Some people know when you are having a hard day when you need some time to yourself, or when you are being honest. Other people don’t have a clue. What about you? Do you understand your own emotions? How well can you manage yourself in stressful situations? Are you in tune with other people’s emotions? People with emotional intelligence actually have a greater chance at succeeding in the workplace, in relationships, and elsewhere. Here are some ways you can tell if your emotional intelligence level is high.
1. Ability to Show Empathy. If you can metaphorically step into another person’s shoes and understand what they are going through, you have a gift of empathy. This ability connects you with other people, leading to deeper and more meaningful relationships.
2. CuriosityDo you love to know about other people? When curiosity drives you to understand another person’s situation, you can feel what they feel. This curiosity is related to empathy, but is also a reason to learn more about other people.
3. Taking Time Off. Whether it’s shutting off your phone, taking a mental health day from work, or just relaxing for a couple of hours with a good book, taking time off is a sign of emotional intelligence. It shows that you know how to keep your stress levels down.
4. Taking a Moment to Think. How many sticky situations have you avoided because you remembered to think before you spoke? How much of your success in life is due to pausing and contemplating your actions before you did them? Even when your emotions tell you to do something right away, a person with high emotional IQ will stop and think first because you know your emotions are not always trustworthy.
5. Being Authentic. When you don’t pretend you are someone else, you are being authentic. This displays self-confidence and honesty. It also shows that you know who you are, and you’re okay being yourself. Another buzzword for authenticity is “transparency.” It means people can count on you to stand by your values.
6. Communicating Feelings. Feelings can be a confusing maze for anyone. If you can express your feelings beyond a vague “sadness” or “happiness,” then you have some emotional intelligence. If your vocabulary for feelings is very large, and you can easily communicate to others what you are feeling and maybe even how they are feeling, then you probably have a high emotional intelligence.
7. Demonstrating Humility. You might sometimes be wrong, and you might even hurt others. Instead of running away from the situation or covering it up, a person with high emotional intelligence apologizes. A true apology is a humble apology, which cares more for the feelings of others and allows everyone involved to move forward in the relationship.
8. Helping Other People. If you find yourself taking time out of your personal agenda to help others, then you are demonstrating that you care about other people’s emotions. Whether you are helping someone move, listening carefully to a friend who needs to talk, or doing a task for a co-worker that you know she doesn’t like to do, then you are showing that you know what other people need.
9. Being Self-Motivated. Some people need a boss to constantly tell them what to do. People with high emotional intelligence are usually self-motivated. They understand what they enjoy doing, how they will feel when a job is finished, and what it takes to get a job done. They are also usually optimistic, which helps them power through tough spots to reach their goals.
10. Always Improving and Sharpening Emotional Skills. High emotional intelligence is something that needs to be maintained. It needs to be practiced and sharpened, and it usually does get put to good use. If you find yourself learning new ways to resolve conflicts in your relationships, new words to describe your emotions, or reaching out to understand others better, then you are gaining new emotional intelligence!
Being emotionally intelligent also means you understand that you don’t always have all the answers. If you are stuck on an emotional problem, please reach out for help. Our therapists can bring resolution and clarity to your issue, so you can continue growing and becoming more and more successful in life.
Sick of Arguing? It Might Be Time For a Smarter Compromise
If you’ve been talking with your partner about the same ADHD-related marriage problems for many years, it may be time to take a direct approach and create a work-around.
BY MELISSA ORLOV, NANCIE KOHLENBERGER, LMFT
When it comes to having good fights with your partner, it’s important to understand that more than half of your battles are unresolvable. They result from deep differences in opinion or approach. A common non-ADHD/ADHD difference, for example, has to do with what constitutes “adequately organized” — whether it relates to planning events, putting a household in order, or raising children.
Another is whether or not you should let things “just happen” (be spontaneous) or actively “make them happen” (plan ahead and pursue goals). Those with ADHD typically have a higher tolerance for spontaneity and disorganization, perhaps because they’ve had so much more experience with it.
If you’ve been talking about the same ADHD-related marriage problems for many years, it may be time to take a dierent approach and create a work-around. The reality is that there are two of you, and compromise is often necessary. Compromise does not mean give up or lower your standards. It means accepting that you are dierent and guring out how to move forward with your lives while accommodating those dierences. Here are some examples from our lives that illustrate this:
My husband, George, likes to hang on to stu because it might be useful in the future, and he doesn’t worry too much about how it’s organized. I like things more tidy. After years of discussion, our work-around includes hiring someone to help clean the house every other week (so I don’t have to bear all of the burden of cleaning up) and delineating areas that are his and mine. I no longer worry about, nor do I comment on, what my husband keeps in his areas of our home — his oce, closet, or bathroom area, his side of the garage or the basement. George does help keep the public spaces of our house tidy.
