WHAT’S ONE KEY THING YOU CAN DO IF YOU’RE DEPRESSED? By Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Feel melancholy, out of sorts, tired, cranky, a lack of energy, no enthusiasm, a sense of doom, a negative attitude, wake up early in the morning and can’t fall back to sleep, don’t feel like reading, writing, playing golf or any of the hobbies that you usually love?

Any of the above can be a sign of depression.

Should you immediately call your family practice doc for an Rx of Prozac or for a psychiatric referral?

I wouldn’t. Not yet…

I’d take some time to think about what’s going on in your life. Carefully go over the last few days before the symptoms started or got worse. What did you do? Who did you talk to? Did a friend or family member say something that hurt your feelings? Were you rejected? Left out? Disrespected?

The key underlying feeling that often triggers depression is ANGER.

Not expressing anger is usually the problem.

In therapy, a common dynamic in chronic depression is years of repressed anger. Parents who don ‘t have the time or inclination to help their children express themselves foster the development of kids who are continually sad. These sad kids grow up to be sad adults who wind up on therapists’ couches.

Together the therapist and patient work to discover what happened to cause the problem. Eventually they learn all about the repressed, hidden anger that has been a constant unwanted companion.

Self-analysis can be extremely helpful. If you discover who made you angry and deal with it appropriately there’s a good chance your mood will lighten and your energy will return.

Talking to the person who hurt you can often make you feel better. Sadly, you sometimes learn that the person you thought was your friend is insensitive and incapable of accepting responsibility for their hurtful actions. If they can’t change, you might need to find a new friend.

Resolving issues with a parent is more complicated. You can’t get a new one, but you can accept your mother or father’s limitations. You’re not obligated to take their words or actions to heart. Just because they think they’re right, doesn’t mean they are right. There’s a good chance your perspective is more accurate and helpful to the way you want to live your life than their perspective.

Whatever happens, dealing with your anger, can be very, very helpful.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

A POLE DANCE CONTEST IS HAPPENING IN RIO! by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Like pole dancing? Now there’s a world contest for, hold on to your wallets, both women and men.
Over 130 dancers from 36 countries are competing in a 3 day contest where judges evaluate the artistic ability and difficult moves to choose the winner. He or she gets a prize of $35,000. The contestants are amazing athletes!

No sleeze? No slimey guys drooling over girls 1/3 their age? What’s this world coming to?

When I published Skin Dance, a mystery, I did my research in “old school” bars and actually took a class in “How to run your own strip bar”.
If I’d only known about Rio!

But, if you’re interested in a psychological mystery that starts in the kind of strip bar that has nothing to do with a healthy sports environment, you’ll love, Skin Dance, a mystery.

If you figure out what’s going on before the end, the next beer is on me.

Sent from my iPhone

Posted in Psychiatry, Skin Dance, a mystery, World events, a psychological view, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOE PATERNO AND WHAT CAN WE LEARN? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

November 2011 — Penn State University fired Joe Paterno for his part in the Sandusky child abuse scandal coverup.
January 2, 2012 — Joe Paterno died at the age of 85 of lung cancer, stripped of all wins from 1998 to 2011.

Back then, just wearing a PSU sweatshirt was a conflict. How can you support a school that let Sandusky continue to use the football facilities where he seduced and sexually abused young boys?

Now it’s two and a half years later. Bill O’Brien did a remarkable job as head football coach and his successor James Franklin looks like he’ll do even better. Penn State has done everything that the NCAA has demanded and more. They want to change forever the culture that would allow a monster to live amongst them.

What have we learned?

Life goes on. The earth continues to rotate and the sun rises every morning. No one is irreplaceable. We grieve. We rage. We fear. We cry. One day we again feel joy.

As a psychiatrist I’ve learned that we are remarkably resilient. Tragedy strikes, but it doesn’t need to continue to bring us to our knees. We can battle adversity, bullying, emotional illness, poor parenting, physical illness, loss, and catastrophe by learning from the experience.

Maybe the NCAA will rescind a portion of PSU’s punishment? Maybe they won’t. Their decision doesn’t need to affect how we act.

