Hello people… hope everyone had a great weekend! This week, I’m going to finish up our discussion on the big D… vitamin D! Last week, we talked about how it’s not actually a vitamin, it’s really a hormone. And unlike most vitamins, it can be synthesized in the body, provided there’s sufficient skin exposure to the sun- it doesn’t take much- maybe 10 minutes two or three times a week. If you spend all your time inside, have very dark skin, or constantly wear high spf sunscreen, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement. Maintaining adequate vitamin D is essential for many basic processes, far beyond the bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps the immune, muscle, and nervous systems function properly, and a surprising percentage of the population are chronically low. Last week, I mentioned that the elderly population are especially at risk of severe D-ficiency, and this increases the risk of several brain-related disorders. Vitamin D alters cholinergic, dopaminergic, and noradrenergic neurotransmitters systems, and abnormalities in these neurotransmitters have been implicated in various neuropsych diseases and disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, dementia/ Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, MS. This week, I’ll finish discussing what researchers know about vitamin D deficiency and these disorders thus far.
A 2014 study found that moderate and severe vitamin D deficiency in older adults was associated with increased risk for some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia involves a decline in thinking, behavior, and memory that negatively affects daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder and the most common form of dementia, accounting for as many as 80 percent of dementia cases. When compared with people who had normal vitamin D levels, the study found that people with low levels of vitamin D had a 53 percent increased risk of developing all-cause dementia, while those who were severely deficient had a 125 percent increased risk. In addition, people who had lower levels of vitamin D were about 70 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease specifically, and those who were severely deficient were over 120 percent more likely to develop it. These findings may seem alarming, especially considering the devastating toll that dementia can have on patients and their families, but don’t panic- this was an observational study, meaning it cannot prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin D deficiency and dementia and Alzheimer’s. You have to consider that the risk of both Alzheimer’s and dementia already increase with advancing age, and vitamin D deficiency increases with advancing age, so you have to wonder if the relationship is incidental, or if there’s a causal mechanism at play. Researchers are trying to tease out the findings to answer that. Nonetheless, the theory is that the “sunshine vitamin” might help literally clear the patient’s heads- the vitamin D may protect against dementia by helping to break down and sweep out the protein plaques commonly linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This would increase blood flow to the brain as well, which is a good thing.
Vitamin D receptors are present throughout the central nervous system, and research has shown that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D can have a neuroprotective effect. When a person has multiple sclerosis, MS, the immune system attacks the myelin coating that protects the nerve cells, damaging them and affecting transmission of signals. But studies show that vitamin D may lower the risk of developing MS. A number of studies have shown that people who get more sun exposure and vitamin D in their diet have a lower risk of MS, so vitamin D levels are considered to be an important modifiable environmental risk factor for development of the disease. For people who already have MS, some studies suggest that vitamin D may offer some benefits- it may lessen the frequency and severity of their symptoms, which improves quality of life, and lengthens the time it takes to progress from relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis to the secondary-progressive phase. At this point, the evidence isn’t conclusive, more research is needed, but the connection between vitamin D and MS is strengthened by the association between sunlight and the risk of MS. Studies have shown that the farther away from the equator a person lives, the higher the risk of MS. This suggests that exposure to sunlight may offer protection from MS. Therefore, researchers theorized the link to vitamin D and set out to explain it.
A team of Harvard researchers conducted a study and reported that women who ingested more vitamin D from food (approximately 700 IU/day) had a 41 percent lower risk of MS as compared to women with lower intakes; those who took vitamin D supplements (400 IU/day or more) had a 33 percent reduced risk of developing the disease, as compared to those who did not. In another Harvard study, researchers discovered that some people, specifically caucasians whose blood levels of vitamin D were above 40 ng/mL (meaning levels were sufficient) had a 62 percent lower risk of developing MS. More recently, researchers have linked higher blood levels of vitamin D with reduced risk of relapse, less active lesions on MRI, and possible neuroprotective effects. Although it’s not clear what role vitamin D plays in MS, hypotheses involve its impact on the immune system, and question potentially faulty vitamin D receptors in people with MS.
Parkinson’s, Preliminary Association
Most evidence on the link between vitamin D and Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been from animal studies, but human trials have also uncovered a potential connection between chronically deficient levels of vitamin D and the development of PD. A Finnish follow up review of 3,173 men and women without PD found that those with higher blood levels of vitamin D showed a reduced risk of the disease. An Emory University publication found that more people with PD, 55 percent, had a vitamin D deficiency than a control group, 36 percent. Scientists still don’t know how exactly vitamin D levels affect Parkinson’s risk, but the findings are generating interest in more research.
Most people are familiar with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which happens during seasons with less light exposure. The relationship between sunlight and depression is no accident, so it’s no surprise that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to a higher risk of depression. After all, the nickname for vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, and that’s not just because many people generate much of their required amount thanks to sun exposure. Vitamin D status is also connected to a sunny, or not so sunny mood. Research has previously demonstrated a relationship between low mood and low vitamin D levels, and in fact, I see many patients with depression that have low vitamin D levels. The two seem to go hand in hand, which is why this is an important topic. A study I read not long ago utilizing high dose vitamin D found that participants had a significant decrease in depression and anxiety, and an improvement in general mood. I’ve found vitamin D supplementation to be very helpful in patients with mood disorders, even treatment resistant depression, especially in those who also have other inflammatory-related conditions. I have one patient that just started a D3-K2 supplement I suggested that also has rheumatoid arthritis, and I’m hoping it will improve symptoms of both. K2 is menaquinone, a micronutrient supplement that works synergistically with D3. I’ll talk about it in a moment.
Risk of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder that affects less than one percent of American adults. Symptoms commonly appear between ages 16 and 30, and include delusions, hallucinations, incoherent speech, withdrawal from others, and trouble focusing or paying attention. A scientific review from 19 observational studies suggests that people who are vitamin D deficient may be twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, as compared with people with sufficient vitamin D levels. Schizophrenia is more prevalent in places with high latitudes and cold climates, and studies suggest children who relocate to colder climates appear to be at a higher risk of developing it. While the researchers observed a link between the two factors, I should note that we need some randomized controlled trials to better define the link and to determine if supplementation may help prevent it. Probably couldn’t hurt. Considering what we know about the role of vitamin D in mental health, the findings seem to have merit.
Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple autoimmune diseases, including diabetes mellitus type 1.
The connection seems clear, but why it exists is not. Some researchers believe the link is related to the role of vitamin D in insulin sensitivity and resistance, which results in increasing blood sugar. The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar, or glucose in the blood. With insulin resistance, the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin, and glucose can’t enter the cells as easily, so it builds up in the blood. So you have high blood glucose levels, and this can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. Researchers theorized that low vitamin D levels change glucose “homeostasis,” which just means it affects how you maintain a proper level. Studies have found that when vitamin D is deficient, many cellular processes in the body begin to break down, and this may be what sets the stage for the onset of diseases like diabetes. In animal studies, vitamin D deficiency has been shown to have a detrimental effect on insulin synthesis and secretion, and some human observational trials have also indicated a correlation between pre-diabetic states and vitamin D levels. But in the randomized controlled trial on vitamin D in pre-diabetic states, not all the evidence supported that increasing vitamin D levels through supplementation results in improvements in insulin sensitivity. In some cases, it didn’t improve. So the jury’s out as far as proof of the influence of vitamin D on glucose homeostasis. Most of the data suggests it’s helpful, but we don’t have a definitive answer as yet.
Rhematoid Arthritis, RA
Vitamin D has been found to have immunomodulatory actions, meaning it may help keep the immune system in balance. Autoimmune diseases like RA occur when the affected person’s immune system attacks their own tissues, hence the name. It’s been previously established that reduced vitamin D intake has been linked to increased susceptibility to the development of RA. Deficiency has also been found to be associated with disease severity in patients with RA; low vitamin D can lead to more severe disease. As I mentioned last week, vitamin D deficiency can cause bone loss and diffuse musculoskeletal pain, similar to that which occurs in RA. Science is always looking at common links to exploit them therapeutically. They also knew that vitamin D supplementation may help prevent osteoporosis, so they put that all together and theorized that vitamin D may also help decrease pain associated with flares of RA. “Flares” are periods of time when the disease is active, when the person’s immune system is attacking their bones and joints, and they can be extremely painful. So they started looking at vitamin D and RA disease states. Researchers of one large study found that only 33 percent of the people with RA they studied showed satisfactory vitamin D levels- 77 percent were low. And the people who had active RA at the time, who were experiencing more severe symptoms, their vitamin D levels were even lower. While the link between vitamin D and RA is well known, this was the first study to look at the impact of levels on the course of established disease. So those of you at risk of RA or with constantly flaring RA, make sure to get your D checked!
A published 2014 study found a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and aggressive prostate cancer in European American and African American men. Researchers looked at vitamin D levels in 667 men, ages 40 to 79, who were undergoing prostate biopsies. The connection between low vitamin D and prostate cancer seemed especially strong in African American men. The results suggested that African American men with low vitamin D levels were more likely to test positive for cancer than men with normal vitamin D levels. These findings were observational- meaning that they didn’t prove that low vitamin D led to prostate cancer, just that the two factors may be linked- it does suggest you may reduce your risk by ensuring adequate vitamin D levels. Captain Obvious says you should also make regular doctor’s visits, and watch for common prostate cancer symptoms, to make sure you get an early diagnosis and treatment if you’re affected. Common symptoms are difficulty starting and maintaining a steady stream of urine, frequent urination, excessive urination at night, urge to urinate, and/ or weak urinary stream. Prostate cancer occurs mostly in older men, and the average age of diagnosis is about 66 years of age. Other than skin cancer, it’s the most common cancer in men, and the second most common cause of cancer death in American men, per the American Cancer Society. Just a friendly PSA from MGA.
Severe Erectile Dysfunction, ED
A small 2014 study of 143 subjects found that men with severe ED had significantly lower vitamin D levels than men with mild ED. The researchers theorized that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to ED by impeding the arteries’ ability to dilate, another “ED” condition called endothelial dysfunction. Captain Obvious says that one of the requirements for achieving an erection is proper function of the arteries, as they’re responsible for supplying the penis with blood so it can become engorged. Ironically, arterial stiffness may be the cause of the endothelial dysfunction that causes the erectile dysfunction… basically, if the arteries are too stiff to dilate, something else won’t be. And in fact, a totally separate study suggested that a lack of vitamin D was indeed linked with general arterial stiffness in healthy people. Another PSA: ED is the most common sexual complication among men, and according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it affects up to 30 million American men. It can stem from other health conditions, including diabetes, prostate cancer, and high blood pressure. Common ED treatments include hormone replacement therapy, counseling, and lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and eating a balanced diet. Yet another reason to check your D.
It’s not just prostate cancer that shares a link with low vitamin D levels, there’s also a link between vitamin D deficiency and breast cancer. A 2017 published review found that “most” vitamin D studies support the “inverse association” between vitamin D level and breast cancer risk. That’s nerd speak for saying that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. A 2019 in vitro study, meaning “in glass” in a lab, found that high concentrations of vitamin D inhibited breast cancer cell growth. In addition, studies and statistics indicate that women with breast cancer that have adequate or high vitamin D levels seem to have better outcomes- fewer cases of metastases, fewer deaths. So it appears that vitamin D may play a role in controlling breast cell growth, and that high levels may be able to actually slow or halt growth. It’s exciting stuff, but cells isolated in a petri dish in a lab are one thing, and cells in a walking talking human with all of the additional influences are quite another, so human trials are needed before we celebrate with a giant vitamin D cake. But it’s a start. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2021, 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women, not including about 49,290 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and about 43,600 women will die from breast cancer. Horrible.
D3’s BFF, K2
This isn’t a math formula, this is a quick note on vitamin K, a micronutrient that most people haven’t ever heard of. K vitamins are critical cofactors for a variety of proteins in the body, including factors involved in blood clotting, calcium transport, insulin regulation, fat deposition, cell proliferation, and DNA transcription. Vitamin K comes in many different forms, traditionally divided into two groups. Vitamin K1, aka phylloquinone, is the most common form of vitamin K. It’s found in plants, notably leafy greens like kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce. Vitamin K2, aka menaquinone, is mainly found in fermented foods like natto, miso, and sauerkraut. Because K2 is found in so few foods, it’s most commonly found in supplement form. K2 is D3’s BFF. They work synergistically, so current prevailing wisdom says you should take them together. While vitamin D3 improves your calcium absorption, vitamin K2 allocates where that calcium can be used. It’s responsible for depositing the calcium at the right places in the body, like in the bones and teeth. It also prevents calcification, the accumulation of calcium in places where it is not required, like in the arteries and other soft tissues of the body. You definitely don’t want it there. Also, vitamin D needs calcium for metabolism, and when you aren’t getting enough calcium from your diet or from supplementation, vitamin D may pull the calcium it needs from your bones. That’s clearly not the best thing. Taking vitamin D stimulates the body to produce more of the vitamin K2-dependent proteins that transport calcium. These proteins have many health benefits, but can’t be activated if insufficient vitamin K2 is available, so anyone who’s taking vitamin D needs more vitamin K2. Deficiencies in both are extremely common, and more and more people are taking both D3 and K2 together as a daily dietary supplement. This raises the question of how they’re best combined. The current dietary guidelines don’t distinguish between vitamin K1 and K2. There are many D3-K2 combination supplements widely available. If for some reason you choose to take K2 but not D3, 45mcg of vitamin K2 a day is generally enough for healthy people under the age of 50, but again, this recommendation only applies if there is no additional vitamin D3 intake from dietary supplements. If you do take a D3 supplement, the recommended dosage is increased to 100mcg – 200mcg vitamin K2 per day. The higher dosage of 200mcg is recommended for people who have a history of cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis in their families. I recommend the combination product to my patients, as long as it’s not contraindicated. Please note: vitamin K helps your blood clot, so if you are taking anticoagulant medication like coumadin to prevent blood clots, please consult your doctor before taking it. Generally speaking, if you do take an anticoagulant, 45 mcg vitamin K2 per day is a safe dose, but talk to the physician who prescribes the anticoagulant first.
