is normal. If we cope effectively and learn how to swim or put on a life-jacket, seek shelter, or slow down, these normal fears are short-lived and beneficial because they help us survive.

Sometimes a person’s anxiety is not attached to anything identifiable. This form of anxiety is called “free floating” because it is not related to anything in particular and seems to exist "all on its own". Experiencing this kind of anxiety can be very unpleasant and fatiguing.

For some people, anxiety may become a periodic or chronic condition that is not associated with any particular environmental event. But, when it strikes it does so in a rapidly intensifying attack which is relatively short-lived, but is never the less terrifying. The fear of these anxiety attacks can cause individuals to escape and avoid the conditions that have been associated with them. This fear can generalize to other similar conditions. Unfortunately, then, these attempts to escape or avoid the feared circumstances cause these individuals to be increasingly socially isolated and unhappy.

In this way, and in others, fears and anxieties can become attached many situations, events, or stimuli that are not dangerous, possess no real threat, and that are normally enjoyable and beneficial.

Anxiety disorders are the most frequent of all psychological disorders. It is estimated that anxiety disorders afflict around 19% of our adult population each year.

Fortunately, most anxiety disorders can be treated with good effect.

My next several postings will focus upon several of the most common anxiety disorders.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Preventing Suicide Among Children and Teens

Preventing Suicide Among Children and Teens

Suicide rates among children and adolescents have increased very significantly over the last several decades. Suicidal children and teens often take overdoses of prescription drugs in their home and guns(they must be kept safely)are increasingly used in suicides.

Child suicides are often linked to the loss or anticipated loss of a loved one, family stress, unemployment in the parent, parental abuse, and severe depression. Children who commit suicide frequently show a deterioration in the quality of their behavior including withdrawal from family and friends, temper tantrums, destructive and delinquent behavior, including running away from home.

About half of teen suicides are related to severe depression and feelings of hopelessness. Other factors that appear to be involved are poor family relations and conflict, social isolation, boyfriend/girlfriend problems and school pressures.

Child and adolescent natural emotional immaturity and tendencies toward impulsiveness, suggestibility (the imitation of others), anger, and heightened sensitivity are relate to increased rates of suicide. Drug and alcohol abuse and the weakening of family ties (divorce, family mobility, and the reduction in extended families) are a significant part of this problem.

Also, a history of suicide attempts within the family (or individuals that the adolescent loves or admires), a history of self-inflicted injuries (cutting or burning,etc), or actual suicide attempts should alert parents or guardians to a heightened danger of suicidal thinking or behavior in their children or teens.

If you worry that your child or adolescent is at any risk for suicidal thinking it is essential that you talk to them about their feelings, and take their emotions seriously. If you suspect that they may be thinking about suicide, ask them about it directly. If suicide is mentioned or even hinted at in small ways get professional help immediatley. If emotional problems persist,even without concerns of suicide, get professional help and do not put it off. It is important to consult your family physician to rule out medical issues and then have your child or teen evaluated by a psychologist. Individual and family counseling can reduce emotional problems and the risks of suicide. If there are severe psychological disorders involved (depression, anxiety, mood-swings, etc.), medication management may be necessary.

Please visit the following websites for more information about preventing suicide in Teens and in children:

God Bless,

Dr. Tom, 12/05/09

Friday, December 4, 2009

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention

Suicide is not a classified diagnosis in the DSM-IV, but I will include it here because it is a very costly and damaging individual and cultural problem. Increased rates of suicide are correlated with depression, bipolar disorder,alcohol and drug dependence, and schizophrenia.

Suicide can be defined as a self-inflicted death in which a person makes and intentional, direct, and conscious effort to end one’s own life. Contrary to popular belief, all suicides are not a result of classifiable psychological disorders.

Factors that may lead suicide

Among adults, it has been repeatedly observed that suicide victims have suffered significantly more recent stressors than matched groups that did not commit suicide. The loss of a loved one (rejection, breakup, divorce or death) is a very common stressor preceding suicide. Other stressors may include natural disasters, ,job loss, or severe financial problems. These and other stressors may pile up, or they may simply exist for a very long time and lead to feelings of hopelessness.

Other factors associated with suicide are:

1. Depression and other mental disorders
2. Alcholoism and drug abuse
3. Suicidal thinking, talk, and preparation
4. Prior suicide attempts
5. Lethal methods available
6. Social isolation, living alone, loss of support
7. Hopelessness and ridged thinking
8. Being an older white male
9. Modeling, suicide in the family and perhaps genetics
10. Economic or work problems and certain high stress occupations
11. Marital problems and family dysfunction
12. Stress and stressful events
13. Anger, aggression, and irritability
14. Physical illness
15. Repetitions and combinations of factors 1-14

What to do

If you have thoughts of suicide, seek professional help Immediately. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Tell your loved ones, call your doctor, get a referral to an experienced psychologist for evaluation and psychotherapy. Seek professional medication assistance, if necessary.

