What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

As a fairly new diagnosis to the DSM-IV manual, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), sometimes known as Attachment Disorder (AD), is frequently misunderstood, and is misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder as often as 70% of the time.

Today, perhaps more so than at any point in history, kids are apt to be separated, ignored, or neglected by their birth parents, shuttled between multiple foster parents and day care workers, or traumatized by physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Even while physically present, some mothers are yet incapable of providing adequate care and attention for their children.

RAD kids have learned that the world is unsafe, and that the adults around them can’t be trusted to meet their needs. They have developed a protective shell around their emotions, isolating themselves from dependency on adult caregivers. Rather than depending on their parents or other adults to protect them, the protective shell becomes the child’s only means of coping with the world.

Dependent only upon themselves for protection, they come to see anyone who is trying to remove this protective barrier as a threat, not to their emotional well being, but to their very lives. They turn on those who seek to help them the most.

People require attachments with others in order to develop psychologically and emotionally. Attachment is the bond that normally develops between a mother and her child during the first few years of a child’s life. The quality of this bond affects the relationships that a person will have for the rest of his life.

Attachment develops in the early years of life when a mother responds to her baby’s cries by meeting its needs, appropriately feeding, consoling, soothing, and comforting, as well as keeping the infant safe from abuse and harm.

Fundamental to RAD kids is that they haven’t bonded and are unable to trust. They have learned that the adults in their lives are untrustworthy. Trust hasn’t worked for them. Without trust, there cannot be love, and without love they are emotionally underdeveloped.  Instead of love, rage has developed within them.

In the first few years of life, at a time even before they have learned to speak, they have learned that the world is a scary place, and that they cannot rely on anyone else to get them through it.

Normal parenting doesn’t work with RAD kids. Neither does traditional therapy, since these therapies are dependent upon the child’s ability to form relationships that require trust, something that is at the root of the problem. Sticker charts and behavioral programs don’t work because the RAD child doesn’t care what you think about his behavior. Natural consequences work better than lectures or charts. Structure is a necessity, but only when combined with nurturing.

While these kids can be healed, they have to want it, and the prognosis is not good. Without healing, these kids grow up unable to form healthy relationships with other human beings. Too often, these kids develop into sociopaths devoid of conscience or concern for anyone other themselves.

Reactive attachment disorder is a very real illness.  Children with reactive attachment disorder are reacting to events in their early life that may include neglect, abuse, or something subtler like ongoing, undiagnosed painful medical issues (see Potential Causes below).  Due to these events, many children are unable to attach to a primary caregiver and go through the normal development that is required in order to function in relationships.  My explanation is somewhat simplified but may be helpful to you.  It does not replace a diagnosis from a qualified attachment therapist.

In the first two years of life, children go through healthy attachment cycles – the first year and second year attachment cycles.  A healthy first year attachment cycle looks like this:

As the baby has a need and signals that need by crying, the mother (primary caregiver) comes and soothes her baby and meets his needs.  If this cycle is repeated over and over again and the baby’s needs are consistently met in the proper way by the same caregiver, the baby often learns to trust.  He will then be able to continue on in his development.  Now, take a look at the disturbed attachment cycle:

As you compare the Healthy Attachment Cycle to the Disturbed Attachment Cycle, you can see how the baby has a need, cries, but this time, the need is not met by his mother (primary caregiver).  Sometimes the need is met but it is inconsistent or there are different caregivers who are not attuned to this particular baby.  Sometimes the baby’s cries go unanswered as in the case of neglect or the baby’s cries are met with a slap as in the case of physical abuse.  Whatever the cause, the baby’s needs are not met in a consistent appropriate way.  (See “Potential Causes” below)

Instead of learning to trust as the baby who experiences the Healthy Attachment Cycle this baby learns that the world is an unsafe place, that he must take care of himself, that he can trust no one to meet his needs.  He learns that he cannot depend on adults.  Instead of trust developing, rage develops and is internalized.   He learns that he must be in charge of his life for his very survival.  Is it any wonder that a child with reactive attachment disorder feels the need to be in control?  He thinks his very life depends on it.

