Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Is too much internet use bad for us?

Too much of anything is not good for us and the internet is no exception, it seems.

As a population we are spending longer online but this doesn’t mean we are addicted. Internet addiction is different in that it involves excessive, obsessive and uncontrollable computer use which, much like other addictions, can interfere with daily life. So much so, that internet addicts, particularly gamers, become so absorbed in the activity that they go without food or drink for long periods and their education, work and relationships suffer.

It is estimated that 5-10% of internet users are addicts and it is believed to be such a problem that there have been calls to officially recognise ‘Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)’ in the new 2013 version of the DSM-V - a manual which classifies clinical disorders.

According to recent research, there may be valid cause for concern. A study in the Journal Psychopathology by Leeds University, reported a strong link between heavy internet use and depression, although researchers could not identify which factor caused the other. 

More recently, internet addiction has been linked with changes in the brain similar to those seen in other addictions. Indeed, results from MRI scans of adolescents in China diagnosed with Internet Addiction Disorder showed impairment in white matter fibres similar to those observed in alcohol, cannabis and cocaine addiction. These changes showed evidence of disrupting pathways related to emotions, decision-making, and self-control. The findings of this study were criticised however, as the effect that drugs, alcohol or caffeine-based stimulants may have possibly had on these changes were not controlled.

If you have an addiction and would like to talk to one of our experienced practitioners, please contact your local First Psychology centre at the contact details below:

Aberdeen: 01224 452 848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk

Borders: 01896 800 400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk

Dundee: 01382 721 177, www.dundeepsychology.co.uk

Edinburgh: 0131 668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk

Glasgow: 0141 404 5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk

Inverness: 01463 210 377, www.invernesspsychology.co.uk

Perth: 01738 500 140, www.perthpsychology.co.uk

Monday, 27 February 2012

Stress is a popular topic

Dr Lindsey Burns speaks about stress

Professor Ewan Gillon and Dr Lindsey Burns talk about stress


First Psychology held a 'stress factor' event at Edinburgh's Missoni Hotel last week. It proved a big success with a full turnout of people interested in finding out more about managing stress.

The event, hosted by Counselling Psychologist Professor Ewan Gillon and his team, looked at the different ways people respond to stress and discussed how to build resilience to stress depending on 'your stress style'.

From the feedback we received after the event and the amount of interest from people wishing to attend, stress is clearly an issue that affects many people. This is not surprising given the busy nature of our lives coupled with the financial pressures many people are currently facing.

We have therefore decided to write a series a blogs based on the subject of stress and will be posting the first one soon so please do come back for more about managing stress.

In the meantime please do visit the advice and resources section on the website of your local First Psychology centre for more about stress and other common issues.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The benefits of blogging for teenagers

There have been a lot of articles written warning us about the negative effects of the internet and social networking sites on our lives. However it seems that blogging may actually be beneficial for us - and particularly for teenagers who suffer from social anxiety, according to research published by the American Psychological Society.

The researchers at the University of Haifa, Israel believe expressive writing in any form, such as a personal diary, gives us an easy way to communicate. They believe this therefore helps us better relate to others and allows us to release emotional distress by expressing ourselves freely, which in turn, can improve our self-esteem.

They surveyed high school students who reported some level of social anxiety, assigning each student to one of four groups: two groups blogged online but only one opened their blog up to comments, another group wrote a private diary and the last group did nothing.

In support of results published online in APA journal Psychological Services, the researchers concluded that writing a personal blog significantly improved well-being in terms of self-esteem, social anxiety, emotional distress and a number of other positive social behaviours, compared to those who wrote a personal diary or did nothing. Furthermore, bloggers who wrote specifically about their difficulties and opened their blogs up to comments improved the most.

Considering the documented prevalence of cyberbullying and online abuse among teenagers, the latter finding may be surprising. However, almost all responses to participants' blog messages were supportive and positive in nature in this study.

So it would seem that a problem shared, really may be a problem halved after all.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The truth behind the success of online dating

As we move towards spring, those who are looking for love may be heartened by new research which suggests online dating sites are successful, but what does success actually mean?

Researchers at Drexel College of Information Science and Technology examined success stories from three well-known dating websites, from a two week period in spring 2011. 

