Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

What makes us happy?

What makes us happy?

Following on from my last blog, Does Happiness Lead to Success, what are the main factors which contribute to our happiness?

One factor many people consider to be an important contributor to our happiness is our personality.

A number of studies have looked at the links between emotional states such as happiness, anxiety and depression for example and the individual's personality. There are considered to be 638 personality traits or dispositions of which 234 or 37% are considered to be positive dispositions. For example adaptable, helpful, open, and stable. 112 or 18% are considered to be neutral traits, such as complex, solitary or unhurried and 292 negative dispositions. these encompass traits like cowardly, deceitful, miserable, uncaring, unstable and tactless.

For most purposes these are grouped into to what are known as the big five traits or dimensions, which are:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

I will explain these in a little more detail in my next blog.

A study just released by students from Clemson University in South Carolina measured the levels of

  • Happiness
  • Positive emotions
  • Feelings of wellbeing / health and
  • Contentment

of 347 people (69.4% female and 84.6% Caucasian). They then asked the participants how much of their happiness they thought came from their:

  1. Personality,
  2. Context or situation they found themselves in at any time, including other people or,
  3. Own actions. What are called voluntary or intentional actions that help to up-regulate their own emotions

So if I were to ask you which of these you think contributes most to your general level of happiness what would it be?

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The study found that people ascribe the source of their happiness roughly equally between all three factors.

What people thinks makes them happy

 

Tomorrow I will reveal what the research says about which one of these factors is actually the most influential on people's happiness...

 

 

References

Costa, P.T.,Jr. & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Morgan, M. et al (2014) Redefining Happiness: Is the Happiness Pie Literature Missing Some Slices? http://tigerprints.clemson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=foci Research oster session.

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Does Happiness Lead to Success?

Does Happiness Lead to Success?

Most people assume that successful people are happy. Many studies have found that things like positive relationships, comfortable income, good mental health and accomplishment are all related to happiness. One study found that whilst having a comfortable income, i.e. not being anxious about money on a continual basis is one of the factors which can underlie happiness, more money does equate to greater levels of happiness. They found that the wealthy do not have more happiness than those on lower income levels.

In all of the studies good relationships and friendships consistently rank high for promoting happiness. More recently studies have found that contributing or volunteering towards a good cause or doing a good deed also has a significant positive effect on people's happiness.

An interesting question is whether or not happy people tend to do better in life?
There is a growing body of evidence to show that happy people tend to broaden and build resources and resourcefulness. They tend to build more positive and deeper relationships with others which in turn can lead to greater levels of happiness.

Researchers have found that positive people often tend to use the happy periods of their life to develop and strive to attain new goals, which leads to greater life satisfaction. in effect positive people see a new challenge and take action. This action then often leads to achievement which in turn leads to a feeling of success and contentment and more positive constructions of the world. There is a sense of having not just control over their lives, but positive control and good feelings or happiness. This then promotes confidence, greater levels of optimism and self belief. It has also been found that these attributes lead to their becoming more likeable to others and they are also more likely to be more positive and charitable towards other people. This then leads to greater levels of sociability, more prosocial behaviour which is also correlated with greater levels of activity and energy.

Further studies have found that positive happy people tend to suffer from less general ill-health in that they have greater levels of immunity to things like colds etc. Additionally studies have found that positive happy people also tend to be more effective in coping with life challenges and stress and they show greater levels of creativity, problem solving ability and general cognitive flexibility.

In effect happy people often have greater levels of active involvement in goal oriented pursuits. A positive perspective promotes approaching situations as opposed to avoidance, which in turn leads to a greater chance of success.

One large scale meta-analysis of previous research published in 2005 found that happy positive people are significantly more likely to succeed in their job and receive higher job ratings from employers and managers than people who were less positive and are not as generally happy. There is a range of evidence now appearing that shows that because of these effects, happy, positive people tend to be more successful across a range of activities, including work.

For a FREE 16 part video course showing you how to be Calm, Composed and Confident click here

 

References

Argyle, M., & Martin, M. (1991). The psychological causes of happiness. In F. Strack, M. Argyle, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Subjective well-being: An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 77–100). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

Aspinwall, L. G. (1998). Rethinking the role of positive affect in self-regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 1–32.