If the child has been able to successfully go through the Healthy Attachment Cycle during his first year of life then he most likely will be able to go through the next which is the Second Year Secure Attachment Cycle:

It is only by going through this Second Year Secure Attachment Cycle that the child will ever be able to learn to accept limits on his behavior.  It is by going through these two attachment cycles – the Healthy Attachment Cycle in the first year and then the Second Year Secure Attachment Cycle – that the child learns to trust, engage in reciprocity, to regulate his emotions.  It is back there that he starts to develop a conscience, self- esteem, empathy, and the foundations for logical thinking are laid down, etc.

The breakdown of these two attachment cycles will damage all of the relationships he has for the rest of his life unless interventions are made. When the first cycle breaks down, the child cannot do the second year.  To expect the child to function as a typical child when his normal development was completely stunted back in infant/toddlerhood is not rational.  We must take them back and help them redo these steps.

*    Some information based on Attachment, Trauma, and Healing by Terry Levy and Michael Orlans

There are links between food and mood. Making healthy food choices can help lessen the symptoms of depression

By Beth W. Orenstein
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Here’s the irony: Making healthy food choices can help boost your mood, but if you’re stressed or sad you’re more likely to eat poorly.

If you have depression, you may feel too sad to eat. But skipping meals can make you more irritable and nervous — not only are you feeling down, but you’re also hungry and your blood sugar can drop, says Felicia Wong, MD, a Los Angeles psychiatrist and a member of the American Psychiatric Association. And indulging in the wrong foods can make depression symptoms worse.

Perhaps you take comfort in the ice cream you have stashed in the freezer, and you eat the whole container in one sitting. The problem with going on a sugar binge is that it can lead to a crash, and your mood can be worse than before you pigged out.

Depending on caffeine for energy isn’t a good idea either. Too much caffeine can disrupt your sleep, and if you don’t sleep well you’re more susceptible to the symptoms of depression.

Alcohol may also seem like a good way to escape from depression symptoms, but it’s not the answer. Alcohol is a poor choice because it’s a depressant. It can impair your judgment and affect your sleep. “It’s hard to feel good when you’re sleep-deprived,” Dr. Wong says.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all diet for depression, making healthy food choices and including certain vitamins and nutrients in your diet can put you in a better mood, says Manuel Villacorta, RD, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, spokesman for the American Dietetic Association, and a nutritionist in San Francisco.

Healthy Food Choices for Depression

What should your plate look like if you’re eating for food and mood? First, eat a balanced diet, Villacorta says. Choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Include low-fat dairy products like cheese and yogurt, and add lean sources of protein like meats, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and eggs. Limit foods that are high in salt or sugar. Processed foods and foods that are fried or high in saturated fat won’t provide the nutrition you need to boost your mood, he says. Plus, fatty and high-sugar foods can be high in calories and cause you to gain weight. When you gain weight, your risk for heart disease and diabetes increases, you tire more easily, and your self-esteem can suffer, which in turn can worsen depression, Wong says.

In recent years, carbohydrates have become the enemy in certain types of diets. “People are cutting out carbs completely,” Villacorta says, who suggests that rather than avoiding all carbs, you should simply choose the right ones — whole-grain breads, fruits, and vegetables. These carbs are digested more slowly than refined carbs, which cause your blood sugar to quickly rise and drop, leading to fatigue. Including healthy carbohydrates in your diet is important because they help increase levels of serotonin — a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages from one area of the brain to another — which makes you feel more relaxed.

Nutrients to Improve Mood

Other healthy food-mood partners include:

Omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel and in ground flaxseed, canola oil, and some nuts such as walnuts. Research is still ongoing, Villacorta says, but some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate symptoms of depression. You can also take fish oil in capsules. “There are psychiatrists who prescribe fish oil as an adjunctive treatment for depression,” Wong says. “I’ve had a few people report to me that it helped improve their mood.”

