Americans are using online dating sites more than ever before as nearly 50 percent of the American public knows someone who has used an online dating site.
Moreover, five percent of Americans who are married or in committed relationships today met their significant other online.
The success of dating sites has now lead to an abundance of options. A new study looks into this dilemma and provides suggestions to help users know which company is best for them.
Interestingly, researchers discovered your choice of which site to use should depend on your tolerance of rejection. If you can handle rejection, more choices may be best. However, if you do not want to go the volume route, the site you chose may be more expensive.
The study, “Competing by Restricting Choice: The Case of Search Platforms,” explains that most sites, such as Match.com, compete by building the largest user base possible, and provide users with access to unlimited profiles on the platform.
Others, such as eHarmony.com, pursue user growth with the same intensity, but allow users to only view and contact a limited number of others on the platform.
However, despite the limited choice, eHarmony’s customers are willing to pay an average of 25 percent more than Match’s customers.
The study authors, Drs. Hanna Halaburda of the Bank of Canada and New York University, Mikolaj Piskorksi of IMD Business School, and Pinar Yildirim of the University of Pennsylvania, created a stylized model of online, heterosexual dating.
They found that increasing the number of potential matches has a positive effect due to larger choice, but also a negative effect due to competition between users of the same sex.
This suggests that by offering its members access to a large number of profiles, Match’s users are also more likely to experience rejection, as each of their potential matches will have access to a larger number of options, increasing the competition among members.
With access to only a limited number of profiles, eHarmony users are more likely to successfully and more rapidly identify a match with another user, who because of limited choice, is less likely to reject them.
“Online dating platforms that restrict choice, like eHarmony, exist and prosper alongside platforms that offer more choice, like Match.com,” said Halaburda.
“On a platform that offers more choice, agents also face more competition as their candidates also enjoy a larger choice set.”
Ultimately, for online dating users who can tolerate rejection and aren’t bothered by a potentially longer timeframe to identify a match, Match.com provides much greater choice of options.
However, for users who are looking to more quickly identify a potential mutual match, eHarmony limits competition that may result in rejection.
The practice of yoga and meditation is often associated with improved stress resilience and enhanced mental and physical health. However, the detailed biological mechanisms by which these practices improve mind-body health have remained obscure.
A new research study helps to fill this void by determining the effect of yoga and meditation on a variety of brain markers.
Specifically, investigators examined the effects of yoga and meditation on brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), activity on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, and inflammatory markers.
Study findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Researchers studied participants during an intensive three month yoga and meditation retreat. Retreat participants were assessed before and after the retreat which included daily meditation and Isha yoga, accompanied by a vegetarian diet.
Investigators determined the practices positively impacted BDNF signaling, the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and immunological markers, and in addition improved subjective wellbeing.
The yogic practices consisted of physical postures, controlled breathing practices, and seated meditations during which the participants focused on mantra repetition, breath, emptying the mind, and bodily sensation.
The researchers measured psychometric measures, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), circadian salivary cortisol levels, as well as pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
They also collected data on psychometric variables including mindfulness, absorption, depression and anxiety, and investigated the relationship between psychological improvements and biological changes.
The data showed that participation in the retreat was associated with decreases in both self-reported anxiety and depression as well as increases in mindfulness.
The research team observed increases in the plasma levels of BDNF. BDNF is a neuromodulator that plays an important role in learning, memory, and the regulation of complex processes such as inflammation, immunity, mood regulation, stress response, and metabolism.
They also observed increases in the magnitude of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) which is part of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), suggesting improved stress resilience.
Moreover, there was a decrease in inflammatory processes caused by an increase of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-10 and a reduction of the pro-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-12 after the retreat.
“It is likely that at least some of the significant improvements in both HPA axis functioning as exemplified by the CAR as well as neuroimmunologic functioning as exemplified by increases in BDNF levels and alterations in cytokines were due to the intensive meditation practice involved in this retreat,” says corresponding author Dr. Baruch Rael Cahn, from the University of Southern California.