Each of the three dating sites categorised their findings into three measures of success: dating, engagement and marriage. One online dating site revealed most of their success stories were related to dating, as opposed to marriage. For the other two sites the frequency of success stories increased from dating to marriage. 

It seems dating websites have different views of success depending on the goals of the site, so if you are looking for a life partner you need to look for a site that promotes finding a life partner rather than one that promotes having fun for the success data to be most meaningful to you.

The researchers also found that good old face-to-face social networks, rather than geographical location, influenced an individual's selection of an online dating site. This was particularly true if those known to them had success at online dating. 

So despite technology and the prevalence of social networking sites, it seems that social interaction in person is still an important factor in determining our use of technology and our selection of partner. 

First Psychology Scotland has centres in:
Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk 

Friday, 17 February 2012

The language of love

When we talk about the language of love many people might think we are referring to sex. According to author, Gary Chapman, however, the language of love is about how people express, and feel love in different ways.

In order to feel loved, we must match our love language to that of our partners. It seems obvious really. If I speak English and my partner speaks Hebrew then we are likely to feel frustrated as communication may be difficult.

What is your language of love? 
  1. Words of affirmation – unsolicited compliments from your partner 
  2. Quality time – undivided attention from your partner 
  3. Receiving gifts – the thought behind the gift from your partner rather than the gift itself 
  4. Acts of service – doing something you know your partner would like you to do 
  5. Physical touch – affection from your partner, not sex 
By identifying your partner's love language and your own, even if they are different, you can then adapt the way you express your love to suit your partner's needs. If one partner expresses love by giving gifts but the other would rather hear words of affirmation such as ‘I love you’ then these expressions of love will be missed.

But how do you work out your partner’s love language? Think about your partner's values and what they say. If you often hear them complain that ‘we never spend time together’ this might suggest that they communicate through ‘quality time’ whereas ‘you never do anything for me’ would imply ‘acts of service’.

If your partner's love language does not come naturally to you (e.g. you don’t like holding hands), it is essential you find a way to express your love in their language otherwise it will not be felt. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The secrets of lasting love

In celebration of St Valentines day, here at First Psychology Scotland we are looking at how to cultivate a love that endures. Love is often portrayed as a complicated concept but it is, in fact, very simple. It is a decision we make to give to another person, rather than just how we feel. Here are some of the ways we can give to maintain our love.

Maintain positive illusions According to Marcel Zentner at the University of Geneva, “men and women who continue to maintain their partner is attractive, funny, kind, and ideal for them in just about every way remain content with each other”. As relationships endure it is easy to criticise your partners behaviour rather than valuing them and their unique qualities, particularly during difficult times when strain is put on the relationship.

Learn forgiveness We are often more forgiving of those we hardly know, why is this? In order for love to grow and last, we must learn to be more forgiving of those we love.

Boost your oxytocin Making love, doing something out of the ordinary such as going to an amusement park, or experiencing new things such as dining at a restaurant you’ve never been to before can provide a natural high which, in turn, can boost our oxytocin levels. These natural highs, according to Dr Scott Halzman, “can produce excitatory neurochemicals that your brain interprets as excitement about your partner, not the activity” and therefore has a bonding effect.

Laugh together lots It's no secret women like men who make them laugh and men like women who laugh at their jokes. Indeed, research has even shown that women rate funny guys as more intelligent than unfunny guys. Since beauty fades with time, the ability to laugh often and together is an important part of lasting love. 

First Psychology Scotland has counselling and psychology centres in the following locations:

Friday, 10 February 2012

The dark side of love

They say love and hate aren’t poles apart, but is this really true? Relationships can be hard and although we may love our partners greatly, some of our actions, unintentionally or otherwise, may have disturbing motives. For example:
  • Making your partner grateful and dependent by dominating them
  • Hiding aggression by showering your partner with gifts or thoughtful gestures
  • Fear of loss or betrayal and constantly texting and phoning your partner

Our actions - however well meaning - can hide selfish intentions and be problematic, particularly if your partner is aware of them as this can make them feel emotionally blackmailed.