So that’s the deal on vitamin D. The moral of the story is that the vitamin that’s not a vitamin is very busy in the body… it’s not just about the bones anymore. Having adequate levels of it may mean the difference between developing a debilitating disease one day and avoiding one, so make sure you get enough. Check your levels, and consider a supplement if you need it. And don’t forget its best friend K2.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it to be interesting and educational. Please feel free to share it with family and friends. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel with all of my videos, and I’d appreciate it if you would like, subscribe, leave comments, and share those vids! As always, my book Tales from the Couch has more educational topics and patient stories, and is available in office and on Amazon.
Thank you and be well people!
Personality and Behavior: DISC Model
Wikipedia defines personality as the “characteristic set of behaviors, cognitions, and emotional patterns that evolve from biological and environmental factors.” I’m sure they probably go on to list those factors in the third through fifth paragraphs, so this short definition seems neat and tidy without really committing to much. But as we all know, when you’re dealing with humans, things aren’t ever simple. In reality, there’s no formal or universal definition, but that’s okay, because it gives psych nerds something to argue about. Because there’s no universally accepted meaning, all definitions are essentially theories, most of which center somewhere around an individual’s psychological motivations and resulting interactions with their environment. Alternatively, people can refer to it as character, temperament, or disposition, but in my opinion, no matter what you call it, the bottom line is that each person has a unique combination of characteristics or qualities that form a distinctive set, and these govern their perspectives, motivations, and behaviors.
Now, before I really get into this week’s topic, this is a good place for me to add a disclaimer: When addressing concepts like personalities and behaviors with a large group of people, I have to simplify and generalize, because these are nuanced subjects with far too many influential and individual factors than I could ever address in a blog. So if there are any psych police out there on patrol, please don’t write me a ticket for simplifications and generalizations.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll start with a question: have you ever noticed at times how different the judgement and behaviors of your family and friends can be from your own? My profession means that I literally spend the majority of my life examining what someone does, their behavior(s), and why they do it, their motivation(s). I’m sure you’ve been in many situations where you’ve asked yourself, “Why did he/ she dothat?” or “What were they thinking?” While sometimes it can be frustrating to have a difference of opinion with people, the truth is that life would be boring if we all thought and acted the same way.
So how do you understand and reconcile these differences? Believe it or not, the starting point of understanding people is actually pretty simple; accept just one fact: that while I’m sure you’re fabulous, everyone is not like you. In point of fact, everyone is not like everyone else, either. If you search for a definition of the word personality, you’ll invariably find the words “characteristic” and “unique” included, along with other synonyms. These are all evidence of, and pretty words to convey, one fact: that we’re all different. We all carry our life experiences and opinions with us, and we filter everything we see, hear, and experience through them, so they color our perceptions and motivations; and these in turn influence our behaviors. I believe the saying goes something like “different isn’t bad, it’s just different,” and I can roll with that. Each of us is unique; we think differently, and therefore behave differently. It’s really a good thing; far, far better than the alternative.
But behavior and personality can be easily misunderstood, and if that becomes chronic, these repeated misunderstandings tend to become areas of stress that affect a person’s happiness, which in turn affects motivation and productivity in every aspect of life. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you felt like you couldn’t “get along” with someone, on some fundamental level, you probably just don’t understand them. A lack of understanding and acceptance of differences can lead to tension, disappointment, and miscommunication. When issues like these go unresolved, they tend to build, and ultimately, can lead to resentment. Resentments can be notoriously difficult to untangle, so in the end, it’s far better to avoid the original problem if you can. Admittedly, that’s often easier said than done, especially if you don’t have a clue what on earth is going on inside the mind of another person. I’ll shed some light on that, so that hopefully by the end of this blog, you’ll have more insight on what that may be.
If the problem is associated with misunderstanding(s), then it only follows that the solution to that problem probably has a lot to do with understanding. When I say that, I’m not talking about holding hands and singing kumbaya with everybody… I’m saying that accepting that people have different opinions from yours, and then making reasonable attempts at understanding where they’re coming from, will serve you better than being obstinate and absolutely refusing to do so. That said, the success of nearly every solution is in its application, so how exactly do we better understand people? There is a relatively simple visual model that can serve as a key to understanding the basics on how people behave. It’s called The DISC Model of Human Behavior, aka DISC model. It can be applied to loosely categorize a person’s personality traits and extrapolate their motivating factors and behavioral styles. More on that later.
Before I get into the DISC model, time for another disclaimer: Because personality and behavior are such diverse and nuanced human attributes, and since the DISC model is a theoretical one, it isn’t used for diagnostic or clinical applications. In other words, when you come into my office and tell me your life story, I’m not running through it in my head looking to categorize you as one of four types. People are complex and DISC is by nature more simple and general; and rarely, if ever, does anyone fall perfectly into any one type. That said, I’m covering this model today in blog form because I think it’s an interesting and practical way for everyday non-clinical people to better understand themselves and others, and to apply that in an effort to communicate more effectively with people who have differing perspectives… which is basically everyone!
Why Personality Traits and Behavior Matter
Why should you care to learn about behavior and personality or the DISC model? Believe it or not, personality and people skills are important aspects of life: personal, social, and workplace. If you can’t work in cooperation with other people, it can be really tough to make it in this world. It can affect your ability to keep a job or advance your position, to make friends, and to keep peace with partners, family, and friends. We’re all familiar with IQ, our intelligence quotient, and we spend years in school developing and learning how to effectively use our minds. But developing your personality to effectively use behavior is also vital to successful living. Studies have shown that technical skill, beginning with intelligence and developed through education and experience, accounts for only 15% of success in the workplace; the other 85% has been shown to actually come from people skills. These skills are developed through learning better ways to behave, communicate, and interact with others. The DISC model is commonly applied as a tool to increase your ability to understand yourself and others, and communicate more effectively with everyone.
History of the DISC Model
Even if it sounds like one, this isn’t a new age, hippy-dippy-trippy idea. Au contraire. Let’s get in the waaay-back-machineand go to Greece, around about 300 B.C.-ish. Why? To see Hippocrates. Whenever I hear his name I can’t help but smile despite myself, because it always makes me think of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. When they met Hippocrates, they mispronounced his name like the murderous mammal + crates, pronounced like it rhymed with plates, and in their characteristic burner dude affectations. And now the memory of that movie quote is inextricably linked to his name in my mind.. I hear them say it every time. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Hippocrates was a physician, but also a rebel! And thankfully so. At a time when most of his fellow Greeks were attributing sickness to The Fates, superstition, and the wrath of the gods, Hippocrates espoused the firm belief that all forms of illness had a natural cause. Which, believe me, is a far better alternative than worrying about appeasing The Fates, the witches, and the gods. At any rate, perhaps in pondering the natural basis of illness, or maybe ways to prove his theory to his colleagues, Hippocrates began to recognize that the behaviors of individuals seemed to follow distinct patterns, and he began to loosely categorize the differences in these behaviors.
While Hippocrates had the original notions on behavioral patterns, many psychologists and scientists continued to explore and expand on his theory. In 1928, Dr. William Marston wrote The Emotions of Normal People, in which he theorized that people are motivated by four intrinsic characteristics or factors that direct predictable behavioral patterns, and described these four factors as personality types. He then created a visual model that utilized a circle divided into quadrants to represent these four personality types. In his original work, he labelled them as D, I, S, C: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. And poof… the DISC model was born.
From what I’ve read, Marston was kind of a freaky guy, and the slightly(?) deviant undertones of his word choices “dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance” seem to confirm this. Even though he was a well respected psychologist by day, he was also a surprisingly successful comic book author by night, and is in fact credited for creating the comic book character “Wonder Woman.” She’s an Amazonian, a race of female warriors from an island where men were not allowed. This actually isn’t too much of a stretch, because Marston was also a champion of women’s rights. Despite this, he seemed to have had more than his fair share of female-centric scandal in his life. I found several references that said that he invented the first lie detector test, but also found some that credit someone else with this feat. Regardless, apparently he wasn’t exactly always on a first name basis with the truth, because he lied to the public about being a bigamist. Evidently, after he married his second wife (who was also a former student) and she moved in with him and his first wife, he told the public she was just a relative staying with them… and they fell for it. So during his bigamist marriage, they all lived together in a ménage à trois, and he actually fathered children with both women. But in spite of the scandal he caused with his colorful private life, Marston’s theories of human behavior are still widely accepted today.
What is DISC Used For?
The DISC model is applied as a personal assessment tool designed to ascertain a person’s personality traits and behavioral styles. It’s essentially a series of questions that evaluate human behavior in various situations. For example, it looks at how you respond to challenges, rules, and procedures, how you influence others, and what your preferred pace is.
While Marston’s theories and DISC model were generally well received, some organizations later modified it and created a negative tool used by organizations and employers to weed out undesirables. But in later years, to reflect a change in attitudes, it has since seen several iterations. Now all existing forms of it are used exclusively as positive tools of inclusion rather than being negative and judgemental. DISC assessments are used to foster understanding and respect, improve people skills, build better teams, increase productivity, reduce conflict, and relate and communicate with others more effectively; all of this is meant to translate to increased cooperation and the creation of better working relationships. In fact, the DISC model is widely accepted in the business community; so much so that many organizations and employers incorporate it into all associate training programs, but it is especially used in fields and positions related to sales, marketing, customer service, and management.
I was surprised to learn that DISC assessments have confirmed use in 70% of the Fortune 500 companies, including Exxon/Mobile, General Electric, Chevron, and Walmart. Pretty impressive, as these are strong companies with good management; and according to what I read, that’s where most of them focus their DISC utilization.
But you can also apply the model to your personal life, to learn more about yourself and grow as a person, increase people skills, illuminate your own motivations, and uncover your strengths and blind spots, some of which you may not even be aware of. As a bonus, you’ll then be better prepared to answer certain questions that may come up in life; for example, when a prospective employer asks “What would you say your strengths are?” or even better, when your spouse or partner looks at you exasperatedly and asks, “Why the *bleep* do you do that?” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy answer to that one?!
In the end, despite its generalizations, the model is sort of like “personalities for dummies”- not that I’m saying you’re dummies- I’m just saying it’s a simple and useful way for non-clinical people to better understand themselves and their own motivations, and apply that knowledge to relationships and everyday interactions, both in and out of the workplace.
DISC Terminology: Four Behavioral Patterns
Since Marston’s time, while the general concept surrounding the DISC model has remained the same, some of the terminology has changed several times. Some publishers and reference models use a lowercase i in DISC as a way of distinguishing between different models and for trademarking assessments and reports (read: as a way of making money). DISC with a capital I can’t be trademarked, so I’ve used that form for our purposes. The terms used to convey the DISC personality/ behavioral types have also changed for several reasons: to reflect a change in attitudes and more positivity, as a way of distinguishing between different models, and for trademarking purposes; so now there are a few different versions that vary slightly. Different companies and publishers determine and apply their various terms, and I’ve listed the most popular ones, in an order with the ones that I find most applicable first and Marston’s being last.
D: Dominant / Dominance
I: Inspiring / Interactive / Inducement
S: Supportive / Steadiness / Submission
C: Cautious/ Conscientious / Compliance
No matter what term is used, the basic traits and behavioral styles are essentially the same; I’ll cover those later.
I should note that now some publishers have apparently modified assessments to further extrapolate personality traits and behavioral styles; I’ve seen some that will describe up to twelve types, and even an article that referenced exactly 41 personality types. I didn’t fact-check or verify that, but just wanted to mention it as kind of an outlier.
This model is based on two fundamental observations about what drives people to behave the way they do, which are essentially their motivators. I want to emphasize something to keep in mind: as you look at fundamental behaviors, you’re looking at tendencies, not absolutes. Most people will tend to behave more one way than the other, but will behave both ways, to greater and lesser degrees, depending on the situation they find themselves in. Also, behaviors are fluid; they can and do change over time and vary by situation.
DISC: Two Fundamental Observations
(Internal) Motor and (External) Focus
-Some people are more outgoing, while others are more reserved. This is each person’s “pace,” or “internal motor.” It is sometimes simply referred to as the “motor” drive. Some people engage quickly and always seem ready to go, and these are considered outgoing types. Others engage more slowly or more cautiously, and these are considered reserved types.
-Some people are more task-oriented, while others are more people-oriented. This is each person’s “external focus” or “priority” that guides them; sometimes simply referred to as “focus.” Some people are more focused on getting things done, and these are considered task-oriented types. Others are more attuned to the people around them and their feelings, and these are considered to be people-oriented types.
Visualizing the DISC Model
As I mentioned, DISC is a visual model, and it utilizes a circle to represent the range of “normal” human behaviors. You can imagine it as a clock face.
To illustrate the application of the first fundamental observation, aka motor drive, imagine you divide a circle in half horizontally, as from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock on a clock face. The upper half then represents Outgoing (or fast-paced) people, while the lower half represents Reserved (or slower-paced) people.
