Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dr. Wendy: Killers vs. Terrorists

Let’s see. Should we be more suspicious of Muslims? Of course! They compose the majority of terrorist activities throughout the world.

There is no comparison between the killers in our society and Muslim terrorists.

The killers don’t do it to create terror, but for their own sick purpose.

Muslim terrorists kill, but their prime objective is to terrorize. That people die is a secondary consideration, collateral damage. Remember, 20 children were murdered in Newtown. Three were killed in the Boston bombings.

I think that makes the point. The objectives of the two are totally different. There’s a big difference.

To decrease the number of mass murderers, as in Aurora and Newtown, look for those with mental health problems. It’s our responsibility, as a society, to identify these individuals within our communities, report them and, hopefully, get them the therapy they so desperately need.

To decrease terrorism, imams and parishioners at mosques need to identify radicalized Muslims, report them to authorities and counsel them that Islam is a religion of peace.

Islamic radicalism is not a mental health diagnosis according to the Psychologist’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is based in political and religious orientation. Perhaps, narcissistic personality disorder is the nearest applicable diagnosis and occurs in early adulthood.

Narcissism expresses itself in:

  • A grandiose sense of self importance
  • Belief that he is “special”
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Takes advantage of others
  • Lacks empathy
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Does that mean we should ethnically profile? Of course we should, unless we are so foolish to buy into the prevailing political correctness. If we do, then we do so at our own peril and that of our fellow, peaceful citizens.

Americans Snapping by the Millions – Record Depression, Suicide, Fear and Stress

What is it that causes some people to handle a situation with minimum of stress and another person to crumble and fall into depression?

What is the cognitive thinking process that is so different between the two types of people:  As a psychologist, we need to look at adaptive versus maladaptive and mentally healthy versus mentally ill.

Unfortunately, as a society we have accepted mental illness as a facet of the normal.  It is up to each of us in the community to recognize those with mental illness and get them help.

The person that becomes depressed is responding to circumstances with irrational behavior, fear, phobia and lack of control may lead to depression.

Being aware and alert to danger is different from becoming obsessed with something that rarely occurs or less likely to occur in your neighborhood.  Self doubts, irrational fear and continued pessimism may result.

Lack of socialization may affect our esteem and lead to depression.

A depressive personality affects their ability to relate socially may make them feel apart and alone.

They are unable to get off the depression merry-go-round.  The cognitive processes of dysfunctional attitudes leads to dysfunctional thought processes.

More Americans are becoming dysfunctional.  They experience fear, panic and stress.  When there is no sense of “security and belonging “ depression may occur.

Changes in memory function have a causal factor in depression.

Psychological studies indicate a decease in memory function fails into 4 categories: illness and death; relationships and family problems; abuse and assault and work and financial problems.

The high frequency of the intrusion of these negative autobiographic memories may occur even 6 months later. Often over time, there is a deterioration of memory processes.

Chronic depression focuses on the over-generalization of negative thoughts results in approximately 20% who commit suicide and even more will attempt it.

A chronically depressed person sees the future as “Today, is bad, tomorrow could be worst”.

Success in suppressing unwanted thoughts in everyday life is a coping skill for reducing stress.

The process of positive empowers a person to achieve desired results in esteem, success and the ability to control depressive thinking.

Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication are used to increase serotonin levels for the short term.  Long term results in chronic stress and depression need to be dealt with a team of psychologists, physicians and mental health professionals.

To avoid depression and stress

  • Know the signs and learn to deal with it in a healthy way.  This may include a change in eating habits, exercise and increased social activities with your family and friends
  • Know that stress and depression can occur and apply “coping skills” learned through cognitive thinking process
  • Know the difference between rational fear and irrational fear
  • Plan measurable, achievable goals for the future.  This will lead to success and not add to anxiety or depression

Obesity has become an epidemic problem

Obesity is a widespread problem. Two thirds of US adults are obese or overweight.  An article in American Psychologist estimates that obesity in children will rise to 91% by 2020.

The calculus is simple. People gain weight by eating more calories than they burn. The average, active female should intake approximately 2,400 calories a day. Their male counterpart should take in approximately 2,800 calories.