Vitamin B12 and folate. Vitamin B12 is found in fish, such as salmon and trout, and in fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals. B12 is also available as a vitamin supplement. Good sources of folate (another B vitamin) are dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach, citrus fruits, beans, almonds, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereals. Researchers believe that these two B vitamins help break down the amino acid homocysteine, which is being investigated for a possible link to depression when in high levels.

Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and increases endorphins, the feel-good hormones. “I recommend dark chocolate to all my clients,” Villacorta says. “If you can eat just one or two small pieces a day, it’s good for you.” But be sure to stop there — a serving of only 1.5 ounces has also been shown to be heart-healthy, but eating the whole bar may cause you to pack on extra pounds.

Protein. Protein provides the amino acid tryptophan, which has been shown to improve mood in some people. Good sources of protein are lean meats, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. Also, beans and certain nuts have protein and can supply tryptophan to help fight the symptoms of depression.

It’s important to pay attention to what you eat because eating right can help boost your mood. “Proper nutrition is essential for good mental health,” Wong says. “I always emphasize diet and exercise for people with depression.” However, there’s no diet for depression that will act as a cure-all, so be sure to work with your doctor or a mental health professional to find the best ways to manage your symptoms

FACEBOOK May Affect Your Marriage

Facebook may not be a friend to your marriage.

A survey of 5,000 British divorce petitions filed in 2011 for “unreasonable behavior,” found 33 percent included the word “Facebook.”

Conducted by the Internet firm Divorce-Online, which bills itself as “the UK’s original and most trusted online divorce service,” the 2011 results represent a significant jump from 2009, when Divorce-Online found 20 percent of behavior petitions mentioned the world’s largest social network.

According to Divorce-Online, the three top reasons Facebook is cited in divorce petitions are:

  • “Inappropriate messages to the opposite sex.”
  • “Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.”
  • “Facebook friends reporting spouse’s behavior.”

And lest you think this is just an issue across the pond, it isn’t. The number of divorce cases using evidence culled from social networking is increasing in the United States, too. According to a 2010 survey of divorce attorneys by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 81 percent of lawyers surveyed said they’d seen such an increase during the previous five years, with Facebook the most common network cited.

The network had 500 million users worldwide in July 2010, according to its own statistics; by the end of March this year that figure had ballooned to 901 million users. Meanwhile, a 2008 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 22 percent of adults used Facebook to flirt. With 901 million users out there, that’s a lot of potential flirting opportunities.

If Facebook is all about sharing your life with others, one’s emotional health can be impacted by over-sharing. “I think social media right now really draws on people giving too much information,” says Scott Bea, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, “and until they experience the consequence of that, it may be hard for some people to really pull back.”

And it’s more than just flirting, Bea points out. When a relationship goes sour it’s all too easy to vent online, forgetting that even if you’re not face to face with the person you’re talking about, your comments can get back to her or him. “It’s hard for people, I think,” Dr. Bea says. “Our shame and humiliation now can be publicized. One statistic says 20 percent of people think it’s okay just to change your relationship status in order to breakup. So breakups may be occurring in kind of cold and callous ways, but they’re also very public and humiliating ways as well.”

For a taste of just how curdling the Facebook/love combination can be, surf to FacebookCheating.com, a blog founded in 2009 by Ken Savage after he discovered his wife was having an affair largely facilitated through Facebook. The site’s anonymous posts (with titles like “It Can Ruin You” and “Affair from High School”) paint a wrenching portrait of the intersection of social networking and heartbreak. Of course, FacebookCheating.com also has its own Facebook page — proof perhaps that social networking can help heal broken hearts in addition to causing them.

Most Common Reason Partners Cheat

New York, NY (June 2012): A survey of counseling professionals from YourTango.com—a website about love and relationships—sheds dramatic, new light on infidelity. Surprisingly, it’s not about the sex. Instead, emotional dissatisfaction is the number-one reason both men and women cheat, according to these experts, while sexual dissatisfaction comes in second. Only 8% of respondents say men are “hard-wired” to “spread their seed.”