We can be stronger because the real hero is inside each of us. An idealized hero, whose flaws are overlooked or minimized, is not as necessary as you think. We don’t have to stand on the sidelines and watch evil happen. Individually, we have the power to personally do what’s right.

“WE ARE” is really just a combination of “I AM”.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Bullying, Penn State, Psychiatry, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

THE MAGIC OF PARANOIA, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Paranoia, a feeling that someone is trying to harm you, get you, follow you, or send messages to you via TV, radio, cell phone, or some other unearthly means is a common psychiatric symptom. It is an example of delusional thinking and occurs in patients who have lost touch with reality.

One characteristic of being paranoid is that you suspect everyone of potential mayhem — the paranoid’s “danger antennae” is always on full alert. No one is immune to being a suspect.

Since the psychiatrist is always a major suspect, it makes treating patients with paranoid disorders extremely difficult — not impossible, but as you can imagine, very time intensive, sometimes dangerous, and often frustrating. Here’s an example from Skin Dance, a mystery. Jake Robb, a psychiatrist, is called to the Emergency Room to treat Sean Murphy, a paranoid sixteen-year-old boy.

Lying face-up on a gurney, wrists and ankles in leather restraints, was a huge man-beast — untrimmed beard, greasy-hair down to his shoulders, a look in his eyes somewhere between murder and Mars. Paranoia crossed all boundaries — age, religion, sex, social position. It was truly an egalitarian disorder.

“Sean?” Jake said softly, closing the door. “I’m Doctor Robb, a psychiatrist. Your dad is very worried about you. He wants–“

“Get me the fuck out of here!” Sean yelled, pulling on the restraints and arching his back. “You’re one of them!” He glared at Jake, nostrils dilated, eyes wide, teeth clenched.

“How am I one of them?” Jake asked, voice calm and gentle.

Sean pulled harder on the leather straps, the whole gurney shaking.

“Sean, your blood studies show you’ve been drinking and using speed and pot.”

“Get away from me or I’ll rip you a new asshole!” Sean jerked hard on the straps, fixing Jake with another hate-filled look.

“Who’s trying to hurt you?”

Sean glared, continuing to pull hard, straining, sweat glistening on his forehead.

“Sean, do you know where you are?”

Sean strained even harder, the desperation building.

“I’m not going to hurt you, I’m a doctor, a psychiatrist. I just want to help you feel better.” Jake reached down and put his hand on Sean’s shoulder.

“You fucker!” Sean wrenched his face around, his teeth bared and his jaw snapping together hard. Jake jerked his hand back.

“Sean, no one’s going to hurt you.” Jake’s voice sounded calm even though his heart was pounding. The crazy kid was less than an inch away from chomping off his finger.

After fifteen fruitless minutes, Jake left the examining room and walked quickly to the nursing station. “Mary, please give Sean twenty milligrams of Geodon IM. Let’s get him upstairs to the eighth floor, back on the closed unit. Be very careful. The Grizzly bites.”

Paranoia can also be viewed positively. It is a powerful tool for our fictional heroes and heroines to possess. Jack Reacher, Lee Child’s hero, always seems to know when the bad guys are ready to pounce. Without “healthy paranoia” Jack wouldn’t have survived his first novel.

Even “normal” people who are placed in difficult and life threatening situations can use this magical trait. If psychotic people can be paranoid, why can’t a healthy person develop the trait and use it to his own advantage? When our characters are battling vicious sociopaths they need all the psychological help they can get.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry | 3 Comments

OMG IS CAPTAIN CORPORATE AMERICA ABOUT TO SAVE US AND OUR CHILDREN? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

General Mills recently had 2 Cheerios ads, one on the Super Bowl, that featured a mixed-race little girl, a white mom and a black dad. When bigots and the religious right attacked General Mills because the ad polluted family values, General Mills stated that they believed in all kinds of families and held firm.

When CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes, no one, except maybe two-pack-a-day addicts, complained. They didn’t have the lung power to walk an extra block to a competitor.

We should all cheer when Captain Corporate America battles bigotry and hypocrisy (What’s more hypocritic than a drug store selling cigarettes?).

The public was bilked out of billions of dollars and thousands of lives when Toyota, GM, RJ Reynolds, Phillip Morris, and various banks and drug companies covered-up lies so we’d keep buying cars, tobacco, mortgages and flawed drugs.