The research team hypothesize that the pattern of biological findings observed in their study is linked to enhanced resilience and wellbeing.
In the light of previous studies of the positive effects of meditation on mental fitness, autonomic homeostasis, and inflammatory status, the researchers think that their findings are related to the meditative practices that the retreat participants engaged in.
However, they suggest that some of the observed changes may also be related to the physical aspects of the retreat — yoga practice and diet — and that the observed change patterns are a reflection of wellbeing and mind-body integration.
The next step will be to conduct further research in order to clarify the extent to which the positive changes on mind-body wellness and stress resilience are related to the yoga and meditation practices respectively.
The new research effort will also attempt to account for other possible contextual factors such as social dynamics, diet and the impact of the teacher.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to examine a broad range of pro- and anti-inflammatory markers in a healthy population before and after a yoga-meditation intervention.
Our findings justify further studies of yoga and meditation retreats assessing for the replicability, specificity and long-term implications of these findings,” concludes Dr. Cahn.
This research is part of a broader research topic on different approaches to encouraging resilience.
An eight-week mindfulness-based meditation program led to improved quality of life and psychological well-being in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to new research.
In a randomized, open-label, and controlled clinical trial that included 100 patients, participants who underwent meditation training scored higher on a questionnaire specifically developed to assess quality of life in people with ALS, according to researchers.
They also reported lower levels of anxiety and depression, the study found.
These results remained stable, when not further improved, over a 12-month follow-up.
“There has been very limited investigation on psychological interventions that can promote quality of life in people with ALS,â€� said Dr. Francesco Pagnini, lead author of the study. â€œI found that very strange, as we are not able to cure the disease, but we all agree that the promotion of quality of life is the current main goal in ALS cases.â€�
“This is the first controlled trial in this field, suggesting that a mindfulness-based intervention can be a very important tool to increase the well-being of people with ALS,â€� he added.
The study was published in the European Journal of Neurology.
What follows is a post that I wrote a couple of years ago now, for another site, but was never published. I’ve decided to post it on here while I’m working on mega-updates on everything that has happened in my life (SA-related and otherwise) since the last time I updated my blog regularly. It’s amazing to see how much things have changed for the better since I wrote this post.
“This isn’t so bad”, I say to myself as I sit eating lunch in my university’s canteen. My hands are shaking, and I’m sitting alone while almost everyone else in the room seems to sitting with friends, but at least now I can actually stay in the canteen without having a panic attack. I would never have been able to do this way back during my first year of university. I look around the canteen and see other students talking and laughing with their friends and classmates. There seem to be hundreds of indecipherable conversations going on all around me. But I don’t need to decipher them to know that all of those students can do what I cannot. A wave of sadness and acceptance washes over me. “Try not to think about it”, I tell myself, “Think of the progress you’ve made. Things are better now”. Yet the progress seems like nothing at all compared to the misery, anxiety, and loneliness that I still feel on a daily basis.
I am 21 years old and about to go into my final year of university. It has taken me a year longer than most to get to this point, due to how difficult my mental health issues have made university for me. Everyone always says that these will be the best years of your life. So why have my university years been one of the most lonely and miserable periods of my life? I feel like an alien compared to other students. I have never been to a nightclub or student party, and my social life is almost non-existent. I spend my entire weekend at home. Even the thought of going out socially with a group of other students is enough to make me feel sick with anxiety. I have not managed to make a single friend at university, despite having been there for four years now. At least I do have a small number of friends now. I didn’t have any friends at all (except one online friend) until about a year ago. The friends I do have are still not close friends, though. I only see each of them about once every 2 or 3 months, so I am still very lonely and isolated. Making friends has always been difficult for me. I’d love nothing more than to have a group of close friends to spend time with and talk to, but my anxiety prevents this from happening. I don’t even have anyone that I chat with at university, so university is an extremely isolating experience for me. My anxiety has also prevented me from ever being in a relationship. Much like friendships, this is something which I long for intensely, but it is still an impossibility for me. I can’t even have a basic conversation with a member of the opposite sex without suffering from intense anxiety.
I have had social anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. It has made life difficult in a lot of ways, throughout every stage of my life so far. Throughout my time at university, my anxiety has gotten in the way so much. Just sitting with other students in a lecture theatre is enough to make me anxious. I almost always sit on my own, as I am too afraid to sit with other students. I worry that they wouldn’t like me. I worry that they would take one look at me and then wonder why the socially awkward loner is disturbing them. Tutorials are even worse. I hate group work, because this usually involves me awkwardly having to go up to another group of students (if I can manage this without a panic attack) and ask them if I can join their group. I’m usually too anxious to contribute anything to the conversation. I used to have panic attacks during classes, and had to leave the room. I was convinced that my classmates and tutors could all see what a freak I was, and that they all thought I was pathetic. Group presentations were even worse, and would have been completely impossible without the aid of propranolol.
In addition to the anxiety, I have also suffered from episodes of severe depression since I was 14 years old. I believe that the depression results from all the ways in which social anxiety disorder limits my life. When I was 17, not long after starting my first year of university, I had the worst depressive episode of my life. I would get back from university each day and cry because I could not even have a simple conversation with anyone. I could not make friends. I was alone and miserable, and no one seemed to even notice me. I would cry myself to sleep most nights, until eventually I was no longer even able to cry. I thought about suicide a lot. One day, I decided that I could cope no longer. I had a really bad panic attack at university, left, and then decided that I would commit suicide by jumping from a suspension bridge (something I had been thinking about for months). Thankfully, despite my intense anxiety, I do have one good friend (who I met through the internet), and they, with the help of someone else, managed to talk me out of suicide. I continued to feel the same for months afterwards, but was somehow able to get through it. In some ways, that part of my life feels unreal to me, made real only by the scars on my arm. Yet in other ways, in spite of all my progress, I am still alone, still have no close friends or any chance of being in a relationship, and anxiety still pervades my life.
I am brought back to the present moment as I notice the girl sitting diagonally across the table from me. She sits alone, with her head down, shoulders hunched, and earphones in. She looks like a first year. I wonder if she too has social anxiety disorder, and if she is in the same personal hell that I am in. I wonder how many other people have to go through this loneliness, anxiety, and misery on a daily basis, longing for friends and human connection, but unable to obtain them. Social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental health problem, thought to affect 7-13% (Bryce and Saeed, 1999; Furmark, 2002) of the population in western countries. Yet the condition is almost unheard of among the general public. In my experience, the vast majority of mental health professionals do not know how to treat it, and many have never even heard of it, and refuse to accept that it a serious, life destroying disorder which can lead to depression and suicide. That’s why I’m writing this article. I want there to be more awareness of this crippling anxiety disorder. I want there to be more help and support available, and therapy that actually works. I don’t want anyone else to go through all of the pain, loneliness and misery that I have been through, and continue to go through.
A guy comes over to my table and asks if I’m interested in a gym membership. I manage to surprise myself by actually being able to make eye contact and not stumble over my words. I reply that I’m not interested. It’s not that I don’t like to exercise; it’s that my anxiety prevents me from exercising in front of other people. I still haven’t been able to face this fear. “Try not to focus on it”, I once again tell myself, “Focus on all the progress you’ve made”. While social anxiety continues to control my life, it is true that I have made considerable progress over the last couple of years. To give just a few examples, I passed my driving test, went along to some social groups, went along to a couple of job interviews, and even managed to get myself a job in a supermarket (a socially anxious person’s idea of Hell). While working there has been very difficult for me, it has also helped me a lot with my anxiety. I feel a lot less anxious in shops and other public places now. I just hope the progress can continue and that I won’t be lost to social anxiety disorder.
I remind myself that despite all the pain that comes with having depression and an anxiety disorder, despite all the times I felt I couldn’t go on with life and that suicide was my only option, I am still here. And I wouldn’t still be alive if I didn’t have hope that things can get better. If you’re struggling with social anxiety disorder or depression, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I want you to know that you are stronger and braver than you know. You have to be to live with these conditions. I hope that someday, mental illnesses will receive as much care and attention and physical illnesses, and everyone who suffers from social anxiety disorder will be able to get the treatment they need, and go on to live a life that they can be content with, free from chronic misery and loneliness. I have decided that even if I achieve nothing else with my life, it will not be for nothing if I can raise awareness of social anxiety disorder in some way.
Bryce, T.J. and Saeed, S.A. (1999). Social Anxiety Disorder: A Common, Underrecognized Mental Disorder. American Family Physician. 60(8): 2311-2320.
Furmark, T. (2002). Social phobia: overview of community surveys. Acta Psychiatricia Scandinavica. 105(2): 84-93.
Conflicting parental opinions on how to manage a baby crying at night can undermine the co-parenting relationship — especially when the mother has stronger beliefs than the father.
Parental teamwork is key to healthy child development, and the findings underscore the importance of early and frequent communication between parents.
In the new study, researchers asked mothers and fathers how they felt about responding to night wakings — for example, whether they should attend to their crying infant right away or let him or her self-soothe — and their perceptions about their co-parenting.
Investigators found that when mothers had stronger beliefs than the fathers, the mothers also reported feeling worse about their co-parenting relationships.
Jonathan Reader, a doctoral candidate at Penn State and lead author, said the study was an important step in learning more about how parents can work together to promote child well-being.
“Setting limits about how to respond to night wakings is stressful, and if there are discrepancies in how mothers and fathers feel they should respond, that can reduce the quality of that co-parenting relationship,” Reader said.
“We found that for mothers in particular, they perceived co-parenting as worse when they had stronger beliefs than the father.”
While previous research has examined how a mother’s beliefs about infant sleep affects her baby’s quality of sleep, few studies have explored the father’s beliefs or how their beliefs about sleep affect co-parenting quality.
The study’s participants — 167 mothers and 155 fathers — answered questions about how they feel they should respond to night wakings.
For example, “My child will feel abandoned if I don’t respond immediately to his/her cries at night,” when the baby was one, three, six, nine, and 12 months old.
At the same time, participants also answered questions about co-parenting. Researchers asked if partners have the same goals for our child, and if they were experiencing depressive or anxiety symptoms.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that mothers generally had stronger beliefs about how to respond to night wakings than fathers, although both parents started to become less concerned about how to set limits as the infant got older.
But when mothers had stronger beliefs, their perceptions of co-parenting went down.
“During the study, we saw that in general mothers were much more active at night with the baby than the fathers were,” Reader said.
“So perhaps because the mothers were the more active ones during the night, if they’re not feeling supported in their decisions, then it creates more of a drift in the co-parenting relationship.”
Reader said the findings, published recently in the Journal of Family Psychology, confirm the importance of early and frequent communication between parents.
“It’s important to have these conversations early and upfront, so when it’s 3:00 a.m. and the baby’s crying, both parents are on the same page about how they’re going to respond,” Reader said. “Constant communication is really important.”
Dr. Douglas Teti, department head of the Human Development and Family Studies department in the College of Health and Human Development, also participated in the study. He added that the health and mindset of the parents are just as important as that of the baby’s.
“What we seem to be finding is that it’s not so much whether the babies are sleeping through the night, or how the parents decide to do bedtime, but more about how the parents are reacting and if they’re stressed,” Teti said.
“That seems to be much more important than whether you co-sleep or don’t co-sleep, or whatever you choose to do. Whatever you decide, just make sure you and your partner are on the same page.”
Moving forward, Teti said the next step is more research into how best to develop and enhance the co-parenting relationship, with attention paid to infant sleep.
“We want to learn more about how to put families in a position where they know that not every baby will be sleeping on their own by three months, and that’s ok,” Teti said.
“Most kids learn how to go to sleep eventually. Parenting has a lot to do with it.”
Source: Penn State
Since 1992, the year that Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, Annette M. La Greca has been investigating how best to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children.
Dr. La Greca, distinguished professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami (UM) has been trying to gain a better understanding of how disasters impact the mental health of children, to identify which children in particular may need support services post-disaster, and to know which key factors help most with recovery.
In a new study, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, La Greca, along with UM graduate student BreAnne Danzi, examine how well the “preschool” definition of PTSD identifies school-aged children with significant distress after a major hurricane.
“The good news is that most children are resilient, even after a very devastating storm,” said La Greca. However, children have different ways of expressing distress than adults.
The findings come as recent hurricanes have led to massive evacuations of children and families and wreaked havoc: Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The study involved 327 children (ages 7-11) from six elementary schools in Galveston, Texas, who were directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that made landfall in September 2008.
The researchers found that the preschool definition of PTSD identifies more distressed children than the typical “adult-based” definition. Thus, the preschool definition may be more helpful when screening elementary school-age children (ages 7-11) for PTSD-risk.
Additional research by La Greca and her team also found that two-thirds of children who are initially distressed after a disaster recover naturally over the course of the school year. They found that children who do recover are more likely to have greater social support from friends and family, fewer life stressors in the disaster’s aftermath and more positive coping skills than those who remain chronically distressed.
“We now know from research that some children who endured a stressful evacuation or experienced scary or life-threatening events during the storm are at risk for a poor recovery over time,” she said.
“Children who need extra support include those who report feeling anxious or depressed, as well as stressed, and who lack social support from friends and family. They also have multiple stressors to deal with after the storm. All of those factors contribute to poor recovery and less resilience.”
“There is no doubt that hurricanes and other extreme weather events can be stressful for children and for adults,” said La Greca. “But as with many stressful experiences, a little extra support can go a long way.”
Source: University of Miami
In the largest brain-imaging study of cardiovascular stress physiology to date, researchers have introduced a brain-based explanation of why stress might impact a person’s heart health.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, show that as we experience stressful events, our brains produce a distinct pattern of activity that appears to be directly tied to bodily reactions — such as rises in blood pressure — that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
“Psychological stress can influence physical health and risk for heart disease, and there may be biological and brain-based explanations for this influence,” said Peter Gianaros, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
For the study, the researchers conducted mental stress tests and monitored the blood pressure and heart rates of 310 participants (157 men and 153 women) undergoing an MRI procedure. The mental tests were designed to create a stressful experience by having the participants receive negative feedback as they came up with time-pressured responses to computer challenges.
The participants (aged 30 to 51 years) were enrolled in the Pittsburgh Imaging Project, an ongoing study of how the brain influences cardiovascular disease risk. As expected, the mental stress tests increased blood pressure and heart rate in most of the volunteers compared to a non-stress baseline period.
Using machine-learning, the researchers discovered that a specific brain activity pattern could reliably predict the size of the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate reactions to the mental stress tests.
The brain regions that were especially predictive of stress-related cardiovascular reactions included those that determine whether information from the environment is threatening and that control the heart and blood vessels through the autonomic nervous system.
The research involved middle-aged healthy adults at low levels of risk for heart disease, so the findings may not be applicable to people with existing heart disease. In addition, brain imaging does not allow researchers to draw conclusions about causality.
“This kind of work is proof-of-concept, but it does suggest that, in the future, brain imaging might be a useful tool to identify people who are at risk for heart disease or who might be more or less suited for different kinds of interventions, specifically those that might be aimed at reducing levels of stress,” Gianaros said.
“It’s the people who show the largest stress-related cardiovascular responses who are at the greatest risk for poor cardiovascular health and understanding the brain mechanisms for this may help to reduce their risk.”
Source: American Heart Association
A new study suggests it is okay if we are not always happy. In fact, investigators discovered life satisfaction is a product of experiencing both negative and positive emotions.
In an international study, researchers discovered people may be happier when they feel the emotions they desire, even if those emotions are unpleasant, such as anger or hatred.
“Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have,” said lead researcher Maya Tamir, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.”
The cross-cultural study included 2,324 university students in eight countries: the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Poland, and Singapore.
The research is the first study to find this relationship between happiness and experiencing desired emotions, even when those emotions are unpleasant, Tamir said.
The study appears online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Participants generally wanted to experience more pleasant emotions and fewer unpleasant emotions than they felt in their lives, but that wasn’t always the case.
Interestingly, 11 percent of the participants wanted to feel fewer transcendent emotions, such as love and empathy, than they experienced in daily life, and 10 percent wanted to feel more unpleasant emotions, such as anger or hatred. There was only a small overlap between those groups.
For example, someone who feels no anger when reading about child abuse might think she should be angrier about the plight of abused children, so she wants to feel more anger than she actually does in that moment, Tamir said. A woman who wants to leave an abusive partner but isn’t willing to do so may be happier if she loved him less, Tamir said.
Participants were surveyed about the emotions they desired and the emotions they actually felt in their lives. They also rated their life satisfaction and depressive symptoms.
Across cultures in the study, participants who experienced more of the emotions that they desired reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of whether those desired emotions were pleasant or unpleasant.
Further research is needed, however, to test whether feeling desired emotions truly influences happiness or is merely associated with it, Tamir said.
The study assessed only one category of unpleasant emotions known as negative self-enhancing emotions, which includes hatred, hostility, anger, and contempt. Future research could test other unpleasant emotions, such as fear, guilt, sadness, or shame, Tamir said.
Pleasant emotions that were examined in the study included empathy, love, trust, passion, contentment, and excitement. Prior research has shown that the emotions that people desire are linked to their values and cultural norms, but those links weren’t directly examined in this research.
The study may shed some light on the unrealistic expectations that many people have about their own feelings, Tamir said.
“People want to feel very good all the time in Western cultures, especially in the United States,” Tamir said.
“Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.”
“But you don’t look sick”
“You can’t have social anxiety, you’re way more confident than me”
“I saw a picture of you on facebook, looked like you were having a good time. You can’t be that depressed”
They are called invisible illnesses for a reason.
Whether it’s a mental or physical illness, if it’s not as obvious onÂ the outside then there are always people who will try to diminish what you’re going through. ‘Cause it’s not like you can laugh at a joke when you have a broken bone or anything and it’s not like you can tell people that a bruise doesn’t hurt when it actuallyÂ does.
It’s called putting on a brave face, not just because you want people to think you’re okay but because sometimes it’s hard to talk about, sometimes people just don’t understand and because flippant & hurtful comments sometimes make you feel like you have to conceal even the worst of days.
I’ve been around groups of people, trying to laugh and joke and act normal while going through severe endometriosis pain, losing crazy amounts of blood at the same time (not even gonna sugar-coat it) and enduring the lovely chronic fatigue that comes with it.
I’ve been in many social situations where I’ve pretended to be confident to mask how I really feel. I also joke around a lot when I’m nervous but I’ve spent years trying not to show how anxious I am… The physical symptoms I get from having anxiety only make my anxiety worse, so I’ve mastered the art of not looking like I’m dying every time I’m in a social situation.
I’ve held my head up high in front of everyone I’ve known, while dealing with depression in the dark. I’ve smiled and even enjoyed myself at times during those dark periods but that feeling wouldn’t last because I’d still have to go back to my life and deal with what was causing my depression, even if that was nothing at all.
I don’t wear my illnesses on my face everyday of my life because they don’t define me as a person and I shouldn’t have to justify being sick to anyone.
More importantly, if having a chronic or mental illness means I’m not allowed to smile, laugh or have fun once in a while then what is the point of struggling through the bad days?
Just because I look fine, it doesn’t automatically mean I am fine.
The post Just Because I look Fine, Doesn’t Mean I AM Fine appeared first on Anxious Lass.