Popular Posts

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Role of Asperger’s Syndrome and Violet Videogames in Sandy Hook School Shootings

I am writing as I watch the news coverage on the school shootings. It is terribly sad. It is hard to imagine anyone who could hurt innocent children and innocent teachers trying hard to be good educators.

As I learn more about Adam Lanza, I understand that the shooter suffered from Asperger's syndrome and also played violent video games. My research on Internet addiction shows these two variables can lead to aggressive and violent behavior. I have seen how Asperger's syndrome is a significant risk factor in developing online gaming addiction and work with parents on prevention.

Asperger’s syndrome does not cause violent behavior, although, much has been discussed in the media about its role in the tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.  It is common that Asperger’s children have a loss of impulse-control, making them unpredictable, and they have trouble processing and expressing feelings. This can make them volatile and angry, as Adam Lanza is described.

Asperger’s children tend to be highly intelligent children who suffer significant difficulties in social interaction. My research has found that these same children are attracted to the Internet because it equalizes their social difficulties in real life by communicating through the computer. Plus, they often become addicted to online games for the mental and intellectual stimulation that they offer.

If the game is a violent game, like the ones that Adam played, this may create violent behavior. Games play is active whereas watching TV is passive. People learn better when they are actively involved. Players of violent video games are more likely to identify with a violent character. Asperger's children as well as children in general are more likely to behave aggressively themselves when they identify with a violent character. Asperger's children lack a clear identity in the real world but online they gain a sense of identity through their gaming characters (earning status and power) which makes these games very addictive.

Violent games directly reward violent behavior, such as by awarding points or by allowing players to advance to the next game level. In some games, players are rewarded through verbal praise, such as hearing the words "Nice shot!" after killing an enemy. It is well known that rewarding behavior increases its frequency.

We should not underestimate the role of violent games in the events of the Sandy Hook school shootings. These games allow players to practice killing and to get into the mindset to shoot and to kill. Given that Asperger’s children have difficulties expressing emotion – these games can feed into feeling of underlying rage or aggression. These games dehumanize people. To Adam Lanza, he may have harbored so much rage and anger that he killed children without thinking of them as human beings. Unfortunately, none of these children had another game life. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When a Psychologist Writes a Novel...

As a psychologist, I have counseled men and women struggling with extramarital attractions and understand the emotional conflicts those endure who deeply value fidelity but still feel the pull of falling in love with another, even when one party or the other appears to be happily married. These experiences led me to write my first novel, The Eighth Wonder. 

The writing of the book took place while I was recovering from retina detachment surgery. I was housebound for 4 to 5 months. During this time, I was able to use my computer in large print.  Like my main character, Nicole Benson, I had always wanted to write a novel. I finally had the time to do it. It started out semi-autobiographical about my own move to Bradford after getting my Ph.D., but then turned into a love story about two people struggling with grief and loss. While writing the novel, as I mentioned, I was housebound. I needed a place for the characters to meet. I was not familiar with the region. I looked up landmarks – and that is when I discovered The Kinzua Bridge. I had not heard of it nor had I seen it before (or during) writing the novel. The title for the book came to me in a flash that day I wrote the entire story of the bridge and its description based upon web sites I found on it. The first place that I went to after being released from medical rest was to see the bridge in person.

The novel begins as on how I first moved to Bradford to be near my father who lived in Buffalo, New York, and he was dying from pancreatic cancer. Nicole’s personality and the general story of her mother leaving her and being career-driven woman who does not have children is exactly my personal story. Also, like Nicole, I had been emotionally distant from my sister, who was married with children quite young (and also not college-educated like Nicole’s sister). Also, my father’s death is described exactly how it happened that night.

Like The Bridges of Madison County, the “bones” of a story portray the complexities of falling in love when one has been married for a long-period of time. It isn’t always easy to stay married and difficult choices must often be made to keep a marriage together. Sometimes, it means even leaving someone that you love in order to keep a family together. The novel also questions the role of commitment-phobic women who fear abandonment, a trend seen more visibly in women today. Like women portrayed in the Sex in the City series, how do they resolve their feelings of wanting to settle down and be taken care of by a man, yet place a protective emotional wall to keep men at a distance.

Instead of an Iowa farm wife (as in BRIDGES), The Eighth Wonder tells Nicole’s story, who graduates from NYU with her Ph.D. in Political Science. Nicole has sacrificed marriage and children for her career with ambitions of teaching at an Ivy-League school when her life is thrust into chaos. She learns her father has terminal cancer.  She leaves New York City to live in rural Bradford, Pa to take a temporary teaching job to be closer to him in nearby Buffalo.