Three Ways to Raise Empathic Kids So They Become Compassionate Adults. Considering how to make the children in our lives better people helps us reflect on how we ourselves can be more compassionate.
BY PATRICIA ROCKMAN AND EVAN COLLINS, SEPTEMBER 17, 2019, KIDS
In this series of articles, we have been examining how mindfulness can sometimes inadvertently reinforce the self-centeredness and self-absorption of our current times and how we may counter this through compassion in action. We need to remind ourselves that the true roots of mindfulness and compassion are intended to relieve the suffering of others as much as ourselves.
In exploring the ways that we can direct compassion to others, what better way than to consider children. Endeavoring to raise an empathic child who is attentive to others helps build a better community and counters the “me” culture that is so prevalent today. Further, considering how to make the children in our lives better people helps us reflect on how we ourselves can be more compassionate.
Michelle Borba is an educational psychologist and expert in parenting, bullying, and empathy, and author of many books on character development in children, the most recent being UnSelfie: why empathic kids succeed in our all-about-me world (Simon & Schuster, 2016). In her work, she outlines current research on empathy in children and how we might cultivate kindness and caring in kids at different ages. She cites studies that show teens score 40% lower in empathy and are 58% more narcissistic than 30 years ago. Along with this, research shows increases in school and internet-based cruelty and bullying along with more cheating and less moral reasoning. Borba talks about the “Selfie Syndrome” as a form of growing narcissism in children and teens characterized by self-preoccupation, entitlement, difficulty taking responsibility and criticism, and feeling above the rules. This syndrome appears to be at least partially tied to our high pressure, media-saturated, high-tech culture.
Teaching Kids Emotional LiteracyIf empathy is feeling another’s suffering and compassion is the desire to alleviate it then empathy is the gateway and what may be the antidote to the Selfie Syndrome (in our children and ourselves). And encouraging empathy begins with the development of emotional literacy: recognizing, labeling and managing both our own and others’ feelings. This core skill is especially important for boys who, in our hyper-macho culture, show lower levels of emotional literacy than girls.
Here are a few simple ways to begin helping young children learn emotional literacy:
Cultivating Perspective-Taking with KidsIn contrast to sympathy, in which one cares but does not necessarily feel another’s suffering, empathy involves perspective taking, wherein we begin to understand the thoughts, emotions, and needs of others, developing the ability to walk in their shoes. This skill paves the way for kindness, as well as supports learning how to compromise and resolve conflict. The component parts to seeing another’s point-of-view include paying attention to others through focused, attentive listening and reading non-verbal cues; identifying thoughts, feelings, motivations and intentions; and imagining the other person’s experience with consideration of its impact. For example, if a child hurts another by name calling or taking away a toy, you might ask, “How would you feel if your friend did that to you?”
Here are a few ways to cultivate perspective-taking with children:
Nourishing a Strong Moral CompassAnother core skill for encouraging empathy is building a strong moral compass. As adults, we model our own ethical codes and values for the children in our lives, and we articulate the values of our family and community. We also nurture and reinforce prosocial actions, like …. holding the door for strangers, volunteering in our community, helping a neighbor in need, donating our time or money, or going to a rally or demonstration. We are socializing our children with respect to what we consider right and wrong, focussing on both character and behavior; nurturing the traits of kindness, caring and generosity. When we praise our children for their displays of these behaviors, big or small, we reinforce the idea that their character and moral compass is as important as their scholastic, social and physical accomplishments.
Raising empathic kids who grow into compassionate adults is not easy, especially when so many currents in contemporary society work against a focus on others and the importance of emotional intelligence. it. With our cultural and political leaders increasingly, and unapologetically, acting in self-absorbed and self-serving ways, instilling in our children these skills of emotional literacy, perspective taking and developing a moral compass is one of the most radical, courageous, and hopeful things we can do for our future generations.
Compulsive sexual behavior is sometimes called hypersexuality, hypersexuality disorder or sexual addiction. It's an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that is difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.
Compulsive sexual behavior may involve a variety of commonly enjoyable sexual experiences. Examples include masturbation, cybersex, multiple sexual partners, use of pornography or paying for sex. When these sexual behaviors become a major focus in your life, are difficult to control, and are disruptive or harmful to you or others, they may be considered compulsive sexual behavior.