Aspinwall, L. G., & Brunhart, S. M. (1996). Distinguishing optimism fromdenial: Optimistic beliefs predict attention to health threats.Personalityand Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 993–1003.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. & Diener, E. (2005) The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?Psychological Bulletin 2005, Vol. 131, No. 6, 803–855

Berscheid, E. (2003). The human's greatest strength: Other humans. In L. G. Aspinwall & U. M. Staudinger (Eds.), A psychology of human strengths: Fundamental questions and future directions for a positive psychology (pp. 37–47). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1981). Attention and self-regulation: A control-theory approach to human behaviour. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1990). Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control-process view. Psychological Review, 97, 19–35.

Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1998). On the self regulation of behaviour. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2001). Optimism, pessimism, and self- regulation. In E. C. Chang (Ed.), Optimism and pessimism: Implications for theory, research, and practice (pp. 31–51). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Diener, E. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31, 103–157.

Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being? Social Indicators Research, 57, 119–169.
Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., Pavot, W. G., & Allman, A. (1991). The psychic costs of intense positive affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61,
492–503.

Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1995). Resources, personal strivings, and subjective well-being: A nomothetic and idiographic approach. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 926–935.

Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31,

Larsen, R. J., & Ketelaar, T. (1991). Personality and susceptibility to positive and negative emotional states. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 61, 132–140419–436

Lucas, R. E., & Diener, E. (2003). The happy worker: Hypotheses about the role of positive affect in worker productivity. In M. Burrick & A. M. Ryan (Eds.),
Personality and work (pp. 30–59). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lyubomirsky, S., & Ross, L. (1997). Hedonic consequences of social comparison: A contrast of happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73,
1141–1157.

Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9,
111–131.

Pinquart, M., & Sorensen, S. (2000). Influences of socioeconomic status, social network, and competence on subjective well-being in later life: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 15, 187–224

Pressman, S. D., & Cohen, S. (2005). Does positive affect influence health? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 925–971

Salovey, P., & Rosenhan, D. L. (1989). Mood states and prosocial behavior. In H. Wagner & A. Manstead (Eds.), Handbook of social psycho-physiology
(pp. 371–391). Chichester, England: Wiley

Thoresen, C. J., Kaplan, S. A., Barsky, A. P., Warren, C. R., & de Chermont, K. (2003). The affective underpinnings of job perceptions and attitudes: A meta-analytic review and integration. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 914–945

Verkley, H., & Stolk, J. (1989). Does happiness lead into idleness? In R. Veenhoven (Ed.), How harmful is happiness? (pp. 79–93). Rotterdam, Amsterdam: University of Rotterdam.

Wilson, W. (1967). Correlates of avowed happiness. Psychological Bulletin, 67,294–306

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This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast. Episode No. 10

This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast. Episode No. 10

 

Download this episode (right click and save)

 

iTunes-PodCast-Logo

 

 

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Who do you trust and why - the answer may surprise you

Who do you trust and why - the answer may surprise you

As a human, trust is vital to us for a secure and flourishing life. It is what underpins our relationships and the closer and more intimate those relationships become the greater the level of trust employed in them. But who do we decide to trust or not trust when we first meet people. Who is it that passes the first few trust tests so that we often go on to form deeper relationships with?
Trust is an emotion. It is an emotional response to the apparent congruence between our perception of someone and our interpretation of their actions. In other words we tend to trust people if what they say and what they do are similar and their actions are not harmful in anyway towards us.
The psychologist Erik Erikson has the formation of trust as the very first stage of psychological development of a child and that all human attachment and safety stems from the first bonds of trust they develop. Erikson firmly understood that the formation of trust with the child's caregiver is the most important stage of human development and will, in effect, lay down the blueprint for forming secure, trusting and intimate relationships for the rest of that individual's life.
The effect of trust being broken will depend on the level of relationship you have with the other individual. When a trust is broken in an intimate relationship, the results can be devastating.

So who do we trust and why? A series of recent studies sheds some interesting light on what happens. One would think that trust is earned. However it would appear to be the opposite for most people. We tend to trust first and then remove the level of trust if it is shown to have been incorrect. The obvious exception to this is where we have recently had a previous significant negative experience, however studies have shown that for most people this doesn't usually last too long.