Instead of a rambling photographer, we meet Tom Ryan, a very stable and settled community-minded Bradford native who manages a large nursing home and is very content with his life. The story deals with grief as Tom is an empty-nester with Rose, his wife of 23 years, but they suffered a terrible loss when their young daughter died from leukemia. After her death, they suffered the long process of bereavement. As parents, their emotions turned from despair into numbness. In Tom and Rose’s case, their feelings became overwhelming and pulled them apart.

After months of being friends, Tom discovers in his heart that he is in love with Nicole and the consequences of those feelings in relation to Rose. He feels the confusion and the fear of being in love with someone else. Nicole’s realization that she is in love with Tom is just as dramatic, due to her fears of abandonment and intimacy, plus, he is married. What is she doing? She can’t possibly be in love with someone who isn’t hers to have. This weighs on them both, even once they talk, they are not clear about what direction to take but know that this relationship is doomed from the beginning.  

When they finally get together it is emotional – they know they should not be intimate, they know they don’t have a future, they haven’t thought about the consequences, yet they can’t seem to stop their feelings. As they try to stay apart, Nicole pines for Tom, then, when her father dies, his inevitable death due to cancer, the first person she calls is Tom.

Without giving away the entire ending, Tom and Nicole face the most painful decision of their lives. For Tom, it is to stay in a comfortable, yet emotionally scarred marriage, or to leave and be with Nicole to start a new life. For Nicole, the choice is to whether to pursue her career goals at a new college or to stay in Bradford to live with Tom (if he was hers to have).

I enjoyed writing The Eighth Wonder. As my first novel, it is so amazing to see my name in print. I have had many people tell me that they couldn’t put the book down. Not just friends, either, but people who have written to me after reading the novel and told me how moved they were by the story. I am so touched to have written such a story. I know I cried writing it. Even when I reread it, I think the characters draw readers in to make the reader laugh, think, and cry. I hope you enjoy reading The Eighth Wonder as I did writing it!  

Kimberly Young

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Studies find Internet Addiction Disorder exists!

It’s official, at least according to researchers at Norway’s University of Bergen: Facebook is addictive.
This may not come as a terrific surprise when you stop to think that the site claims some 500 million users on a daily basis.

But what is surprising is the researchers’ conclusion that Facebook addiction produces symptoms similar to those observed in substance and alcohol addiction. Some studies have found that heavy internet use has actually led to a “rewiring” of the brain with striking similarity to drug and alcohol addicts.
About a year and a half ago more than 400 students were handed a list of six questions relating to Facebook use, with the answers ranging from “very rarely” to “very often.” Responses of “often” or “very often” qualified the respondents as Facebook addicts.
In another study reported by Forbes magazine, 85 percent of 1,000 participants acknowledged using Facebook as part of their daily routine. A third of them said that Facebook let them stay on top of things; two-thirds admitted using it just to kill time. Twenty-five percent said they felt ill at ease if they couldn’t log in regularly. Think about that one.
In still another survey reported by Forbes, about half of 600 respondents said that looking at friends’ pictures on Facebook led them to comparisons and wishing for similar body styles or weights, affecting their self-esteem.
Dr. Harry Brandt, director of the latter study, was quoted in Forbes as saying, “In this age of modern technology and constant access to smartphones and the internet, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to remove themselves from images and other triggers that promote negative body image, low self-esteem and ultimately contribute to eating disorders” such as anorexia, bulimia and intense dieting.
Facebook isn’t alone in this phenomenon. Other elements include texting, tweeting, emailing and all the rest.
Internet Addiction Disorder is headed for further study in the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, making it a candidate for a “real” disorder.
Newsweek has pulled together a string of disturbing statistics.
The average teen processes 3,700 texts a month, double the 2007 volume.
The average person sends or receives about 400 texts a month, up from 100 in 2007.
One-third of smartphone users go online before getting out of bed.
In a survey of 750 people, most (excluding the 50-plus age bracket) said they check text messages, email or social network at least every 15 minutes.
An early addiction red flag? Spending more than 38 hours a week online.
(The irony of the Newsweek feature is that it offers – via an internet link – help in shielding your kids from tech overload).
The University of Bergen Facebook quiz (choose your answers from “very rarely,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often” or “very often”):
• You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan to use Facebook.
• You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.
• You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.
• You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.
• You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.
• You use Facebook so much that it has a negative impact on your job/studies.
More than four “often” or “very often” responses constitute addiction, the researchers decreed.
How did you do?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A moving story about addiction that was shared with me from a UK colleague