About this statistic, YourTango Expert Lynn R. Zakeri has this to say: “It may sound surprising, but many men are really looking for someone to connect with, to be their best friend and their intimate partner, and when they lose that connection in their marriage, they may look elsewhere.” Meanwhile, YourTango Expert Dr. Susan Heitler adds, “While there are many factors that can lead to an extramarital sexual encounter, emotional distance is one that couples can prevent. If there’s been distress, dissension or too much distance, take a marriage ed class to learn how to stay more comfortably connected.”

Members of YourTango Experts, an organization of 1,200 psychotherapists, counselors, coaches and other helping professionals, completed a survey that reveals numerous insights on infidelity, including culprits, preventative measures and counterintuitive advice for adulterers. Survey Results: 6 Surprising Myths About Infidelity EXPERT

While nearly 50% agree that technology is a catalyst for cheating, only 7% indicate that Facebook has increased the number of affairs significantly. 90% say that dating sites like Match.com just provide the opportunity; if someone wants to cheat, he/she will find a way regardless of the sites or services available.

The top two measures to prevent cheating are: (1) for both partners to feel valued and important to each other and (2) to have good communication. Satisfying sex clocked in third.

“This data is consistent with our previous research that underscores the real problem for most couples is less about sex and more about feeling valued and communicating successfully,” states Andrea Miller, CEO and Founder of YourTango. “And while 50% of affairs play out sexually, emotional affairs constitute the betrayal a whopping 40% of the time. It’s the lack of closeness that overwhelmingly leads to cheating and discord.”

Divorce and Anxiety

Divorce is a difficult process. You shared a life with someone, spent years growing a mutual relationship, and suddenly that relationship is about to end and you will be single again. Even if you knew divorce was eminent – even if you were the one that ended it and had been planning the divorce for years – it still marks an end to something important in your life, and that can have some serious mental health consequences.

One of those consequences is anxiety. Many people that deal with a serious divorce find that they suffer from a great deal of anxiety after the divorce is over. This anxiety is caused by a number of different factors including, but not limited to:

Change in Routine

Marriage – even a rocky marriage – is a routine. You’re used to having your partner around, sharing in activities and depending on their behaviors. After a divorce your routine changes, and that change can cause regular amounts of anxiety. Often your lifestyle has to change as well, as you move to a new place or take care of your children. All of this can contribute to feeling anxious.

Stress of the Divorce Process

The divorce process itself is often a stress-filled ordeal. There is a lot of arguing, and lot of awkward conversations, potential court dates and more. Even after the divorce has been finalized, there is often residual stress that bleeds into the rest of your life. It’s not uncommon for those going through a divorce to feel more stress at work, which leads to greater levels of anxiety at home.

Worry Over the Future

Divorce also changes your expectations of the future. Suddenly the way you pictured your future starts to change. You may worry about whether or not you’re dating again, or if you’re going to be okay financially, or how you’re going to get your life back together. Worries over the future are common with those that go through divorce, and often contribute to greater amounts of anxiety.

Dealing with Post-Divorce Anxiety

Anxiety after a divorce is common, but it can be reduced if you’re willing to seek treatment. Rest assured that the anxiety you feel is natural, and simply a part of experiencing that level of change.

Counseling is the most effect treatment, as it allows you to vent your frustrations to a trained therapist that is able to offer both counseling and behavioral training to help you cope with the issues of the divorce. Having that type of social support available makes dealing with the issues surrounding your divorce much easier. Other successful coping mechanisms include:

Reconnecting with Friends

During a marriage, it’s easy to lose contact with those that you care about in favor of spending time with your partner. But social support is an important part of reducing anxiety, and reconnecting with your friends will give you fun activities that will take your mind off the stress and pressures of a divorce. Time with friends is one of the most effective and enjoyable coping mechanisms.