A number of studies found that we tend to trust strangers far more than there is evidence to do so. Indeed in laboratory simulations, it has been found that people tend to trust people they don't know even where the risk, if the trust were betrayed, would lead to significant loss or even injury. A study published last month showed that what the researchers termed 'excessive trust' in strangers, in most cases stems from an emotional sense that they are fulfilling a 'social duty' or 'responsibility'. In other words it is perceived to be socially unacceptable to show distrust without evidence, especially in the case of strangers. In the case of strangers there is some evidence that anxiety about being judged as mean or not a nice person fuels this excessive trust.

In another study, published this week, it was shown that we tend to be more likely to trust strangers who smile and not trust people who look angry. Children in the age range of 6-12 are particularly susceptible to this effect and children with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder show an even more marked trust response to individuals who smile. As a parent I find this particularly disturbing.

However it is not just children. Adults are also more likely to trust a stranger who smiles over one with a neutral or angry face.

Numerous studies show that people of all ages tend to make a decision whether to trust someone or not purely based on the look of a stranger's face. What is more there is a cognitive bias called the bias blind spot. We all tend to believe that we are less biased than others and that our beliefs are more likely to be accurate even in the face of evidence to show that we are no more correct than random chance.

The main thing to take from this is that we tend to overly believe our estimations of trustworthiness based on facial 'look' and that for most people social anxiety about being perceived as mean or 'not nice' pushes into what we believe is socially acceptable niceness of trusting first and the belief that we should always show respect for the other person's character, even if there is a lot at risk.

 

 

References

Adolphs R, Tranel D, Damasio AR (1998) The human amygdala in social judgment. Nature: 470–473.

Caulfield F, Ewing L, Burton N, Avard E, Rhodes G (2014) Facial Trustworthiness Judgments in Children with ASD Are Modulated by Happy and Angry Emotional Cues. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97644. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097644

Chang LJ, Doll BB, van't Wout M, Frank MJ, Sanfey AG (2010) Seeing is believing: Trustworthiness as a dynamic belief. Cognitive Psychology 61: 87–105.

Dunning, D. etal (2014) Trust at zero acquaintance: More a matter of respect than expectation of reward. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 12 , 2014 doi: 10.1037/a0036673

Gao X, Maurer D (2010) A happy story: Developmental changes in children's sensitivity to facial expressions of varying intensities. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 107: 67–86.

Gao X, Maurer D (2009) Influence of intensity on children's sensitivity to happy, sad, and fearful facial expressions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 102: 503–521.

Hassin R, Trope Y (2000) Facing faces: Studies on the cognitive aspects of physiognomy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78: 837–852.

Haynes S (2011) Judgments of trustworthiness from faces: Do children and adults judge alike?: The University of Western Australia.

Rotenberg KJ, Fox C, Green S, Ruderman L, Slater K, et al. (2005) Construction and validation of a children's interpersonal trust belief scale. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 23: 271–293.

Rotenberg KJ (1994) Loneliness and interpersonal trust. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 13: 152–173.

Rule NO, Krendl AC, Ivcevic Z, Ambady N (2013) Accuracy and consensus in judgments of trustworthiness from faces: Behavioral and neural correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 104: 409–426.

Rule NO, Ambady N (2008) The face of success. Psychological Science 19: 109–111.

Todorov A, Pakrashi M, Oosterhof NN (2009) Evaluating faces on trustworthiness after minimal time exposure. Social Cognition 27: 813–833.

Willis J, Todorov A (2006) First impressions: Making up your mind after 100 ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science 17: 592–598.

Zebrowitz LA, Montepare JM (2008) Social psychological face perception: Why appearance matters. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2: 1497–1517.

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Can Acupuncture help with anxiety?

Can Acupuncture help with anxiety?

A typical symptom of the transition into menopause (known as Climacteric syndrome) for women in the age range of 35 and 65 is anxiety. A number of studies have found that menopausal symptoms such as irritability, excessive emotional reactions and excessive mood swings (known as emotional lability), persistent worrying and negative rumination are often symptoms of heightened anxiety brought about by Climacteric syndrome.

Previous studies about the usefulness of acupuncture with anxiety have been mixed. About a third of previous studies have found acupuncture can help with anxiety, with the rest finding that acupuncture has no effect on anxiety and depression.

A study has just been published in the Journal of Nursing by researchers and practitioners from the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil has shown some very promising results for women suffering from these Climacteric symptoms.