No matter what it's called or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated compulsive sexual behavior can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career, health and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can learn to manage compulsive sexual behavior.
SymptomsSome indications that you may be struggling with compulsive sexual behavior include:
When to see a doctorSeek help if you feel you've lost control of your sexual behavior, especially if your behavior causes problems for you or other people. Compulsive sexual behavior tends to escalate over time, so get help when you first recognize there may be a problem.
As you decide whether to seek professional help, ask yourself:
Seek treatment right awaySeek immediate treatment if:
CausesAlthough the causes of compulsive sexual behavior are unclear, they may include:
Risk factorsCompulsive sexual behavior can occur in both men and women, though it may be more common in men. It can also affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Factors that may increase risk of compulsive sexual behavior include:
ComplicationsCompulsive sexual behavior can have many negative consequences that affect both you and others. You may:
A new study of men and women with hypersexual disorder has revealed a possible role of the hormone oxytocin, according to results published in the journal Epigenetics. The finding could potentially open the door to treating the disorder by engineering a way to suppress its activity.
NEUROSCIENCE NEWS SEPTEMBER 23, 2019
Hypersexual disorder, or an overactive sex drive, is recognized as a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder, listed as an impulse-control disorder by the World Health Organisation. It can be characterized by obsessive thoughts of sex, a compulsion to perform sexual acts, a loss of control, or sexual habits that carry potential problems or risks. While prevalence estimates vary, literature indicates that hypersexual disorder affects 3-6% of population.
Controversy surrounds diagnosis because it often occurs alongside other mental health issues, suggesting it could be an extension or manifestation of an existing mental disorder. Little is known about the neurobiology behind it.
“We set out to investigate the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms behind hypersexual disorder so we could determine whether it has any hallmarks that make it distinct from other health issues,” says lead author Adrian Boström from the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, Sweden who conducted the study with researchers from the Andrology/Sexual Medicine Group (ANOVA) at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to implicate dysregulated epigenetic mechanisms of both DNA methylation and microRNA activity and the involvement of oxytocin in the brain among patients seeking treatment for hypersexuality.”
The scientists measured DNA methylation patterns in the blood from 60 patients with hypersexual disorder and compared them to samples from 33 healthy volunteers.
They investigated 8,852 regions of DNA methylation associated to nearby microRNAs to identify any variations between samples. DNA methylation can affect gene expression and the function of genes, typically acting to reduce their activity. Where changes in DNA methylation were detected, the researchers investigated levels of gene expression of the associated microRNA. MicroRNAs are particularly interesting as they can pass the blood-brain-barrier and modulate or degrade the expression of up to several hundred different genes in brain and other tissues.
They also compared their findings to samples from 107 subjects, 24 of whom were alcohol-dependent, to explore an association with addictive behaviour.
Results identified two regions of DNA that were altered in hypersexual disorder patients. Normal function of DNA methylation was disrupted and an associated microRNA, involved in gene silencing, was found to be under-expressed. Analysis revealed that the microRNA identified, microRNA-4456, targets genes that are normally expressed at particularly high levels in the brain and that are involved in the regulation of the hormone oxytocin. With gene silencing reduced, oxytocin may be expected to be at elevated levels, although the current study does not confirm this.
It has been seen in specific vole and primate species the neuropeptide oxytocin plays a central role in the regulation of pair-bonding behaviour. Previous studies have demonstrated that oxytocin is associated with the regulation of social and pair-bonding, sexual reproduction and aggressive behaviour in both men and women. The comparison with alcohol-dependent subjects revealed the same DNA region to be significantly under-methylated, suggesting that it may be primarily associated with the addictive components of hypersexual disorder, such as sex addiction, dysregulated sexual desire, compulsivity and impulsivity.
“Further research will be needed to investigate the role of microRNA-4456 and oxytocin in hypersexual disorder, but our results suggest it could be worthwhile to examine the benefits of drug and psychotherapy to reduce the activity of oxytocin,” says Professor Jussi Jokinen from Umeå University, Sweden.
The authors note that a limitation of the study is that the mean difference in DNA methylation between hypersexual disorder patients and healthy volunteers was only around 2.6%, so the impact on physiological changes might be called into question. However, a growing body of evidence suggestions that just subtle methylation changes can have wide-ranging consequences for complex conditions such as depression or schizophrenia.
ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE
Taylor & Francis Group
Krystina Sihdu – Taylor & Francis Group
The image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Closed access
“Hypermethylation-associated downregulation of microRNA-4456 in hypersexual disorder with putative influence on oxytocin signalling: A DNA methylation analysis of miRNA genes”. Adrian Boström et al.