Find a Hobby

Part of the anxiety comes from focusing on the divorce, rather than yourself. When you find a hobby, you are able to occupy your time with something you enjoy, giving you a regular task to do that gives you something new to be passionate about. Consider a creative outlet such as art or poetry that can also help you improve your ability to cope.

Develop a Healthy Routine

Routines are the way that human beings find balance in life. As long as your routine is healthy (and you refrain from harmful behaviors like alcohol abuse), you’ll be able to find more comfort in your daily life. Your routine should include activities such as hobbies and spending time with friends, because keeping active regularly – and knowing you have regular activities to do – will also contribute to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Find a Support Group

Millions of other people are experiencing the same anxiety after a divorce. Connecting with a support group and listening to the experiences of others can be comforting, and being around those that understand where you’re coming from provides you with additional social support to help you through the process.

Emotions Can Be Misleading

After the divorce you may also experience a range of different emotions – from anger, to sadness, to missing your partner more than you realized. Trusting in these emotions can only lead to more anxiety symptoms. Emotions often have no meaning, and are a natural result of dealing with change. Talk these emotions over with your counselor, friends, or support group, to ensure they don’t lead to further anxiety.

Recovering Over Time

Anxiety after divorce is a common, and no matter how emotionally strong you are, it takes time to recover. But if you focus your attention on healthy activities, improve your social support system, give yourself a healthy routine and seek counseling for your emotions, recover is easily possible.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera recognized his own issues wi

Grief of Childlessness

The grief hit me in my mid-thirties without warning.

By all appearances, my life was fantastic, or pretty close. I had a great job in New York City, good friends, some good dates. But then there were times, lonely days and nights, when I would cry. I would sob. I would lie in bed awake for hours, tears running onto my pillow. I was in mourning, but I didn’t know it.

Having experienced the same feeling for a few years, I now know the grief was over being childless, or more poignantly, over the loss of the baby I never held in my arms. By that point in my life I had expected to be married and a mother to at least two kids. I was far from it, still very single, no kids. Passing by a new mother and her infant strolling down Broadway would rattle my womb. Even seeing a woman swollen from seven or eight months of pregnancy would make my petite frame feel invisible and small. The sadness I’d feel around my period was deeper than hormonal. I was mourning the loss of one more chance at the family life I always dreamed of.

And I grieved alone.

Grief over not being able to have children is acceptable for couples going through biological infertility. Grief over childlessness for a single woman in her thirties and forties is not as accepted. Instead, it’s assumed we just don’t understand that our fertility has a limited lifespan and we are simply being reckless with chance. We’re labeled “career women” as if we graduated college, burned our bras and got jobs to exhibit some sort of feminist muscle. Or, it’s assumed we’re not ‘trying hard enough,’ or we’re ‘being too picky.’ The latest trend is to assume we don’t really want children because we haven’t frozen our eggs, adopted or had a biological baby as a single woman.

This type of grief, grief that is not accepted or that is silent, is referred to as disenfranchised grief. It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. You didn’t lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable.

Let me be clear. When you’re over 35 and heartbroken over a breakup with the guy who you hoped would be ‘the one’ or haven’t had a good date in a while or watch your close friends go on to their second or third pregnancy, it’s hard. It’s disarming. And sometimes, it’s unbearable.

I’ve always loved being around babies. I couldn’t get enough of my own newborn nieces and nephew. Not having my own, I felt like the world, in one big swoop, was moving forward and I was being held back.

Turning 40 helped. Just the anticipation of turning 37… 38… 39 and remaining single was creating more anxiety than anything else in my life. Once I hit 40, I realized that despite my dreams (and deep biological and emotional desire to be a mother), I was still happy for all the other things in my life. Being an aunt was (and will probably always be) my greatest joy. Starting my own business, becoming an author and fulfilling my professional potential have been extraordinarily rewarding.