To illustrate the application of the second fundamental observation, aka focus drive, imagine you divide a circle in half vertically, as from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock on a clock face. The left half then represents Task-Oriented people, while the right half represents those who are more People-Oriented.
When the two motor and focus circles are superimposed to combine them, you end up with four behavioral tendencies to help characterize people: Outgoing, Reserved, Task-Oriented, and People-Oriented. The balance of these four tendencies shapes the way each person sees life and those around them.
To illustrate the incorporation of the two drives (motor and focus) you can imagine one clock face with two divisions (horizontal and vertical) and therefore in four quadrants. Starting at 12 o’ clock and moving clockwise, you would then see Outgoing at 12 o’clock, People-Oriented at 3 o’clock, Reserved at 6 o’clock, and Task-Oriented at 9 o’clock.
By combining the two drives, you now have four total behavioral tendencies: from the upper left quadrant, moving clockwise, those tendencies are then:
Outgoing and Task-Oriented (upper left quadrant)
Outgoing and People-Oriented (upper right quadrant)
Reserved and People-Oriented (lower right quadrant)
Reserved and Task-Oriented (lower left quadrant).
Then to further define and describe these four behavioral tendencies, the DISC terms are added, one letter per quadrant: Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive, and Cautious.
Illustratively, these are added to each of the four corners of the diagram, again starting with the upper left quadrant and moving in a clockwise direction: Dominant in upper left quadrant, Inspiring in upper right quadrant, Supportive in lower right quadrant, and Cautious in lower left quadrant.
Once added, starting with the upper left quadrant and moving in a clockwise direction, each DISC term correlates with the four behavioral tendencies such that:
Dominant types are Outgoing and Task-Oriented (upper left quadrant)
Inspiring types are Outgoing and People-Oriented (upper right quadrant)
Supportive types are Reserved and People-Oriented (lower right quadrant)
Cautious types are Reserved and Task-Oriented (lower left quadrant).
What emerges is the full graphical description of the complete DISC model.
To make the quadrants easier to discuss, we typically call each quadrant a behavioral style or type, though some people use the phrase personality type. I’ll spare you the specifics as to why, but technically speaking, it’s not really accurate to use the word “personality” type or style with the DISC model, because it’s actually a behavioral model. While I tend to refer to it as a behavioral style, either term- personality or behavior- is generally acceptable for a colloquial discussion or a blog.
DISCussion: Four Primary Behavioral Styles
While DISC refers to placement within four primary behavioral styles, always keep in mind that each individual person can, and usually will, display some of all four behavioral styles depending on the situation. The resultant blending of behavioral tendencies is often called a style blend, and each individual’s style blend will have more of some traits and less of others.
The Dominant “D” Style
An outgoing, task-oriented individual will be focused on getting things done, solving problems, making things happen, and getting to the bottom line, usually as quickly as possible. They can sometimes be blunt, outspoken, and somewhat demanding. The key insights in understanding and developing a relationship with this type of person are respect and results.
The Inspiring “I” Style
An outgoing, people-oriented individual is generally enthusiastic, optimistic, open, and trusting. They thrive on interaction and love to socialize and have fun. This person places emphasis on persuading others and is usually focused more on what others may think of them. The key insights in understanding and developing a relationship with this type of person are admiration and recognition.
The Supportive “S” Style
A reserved, people-oriented individual will place an emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, loyalty, and dependability. They enjoy working together as a team and thrive on helping or supporting others. They usually focus on creating and/ or preserving relationships and on maintaining peace and harmony. The key insights in understanding and developing a relationship with this type of person are friendliness and sincere appreciation.
The Cautious “C” Style
A reserved, task-oriented individual enjoys independence, and often fears being wrong. They will seek value, consistency, and quality information, and will usually focus on details, facts, rules, accuracy, and being correct. The key insights in understanding and developing a relationship with this type of person are trust and integrity.
I should also note that some organizations use a shortcut in discussing the different behavioral types, where the dominant type is also known as High D, the inspiring type is also known as High I, the supportive type is also known as High S, and the cautious type is also known as High C.
Behavioral Styles: Elevator Test
As you’ll see, this is a pun meant to give you an idea of your own behavioral style and to help you identify others. Captain Obvious says it’s not meant to be scientifically or clinically valid, people, it’s just to illustrate the four behavioral styles in a relatable, “everyday situation” kind of way.
The doors are about to close on a person who is eager to get on an elevator, which already has four people inside. One of the four people already inside glances at their watch, because they’re in a hurry and would prefer not to wait. But also inside is the bubbly, smiling, energetic second passenger who actually holds the door open while encouraging the newcomer to climb aboard. The third rider doesn’t mind if the new person gets on, and they simply step back to make room while patiently waiting for them to do so. The fourth passenger barely looks at the new guy, as they’re busily calculating the sum of everyone’s weight in their head while also looking around to estimate the age of the elevator.
Did you see yourself in this scenario? Did you recognize the behavioral styles of the other elevator passengers? Read on to find out if you’ve got it.
This scenario demonstrates behavior of the Dominant (outgoing / task-oriented) person who wouldn’t really mind if the elevator door closes before the new guy can get on, because they’re just focused on getting where they need to be as quickly as possible. But that possibility is dashed by the Inspiring (outgoing / people-oriented) person who feels energized by the addition of yet another positive interaction to their day. The Supportive (reserved / people-oriented) person just calmly steps back to make room for the new guy because they empathize with him and are willing to be accommodating. All of this while the Cautious (reserved / task-oriented) person almost can’t help but make sure the added person doesn’t exceed the weight limit of the old elevator and potentially cause them all to get stuck… or worse.
Notice that there were four different people who responded to the same exact event in very different ways? People are motivated differently, and therefore think differently, so they behave differently.
Every individual person has a unique combination of characteristics and qualities that form a distinctive set, and these govern their perspectives, motivations, and behaviors.
The DISC model developed by Marston is used as the basis for varying assessments of personality traits and behavioral styles.
While it is simplified and generalized, it can be an effective and empowering tool to examine motivating factors, to uncover and address blind spots, and to identify, highlight, and articulate strengths.
It can be used by people to better understand themselves and others, and to apply that understanding in an effort to improve people skills and to communicate more effectively with people who have differing perspectives.
It is commonly used in the professional arena, especially in Fortune 500 companies. Employers often use it for determining placement of new employees, to build better teams, increase productivity and communication, reduce and resolve conflict, and foster acceptance and understanding.
Each person has a unique blend of all of the major personality traits and behavioral styles to a greater or lesser extent.
Behavioral patterns are fluid and dynamic, and can change over time or as a person adapts to his or her environment.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it to be interesting and educational. If you did, let me know. If you didn’t, let me know that too!
Please feel free to share the love! Share blogs and YouTube videos with family and friends.
Be sure to check out my YouTube channel with all of my videos, and I’d appreciate it if you would like, subscribe, and share those vids too!
And if you like what you see and want more of it, or if you want a specific topic, leave it in the comments- I love reading them!
As always, my book Tales from the Couch has more educational topics and patient stories, and is available in the office and on Amazon.
Thank you and be well people!
Sex Toys: Not Too Taboo
Usually I write my blogs and record my vids right off the top of my head with basically zero preparation required. Today’s topic is a little outside my usual scope, but I’m man enough to admit that I did some research- and believe me when I tell you that there is a freaking metric ton of info on sex toys out there! As a physician, I’ve seen more than my fair share of kink and way-out-there sex practices in hospital ER’s all over this great country, but I found that toys these days go from “wow…now that sounds interesting” to “they want you to put that there?” to “dammit, why the hell didn’t I think of that??” Some of it is totally blush-worthy, but set aside your hang-ups and preconceived notions, open your minds, and get ready to get really up close and personal here, people! And fair warning: prepare for plenty of innuendo and double entendre – and any time you read something and think to yourself ‘oh wow, did Dr. Agresti realize what he wrote there, what that word choice kinda sounds like in a blog about sex?’ The answer is yes and yes…I did and I do. So I hope you like it and share it.
Sex toys are clearly no longer the taboo subject of generations past, as ever increasing numbers of men and women, cis and trans, L, G, B, and Q, individually, and in couples and fill-in-the-blank-somes, are incorporating toys into their sex lives. As a result, it’s no surprise that the sex toy business is banging. Not a shock if you recall my wildly popular orgasm blog and some of the not-so-fun facts I had to reveal:
-10% to 15% of all women are anorgasmic, meaning they cannot or do not orgasm…like at all. Bummer days people.
-75% of women will never (Hey, you hear that? Never…ever…ever…ver…ver…err…errr) reach orgasm from straight up intercourse alone, without a toy. Like wow people.
-Captain Obvious says that means that only 25% of women will reach orgasm from vanilla sexual intercourse alone, ie without a toy.
-Only 29% of women regularly reach orgasm with their partner, while 75% of men will always reach orgasm with their partner (“yeah, or a hole in the wall” as added by someone who will remain nameless that’s giving me the stink eye at this very moment because for some reason she thinks that when I’m typing on my laptop I somehow magically become blind to everything else.) Anyway, the moral of this story is that women are far more likely to orgasm when they’re all by themselves than when they’re with a partner. Ouch people.
So…why should you care, you ask? Well, numero uno is that you might have a vagina. Duh. And if you’re an owner of said vagina, you are statistically much more likely to be among that 75% that can’t orgasm from vanilla intercourse, or the 71% that don’t orgasm with your partner at all! Or you could even be both. Or, maybe you have a penis, but you care about someone that has a vagina…like you really care, to the point where you want to have sex with them and please them…both at the same time I mean. This would be good intel then, no? Because then you could even introduce a sex toy (surprise, honey!) and explain that you got it just because you’re so concerned that she may be a member of the “no orgasm club.” But don’t call it that- use big words and quote the statistics in an effort to make yourself sound smart- they’ll appreciate that. Oh, and because you’re a giver. Throw that one in there too. No… really, in all seriousness, emotional intimacy and pleasure from physical intimacy are truly very important parts of a love relationship. And emotional intimacy is at its best when everybody involved derives pleasure from engaging in physical intimacy. To simplify: make your partner’s orgasm at least as important as yours. They’ll be much more inclined to like you and give you more opportunities to make their orgasm at least as important as yours… it’s a positive feedback loop.
There are a lot of myths surrounding sex toys, and one of the most ridiculous is that they’re unnatural and unhealthy. In reality, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sex is one of the most natural things a body does; it’s a gross comparison, but sex is right up there with peeing and pooping. Anything that promotes sex and pleasure is absolutely natural and completely healthy! In fact, people who abstain tend to have more instances of anxiety and depression. Facts people. Women that use sex toys report greatly increased levels of sexual desire, much more frequent orgasms, far greater sexual satisfaction, and happer, better, and more complete intimate relationships. I can’t find a negative in any of that.
Why are sex toy sales on the rise?
While they were once seen as depraved and belonging to a certain line of work, these days they are totally socially acceptable. Now there are even more sex toy parties than Tupperware parties, and women enthusiastically compare notes about the latest sex toys in their collection. The hype surrounding the film Fifty Shades of Grey has played a part in this, along with the fact that today’s women are no longer ashamed about satisfying themselves. On the contrary, self-assured modern women are open about their sexuality, and this includes the fact that they don’t necessarily need a man to be sexually satisfied. That said, couples are also incorporating sex toys into their activities at an ever increasing rate. In particular, couples in long-term relationships are using sex toys to spice up their love lives, allowing them to explore new sexual experiences together. I’ll be talking all about this in part three of this sex toy series, and you don’t want to miss it- it is hot stuff people!
But before we get that deep, today I’m going to start with the basics on sex toys: what they are, how they started, and what they’re all about. Then next week in part two, I’ll talk about who’s using sex toys and what you should consider if you decide to join them. As I said before, part three will be about partner toys and ways to spice up long-term relationships. And at the end, I’m going to paste some links to articles and sites where you can find more information about different types of toys, how to choose a first toy, and where you can find and purchase any and every toy you could ever want. Look, if you’re into playing fingerpuppet five-on-one or downstairs DJ and it works for you, I certainly have no objections your honor, but some new toys could put a new smile on your face; so keep reading my blogs and if anything strikes your fancy… be adventurous and go for it!
What are sex toys?
As if you don’t know… Sex toys, aka adult toys, aka “marital aids”… all are terms for objects that people use to have more pleasure during partner sex or masturbation. Sometimes sex toys can also have medical uses, as in cases of sexual dysfunction, although that seems to be something of a point of contention. There are many different types of sex toys, and people use them for any of many different reasons, but the general idea and end goal is basically the same for everyone across the board: to get off. I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common categories of sex toys:
AKA vibes or buzzers
AKA “personal massagers” (yeah…riiiight)
-Objects that vibrate or buzz to stimulate internal and/ or external genitals.
-Most commonly used on the clitoris and/ or other parts of the vulva and vagina, especially the G-spot.
-Can also stimulate the penis, scrotum, testicles, nipples, anus, and the male P-spot.
-Come in endless shapes and sizes, waterproof or not, for inside the body and/ or out, and for all genders.
-Objects that go inside a vagina, anus, or mouth.
-Come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re often shaped similarly to a penis.
-Some look realistic, others more abstract.
-Can be slightly curved to help stimulate G-spot or prostate, the P-spot.
-Can be made out of lots of different materials: silicone, rubber, plastic, metal, or
glass (freaking yikes – not for butterfingers!)
-Dildo Fun Fact #1: Ever wonder where the term dildo came from? Constantly, right? Let’s get in the Wayback Machine to find out!
-Turns out, like so many words, dildo is thought to be a bastardization of terms taken from other languages.
-IMO, the winner is diletto, taken from the Italian which means ‘a woman’s delight.’ This seems a very likely place where the word we know and love today got its start, however there are a couple of other contenders.
-My next personal choice would be dill-doll, which is the ye olde English translation for the old Norse word ‘dilla,’ a verb meaning ‘to soothe.’ So literally, a dill-doll would be a soothing doll, as in…a penis! Of course! Or an intimidating giant rubbery effigy of one, anyway.
-Dildo Fun fact #2: Did you know that there’s an actual place called Dildo? I heard that’s where Waldo was… Waldo in Dildo. But seriously, there’s a town in the maritime province of Canada called Dildo, and Dildo Island is located just offshore don’tcha know. The tourism marketing folks there are fighting one hell of an uphill battle. Check out these tags that I came up with:
‘Dildo~ The Weather is Here…Wish You Were Beautiful!’
‘Come to Dildo…See the Sights!’
‘The Isle of Dildo…Get On It!’
-Captain Obvious says these are toys made specifically to stimulate the anus.
-Includes plugs (aka butt plugs), anal beads, prostate massagers, and wide base/ flared dildos. Yeah people…pay special attention to that wide base/ flared part- if you don’t, these suckers are prone to take an accidental detour waaay up the hershey highway, and then you’ve got to go to an ER to have it pulled out, and that’s not embarassing at all. I’ve seen this all up-close-and-personal-like more times in the ER than my poor brain can block people.
-You must use lube to use anal toys (especially anal toys) safely. An overarching theme on these toy sites is basically this: lube is cheap, so use lots and lots of lube when you play with toys.
-AKA masturbation sleeves
-AKA penis sleeves
-Soft tubes designed to put the penis into.
-Come in all shapes and sizes, and with different textures on the inside for more sensation.
-Some feature vibration or suction.
-These are cool because there are strokers specially designed for a larger clitoris or smaller penis, particularly for intersex or trans people.
AKA cock rings
AKA erectile dysfunction rings
AKA constriction rings
-Shockingly, these are rings that go around your scrotum and/ or penis (must be prior to arousal people!)
-Work by slowing the blood flow out of the penis once it’s erect, thereby increasing sensation and/ or making the erection harder and longer-lasting.
-The safest penis rings are made from soft, flexible materials that can be easily removed in case of emergency: silicone, rubber, or leather with snaps for the biker set.
-Some penis rings have little vibrators on them to stimulate the wearer and/ or their partner during intercourse.
-Penis rings restrict blood flow, so don’t wear one for longer than 10 to 30 minutes, and take it off right away if it becomes even slightly painful: kind of defeats the purpose.
-Talk to a nurse or doctor before using penis rings if you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood-thinning medicine. See, just the fact that they mention that leads me to believe that there could be blood shed associated with using this toy…so for me, this is a pass and a no freaking way, people!
AKA penis pumps
AKA vacuum pumps
AKA vacuum erection pumps
-Vacuum-like devices that use a hand or battery-powered pump to create suction around the penis, clitoris, vulva, or nipples. -Pumps drive blood flow to the area, which helps increase sensitivity and sensation. -Penis pumps can help you get an erection, but they won’t make your penis permanently bigger. Sorry people.
-Some pumps are designed to help treat erectile dysfunction, genital arousal disorder, and orgasm disorder.
-For more information about these pumps, contact a nurse or doctor. You can also go to your local Planned Parenthood health center. -Most of the pumps you buy in sex stores or adult shops are not medical devices, they’re just meant to enhance pleasure during sex and masturbation.
-Make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging, and don’t pump for longer than the instructions dictate.
-Once again, talk to your doctor before using a pump if you have a blood disorder, or are on blood-thinning medication.
Ben Wa Balls
AKA Kegel balls
AKA Kegel trainers
AKA Vagina balls
AKA Orgasm balls
-I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to learn this first part: that these are round objects; but maybe a little more surprised by the second part: that they’re designed to be inserted inside the vagina, and definitely shocked by the last part: some women keep them in for an entire day. Like on purpose. Whoa people. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be crying in the fetal position over in the corner.
-They can assist in exercises that tone and strengthen the Kegel muscles.
-Kegel balls are usually weighted so that the vagina must be squeezed to keep them inside the body, strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
-You don’t need these balls to do Kegel exercises, and not everyone uses them for that purpose; many women just like the way they feel inside the vagina.
-Fun Ben Wa Balls fact: female prisoners could use these to enlarge their “God purse,” which is what they call their vaginal cavities, especially when they hide illegal items from cops and/ or smuggle contraband into jails and prisons. Wonder if a female inmate came up with them… after all, necessity is the mother of invention.
-Some are hollow with smaller balls inside that roll and bounce when you move, making a jiggling sensation. And probably a jingling noise too, right? Can you imagine that? I’ll do it for you: you’re a man in an elevator, you’ve just pushed the button for eleven, and just as the doors are about to close, you hear the familiar sound of jingle bells getting louder as you see a woman is running to catch the elevator, and as she jumps inside at the last second and lands in her spot, there’s one final loud jingle as she smiles and says “five please,” then silence. Internal thoughts as you push five: Hmmm, those were bells. Like jingle bells? Huh. But kind of… quiet-ish… almost muffled (? you ponder this as you clean your right ear with a pinky finger). Funny, it’s May, not December. I don’t see any bells tied to her stilettos. Odd. Well, maybe she’s one of those people that keep that holiday spirit all year long. Freaks. Ugh so annoying! Or, she’s got ’em in that purse. It’s really small; didn’t see that on her other shoulder before. That’s it. They’re in that purse. Gotta be. Mystery solved. Good job.
Meanwhile, her internal thoughts after you pushed five: Sheese…this ass monkey moron heard my bell balls. Ha! He’s trying to figure it out right now…I can see the gears working overtime in his pea brain. Can practically smell the burning as he’s inspecting me. No moron, they’re not tied to my Manolo’s…what am I, four? Doesn’t he- oh, he just saw my purse. Yep, he thinks I’ve got them in there. Oh yeah, he thinks he’s got it all figured out…he looks so proud of himself. Little does he know this silly little purse won’t even hold my bell balls! But my God purse does…juuust fine. Later loser.
Right after his mental pat on the back, the elevator stops, the door opens, and she’s gone… jingle all the way.
-These are garment systems that hold a packer, dildo, or other sex toy against the body.
-Some can be worn like underwear or jock straps, while others can go around other parts of the body, such as the thigh.
People still have a hard time talking about sex and orgasm, but make no mistake: these are integral components of life, and even the ancients knew it. The desire for a good, satisfying, old-fashioned orgasm is timeless. Our ancestors, while they were making hair combs out of bone and forming and firing clay pots, they didn’t neglect their sexual needs… quite the opposite actually. Need proof? To date, the oldest dildo recovered is a big curved stone phallus found in Germany. How old was it? 28,000 years old people!
Turns out, historical men (and women, maybe even more so) were light-years ahead of us in the pleasure department; we have proof positive of this, thanks to their inventions, all of which are still used today. Here are the backstories on some of the most recognized sex toys and paraphernalia that’s still out there in one form or another.
-Invented in 1904
-“Lady substitutes” are recorded as far back as the seventeenth century, when French sailors devised the Dame de Voyage: a collection of curvaceous rags (say whaaat?) that could only ever resemble a woman to a very homesick and horny Frenchman. But it wasn’t until some time after vulcanized rubber was patented that the more familiar model came about, which was in 1904. Boy, that must’ve been a Goodyear… and a good year! At that time, they marketed them as “inflatable dolls for discerning gentlemen.” Would’ve been a hell of a lot easier than marketing tourism to Dildo.
-Less than four years later, German sexologist Iwan Bloch was marvelling over mass-manufactured versions that could ‘imitate ejaculation’ for sale in Parisian catalogues. Rating super creepy was a firm that offered a custom doll resembling “Any actual person, living or dead,” which has to be the single most disturbing tagline in the history of marketing and advertising. Except maybe of course for ‘The Isle of Dildo…Get On It!’
-Now they make those “real life girls” which are waaay too (sur)real for me, but devotees talk to them, eat with them, and live with them like they’re real humans. Some medical show I saw followed these men that preferred these dolls, and one guy had four of them, and he actually detailed conversations between himself and the “girls,” including arguments between them about how they would get jealous when he chose to “spend time” with someone other than them. And I’ll never forget when they filmed him opening a door with a smile and saying something like “Yeah, the girls hate to be put in the closet,” and the camera focuses on the closet and there are his three other girls all sprawled out haphazardly. Here he was explaining how he loved each of them, combed and styled their hair, shopped for hot outfits for them, and here they were, all crumpled up in some dingy little closet, waiting for their next date with him or whatever. It was patently ridiculous while absolutely hilarious! There was a movie on this same storyline, I think it was called Lars and the Real Girl. I’m sure you could find it if you were so motivated.
-Invented in 1892
-An English dude named Frank E. Young was a man with a vision, and that vision evidently involved things being inserted up other people’s rectums. Because that happens everyday, right?
-Developed in 1892, but not marketed until the turn of the century, his ‘Rectal Dilator’ was a terrifying 4 1/2-inches of pain, designed to go not just where the sun don’t shine, but where the sun can’t, and won’t ever, shine. At the time, it was billed as a cure for piles, a gussied-up term for hemorrhoids.
-The devices were hawked to doctors and even advertised in respected journals. And people might well have gone on believing they were medical devices too, were it not for the ridiculously suggestive instruction manual included with each order.
-For forty years, these Victorian butt plugs managed to jump the pond to be sold all across the US of A, before they fell afoul of the 1938 Federal Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act, which banned them for “false advertising.” Given that it looks like it does, I don’t see how that’s possible, but we are talking about our federal government here.
-Invented in 1869
-That date is the officially accepted one, but legend has it that Cleopatra actually developed the first version of a vibrator. She was said to keep a jar of live bees on her bedside table, and when she was needing some personal attention, she had her servants fill a hollowed-out gourd with them. She then pressed that against her lower Mesopotamia, using the angry vibrations emanating through the gourd to pleasure herself.
-She had to stimulate her own self after all four of her husbands died… I guess a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And evidently she did, quite regularly.
-Back to the Victorian vibrators of 1869… this period was a different time… a time when “robots” were steam-powered and doctors treated hysterical women by masturbating them to climax. Of course. I also covered this in my orgasm blog.
-Female hysteria was supposedly a genuine illness, and its treatment involved a qualified medical professional rubbing the female patient’s private parts until orgasm was achieved. Because nothing about this practice could be logical, doctors often complained of boredom and pain-in-the-wrist, probably the very first cases of repetitive motion injury.
-One of said qualified medical professionals, George Taylor, came to the rescue and invented the first steam-powered vibrator. Because what could possibly go wrong with that… a metal device powered by steam… which is hella hot people!
-Although (shock of shocks) that version failed to catch on, J. Granville’s 1880 ‘electrochemical’ design really did, much to the delight of housewives everywhere, as they went bonkers for them.
-Even Good Housekeeping magazine started running monthly reviews of these marvelous wonders. So what happened? Well, society accepted the ‘massager’ as long as devotees could tell themselves that it was a medical device, rather than a sexual aid. Yeah, riiight…whatever gets ‘ya through the night people.
-Now, I should note something I learned while doing research for this blog: that supposedly, while this practice of medical professionals using a vibrator to bring women to climax was common, it was not done for a female hysteria diagnosis, as there supposedly was no such animal. So there ‘ya go, now ‘ya know.
-After these vibrators made their debut in the earliest porn films, husbands soon realized what their wives were up to all the time, and they put a stop to it. Of course they did! Because as every man of that era knew, the last thing you wanted was a sexually satisfied wife… total bullshit.
-Trust me people, I’m a doctor: a partner that’s satisfied in every aspect of life is actually the thing you should want more than anything else in the history of things in the whole wide world. If you’re wondering why, (re-)read my orgasm blog.
-Depends on whose history books you read, but the accepted invention date was around 1560-ish.
-Going by a strictly modern definition, the first reliable record of condom use doesn’t appear until 1564.
-Regardless, in Japan and China, ‘condoms’ made from various animal membranes were in use before the 15th century. I use ‘quotes’ because there’s really no telling what they were called.
-Japan favored tortoiseshell, but then later thin leather, to make them. In China they were made out of oiled paper or lamb intestines. Neither differed much from condoms in later centuries that were made out of linen or animal intestine.
-They were typically one-size-fits-all – sorry “Magnum” men – and they had to be dipped in water before use to make them pliable. Hmmm… pleasure fit.
-In the 16th century, condoms were used primarily to prevent STD’s like syphilis, as it was typically fatal. So whatever they called them, they may have saved some lives. That is until… Duhn Dun Duuuhhhnnn!!!
-The discovery of spermatozoa in the 17th century changed everything forevermore. -The Church became outraged over the use of any barrier that could impede the progress of men’s little swimmers as they attempted to reach and fertilize a golden egg.
-As a result, by the 18th century, the condom’s reputation amongst medical professionals had been firmly cemented as a tool for philanderers, prostitutes, and the immoral.
-Despite this condom condemnation, they actually proved to be quite popular among the upper and middle classes of the day. The beleaguered working classes finally gained access to them after the vulcanization of rubber, round about 1839… another Goodyear and good year. And also what undoubtedly led to the ubiquitous term recognized ’round the world… ‘rubbers.’
Penis (Cock) Rings
-Invented in China in about 1200 A.D.
