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From the Desk of Dr. Mills

Helping Our Teens Manage Peer Pressure

In an earlier post (On the Way to Becoming an Adult), I described advantages and disadvantages in relation to the developing teenage brain. While the draw to novelty, risk, and peer relations helps to prepare teenagers for becoming independent adults, their impulsivity can also be hazardous. As teenagers are finding their way through adolescence, it...
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On the Way to Becoming as Adult

With recent technology, we have learned that a great deal of brain development takes place through the teen years all the way up to at least age 25. From age 12 to 25, communication between brain cells gradually increases by a hundred times. But it is to the teenager’s advantage that these physical changes move...
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Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

We are continuing to learn more and more about how brain cells behave. We know now that neurons can respond to change. This is what we mean by neuroplasticity. And neuroplasticity may be involved in maintaining a normal mood in response to experiences in our relationships and our lives. Bipolar disorder may involve difficulties with...
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Dopamine Deficient Depression

Among those afflicted with one or more episodes of major depression, there are differences in the kinds of symptoms experienced. Some individuals feel sad, empty, or hopeless. Others lose interest in almost all activities. One’s appetite may decrease or increase. One may have difficulty sleeping or sleep excessively. One may behave restlessly or become lethargic....
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OCD and the Obsessive Compulsive Personality

First, we must distinguish between an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They are not the same although they may have commonalities, and an individual could have both. For individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the compulsive behavior is an effort to resolve obsessive doubt. In a classic example, the individual checks to see...
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Talking with Your Teens About Their Relationships

In an earlier post (Why Is Sexual Violence So Prevalent in Our Society Today), I shared information regarding the prevalence of sexual violence and the importance of talking with teenagers about healthy relationship behavior. About 1 in 10 teens have been physically or sexually abused on a date. The U.S. Department of Health and Human...
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Why Is Sexual Violence So Prevalent in Our Society Today?

Tragically, sexual violence and abusive behavior have been prevalent throughout history. It has never been uncommon for the most vulnerable individuals, particularly women, children, and those who are handicapped to be preyed upon by perpetrators of violent and controlling behavior. And it has a long history of being ignored or dismissed. Sigmund Freud, for example,...
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Avoidant Disorders in Teenagers

Teenagers with avoidant disorders may struggle with a chronic state of heightened anxiety which can impede their ability to make friends and participate in social activities. They may lack confidence, struggle with feelings of low self-worth, have difficulty expressing themselves, and exhibit extreme sensitivity to criticism. Their fear of rejection can become so extreme that...
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Emotional Attacks

In an earlier post (Attachment Styles), I shared information regarding individuals with insecure attachment styles who may be anxious or avoidant in relating closely with others as adults. While growing up, one or both of their parents may not have been consistent in attending to them, nurturing them, guiding them, and encouraging them. Or they...
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Attachment Styles

John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, described several characteristics of attachment including the desire to be near those we are attached to, the feeling of being securely attached while separated, and the comfort experienced in turning to those with whom we are attached in times of distress. Mary Ainsworth described three major styles of...
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New Year’s Resolutions

People have been known to make New Year’s resolutions for at least 4000 years. Throughout history, New Year’s has been a time for renewal. And it is a terrific and inspiring tradition. When we devote ourselves to embracing a new experience in our lives, dedicate ourselves to acting firmly on a course of action, and...
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Can Everyday Be As Special As Christmas?

Christmas, that special time of year. Such a wonderful experience! But what makes Christmas so special? Christmas morning, we wake up feeling excited. We’ve been making preparations, thinking of others, planning gifts, and arranging visits. Our purpose in preparing for Christmas has been about giving, about connecting with our family members and friends, and about...
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“Why Are You Being So Critical?”

Well, it’s that time of year! We’re looking forward to Thanksgiving and all the holidays ahead. It’s a time for families and friends to come together and enjoy feasts and festivities. Of course, it’s also a time for making decisions, working out plans, and collaborating with one another in order to agree on those decisions...
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Self-Esteem

Are you struggling with poor self-esteem? Do you think negatively, constantly compare yourself with others, overreact to what others think without regard for what you think, dwell over mistakes or failures, or set low expectations for yourself? Would you like to improve your self-esteem? Well first, it may be more helpful to consider whether our...
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Back to School!

After a summer of play, trips, and adventure, it’s time for the kids to go back to school! Of course, going back to school can be stressful – a new grade, a new teacher, a new class, maybe even a new school. Middle school students have new experiences with class schedules, combination locks, and after...
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Brain States 1-5: How Joyful (or Stressed Out) Are You?

In her book, Wired for Joy, Laurel Mellin describes the Emotional Brain Training program (EBT) for combating stress, a program that draws on neuroplasticity for rewiring the circuits in our brain that trigger stress. In EBT, we have a description of five brain states in relation to five areas of function. Over the course of...
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Don’t Be Victimized by a Victim Mentality!

Psychologists have identified five major personality traits (ocean). How would you describe your personality? Are you open to new ideas and activities or do you tend to avoid new experiences? Are you conscientious, self-disciplined, and achievement-oriented or are you rather spontaneous and freewheeling? Are you extraverted, assertive, and sociable or do you prefer individual or...
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Feeling Happy, Peaceful, Calm and Content: How to Help Avoid that Crummy Unwanted Mood

One of the things that affects our mood is how we think. There are some types of thinking that can contribute to feelings of depression and other types that are more helpful to us in feeling happy, peaceful, calm, and content. Cognitive-Behavioral psychologists have identified many cognitive distortions, that is, inaccurate ways of thinking that...
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Changing a Bad Habit

At one time or another, many of us have an undesired behavior we would like to change. It may be smoking, overeating, excessive drinking, drug use, video games, compulsive shopping, gambling, or some other behavior. Well, first, in deciding to change a behavior, it is helpful to consider clearly the negative consequences associated with the...
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Excessively Dependent, Overly Detached, or “Just Right?”

We all need to experience a sense of belonging, acceptance, and affiliation with others. We need to experience care and affection through words and touch. And we need to be considered, understood, and supported when we are struggling. But in our relations with one another, some people tend to doubt themselves and depend heavily on...
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