Here’s the good news! Just breathing and having your organs keep you alive burns about 1,600 calories a day for women and 1,800 for men. You burn those basic calories by just sitting on the couch and watching TV.

The bad news is that women need to burn an additional 800 calories and men 1,000 per day to maintain current weight.

The best tool I’ve found is Calorie Burn Calculator. It can be found at You can plan your daily activities to burn those calories.

Want to lose weight? One pound of body weight represents about 3500 calories. Make a plan to lose a pound.

All you have to do add activities that will burn an additional 120 calories a day to lose a pound a month. The bad news is that you’ll have to get off that couch to do so.

It’s that simple. Science is on our side, but it requires a commitment to a long term, life style change.

An unrestrained eater’s compulsion may be related to emotional and guilt issues and continues the cycle of the overeating disorder.

Psychologists, teamed with licensed dieticians, can help clients with discovering the root cause of this compulsion and form an effective strategy to address it.

Realize that there is no fad diet, pill or quick fix that will work for the long term.

In summary:

  • Realize you are in control of your weight management, as well as your children’s.
  • Start with reducing caloric intake to averages for women and men. Use the Calorie Burn Calculator at to plan and manage the excess calories you need to burn to maintain or lose weight.
  • Use the Calorie Burn Calculator at to plan and manage the excess calories you need to burn to maintain or lose weight.
  • Get support from your family, friends and partners or spouses in your weight loss efforts. It will increase the chances of success.
  • Monitor your weight every morning. Get a scale and make sure you use it! It will show if your daily activities burn enough calories or not. Adjust your activities or caloric intake accordingly.
  • If you get depressed or can’t stop overeating, talk with a Psychologist who can help you with this eating disorder.

Stress: Q & A

What is stress?

There are 3 areas in which most encounter stress; work, financial and personal relationships.

Stress contributors are environment, genetic and personality makeup.  It is the cumulative psychological and physical wear and tear on the person.  The response and the inability of a person to cope with stress may result in illness.

The excitement and challenge of “good” stress allows us to be at the top of our game and can enhance our efforts. The elimination of stress can be unhealthy and lead to depression.

“Bad” stress that continues for a long period of time is “chronic” stress.  Chronic stress can lead to damage to our immune system, disease and depression.

What is chronic stress?

It is long-term stress lasts two weeks or more.  Pathological aspects of stress can drain the system of energy and resources.  Some personality types can handle stress for longer time periods than others. Genetics and personality types affect how well we cope with stress.

Personality Types

Type A personalities seem to thrive on stress as long as they were in control, able to exhibit anger and displeasure and can directly impact their environment.

Type B personalities tend to internalize stress.  They are calm on the outside but emotions fester inside. Too much stress can have the reverse effect and cause health problems.

What causes stress?

Our reaction to stress, such as constant worry, anxiety, the inability to make decisions and cope, leads to a lack of energy, fear and inactivity.  The chemical reserves of our body protects us in the short term yet, in the long term key chemicals in the brain are exhausted and can lead to disease and illness.

How does it impact your body? What chemicals are released?

Living in a constant state of mental stress results in changes in brain chemistry, which manifests in a deterioration of physical health.  There are two major chemical changes, the decrease in serotonin and the increase in cortisol.  Over the long-term it can result in depression, disease, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, weight gain, diabetes and depression

What are signs that you may have stress?

“Bad stress” is what we think of when we hear the word stress.  It can be summed up in one word, “worry”. Unlike good stress, in environments where there is an element of control, worry occurs when a person has little to no control of circumstances.  It is when we continue to “worry” and fret over the same situation.  We think about it day and night.  What we need to do is realize this is happening and find an activity or socialize with our family or friends as a temporary relief.

Bad stress becomes “chronic stress”, when it continues for a long period of time, begins to break down our body and have no coping skills to deal with the situation.  Stress can affect our immune system.

Good stress is when endorphins increase. Endorphin is a chemical response to reduce pain and its increase enables us to push our bodies to accomplish a goal.

Good stress keeps us looking forward to the day, our work, our relationship and our creativity.  It is the surge of energy and excitement to better enjoy life!

What are the basics to controlling stress?

