Narcissism is one of those terms freely used but little understood. It is often used to describe someone who is considered vain or self-centered. With the rise of social media, sometimes it seems there is a narcissist on every corner. However, many people fail to properly identify the deep layers of narcissism or fail properly identify it as a disorder. It has become so common to identify people as narcissists that it’s time to get back to a proper definition of what it really means. Joseph Burgo, PhD, wrote a book called The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age. Burgo sees narcissistic personality disorder as being on a spectrum. This ranges from those who simply have a healthy regard of themselves to those who display traits of pathological narcissism. The American Psychiatric Association identifies 1% of the population as having the traits of narcissistic personality disorder. In his book, Burgo discusses those people who meet the criteria for what he calls “extreme narcissism.” They fall short of traits that would identify them as having the disorder but differ significantly from those who merely have an inflated sense of self. Burgo indicates that extreme narcissists make up 5% of the population. Narcissistic behaviors often don’t occur in a vacuum; they leave a trail in their wake, affecting the lives of friends, family, and coworkers who endure such behaviors on a daily basis. Burgo’s intent in The Narcissist You Know is to help people recognize and subdue their own narcissistic tendencies. He seeks to help identify narcissistic behaviors of others and deal with them in an effective manner. Burgo identifies these behaviors in categories of narcissism: know-it-all, self-righteous, vindictive, addicted, seductive, bullying, and grandiose. Because narcissistic traits are often so harmful to others, it can be difficult to feel sympathy for them. But Burgo reminds us that these often indicators of, and are a defense against, invisible pain. At their core, those who display such traits feel that they are frauds or losers, and that at any moment someone will find out their “true” nature. For this reason, they constantly need to appear as “winners,” even at the expense of other’s feelings. Although those with narcissistic behaviors often don’t feel empathy, Burgo invites us to extend empathy, rather than judge, when they exhibit offensive behavior, because they are always in flight from pain. Burgo acknowledges that people with narcissistic tendencies are indeed difficult to deal with, but provides assurance that they’re not impossible to manage. Share your thoughts on Joseph Burgo’s views about narcissism. PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
On a day in early May in 1856 (traditionally thought to be May 6), Sigismund Freud was born, better known as famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theories served as the foundation for psychoanalysis as we know it today. While many of his theories have caused considerable controversy, his work shaped views of sexuality, childhood, memory, therapy, and personality. So significant was his contribution to society that many of his ideas have become common terms and catch phrases in our culture, such as repression, denial, Freudian slip, defense mechanism, and anal retentive. Though Freud is highly quoted, one of the most famous quotes attributed to him was likely never uttered by him: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” The story goes that this was his response after a student asked him about the hidden meaning behind his frequent cigar smoking. His supposed response was ironic as it demonstrated that even a famous psychoanalyst can admit that not everything has a profound meaning. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and things are exactly as they appear. As controversial as some of Freud’s ideas have been, here are some things he got right:
  • The Unconscious plays a huge role in our lives: Random feelings, thoughts, and actions often have important, unconscious meanings.
  • Talking lightens the load: The common image of someone lying on a psychologist’s couch discussing their problems directly stems from Freud’s view that many mental problems can be resolved simply by talking about them.
  • The body defends itself: Defense mechanisms are the body’s way of manipulating reality to protect feelings.
  • Change is unwelcome: It is in our nature to resist change, even when that change is good.
  • The problems of the present stem from the past: Difficulties that occur in childhood can carry forward and influence present actions.