I’m 42 now, and I’ve quietly moved on. Becoming a mother at this point would be a very happy surprise. Of course, I still have my moments. That hard-won peace of mind can be interrupted by an unexpected package from a PR agency sending me a newborn baby onesie for promotion. (There’s something about a onesie I have no use for that is especially tender). Or when people assume I never wanted kids because I don’t have any. Or act surprised when I reveal that I do. Or worse, presume I am happier for being childless or more fortunate for not having to ‘worry about kids.’ Some have even come to call me “childfree” — a term coined by those who have chosen never to have children and have no desire to have children, simply because I’ve ‘chosen’ to wait for love. I not only have to cope with my circumstantial infertility, but I have to defend my desire to be married to someone I’m crazy about before conceiving. I have to defend why I’m not a mother when it’s all I ever wanted to be.

The grief over never becoming a mother is one I will never get over, like the grief over losing my own mother 23 years ago. But like that kind of grief, with time, it’s no longer constant or active. Yes, there’s still hope I’ll meet a man who has the desire to have a baby with me and will be prepared to be with me through the treatments I may need to make that happen. Or grieve with me should they not work. But mainly, I just keep going, looking for love. Thankfully, there’s no biological time limit on that dream.

I cautiously hold onto the hope that I may still have a chance to hold my baby in my arms — and that I am still attractive to men who want children too. I know I’m not alone. I am one of the 18 percent of American women between the ages of 40 and 44 who are childless. Pew Research reports that half of this group has chosen that fate; they are childfree by choice. And the rest of us, about one million American childless women ages 40 to 44, suffer from biological or circumstantial infertility.

How we choose to move on from this grief is now the focus of our own kind of happily ever after. And I must say, I plan for my ‘happy’ to indeed be ever after. And hopefully, it won’t be alone.

by: Melanie Notkin

Hiring the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Divorce cases are often won or lost because of the lawyer involved. Are there some obvious and not so obvious red flags that you hired the wrong lawyer? Absolutely. Here, are some to consider:

  1. Unresponsiveness. One obvious red flag waves when telephone messages or email are repeatedly ignored. If your lawyer doesn’t respond within a reasonable time, you can assume one of two things. 1) The lawyer is too busy to give proper attention to your case, or 2) the lawyer does not care about you nor your case.
  2. Excessive billing. Bills for legal services that seem unreasonably high may be a red flag that you are being overcharged or charged for services not actually performed. Signs of excessive billing include charging for attempted phone calls, charging for every contact regardless of the content or length of the communication. Some lawyers bill for time spent by support staff taking messages or making photo copies. Check billing statements for accuracy and reasonableness.
  3. Clueless of the specifics of your case. While many divorce issues are similar, no two cases are identical. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to appreciate and understand the specifics of each case. When you are asked the same questions repeatedly, chances are your lawyer does not have a grasp on your individual needs.
  4. Unversed about local court practices and procedures. Every jurisdiction has unique procedural nuances. Unfamiliarity with local practices and procedures suggests limited experience.
  5. Lacks compassion. In all likelihood, your divorce is not the only matter your attorney is working on. However, you should be treated as more than a case file number. There should be a showing of compassion.
  6. Inappropriate emotional investment. There is a fine line between empathy and becoming emotionally invested. Lawyers should never cross the line. Be wary if your lawyer behaves as though they are a party to the divorce.
  7. Condescending. While you may be unfamiliar with the legalities of divorce, you should not be spoken to or treated in a condescending manner. Be aware of the manner in which your attorney interacts with you. Being treated in a rude or condescending manner is never appropriate.
  8. Bullying. During the divorce process numerous life altering decisions are made. Many of these decisions will affect you for a very long time to come. Although improper and wrong, some unscrupulous divorce attorneys bully or shame clients into making decisions, decisions which are often wrong. Don’t fall prey to this tactic, decisions you make during the divorce process will have long term affects and consequences.
  9. Antagonistic toward opposing counsel. Opposing counsel will invariably disagree and often become quite contentious. However, when disagreements escalate and become personal between the lawyers the focus shifts away from the clients. Lawyer should put their personal differences aside and keep the focus on the clients.
  10. Lacks candor. Lawyers are obligated to present and discuss all reasonable settlement proposals received from the opposition. As a way to drag the process out and keep fee clock ticking, some lawyers will without consulting the client, unilaterally refuse offers of settlement.
  11. Your instincts are perhaps the biggest red flag of all. Trust that inner voice. If you think something is amiss, it probably is.

source: Huffington Pos

Love hurts

It sounds like a cliche, but new research suggests it might literally be true.