Hypermethylation-associated downregulation of microRNA-4456 in hypersexual disorder with putative influence on oxytocin signalling: A DNA methylation analysis of miRNA genes
Hypersexual disorder (HD) was proposed as a diagnosis in the DSM-5 and the classification ‘Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder’ is now presented as an impulse-control disorder in ICD-11. HD incorporates several pathophysiological mechanisms; including impulsivity, compulsivity, sexual desire dysregulation and sexual addiction. No previous study investigated HD in a methylation analysis limited to microRNA (miRNA) associated CpG-sites. The genome wide methylation pattern was measured in whole blood from 60 subjects with HD and 33 healthy volunteers using the Illumina EPIC BeadChip. 8,852 miRNA associated CpG-sites were investigated in multiple linear regression analyses of methylation M-values to a binary independent variable of disease state (HD or healthy volunteer), adjusting for optimally determined covariates. Expression levels of candidate miRNAs were investigated in the same individuals for differential expression analysis. Candidate methylation loci were further studied for an association with alcohol dependence in an independent cohort of 107 subjects. Two CpG-sites were borderline significant in HD – cg18222192 (MIR708)(p < 10E-05,pFDR = 5.81E-02) and cg01299774 (MIR4456)(p < 10E-06, pFDR = 5.81E-02). MIR4456 was significantly lower expressed in HD in both univariate (p < 0.0001) and multivariate (p < 0.05) analyses. Cg01299774 methylation levels were inversely correlated with expression levels of MIR4456 (p < 0.01) and were also differentially methylated in alcohol dependence (p = 0.026). Gene target prediction and pathway analysis revealed that MIR4456 putatively targets genes preferentially expressed in brain and that are involved in major neuronal molecular mechanisms thought to be relevant for HD, e.g., the oxytocin signalling pathway. In summary, our study implicates a potential contribution of MIR4456 in the pathophysiology of HD by putatively influencing oxytocin signalling.
10 women on how couples therapy saved their relationshipFrom tackling cheating to porn addiction, counselling helped these women strengthen their relationships.
Relationship counselling, couples counselling and couples therapy are thought of by most people as something you consider once things have got so bad you're on the verge of breaking up. And sure, these services can be used in times of relationship crisis. But therapists will tell you this isn't always the best way to go about things. More and more couples are seeing counsellors before anything major happens in their couple, and some are seeing it as more of a relationship health check.
Here, women who've been to marriage counselling and couples therapy explain how it changed their lives.
"We didn't have any glaring problems but it was great""We did counselling right after we got engaged and it was great. We didn't have any glaring problems and I think people don't think they need it until the problem has gotten way out of hand - and in a lot of cases, that's too late. But for us, we sharpened the tools in our toolbox, and for some of the things that caused annoyance or strife in our relationship, it was great to talk it out with a neutral party."
"It helped with my boyfriend's commitment issues""Recently went through couples counselling with my long-term boyfriend who suddenly was having commitment issues. To be honest it was a bit of an ultimatum. We were either breaking up (which he didn't want to do) or we were going to counselling (which he willingly agreed to). TBH I felt like the whole process was more for him than me because he was the one with commitment/communication issues. But really anything that ultimately gave clarity to the situation - that was for us.
"And since the process definitely helped clarify his worries/anxieties, I felt it was very beneficial. I will caution that couples counselling is limited in its helpfulness if the issues have nothing to do with the couple. If the problem really lies with you or your partner as individuals, consider seeing a therapist on your own as well. That's ultimately the path my boyfriend is taking. At the very least the counselling gave me a lot of insight into his fears, as well as revealing to us both that there was nothing in this world I could do to ameliorate them. That's a battle he has to face himself and he's still working on them."
"We saw a therapist for my boyfriend's porn addiction"
"My boyfriend had a porn problem a year or two ago. It was pretty grim, he was spending a lot of money and choosing it over sex. I actually had no idea it was going on at all until I saw an email notification about how much money he'd been spending on watching camgirls. He'd never done anything like that before so I was really blindsided. I was so upset and considered breaking up with him, but I told him if he wanted me to ever trust him again the first step was couples therapy. It ended up being more just sex therapy and mostly him alone because we both agreed it was a him problem, not really an us problem.