Though it has now been many years since Freud’s death in 1939, he is still a household name in the field of psychology. In fact, Time Magazine once featured him as one of their 100 most important people of the 20th century, and his ideas live on as part of the fabric of popular culture. Share your thoughts about Freud and his theories. PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
When we think of self-esteem, the first thing that comes to mind is feeling good about ourselves. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the classic, The Power of Positive Thinking, is considered the father of self-esteem. He made the idea of positive thinking a phenomenon. In his follow-up book, Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to Change Your Life, he said, “There is a powerful and mysterious force in human nature that is capable of bringing about dramatic improvement in our lives. It is a kind of mental engineering... So powerful is the imaging effect on thought and performance that a long-held visualization of an objective or goal can become determinative... This releases powerful internal forces that can bring about astonishing changes.” Merely thinking good thoughts and speaking positively may provide temporary benefits, resulting in pseudo-self-esteem. Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology, describes pseudo-self-esteem as “an irrational pretense at self-value” and “a nonrational, self-protective device to diminish anxiety and to provide a spurious sense of security.” Genuine self-esteem goes beyond imaging and visualization. Those things may play a role, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is doing good, according to Hartwell-Walker, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist and author of Self-Esteem: A Guide to Building Confidence and Connection One Step at a Time. She states, “Cultivating genuine self-esteem takes work and awareness. It’s a lifelong process. It means balancing ‘our feelings with our doings.’” Though self-esteem and self-confidence often seem to go hand in hand, it is possible to have one without the other. Confidence is often the result of successful activity. The more success one has, the more confident that person will be on the next attempt. Therefore, confidence largely operates within the realm of the known. But esteem has to do with perception of one’s own inherent value. According to Hartwell-Walker, the two parts of genuine self-esteem constantly interact with each other. “Feeling good about ourselves is the outcome of doing good things and doing good things (things that contribute to our community and to others’ well-being) is what makes us feel good.” Positivity without action leads to pseudo-self-esteem, and action without positivity leads to confidence without esteem. What do you think about the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
The story of autism spectrum disorder has always been told largely through statistics. Professionals speak of the costs to families of autistic children, the earliest age for diagnoses, and the percentage of children who develop the disorder. Many people have heard the term autism but don’t really know what it means because the statistics can’t fully convey what it means to be autistic. Autism spectrum disorder is difficult to explain and grasp because it’s a very wide spectrum. According to psychologist Kathleen Platzman, “We need an educational model wide enough to take in the whole spectrum. That means it’s going to have to be a fairly broad model.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) proposes three levels of severity for autism spectrum disorder, which is meant to describe its impact on everyday functioning. Individuals who require “very substantial support” are rated level 3; those who require “substantial support” are rated level 2; and those who require “support” are rated level 1. While these ratings provide important information, they don’t do a lot to help visualize the complexities of the disorder. Michael McWatters is a designer and UX Architect at TED, the organization responsible for TED Talks and various other initiatives. He’s also the father of a boy with autism spectrum disorder. When his son was diagnosed, McWatters wanted to know where he fell on the spectrum, but quickly became frustrated by the lack of an accurate visual representation of the disorder. He had envisioned the spectrum as a straight line that looks something like this: Autism image Was his son’s condition mild, severe, or somewhere in between? It seemed overly simplistic. But then McWatters had a revelation—the spectrum isn’t a single line or flat continuum at all! So he decided to create his own diagram, basing his visualization on the three generally accepted axes for the disorder: social, communication, and behavioral. autism-disorder1 (1) In his visualization, the greater the impairment on any of the three axes, the further the point moves away from the center. This visualization of the symptoms acknowledges the dimensionality of the disorder in a way a simple spectrum line cannot. We had the opportunity to speak with McWatters. He indicated that this is just the beginning of his efforts and that he views this as an experimental project. He is currently working with two leading autism researchers to revise his visualization to align more closely with DSM-5 and hopes to find a way to demonstrate both the strengths and deficits associated with autism. For Michael McWatters, autism spectrum disorder can’t be reduced to statistics and percentages—it’s deeply personal. “People have responded very positively to this visualization,” he says, “and I think it’s because it not only provides a more accurate view of autism, it demonstrates just how unique each person on the spectrum is.” You can learn more about Michael and his son on his Web site, ASDDad. We’re looking forward to his new discoveries and the graphic representation that he will create as a result. What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave your comments below.
