More ArticlesDevelopmental psychology

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Opposing feelings do not indicate indecision but emotional richness


You want and do not want, something excites you but at the same time is holding you back, you like it but it does not satisfy you completely... If sometime you experienced these feelings and commented them to someone asking him to help you untangle the emotional intricacy in your mind he would probably told you're an indecisive person. And that this is not good.

However, science has some good news for you: opposing and contradictory feelings are not necessarily synonymous of indecision, but emotional complexity. People who have a rich emotional universe are also more likely to experience a wide range of feelings, sometimes opposed. In addition, these people manage better their emotions and have a lower risk of suffering from depression.

Mixed feelings show balance

Psychologists from the universities of Waterloo and Michigan realized several studies, including one that involved a sample of 1,396 people from 16 different cultures. These people had to indicate the emotions they experienced in certain situations of their lives, for example, when they had a problem with a family member, when they got sick, found themselves overworked or stuck in a traffic jam.

So they found that in Western culture we tend to consider the conflicting emotions as something negative and undesirable, and we blame indecision. It was also found that those who have these mixed feelings are better in differentiating their emotional states and find more easily a balance in their lives.

Instead, usually those living in cultures excessively oriented towards the “self” have a flatter emotional world, compared to cultures that give greater emphasis to family ties and social duties, because these people are able to understand and take on different perspectives, and this enriches their emotional health.

For example, not being overly focused on the ego they can feel a strong disappointment in case of losing a work project, but at the same time, they appreciate that this is an opportunity to spend more time with the family or try a new experience. A person concentrated into its "self" would only see the negative side of the situation, and this would severely restrict its emotional universe.

Emotional Granularity: Experiencing different emotions is a sign of self-control and allows you to live a longer and healthier life

The emotional universe is rarely linear. It is likely that more than in one occasion you want something for a long period of time and when you finally get it, you don’t feel happy as hoped, or is likely that you even try some negative feelings. It usually happens when you finish studying, you feel happy but at the same time feel nostalgia and sadness for the period left behind, or fear and uncertainty about the new life that is beginning.

Even in a couple relationships or with children conflicting emotions are very common. A moment you love them with all your might and right after you would "kill" them all for something they did or said.

These feelings and emotions do not transform you into a worse person, on the contrary, are perfectly normal and can offer you some advantages. In fact, the amplitude of the affective sphere is known as "emotional granularity", and is a characteristic of people who are able to experience different feelings and emotions together and differentiate them.

Interestingly, according to a study by the University of Kentucky, these people also have greater self-control and are less likely to react aggressively, even when they are very angry. In addition, researchers found that people who demonstrate emotional granularity tend to live a longer and healthier life, go rarely to the doctor, use less medication and spend less time in hospital when they get sick.

In fact, another very interesting study conducted with 92 women suffering from breast cancer, found that those who were able to identify, label and understand their emotions showed lower levels of inflammation, one of the basic processes of this disease and which is considered part of a negative prognosis.

Therefore, the next time you try the mixed emotions don’t despair and do not think that's a bad thing or that is indicating indecision. Think that is your emotional universe expressing its complexity, something that eventually will get you benefits.

Grossmann, I. et. Al. (2016) Emotional complexity: Clarifying definitions and cultural correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 111(6): 895-916.
Pond, R. S. et. Al. (2012) Emotion differentiation moderates aggressive tendencies in angry people: A daily diary analysis. Emotion; 12(2):326-337.
Stanton, Annette L. et. Al. (2000) Emotionally expressive coping predicts psychological and physical adjustment to breast cancer. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology; 68(5): 875-882.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What your Facebook posts says about you


With 1,710 million users and 934 million people who access it every day, Facebook has become the social network par excellence. In this space we publish photos of our trips, the people we love and we share what we are interested in.

However, we’re not all publishing the same things. There are those who share mainly personal experiences as the details of their latest lunch or a great trip, others use the social network to express their feelings about friends and others use it as a political battleground.