"It went really well. I was there for the beginning and the end, but the middle was just him. From what I understand they broke down the issues that had led him to the porn habit (family dynamics, watching porn since literal childhood, job stress leading to tiredness leading to not really having the energy for proper sex but still wanting that release). As far as I know, he hasn't watched porn since. While I was furious and miserable and felt betrayed for a long time (and still do if I think about it too long) I did, even when it was still very raw, have a grudging respect for how he handled it. He put his hands up and took ownership of everything and then, more importantly, worked on the issues."
"It saved our dying relationship"
"Marriage counselling not only saved our dying relationship, it gave us the tools and knowledge to keep it going. We have the best relationship we’ve ever had now, we needed someone to teach us how to speak each other’s language. Know that counselling alone isn’t enough to sustain you through the next rough patch you have, you have to both be willing to see and accept your shortcomings and work hard to over come them together."
"It taught me a lot about myself"
"While marriage counselling didn't work in the traditional way for my ex and I (hence he is an ex) I learned a lot about myself and how I needed to work on some unhealthy coping mechanisms that I brought into the relationships. I learned effective ways of communicating and boundaries are a good thing."
"My relationship is completely different now"
"The key is finding a GOOD therapist. My experience has been great and eye-opening and I’m in a completely different relationship now thanks to therapy. But also because we chose a good therapist. We tried one out before switching. She did a lot of conflict resolution and listening stuff but didn’t go any deeper into actual relationship problems and deeper-seated issues." [via]
"It saved us after my husband cheated"
"My husband and I went through couples counselling after there was infidelity and frankly it was the best move we could have ever made. Being able to have a neutral space with a neutral person to talk through stuff allowed us both to feel comfortable in saying what really needed to be said. We learned a lot about ourselves as individuals, and a lot about ourselves as a couple. The main takeaway from it all was the handful of new tools we learned, the biggest one was how to better communicate. Needless to say it has been over a year and things are better then ever. I cannot recommend going to a counsellor enough, as long as both are willing to be open and put the work forth it can be a useful tool to combat a lot of issues."
"There wasn't anything 'wrong' in our marriage"
"I don’t have an awesome story or anything, but my husband was going to counselling and I just happened to know the counsellor through my work, so I just tagged along one day. There wasn’t really anything necessarily 'wrong' in our marriage, we just figured that we might as well go and help our relationship to continue to be strong. It was nice. He asked questions that made me think about things I do in our marriage and why I do them, as well as where we both need to grow. It helped us feel closer."
"Therapy is the only reason we didn't break up""My husband and I have been in couples therapy for a little over a year. It is without a doubt the only reason we didn’t end up breaking up. We’d separated due to my husband's drinking problem. I was very reluctant to go, but he asked and I agreed to try it, and we never stopped going. We have been back together since the winter, and our relationship is finally back on track. My husband is just over one year sober, and I’ve been able to work through my anger and resentment for what he put me through. I can’t recommend counselling/therapy enough for couples working through something difficult."
Posted 05.08.19 https://www.pasadenavilla.com/2019/05/08/why-is-a-work-life-balance-important/
Why is a work-life balance important?
As we celebrate Mental Health Month, we are continuing to look at ways to help our mind and body. One way is to strike a work-life balance. Finding a balance between work and life can be challenging. The constant demands we place on ourselves to work harder and longer can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Of US adults employed full time, nearly 40% reported working at least 50 hours per week, and 18% work 60 hours or more.
While companies are offering more flexible schedules that allow employees to be away from the office, there are still other obstacles that contribute to the unbalance. Technology has opened the door for a constant connection to work, interrupting home life at any given moment. And for those with children, the work-life balance can prove even more difficult as over 60% of first-time mothers return to work just 12 weeks after giving birth.
What is the risk of an unbalance?Studies show that we are working harder and longer and sleeping less. But getting in a full night’s rest isn’t the only problem that can come from an unbalanced work and home life.
How do I achieve a work-life balance?When we have a work-life balance, we feel more satisfied with our job and our overall life. Individuals who are able to balance a busy work schedule and their daily activities often have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. But how do you do it? We all know there are ways to set limits and prioritize, but here are a few ideas that may help.
How do I eliminate my stress?One of the most important things we can do to help eliminate or reduce stress is to take care of ourselves. When we are on the go at a frantic pace, we tend to forget how important self-care can be physically and mentally. Remember these tips when you are feeling stressed.
It is important to remember that we get run down both physically and mentally and we all need help from time to time. Creating a work-life balance is a process, and we need to examine our priorities from time to time and make changes when necessary. Finding the balance between work and home can help you improve and focus on your mind and body.
Just wanted to show you a video about how much improvement for trauma a vet received through ART.
Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utq6JDuqS_w&feature=youtu.be
Let us know how we can help here at AccessGrace with our ART program.
our link: https://accessgrace.weebly.com/accelerated-trauma-resolution.html
Thank you for thinking of us,
by Jamie Dean
LGBT activists are dialing up the heat on parents and researchers who question transgender dogma, while peer influence may be leading some teens into life-changing hormone treatmentsOn an online forum for parents concerned about their teenagers’ sudden change in sexuality, one mother confesses: “I am desperate. My 14-year-old daughter just told me that she is trans. These past weeks have felt like a hundred years.”
Another grieving parent says that nothing in her 14-year-old daughter’s demeanor or history explains her sudden declaration of transgenderism. “She has exchanged her pointe shoes for a chest binder, her ballerina bun for a buzz cut,” the mother wrote. “All because some stranger on the internet told her that being uncomfortable in her developing body meant she must be a boy.”
Unlike the growing trend of children expressing gender confusion at a younger age, the teens these parents describe are part of a different phenomenon some therapists and researchers are calling rapid-onset gender dysphoria.
As the name suggests, the affected teenagers—usually girls—go from a seemingly normal gender expression to a sudden declaration that they are in the wrong body. It usually happens at puberty or shortly after. Many of the teens request cross-sex hormones.
Some ask for mastectomies.
Many clinicians and therapists oblige—at least with hormones—and they persuade parents to go along by using frightening leverage: They warn the alternative could be suicide. Terrified parents often give in.
But some researchers and physicians warn against the rush, and they point to another common thread among the teens: Sometimes their transgender declarations happen in clusters.
These researchers think the trend shares similarities with at least one other phenomenon therapists have observed for years: teenage girls in groups of friends who develop eating disorders suddenly and at the same time.
In a similar way, these experts say the influence of peers and social media can lead some girls to search for meaning in a transgender identity or to grasp for answers to other forms of distress by assuming their angst is rooted in dysphoria with their sex.
This isn’t a popular theory, and those who speak out about it—or even study it—often pay a price. But the price for staying quiet is far greater, as teenagers plunge into radical medical interventions often with irreversible effects.
Meanwhile, many parents—often from non-conservative backgrounds—express despair at what they see as a fad. “We are a progressive family caught in the teenage transgender wave,” wrote one commenter on the parental blog 4th Wave Now.
“What we are seeing are pockets of teens … who are declaring themselves either non-binary [neither male nor female] or transgender. … Peer influence is just so huge on these kids … Very, very scary.”
LISA LITTMAN found out the price of raising questions firsthand. When the Brown University researcher published the first academic study exploring rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) last fall, the blowback was swift.
Some critics questioned Littman’s methods. Others said ROGD wasn’t a legitimate theory. Transgender activist Julia Serano called ROGD “scientifically specious” and an excuse for parents to “disbelieve and disaffirm their child’s gender identity.”
Eleven days after the academic journal PLOS One published Littman’s peer-reviewed study, the editors said they were looking into concerns about her methodology. The same day, Brown University removed a news release about the study from its website.
Critics of Littman’s methods noted she studied ROGD by surveying parents concerned about the phenomenon in their children. (Critics thought she should survey a wider sample.) But the purpose of Littman’s research was to survey parents concerned about ROGD in their teens, not to study all parents of transgender children. And Littman acknowledged the study was a starting place in a field with no other formal research available.
Though editors at PLOS One mentioned Littman’s methods, they also responded to complaints from transgender activists. One person described as a transsexual dominatrix complained on Twitter: “The linked article was written using transphobic dogwhistles (sex observed at birth, for example), so it’s most likely they have a transphobic contributor who knows exactly what they’re doing.”
PLOS One replied and assured the activist the journal was looking into it.
Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, openly questioned the move to sideline the study immediately: “In all my years in academia, I have never once seen a comparable reaction from a journal within days of publishing a paper that the journal already had subjected to peer review, accepted and published.”
Brown University officials said they weren’t squelching academic inquiry on a controversial topic by pulling the school’s news release about the study. But their statement also underscored “Brown is proud to be among the first universities to include medical care for gender reassignment in its student health plan.”
Meanwhile, beyond the publishing controversy, Littman’s findings were disturbing. She received 256 responses from a slew of parents concerned about their teenage children declaring transgenderism with no previous signs of gender dysphoria. More than 85 percent of the survey respondents said they support gay marriage—establishing that the parents likely weren’t concerned about transgenderism for religious or ideological reasons.