The negative effects of poor sleep habits have been well documented; however, research has also revealed a little-known negative effect—repeated nights of sleep deprivation can lead to problems with self-control. There is a complex relationship between glucose levels, glucose utilization, and the human capacity for self-control. Lack of sleep interferes with the brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose and, thus, to control impulses. According to researchers at Clemson University, a sleep-deprived individual is at an increased risk for lack of self-control, which leads to impulsive desires, poor attention capacity, and compromised decision making. Self-control allows individuals to monitor responses; make decisions when presented with conflicting desires; forego temporary pleasure to meet long-term goals; and control damaging social behavior such as addictions, excessive gambling, and overspending. The Controlled Attention Model maintains that sleep-deprived individuals suffer from low performance on tasks that require too much effort to complete. One study indicates that, when given a choice, sleep-deprived persons will choose less demanding activities to accommodate for decreased capacity. Therefore, good sleep habits could enhance a person’s ability to choose and tackle difficult tasks. In the same way that physical activity depletes physical energy, self-control exertion depletes mental energy. Not only that, but the energy resources that allow for better self-control are more quickly depleted than replenished. This means that the capacity for self-control can vary as each day progresses. Because sleep restores physiological energy resources, a good night’s rest replenishes the ability for self-control and helps provide the necessary willpower to make better decisions, such as choosing a healthier snack, being more honest, or resisting temptation. Individuals prone to lack of self-control can evaluate their sleep habits and pay attention to red flags such as the inability to fall asleep, poor sleep quality, inconsistent sleep times, and excessive sleep deprivation. Preventative measures for any of these issues begin with implementing good sleep hygiene, which comprises regulating sleep and wake-up times, preparing an environment conducive to sleep, avoiding caffeine and exercise close to bedtime, limiting or avoiding naps throughout the day, and engaging in relaxing activities to wind down at night. Sleep and self-control have long been viewed as separate processes but can now be seen as a more integrated system. Scientists in the sleep field and scientists in the cognitive-based self-control field who once worked separately can now work together. By combining studies of sleep and self-control, we can better understand how the interaction among good sleep habits, physiological energy reserves, and an individual’s personal choices impact self-control, providing a valuable means to improve long-term health and productivity.
Earlier this year, PAR received national recognition as one of the 2014 “Healthiest Companies in America” by Interactive Health, the country’s leading provider of health management solutions. PAR was one of 158 honorees from across the United States recognized for embracing the mission of implementing life-changing preventive health care in the workplace. The Healthiest Companies in America award is given to select organizations across the nation that have helped transform—and even save—the lives of employees by offering wellness programs that combine thorough health evaluations with fast, personalized results. With the help of these strategic, flexible initiatives, winning organizations like PAR have accomplished tremendous success in moving employees from high-risk health status to lower risk, achieving remarkably high employee participation. “We are honored to be named as one of the healthiest companies in America,” said R. Bob Smith III, PhD, CEO of PAR. “The health and wellness of our employees is a high priority, and we will remain committed to helping them improve their quality of life.” In 2005, PAR created the Swellness Committee, which is charged with creating programs and events that promote health and well-being. The Committee has sponsored a walking contest each year for the past few years and has encouraged employees to join the Commit to Stay Fit Holiday Challenge. In addition, PAR participates in various community walks and other events. The Swellness Committee offered various health-related classes this past year and has an elliptical machine available to all employees. PAR also provides an employee wellness benefit each calendar year. Many seminars on healthy eating have been provided, and PAR has modified its company-sponsored dining activities to include a healthy food option. A healthy snacks cabinet takes the place of vending machines. Each year, PAR provides free on-site biometric screenings, which include full bloodwork analysis, mental health screening, and blood pressure testing. “These winners are improving health outcomes throughout America,” said Cathy Kenworthy, president and CEO of Interactive Health. “Preventive care programs are about much more than just losing weight or quitting smoking—they are a catalyst to transform the way people look at health, well-being, and their lives overall. Heathiest Companies in America winners exemplify the long-term positive effects comprehensive wellness programs can have on the health status of large populations. Our work is done exclusively through our people… it’s personal to us.”  About Interactive Health Interactive Health, the country’s leading provider of health management solutions, creates innovative wellness programs designed to increase overall company health and actively engage employees to make lasting behavior changes. Interactive Health has a 20-year track record of creating the Healthiest Companies in America.
Although early onset bipolar disorder (EOBD) was first described in 150 AD, the diagnosis remains surrounded in controversy because no such diagnosis exists. A person either meets the criteria for bipolar disorder set forth in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or not. The problem is that, as with DSM-IV, the criteria describe bipolar disorder as it exists in adults. The child phenotype differs markedly from adult onset bipolar disorder. Children with this disorder exhibit a more chronic form of irritability, more rapid mood swings, intense emotional outbursts, and impulsive aggression. An additional complication when making the diagnosis in children is that most of the symptoms associated with EOBD also exist in ADHD, OCD, and ASD. Moreover, children with EOBD also have high rates of comorbid conditions. Though it was hoped that DSM-5 would resolve the main concerns, the following issues remain unaddressed:
  1. Technically, EOBD diagnosis still does not exist.
  2. Teens and children must meet adult criteria to be diagnosed as bipolar.
  3. Many children who would have received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder prior to the publication of DSM-5 will now receive a diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD).
Despite the hope for some consensus, experts in the field have yet to reach agreement on (a) what symptoms constitute the core features of EOBD, (b) how to differentiate bipolar disorder from other childhood disorders, and (c) how best to manage children who have the disorder. When Drs. Richard M. Marshall and Berney J. Wilkinson began seeing children who exhibited severe symptoms of bipolar disorder, they used omnibus rating scales as part of their initial diagnostic assessment. To their surprise, many of the scales completed by parents and teachers had ratings in the normal range even though the children had symptoms of bipolar disorder. An item analysis revealed that existing rating scales did not contain a sufficient number of items associated with the disorder. To address these shortcomings, Marshall and Wilkinson developed the Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale (PBRS), a standardized, norm-referenced parent and teacher rating scale for use with children ages 3 to 18 years. Rather than providing specific diagnoses, the PBRS enables clinicians to identify the core features of EOBD, thereby serving as the critical first step in differential diagnosis and intervention planning. The PBRS provides clinical researchers with another tool to assist in (a) defining this disorder, (b) differentiating EOBD from related disorders, and (c) evaluating the efficacy of interventions aimed at alleviating its symptoms. Approximately 20% of our nation’s 50 million K–12 students meet diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder, and 10% experience significant functional impairments at home, at school, and with peers. Nevertheless, children exhibiting such symptoms are often punished for willful disobedience rather than receiving effective treatment. In fact, 80% of children with mental illness remain undiagnosed and untreated, resulting in increased risk for suicide, school failure, and criminal behavior. Accurate differential diagnoses of EOBD and related disorders is the key to effective interventions.

Unless otherwise cited, source material is attributed to: Marshall, M. M., & Wilkinson, B. J. (2008). Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale. Lutz, FL: PAR.

What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

In April 2013, President Obama announced the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative. During the speech, he said, “We have a chance to improve the lives of not just millions, but billions of people on this planet through the research that's done in this BRAIN Initiative alone.” The BRAIN Initiative’s purpose is to help researchers better understand brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, depression, and traumatic brain injury. It will allow researchers to produce dynamic pictures of how the brain records, processes, uses, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information and shed light on the complex links between brain function and behavior. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, “The human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe. We’ve only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works—or, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work when disorders and disease occur… This is just the beginning of a 12-year journey, and we’re excited to be starting the ride.” Many technology firms, academic institutions, and scientists, such as the NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), have committed to advancing this initiative. The NSF has partnered with NBC Learn to produce a video series entitled “Mysteries of the Brain,” which draws on research conducted through the White House for the BRAIN Initiative. The series will discuss how the brain develops, controls emotions, and creates memories. This eight-part video series will include the following segments:
  • Searching for Answers—Discusses how new research has begun to decipher the unsolved mysteries of the brain.
  • Thinking Brain—Discusses how the brain can store and process large amounts of information.
  • Evolving Brain—Discusses how the basic movements of a tiny fish can teach us big ideas about how the brain's circuitry works.
  • Emotional Brain—Discusses using a virtual reality room to study how the brain reacts to positive and negative emotions.
  • Brain States and Consciousness—Discusses the study of a fruit fly to understand how the brain's cells communicate to control sleep patterns.
  • Building a Brain—Discusses how the brains of tadpoles help us understand how neural circuits develop and absorb information from the surrounding environment.