In psychiatry, cover-ups are common. Facing early wounds, abandonment and early trauma are painful. In therapy, repression and denial are common and patients enter long battles to unravel their feelings, actions and dreams; so they can feel better and eliminate their symptoms.

On the other hand, corporations have no excuse. They don’t behave like bandits and killers because they are repressing unconscious ideas. They repress and deny because for years they’ve been able to get away with it. Sociopaths hide behind the corporate mantel and manipulate to get more power and money. Their symptoms occur when they’re caught and have to suffer for their sins — fines and/or jail.

What do General Mills and CVS risk losing? Well, bigots can certainly choose to not eat Cheerios and smokers can choose to get lung cancer and obstructive lung disease from any number of other drug stores.

Personally, I’m going to CVS to buy my next box of cereal.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Raising Children, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

OF COURSE I CRIED, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Jason, a smiley, playful, 6-year-old boy recently had an appointment with his pediatrician.

“The doctor had to give me two needles,” he said.

“Wow. Did they hurt?”

“Yes!”

“Did you cry?”

“Of course I cried!” he said, looking like the question was beyond silly, that crying was what any normal person would do.

“How about your sister? Did she get a needle?”

“Yes. And she cried too! Really loud!”

Then Jason put on his father’s huge sweatshirt that went down to his knees. “This really looks good,” he said. “I love it.”

Creativity and spontaneity are so often crushed by “mature” adults who are so sure they know what’s right and what’s wrong. They know all about religion, sexuality, and who we should and who we should not hate. They know how we should feel and how a man should act and how a woman should act.

It’s so impressive that we are surrounded by know-it-alls. It’s also very impressive that many of the people we have elected to run our government are so sure that they are right, that they are willing to make all of us suffer to make their point.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Raising Children, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

MICHAEL SAM, HERO OR PARIAH? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

A group of students formed a human wall outside of Mizzou Stadium to block from view members of a Baptist Church who were protesting against the outpouring of support for Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year. When he signs with an NFL franchise, he will be the 1st openly gay NFL player.

Religious zealots have been attacking “outsiders” for centuries.

Actor and comedian, Alec Mapa said it beautifully, “I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that religious people are coming for me and my family the one thing I can think is: Shouldn’t you be reading to the blind? Aren’t there homeless people in your area who could benefit from a kind word or a hot meal? Could there possibly be a better use of your time and resources than going after the lives and freedom of people you’ll never meet, whose lives and freedom will never affect you in any other way?”

It’s amazing that so many people know what’s right and will fight and sometimes even kill anyone who disagrees.

Women shouldn’t vote — repealed 1912 in the US. Now in 2014, Sharia Law professes that women shouldn’t read or attend school.

Prohibition — repealed 1933

Medical school quotas against Jews, unpublicized and denied, — stopped in 1960s

McCarthyism — Communist witch hunts against anyone who opposed Senator Joe McCarthy’s ideas. Finally stopped by President Eisenhower in 1954

George Wallace, governor of Alabama, stated in 1963, “In the name of the greatest people that have trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Is Michael Sam a hero and a new role model?

YES.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

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HOW EASY IS IT TO DO THE RIGHT THING? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

It took over 200 years to end slavery, and we’re still in the process of making the repercussions right.

96 years ago, the 19th amendment to the constitution was ratified, and women got the right to vote. Soon, we may have our 1st woman president. Men are still “enjoying” the repercussions of that decision.

CVS pharmacy just announced that they will give up a profit of 2 billion dollars a year and stop selling tobacco in October 2014. They should still make a billion and a half before the cut-off date, but with that in their coffers, they can scream to the world how righteous they are. AND, finally, they are being righteous.

So what are smokers supposed to do? Don’t they have the right to create little cancer cells in their alveoli and bronchial tubes? Don’t they have the right to cost our nation billions of dollars in health care costs? How will pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons make a living? What about the tobacco companies. Now they’ll have to ship their products to third world countries where people don’t know how to read!

Wait. Doesn’t Cuba sell Cubanos? It’s a little further than CVS, but think of the great music, beaches and sexy women. Hmm. Do women have the vote in Cuba?