The study looked at 30 women between the ages of 41 and 65 with Climacteric based anxiety and emotional lability symptoms. Half of the sample were treated with acupuncture and half (15) were given a placebo acupuncture treatment, where the women thought they were receiving acupuncture, but actually were being punctured 1.2 cm away from the the internationally recognised acupunture points. The results were then compared to the recovery rates from over 320 women who did not undergo any treatment. 75% of the women in the treatment groups had histories of previous emotional problems like anxiety. They also looked at other factors which may be exacerbating anxiety levels in the women, which I will cover below.

The researchers found that acupuncture, both genuine and placebo, was clinically effective for the treatment of the women's anxiety. 93.3% of the women who had the genuine acupuncture and 86.6% of the women who had the placebo effect had a marked improvement in anxiety levels over 10 sessions.

They also found that two particular factors had a significant negative impact, promoting greater levels of anxiety and emotional lability, on women with Climacteric syndrome. These are poor marital/partner relationships and stressful professional lives.

Other studies have shown that anxiety and sleep disruption problems during menopause increases the risk of depression by 4 to 5 times.

 

References

Girão ÁC, Alves MDS, Alves e Souza ÂM et al. (2014) Acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety in climacteric: additional therapy in mental health promotion. J Nurs UFPE on line., Recife, 8(6):1538-44, June., 2014

Luca AC de, Fonseca AM da, Lopes CM, Bagnolli VR, Soares JM, Baracat EC. (2011) Acupuncture-ameliorated menopausal symptons: single-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Climateric [Internet]. 2011 Feb [cited 2013 Jan 12];14(1):140-5

Polisseni AF, Polisseni F, Fernandes LM, Moraes MA, Guerra MO. (2009) Depressão em mulheres climatéricas. HU ver [Internet]. 2009 July/Sept [cited 2012 Dec 15] ; 35(3): 183-9.

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Different types of control predicts depression

Different types of control predicts depression

Following on from the research articles reported in last week's blogs (here and here) about the links between anxiety and depression and the finding that people who avoid the object that is causing their anxiety are much more likely to have their anxiety turn to depression if the anxiety continues for some time, a third article just published sheds more light on the situation..

Largely there are three types of control that people use to cope with negative emotions: primary, secondary and disengagement control.
Primary control coping is based on changing and influencing our environment in order to cope. Choosing which friends to go out with based on who makes us feel good, problem solving to deal with the situation and engaging in emotion regulation techniques.
Secondary control is coping by adjusting ourselves to the environment, for example accepting the situation.
The third form of coping people engage in is to disengage completely or avoid the object or situation that is causing the negative emotion.

A study just published in Anxiety, Stress & Coping looked at the coping mechanisms of people who had previously been depressed and compared them with the coping mechanisms of people who have never been depressed
They found that people who had never had depression and who tend to use fewer primary coping skills in preference for avoidance coping strategies are significantly more likely to develop depression.
People, whether they had previously had depression or not, who develop secondary coping strategies, accepting the situation and their emotions (which is different to resignation), tend to see a decrease in their depressive symptoms.
They also discovered that people with greater levels of mental flexibility also tended to suffer from less depressive symptoms and recover more quickly from depression than people with less cognitive flexibility.

The researchers recommend that people at risk of depression should either be helped to develop emotion regulation strategies (primary control coping) or acceptance strategies (secondary control coping). Obviously learning both would be better, significantly reducing the risk of depression regardless of whether you have had it or not before.

 

Reference

Morris, M.C. et al (2014) Executive function moderates the relation between coping and depressive symptoms. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal. 2014 June DOI: 10.1080/10615806.2014.925545

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This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast. Episode No. 9

This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast. Episode No. 9

 

Download this episode (right click and save)

Download it from itunes

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One of the reasons anxiety turns into depression - new study

One of the reasons anxiety turns into depression - new study

As reported in Thursdays blog, more and more evidence is being found that long term untreated anxiety is likely to turn into depression. The study quoted on thursday found that this was likely to happen to about 50% of the population of anxiety sufferers. Another study also published recently suggests that untreated long term anxiety is likely to turn into depression in up to 77% of cases.
It has also been found that those that develop depression following long term anxiety, tend to get more severe forms of depression compared to those who develop depression without first suffering bouts of anxiety.