Instead, they worried about its onset in their children—mostly girls with an average age of 16 years old. Nearly 70 percent of the parents suspected their child used language they found online to explain their transgenderism, and many said their teens had spent an excessive amount of time on the internet before declaring they were transgender.
Indeed, thousands of videos and forums on popular networking sites feature teens documenting their attempted transition and sometimes offering guides for how to convince parents or physicians to prescribe hormones. One parent in the study said she overheard her teenager boasting about convincing a doctor to prescribe cross-sex hormones and proclaiming, “Easiest thing I ever did.”
When it comes to the theory of clusters, nearly 70 percent of the parents said their teen had been part of a friend group where one or more friends came out as transgender during a similar timeframe. That’s consistent with other comments from parents on 4th Wave Now—a site for parents skeptical of ROGD. (Some participants in Littman’s study learned about the survey from the 4th Wave site.)
In the comments section of the blog, one parent said her daughter was friends with some of the girls in her high school’s color guard team: “Last year my daughter told me that almost all of them felt they were lesbian. This year, most of them feel they are transgender, agender, or, at the very least, are questioning their gender identities.”
In Littman’s survey, 60 percent of the parents said they thought their teens’ declaration of transgenderism increased their child’s popularity at school. One parent wrote, “Being trans is a gold star in the eyes of other teens.”
If being trans is a gold star, being straight is unacceptable to some teenagers. “To be heterosexual, comfortable with the gender you were assigned at birth, and non-minority places you in the ‘most evil’ of categories with this group of friends,” one parent wrote.
Another common characteristic: More than 60 percent of the parents said their child had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder before claiming gender dysphoria, suggesting the teens do need help, but perhaps for other underlying problems.
Other parents said they thought their teens were using an extraordinary method to cope with a common experience: “I believe my child experiences what many kids experience on the cusp of puberty—uncomfortableness!—but there was an online world at the ready to tell her that those very normal feelings meant she’s in the wrong body.”
The pressure on parents to allow their children to take cross-sex hormones, or even undergo mastectomies, is often intense. The claim their child might commit suicide looms large, though some studies show the rate of suicide attempts among transgender people remains high, even after they attempt transition to the opposite sex. Still, Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist who advocates letting small children dictate their gender, has called transgender interventions for children and teens “suicide prevention.”
That’s enough to leave some parents reeling.
THOUGH SOME CRITICS lambasted the study, Littman isn’t alone in her findings.
Lisa Marchiano, a secular therapist in Pennsylvania, wrote a blog post in 2016 cautioning parents about plunging into medical interventions with children and teens claiming to be transgender. Afterward, she began taking phone consultations with parents of teens experiencing ROGD. A year later, she wrote, “I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of parents who call me.”
Some parents plead with Marchiano to allow them to fly their children into town for therapy or to help them find a therapist who won’t push their teens to transition with cross-sex hormones.
“At times I am able to offer advice that helps a family steer clear of drastic medical intervention of dubious benefits or necessity,” she wrote. “But sometimes all I can do is stand helpless and watch the wreckage.”
Marchiano described working with a family whose daughter declared transgenderism at age 18. The young woman had experienced other mental health problems but hadn’t expressed a conflict with her sex until high school. The parents had taken her to a clinician, and after a 30-minute consult, a physician’s assistant made an appointment for the teen to begin testosterone injections the following week.
Her parents convinced her to wait, but by the end of her freshman year of college the teenager had begun taking cross-sex hormones and had undergone a mastectomy—paid for by student health insurance. (Eighty-six colleges nationwide have student health plans that include cross-sex hormones and cross-sex surgery.)
Marchiano says the parents reported the radical physical steps didn’t decrease their daughter’s mental anxiety. She had dropped out of college and remained mostly isolated in her home.
Some teenagers report feeling relief after taking hormones or pursuing surgery, and some transgender activists claim social acceptance is a key to transgender adolescents becoming happy. But given that many parents who worry about their teenagers’ decline after experiencing ROGD also expressed left-leaning views of sexuality, social conditions alone don’t account for the distress some adolescents and young adults still feel.
And short-term relief doesn’t negate the long-term consequences of a person rejecting his or her sex and beginning lifelong medical interventions. For example, cross-sex hormones can cause sterility, leaving teenagers to decide whether to forgo having biological children later in life.
Other experts say cross-sex hormones increase risk of stroke and that puberty blockers could decrease bone density in adolescents. And since the practice of giving cross-sex hormones to children is only about a decade old, even pro-transgender physicians admit they don’t know the long-term outcomes.
More studies make sense, including research into the dangers of pursuing such paths. But while studies like Littman’s are under fire, the federally funded National Institutes of Health has given more than $5 million in grants to a group of doctors and psychologists tasked in part with studying transgender children over a period of decades.
The views of at least some of the researchers seem clear from the outset: Norman Spack is a Boston physician who opened the nation’s first gender clinic for children. Johanna Olson-Kennedy is a pro-transgender pediatrician who sees hundreds of children at the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Late last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for the first time officially recommended that parents accept and encourage the preferred gender expression of their children.
That cuts across decades of therapists who argued parents should encourage their children to embrace their birth sex, knowing that some studies show as many as 80 percent of children who express gender dysphoria will outgrow those feelings by adulthood.
But in 2016, Cora Breuner, a pediatrician and head of the AAP’s committee on adolescence, told PBS she wanted to see gender clinics available to children all over the United States: “My goal is to make this absolutely mainstream.”
Research into alternate ideas doesn’t promise to become mainstream again any time soon.
Michael Bailey is a psychologist at Northwestern University who faced intense criticism a decade ago for challenging the prevailing ideas about male transgenderism. He still raises questions: “Right now there’s this bias for the narrative that all gender dysphoria is real and that it’s great to transition—and against people who are concerned about this.”
He doubts he’d be able to get a government grant to study the issue. Instead, Bailey’s working on a study similar to the one Littman released last year. He’s conducting a survey in conjunction with the website Parents of Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria Kids. (He notes it’s possible some of the same parents may respond to his survey as responded to Littman’s study.)
He says the study will likely be published later this year, but so far, he says the results are very similar to what Littman found. He thinks the reaction against her study was “clearly ideologically motivated” and that it communicated, “This is not valid … and let’s punish anyone who tries to study this.”
Bailey says he knows other psychologists who are worried about the push to encourage children to pursue medical interventions, but who don’t want to speak out for fear of retribution.
Paul Hruz, an endocrinologist at Washington University in St. Louis, says a substantial number of his colleagues feel the same way, but won’t speak up either: “It’s one of the ways we’re failing our patients.”
Hruz notes that when children or teens come seeking cross-sex hormones, they are usually physically healthy, but entering into lifelong dependency on hormones. And he emphasizes the biologically obvious: No one can change his or her sex.
“Sex is biologically determined from at the moment of conception” says Hruz. “It’s recognized at the time of birth, it’s not assigned at the time of birth. And even if you modify the appearance of the body, you don’t do anything to change the sex.”
Despite that biological reality and the many unknowns about the long-term consequences of cross-sex hormones (as well as the already-known side effects), he’s dismayed to see physicians and psychologists pushing such medical procedures on children:
“I’ve not in my career encountered another condition where we’ve moved ahead so rapidly and so vigorously to affirm one particular intervention with this level of evidence.” He hopes the medical community will wake up to the dangers: “But I don’t know how many children will have been harmed by then.”
ANDREW WALKER, author of God and the Transgender Debate and a fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, thinks in a hundred years people will look back on this era of medicine the way we now look back on the eugenicist movements of the early 20th century.
While many obvious biological reasons exist for opposing the embrace of transgenderism, Walker says Christians also should be well-versed in the Biblical teaching about God creating people male and female in His image.
He says that’s particularly important for parents talking with children about these issues: “And I err on the side of having the conversation sooner than later because if you don’t have the conversation with your children, the culture will.”
(Walker says a parent can teach even a young child that some people are confused about the way God made them, and that we should have compassion on those who are suffering in this way and help when possible.)
The suffering is intense for many.
Hacsi Horvath, a lecturer in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, has written about his own experience of trying to live as a woman for 13 years. He says he stopped taking estrogen in 2013 and “very rapidly came back to my senses.”
Today, he says he grapples with anger but writes about his experience because “I am far angrier that thousands of young people are being irreversibly altered and sterilized as they are inducted into a drug-dependent and medically maimed lifestyle.”
He hopes to spare others what he’s suffered: “an inward bruise … I have been badly harmed.”
Jeff Stull DMin PhD
Dr. Jeff Stull is an Individual, Marriage and Family Counselor who enjoys assisting his clients in developing creative alternatives to everyday life, love and work challenges. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Mental Health Counselor he has specialized trainings in Relationship Repair, Abuse Recovery, Adolescents, and Mindfulness. He holds certifications including Professional Counseling Supervision, Clinical Sexology, Professional Christian Counseling and Accelerated Resolution Therapy(ART). He serves his clients in Alpharetta, Cumming and Dahlonega, Georgia and all over the world via Skype.