First, be aware of the consequences of continued stress to our bodies. Find healthy ways to deal with stress such as exercise, eating healthy, adequate sleep and spending time with your significant other, family and friends.  Also, recognize when you feel stress and learn to “cope” with it.  A psychologist’s goal is to help clients identify stressors and develop coping strategies to deal with them before they cause systemic harm.

What is your strategy for helping patients manage their stress?

Coping skills.  My strategy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) where the client learns to recognize and know the signs of excessive stress.  Cognitive Therapy is structured with specific goals and a plan of action for the client.   It addresses negative thinking and behaviors. The client learns to take responsibility for changing their thinking and work on techniques to help them process new information.  In stressful situations, they master learned behavioral stress strategies will become automatic to deal with the situations n the future.

Can medicines help someone lower their stress level?

Anti-depression medication can be given to increase or recover necessary brain chemistry.  Clients may take the medicine for a short period of time to help them as they participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

When should someone seek medical help?

When the person is unable to cope with chronic stress, it can lead to depression, anxiety and fear.  The person who has chronic stress may be unaware of behavioral or physical changes existing.  Family and friends may recognize these changes and encourage them to seek medical help.  Have a physician conduct a physical and lab work.

Physicians can work with psychologists to help clients develop coping skills to achieve the goals of health, happiness and wellbeing!


Psychological Aspects and Fear due to explosion at Boston Marathon

Terrorism is, by it’s nature, asymmetrical, psychological warfare.

If, indeed, the explosions at the Boston Marathon were the result of either domestic or foreign terrorists, their goals are the same.  Those goals are to attempt to translate irrational fears into false rational fears by the example of a single event.

This is not unlike the fear and panic generated by the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter of innocents. Both are rare occurrences, which, due to national media coverage, bring these events into the homes of all Americans.

That these events will translate into additional occurrences in diverse geographical situations is most unlikely.  Yet, increased law enforcement has already happened in New York City.  It is a prudent reaction to the event.  Yet, in a smaller metropolitan area, a recurrence is highly unlikely.

Therefore, we need to make sure, as a community and especially as parents, we do not translate our fear and media fear to our children.  TV and the Internet, make it a reality and an impactful part of our life.  Fear of the unknown or a perceived fear is different from a real fear.  Yet,  law enforcement professionals have to error on the side of caution for the safety all.

Terrorists want to generate fear in Americans.  It is up to us to determine whether they succeed or not.


Violence: Video Games & TV: How does it affect children?

Children are going to watch TV and play video games.  It is not the playing of the video game or watching TV that is the problem, yet the violence of the TV or video games may contribute as a variable. 

First is the importance of socialization

Socialization is achieved at school through learning to get along with others, playing team sports, experience with winning and losing and being accepted and sometimes, rejected by a group.

As children, we learn by socializing with other students. We learn to respect others. We learn to discover what groups are best for us. We learn that yes, we will be accepted in certain circles and groups

Then there is parental support

Some children have parents that watch the video games they play, make sure the child is playing the video games in the family room, limits the amount of time their child plays video games or watches TV.

Finally it is about teachers, psychologists and counselors in the schools to recognize those children that need help and getting the help they need. 

Good and Bad Stress

Good stress is the kind of stress that makes our adrenaline kick in. Knowing that you will be challenged to use all your skills and herculean effort to get the job done is stressful. However, at the end of the day, the rewards of achievement, personal satisfaction, professional growth, overcoming obstacles, meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals makes it worthwhile. The rewards counter-balance the stress.

Bad stress can adversely affect our immune system. Bad stress is generally long term and can be summed up in one word, “worry”.  Unlike good stress, where there is an element of control, worry occurs when people lose control of outcomes and circumstances. The loss of job, downsizing and layoffs are often beyond the scope of that control.

Living in a constant state of mental stress results in changes in brain chemistry manifests in a deterioration of physical health.

The harmful effect of long-term stress, damages our tissue, increasing our susceptibility to disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

Suicide_Pastor Warren’s son commits suicide

For some there is no silver lining.

Mental illness can happen regardless of income, social status regardless of the ability to get the best physicians, psychologists, counselors, and medications.

Despite parental support, Christian upraising, recognition of mental health illness and ability to give the best medical support, the 27-year-old committed suicide.

Mental health issues do exist and are a lifetime struggle for certain people.

The psychologist or psychiatrist who worked with this young man would have a clear understand of the underlining mental aspects that lead to his depression and downward spiral resulting in tragically taking his own life.

Psychological studies indicate teen suicide is the third cause of death for young people ages 15-24 years old: 20% teenagers consider it.

Men are more likely to commit suicide than women.  For women it trends toward a cry for help and women comprise only 25% of those who commit suicide.  Men seem to plan it and go through with it.  Psychologically, they may be at a point where they have made a decision to take their own life.

Suicide is often depression oriented, rooted in self-esteem issues: feeling of worthless, failing to meet goals to live up to expectations of others. There is a high level of avoidance and intrusive memories that occurs in the depressed person.  The high frequency of negative memories continues to affect thinking and lead to a continuation of depression symptoms.

One psychological study found a 73% prevalence of intrusive memories even 6 months later in depressed individuals.  It seems to be a common thread in depressive episodes.  Depressed individuals relate to negative events a reduced amount of recall for positive ones.  One study found a correlation with negative memories and the inability shift self-impressions.

My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Warren, his wife and family.  I have read all his books and “The Purpose Driven Life” is inspirational.

As psychologists, counselors, and parents, we need to be alert to possible warning signs for depression and mental health issues:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • Low self esteem (feeling of worthlessness)
  •  Overwhelming guilt

The Loss of your Pet article published in “Animal Fair Media, Inc” March 2013

IMG_0013All of the sudden you walk in the door of your home and there is emptiness. There is no pet to greet you; curling around your legs, wagging his tail, attempting to please you. The one who sits at your feet or curls up on your lap with no judgment at all.

You spend years with the animal that knows your routine, your habits and adjusts to them. Often you have raised them as a pup and kitten and watched them grow up, or you take in a pet that is older and needs attention. The pet becomes part of your family.  We take the responsibility to make sure our pet is feed, walked, watered, played with and taken are of.  We provide the basic needs and then we become emotionally attached to our pet.  Kind of, what we do for our friends, our spouse and our children to be there to take care of them and we get something back in return. Yet, unlike friends and children who grow up, the pet is always there. He is there to great you when you are happy or lonely.

Pets are therapeutic to all of us.  They offer a comfort with no conditions.  You do not have to please a pet because they please you with no demands. They will purr and snuggle, growl and play.

Therefore, the loss of a pet is still “grief and loss”.  Most of my friends say they know when their pet is getting older or sick. They know when they are fading and struggle with; should they keep them alive, are they in pain or should they let them go?  Some friends have a sick pet that keeps them up at night and they are unsure if they are being cruel to put them to sleep prior to their nature death.  Certainly, this sounds like what most pet owners do.  They doubt their instincts about the right thing to do for their pet, since the pet cannot talk and tell them.

A loss is still a loss; that is why we often hear our friends say their dog or cat is going to “dog or cat heaven”.  This is part of the grieving process.  The grieving process comes in stages; loneliness, and depression such as “I miss my pet”.  Do I want to purchase another puppy or kitten?  Do I need to spend some time grieving for my pet? We are human and we want to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. That is why we respond to the stories of puppies and cats abused or put in cages and cannot find a home.   My favorite media story on pets “… the mother dog Amanda, paced back and forth between the house, putting her 10 day old puppies in the safest place she could find – a Fire Truck”… …she didn’t stop racing back into the smoke and fire until all her puppies were safe and the firefighters were spraying her with water”.  Certainly, I need not say more about how we like our pets and how they offer comfort and have an instinct of their own!


Help out with a local pet shelter

Temporarily take in a pet until a permanent home is found

Start a new activity you have wanted to do after work

Get together for dinner with your friends

Work with the nursing homes, Hospice and Children’s hospitals that take a pet in to give them comfort!

And realize it is OK to be sad!


Givers and Takers: which one are you?

We, as humans, fall in to one of two categories. Either we spend our life, predominately, as a giver or as a taker.

Think about which you are?

Are you a person that seeks to give with no expectation of receiving in a relationship?

If you are a giver, you have control over whom you seek as friends and as lovers. You get to decide which people will be your friends and reject others.

Takers have no power without a giver.