Leigh Richardson: The Threat of Humiliation May Lead to Suicide

A new online scam is hitting the web threatening to expose users’ browsing habits unless a fee is paid. The hackers behind the extortion scam are likely bluffing, but the impact on victims could be more damaging than just financial. Dallas counselor Leigh Richardson worries that the fear of humiliation is a trigger that could lead to suicide.

It hits that fear button, it could be enough to make you think, “I’m so stupid, that was so dumb, If anyone finds out it would be easier if I wasn’t even here.”

The scam uses the fear of public embarrassment and humiliation, similar to the Ashley Madison leak from several years ago, where we saw suicides there also.

Watch The Entire Interview Here

Leigh Richardson: Social Media Posts Might Be Masking Real Pain

Life portrayed on social media may not be what it seems. A viral tweet by Buzzfeed writer and podcast host Tracy Clayton was a catalyst for conversation about mental health and how social media is used as a tool to mask real pain behind the screens.

The tweet read:

tweet

“Social media has created a different culture, a comparison culture.”

The tweet received thousands of likes and hundreds of retweets. Leigh found the gesture inspiring and impactful.

“People found hope, more hope by being able to share information and to hear what other people had to say about it…Social media, it’s here. It’s part of our day-to-day life. But we all need to learn how to use it and that it’s not just a spot for us to compare ourselves to everybody else.”

Watch the Full Interview Here

What To Remember About Memory Loss

Forgetting is Normal

We all forget things, and with time, we’ll start relying more on lists, note apps, and social cues to recall. The good thing though? It’s natural, and it’s okay. Here’s what you should know about memory loss and how to cope with it, whether it’s you or someone you love.

What Is Memory Loss?

Memory loss is characterized as “unusual forgetfulness.” That means, remembering new events or recalling one or more memories from the past becomes more difficult or impossible. Memory loss and other cognitive declines can result from normal aging, but it can be due to other health problems or injuries such as concussion or cancer treatment. Some of these can be treatable, and there are ways you can cope.  

Coping with Memory Loss

Memory loss, even simply from aging, can be frustrating and sometimes scary for a person. If you know you struggle with remembering things, take precautions:

  • Try to stick to a daily routine.
  • Rely on calendars, lists, post-it notes, or daily planners.
  • Designate spots for important items, and if need be, label the spot.
  • Don’t leave a room with water running or the stove on.
  • Take things slow. If you can’t remember a word, describe it, and do so calmly. Sometimes, the panic of not immediately remembering a word can nix all efforts of recalling it.
  • Use associations for recall.
  • Sleep well and routinely.
  • For important documents, print them out and keep a file in case you can’t find where you stored them on your computer or you accidentally deleted them.
  • Practice repetition. It’s been proven that repetition can make things easier to remember. For example, when meeting someone, repeat their name out loud.

Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Nothing makes memory loss an even more upsetting predicament than distracting thoughts resulting from panicky frustration.

Memory Loss & Communication

When someone you love is dealing with more than normal memory loss, it can be hard to communicate like you used to. Understanding what they’re saying and vice versa becomes more difficult. Patience, empathy, and open communication are key here.

Be patient while they try to remember a word or if they don’t remember something you’re referring to. Empathize when they forget something because it upsets them more than you. And communicate when you think it’s getting more serious, but do so kindly and in a soothing environment.

Choose simpler words and minimize other distractions in the environment during a conversation. Aid them however you can, and when talking to them about their impairment, do so respectfully, without speaking to them like a baby. Give them time to comprehend your words and come up with a response. More than anything, show that you care.

Maintain a Healthy Brain, Especially As You Age

No matter what age you are, taking steps to keep your brain healthy can impact your cognitive performance and help with memory loss. Practicing these habits can put some control back in your hands. Not to mention, they can impact other aspects of health as well. Other options are open as well, such as Neurofeedback, a proven method to increase neuronal communication in the brain.

Being Mindful is Being Healthy

In a world filled with constant and demanding stimuli, we rarely find time to just be still. Actually, even when we do sit still, we squirm. Unless we have something in front of us to watch or play, we become restless, which explains our addictions to phones, computer screens, and apps. They act as wonderful distractions from deep rooted emotions: stress, panic, sadness, fear.

The healthiest approach to healing from these deep rooted emotions, however, isn’t running from or masking them. It’s facing them, and also, facing yourself in a mindful, calming way. Letting yourself feel the feelings fearlessly, while treating yourself well through it is the best way to GET through it. It also sets foundation for an improved worldview, healthier mind, and better physical health.

Mind No Distractions

Mindfulness is a period of stillness, rooted in the present moment. It’s the opposite of what a video game provides (distraction). It’s not daydreaming or ruminating; it’s peace and solitude in gentle moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, body, and environment. It’s an act of self-love and care–a much needed prescription for an often busy brain. In other words, it’s a mental state of awareness that functions as a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness: It’s Not About Religion

The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s not associated with any one religion. It’s accessible to everyone, regardless of spiritual beliefs. It’s paying close attention to details in stillness, without judging the feelings or thoughts as good or bad. The thoughts are simply there, and you’re aware of them. There’s nothing discriminatory or religion-specific about that.

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness helps us gain more control over processing pain and other complex emotions–something Brown University researchers are calling a “volume knob” for sensations. Mindfulness meditation is thought to actually have a direct impact on the brain, with measurable changes taking place in areas responsible for memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. As seen by researchers in the psychological sciences, mindfulness-based practices have shown to be effective in helping problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive, substance abuse, and more.

Mindfulness Improves Physical Health

As mentioned above, practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve stress levels, which means it may help regulate the body’s physical responses to stress. In this way, it can reduce the risk of stress-related diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal difficulties.

How Mindfulness Works

Practicing mindfulness is quite simple and is often mistaken for meditation. While we sometimes call mindfulness practice, “Mindful Meditation,” it is not traditional meditation. Meditation is practicing mindfulness in a strict, structured way, while mindfulness practice is done more freely and with much less effort.

The practice can be as easy as taking 10 minutes each day and doing something you can do without really concentrating on the task itself–typing, driving, doodling, baking, singing in the shower, etc. At that time, you hyper focus a little more on the sensations being experienced physically and the thoughts that come up organically.

Pain Lives in the Brain

Pain is a universal concept. It’s understood as the unpleasant (sometimes chronic) sensation that warns against potentially damaging or harmful stimuli found in everyday life. While pain is in fact uncomfortable and unpleasant, it does help us as humans adapt in a way that teaches us to avoid situations that could hurt us. But, have you ever wondered exactly how we interpret pain?

The Perception of Pain

In simplest terms, pain is a complex interaction between sensory nerve cells, the spinal cord, and the brain. When an area of our bodies is injured, certain pain receptors are activated and send signals throughout the peripheral nervous system (PNS) to the central nervous system (CNS), where responses are triggered. The PNS actually houses the nerves that respond to pain (peripheral nerves); these nerves carry messages from skin, muscles, and internal organs to your spinal cord and brain (CNS) in the form of electrical currents and chemical reactions.  

The peripheral nerves are what sense the threatening stimuli, whether it’s a cut, burn, or pressure. In fact, these are the same nerve cells that transmit information from your senses (smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch). The specialized nerve endings we are referring to are called nociceptors, all found in your skin, bones, joints, muscles, and tissues, and send the pain messages along the peripheral nerve to the spinal cord.

Pain is Multidimensional

Pain is both physical and emotional, involving other psychological aspects, like learning and memory. After life experience in hurting ourselves in the past, we now know that cutting ourselves while dicing onions is painful. Thus, the anticipation of pain has a say in our perception. Often, there’s even an emotional response that comes after we stub our toe or slip and fall, such as frustration with ourselves.  

There are two types of pain: chronic and acute. Chronic pain lasts longer than six months and can be anywhere from just annoying to crippling, while acute pain is onset by a specific injury or disease and usually heals after a certain period of time. Chronic pain, on the other hand, hijacks the brain, causing it to reorganize the white and gray matter into a dys-regulated state. To help with this pain, a person needs psychological and neurological assessment. One way to stop the pain is to change the way the brain reacts to nerve impulses from a dys-regulated state to a regulated state. Biofeedback is a recognized treatment modality for chronic pain.

Emotional Pain Feels Physical

When we have our hearts broken, we often describe this feeling as “heartache.” There is truth to this metaphor, as emotional pain can cause physical reactions, such as certain sensations in our chest. Whether it’s muscle tightness, increased heart rate, nausea, or shortness of breath (a panicky feeling), emotional pain involves the same areas of the brain as that of physical pain.

The anterior cingulate cortex is the area of the brain that regulates emotional reactions. It’s been shown that activity in this region helps to explain how an emotionally stressful situation can trigger a biological response. When dealing with something emotionally stressful, the anterior cingulate cortex increases the activity in what’s called the vagus nerve (which starts in the brain stem and connects to the neck, chest, and abdomen). When overstimulated, the vagus nerve can cause feelings of pain and nausea.

Pain is Different for Everyone

Brain imaging today has confirmed that pain is felt differently by everyone, as some may be more sensitive to pain than others. While one sensation may feel painful by one person, it may simply feel uncomfortable to another. It’s important that, if you are experiencing pain, to seek the appropriate help and advice. You don’t have to live with it.  

Brain Awareness Week: Maintain A Healthy Brain

Next week is Brain Awareness Week, an appropriate time for a quick refresher on how to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best. It’s also a time to really appreciate what our brains do for us. The brain is, in a sense, the nucleus of all of our decision-making, emotional experiences, physical movements, memory, and much more. As such an integral part of our existence, the brain should be treated as healthily as possible. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep Learning

In other words, exercise your brain. Studies show that mentally stimulating activities help the brain to create new connections between nerve cells, possibly even creating new cells. In turn, this improves “neural plasticity,” which is the brain’s ability to adapt. Examples of mentally stimulating activities include reading, taking school courses, word puzzles, chess, or even more creative tasks, such as painting, drawing, knitting, and other crafts in general.

Exercise

Actual physical exercise has been shown to improve brain health as well, as it increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the part of the brain in charge of thought. Much like mental stimulation, using your body’s muscles helps the brain become more efficient, plastic, and adaptic. It also lowers blood pressure, helps balance blood sugar levels, improves cholesterol levels, and reduces stress. All of these benefit the health of the brain and the body as a whole.

Be Quiet

In today’s world, everything is moving so rapidly, and our schedules are stressing us out. From working out, keeping up with our social lives, maintaining our full time jobs, and having relationships, families, and sometimes even dealing with trauma, there is a lot going on in our heads. In fact, it’s all happening so fast that our brains are sometimes unable to process the information and our environment. At some point, your brain just needs silence–a practice that has been shown to create new cells in the brain and speed up mental processing.    

Have a Healthy Diet

Not only is a healthy diet good for your body, but it also has effects on cognitive processes and emotions. Studies have shown that dietary factors influence neuronal function and brain plasticity, potentially improving cognitive ability. With a decent focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils, and plant sources of proteins, you have a brain-healthy diet that is less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.

Have a Healthy Social Life

Social connectedness has a lot of benefits, including decreased feelings of depression, living longer, stronger immune system, and even reduced risk of dementia. Studies have shown that those who connect with others tend to perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. This is not to say that anyone should force themselves to be around people constantly, but rather to find people–even a select few–to connect with and confide in. Having that deep connection with others makes life less lonely and more genuine.

Get Some Feedback: Neurofeedback

Sometimes, to maintain a healthy brain, you have to look at the brain itself. Through neurofeedback–a form of biofeedback that relies on brainwave patterns and measures brain wave activity to indicate how a person is functioning–you can learn to improve and strengthen brain waves. In turn, it improves learning, focus, and attentiveness.

Happy Brain Awareness!

Brain Awareness Week, in a sense, is “awareness of awareness.” Your brain gives you the ability to even be aware, so give back to your brain. By doing so, you give back to your entire body and your well-being altogether.

 

SOURCES

Insomnia: Give It A Rest

Insomnia, which is most often defined by a person’s acute difficulty with sleep, is the most common of all sleep disorders. In fact, it affects about one-third of adults in the United States, with a significant increase as people age.

There are varying degrees of insomnia caused by many different conditions, such as underlying physical or medical problems, stress, depression, tragedy or trauma, other mental disorders, environmental conditions, medication side effects, or lifestyle. Insomnia as a result of any of these causes has one main commonality: it hinders daily functioning and affects one’s health in the long run.

What Does Insomnia Look Like?

People with insomnia often have frequent awakenings in the middle of the night, early awakenings in the mornings, insufficient sleep, daytime exhaustion, lack of concentration, irritability, nervousness, depression, and/or forgetfulness. This level of sleep deprivation has major impacts on cognitive functioning, causing daily tasks to become draining.

Addressing Insomnia

Chronic insomnia occurs at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or longer (with nightmares weaved in). This is often believed to be a behavioral pattern, which means it could be addressed with cognitive behavior therapy–talk therapy that makes you aware of inaccurate or negative thinking.

The elimination of negative self talk is primary in this technique, and individuals are taught to discriminate between one’s own thoughts and the actual events that occurred in reality. The thought is, the most direct route to changing dysfunctional emotions and behaviors is to modify the inaccurate and faulty thinking.

Biofeedback and neurofeedback can also be applied in order to create a restful night’s sleep. Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback in which individuals respond to their own brain waves or other electrical activity of the nervous system.

Addressing Insomnia at Home

While it’s best to get professional help on something so hindering to everyday life, there are some smaller ways you can help yourself get some shut-eye. At the least, you can eliminate things that may be adding to the problem.

One thing to consider is the noise or lack thereof in your bedroom. Some people can’t sleep with any sound whatsoever. For those of you who are the same way, eliminate all sound. That means no TV, no fans, nothing. For others, however, sound is a necessity. Many people require a soft “white noise” in the background to help lull them into a calming sleep. Ceiling or portable fans, white noise machines, or the sound of rain or thunder are popular ones. Be careful not to allow disturbances within the sound, such as a faulty fan that has sporadic clicks or creeks. This can be distracting and counterproductive.  

If your mind won’t stop reeling, try some basic breathing exercises. At the center of yoga practice is breathing, which is a coping mechanism for surviving each difficult pose. Breathing through the movements can be the same as breathing through difficult moments–in this case, the moments when you’re overthinking and trying to sleep.

Digital devices are one of the most common distractors from sleep today. It’s difficult to not look at those alerts or notifications, even at 10 o’clock at night. Many people use their phones for their alarm in the mornings, but you can still do this while turning your phone on airplane mode during the night. This eliminates alerts and distractions while still allowing you to have your necessary alarm.

Doing mindful and calming meditation, while listening to serene music or sounds as the day winds down, can get you a step closer to the sleep you need. However, for those with severe insomnia, health professionals like those at The Brain Performance Center can step in and identify the core of the problem. In turn, they can give you the right treatment for you to overcome those sleepless nights.

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media has become a way of life in today’s world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and plenty of other platforms display our “profiles” and act as the primary mediums by which we communicate. There were nearly 2.5 billion social network users worldwide in 2017, and around 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile last year as well. Although social media has its upsides, such as keeping in contact with distant friends and relatives, it can actually have a negative impact on relationships nearby and even our mental health.

Social Media and Communication

According to some researchers, online social networking can be associated with several psychiatric disorders, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, and low self-esteem. As social media use increases, interpersonal communication with family members and friends seems to decrease. Online access allows a connection with a large number of people, indeed; however these cannot replace face-to-face communication adequately. This alone can lead to feelings of loneliness.

According to a 2016 study, there was reported a significant increase in depression and suicidal thoughts in the past several years. This was seen especially in teens who spent multiple hours a day using some sort of digital device with a screen. It’s possible that, due to the decline in communication with family members as well as reduced interaction within the person’s social circle could be leading to these feelings of self-inflicted isolation and depression. In turn, for those younger, it could have a negative effect on a child’s social development if they are constantly absorbed in social media–or being online in general.

Keeping Up Appearances And Making Comparisons

In a study of a high school population, researchers found a statistically significant positive correlation between depressive symptoms and time spend on Social Networking Sites (SNS’s). Partially responsible could be the false personas that people see and compare themselves to based on portrayed social media profiles. These are often altered, but many see them as reality, which leads to incorrect conclusions regarding physical appearance, educational level, intelligence, moral integrity, and many other characteristics. This perception of others’ lives is believed to be a potential contributor to these depressive symptoms, as users view others as happier, more successful, and may even see life as “not fair.”

What Does Depression Look Like? What Can Be Done?

Depression is a disorder of the brain, so treating depression means treating the brain. Many areas of the brain appear to be involved in depression. The left frontal area of the brain is associated with positive emotions and approach motivation, which is a desire to be involved with other people. The right frontal area is associated with depression and fear, accompanied by motivation to withdraw from and avoid other people. When there is over activation of slow wave in the left frontal area, this creates an imbalance, causing the right frontal area becomes more dominant, thus producing fear and withdrawal from other people. If your brain has too much slow wave in left frontal, you will become depressed easily, withdraw from other people, and may become anxious.

For those with depression, it’s wise to avoid exacerbating one’s negative emotions. If social media is causing you to feed yourself a false impression of the world, thus affecting your own quality of life, limit your usage. It can become an addiction, as the use of digital devices actually releases similar neurotransmitters (dopamine, the happy hormone) that drugs do. If you find it difficult to make these decisions alone, it’s important to seek counseling from a second party, who can help you in an unbiased way. Medication is also an option, along with other alternative therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy–a common type of talk therapy that helps you become aware of your inaccurate or negative thinking. By becoming more aware, you can then challenge situations more clearly and respond them more effectively.

Research has also shown the effects of neurofeedback and biofeedback as treatment for the parts of the brain linked to depression and mental health. The plasticity of the brain allows new neural connections to be formed at any time, so in this treatment founded in neuroscience, professionals can retrain the brain from old, depressed patterns to new pathways that more closely resemble patterns of non-depressed people. That’s the beauty of plasticity–our brains are always able to change.  

We encourage you to never stop changing for the better. That way, you can feel better too.

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New Way to Detect Autism On the Horizon

Traditional Autism Diagnosis

Historically, diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has relied upon factors such as history and behavioral observation with no “biomarkers,” which are measurable substances in an organism that indicate some biological state or condition. However, things might be changing for the better, given recent research by the Amen Clinics.

Traditional testing and screening of Autism has lacked a medical or biological aspect. In place of medical screening have been autism-specific behavioral evaluations by teams of physicians, speech and language pathologists, neurologists, pediatricians, and psychologists. The process usually begins with a concerned parent, who firsts notices their child’s unusual behavioral signs. These include behaviors such as the inability to make eye contact, being unresponsive when called upon by name, or interacting/playing with toys in a repetitive or unusual way.

Obstacles in Testing Autism

With no medical testing to utilize, diagnosing ASD is a difficult task. Symptom expression in those with ASD varies greatly, which is a contributing factor to the problem of testing and diagnosis. For one child could be nonverbal and not partake in social interactions, while another could be quite verbal but dependent on observed, learned speech or social behavior. This symptom variability makes the process much more complex. However, there is approaching a new way of testing ASD that will hopefully decrease the process’ complexity.

New Approach to Autism Screening and Treatment

Amen Clinic researchers and the University of Southern California have conducted a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity patterns in evaluation of ASD. In fact, the study is believed to be the largest analysis of brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans ever performed. With the aid of sophisticated algorithms, researchers were able to pinpoint the areas of the brain that most predicted ASD: cerebellum, anterior cingulate gyrus, amygdala, frontal and temporal lobes.

In their study, they saw increased activity in the areas responsible for obsessive behavior (anterior cingulate) and a decrease in activity in the areas that are associated with learning issues (temporal lobes and cerebellum). By having these SPECT scans, medical professional have an easier time targeting treatment approach based on individual results.

How Neurofeedback Can Help Manage Autism Symptoms

While more and more research regarding SPECT scans and ASD is released, utilize the effective and necessary approaches available. Research supports that neurofeedback can be used as an effective and safe intervention to manage the different symptoms of autism. In fact, in a 2006 study, pre-post analyses showed a 40% reduction in autistic symptoms.

Reported by Science Daily: “Research on autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) shows that neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) can remediate anomalies in brain activation, leading to symptom reduction and functional improvement.”

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Cell Phone Addiction is Changing Our Brains

We may not even notice we’re doing it, but it has become a primary form of entertainment, information, and now addiction: the mobile device. The word “addiction” is derived from the Latin word, “addico,” which means “to devote or surrender to” or “enslaved by.” Today, it’s seen as a chronic disease that can actually change our brains’ functioning and structure. Without much awareness, we depend on our smart devices and act on that dependency compulsively.

For adolescents, it’s even more of an issue, with 94% of teens going online using a mobile device daily, and 24% of them going online “almost constantly.” According to 2015 Pew Research, 46% of smartphone owners said “they couldn’t live without” their devices. With the usage prevalence, some researchers even consider it to be one of the greatest addictions of the current century.

A team of South Korean researchers have found that kids who used the internet or messed with their phones compulsively experienced an increase in the neurotransmitter, dopamine, to the part of the brain involved in addiction. In other words, dopamine is part of the reward system of the brain, and rewarding behavior can lead to addiction. Dopamine also plays a role in learning and memory, so repeated exposure causes nerve cells to communicate in a way that associates liking something with wanting it, driving us to pursue it.

Behaviors of Cell Phone Addiction

Cell phone addiction can manifest itself in many behaviors, but it’s mostly a combination of some of these.

  • Checking phone in the middle of the night
  • Anxiety at not having the device with you–even if it’s not lost. Or, feeling a drug-like withdrawal
  • Checking phone as many as 900 times a day (addicted)–while the average person checks their phone 110 times a day
  • Sleep deprivation can be a symptom that affects school performance and increases irritability (61% of teens say cell phone use has negative impact on schoolwork)
  • Usage creates family arguments
  • Have less face-to-face interactions/conversations
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Cell phone usage becomes a way to escape stress and reality
  • Constant use, even while doing other things, such as driving and walking (11 teens die every day texting while driving)
  • Experience something called “text neck,” which is chronic strain from looking down
  • Eye strain/blurred vision from focusing on blue light and small screen
  • Decreased neural connectivity, affecting emotional control
  • Experience phantom vibrations, which is when we feel a non-existent cell phone alert
  • There are co-occurring disorders, such as deepening depression with lack of human interaction and increase in anxiety when cell phone is not available
  • Sleeping with phone under pillow (90% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their smartphones)

Setting Smartphone Boundaries

In the end, if it interferes with quality of life, relationships, and career, it’s time to set some restrictions for your teens and/or re-evaluate your own dependence. First, create self-awareness about how much data you’re actually using and then restrict yourself or your children’s data usage. For your kids (and you), designate a time without cell phones or devices. We all need to be brought back down to earth; otherwise, we (especially younger ones) are only going to become dependent upon the dopamine released when using an electronic device. Our brains need fresh air and physical/motor activity for good mental health.

Reward this “tech time-out” with positive reinforcement, and ultimately, be a role model. Show your kids–and even your adult family and friends–that life is good when you put down the phone. Connecting with your surroundings and those around you is just as important as (if not more than) connecting with your friends across the country or reading up on the royal wedding.

Is this easy to do? No.

Is it doable? Yes.

Is it necessary? Absolutely.

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