Archive for October, 2009

Happy Halloween! Just Watch and Relax.

October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween! Just Watch and Relax.

VTM, 10/31/09

Into The Darkness

October 30, 2009

Into The Darkness

She had walked about three miles in the dark and was lost before she found my office. It was cold and raining as she walked through the “wrong side of town” to seek my help. Her journey took her through tough streets where rapes, robberies and gang shootings happen almost every week.

She was a very slight waif of a young woman and she hid in an over-sized hooded sweat shirt.  Her head and face were recessed into the protection of the jacket’s dark hood. She had withdrawn from the world around her.

I expressed my concern that she had walked at night through a dangerous area of our city. She said that she wasn’t afraid because when she “walks at night no one can see her”. She sat in my room with her head bent down. The hood made it impossible for me to see her face, unless I bent low from my chair to look into its recesses. There I saw an expressionless mask with wide eyes that gazed at the floor.

With my hearing aids on their highest setting, I strained to hear her voice. At times she made sense, but often she did not. She said that she wanted to get better and “to be normal”. She said that she used to cut herself and that she had tried suicide many times. She said that she had been in mental hospitals frequently and that she was afraid of those places and hated them. She said that she is always nervous and cannot come out of her house during the day. She reported that she gets confused and scared and wanted to feel better. At times she was whispering. I asked if she was hearing voices: She said “yes, but there are many voices talking at the same time and I can’t make out what they are saying”.

My heart sunk and I felt a little sick as I told the lady that she appeared to be suffering a psychotic state. I said that I could not help her through counseling until she was on antipsychotic medication. Her voice became louder and very firm as she stated that she was not crazy and did not need any medication: “I just needed someone to talk to”.

I tried to explain that it would be unethical for me to provide counseling to her for a condition that required medication before counseling would be of any benefit. I told her I could not participate in prolonging her illness that was harming her.  I did my best to comfort her and softly spoke of my desire to help her get better. She began to mumble about cutting herself and she fumbled in her purse for something. For a moment I feared she was looking for a knife.

She finally found the tattered intake form that she had meticulously filled out and brought to give to our receptionist. She didn’t say anything more as she slowly stood to slouch within her hooded sweat shirt and shuffled slowly from my office. She lingered near the reception desk for a time and finally moved slowly out the front door into the dark, cold, and rainy night. I imagined what she must feel like as she walked her long way back to wherever she came from.

I normally do not loose sleep over my client’s problems. I could not do that and remain in practice for over 30 years.  However, I did not sleep well that night and I cannot forget that lost and pathetic young woman who walked out of my office and into the dark.

Both the poor lady and I were caught in the results of a terrible mistake that our American culture made following the discovery of antipsychotic medications in the 1950’s.

At that time close to six hundred thousand patients, daily,  were confined in our public mental institutions. The new neuroleptic medications frequently ( but not always) helped to control the active symptoms of many forms of psychosis. However, the medications did not cure the symptoms, which were prone to return when the patients encountered stressful conditions, especially if they had stopped taking their medications.

During the 1960’s, in the name of humane treatment of mental patients, the U.S. and other nations began the process of letting these patients out of mental hospitals. This process was called deinstitutionalization. By the year 2001 there were less than 60,000 patients confined to mental hospitals on any one day. Also, strict patient’s rights laws were enacted forbidding the hospitalization of mental patients against their will, unless they were a clear and present danger to themselves or others. This led to the bizarre practice of giving severely and profoundly mentally ill citizens the choice as to whether they should be hospitalized or not.

In other words, people who clearly were not in contact with reality were (and still are)  asked to make rational decisions about accepting treatment, which most often would improve their condition. Tragically their answer was and still is, very often: No!

This indefensible policy has contributed to the increase in social horrors  such as mass murders in our schools, killings and attempted killings of high profile entertainers, politicians, U.S. presidents and others: All too frequently by people who are very severely mentally ill and  who cannot control their actions.

It is also painful to see the severely mentally ill who are cold and starving in the streets, who seek shelter under bridges and train trestles or in cardboard boxes and other make-shift shelters all across America.

I will never forget a documentary that I watched of mental health workers putting sandwiches on a bench in a city park and hiding in bushes waiting to see if a starving psychotic man would eat them. The man thought that people were trying to poison him so he would not eat the food left for him. He ran away from the well-intentioned mental health workers. No one had the power to take him to a safe hospital environment where he could have been medicated and cared for. My perception was of a cultural practice that was just as psychotic as was the starving man it was designed to help.

There is yet another concern that has not been addressed. The psychotic woman, who I could not help, told me she had two children.

Think about this: schizophrenia is a bio-genetically-based mental disease that is heritable. After deinstitutionalization in America, the reproductive rate of schizophrenics increased to approximate that of the rest of our population.