This diversity means that our profile in this social network has become, in a sense, an extension of ourselves and a reflection of some of the characteristics of our personality. Therefore, psychologists at the University of Brunel have tried to evaluate the relationship between the publications that we share on Facebook and our personality. Analyzing 555 people they were able to establish the different categories closely linked to the different personological characteristics.

The 5 most common types of publications and the characteristics that hide

1. Publications on exercise, diet and personal achievements

Photos of the workout in the gym, a close-up of the muscles, images of each dish of the trendy diet, the picture of the last smartphone or the newly purchased car... This kind of publications are linked to a narcissistic personality since are not relevant information to your circle of friends but publications exclusively focused on yourself and your personal "achievements". Usually these people do not really want to connect with the others, but only capture their attention to receive an increasing number of "likes" and comments, because only feeding their egos they feel good.

2. Publications related to the couple's relationship

It is normal to publish photos with our partner as we live together many experiences that we would like to share with the others. But when the number of publications is such that we no longer know exactly who owns the profile and the person disappears to give prominence to the partner, this may indicate a lack of self-esteem. Furthermore, if the social network is used to publish private matters, such as spiteful messages, anger or frustration with an ex, it might reveal a neurotic person, who is probably seeking social support to help him/her deal with the situation.

3. Publications on children

Again it is perfectly understandable that parents share the experiences they lived with their children, as these are an important part of their lives. In fact, this trend could indicate a reasonable person, responsible and organized. But if the number of publications is excessive and these often focus on problems and negative aspects, may indicate a person with neurotic traits, anxious and very sensitive to stress. If your Facebook profile looks like a collection of medals that collects all of the child successes, however small and insignificant, can indicate a very competitive person seeking validation of his/her abilities as a mother or father through the social network.

4. Publications on social life and details of everyday living

Publications related to the experiences we have, the small details of everyday life and the events that we are planning, normally indicate an extroverted person, who uses this network to communicate and connect with the others. These people tend to be talkative and cheerful, they like to socialize and participate actively in Facebook commenting on other people's profiles.

5. Intellectual publications

Who often shares news, studies, current topics or reflections is usually a person with greater openness, more creative, attentive to the world, with greater intellectual curiosity and concerned for his/her own personal growth. These people use Facebook to share information they consider most valuable and relevant, and rarely comment on board updated messages as they generally prefer face to face meetings.

How reliable are these correlations?

Personality is a very complex construction, is not the simple combination of different characteristics and changes throughout life. This means that labeling and classifying people, we see only a small part of them, ignoring the rest.

However, the fact remains that we spend more and more time on the Internet, and we project ourselves through the network, so that every time we give a "like" or share something, we are reflecting our interests, concerns and, of course, let glimpse something of who we are.

Marshall, T. C. et. Al. (2015) The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates. Personality and Individual Differences; 85: 35–40.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

When people tell you that you are no longer the same, it's because you stopped being as they wanted you to be

personal growth

"You're no longer the same, you've changed a lot", is one of the criticisms we receive often and it is also likely that in some occasion we ourselves have make it to others. Behind these words hides often a feeling of disappointment. The person feels that, in some way, has been betrayed or deceived, so that ends up accusing the other, blaming him for being changed. With these words, he is saying that the other is not trustworthy or deserves to be loved, because the initial premises on which was built the relationship no longer exist.

Of course, when these words are addressed to us, especially if they come from someone we love or esteem, we feel bad and immediately do an examination of conscience. The problem is that looking within ourselves, we realize that we’ve really changed. So we automatically feel guilty. And suddenly, we feel overwhelmed by the weight of the problems in our relationship, although it shouldn’t happen.

We all change, it would be strange if we continue to be the same

Some believe that personality is immutable. Even psychologists thought that way until not long time ago. According to this point of view, if you are extroverted or introverted, you will continue to be so until the end of your days.

A recent study by psychologists at the University of Edinburgh established that it’s not like that, proving that we are a completely different person at 14 and at 77 years old. These researchers analyzed the results of the test of personality of 174 adolescents in 1947 and applied again the same test to the same people 60 years later, to assess the changes in their personality.

Were evaluated six key characteristics: self-confidence, perseverance, emotional balance, self-awareness, creativity and the desire to exceed themselves. So they discovered that the personality of these people had changed considerably over time, to the point that in some cases it was virtually impossible to draw any parallels. In fact, only two people showed some stable characteristics: emotional balance and self-awareness.

This proves that the circumstances of life and the way we face them, are shaping us slowly over the years. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to change, want different things, and have different dreams and change opinions and even believes. On the other side, it would be really strange if we remain anchored to the same "self", because this would mean that we have not learned anything from experience, we are not accrued.

Don’t allow the others to make you feel guilty, you have the right to change

Life is movement. If a person expects that nothing changes is feeding an illusory, unreal expectation. Unfortunately, many people cling to immobility because the idea of ​​movement and change terrifies them. To these people the prospect that the other can change causes suffering, they wish that everything be permanent, because then they can have a false sense of security.

So, when they tell you that you've changed and you are no longer the same person, what they are really saying is that you have stopped meeting their expectations, you ceased to feed their needs and don’t meet the image that they had of you.

Why does this happen?

The most likely thing is that you continued growing, while that person remained stuck in the past. So now your differences are even more marked, by the moment that your expectations, hopes and goals are different, like the way you react to life.

Obviously, this change didn’t happen overnight, so the criticism is generally motivated by the lack of attention. At some point in the relationship got lost the intimacy and connection that you had, then you become almost a stranger to that person, who has not been able to see in time your changes and adapt accordingly.

How to deal with this reproach?

- Don’t let them blame you. Don’t let that this reproach makes you feel guilty. You have the right to change and not live to meet the expectations of the others. Change is part of life.

- Ask the other to be accurate. Say that "you are no longer the same" is a general criticism that doesn’t lead anywhere. Ask the person to specify what thing is misses of you. Maybe you should really devote more time to the relationship or recover some of the habits and gestures that you had before.

- Know yourself better. Sometimes we change so fast that we’re not fully aware of these changes, so we need to exercise our self-awareness to reconnect with these new parts of our "self". This way you'll know exactly what you want and where you're headed.

- Close a phase of your life. Life consists in closing some circles and open others. When the gap is too big, sometimes the only solution is to separate our paths. Instead of harming each other, fueling criticism and dissatisfaction, if everyone looks in a different direction is better be both free to pursue our dreams.

We stop to know someone at the same time when we stop to pay attention to him

It is important to never take anything for granted. If in your life you met special people that you want to keep close to you, be sure to dedicate the time and create the intimate moments that allow you to learn more about this person and discover his new side. So you can be near him at every stage of this process of transformation and you will grow together.

Harris, M. A. et. Al. (2016) Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years. Psychology of Aging; 31(8): 862–874.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

The terrible scars that emotional abuse leaves in children


When we think of abuse and punishment we always associate them with physical violence. However, during childhood is not the physical punishment the most common form of violence but the emotional abuse. And that is as damaging as the beatings.

Emotional abuse takes many forms. In fact, it is so common that it is estimated that one third of children in the world suffer from some form of emotional abuse.

- Negligence. Is it shown by parents who take an emotional distance from their children and do not meet their needs, this way children grow up in a house where don’t have any kind of emotional support.

- Humiliation. The most common form is to embarrass the child when he makes a mistake or don’t understand something, so he’s encouraged to have a negative image of himself.

- Denigration. When parents belittle interests, opinions and wishes of their children, conveying the idea that they are not important or worthy of being taken into account.

- Pressure. When parents press exaggerately their children because they meet their expectations, regardless of their abilities, needs and desires.

Emotional abuse is more harmful than the physical one

Psychologists of the University of Minnesota and McGill studied 2,292 children who took part in a summer camp and followed them for a period of 20 years. When the study began the children were between 5 and 13 years of age.

The researchers analyzed the impact of different forms of child abuse in children. So they discovered that both, physical punishment and emotional abuse, causes psychological damage and there were no differences in responses between girls and boys.

Physical punishment and emotional abuse generated anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. However, psychological abuse was linked to the onset of depressive symptoms, anxiety disorders and addiction, abuse of drugs in adolescence, behavioral problems and learning difficulties.

The scars remain engraved in the brain

Another study conducted at the Faculty of Medicine of the Free University of Berlin analyzed the brains of women who suffered various forms of abuse during childhood. Neuroscientists discovered that the physical and emotional abuse leave many traces in the brain.

While physical abuse mostly affects the motor areas of the cortex, the consequences of the emotional abuse in the brain are even more worrying as it is reflected in the areas of the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe, the decoding and control areas of emotions, of self-image and empathy.

In these areas it was observed a reduction in the volume and synaptic density. This means that these areas were not powered properly during childhood and, consequently, the cortex has not been able to develop a sufficient thickness.

The synaptic density increases with use. When we learn something new, whether it's writing or recognize the emotions of the others, new connections are created in the brain areas related to these skills. Obviously, if during childhood we did not have the opportunity to develop certain skills, these connections are not created.

The emotional abuse alters the patterns of synaptic signals that would normally be activated, making sure that the children, and later the adults, have difficulty managing their emotions, are less empathetic and have a negative image of themselves.

We can’t forget that a secure bond is essential for the proper development of the brain, in particular the areas related to emotional control. A child subjected to continuous stress may suffer a brain damage which will then be difficult to eliminate. Therefore, remember that it is easier to educate children to be emotionally stronger than repair “broken adults”.

Vachon, D. D. et. Al. (2015) Assessment of the Harmful Psychiatric and Behavioral Effects of Different Forms of Child Maltreatment. JAMA Psychiatry; 72(11):1135-1142.
Heim, C. M. et. Al. (2013). Decreased cortical representation of genital somatosensory field after childhood sexual abuse. American Journal of Psychiatry; 170(6): 616-623.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Every time you let your son win you take away from him an opportunity to grow


"You have to know how to lose", is a phrase repeated often by our parents during our childhood and that probably we will repeat to our children, with the secret hope that they will be able to better deal with the hard knocks of life and assume the defeat with sportsmanship.

However, there is nothing better for teaching them to lose than let them lose something that parents usually don’t do. The tendency of the adults to let children always win because they could feel good may cause them psychological problems in the future.

Very often, when we play with the kids, we pretend to lose, to avoid that they cry or make tantrum. In this way children are happy because experience a feeling of power, but in doing so we also take away from them the opportunity to develop these psychological strategies, so necessary to face defeat and failure in real life, to minimize the displeasure of losing.

The tendency to make life easier for children is normal and not particularly harmful, but sometimes we exaggerate. When we try to make easy absolutely everything to them, we don’t think about the consequences that this entails in the formation of their personality.

In this regard, a study conducted at the University of Virginia with children aged 4 and 5 years old, revealed that children who are granted an undeserved victory develop a distorted perception of their abilities.

These psychologists have found that when children have a lot of success in an activity, are less aware of the relevant information they could use to learn about the world, as they believe that this is less important because someone is easing them the way. In practice, solving their problems in their place, prevents them from developing the necessary tools to solve the problems on their own.

Why is it so important that children learn to lose?

- Their self-esteem is protected and strengthened,
because who knows how to lose does not consider the defeat something personal, a lack of ability or courage, but as something absolutely normal that happens in different situations, and that can be reversed. Therefore, losses do not affect their self-esteem, on the contrary, they strengthen it.

- Their social skills will be improved,
so that they will participate and play with sportsmanship, and also won’t get angry with the others when they lose and won’t cause conflicts.

- They will learn to focus on the activity rather than on the results
, then will stop thinking in terms of success and failure and will enjoy much more the activity.

- They will understand the importance of perseverance and commitment, focusing on the possibility of change starting from the mistake, instead of attributing success to luck.

- They will develop a better tolerance to frustration, being able to consider the obstacles as challenges, which will allow them to better deal with adversity, without collapsing and get out strengthened.

- They will learn to be more cooperative and help the others
, rather than developing a more competitive and selfish attitude that would cause them problems.

- They will develop a more realistic self-image, which will turn useful to face the future challenges of life, as they will be aware of their skill, ability, potential and limitations.

Therefore, we should never let them win?

The game should always be a fun experience, but we can’t forget that is also an excellent learning opportunity. If parents leave the child always wins, they will prevent him from preparing for the defeats that will undergo during his lifetime. But if the child always loses, it is just as likely he develops a deep frustration.

Therefore, sometimes we can let them win. Although the best strategy is to equate the forces in play. For example, you can give them a small initial advantage before starting, to ensure that the competition is fairer.

When they are very small, we can also give priority to games that do not include competing avoiding those that require more complex skills, because that way we will not be obliged to let them win.

Of course, the age of the child is crucial. When the child is very small the concepts of victory and defeat are often irrelevant, because at this age enjoys much more of the game itself, he doesn’t assume it as a competition. At this stage the most important thing is that the child learns to follow the rules.

Later, to the extent that the child grows, develops his capacity and begins to seek social approval, he will give more importance to the competition and the results of the game, although this will depend very much on the importance that parents give to victories. If as a child they teach him to enjoy the journey, rather than focusing on the final result, the weight of defeat will never be so great.

However, from 4 years of age on parents should start to process the concepts of victory and defeat, without tricks. We must always keep in mind that when the children lose they have the opportunity to handle the situation, the feelings it generates, and recover from it.

How we can turn defeats into victories?

- Validating their feelings by focusing on the positive side. Losing will not make him feel good, but we shouldn’t feel sorry for the child, but confirm his emotions and help him focus on the positive side of the situation, pointing out how you two enjoyed playing together.

- Assuming the defeat as a learning opportunity. If you teach your child that losing is not something negative, but an opportunity to learn and grow, this type of situation won’t affect him so much.

- Changing the concepts of winner and loser. In fact, doesn’t win who arrives first, but who enjoys the most the activity, learns, works and doesn’t give up in front of the obstacles. Therefore, it is important not to excessively exalt the winner or ridicule the loser.

Remember that whatever you sow today you’ll reap it tomorrow. A small defeat in the game can make your child be more prepared to deal with the disappointments, failures and adversities of life.

Palmquist, C. M. et. Al. (2016) Success inhibits preschoolers’ ability to establish selective trust. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology; 152: 192–204.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This exciting video teaches us that "love it’s not giving what is remnant, but share what is just sufficient"

personal growth

Love is one of the deepest feelings we can experience, both for the partner, children, or parents, or even a pet. Love, when it is genuine, not only fills us, it changes us completely turning us into better people.

One of the wonders of love is that it allows us expand our boundaries beyond imagination, because we realize that the real pleasure lies in giving, helping the others, even if that means doing "sacrifices".

This beautiful and moving video is about the love of a father for his daughter, and it is a true story.

The true story that inspired the video

In 2005 the director Shi Qian visited the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. The collection was made up of many dolls and toys that belonged to children of other ages.

However, among all those toys he saw a very special doll that caught his attention. It was not as beautiful as the others, the finishing was absolutely poor and did not have the same bright colors as others dolls, but even so, it could have been the highlight of the museum.

It was a doll made with a shoe and its description said: "Doll made with a shoe that belonged to a poor child of London in 1905". Since that time, the director could not stop imagining how it was the life of that child and her parents.

Without thinking it twice, he decided to realize an short video titled simply the "shoe", which tells the story as he imagined it. The video received numerous awards, including "The Best Student Film of BAF08" and "MX Award" in TAF2010.

3 Life Lessons

1. Love is giving, not asking. Immature love is selfish and demanding, mature love offers itself. However, this offer is not a sacrifice in the most literal sense of the term, because we are immensely glad to make happy the person we love.

2. Sometimes very little means a lot. And are not material things, but the story behind them, that makes them special. For this in life it’s not important to have more, but to appreciate more what we have, giving it a value and a meaning.