Rejection by a romantic partner during a breakup activates regions of the brain associated with physical pain, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study.

“Rejection literally hurts,” said researcher Edward Smith, a cognitive neuroscientist at Columbia University.

People have long described the sadness over a lost love or a romantic breakup in much the same way, using words like “pain” and “hurt.” They often sounded as though they’re speaking interchangeably about mental anguish and physical suffering — making scientists wonder whether the two feelings might be triggering the same areas of the brain.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the sensation of physical pain after a rejection makes sense, since being cast out of a group might lead to extreme vulnerability in the wild, Smith said.

“That might be why this link evolved between rejection and pain, to make us want to avoid rejection,” he told LiveScience.

And it isn’t only the experience of being dumped. The bad memories can cause intense pain too, the findings show.

But previous research has been unsuccessful in finding evidence of a concrete link between rejection and the brain’s pain centers.

Smith said it was the methodology of those studies that was problematic, since they tried to muster up jilted feelings by having participants imagine situations that didn’t elicit strong emotional reactions. They were told, for example, that a stranger didn’t like them, or that they weren’t invited to play a computer game with the rest of the group.

“We wanted something bigger,” said Smith. So he and his co-authors solicited volunteers who had unwillingly been broken up with in the past. Participants also had probes on their arms that delivered potentially painful bursts of heat, to compare the brain activity that occurred during physical sensations of pain. The findings showed that the same areas of the brain were activated while the subjects experienced the physical pain of the heat probe and the emotional pain associated with the breakup memories.

The authors are now delving into ways people might be able to alleviate that kind of anguish, including existing strategies used in psychotherapy.

“One piece of advice when thinking about rejection is to view experiences with an ex-partner as an outside person from a distance,” Smith told LiveScience. “We want to see if this really does help at the level of the brain.”

What Does Passive-Aggressive Mean?

The term passive-aggressive is defined as the “unassertive” expression of negative sentiments, feelings of anger, and resentfulness. So instead of verbally or physically expressing frustration or anger — or even simply saying “no” when asked to complete a task — someone described as passive-aggressive might simply act agreeable but then not follow through with completing the task.

Passive-aggressive personality can sometimes seem pretty easy to recognize. In fact, these behaviors were once known as a personality disorder of the same name — passive-aggressive personality disorder.

Today, passive-aggressive personality disorder is no longer considered a mental health condition and the diagnosis is not recognized. But that doesn’t mean that these personality traits no longer exist.

Passive-aggressive behaviors can be truly troubling and may still require medical treatment and help to cope with them. People with passive-aggressive personality traits also tend to, over time, develop feelings of anger.

Symptoms of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

It’s not understood why some people behave in a passive-aggressive manner or have chronic passive-aggressive personality characteristics. But it’s thought that genetics could play a role, in addition to environment.

Some identifiable signs and symptoms of passive-aggressive behaviors include:

Putting off responsibilities
Carrying out responsibilities late, not at all, or inefficiently
“Forgetting” to do things or using forgetfulness as an excuse not to do things
Being reluctant to accept others’ suggestions
Being afraid of those in positions of authority
Having pent-up feelings of anger
Resenting and blaming other people
People with passive-aggressive personality typically don’t disagree or voice their resentment; it’s their behaviors that indicate that they’re passively ignoring a request or responsibility, or doing it only with resentment.

Diagnosing and Treating Passive Aggression

A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, may perform a psychological evaluation to diagnose passive-aggressive behaviors. He will also do some careful questioning and review a history of symptoms in order to recommend the appropriate course of treatment.