The truth is that there is nothing humane about the way we treat our severely and profoundly mentally ill citizens…or their children. Our treatment of these suffering people is abusive.

The real motive, hidden behind false ideas of personal freedom and humane treatment, is primarily financial. Deinstitutionalization saves money in the short-term, pure and simple. But, in the long-term, as America is now learning, it has been a disastrous mistake.

This is another example of America’s avoidance of short-term expenses and trouble, at the cost of long-term cultural self-abuse and self-destruction.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 10/30/09

Attachment Disorders in Infancy and Childhood

October 29, 2009

Attachment Disorders in Infancy and Childhood

The Reactive Attachment Disorder normally is observed before a child’s fifth birthday. The inhibited type refers to children who do not respond to, or initiate, social interactions in ways appropriate to their age. These children may be very inhibited around others, show anxiety, be overly vigilant, seem “frozen” in social situations, and not accept comfort from others. The disinhibited type is hyper-social and will seek contact and interaction with many people. They are not selective in their attachments and their search for those to be close with is inappropriately uninhibited. These behavior patterns are not caused solely by other developmental disorders like retardation or autistic spectrum disorders.

Suspected Causes:

This disorder is associated with extremely abnormal child care practices. Children raised with a “persistent” failure to meet their basic emotional needs  (stimulation, affection, and comfort) or physical needs are at increased risk. Infants and young children who experience frequent changes in those who are their primary caretakers are also at increased risk for these emotional disturbances. Children with this disorder are more likely to have had extended hospital stays, be raised in extreme poverty, or raised by very inexperienced ( or negligent) care-takers. There is sometimes evidence of failure to thrive (growth delays) and physical abuse.

Although prevalence estimates are uncertain, Attachment Disorder is reported to be uncommon. This reported low prevalence may be true using the formal definition given, but I have some major concerns with this estimate.

I am convinced that very similar attachment problems among our infants and children are, sadly, quit common. In my own practice, over the past several decades, I have increasingly seen children who have had chronic medical problems with many hospitalizations or inconsistent, negligent, or abusive care who show problems similar to those identified as Reactive Attachment Disorder. 

I have also increasingly seen other attachment-related problems in children who have had mothers who go to work and leave them with day care centers, or with multiple other care-takers, during infancy or early childhood.

Many of these children desperately seek attention from their mother’s and others and they often develop extreme behavior problems in order to gain attention; even if it is angry and punitive attention from parents, relatives, and others. These children frequently behave in dramatically disruptive ways in preschools or grade schools until their mothers are forced to leave work and go to the school to “settle them down”.

In some instances, the mothers have had to take them home with them. When a child is successful in gaining parental contact in this way, it rewards their damaging behavioral antics and teaches them to behave similarly more often in the future.

One of the causes of this sort of emotional/behavior problem is disrupted  emotional attachment-needs which naturally leads to the children’s  desperate quest for contact with their mothers, or others.

I believe this problem is far more common than is currently recognized and it is a problem of tragic proportions that afflicts all of our social classes for different reasons (poverty, working to survive, or working to “keep up” with friends and neighbors, or personal enrichment/fulfillment, etc).

I am also convinced that  early attachment problems with infants and children increase the frequency of many other child, adolescent and adult disorders that are yet to be discussed.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., Health Services Provider in Psychology, 10/29/09


The Duty Of Parents

October 29, 2009

The Duty Of Parents

From Founders Quotes Daily, a publication of the Patriot Post.

“It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness.” –James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 10/29/09

More of this America!

October 28, 2009

More Of This America!

Please take a minute to see this video.

I can’t be certain that this is true. But if it isn’t, it really should be.

More of this America!

V. Thomas Mawhinney  10/28/09

Thanks to Mr. Vic Palenske for sending it to me. Vic is my dear life-long friend, starting in Cub Scouts.

Play is the “work” of infants and children

October 27, 2009

Play is the “work” of infants and children

I read many years ago that play is the” work” of infants and children.  So it is! Infants and children learn countless valuable skills that they will need for their future through the medium of play.

This appears to be true of puppies, kittens, and many (perhaps all) other creatures.

Enjoy the following and think back to your own childhood and that of other children you have loved.

Thanks to my friend Joe Grunert who sent me this wonderful U-Tube video.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, 10/28/09

Preventable Psychological Disorders

October 27, 2009

Preventable Psychological Disorders

The Disorders

There are two broad kinds of psychological disorders that are defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV).

Axis I disorders are comprised of conditions that are very noticeable, that significantly impair an individual’s functioning, but that may be relatively short-lived, if treated–or if certain stressors or biological problems improve. 