3. We’re never too poor not to have something to give. If we look carefully within us, we will realize that we always have something to give: love, understanding, support... These feelings are more important than any properties, because help to heal emotional wounds.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What’s the cause of nightmares?


A stranger haunts us, we fall into the void from the top of a skyscraper, we want to warn someone of a danger but we remain voiceless, we must run to secure ourselves but we remain paralyzed... These are some of the recurring themes in the nightmares of most adults.

Upon awakening, we breathe with difficulty and our hearts seem to want to get out of the chest. In fact, sometimes we need some time to realize that it was just a bad dream.

A study carried out at the University of Pittsburgh indicated that 29% of adults usually has at least one nightmare a month, while between 2 and 6% has a nightmare a week. It’s curious, but older people tend to have fewer nightmares, almost half of young adults.

7 causes of nightmares

Generally nightmares occur when we sleep deeply, during REM sleep. At this stage, the eyes move rapidly but our body is paralyzed because the brain turns off the motor areas, to prevent movements and avoid that we harm ourselves during one of those dreams. But what is the cause of nightmares?

1. Too much stress. Stress is one of the main triggers of nightmares. The tension built up during the day can impact on dreams by the way that dreaming is often an expression of our fears and everyday worries. In fact, a study conducted at the University of Heidelberg with 840 professional athletes revealed that 15% of them tended to have nightmares before the race. Therefore, if you are very stressed out it is likely that those tensions show up during sleep.

2. Expose to a shocking situation before bedtime. The last thing you do before going to sleep influences greatly your dreams. So, if you see a horror film, you read a book of the same kind, or you've just received shocking news, it is likely that these experiences will be reflected in your dreams. Even the violent scenes or the news you see on TV may be reflected in your dreams, even if you think they didn’t have such an impact when you were awake. Therefore, if you want to sleep soundly, you must ensure that nothing ailments the last few hours before going to bed.

3. Not enough sleep. It was noted that long periods of sleep deprivation causes an increase in nightmares. Contrary to popular belief, we do not sleep enough our brains enough enter into a state of excitement that prevents from having a restoring sleep. This is why nightmares are more vivid when we barely slept for a few consecutive days. In addition, they are also more common in people with chronic pain and who have difficulty sleeping.

4. Negative life experiences. Dreams incorporate many details of our everyday life, but usually abstractly. Therefore, normally nightmares are related to experiences that we have lived throughout the day. In fact, a study conducted at Harvard University in which were analyzed the dreams and nightmares of 20 people, concluded that usually in dreams appears the content of the last two to seven days. Although in some cases the cause of the nightmare is older and dates back to autobiographical experiences, especially if they have been impacting and we have not been completely overcome.

5. Personality Characteristics. Some personality traits may make us more likely to have nightmares. A study conducted in the eighties of the last century has found that people who had frequent nightmares also shared three characteristics: mistrust, alienation and emotional detachment. Another study completed by The Graduate Theological Union revealed that people who tend to be conservative report having more nightmares than liberals.

6. Diseases and drugs. Sometimes the cause of nightmares is a disease. Studies have shown that people who suffer from epilepsy, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, are more likely to have nightmares because have a more irregular sleep pattern. The nightmares are also common in people who suffer from depression, phobias and post-traumatic stress. Furthermore, it is known that some drugs may increase the odds of having nightmares, especially those that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as antidepressants, medicines for the treatment of Parkinson's, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

7. A too heavy dinner.
Eating too much before going to bed is a major cause of nightmares because of a slower and more complicated digestion, metabolism will stay more active, increasing our body temperature and, therefore, the brain activity will be stimulated. So you probably will not sleep well and will have nightmares.

And if nightmares were messages to help us solve our problems?

The good news is that not all silver is lining. In fact, one of the theories that attempt to explain the origin and meaning of nightmares speculates that they arise because in that moment we are thinking of a complex situation and our mind in trying to find a solution. During the day, when we think of something that makes us afraid or causes stress, we tend to set the idea apart and get involved into a different problem, but when we are asleep, our mind wanders aimlessly and we can’t benefit of distractions. And then is when nightmares appear.

According to this theory, often nightmares try to play difficult scenarios to help us find solutions that can serve us during the day or just encourage us to respond to adversity. So, even if we’re scared by them, finally nightmares would not be so negative.

Bulkeley, K. (2012) Dream Recall and Political Ideology: Results of a Demographic Survey. Dreaming; 22(1): 1–9.
Blagrove, M. et. Al. (2011) Assessing the Dream-Lag Effect for REM and NREM Stage 2 Dreams. PLoS One; 6(10): e26708.
Erlacher, D. et. Al. (2011) Frequency of nightmares and gender significantly predict distressing dreams of German athletes before competitions or games. J Psychol; 145(4): 331-342.
Hasler, B. & Germain, A. (2009) Correlates and Treatments of Nightmares in Adults. Sleep Med Clin; 4(4): 507–517.
Kales, A. et. Al. (1980) Nightmares: Clinical characteristics and personality patterns. The American Journal of Psychiatry; 137(10): 1197-1201.
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Monday, March 20, 2017

The science confirms it: Better alone than in bad company

couple and sexuality

Interpersonal relationships are an immense source of joy, but sometimes cause also great disappointment. Therefore, even though numerous studies have shown that counting with a solid social support network is important for recuperating from diseases and control problems such as depression, it isn’t less true that in some cases is valid the old saying: "better alone than in bad company."

A toxic relationship can affect your health

Psychologists of New York State University have realized it noting that a relationship that makes us unhappy can have a very negative impact on our health, both physical and psychological. In fact, the quality of a relationship can affect us much more than we think.

In the study, these psychologists analyzed the relationships of 200 young couples, engaged and married, in order to determine how these influenced the health of the subjects.

In this way they discovered that about one third of the young people had experienced significant changes in their relationships during this period of time, as well as in their health status. When in the relationship were predominant love, affection, support, compromise and understanding, the health of both members of the relationship improved.

However, when the relationship was characterized by hostility and criticism, people felt unhappy and frustrated. If these relationships were maintained over time the health of the subjects began to suffer, appeared symptoms of depression, problems with alcohol and other physical ailments. It was also seen that the more quickly those persons left behind these bad relationships, the better they recovered, indicating that more the bad relationship lasts and more difficult it will be to recover, both emotionally and physically.

Hostility and lack of support, psychological feelings that have physical consequences

A bad relationship can cause us to fall into a state of stress where disappointment is mixed with pessimism and anger. Of course, remaining in this state for a long period of time will cause changes at the physiological level that affect our health.

In this regard, a number of studies carried out by specialists at Ohio State University are especially revealing, because they show with no doubt the enormous impact that a relationship can have on our health.

These researchers studied 76 women, half of who married and the other half divorced or in the process of separating. After analyzing their blood they found that those who maintained a complicated relationship or remained emotionally tied to a difficult one, showed a weaker immune system response.

They later involved in the study 42 couples in order to investigate what happens in the body during a couple's argument. One day, the couple had to talk for half an hour about a subject in which both agreed, on the following day had to face a problem on what they did not agree and that created tension.

While they were talking, the researchers caused them small burns on their arms to analyze the effect of the support or the misunderstanding in the healing process. So they found that when couples argued, the wounds needed an extra day to heal. And in couples who showed the greatest hostility, the wounds took two days to heal.

These data suggest that the stress we experience in a relationship triggers changes in our body that, in the long term, can have negative effects on our health. Therefore, if you are "trapped" in a toxic relationship, which generates you more dissatisfaction that happiness, you should stop for a moment to rethink your situation, reflect and find the best solution for both.

Barr, A. B. et. Al. (2016) Romantic relationship transitions and changes in health among rural, White young adults. J Fam Psychol; 30(7): 832-842.
Kielcot-Glaser, J. K. et. Al. (2005) Hostile marital interactions, proinflammatory cytokine production, and wound healing. Arch Gen Psychiatry; 62(12): 1377-1384.
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