These are sobering findings and really highlight the importance of dealing with anxiety in its early forms and of learning the tools and techniques of proper emotion regulation.

However a question arises as to what is causing the anxiety to turn into depression. Surprisingly only three studies have looked look at the potential causes of this phenomenon. The first research study from 1999 looked at whether specific negative life events or reassurance seeking behaviours could be what transforms anxiety into depression, however the researchers could not find the expected connections. The second study from 2009 looked at the hypothesis that a lack of problem solving skills or individuals with anxiety who perceive that they have little or no control over the things that happen to and around them might cause, in part at least, the anxiety to turn to depression. Like the 1999 study, this study was unable to find such a causal effect.

However a study published a few weeks ago does finally shed light on this transformation. The study by researchers at The Pennsylvania State University in the United States used a large scale sample between 1994 and 2008 in four waves of observation with between 6504 and 4834 people to try to find what might be one of the causes for depression with people suffering from anxiety.

A prominent feature of anxiety is avoidance or flight. If an individual is anxious about something, say meetings, or public speaking or flying for example, they will tend to avoid engaging in that activity as a method trying to regulate the anxiety. As members of the free course will know this is one of three primary responses to what is known as the 'fear of the fear' phenomenon.

The researchers tested the hypothesis that avoiding the anxiety inducing subject, e.g. flying, public speaking etc. was a factor in the onset of depression. If this hypothesis were to prove to be correct one would expect that the greater the level of avoidance the greater the chance the individual has of becoming depressed. Indeed this is exactly what the researchers found.
The more someone avoids the anxiety promoting stimulus the greater their chances of becoming depressed.

There is now a hunt ongoing to find why this might be the case.

Reference

N.C. Jacobson & M.G. Newman (2014) Avoidance mediates the relationship between anxiety and depression over a decade later. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 28 (2014) 437-445.

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People with anxiety are more likely to develop depression

People with anxiety are more likely to develop depression

A central question that has been argued over for years in the anxiety - depression field is, are anxiety and depression linked and importantly does can anxiety lead to depression?

A study published in the journal Psychological Medicine recently helps to answer this issue. The research by scientists at the Departments of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago conducted a long term (12 years) analysis of the metal health of 425 women (278 Caucasian and 147 African American) women in america. The women were measured annually for symptoms of anxiety and depression to see if where any depression manifested itself, anxiety tended to be a precursor to the depression.

Firstly they found that women with anxiety were more likely to suffer from a major depressive disorder than those who did not suffer from anxiety in the first place. In fact they discovered that if you suffer from anxiety for a year you are almost 50% more likely to suffer from depression than people without anxiety. If you have already suffered from a bout of depression you are even more likely to suffer a recurring episode of depression.

The researchers recommend people with anxiety are closely monitored for signs of the onset of depression during the year. Obviously it would be better to treat the anxiety and reduce the chance of depression significantly.

 

Reference

Kravitz HM, Schott LL, Joffe H, Cyranowski JM, Bromberger JT (2014) Do anxiety symptoms predict major depressive disorder in midlife women? The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Mental Health Study (MHS). Psychological Medicine [2014:1-10] DOI: 10.1017/S0033291714000075

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How we inadvertently teach children to become emotional eaters

How we inadvertently teach children to become emotional eaters

A number of research studies have estimated that about 1 in 3 mothers of young children suffer from stress, anxiety and/or depression particularly during the first few years of motherhood. The question is does this have any effect on the children and if so what?

A series of studies have shown that that there is a connection between the stress, depression and anxiety levels of the mother and later life depression, stress and anxiety in the child. Other connections have been found with how well the children grow to learn how to regulate their own emotions. For example the greater the level of maternal stress, anxiety and depression during the first two to four years, the greater the chance the child will also have problems with regulating their own emotions as they grow up.

A new study about to be published next month in the academic journal Appetite, an international research journal specialising in the social science, psychology and neuroscience of food consumption, looked at the effects of the mother's level of anxiety, depression and stress on:

  1. The mother's level of emotional eating, and
  2. Whether the mother feeds the child in order to regulate the child's emotions.

The definition of emotional eating is eating for any reason other than just hunger.