Axis II disorders are the ones that are more likely to persist, in some fashion, throughout an individual’s lifetime and can also represent a substantial impairment to normal functioning.

There are many psychological disorders that can occur in children. However, for now, I will restrict our review of such problems to the ones that require specialized settings, professional assistance, and allocations of financial resources to treat.

I will now intermittently post numerous psychological disorders that are not only damaging and limiting to the individuals who have them, but are also damaging and draining to the socioculture in which they occur.

It is important that everyone know these disorders and their probable causes because a significant percent of these individual’s problems can be prevented. This means that, a significant percent of America’s social problems can also be prevented. This is the good news.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, 10/27/09

The Foundation of National Morality

October 26, 2009

The Foundation of National Morality

A quote, taken from  Founders Quote Daily  and sent to me by my best and life-long submarine buddy, Howard Hawkins.

“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families. … How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?” –John Adams, Diary, 1778

VTM, 10/26/09

We Can Prevent Our Children’s Psychological Problems.

October 26, 2009

We Can Prevent Our Children’s Psychological Problems.

Today we rightfully worry about conserving the earth’s energy supplies and finding more renewable energy resources for our future. However,  there is one precious resource of renewable energy that has already been “discovered”,  then forgotten and squandered shamelessly. 

That renewable resource is America’s children. No better thing can ever replace our intellectually, physically, and emotionally healthy children. No other source of  “pure and renewable energy” will ever reduce America’s crippling high rates of psychologically disordered people with damaging behavior problems as quickly, significantly and cost-effectively, as having and raising increasing numbers of our own healthy developing children. It is appropriate that we think of damaged infants and children as “damaged cells” in the socio-cultural animal that America is. It is essential that we prevent damage to our wonderful human life-source in every way possible.

I am unaware of any definitive estimates of the percentages of psychological disorders and behavior problems in children that can be prevented. The development of psychological and behavioral problems in our children can stem from genetics, biological damage and environmental experiences; or, from complex interactions between any of these powerful forces. As previously mentioned, and as we will further explore, all we know is that children who have been exposed to a variety of risk factors are at significantly increased risk for the development of physical, mental and behavioral problems.

The concept of genetic diathesis is critically important to the consideration of prevention of psychological disorders. Genetic diathesis refers to the well-documented observation that various psychological disorders are made more likely to occur through a child’s genetic inheritance. Put differently, children can acquire a genetic weakness to break-down, under stressful conditions, and be at great risk of developing a variety of psychological disorders. Research has demonstrated that genetic diathesis is significantly involved in psychological problems such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, ADHD, retardation and autism. Genetic diathesis is also involved in many other psychological problems to be discussed later.

Diathesis for many psychological problems can also be acquired through various powerful environmental experiences. Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and other debilitating experiences in childhood are frequently associated with psychological problems. These individual’s psychological problems then fluctuate directly with the stress levels that they experience throughout life. Research has also documented this environmental diathesis effect.

At a practical level, the matter of separating genetic from environmental diathesis is difficult and requires sophisticated genetic evaluations, group studies and statistical analyses. While we are only beginning to understand the genetic determinants of psychological disorders, we do know most of the likely environmental causes of our population’s psychological problems.

The basic idea that I present is simple: To reduce the rate of population psychological problems,  America (or any socioculture) must organize itself in ways that protect infants, children and youth from conditions and experiences that we know cause diathesis for psychological disorders.

On the basis of 43 years of experience studying, teaching, and providing behavior modification services and other forms of psychotherapy to children and families, it is my strong impression that 60-80% of our child psychological problems can be prevented. By extrapolation, I judge that a large percentage of our adult psychological problems can also be prevented.

It is important to note that for some disorders with very strong bio-genetic determinants such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or severe and profound mental retardation, this estimated range would be a gross over estimation. But it has been my experience that the vast majority of even these child and adolescent psychological disorders can be significantly improved through early intervention by competent mental health professionals, medication assistance and the application of effective parenting and teaching skills. 

On the other hand, this estimated 60-80% range may be too low for problems that can have much stronger environmental causes, such as Oppositional-defiant, conduct disorder, some depression or anxiety problems, as well as a variety of personality disorders.

Until future research provides an empirical basis for more accurate predictions, I will stick with these promising personal experience-based assumptions.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.  10/26/09


October 23, 2009


I am adding a new sight to my favorite sites list, located on the bottom right panel of my page. Simply click there to go to any of my favorite sites listed.

I hope you will visit often.

There, you will find authoritative and scholarly discussions about relevant historical, cultural, political and social affairs.

The Imprimis archives will provide you with a long list of very informative readings by noted experts. Furthermore, the Imprimis Audio Podcast will provide you with another enjoyable way to remain informed on important issues of our day.

VTM, 10/23/09

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