It is important to recognise that sometimes love is more about maintaining the right distance than what we can give. By getting a balance, we are able to nourish and care for ourselves emotionally which in turn, makes us less needy. If our self-esteem is low, it is best to resolve these issues on our own rather than expecting our partners to make us feel better.  

In a stable relationship, each partner is able to express their views, needs, wishes and moods without fear, judgement or worry. It is only by doing this and understanding our partners’ emotions that we can achieve intimacy.

We have local First Psychology centres in:

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

How to be liked

Following on from our last blog about the difficulty of establishing and maintaining friendships, here are some techniques on how to be liked.

If you want others to like you then all you have to do is make them feel good about themselves. It’s simple, if we make people feel good about themselves they will want to recreate this feeling and will seek us out again. But how, and why don’t more of us use this technique? The problem is that we often focus on ourselves and put our needs before those of others. The irony is, if people like you they will try hard to please you anyway.

Use some animal magic

Like animals we constantly scan the environment for signals and threats. It is important to send positive nonverbal cues when meeting people to show that you don’t pose a threat. 
These include:

  • Eyebrow flash - a quick up and down movement of the eyebrows which is typically displayed on approaching others. 
  • Head tilt – this shows we are not a threat as this exposes our carotid artery which is the primary source for blood to reach the brain. If damaged, this can cause brain damage or death. 
  • Smile – this triggers endorphins in the brain which promote a feeling of well-being and make us feel good about ourselves. 
...and a touch of human magic

Empathy can make people feel good about themselves as this maintains the focus on others. Using empathic statements that mirror the other person's language, be it verbal, physical or emotional, can be particularly effective. It is best not to repeat exactly what the other person has said as this can be deemed patronising, but use statements which begin: ‘So you…’ instead of ‘I understand how you feel…’ as this keeps the focus on the other person rather than you.

Using flattery can also make people feel good about themselves. However, you don’t want to seem insincere so it is most effective when you encourage others to flatter themselves, e.g. ‘How do you stay in shape with your busy schedule?’

Another way to make people feel good is to ask a favour of them. This is known as the Ben Franklin Effect as it was he who noticed that if he asked a favour, his colleague liked him more than if he didn’t ask a favour. You would think this would be the other way around but it seems that when a person does someone a favour, this makes them feel good about themselves…as long as you don’t ask too many! 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk

Friday, 3 February 2012

If you're feeling lonely, looking at possible reasons can help!

With January having been a prevalent time for relationships break-ups and Valentines day just around the corner, you may be feeling a bit lonely. At times like these we need good mates but with friends who make no effort and keep irregular contact, you may be feeling like you have none.

Everyone feels like this at times, but if it is a recurring problem then perhaps you need to consider the reason for your lack of close reciprocal friendships. There could be many reasons for this. It may be circumstances are preventing friendship opportunities arising, or there may be other reasons such as shyness that are keeping you from finding like-minded people. Here are some common reasons for not making friends.

Situational barriers 
  • You have moved around a lot or live in a place where it is difficult to connect with people. 
  • You may have be shunned if you have a mental or physical condition because of the stigma attached to your disability and may not be able to get out of the house to meet people. 
  • You do not make time for friends as you find it difficult to fit them into your busy schedule. 
  • You do not respond to friends consistently enough nor use their preferred mode of communication, i.e. facebook, email, texts, phone calls. 

Personality barriers 
  • If you are shy and uncomfortable around people then this may make them feel uncomfortable too. 
  • You may be a natural introvert and prefer being on your own. Perhaps other people pick up on this when they are around you. Or you may be extrovert and more concerned with meeting lots of people rather than establishing close friendships. 
  • You feel you don’t measure up and can't trust others, which may create distance between you and your friends. 
  • You find it difficult to establish intimate relationships and feel uncomfortable with people knowing the ‘real’ you. 
  • You have unrealistic expectations that friendships are perfect and that they last forever. 
  • You may lack the skills needed to establish and maintain good relationships. 
  • Perhaps others perceive you to be too needy, pushy, controlling or conversely, too independent. 
If you are having difficulty identifying the problem then talking to someone else may help you gain insight. If you would like to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners, please contact us at your local First Psychology centre:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk