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Amy Bishop:Should She Get Away With Murder?

Dr. Amy Bishop In 1986, when Amy Bishop was 20-years-old, she shot her brother after she had a fight  with her father as he was leaving their Massachhusetts home.  Her mother, the only witness, said her son's death was an accident.  Amy went on to marry, earn a Ph.D. at Harvard, have children and work.

People remember her as being quite a menace in their quiet Massachusetts neighborhood.  It is said that she tried to get her child's teacher fired and also successfully barred an ice cream truck from coming to her street because, she said, her children were lactose intolerant.  In 1993, she and her husband were suspects in an attempted pipe bombing of a doctor she had worked for at Boston Children's Hospital.  And in 2002, she punched a woman in a House of Pancakes and then fled with her family.  The manager wrote  down her license plate, though, so she was brought to court and convicted of assault.

Astonishingly and unfortunately, the administration at  the University of Alabama did not have any of this information when they hired Amy Bishop, but they denied her tenure recently.  Her research and publications did not meet high enough standards for tenure, and students criticized her for  being disorganized, not making eye contact, simply reading from a textbook and too often expressing her extreme political views with unsettling passion. Several weeks ago, during a department meeting at the university, Amy Bishop pulled out a loaded gun and killed three colleagues and wounded others.

It appears she was psychotic, most likely suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.  Having this mental illness, however, should not necessarily exonerate her from being convicted of murder and serving her sentence.  She planned the attack; she got a gun; she trained with it at a local shooting range; she brought the loaded gun with her to the department meeting; and she calmly got up and started systematically shooting her colleagues in their heads.

Having gotten away with so much all her life, she might have started to believe that she was invincible and that when all the facts were presented, she would be exonerated.  She may think that her powers of persuasion are so great and her genius so valuable, that she will go free.  She most likely convinced herself that she had been wronged and that the people she killed deserved it.  She probably believes that somehow, once again, she won't have to pay for the consequences of her actions.

What is certain, however, is that Amy Bishop should not get away with assault and murder this time. She knew what she was doing and knew right from wrong when she fired her loaded gun and killed and injured her innocent colleagues.

I'm  Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources: 

Schizophrenia for Dummies

Surviving Schizophrenia:A Manual for Families,Patients,and Providers 

The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia:Helping Your Loved Ones Getting the Most Out of Life 

When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness 

Schizophrenia,Causes,Symptoms,Signs,Diagnosis and Treatments  


The Search for Meaning in Our Lives

The meaning of When women in their twenties and thirties seek help from a therapist, the primary goal is to get help in finding and keeping the right mate.  For men in their twenties and thirties, the primary goal in seeing a therapist is to get guidance on career issues.

But when people seek the help of a therapist in their forties and older, no matter what the presenting symptoms may be, the underlying issue commonly involves the existential meaning of one's life.  Humans question why they are here and why our lives can be so easily replaced and forgotten after we're gone.  And no matter what our beliefs are, we are all frightened by the thought of what happens to us after death.  There are some literary works that explore the existential question of the human condition that are helpful.

A wondeful short and simple book is Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.  Six decades after being published it is still in demand.

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a great literary work in which the character Levin (basically Tolstoy himself) goes through a major crisis of meaning at the height of his career and the fulfillment of his personal dreams.  We can learn a lot from Levin's struggle.

Fyodor Dostoevsky"s Brothers Karamazov and Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain are also helpful. 

If you read these books in high school, it doesn't count.  You were too inexperienced, and these books require a mature and fertile mind in order to bear fruit.  These books are not easy literature, but life is not easy either.  Great literature, like life, is not clean-cut and linear.   It is messy and chaotic in spite of our best efforts to control it,  but life is intoxicating at times and even miraculous regardless of what we are feeling.

Do not be lazy.  After all, you have only one life to live, and in order to make it worthwhile, you need all the help you can get.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources: 

Finding Meaning in LIfe,At Midlife and Beyond:Wisdom and Spirit From Logotherapy

Passages:The Mystery of Death,Finding Meaning in Life 

Real Answers to the Meaning of Life and Finding Happiness 

Prisoners of Our Thoughts:Viktor Frankl's Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life 

Worldly Wisdom:Great Books and the Meaning of Life

Man's Search for Meaning 

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life:How to Finally,Really Grow Up 

Anna Karenina

The Brothers Karamazov

 Magic Mountain   

  


Tiger Woods and the Sad "Marital Sex Was Bad" Excuse

Dr. B (M.D.) and guest blogger Dr. E (Ph.D)

041203_woods_vmed_7a_widec  Tiger Woods, who started to play golf at age 2 and appeared on ABC's "That's Incredible" at age 5, has achieved one of the greatest sustained periods of dominance in the history of men's golf.  He plays in fewer tournaments than most professional golfers, but when he does play, according to the findings of Jennifer Brown of the University of California, other golfers play worse than when he is not in the tournament.

His ethnic diversity (Tai,Chinese, African American, Dutch and American) and physical grace make him attractive and exotic and add to his appeal.  His measured, cautious and carefully controlled demeanor help him project an image of an elegant, reliable, cool, masculine, disciplined and trustworthy man.

Now his wife, the mother of his two children, along with the rest of the world, knows that what we all see is not what we get.  Tiger, like many married men, we now know is a womanizer, with one of his extramarital women saying that Tiger likes it rough by dominating her, spanking her and pulling her hair.  Others now argue that Tiger was unsatisfied with marital sex, an excuse many married men use, and that's why he went elsewhere for sex.

Tiger and his wife apparently find it easier to discuss money than their relationship (the elaborate prenuptial agreement and the alleged financial deal for her to stay married), and that makes us wonder why married men and women can't discuss sex.  Why do so many of them seem unable to tell each other what they need and want from sex?

In the movie "Analyze This," Robert DeNiro, a Mafia boss, has a beautiful wife and a mistress.  The psychiatrist, Billy Crystal, asks him why he can't make passionate love with his wife.  DeNiro, looking incredulously at Crystal, replies,"You mean doing IT with the mother of my children?"

How ironic that husbands love their wives, put them on a pedestal, and respect them as the mothers of their children so much that their wives become untouchable!  And wives may feel that since their husbands think of them as saintly, they have to inhibit their sexuality or their husbands won't love them as much.  Instead of talking about it and getting help if needed, husbands leave their wives sexually frustrated and unsatisfied, go off and have sex with women they have no attachment to or respect for, and when caught, rationalize that they went elsewhere for sex because they couldn't get it at home.  Extramarital affairs are free of the complexities of marriage, and men prefer things simple.

Ordinary men may not have the women groupies who surround famous athletes and entertainers, and they don't get to travel, making affairs easier, the way Tiger Woods does.  And they certainly don't have the resources to wine, dine and hide their extramarital women.

More important for all married couples is to examine why deeply loving someone may result in unfulfilling sex.  When did pure love mean love without passionate sex?  At one time pure love was a prerequisite for great sex. 

We're Drs. B and E.  For more information, click on the following resources:

Passionate Marriage:Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships

Dr. Ruth's Top Ten Secrets for Great Sex:How to Enjoy It, Share It, and Love It Each and Every Time 

Till Sex Do Us Part:Make Your Married Sex Irresistible 

Systemic Sex Therapy 

Is That All He Thinks About?:How to Enjoy Great Sex With Your Husband 

Getting the Sex You Want:Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together  


The Symbolism of Hair

Bald_woman_free  At an event I recently attended, I met an actress who in her speech related how hard it was to pursue her dreams.  Although she had extraordinary talent and great looks, there were so many obstacles in her way, including auditions with inevitable rejections and more auditions with rejections, that it all became too taxing.  Exhausted and disheartened, she was going to abandon her extraordinary gift, her calling.  She found herself fantasizing about leaving it all, becoming a waitress and shaving her head, though she doesn't know what the shaving of her head was all about.

So what does fantasizing about shaving one's head mean?  Hair, after all, symbolizes power, potency and sexuality.  When in the Bible Samson's hair was cut, he lost his power.  When a newly ordained nun shaves her head, she is giving away her power as a woman in order to submit her life and her will to serving God.  In some Hassidic sects the young bride shaves her head on her wedding night, giving away her allure and personal power in order to submit to the marital union.

 Although the actress's fantasy provided needed relief from daily hardship and uncertain results, it was not without sorrow.  Shaving her head symbolized giving away her most extraordinary and powerful asset, her very special gift, in exchange for a seemingly easy and simple life.

Fortunately for her and for us, she persevered.  Today she is at the zenith of her professional life, enjoying her success fully with no regrets for living an exceptional life.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources:

Hair:Surviving the Fall

The Sabian Symbols & Astrological Analyses:The Original Symbols Fully Revealed  

The Roots of Desire:The Myth,Meaning,and Sexual Power of Red Hair 

Hair:Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures  


Do Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira and Natalie Morales Have to Be Blondes?

Dr.E (Ph.D.) Speaks Out: Guest Blogger

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Just before Katie Couric left her position as cohost of "The Today Show," she let her short brunette hair grow longer and gradually get lighter.  She was a blonde when she started anchoring the CBS Evening News.

Then, soon after Meredith Vieira took over Katie Couric's spot on NBC's "The Today Show," I watched her hair color get lighter and lighter.  It ended up being a pretty color and a good bleach job, but her brunette hair was a pretty color without a bleach job.  Now, I'm talking about only hair color, not hair quality or hair styles.

Some time ago,  I watched another NBC "Today Show" anchor's hair getting lighter and lighter.  Natalie Morales, like Meredith Vieira and Katie Couric, had a beautiful brunette hair color. 

One day while having my gray hair colored, I was chatting with my colorist Kathy and mentioned how disturbing it was to see Natalie Morales gradually lightening her hair.  "I'm her colorist," Kathy replied.

Although I was embarrassed, I stood my ground.  I said I couldn't understand why someone as attractive as Natalie Morales, with such beautiful brunette tresses, would want to bleach her hair lighter and lighter.  Kathy  said something about the cameras and studio lighting "liking" blonde hair.

You know what I think, though?  I think it's the male bosses who like blondes!  And in the competitive business of tv news, these women know they have to compete with other blondes and they know how important it is for them to please the male bosses!

Funny thing is, those men and these women seem to have forgotten that Katie Couric was never more popular and never had higher ratings than when she was a brunette!

I'm Dr. E., Guest Blogger.

For more on this topic, click on the following:

News, Gender and Power

Seen and Heard:The Women of Television News 

Blonde Like Me:The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture 

Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?  


Traits to Look For in Your Doctor

Nm_doctor_patient_090619_main  A young relative of mine who is a college student in another state called me the other morning in a panic because when she woke up, the left side of her face was very swollen.  The same day she went to the student clinic where the doctor, after seeing her lab tests, ruled out the most common and benign possibilities.  At the same time, however, he told her that her calcium was high and her chloride was low, leaving her with the impression that her condition might be serious.

Because she is in another state and the sense of urgency, I did not have time to research doctors in her area and relied, instead, on the recommendation of a friend's friend.  Two days later, when her swelling had already subsided and she felt fine,  I was with her at this eye/ear/nose/throat specialist, who examined her with surgical gloves on and declared that he didn't feel anything unusual.  That was a "red flag," because one cannot feel fine structures in one's neck and under the chin with gloves on. Throughout the exam, the doctor was in a bad mood, another "red flag."  He was defensive and clearly not pleased by my presence, since I am also an M.D. 

As a result of this experience, here are my suggestions for what to look for in a doctor.  First, do your homework and become well-informed.  If you have a chronic or potentially serious condition, get visuals (through x-rays and/or other imaging techniques) of the organs and structures involved.  Do not talk about "blue" or "pink" pills; have a complete and accurate list of your medications and dosages.  It is natural to be intimidated and even to suspend your better judgment when you are needy, fightened and uninformed, so always bring another person to the doctor with you because your anxious state can sometimes get in the way of hearing and remembering correctly what the doctor says. 

If the doctor seems defensive or annoyed by your or the accompanying person's questions, run.  If your doctor objects to your wanting a second opinion, run.  Good physicians appreciate a patient who wants to know what's going on.  They are understanding and reassuring.  Those who do not have talent for medicine and those who lack curiosity and love of humanity, are merely technicians.  You need and want more than that.  You need someone who gets satisfaction  from making you sane and whole when you are ill and broken. 

 By the way, my young relative's swollen face was likely a simple viral infection, and the high calcium and low chloride were mostly from dehydration.  She is fine.

Practicing medicine is not only a science, it is, I believe, an art as well.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information on this topic, click on the following resources:

How to Talk to Your Doctor:Getting the Answers and Care You Need

How Doctors Think 

How to Choose a Good Doctor 

Working With Your Doctor:Getting the Healthcare You Deserve 

The Practical Patient:How to Choose Your Doctor and Ensure Your Best Health Care 

Special Treatment:Ten Ways to Get the Same Special Health Care Your Doctor Gets  


Are We Taking Too Many Medications for Mental Problems?

Tcruise  There are some psychiatrists who have made a career out of lecturing and writing books on the uselessness and harmfulness of psychotropic medications, that is medications used to treat mental and emotional illness, and  some studies even argue that antidepressant medications are ineffective. Then there was Tom Cruise, who as a scientologist first berated and then apologized to Brooke Shields after she talked about taking medication to help her through postpartum depression.

So when are psychotropic medications necesssary?  Most psychotic illnesses, such as Schizophrenia, and most severe mood disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder, require medications to control the worst symptoms.  And I believe that people with certain forms of Depression, like Brooke Shields,  and those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be helped by medication as well. 

Depressions that occur as a result of traumatic events or great losses may or may not require use of medications.  If the situation becomes extremely painful and interferes with one's ability to function, however, medications should be prescribed.  Although the depression is caused by external events, there are still chemical changes in the brain like the chemical changes in the brains of people with innate chronic mental illness, and medication can correct the imbalance in the brain's neurotransmitters.  As a result, despite life's difficulites and/or losses, one's mood improves, one's outlook brightens, and problem-solving possibilities open.

People with OCD can be greatly helped by medication.  Although seemingly reasonable and normal, people with OCD are plagued by constant, involuntary, intrusive thoughts that interfere with paying attention to anything else.  They often have the urge to perform a ritual, such as hand washing, in order to alleviate tension.  Behavioral Therapy may help patients with OCD, resulting in the need for less or even no medication.

None of us should forget that the availability of psychtropic medications has reduced the need for long-term institutionalization of patients who were often restrained under terrible conditions in places closed long ago.   Now when patients are hospitalized, it is under much more humane conditions and, thanks to medications, for much shorter periods of time. 

I'm Dr. Blokar. For more information, click on the following resources:

Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs

Clinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple 

Psychotropic Drugs:Fast Facts Fourth Edition 

Medicines for Mental Health:The Ultimate Guide to Psychiatric Medication 

Psychotropic Drugs  


Mood Disorders and Creativity

Plath  Many creative people suffer from mood disorders.  Creativity is nurtured by strong emotions and from the courage to go to unchartered places.  Creativity cannot be born out of stale waters or complacency.  One has to abandon safety and be willing to put oneself into uncomfortable positions, something most people avoid.

It is counterintuitive to seek experiences that are frighteningly powerful and transformative, but creative people go out on limbs while testing their limits and challenging commonly accepted truths.  They dare to follow uncommon destiny in service of their talent.

A few well-known people who most likely suffered from the mood disorder known as Bipolar Disorder, with its highs and lows, are Sylvia Plath (pictured above), Virginia Woolf and Vincent van Gogh, all of whom committed suicide.   And there are many creative people, such as Eugene O'Neill and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, known for excessive drinking and gambling.

I have treated a very creative artist for a number of years.  She went through enormous emotional suffering but would not take medication out of fear that this would interfere with the creative process.  After two years of treatment, the pain became so unbearable that the artist finally decided to take medication.  The subsequent relief was dramatic, and my patient was not only able to resume a normal level of functioning in her daily life, but also her creativity did not suffer.  Actually, she did a lot better since she was less distracted by the symptoms of her illness.

Certain medications may interfere with the fine tuning of one's nervous system, yet in the right amount and with careful monitoring, one can avoid these pitfalls.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources:

Strong Imagination:Madness, Creativity and Human Nature

Manic Depression and Creativity 

Emotional Illness and Creativity 

Touched With Fire:Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament 

Creativity and Madness:New Findings and Old Stereotypes  


What Was David Letterman Thinking!

Alg_letterman_confesses
Talk show host, David Letterman, a high-profile person, after being threatened with blackmail admitted to having numerous sexual liaisons with women who work for him.  Whether he was legally married at the time we do not know, but he was certainly in a long-term relationship with the woman to whom he is now married and with whom he has a 6-year-old son.

One would think that men, especially successful ones, would be more diligent about controlling their libido, but men's appetite for exciting, new, extramarital sex will not abate.  When Bill Clinton was asked why he got involved with Monica Lewinsky, he stated simply, "Because I could."  His and Letterman's success and power, and that of men like them, attract ambitious women who can bask in the men's power, can be wined and dined, mentored and promoted.

Young, single women and powerful married men usually deserve one another.  Problems arise when one of them feels she/he didn't get what they bargained for, and the games involving body and greed may lead to a broken heart or wounded pride.

Then things can turn ugly -- going public, blackmail, extortion, or even violence.  And do not forget potential problems at home -- a vengeful spouse, depressed children, an expensive/acrimonious  divorce, and loss of job, property and finances.   Overall, a nasty disruption in life's routine -- from easy coasting along in the pleasant waters of privilege and indiscretions to catastrophe.

This may be the price one pays for playing with fire.  Was it worth it for Letterman and other men like him?  

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more on this, click on the following resources:

Intimacy:An International Survey of the Sex Lives of People at Work

9-5 Sex, Lust,Lives Destroyed:What Happens When Sex Blossoms in the Workplace 

Dirty Little Secrets:Sex and the Workplace 

Sex and Business:Ethics of Sexuality in Business and the Workplace 

Sex at Work:Attraction,Harassment,Flirtation and Discrimination  


Caster Semenya and Klinefelter Syndrome

Alg_castor_semenya_runs

It has been revealed that Caster Semenya, an incredible South African runner competing as a woman, may not be female after all.  She may not be able to compete any longer; she has to rethink her sexual identity; and she is reported to be on a suicide watch.  Preliminary reports indicate that Semenya may have Klinefelter Syndrome.

This syndrome was first described in 1942 by Dr. Klinefelter, an endrocrinologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Normally, we have two sex chromosomes, XX in females, XY in males.  In Klinefelter Syndrome, most often the patient has one extra female chromosome.

The phenomenon occurs in one out of every 500 live male births, and most show no symptoms at all.  Their extra X chromosome is silent.  One in 1,000 males, however, show symptoms of the syndrome in varying degrees such as obesity, small testicles, large breasts, infertility, and low testosterone. Nowadays many patients can be helped with testosterone therapy, and some may even become fertile thanks to new pioneering procedures.

In more extreme cases, when the male chromosome is overpowered by the additional female chromosome, the patient may be born with female genitals.  The penis is so miniscule that it is not much larger than its female counterpart, a clitoris.  Many of these "females" grow into fairly attractive women.   They seek medical help usually only when menstruation never occurs, and a gynecological exam reveals that they lack a cervix, a uterus, ovaries and a normal vagina. 

Caster Semenya was born with female genitals, but testicles are hidden in her abdomen and her testosterone level is very high, giving her the advantage of strong and bulk muscle.  With her short hair ahd sharp features, she indeed looks like a man, and if it is confirmed that she has Klinefelter Syndrome, she will be considered a man.

Semenya's case is very unfortunate.  She cannot be taught to be a different sex at this point.  Sexual identification is completed much earlier in life.  If she has Klinefelter Syndrome, she goes from being considered a woman to being considered a man, and she will no longer be able to compete as a woman in a running career in which she has been so successful. 

 Sadly, she loses both her sexual identitiy and her profession. 

I'm Dr. Blokar.  To learn more about sex chromosome disorders, click on the following:

Sex Chromosomes:Genetics,Abnormalities,and Disorders