Passive-aggressive personality disorder was considered a chronic condition, meaning that it had no chance of improving. But people with passive-aggressive behaviors can learn to deal with those behaviors and learn ways to cope with their symptoms.
Therapy and counseling can help people with passive-aggressive behaviors learn to understand their behaviors and react more appropriately. They can learn to better express their feelings before they develop hostility or resentfulness. Treatment can be effective, and the prognosis for overcoming passive aggression is generally considered good.

It’s also important to avoid dependency on drugs or alcohol, and any substance abuse problems or dependencies should be brought under control as part of managing passive aggression.

So perhaps that friend who conveniently “forgets” her promise to help you clean out your closets didn’t really want to do it in the first place. Or maybe you realize that you yourself miss deadlines when you dislike the project you were assigned at work. If you exhibit these behaviors and symptoms repeatedly over time, it may be a good idea to seek guidance from a mental health professional to determine if you might have a passive-aggressive personality — and learn how to better handle situations that cause frustration.

By Diana Rodriguez

Dealing with a Toxic Boss

How many people out there hate their bosses? And how many have the luxury of simply voting with their feet, and leaving? It’s very common to have a toxic boss at some point in your career. Learning how to get along with them can make your experience at work much more tolerable.

Toxic bosses are often energy vampires who drain our morale, creativity and productivity. Ironically, they often feel they are doing the right thing in the process. So when you react to them, you get dragged into a tug-of-war that too often leads to a one way ticket out the door. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.

At the same time, the right communication skills can provide a great antidote to those toxic bosses. Here’s how:

Learn how your boss sees the world.

Does your boss go to bed every night dreaming of new ways to be mean and cruel? Doubtful, but if true, it’s time to start planning to leave. Usually, the reality is that your boss has a warped view of managing people. What you see as a criticism, they see as, “holding people accountable.” What you see as politics, they see as, “motivating people to perform.” What you think is pointless nastiness is, in the their mind, “avoiding a country-club atmosphere where people slack off.”

How do you learn what your boss is thinking? Simple, you ask them. Here are some examples that will help you to better understand where the boss is coming from:

  • “What would the ideal department look like for you?”
  • “What kinds of things frustrate you about our team?”
  • “What would be the single biggest thing I could do better this year?”

Validate the boss’s view of the situation at work.

This part feels like sucking on a lemon for most people, but it is the key to changing your boss’s toxic behavior. (When was the last time you responded positively to criticism?) Here, you are not out to agree with your boss or “kiss up” to him/her. Your goal is to make it clear that you understand their point of view so that s/he will then listen to you.

For example:

Boss: “I wish people would stop slacking off and get to work around here.”

You: “Good point; it is frustrating when people don’t perform like you wish they did.”


Boss: “You never do this task right!”

You: “I don’t want you to settle for less than the best. Let’s discuss how I could improve.”

Does it feel funny to say things like these to a boss who acts like Darth Vader? Of course it does. But when you say them, you accomplish something very important – you create a safe space to start talking about changing the boss’s intimidating ways.

Offer an alternative.

Here is where you close in for the kill. Offer your boss what s/he wants, while presenting them with a neutral, factual way to get there – by treating you better! For example:

“I want to give you everything you want in the future.. At the same time, I find it difficult to do that when I am constantly being criticized. It makes it harder for me to do my best. Where could we go from here?”

Now you are in a productive dialogue and have established yourself as an ally of the boss and his/her goals, and can start negotiating a win-win solution as adults. Remember to use facts here, not feelings. Suggest to your boss that they, “share performance expectations” or “talk to me first before you criticize my work”, is OK, but asking them to, “stop being a jerk” is provocative, and will only make things worse.

With the right words, you can often achieve what seems impossible: get your toxic boss to change, using a painless conversation that never puts the boss on the defensive. In the process, you will gain interpersonal and leadership skills that will stick with you for the rest of your life.