There are broadly three feeding practices that parents tend to engage in with their children:

  1. Nutritive feeding, which is giving the child food only when the child is hungry
  2. Instrumental feeding, which is feeding a child as a reward, for example sweets for being good or doing something, and
  3. Emotional feeding, which is when the parent feeds the child to pacify it when it is upset. An example of this would be when a child has hurt itself or has had a toy taken by another sibling and gets given chocolate to help calm it down as a kind of 'there there". Pleasure or feel good feeding, "I got you this because you like it" is also emotional feeding.

The study, conducted by scientists and practitioners at six universities and hospitals in the US, France and Australia, looked at the levels of stress, anxiety and depression in 3 mothers of children between one and a half and two and a half years old (the average age of the mothers in the study was 35), and examined the links with any emotional eating behaviours of the mothers, child- feeding practices, and lastly the child's own emotional eating habits.

This is important because other studies have found strong links between the use of consuming food to regulate emotions and both childhood and later life obesity, with all the health risks that entails. Additionally last week I reported on a study which found a link between being overweight and the level of anxiety a person experiences, and how losing weight can reduce anxiety levels as well as having a range of other health benefits.

The mothers were observed for whether or not they were using food as any kind of reward (called instrumental feeding) or when the child started to display unwanted emotions or behaviours (emotional feeding).

The first links the researchers found was that, as the mothers' anxiety, stress and/or depression increased so did their own emotional eating. They found exactly the same pattern with the children. As their anxiety or stress increased so did the level of emotional eating.

The question is how did the children learn to engage in emotional eating?

The researchers were able to separate out the factors and found a sequence of events that lead to the child self-medicating emotional issues with food.

They discovered that as the mothers' anxiety, stress and/or depression increased so did their tendency to engage in both instrumental and emotional eating themselves and as a consequence of this they then started engaging in non-nutritive feeding practices with their children.

In other words, when the mothers experienced stress, anxiety or depression, they tended to first engage in emotional eating themselves and then transfer this to their feeding behaviour towards the children. So it is much more likely that a mother would feed a child when she is feeling down or anxious rather than waiting until the child is hungry itself and as a result, the child then learns to use food as an emotion regulation strategy, rather than only eating when hungry.

As stated before, emotional eating tends to result in obesity which in turn increases a loss of self-worth and an increase in anxiety, which then leads to more emotional eating and so on.

Learning better and more healthy emotion regulation strategies than emotional eating is therefore essential to breaking this habit and the spiral that ensues.

 

Click here to learn how to regulate your emotions without engaging in emotional eating

 

Reference
Rachel F. Rodgers, Susan J. Paxton, Siân A. McLean, Karen J. Campbell, Eleanor H. Wertheim, Helen Skouteris, Kay Gibbons, Maternal Negative Affect is Associated with Emotional Feeding Practices and Emotional Eating in Young Children, Appetite (2014), http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.05.022.

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This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast

This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast

Download this episode (right click and save)

Itunes podcast link https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/calm-composed-confident/id847626776

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The emotional impact of internet addiction on our children

The emotional impact of internet addiction on our children

The internet is an amazing resource and social connector and a recent study found that about 90% of school children with internet access use it to get educational information for school work, as well as other activities such as playing games and social interaction for example. Like most things in life, used responsibly the internet is a fantastic resource and can be a lot of fun.

However there have been a rash of recent studies showing that the prevalence of internet addiction, the feeling one needs to go online as a first recourse and as a preference to engaging with other real life activities, especially among children, is growing. The estimations of the growth of internet addiction in academic research studies range from 1.4% up to 17.9% of the adolescent population or 11 - 15 year olds in both western and eastern cultures. With newly published studies coming in at the higher end of this range, this means that somewhere approaching 1 in 6 of our 11-15 year old children may well be addicted to the internet. Given the study I reported on last week, this is likely to get worse as todays internet toddlers grow into adolescents.

Like every addiction, internet addiction carries a cost and a study to be published next month in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry highlights some of that cost.

The study looked at 2293 11-14 year olds and assessed them for levels of depression, hostility, social anxiety whilst also monitoring their online habits. The researchers then measured the children a year later to see if there were any links. Now a number of studies have already linked internet addiction with depression, particularly in young adults, 16 - 21 year olds.

The interesting thing about this study is the inclusion of social anxiety. There have been a number of studies already which show that people tend to feel less social anxiety whilst online compared to face-to-face interaction. There is strong speculation in the academic world that this effect maybe driving some peoples addiction to the internet as a proxy for live 'in person' social engagement.

Additionally two studies have found that people with depression also have lower levels of anxiety and hostility when socialising online. This sounds like the internet is a good thing for these people, right?

A famous study in 2011 found that chronic online gamers suffered from greater levels of depression, social anxiety, social phobia (complete aversion to face-to-face contact), and aggression / hostility than individuals who either didn't partake of such games or were just light users. The effects of this aren't just mental. Studies have found that people with higher levels of internet derived aggression and hostility also have higher levels of cardiovascular issues as well as other circulatory problems.

Anyway, this study, led by Dr. Ju-Yu Yen an academic, medical doctor and psychiatrist, found that the longer an individual is addicted, particularly in the adolescent years, the slower the recovery, when treatment or an intervention occurs. Basically the sooner internet addiction is found and dealt with the better the outcome and the faster the symptoms of depression, anxiety and hostility / aggression will reduce.

A number of interventions have been tested where internet addicted people with high levels of depression, anxiety and aggression / hostility have their online addiction treated with positive results. The aggression / hostility tends to reduce the fastest after the individuals are no longer using the internet in such heavy doses, with depression levels also dropping as face to face socialisation increases. Anxiety tends to be the last issue to reduce following such an intervention.

I am currently writing a book titled "ADJUSTED: What the research says about how to bring up emotionally well adjusted, resilient and competent children". If you would like to get your hands on an advanced copy just click here.

 

References

Chih-Hung Ko, et al, (2014) The exacerbation of depression, hostility, and social anxiety in the course of internet addiction among adolescents: a prospective study. Com- prehensive Psychiatry (2014), doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.05.003

Other papers

Calles JL Jr. (2007) Depression in children and adolescents. Prim Care 2007;34:243-58.

Constantine MG. (2006) Perceived family conflict, parental attachment, and depression in African American female adolescents. Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol 2006;12:697-709.

Crutzen R, et al (2011) Strategies to facilitate exposure to internet-delivered health behavior change interventions aimed at adolescents or young adults: a systematic review. Health Educ Behav 2011;38:49-62.

Ferguson CJ, & Kilburn J. (2009) The public health risks of media violence: a meta-analytic review. J Pediatr 2009;154:759-63.

Gentile DA et al. (2011) Pathological video game use among youths: a two-year longitudinal study. Pediatrics 2011;127:e319-29.

Greydanus DE, & Greydanus MM. (2012) Internet use, misuse, and addiction in adolescents: current issues and challenges. Int J Adolesc Med Health 2012;24:283-89.

Ha JH, et al (2007) Depression and Internet addiction in adolescents. Psychopathology 2007;40:424-30.
Kitamura T, & Fujihara S. (2003) Understanding personality traits from early life experiences. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2003;57:323-31.

Ko CH, et al (2007) Factors predictive for incidence and remission of internet addiction in young adolescents: a prospective study. Cyberpsychol Behav 2007;10:545-51.

Ko CH, et al (2009) The associations between aggressive behaviors and internet addiction and online activities in adolescents. J Adolesc Health 2009;44:598-605.

Ko et al (2009) Predictive values of psychiatric symptoms for internet addiction in adolescents: a 2-year prospective study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009;163:937-43.

Lam LT & Peng ZW. (2010) Effect of pathological use of the internet on adolescent mental health: a prospective study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010;164:901-6.

Mythily S, Qiu S, & Winslow M. (2008) Prevalence and correlates of excessive internet use among youth in Singapore. Ann Acad Med Singapore 2008;37:9-14.

Norris ML. (2007) Adolescents and the internet. Paediatr Child Health 2007;12:211-16.

Park S, et al (2013) The association between problematic internet use and depression, suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder symptoms in Korean adolescents. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2013;47:153-9.

Prinstein MJ, et al (2005) Adolescent girls' interpersonal vulnerability to depressive symptoms: a longitudinal examination of reassurance-seeking and peer relationships. J Abnorm Psychol 2005;114:676-88.

Siomos KE, et al (2008) Internet addiction among Greek adolescent students. Cyberpsychol Behav 2008;11:653-7.

Yen JY, et al (2007). The comorbid psychiatric symptoms of Internet addiction: attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, social phobia, and hostility. J Adolesc Health 2007;41:93-6.