-These have undergone few changes or innovations in their history. If it ain’t broke…
-Evidently, being ancient Chinese nobility was not an easy job. Not only did you have to put up with assassination plots and Mongol invaders, you were also expected to service your wife, mistresses, and concubines… all on a regular basis.
-While it sounds like fun and games, there was an urgent reason behind it: if you didn’t produce an heir, you could be pretty sure some obscure prince was going to step up to take his shot at a coup.
-In stressful circumstances, performing can become… well… difficult, people!
-But have no fear – penis rings are here! -First made from the upper and lower eyelid rings of a goat, with the eyelashes still attached (freaking ouch!) it helped the wearer get on with the business of impregnation for hours on end, even if he was secretly crying on the inside. And I’ll bet he was.
-While primarily made for purposes of sexual enhancement, they were later made from carved ivory and jade to also be worn for aesthetic adornment. No matter how pretty it is, I betcha they still hurt like hell.
-For a brief period inspired by sexual repression, these rings were also designed specifically for the purpose of preventingerections and sexual exploits by inflicting pain with constriction or spikes.
-This is interesting, because it really demonstrates the clear link between pleasure and pain, even waaay back in dynastic China… tres 50 Shades. Interesting though it may be, I’ll take a hard pass on the pain part of that equation, thank you very much people. Debbie and I have no Christian and Anastasia tendencies at all.
-In reality, the basic form and function of these rings have remained quite unchanged, though they are now made in softer, less painful materials and in adjustable models as well.
-AKAs: Ben Wa Balls, Burmese Balls
-Origins are uncertain and incomplete
-What we know: they appeared in the Orient sometime around A.D. 500 and were originally used to pleasure men.
-Women soon (somehow) caught on to the benefits (?) of the device, and the balls went supernova.
-Recorded across most Asian cultures, Geisha Balls were the “Rabbit” of their day: a toy that could heighten pleasure during sex, or simply facilitate some good old-fashioned self-pleasure.
-Popularized in Third Century A.D.
-The Kamasutra was many things: a manual for living, a treatise on sex, and likely the earliest recorded scam. Why? I’m glad you asked: because in it, they describe a method for making a penis larger. How? I’m glad you asked: by catching wasps, and- stingers and all- rubbing them all over the penis, being very careful not to crush and kill them before they angrily sting the entire shaft and head of the penis. Or, some people say you could also simply grasp each wasp and apply its stinger to the skin of the penis- and then repeat that action until you’ve managed to cover it completely. Does it work? I’m glad you asked: technically, yes… but the enlargement you get would only be courtesy of the swelling caused by the poison stinger, and I’m quite sure that using the penis for intercourse in that condition would be painful as hell, certainly sufficient enough to prevent you from doing so. In reality, the efficacy of this “treatment” in making the penis larger is questionable at best, and lethal at worst, if that’s how one discovers they happen to have a severe anaphylactic reaction to wasp stings, and would be very temporary in any case… So it would only work about as well as the tub o’ enlargement cream that Junior High boys buy online after sneaking dad’s credit card.
-There is an alternative of sorts, to increase the girth of a penis. What is it? I’m glad you asked: Apadravyas. What the hell are those? I’m glad you asked: apadravyas are a type of deep penis shaft piercing. *Warning: cross your legs, penis people!* These piercings pass through the penile shaft at certain specific points and apparently function to make the penis feel larger as it enters the vagina – or so devotees claim.
-These girth piercings come in other forms based on where they are placed through the shaft.
-In addition to apadravyas, other forms of these piercings are called ‘deeply placed ampallangs’ and ‘reverse shaft Prince Alberts.’ Well hell, that clears it right up… not!
-These deep penis shaft piercings are fairly rare piercings due to (helll-ooo!!) their associated pain, difficulty, bleeding, and long healing times.
-Common placement is directly behind the head of the penis, but they can be placed farther back if the (completely batshit crazy) man so desires.
-In the interest of research (heh heh) I had to ask Debbie if she would have intercourse with a dude with an apadravyas. I can’t describe the look she gave me, because words just can’t go there, and I can’t tell you exactly what she said… but it sounded a lot like “what the muck is a applegravys and what does it have to do with mucking some dude?!” After I enlightened her, I repeated my question: “…so would you have intercourse with a dude with an apadravyas?” I can’t tell you what she said, because she didn’t say anything… she just set her face in an ‘ewww, what the hell stinks?’ expression and shivered… an impressive, full body-length shiver, starting from the blonde hairs on the very top of her pretty head and carrying down to the very tips of her perfectly manicured pink toenails. After this shiver response, she started to turn and walk away, but then turned back to add “Just to be clear… I would never (word that sounds like muck) a dude with an applegravys in his (word that sounds like lick) – not even after a tetanus shot! I love my wife, so it’s my duty to keep her on her toes, however I find it fit to do so. That’s how I see it anyway… can I get an amen?! Anyway, so it was for her own good that I asked (read: yelled after her as she left) in my very best Austin Powers voice “…so you’re saying it really turns you on, huh baby?” And what did I get for all of my concern? A Debbie triple: an eye roll-tongue tisk-whut-everrr! As you can imagine, it’s a classic at my house.
-Sometime and somewhere – evidently, actually everywhere in Ancient Greece.
-Given their reputed penchant for orifices that don’t naturally lubricate, it should come as no surprise that the Greeks were into lube.
-While no record exists of its earliest use, we do know that by 350 B.C., olive oil was big business… and it wasn’t just for salads, o-kaaay?
-Aristotle makes a passing reference to this olive oil love in his History of the Animals, implying that smoother sex was best because it made pregnancy less likely. Suurre…
-Two centuries later, physician Soranus echoed Aristotle’s views on olive oil as lube. Seriously?! A Greek dude named Sore-anusthat’s into olive oil lube? Duh! This has got to be a joke. Albeit a hilarious one!
-Sore-anus’ friends- Herodotus, Plutarch, and Ovid- evidently agreed wholeheartedly, and all maintained that Athens got its name because the goddess Athena herself gifted its founders with an olive tree… that’s how much they loved olive oil.
-Greeks were clearly keen on material innovations. In an effort to upgrade from hard (not to mention dangerous and so very uncomfortable) materials like stone, dried tar, and wood, the Greeks developed olisbokollikes- these were essentially dildos baked out of bread. They basically made breadsticks, people. Breadstick dildos…a whole new take on “food porn.”
-I don’t know why, but whenever I think about Greeks, I automatically think Romans, so I don’t want to leave them out… the Romans were innovators as well during this time. They’re actually known for creating the double-ended dildo, which was regularly used between partners and friends, but was also even used during certain public ceremonies. Roman exhibitionists… that’s amore, people!
….And speaking of dildos
-Archaeologists discovered an eight inch stone behemoth in Germany, dated at 28,000 years old, people!
-The dildo may well be humanity’s most durable invention, as only fire, weapons, clothing, and beads appear to have been around longer.
-Evidently, archaeologists find dildos on digs all the time: it’s almost as if people in the prehistoric era found sex to be a natural and enjoyable thing that they didn’t have to be ashamed of. No shame in their game people.
…And speaking of no shame: Pornography
-Years ago, archaeologists uncovered a decidedly pervy prehistoric statue carved from a mammoth tusk. Who knew that archeology could be so titillating?
-It was basically a female torso with… hmmm- how to put this… ‘exaggerated’ sexual parts on top and bottom.
-It was a toy- a sex toy- and it was also functional pornography! A two-fer people!
-The exact age of it is uncertain, but the best guess places it at over 35,000 years old.
-That means it may even pre-date religion. That’s big, people.
-Obviously, the history of religion is essentially educated guesswork, so lots of eggheads argue about it, but if you assume it’s true- that this pervy porno sex toy pre-dates religion- can you understand the implication of that?
-In case you can’t, I’ll help you out: that would mean that before humans bothered with their ‘trivial’ thoughts on the meaning and creation of life, they had already figured out all the things that turned them on and got them off, and were producing toys and paraphernalia to make it easier and more gratifying to do so. Talk about priorities, people.
Clearly, human beings have been exploring sexuality since the dawn of time, and as it turns out, sex toys and sex paraphernalia have been around for just as long. The above glimpse at their design histories offers a strange and often hilarious look at humans’ constant quest for innovation and better…. connection, let’s say.
Okay people, this blog has been a long one, but you hung in there (hahaha I’m on a roll here!!) and I like to reward good behavior. So, speaking of hilarious, I found a page from a UK-based global sex toy company called Lovehoney (Lovehoney.co.uk) where they sell stuff that might blow your mind…but the following will sooner bust your gut: it’s their list of the 101 funniest Lovehoney site searches (look for occasional commentary from me, MGA people!)
101 Funniest Searches on our Sex Toy Site
Quoted from Lovehoney page:
There have been 6.9 million unique searches on Lovehoney.co.uk in the year to date. Most of the words that are typed into the search box at the top of our site are pretty straightforward: cock rings, vibrators, and all the other types of sex toys we sell. And when customers type in a phrase, we try to present them with the product or page they’re looking for. Simple. But!!! Some of the searches are not quite what you’d expect…
Ummm… Sorry, no page for that!
Or any of the below, which are just 101 of the funniest, weirdest, and ‘whoops you’re on the wrong website’ searches we’ve found!
Typos and epic auto-correct fails…
1. make your duck longer
2. election enhancer (MGA: we’ll all need this come November people!)
3. cockfosters extension
4. pension extender (MGA: where can I sign up for this?)
5. masterbakers for male
6. master storyteller sleeves
7. prostate lasagne (MGA: not what your Italian grandma serves for Sunday supper, thank you God)
8. blowtorch stroker
9. extra quiet clitoris
10. quiet rabbi
11. g spotify
12. large g snot rabbit
13. vibe eating butt plug
14. king clock dildo
15. breaded dildo (MGA: ditto last comment)
16. jelly bilbaos
17. rubber dodos (MGA: and scientists claim they went extinct)
18. nipped pasty
19. nipple gardening cream
20. or gasman creams
21. pies for woman to get horny (MGA: we need to introduce this lady to Mr. 5 ^)
22. parents ribbed and dotted
23. bondage ape (MGA: our ASPCA would never allow those here)
24. lego restraints (MGA: I remember looking for that set. People really snapped ’em up at Christmas time!)
25. clint clamp
26. sexist enhancer (MGA: ‘Ah-hem, I’m afraid I couldn’t purchase these again for you, Mr. President’)
27. £3 sex tits (MGA: that’s only $3.75 USD…can’t be very BIGsex tits)
Somebody’s got the sex toy blues…
28. argue dildo
29. be warned balls
30. begging set
31. bitterly kiss
32. bleak lace lingerie
33. blue worthless knickers
34. fifty shades of greed
35. cock extinction
36. fleshlight insults
38. hate based lubricant
39. male sick vibrator
40. male wasterbators (MGA: masturbating stoner guys)
41. vaginal fighting cream
42. ben war balls
43. very berating pants
44. misery bundle
45. pensive sleeve
46. performance kills
47. remorse egg
48. repent rabbit
49. undead wear
50. ruthless panties
51. sorry panties
52. worthless dispenser panties
We do NOT sell these…
53. bishop vibrator
54. barman vibrator
55. cricket vibe
56. turnip vibrator (MGA: for the very strict vegan)
57. parsnip vibrator (MGA: okay, somebody clearly thinks they’re a comedian. I make the jokes here, people!)
58. vibrators with noodles
59. bike saddle dildo
60. pogo stick dildo
61. glasses with testicals snaped to them
62. Darth vader condom
63. extra sting condoms
64. pickled onion condoms
65. chicken tikka masala condoms (MGA: it’s past somebody’s dinnertime)
66. lovehoney wine
67. extra wine vibrator
68. make-up sperm coconut
69. paperami lube
70. Love twiglets
71. family guy sex doll
72. Japanese dancing pants
73. loyal pyjamas
74. machine guns
Going somewhere? You’re on the wrong site… (MGA: if I had captioned this, it would’ve been: “Sorry – we’re all about coming, not going…”)
75. gloucestershire bus timetables
76. london to whitehaven train times
77. meeting point in bangkok airport
78. walking trails in east falmouth
79. bike rack inside caravan
80. staying in a hotel in alton towers
81. is drinking allowed on coaches
82. parrot sale in india
83. North Korea (MGA: there’s a Kim dynasty joke in there somewhere)
Nope, we’re not a grocery store…
84. andrex supreme quilted toilet roll tissue paper
85. fairy non bio pods sensitive skin washing capsules
86. gaviscon double action mint tablets
87. roasted cauliflower with parmesan cheese
88. serrano ham
Just plain weird…
91. Peter from gravesend – timewaster
92. hide your drink in bra
93. mild penis
94. mild vagina
95. outpouring vegan
96. room of priests
97. scrotal parachute (MGA: I know they stretch as we age, but wow…that’s gotta be impressive)
98. the loo of love (MGA: must’ve missed that position in the Kamasutra)
And finally this person, who clearly knows exactly what they want…
101. a silicone butt plug for beginer one my wife can leave in her ass n get on with housework shaped without risk of it falling out
(MGA: alert the media people… I’m speechless!!)
That’s some of the history and background on sex toys. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be covering more interesting details and specifics on sex toys that you won’t want to miss, so be sure to come on back for more, people.
I hope you really enjoyed this blog and maybe even found it to be slightly more titillating than the usual fare. If so, please feel free to spread the love and share it with family and friends…. and lovers of course! And be sure to check out my YouTube channel with all of my videos, and I’d appreciate it if you would like, subscribe, leave comments, and share those vids! As always, my book Tales from the Couch has more fabulously educational topics and patient stories, and is available in office and on Amazon.
Thank you and be well people!
Mental Health Benefits of Pets
The bond between humans and animals is a powerful one, so much so that there have been numerous books written and movies made centering on the relationships between them. Dogs were the first animals domesticated and kept as pets, as much as 45,000 years ago.Regardless of when pet ownership got started, our long attachment to these animals is still going strong. Americans own some 78 million dogs, 85 million cats, 14 million birds, 12 million small mammals, and 9 million reptiles, according to pet industry statistics.
Studies have scientifically explored the benefits of the human-animal bond, and a positive correlation between pets and mental health is undeniable. According to a recent poll, 95% of pet owners consider their pet a member of the family. Children, adolescents, adults, and seniors all find joy in their pets, so it follows that pets and mental health go hand in hand.
Pets provide companionship, ease loneliness, bring us joy, and give us unconditional love. They also help decrease depression, anxiety, and stress. While the word “pet” usually conjers up thoughts of dogs and cats, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium has been shown to reduce muscle tension and lower pulse rate. A pet can be a horse, parrot, turtle, rabbit, skunk, lizard, chicken, snake…whatever you love and take care of.
Pets have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans. Dogs, for example, are about as intelligent as a two-year-old human child. Some more doggie fun facts: They are able to understand about 150 human words and most are even capable of following a count of five. They understand spatial relationships and are able to use them to navigate obstacles quickly. Although they can’t see the same color spectrum we can, they can see black, white, blue, and yellow; they can’t see red and green- those just look gray to them. A dog’s smell is like 10 million times better than yours. Dogs can sense if you’re going to have a seizure, they know if your blood sugar is low, and some say they can even sniff out cancer. While they understand many of our words, dogs are even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. And like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling (and to use their special psychic powers to get you to give them treats and throw their ball, of course). I think dogs have psychic powers. My dog Beluga used to use her psychic powers to get me to do stuff all the time.
Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve cardiovascular health. Caring for an animal can help children grow up feeling more secure and being more active. Pets also provide good companionship for older adults. Perhaps most importantly, a pet can add real joy and unconditional love to your life.
Early researchers had discovered physical evidence of the mental health benefits of having pets. They found that pets could fulfill the human need for touch, so when hugging or stroking a pet, the human subject’s blood pressure went down, their heart rate slowed, their breathing became more regular, and their muscle tension relaxed. All of these physical changes are signs of reduced stress, which is indicative of a positive psychological impact.
Since then, scientists have learned much more about the connection between pets and mental health. As a result, animal-assisted therapy programs have become an important part of mental health treatment. But, by owning a pet, you can experience pet therapy benefits every day in your own home. Below are several ways in which pets support good mental health and how pets are beneficial to people with mental health issues.
Interacting with Pets Lowers Stress and Decreases Anxiety:
Just the sensory act of stroking a pet lowers blood pressure, which reduces stress. Petting and playing with animals also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol while stimulating endorphin production and release of the happy hormones serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax the nervous system. It also increases the production of oxytocin, another chemical that naturally reduces stress. Having the companionship of an animal can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.
Pets Make Us Feel Needed:
The act of caretaking has mental health benefits. Caring for another living thing gives us a sense of purpose and meaning, so people feel more needed and wanted when they have a pet to care for. This is true even when the pets don’t interact very much with their caregivers. In a very interesting 2016 study about pets and mental health, elderly people were given five crickets in a cage to care for. Researchers monitored their mood over eight weeks and compared them to a control group that was not caring for crickets or other pets. They found that participants that were given the crickets became less depressed after eight weeks than those in the control group, so researchers concluded that caring for living creatures produced the mental health benefits they saw. Simply put, doing things for the good of others reduces depression and loneliness.
Pets Increase Well-Being:
Pet owners lives are enriched and generally better in several areas. They have better self-esteem, they are more physically fit, they are less lonely, they are more conscientious and less preoccupied, they are more extroverted, and they are less fearful. Put simply, pet owners are happier, healthier, and better adjusted than non-owners.
Pets Provide Companionship:
Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Caring for a live animal can help you shift your focus away from your problems, especially if you live alone. Most dog and cat owners talk to their pets, and some even use them as a sounding board to work through their troubles. And nothing beats loneliness like coming home to a wagging tail or a purring cat.
Cats and Dogs Are Great Examples: Because pets live in the moment- not worrying about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow- they can help you appreciate life’s simple joys and help you to be more mindful. Mindfulness is a psychological technique, the process of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. This can help distract you from what might be bothering you and help remind you to try to be more carefree and playful. In people diagnosed with mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, pets can be among the most supportive connections they have. They provide a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which they may not have in other relationships. Patients report that pets help them manage their illness, navigate everyday life, and give them a strong sense of identity, self-worth, and meaning. Caring for a pet gave owners a feeling of being in control as well as a sense of security and routine. Most said that their pets helped them manage their emotions and distract them from their symptoms like hearing voices, habitual rumination, and even suicidal thoughts, because they felt needed by their pet.
Pets Help Us Build Healthy Habits:
Pets need to be taken care of every day, and as a result, they help us build healthy habits and routines and add structure to the day. Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. Having a consistent routine keeps an animal balanced and calm, and it’s good for people too. No matter your mood, one plaintive look from your pet and you’ll have to get out of bed to care for them. Caring for a pet can help you adopt healthy lifestyle changes, which play an important role in easing symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Some examples of these healthy lifestyle changes include:
Physical activity: Dog owners need to take their pets for walks, runs, and/ or hikes regularly, and owners receive the benefits of that exercise. Studies show that dog owners are more likely to meet recommended daily exercise requirements.
Time in nature: Walking a dog or riding a horse gets us outside, so we experience the many mental health benefits of being outdoors.
Getting up in the morning: Dogs and cats need to be fed on a regular schedule. As a result, pet owners need to get up and take care of them, no matter what mood they are in. So in this way, pets give people a reason to get up and start the day.
Pet care leads to self-care: Caring for a dog, horse, or cat reminds us that we must take care of ourselves as well.
Pets Support Social Connection: Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners, helping to start and maintain new friendships. Pets are able to counteract social isolation and promote social connection by relieving social anxiety, because they provide a common topic to talk about. For example, walking a dog or playing in a dog park often leads to conversations with other dog owners. As a result, dog owners tend to be more socially connected and less isolated. This improves the owners’ mental health, because people who have more social relationships and friendships tend to be mentally healthier. The benefits of having social connections include better self-esteem, lower rates of anxiety and depression, a happier, more optimistic outlook, stronger emotional regulation skills, improved cognitive functioning, and having more empathy and feelings of trust toward others.
Pets Give Us Unconditional Love:
This one is best of all! Dogs and cats and pets of all kinds love their owners no matter what. That’s unconditional love. Pets don’t care how your presentation went, how you did on a test, or if you sold a house. Pets don’t judge you based on what you look like, if you are popular, or if you’re super athletic. They’re simply happy to see you, and they want to spend time with you, no matter what! This kind of unconditional love is good for mental health. It stimulates the brain to release dopamine, the chemical involved in sensing pleasure.
To summarize, the link between pets and mental health is clear. So if you don’t have a pet, think about getting one. For a dog or cat, go to a shelter or humane society and adopt somebody, take them home and make them a member of the family. Or maybe talk to a doctor about finding an emotional support animal. Either way, it’ll do you good and you’ll feel good for it.
We’re nearly six weeks into the new year, and this is right about the time that most people toss their new year’s resolutions out the window. Many of them had resolved to lose weight: surveys have shown that, of the people who make new year’s resolutions, an average of 45% of them resolve to lose weight and get in better shape. So that means that nearly half of resolution-makers are overweight at least. That number seems high, but given that obesity has reached epidemic status, I guess it’s not that surprising.
Obesity is broadly defined as the state of being well above one’s normal weight. Obesity often results from taking in more calories than are burned by exercise and normal daily activities, aka ‘eating too much and moving too little.’ A person has traditionally been considered to be obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal weight. That ideal weight must take into account the person’s height, age, sex, and build. Obesity has been more precisely defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by utilizing a person’s BMI, body mass index. The BMI is a key index for relating body weight to height, and it is formulaic. The imperial BMI formula is weight (in pounds) multiplied by 703, then divided by height (in inches²). If you don’t feel like dealing with the math, you can google a BMI calculator. Having a BMI of 30 and above is considered obesity. Over 70 million adults (35 million men and 35 million women) in the U.S. are obese, while 99 million (45 million women and 54 million men) are overweight and at risk for becoming obese.
What are the causes of obesity? Obesity can be complex, going beyond eating too much and moving too little. Following are some other factors that cause or contribute to obesity.
Obesity has a strong genetic component. Genetic predisposition means that children of obese parents are much more likely to become obese than are children of lean parents. Genetics also affect the rate at which the body uses energy (burns calories) when at rest, which is called the basal metabolic rate. People with higher basal metabolic rates naturally burn more calories than other people, so they are less likely to gain weight. The opposite is also true: people with lower basal metabolic rates burn fewer calories, so they are more likely to gain weight. But these facts don’t mean that obesity is completely predetermined, that there’s no way to change it. What you eat can have a major effect on which genes are expressed and which are not. This is demonstrated when people of non-industrialized societies come to the U.S., begin a western diet, and then rapidly become obese. Obviously, their genes didn’t change, but their diet did; that changed the signals they sent to their genes, which then changed the expression of the genes. Changing the expression of the genes resulted in obesity. The bottom line is that genetics do play a key role in determining susceptibility to gaining weight and obesity, but that is only one factor of many; it is not all genetically predetermined.
Diet: What and How You Eat
Obviously, eating an unhealthy diet is a major contributing factor in obesity. Overeating at meals and snacking throughout the day can also lead to obesity. An unhealthy diet would be high in complex carbohydrates, bad fats, and sugar, and low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and high protein lean meats. There are social factors that affect diet and therefore weight. If you spend a lot of time with overweight friends and family who eat too much of an unhealthy diet, the odds are that you’ll be overweight as well. Economic factors also play a role in obesity. If you can only afford cheap, ready-made packaged foods or fast foods from the dollar menu, you are much more likely to be obese. Economics may force you to eat a diet high in complex carbs like pastas, breads, potatoes and rice just to fill yourself up, because that is all you can afford. That type of diet greatly increases the risk of obesity. Unfortunately, eating unhealthy foods and overeating are easy in our culture today. Many things influence eating behavior, including time with family and friends, the low cost of unhealthy but filling foods, and the access to and expense of healthy foods.
If you have a lifestyle that centers on eating and/ or drinking, this can contribute to excess weight. A chef, bartender, or baker, something that requires tasting various dishes and trying new recipes for example. Also, someone who travels a lot for their job so always eats at restaurants, which are notorious for hidden calories and fat; they are more likely to be overweight and at risk for obesity. A sedentary lifestyle, where there is little to no activity or exercise is a huge contributing factor in being overweight or obese. Our modern conveniences- elevators, cars, remote controls- have cut activity out of our lives. The problem is that the less you move, the less active you are, the more likely you are to be obese. Being active helps you stay fit. And when you’re fit, you burn more calories, even when you’re resting, so you’re less likely to be overweight or at risk for obesity.
There are a host of medical issues that can cause or contribute to significant weight gain. Some examples are hypothyroidism, diabetes, Cushing syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), menopause, depression, and endocrine dysfunction. Some medical issues don’t cause weight gain in and of themselves, but make weight gain more likely because they limit the person’s activity. Some examples would include conditions like osteoarthritis, uncontrolled rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pain syndromes.
The list of medications that can cause weight gain is a long one. Everyday medications like corticosteroids (Prednisone, Celestone), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hormone replacements/ birth control, and even insulin are among the culprits. Sometimes it’s not the drug itself causing weight gain, it’s a side-effect from the drug. Some drugs stimulate your appetite, and as a result, you eat more. Others may affect how your body absorbs and stores glucose, which can lead to fat deposits in your body. Some cause calories to be burned more slowly by altering your body’s metabolism. Others cause shortness of breath and fatigue, making it difficult to exercise, while some drugs cause you to retain water, which adds weight but not necessarily fat. Some medications don’t cause you to gain weight outright, they just make it more difficult to lose excess weight you may already carry. A lot of psychiatric medicines cause weight gain. The worst offenders generally include mirtazapine (Remeron), paroxetine (Paxil), risperidone (Risperdal), aripiprazole (Abilify), and quetiapine (Seroquel). With the exception of Wellbutrin, essentially all classes of psychiatric meds can be associated with serious weight gain. As a psychiatrist, I have to prescribe meds that may cause an unwanted side effect like weight gain. I have to weigh the cost to benefit with each patient. Unfortunately, I have patients who are trapped; they must take certain medicines to remain stable, so they have to severely alter their food intake and diet every day of their lives in an effort to avoid weight gain if possible. That’s the cost to benefit ratio- they pay the cost of a severe diet in order to get the benefit of being stable psychologically.
Why should you care about your weight? What health issues does being overweight cause? The answer is many. Obesity leads to type 2 diabetes. It causes high blood pressure, which can cause strokes. Obesity can increase cholesterol levels and cause coronary artery disease, which is where deposits line the blood vessels that feed the heart and partially or totally block them, so the heart does not get adequate blood supply; this results in a heart attack, aka a “coronary” and this can easily be fatal. Being overweight puts excess weight on the human body, and this commonly causes osteoarthritis of major joints like the knees, the hips, and the ankles. All parts of the body are stressed and strained because they are not designed to carry around that much weight, and this limits the range of motion, mobility, and ability to walk. Obesity increases the risk of cancer to several organs and body parts: the breast, colon, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, prostate, uterus, cervix, endometrium, and ovaries. Another common medical issue from being overweight is sleep apnea. All the weight on the chest and throat causes you to temporarily stop breathing when sleeping, until you finally noisily gasp for air. Sleep apnea is serious, and very disturbing for anyone that you share your bed with. Obesity causes a fatty liver, which then leads to liver disease and the potential to cause the liver to shut down. Obesity can cause gallstones as well as kidney disease, which can cause your kidneys to stop functioning. Obesity can also cause fertility problems in both men and women. As a psychiatrist, I get obese patients referred to me because obesity can directly cause, or indirectly lead to, various syndromes and other issues, including chronic pain syndromes, depression syndromes, isolation syndromes, social problems, self esteem issues, and difficulty dating. People who develop obesity, especially when it is the result of something beyond their control, like from a medical issue such as hypothyroidism, have all sorts of social interaction issues and work problems, and I can treat them and help walk them through it with psychotherapy.
We defined obesity, discussed the risk factors and what can cause it, and then the issues it can cause. Now let’s discuss how we can lose weight and prevent obesity.
To offset weight gain or to help work off excess weight, consider keeping a food diary tracking what you eat and when you eat. Becoming a mindful and aware eater is a great first step to managing weight.
Another factor which helps with weight loss is eating slowly. It takes some time for your stomach to tell your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. If you mindlessly shovel huge amounts of food into your mouth, you’ll miss your cue and overeat, and that obvi will cause you to put on weight and increase the risk of obesity. Eating slowly also has the added benefit of reducing the chances of having indigestion.
Become more active whenever possible. Instead of meeting someone for coffee or a movie, meet them at a park, beach, or green space and go for a walk. Ideally, you want aerobic activity; that means getting your heart rate up, when it’s harder to breathe. Aerobic activities mean constant motion, like running, biking, swimming, soccer, basketball, anything where you’re moving constantly. Constant activity is aerobic activity, and daily aerobic activity will raise your basal metabolic rate and you’ll burn more calories, even when you’re at rest.
Resistance training is good for targeting fatty areas on the body. Resistance training involves moving a specific muscle against resistance, either using your own body weight or using standard weights. Other activities like lifting weights, doing push-ups, and doing squats are good for reducing body fat.
…and make sure you understand them. If you don’t understand them, do some research, get a library book on nutrition, ask a friend if they understand, or ask your doctor what the values all mean and how much of the various components should be included in a healthy balanced diet or when dieting in an effort to lose weight. Pay close attention to calorie count, fat grams, protein grams, sugar grams, and carbohydrate count. Just because something says “light” doesn’t mean it should be included in your diet. So many people are ignorant about nutrition information on food packaging. Be sure to know what those values mean and how much you should have of each every day.
Know the Fats
Trans fats- Bad fats!
Historically, trans fats are an evil on par with Satan himself, to be avoided at all costs. The worst type of dietary fat, trans fat is a byproduct of the industrial process of hydrogenation, which turns healthy oils into solids to prevent them from becoming rancid. Eating foods rich in trans fats increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream while reducing the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even small amounts of trans fats can harm health: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%. Mind blowing. Though they have no known health benefits, trans fats were found in most pre-packaged garbage foods and were the main component in margarine type spreads. I say ‘were’ because recent science found there is no safe level of consumption of trans fats, and as a result, trans fats have been officially banned in the United States and several other countries.
Monounsaturated fat- Good fats!
Evidence has shown that consuming monounsaturated fats has several health benefits, including reducing general inflammation in the body. Studies have also shown that a high intake of monounsaturated fats can reduce triglycerides, decrease the risk of heart disease, and lower bad LDL blood cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. A diet with moderate-to-high amounts of monounsaturated fats can also help with weight loss, as long as you aren’t eating more calories than you’re burning. These fats are liquid at room temperature. Good sources of monounsaturated fat include avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts, cooking oils made from plants or seeds like canola, olive, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame, and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.
Polyunsaturated fat- Good fats!
The two types of polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6) are essential fats, meaning they’re required for normal bodily functions, but your body can’t make them, so you must get them from food.
Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that, like other dietary polyunsaturated fats, can help to reduce your risk of heart disease. Omega-3s can lower heart rate and improve heart rhythm, decrease the risk of clotting, lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, improve blood vessel function and delay the build-up of plaque in coronary arteries.
Omega-6 is a polyunsaturated fat that lowers bad LDL cholesterol. Eating foods with unsaturated fat, including omega-6, instead of foods high in saturated fats helps to get the right balance for your blood cholesterol (ie lower bad LDL and increase good HDL). Sources of polyunsaturated fats include oily fish (like salmon, mackerel, sardines), tahini (a sesame seed spread),
linseed (flaxseed) and chia seeds,
soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola oil, margarine spreads made from those oils, pine nuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
Follow these easy ideas for getting the balance of blood cholesterol (LDL and HDL) right.
– Go nuts! Nuts are an important part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. They’re a good source of healthier fats, and regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower levels of bad (LDL) and total blood cholesterol. So, include a handful (30g) every day! Add them to salads, yogurt, or your morning cereal. Choose unsalted, dry roasted or raw varieties.
– Go fish! Include fish or seafood in your family meals 2 – 3 times a week. Fish are great sources of the good omega-3 fats. If you don’t eat fish, you can take an omega-3 supplement.
– Use healthier oils! Choose a healthier oil for cooking. For salad dressings and low temperature cooking, choose olive, peanut, canola, safflower, sunflower, avocado or sesame oils. For high temperature cooking, especially frying, choose olive oil or high oleic canola oil, as they are more stable at high temperatures. Store oils away from direct light and heat and don’t ever re-use oils that have been heated before.
Eating polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fats or highly refined carbohydrates reduces blood pressure, raises good HDL cholesterol, reduces harmful LDL cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, and may even help prevent lethal heart rhythms.
Saturated fat- OK in strict moderation
Saturated fats are common in the American diet, and they are solid at room temperature- think along the lines of cooled bacon grease. Common sources of saturated fat include red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods, cheese, coconut oil, and many commercially prepared baked goods and other foods. A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, which can prompt heart disease from blockages formed in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body. For that reason, most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to under 10% of calories a day. Replacing excess saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils or high-fiber carbohydrates is the best bet for reducing the risk of heart disease.
– Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber fights belly fat. When ingested, fiber goes into your system, binds to and then forms a sort of gel with the food, which slows down the absorption of food in the gut.
– Eat a high-protein diet. Eggs are eggsellent…high in protein and low in fat. Avoid red meat. All meats should be lean and high in protein, like chicken or turkey. Nuts are also good for a protein snack.
– Eat fish, as often as 2-3 times per week for good omega-3’s. As discussed above, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3’s which are good for the brain, help to decrease weight, and have numerous other health benefits. If you don’t eat fish, take a good omega-3 supplement.
– Drink green tea; there are reports that it helps with weight loss, and it’s generally just good for you.
– Don’t eat sugary foods or anything with sugar in it: sodas, candies, cakes, cookies, doughnuts; those are the main culprits. It’s a major bummer, but to avoid weight gain in your life, much less to try to lose weight if you’re already overweight, you must avoid sugar like the plague. Wah wah wah…
– Cut out the carbs! To lose weight or just to avoid putting weight on, anything with white flour must go, so say syonara to pasta and most breads. You have to cut way down on starches, if you’re allowed them at all, so there goes rice and potatoes. And while most people consider corn a vegetable, you must count it as a starch when dieting.
– Get on the wagon! If you drink alcohol, you won’t lose weight and keep it off. Won’t happen. When you consume booze of any sort- beer, wine, liquor- the alcohol is immediately converted to sugar, and if you’ve forgotten, see Diet Don’t 1 above. There’s no point in restricting calories, fats, etc by following a diet and also drinking alcohol at the same time, even a small amount.
Go to Bed!
Sleep is critical if you want to lose weight, so aim to sleep at least 7-8 hours each night. If you do not get proper sleep, it will be very difficult (if not impossible) to lose weight, and you will likely gain weight. This is all thanks to brain chemistry and hormones, which get all fouled up with sleep deprivation.
You have to reduce stress if you want to lose weight. When you are stressed, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and increases belly fat by selectively placing fat deposits around the stomach and middle of the body.
A Fast Fast
We’ve always been told that starving ourselves will not result in weight loss, and that it will even result in weight gain because the body goes into ‘starvation mode.’ Well, there are some recent studies out there that conclude that intermittent fasting, 24 hours without eating, once or twice a week, actually helps with weight loss. Very interesting.
So that’s all about obesity: what causes it, what it causes, and how to combat it. We are a fat society, and the number of cases of obesity goes up every day. It’s disturbing because it’s essentially a preventable issue.
For more information and interesting stories on other diagnoses, check out my book, Tales from the Couch, available in my office and onLearn More
Ambien, generic name zolpidem, is the most commonly prescribed sleep aid, accounting for 85% of prescribed sleeping pills. It also ranks in the top 15 on the list of most frequently prescribed drugs in the country. Its popularity is clearly due to its efficacy. Zolpidem works as a hypnotic drug, meaning that it induces a state of unconsciousness, similar to what occurs during natural sleep. How does it do that? Zolpidem affects chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters, specifically a neurotransmitter called GABA. By affecting GABA, it calms the activity of specific parts of the brain. One of the areas in the brain that is affected is the hippocampus. Along with other regions of the brain, the hippocampus is important in the formation of memory. Because of this hippocampal involvement,
zolpidem can cause memory loss, especially at higher doses, an effect colloquially referred to as “Ambien Amnesia.” If you take it and do not go to bed immediately as recommended, this is more likely to occur. When you get right in bed after taking it, a loss of memory is inconsequential…it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember lying awake for a few minutes before falling asleep. But there are many reports of people taking it and remaining awake and out of bed, and they commonly experience an inability to recall subsequent events shortly after taking it. Because of its effects on memory, there is some concern that zolpidem could affect long-term memory and contribute to the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, though there has been no research to prove or disprove these possible associations. Zolpidem comes with a host of known side effects that range from weird and wacky to illegal and downright dangerous behaviors. Included are hallucinations, decreased awareness, disinhibition, and changes in behavior. Very serious problems may occur when someone who has taken zolpidem gets up during the night. They may exhibit very complex sleep-related behaviors while under the influence of zolpidem. These might include relatively innocuous sleeptalking, sleepwalking, sleep cleaning and sleep eating, to more disturbing behaviors like sleep cooking and sleep sex, to potentially deadly sleep driving. While in a confused state, a person on zolpidem may act in a way that is different from their normal waking behavior. This can lead to legal consequences, such as driving under the influence (DUI) or potentially even sexual assault charges stemming from disinhibited sexually charged behavior.
I have a long time patient named Deanna that takes zolpidem and regularly sleepwalks, also known as somnambulation for the Scrabble set. It happens that she has been a sleepwalker ever since she had the ability to walk, so being on the zolpidem now makes her nocturnal activities and behaviors really way out there. Just flipping back through her chart, I see she mentions: taking apart electronics and trying to put them back together with no success. Dumping all of her shoes out of their boxes onto her closet floor. Taking all of her clothes off their hangers and throwing them over her dining room chairs. Gathering all sorts of disparate items together, evidently whatever catches her eye at the time, and putting them in her oven. She said she learned that particular lesson the hard way. This one is whacked. She started “painting” a wall in her house….with a purple sharpie. She showed me a picture of that. She once found several pages of her stationery scrawled in words she knew she didn’t consciously write in a letter to someone, she didn’t know who. She brought that in. She said she would evidently clean in her sleep; she put shower gel all over the tile in her shower and “put things away” in odd places they didn’t belong in. She also sleep eats. Cereal, bread, ice cream, whatever she sees that looks good I guess. She regularly wakes up to a mess in the kitchen and destruction in the house. It used to really freak her out to see the evidence of activities she didn’t remember, but now she just feels unsettled as she surveys the damage from her night time escapades. But since it hasn’t ever been anything dangerous and because zolpidem works well for her, she doesn’t want to change it.
How is it that a person on zolpidem can achieve these complex behaviors while unconscious and asleep? It’s because the parts of the brain that control movement still function, but inhibition, consciousness, and the ability to create memory is turned off. Because of this, the person is disinhibited, and that can lead to unintentional actions and behaviors as discussed above.
Beyond zolpidem’s effects on memory, awareness, and behavior, there may be additional issues associated with its use. Some other common side effects include:
– “Hangover” or carry-over sedation, especially in women
– Loss of appetite
– Impaired vision
– Slow breathing rates
– Muscle cramps
– Allergic reactions
– Memory loss
– Inability to concentrate
– Emotional blunting
– Depression and/or suicidal thoughts
– Back pain
– Diarrhea or constipation
– Sinusitis (sinus infection)
– Pharyngitis (sore throat)
– Dry mouth
– Flu-like symptoms
– Breathing difficulties
– Palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
– Rebound insomnia
Any of these side effects could be bothersome and may interfere with the continued use of the medication. Sometimes the benefits of zolpidem outweigh the risks and/or side effects. If a symptom is particularly bothersome, discuss this with your prescribing doctor to see if an alternative treatment may be a better option for you.