Many people who attempt suicide do not succeed. No matter how serious the attempt, there are frequent failures. Some attempts leave people seriously impaired for life as a result of the residual damage that they have done to themselves.

There are much better and more effective ways to cope with any trouble that you may encounter. Just get competent professional help and you will see!

Then, there is the matter of Behavioral Contagion. Suicide and suicidal thinking is contagious. When one member of a family commits suicide,it damages their loved ones. Their loved ones are then prone to emotional problems and are more likely to consider suicide as a realistic option when they meet life’s certain stresses and strains. Do not be the cause of your loved ones emotional problems and suicidal thinking through your suicide attempts or completion.

There are much better and more effective ways to cope with any trouble that you may encounter. Just get competent professional help and you will see!

Finally, if you know someone who is thinking about suicide do everything in your power to get them to seek professional help. Do not be sworn to secrecy. Inform their loved ones and ask that they use their influence to get help to the suicidal individual.

If you feel that suicide is about to happen, call the police and tell them of the immediate danger. They can do a “welfare check” and if they find that the individual is in danger, they can hospitalize the person, thereby interrupting the suicide and providing the professional assistance that is needed.

For more detailed information about preventing suicide, please go to the following link:

Dr. Tom

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good Vs. Bad Behavior

Defining Good vs. Bad Behavior

I am a psychologist and therefore I have deep respect for psychology's most robust laws and principles: The Law of Effect is one such law.

I like to think of it this way: The Law of Effect is one of God’s truths discovered by science, but known by perceptive humans through all time.

The Law of Effect states that: Consequences Control Behavior.

The facts are that individuals, groups and sociocultures that do not abide by this law will suffer the consequences of increasingly chaotic behavior patterns. Much of this behavior will be bad because bad behavior normally requires less organization and planning, less patience, less effort, and leads to fast, or even instant, gratification (rewards). My general definitions for bad behavior is dumb, short-sighted, self-defeating, maladaptive, self-and-other destructive, damaging, irresponsible, mentally disturbed, criminal, selfish, addicted, murderous, or suicidal behavior, etc..

Defining and differentiating bad behavior and good behavior is not always a simple matter. Attempting to do so invites criticism, even social censure in this day and age. But we all do it. Its just that many of us have been intimidated, by modern political correctness and the prevailing philosophy of moral relativism, into keeping these judgements of good/bad or right/wrong to ourselves. By giving-in to these social pressures, we become incompetent at encouraging good behavior, in ourselves, our loved ones and others. This form of ethical incompetence is self-destructive for individuals, groups and sociocultures, which is the point of this discussion.

The growth of ethical ignorance and incompetence, and its predictable consequences, is exactly what is happening to America.

I have struggled with the problem of defining good behavior and bad behavior for many years. The best that I have been able to do is to blend several criteria as an aid to making such evaluations. Though this method is admittedly imperfect, in my judgement, it is far better than declaring that there are no rights/wrongs, or goods/bads, and embracing the behavioral chaos which naturally results from this perverted anti-ethical philosophy.

I define bad or undesirable behaviors as all behaviors (thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and important physiological events such as extreme anger, fear, and anxiety) that:

A). Are prohibited by law. These criteria can change overtime, but they are generally a helpful guide.

B). Are represented as a Psychological Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV-Revised (DSM-IV). This is the diagnostic manual used by physicians and mental health professionals to determine who is suffering from significant mental problems.

C). Are listed in the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition (ICD-10). This diagnostic manual is used world round to diagnose both physical diseases and mental disorders.

D). Are behaviors competitive or incompatible with the main features of a healthy human personality as identified by psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

E). Are proscribed by the benevolent religions of the world.

I define Good or desirable behaviors as those behaviors (thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and important physiological events such as good feelings, happiness and affection) that compete with, or are incompatible with, definitions A. B. and C., and those that are consistent with D).,Roger's and Maslow's definitions of a healthy personality and E)., the behavior patterns recommended by the benevolent religions of the world.

Again, the general criteria stated above are only a general guide. You may wish to research each of the references mentioned in order form your own opinions.

I believe it is essential to encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior in our private lives and as citizens of our American Republic. There are many ways to do this through teaching, showing desirable role models, rewarding good behavior, and withholding rewards from bad behaviors. Much less frequently, in exceptional cases, it will be necessary to appropriately punish bad behaviors.

My study of the sciences of psychology/sociology/anthropology/economics, my experiences as a therapist, and my readings of the history of evolving and declining cultures, have taught me that:

Those who do not do recognize and use the law of effect , and other valuable psychological and social science principles, for the benefit of all, inevitably suffer the disastrous consequences of behavioral chaos.

Dr. Tom