Someone You Know is an Addict
It’s estimated that approximately one in five people are born with an addictive personality - meaning they are vulnerable to becoming addicted to a substance or behavior.  This means that there is an excellent chance that someone you know - a friend or family member - is suffering, perhaps secretly, with an addiction problem.
The most serious cases end with the death or suicide or the victim.
This article is part of a campaign by Addictions UK to help addicts, all around the world. Read on to find out how you can offer your support. .
Understanding Addiction
The rapid growth of the Internet in recent years has seen the rise of new addiction problems, including Facebook addiction, online pornography addiction, online gambling addiction, and even Internet addiction. 
Although the word “addiction” is used to mean many different things, what we’re talking about here is more accurately described as “pathological dependence” - a flaw in the brain chemistry that creates an overwhelming and escalating urge to engage in a certain kind of behavior, even if the person knows that their actions are hurting them and they’re desperate to stop.
The condition of addiction can be easier to understand when compared to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  An OCD sufferer may be aware that, logically, there is no need to repeatedly wash their hands until they’re raw and bleeding, but the compulsion is so strong that they’re powerless to stop. 
Similarly, an online gambling addict may be racked with guilt because, once again, they’ve spent the grocery money on online poker, but no matter what they try, they cannot gain control of their behavior.
Worse still, when an addict’s compulsive behavior is of a type that is considered socially unacceptable, it’s common to hide the problem and try to tackle it privately.  This usually only results in the problem becoming more deeply entrenched.
Treatment is Available
The first step to successfully tacking addiction is education.  The addict may have come to the conclusion that they are a wicked person who is beyond redemption, but learning that their troubling actions are symptoms of an illness that afflicts millions of other people, many of whom have been successfully treated, can rekindle their hope and create a burning desire to obtain treatment.
Talking to a doctor can help; they may be able to recommend a local addiction treatment program.  Alternatively, private treatment can be obtained (see below).
The most important thing is for the addict to recognize that they have a dependency problem and that they cannot enter recovery without professional help.
How You Can Help
At the beginning of this article, we said that there is a strong chance that a friend of family member is suffering, maybe in silence, but that there is a way you can help.
There’s little point in trying to guess who may or not be affected. Addiction afflicts all different kinds of people, and often the person you least expect.
What you can do is help to put this article in front of as many different people as possible. The more people that see this message, the more likely it is that it will reach someone who really needs it.
To show your support for this campaign, please do one or more of the following:
1)      Share this article on Twitter and Facebook.
2)      Go to www.facebook.com/addictionsuk and “Like” this page.
3)      Place a link to www.addictionsuk.com or www.facebook.com/addictionsuk on your website.
4)      Post a comment below this blog post.
5)      Reproduce this article on your blog or website.

Don’t delay.  Spend 2-3 minutes now to do one or more of the above – you could save the life of someone you love.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Internet Addiction impacts Brain Behavior - read full study!!


Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is currently becoming a serious mental health issue around the globe. Previous studies regarding IAD were mainly focused on associated psychological examinations. However, there are few studies on brain structure and function about IAD. In this study, we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to investigate white matter integrity in adolescents with IAD.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Seventeen IAD subjects and sixteen healthy controls without IAD participated in this study. Whole brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA) was performed by tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to localize abnormal white matter regions between groups. TBSS demonstrated that IAD had significantly lower FA than controls throughout the brain, including the orbito-frontal white matter, corpus callosum, cingulum, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and corona radiation, internal and external capsules, while exhibiting no areas of higher FA. Volume-of-interest (VOI) analysis was used to detect changes of diffusivity indices in the regions showing FA abnormalities. In most VOIs, FA reductions were caused by an increase in radial diffusivity while no changes in axial diffusivity. Correlation analysis was performed to assess the relationship between FA and behavioral measures within the IAD group. Significantly negative correlations were found between FA values in the left genu of the corpus callosum and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders, and between FA values in the left external capsule and the Young's Internet addiction scale.


Our findings suggest that IAD demonstrated widespread reductions of FA in major white matter pathways and such abnormal white matter structure may be linked to some behavioral impairments. In addition, white matter integrity may serve as a potential new treatment target and FA may be as a qualified biomarker to understand the underlying neural mechanisms of injury or to assess the effectiveness of specific early interventions in IAD.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What is Internet Addiction - Podcast

Here is another recent podcast of a radio interview dealing with the warning signs and treatment involved with Internet addiction.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Wonder Radio program

Hello Everyone,

Here is a recent radio story on Internet Addiction. I hope this is informative.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What if the Internet Went Down???

WASHINGTON (AP) — If a day without Wikipedia was a bother, think bigger. In this plugged-in world, we would barely be able to cope if the entire Internet went down in a city, state or country for a day or a week.
Sure, we'd survive. People have done it. Countries have, as Egyptdid last year during the anti-government protests. And most of civilization went along until the 1990s without the Internet. But now we're so intertwined socially, financially and industrially that suddenly going back to the 1980s would hit the world as hard as a natural disaster, experts say.
No email, Twitter or Facebook. No buying online. No stock trades. No just-in-time industrial shipping. No real-time tracking of diseases. It's gotten so that not just the entire Internet but individual websites such as Google are considered critical infrastructure, experts said.
"Nobody would die, but there would be a major hassle," said computer security expert Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure in Helsinki, Finland.
If an Internet outage lasted more than a day or two, the financial hit would be huge, with mass unemployment, said Ken Mayland, a former chief bank economist and president of ClearView Economics. Eugene Spafford, director of Purdue University's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, worries about bank runs and general panic.
Psychologically, too, it could be wrenching.
"I think it's easier to get off heroin," said Lisa Welter of New York City, who weaned herself for a month last year from just the social aspects of the Internet — she still paid bills online — and felt as if she was "living in a cave."
"There would be a sense of loss: What would I do with my time?" said Kimberly Young, a psychologist who directs the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery.
On Wednesday, certain websites, most prominently Wikipedia, went dark to protest legislation in Congress that would crack down on pirated movies and TV shows. It was a one-day stunt. But it raises questions about our connectedness.
It is possible that hackers, terrorists, accidents or even sunspots could take down the Internet and cause areas to become cut off and unreachable, said Spafford, one of the foremost experts on computer security. The U.S. and other developed nations have multiple and robust routing systems that make it unlikely large areas would be affected, but smaller countries could be vulnerable to nationwide outages, Hypponen said.
The world only has to look back one year to Egypt to see what a sudden unplugging could spawn.
The government of Hosni Mubarak tried to stop protests in January 2011 by switching off the Internet. The shutdown halted businesses, banking operations and — at the height of the demonstrations — the ability of the protest leaders to organize and communicate with one another.
During the five days that the Internet was out, anti-Mubarak activists had to rely on help from abroad to spread their news and update Web pages. The outage harmed protesters' ability to organize or to counter government propaganda that portrayed them as agents of foreign powers, said Ahmed Saleh, who was in charge of managing the Facebook page that was credited with mobilizing thousands of Egyptians to take to the streets.
With the shutdown, the protests swelled as people unable to follow minute-by-minute what was going on took to the streets.
"No Internet meant that more people went down and realized that this was for real. The protests grew, and so did the anger against the government domestically and internationally," Saleh said.
He said the lack of Internet also allowed him to "live the moment" because he was not distracted with tweeting and posting on Facebook or analyzing the situation. This, he said, strengthened real face-to-face connections between people.
Nicholas Christin, associate director of the Information Networking Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said that while a prolonged Internet outage would be uncomfortable, it might also bring out the best in people.
"I think you would find that people are very resilient," he said. "We would go back to the libraries."
Christin said he has gone a week without the Internet as part of a vacation. The first few days were rough, he said, but then "it was fantastic."
Christin did it by choice. Others had it imposed on them because of weather disasters or financial problems. They weren't nostalgic about it.
For three days, Jill Williams lost the Internet and power because of a California windstorm last month. Her small business requires her to use email to plan events.
"Those three days I felt deprived," she recalled in an email, responding to a Twitter request for anecdotes about going Internet-less. "The Internet has totally consumed my life, both business as well as pleasure."
Wyatt McMahon of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech University was having a hard time Wednesday just dealing with the shutdown at Wikipedia, which he leans on as a first step in his searches in his field, which combines statistics and biology.
If the entire Internet were lost, "that would be beyond catastrophic. Every single day, every single hour, if not every 30 minutes, I am using the Internet for work," McMahon said. "So if anything like that were to happen, it would bring everything to a screeching halt."