If you take zolpidem, use it exactly as prescribed and get in bed immediately after taking it. It’s best to allow yourself at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep to help ensure avoidance of morning hangover effects. Keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule will also help. Taking zolpidem with other drugs that depress the central nervous system such as alcohol, opioid pain medications, or tranquilizers intensifies the sedative effects of zolpidem and increases the risk of overdose as a result of respiratory depression. Zolpidem is an abusable drug. Individuals who take it for non-medical reasons or at more than prescribed doses are at risk of experiencing intensification of adverse side effects, including the following:
– Excessive sedation
– Confusion and disorientation
– Lack of motor coordination
– Slow response times
– Delayed reflex reactions
– Impaired judgment
Men and women don’t metabolize zolpidem in the same way. Women metabolize it much more slowly, so they often wake up with a zolpidem hang over and feel cloudy in the morning. So an important note for women taking zolpidem is to be extra cautious about allowing at least 8 hours of sleep after taking it and to take lower doses of it due to the potential effects on morning function, especially driving.
Actor Roseanne Barr had probably taken a little too much when she “Ambien tweeted” a racist statement comparing an Obama aid to an ape. She admitted that she had taken zolpidem shortly before the 2am tweet that caused her eponymous show to be cancelled. Elon Musk, Mr. Tesla, can feel her pain. He shocked investors when he tweeted he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share and that funding was secured. He said he sometimes takes zolpidem because it’s either that or no sleep. Good thing he has people to protect him from himself when he’s in a zolpidem daze.
Zolpidem can be a safe and effective medication to treat insomnia, but if it affects your memory or causes sleep behaviors or other adverse side effects, you should probably consider alternative treatments for your insomnia. Hello Roseanne and Elon…that means you!!
I talk more about drugs for sleep like zolpidem and a host of other psychoactive drugs in my book, Tales from the Couch, available on Amazon.com.Learn More
Slumber, shuteye, repose, siesta, snooze…Sometimes we have a love-hate relationship with it…we love it when it’s good and curse it when it’s bad, but we all need it. Whatever you call it, one complaint I hear from patients day in and day out is that they have difficulty sleeping. It’s so prevalent that I want to discuss how to get better sleep. In my 30 years of practice, I’ve compiled a list of 14 things in no specific order that you can do that should have you snoozing at night night in no time.
Rule 1: Bright light during the day. Your body has to have bright light during the day; sunshine is best, but even sitting in a bright room, like by a window, is helpful. Bright light tells your brain that it is day time, time to be awake. Darkness or the absence of bright light tells the brain it is night time, time to sleep. If you’re in a dark room all day, you probably won’t sleep well at night. So remember, in the day time, bright light is right.
Rule 2: Limit blue light. What is blue light? Blue light is what is emitted from your computer, laptop, and smartphone. The more blue light you are exposed to, especially at night, the more disruption you’ll have in sleep, as it disrupts circadian rhythm. Lots of people climb into bed with their cell phone or iPad, and that’s the worst thing to do. You should avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. There are apps you can install on your phone that filter out the blue light. There’s also something called “F. Lux” that you can put on your computer or iPad which will block out the blue light. You never hear about it, but blue light exposure, especially at night, is a major factor in hindering sleep.
Rule 3: Captain Obvious here with a newsflash. Caffeine will keep you up at night. Don’t think you’re going to have coffee or tea after dinner or before bed and expect to sleep. And if you’re drinking sodas, coffee, or iced tea all day, it’ll still disrupt your sleep. I tell patients to limit caffeine consumption to under 250 – 300mg a day. As a guide, an 8oz cup of coffee has about 100mg caffeine, the same amount of tea has 24mg, a 12oz can of soda has 34mg, and those gnarly energy shots have 200mg of caffeine! I strongly advise against consuming caffeine after lunch if you plan on a bedtime between 10pm and midnight.
Rule 4: No naps! Boo! Hiss! Why is it that as kids, just the word nap sent us into a tizzy tantrum, but as adults we love naps? If anyone has an answer, please let me know. Anyway, as satisfying as it is, napping disrupts your sleep-wake cycle, temporarily resetting it to where you’re not likely to be able to go to bed between 10pm and midnight. Bummer.
Rule 5: Melatonin. I recommend 2 to 4mg of melatonin at bedtime; it really seems to help a lot of my patients. I do find that some patients get daytime hangover from it though, so you’ll have to see where you fall on that one. But it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re suffering from insomnia.
Rule 6: Get up at the same time every day, and go to bed at the same time every day. Yeah, it’s kind of a drag not sleeping in on weekends, but a sleep routine can make a big difference in your relationship with Mr. Sandman. You can’t regulate when you’ll fall asleep, but you can regulate when you wake up. So set your alarm and get up at the same time every day, no matter how tired you are. Don’t nap and go to sleep between 10pm and midnight, and you should fall asleep. If sleep still eludes you, stick to the same plan, and you should surely sleep the second night. You can’t decide when you’ll fall asleep at night, but you can regulate your sleep-wake cycle by deciding when you wake up. Stick to setting your alarm for the same time every day, and hopefully your brain will get the idea.
Rule 7: I recommend taking a glycine or magnesium supplement at night as well as L-theanine and lavender. They don’t make lavender teas, pillow sprays, lotions, and sachets for nothing. I have heard from people that swear by lavender as part of their wind down routine before bed. You can find these supplements on Amazon.com. Shameless plug: handily enough, you can also find my book, Tales from the Couch for sale there too. Check it out.
Rule 8: This is the Mac Daddy, numero uno, absolute, not-to-be-broken rule. Alcohol. If you consume alcohol before sleep, you will not sleep. Why? As the body metabolizes the alcohol, it goes into a withdrawl-like reaction and disrupts sleep. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that a little nightcap helps you sleep. Wrong. Some people will tell you differently, but trust me…alcohol and sleep do not play well together.
Rule 9: A comfortable bedroom. Your bedroom should be an oasis of calm serenity. There should be no office or desk in the bedroom. It should be uncluttered. Anything not conducive to sleep should be out. Make sure it’s dark and quiet at bedtime. The weight of multiple blankets can help sleep. You can even purchase weighted blankets expressly for this purpose. The weight is comforting and relaxing to the body.
Rule 10: This sort of goes hand in hand with #9 above. Try a low temperature in the bedroom. I personally make sure my bedroom is at 70 degrees. The blankets from rule number 9 come into play here too. There’s something very comforting about burrowing under fluffy blankets to go to sleep. I mean, they’re called comforters for a good reason.
Rule 10: No eating late at night. People seem to mostly make terrible food choices at night, all in the name of snacks…chips, candies, baked goods. Sugary foods are especially bad. When you eat, the body goes into digestive mode, not sleep mode; it is very interfering to sleep. Sugars especially are no bueno. Evening or night snacking is one of the worst things you can do If you want to sleep.
Rule 11: Relax and clear your mind. There’s an older pop song that has a lyric, Free your mind and the rest will follow. It’s true. We all have problems and stresses throughout the day, and they seem to pop up when your head hits the pillow. You have to come to some resolution on how you’re going to handle the problems in your life and put them to bed so that you can put the rest of you to bed.
Rule 12: Spend money on a comfortable quality mattress. You’re going to spend a third of your life in your bed. Just suck it up and spend the money on the mattress. Don’t cheap out. Another place to spend money is on good linens. Few things are as inviting as a comfortable mattress covered in minimum 1,000 thread count all-cotton sheets. If you’ve never had nice linens, try them.You can pick them up on a white sale or online. You can thank me later.
Rule 13: No exercising late at night. When you exercise late at night, you raise blood pressure and heart rate, which will hype up the body, which is the antithesis of what you want when it’s time to sleep.
Rule 14: No liquids prior to sleeping. No rocket science here. If you put liquids in, you’re going to need to get liquids out. In other words, you’re going to have to get up in the middle of the night to pee. And you’re probably going to stub your toe. Not good.
This is my handy dandy guide on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to sleep. Anything is better than counting sheep. I don’t know who came up with that, but I would like to inform them that I have never in 30 years heard of it working. I’ve never before wanted people to fall asleep as a result of reading something I wrote, so this is a first! I hope you’ve learned some things here that will put you out like a light.Learn More
Whatever happened to dating? I’m part of a lot of talk on this particular topic. Day in and day out, patients tell me about their trials and tribulations in the dating world, and the dialog has definitely changed over the years. So, as an unofficial-official expert, I want to talk about dating. There are discrepancies as to who hit on the idea first, but computer-assisted dating sites came into play as personal computers gained popularity in homes everywhere. Remember the Tom Hanks movie You’ve Got Mail? That romanticized the idea of online dating and spawned sites like Match in the early 2000’s. The advent of Facebook kept people checking for “friends” as a hobby, linking people all over creation. However and whomever launched what doesn’t matter much anymore, dating sites and dating apps are here to stay. The list goes on and on and on, and now sites and apps are getting more specific. They target groups: SilverSingles, OurTime, JDate, BlackPeopleMeet, and Farmers Match…if you can be grouped into a subset, you will be. So what’s the impact of dating sites and apps? They’ve changed the game. If you listen to your grandparents tell their love story, it often includes a meeting of eyes, maybe across a crowded bar or restaurant, hence love at ‘first sight.” Now, if you manage to find love, it may be more like at “first site” or “first swipe.”
Whole movies are made of dating in the modern world. The process of meeting someone has now moved away from social contact, which is sort of oxymoronic in the age of ‘social’ media. The old rules don’t apply anymore. It used to be that to get a date, you got all gussied up to go out and attract a date. Now you can sit home on your couch in your boxers or fat pants and dangle an electronic lure to attract someone. Sadly, romance is now largely a thing of the past, replaced by an electronic algorithm. You have to be a wordsmith to get a date, not a romantic. Pickup lines aren’t spontaneous. Now someone trolling an app for a date can use a line that it took them a month to come up with, and they can use it over and over until the payoff, the date. Social media can also be very manipulative as well. When my patients tell me about failed dates arranged through social media, one of the most popular reasons they give me is that the person didn’t look like their picture. Blah blah blah… I hear that ALL the time. My only reply is usually “Duh!!! It took that guy / girl three hours to take that picture!” I marvel at how they’re shocked by not getting what they were expecting! And these sites and apps are too easy. Going out to attract a date used to require a little effort and forthought. Where am I going? What should I wear? How’s my hair? Is my breath okay? On sites and apps, it doesn’t matter. They’re a numbers game. Send a line out to enough people and you’re bound to hit on a date at some point. And what happens on that date? Social media has stripped away the art of conversation. It’s been reduced to memes, a series of easily textable phrases and lines. Those aren’t conducive toward building the foundation of a relationship. And there can be a darker side to the use of these sites and apps. Some people believe that participation on these dating sites and apps is essentially implied consent or positive acceptance of sexual advances. If you met someone In the real world, not all advances are welcome. The same is true with participation on an app or site. But the flip side of that coin are the apps where advanves are welcome. There are an increasing number of mobile apps that will let you know when a person of like mind is in the vicinity. Of like mind on these apps usually means down to hook up, which has inherant risks in and of itself. These transactional apps seeking sexual relations really take the human touch out of the whole equation. They’re all about the easy hookup, people as commodities. Phone on, date out. Social media has really changed the idea of participating with one’s community. Now you see young people with no interests beyond their phones. What’s going on in their electronic world takes precedent over what’s happening right in front of them. I discuss this at length in my book, Tales from the Couch. People miss so much of what’s going on around them because they’re buried in their phones. Human interaction goes by the wayside. Another consequence of social media is the downfall of commitment. With more relationships being non-committal, I’ve seen marriage rates among my patients go down. When I ask people about that, they essentially tell me that they’re not into commitment because why should they be? Why settle down and buy one cow when you can have all the milk from all the cows on the internet for free?
Some of these issues can be troubling. I especially wonder what happens to the people who don’t have profiles posted everywhere, who don’t want to swipe right or left to get dates and find companionship. Are they doomed to forever be single? Will they miss out on their happily ever after? Maybe.They may need to bite the bullet and throw a line into the electronic world of dating. For all it’s foibles and downfalls, social media doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Good, bad, or indifferent, that’s dating today. For more on the world of social media, check out my book Tales from the Couch, available on Amazon.com.
Dr. Mark Agresti discusses how material possessions can affect our health negatively.
Dr. Mark Agresti, West Palm Beach Drug & Alcohol Detox Specialist, Psychiatrist
Call (561) 842-9550 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Agresti today to get psychiatric help today.Learn More
You have to think it before you can do it, so living a healthy life starts out as a psychological issue. That is why I’m giving you some general rules to keep in mind. If you remember to keep it simple, you will change your behavior and live healthier.
1. Don’t smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products. The latest research tells us that even second-hand smoke — being around someone who is smoking — is dangerous. When polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbon, a substance in tobacco — is burned, it changes your DNA, causing cancer-forming agents within 20 minutes of taking it. That’s the latest research and follows 20 years of earlier research showing that smoking cigarettes, as well as being around others when they are smoking, affects us immediately and is dangerous to our system. Clearly, this is the one thing you can do if you want to live a healthier life. Don’t smoke.
2. Exercise. I don’t care what you do, but do it every day. Everyone needs to exercise. Make the time to do it. Get up in the morning and do something — it doesn’t matter what. New studies show that the amount of exercise we need is much more than we thought — about six hours of fairly rigorous activity a week. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense. We are animals and animals spend all day in movement looking for food and trying to survive. We need a lot of exercise to stay healthy, much more than the average American does. Studies that look at cultures where the people live long lives show that heavy physical activity is one of the key components in addition to being born with good genes. (more…)Learn More