  • Perceiving Brain—Discusses how functional magnetic resonance imaging allows researchers to view the brain and determine how it distinguishes important information from every day scenes.
  • Brain-Computer Interface—Discusses how devices can monitor and extract brain activity to enable a machine or computer to accomplish tasks, from playing video games to controlling a prosthetic arm.
The "Mysteries of the Brain" series is available for free viewing at NBCLearn, Science360, and the White House Blog. The National Science Teachers Association is developing lesson plans for middle and high school students, which will be available later this summer. Did you watch the series? If so, what did you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
Children lie. They lie to get out of trouble, they lie for fun, or they lie out of habit. Parents everywhere admonish their children to tell the truth, but lying has its benefits, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. More than 100 6- and 7-year-old children were given tests to evaluate their verbal working memory, and then they were invited to play a trivia game consisting of three questions. Each question was written on an index card, along with four possible answers. The correct answer and a picture were placed on the back. The first two questions were easy to answer correctly; however, the third question was about a fake cartoon. The children were asked, “What is the name of the boy in the cartoon Spaceboy?” After posing the question, the researcher left the room, leaving the card with the correct answer face down on the table and instructing the children not to look at it. Video cameras recorded the children’s varying reactions, and approximately 25% of them peeked at the card even though they were told not to. The researcher then returned and asked the children to provide the correct answer and to guess the picture on the back of the card. Those who had ignored the instruction not to look at the card answered both questions correctly, and some of them were able to lie convincingly about how they had arrived at the correct answers. The good liars were the same children who had scored highest on the verbal memory test, and high working memory scores mean their brains can store and process a higher volume of information than their more truthful peers. These children have the language skill and creativity it takes to lie, cover up the lie, and remember all of its details. According to professors M. J. Kane and R. W. Engle, differences in working memory capacity can predict intelligence and the speed with which a particular skill can be learned. A child with good verbal memory isn’t necessarily more disposed to lie, but good liars generally have good verbal memory. While parents will likely never condone lying, they can at least see it as evidence of a brilliant mind at work. What do you think? Are liars really smarter? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
Pixar’s Inside Out is a movie about being a child and all the emotions that accompany this tumultuous time. Director Pete Doctor and producer Jonas Rivera chose the movie’s core emotions based on research from Dr. Paul Ekman. Dr. Ekman identifies six primary emotions that are universal throughout various cultures—happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust, and fear—and all but one of these appear in the film. Eleven-year-old Riley’s parents have just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, and she must come to terms with leaving her old school, best friend, and extracurricular activities. Although Riley is the story’s protagonist, the real characters are her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear, which are personified inside her brain. The film teaches that emotions play a significant role in the development of Riley’s personality. Joy is the leader—Riley’s predominant emotion—and she strives to protect Riley from Sadness. Later, Joy tries to banish one of Riley’s negative memories, and, as a result, she and Sadness get thrown out of Headquarters, the emotional control center. Only Fear, Anger, and Disgust remain, leaving Riley moody and irritable. Conflict ensues as each emotion grapples for control. During the challenges of trying to return to Headquarters, Joy and Sadness learn important lessons as each begins to empathize with the emotion of the other. By the movie’s conclusion, Joy understands that she and Sadness must learn to coexist. In a Newsweek article, child psychologist Dr. Fadi Haddad comments, “I thought that was a brilliant ending in the movie, to see the importance of having a feeling like Sadness. That’s what connects us many times to families, to sad events, to friends, to understanding the meaning of empathy.” The acceptance of Sadness leads to a breakthrough for Riley, who then shares with her parents her pain about leaving Minnesota, which in the movie is also a symbol for leaving behind her childhood. Riley’s emotions are reunited, and they begin working together, leading to Riley’s emotional healing. For a children’s movie, Inside Out is surprisingly mature, accurately depicting how emotions interact, how they change during adolescence, and how they affect memory. It is a scientific yet kid-friendly portrayal of how the brain works, emphasizing the importance of all emotions—both the good and the bad. Emotions can be very complex for adults, and even more so for children. However, Inside Out has made them more accessible. Do you think Inside Out accurately depicted the psychology of emotions? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!