Yen JY, et al (2012) Social anxiety in online and real-life interaction and their associated factors. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2012;15:7-12.

Yen JY, et al (2011) Hostility in the real world and online: the effect of internet addiction, depression, and online activity. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2011;14:649-55.

Young KS. (1998) Internet addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. Cyberpsychol Behav 1998;1:237-44.

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A link found between anxiety and cancer - Research just published

A link found between anxiety and cancer - Research just published

Currently an area of great interest and focus in the medical research and in particular the cancer research world, are a set of types of cell known as regulatory T cells or Treg cells. Treg cells are part of our immune system and in effect, they suppress or stop the immune responses of other cells. Basically what Treg cells do is turn off an immune response once it has done its work of eliminating any invading 'bugs'. This is a vital function, otherwise our predatory immune system cells would stay on the rampage even after the threat had passed.

As you may know, the problem with cancers is that the cells in the body 'forget' to turn off and keep multiplying. These cancerous or non turning off cells then often keep growing out of control, eventually killing the individual concerned. So Treg cells essentially turn off the immune system response to prevent this happening.

It is already known that the immune system of mice and other animals tends to reduce in effectiveness when the animal is subject to chronic stress and anxiety, and in particular Treg cells become less effective and efficient at doing their job.

A study published this week in The Journal of Immunology has made a potential link between anxiety and cancer.

In this study nine patents were measured for their level of anxiety and the number and effectiveness of the Treg cells in their blood, both before and after an anxiety reduction programme. All of the patents were suffering from GAD or general anxiety disorder.
It was found that the patents had much lower levels of Treg cells in their blood, and those Treg cells that did exist were less efficient in the GAD patients.

These patients were then put on an eight week anxiety treatment programme and then tested again.

After the anxiety reduction programme it was found that the Treg cells had returned to normal levels and functioning. In effect the patents immune system had been returned to normal and was therefore allowing their systems to suppress and turn off immune responses as they were designed to do. The researchers state that this should reduce the risk of cancer in these individuals.

Now whilst it is early days yet with this research, and the numbers in this study were small, it is a strong indication about one possible mechanism of the proliferation of cancer.

As a result of this study the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recommend that anxiety is treated as a matter course wherever it is found to reduce the potential risk of cancer.

This just highlights the importance of learning and developing genuine emotion regulation strategies and anxiety reduction techniques.

Reference

Akimova, T. et al (2014) Amelioration in generalized anxiety disorder is associated with decreased Treg number and function
The Journal of Immunology May 1, 2014 vol. 192 no. 1 Supplement 52.27

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Can losing weight reduce anxiety?

Can losing weight reduce anxiety?

I have written a number of times about the effect of diet on anxiety levels (here) for example. However if you are overweight will reducing weight also reduce anxiety levels?

A study just published this week looked at this very question.

It has been found that patients with metabolic syndrome, which is combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, (and these conditions often go together), also often report higher levels of anxiety as well. The question is are the increased levels of anxiety linked to the metabolic syndrome or in particular, obesity?

There are a set of neurotransmitters or chemicals in the brain, called monoamines which it is believed are connected to anxiety levels. We think monoamines are vital components of our emotional and thinking systems. It has been found that problems with the effectiveness of monoamines in the brain occur in issues like depression and anxiety. Some drugs used to treat these problems increase the effectiveness of the monoamines.

This study examined the levels of anxiety, weight and monoamines levels in a group of patents aged between 40 and 60 who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

They were tested for weight, anxiety levels and monoamine levels before and after being placed on a 6 month weight reduction diet.

The results were marked to say the least. They found that of the patents placed on the diet and who lost weight, increased their levels of monoamines, and decreased their anxiety levels by almost a third over the same time. In fact the study found that the level of weight loss for these patents paralleled the decrease in anxiety levels suffered by the individuals in the study. So the answer appears to be that weight and anxiety are linked, at least with people suffering from metabolic syndrome.

Reference

Perez-Cornago, A. et al (2014) Effect of dietary restriction on peripheral monoamines and anxiety symptoms in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome. Psychoneuroendocrinology May 2014.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.05.003

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This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast

This weeks Emotional Resilience Podcast

Download this episode (right click and save)

Connect with iTunes - click here

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