Dr. Art Smukler is the award winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

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STARBUCKS & FACIAL HAIR, A RESEARCH PROJECT, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Being a famous, author & psychiatrist (well maybe not famous, but 2 out of 3 isn’t bad), I decided to do a non-double-blind study on the incidence of facial hair. I ordered a grande half-cafe and a blueberry scone and parked myself in a comfortable chair. Being a careful researcher, I ordered the half-cafe so I wouldn’t be too amped up, and the scone so I wouldn’t pass out from malnutrition.

Using all my observational, psychiatric skills, I sipped my coffee, munched on the scone, and counted. This erudite study, which lasted about 45 minutes, showed that 85 out of 100 had some form of facial hair. There was one woman with a heavy shadow above her lip, but in the end, I decided not to include women.

So why are men so into hirsuitism? There was a time when only hippies, long-in-the-tooth poets, and backwoods Appalachian moonshine distillers had facial hair, but according to my sophisticated research, times have definitely changed.

Hair makes you look cool. If Brad Pitt and Mark Wahlberg are examples, it’s just a matter of time before the ladies will begin to pound down your door.

Who wants to shave every morning? Gillette makes a fortune and men waste hundreds of hours during their lifetime trying to get every little bit of stubble erased from their faces.

Country-Western music is definitely the in-thing. Is there a respectable male singer, other than the late Johnny Cash, who doesn’t have facial hair?

I tossed my cup in the trash and went home, a wiser man.

Then, I looked in the mirror. I had a stubble beard! Move over Mark! I’m on my way to Hollywood.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

DO BULLIES HAUNT YOU? A REPRISE, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

All day in the office, I listen to people who have been abused, bullied and devalued. Battling evil and insensitivity in the world is a never ending battle.

An earlier post came to mind and a reprise seemed in order.

The camp was idyllic, on a lake, cabins scattered among tall Pine trees, with dirt trails connecting everything to ball fields, the dining room and a recreation center. There were 12 waiters, 16-17-year-old boys, who were housed in the cabin closest to the dining room.

Rocko, the leader, was 6 feet tall with a physique that suited a Neanderthal. He was assigning jobs to the 11 boys who were all in various stages of making their beds and unpacking their trunks. The first day of camp was filled with learning dining room protocol, and that evening the boys were organizing their personal belongings.

“Hey douchbag, you’re not listening to me,” Rocko yelled to the slim boy at the far end of the cabin.

“I’m making my bed,” the boy said.

Seconds later Rocko was standing chest to chest with the slim boy. “I said I was talking to you! When I talk, you stop everything and listen.”

The boy stood still, a hard expression forming around his mouth and eyes.

“Are you deaf or just a dumb shit? Answer me!”

The slim boy stood very still, not moving in the slightest.

“Say something asshole.”

He chest butted the boy and put his face just inches from his face.

“If you don’t like it, do something about it,” Rocko spat out, his 200 pounds of muscle tensed for an onslaught.

The slim boy regained his balance and just stared back.

“Chicken shit! Do something or do exactly what I say.”

The boy just stood and stared, not moving a muscle, not blinking.

Rocko pushed the boy and walked away. “Chicken shit.”

It was 11 years before they spoke again. The slim boy, now a doctor and a resident in psychiatry, was moonlighting doing insurance exams for a friend, an insurance agent who had been a fellow waiter that same summer. The patient he was paid to examine was no other than Rocko, who was 30 pounds lighter, had pale skin and a dead look in his eyes.

The doctor asked all the appropriate questions and did a careful physical exam. Rocko had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a serious form of lymphatic cancer. The 2 men never referred to the decades-old altercation and never would. Rocko died a few years later.

The doctor experienced no joy in observing Rocko’s terminal illness or any sense that justice had been served. There was only the feeling he had failed himself by not handling the old situation with more courage.

Now, decades after Rocko’s death, there is finally closure for the slim boy who became a psychiatrist. Joe Belmont, the main character in his novel Chasing Backwards, doesn’t let people push him around, even if those people are the police or professional criminals.

It feels good having your character do what he needs to do.

It always feels good to not be afraid, whether in fiction or more importantly in real life.

Please feel free to leave any comments.

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Bullying, CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment