Sunday, September 25, 2005

Blogging Seen As Good Therapy

A new study finds that blogs are more likely to deal with personal matters than politics or current events, and nearly 50% of bloggers see the activity as a form of therapy.

According to an AOL survey conducted by Digital Marketing Services Inc., many bloggers write about "anything and everything." But while blogs often include comments on news topics, they are more likely to be about friends, family and other personal interests.

Although bloggers say they write about personal matters on their blogs, 43.9% of respondents said that they read other blogs to get a different perspective on the news. These findings are similar to a Harris Interactive survey from March 2005, which found that about 44% of US Internet users read political blogs, including 16% who read them less than once a month. And although most bloggers read other blogs, the AOL survey found that almost one-quarter of them do not.

About one-half of bloggers (48.7%) keep a blog because it serves as a form of therapy, and 40.8% say it helps them keep in touch with family and friends. Just 16.2% say they are interested in journalism, and 7.5% want to expose political information. Few see blogging as their ticket to fame.

Bill Schreiner, Vice President, AOL Community, puts it in perspective: "In a way, blogs serve as oral history. When it comes to sharing blogs and reading other people's blogs, we like to connect with people, learn about their lives, and find common ground. There's no pressure to write about a particular subject or keep blogs maintained a certain way, and it's not necessarily a popularity contest."

©2005 eMarketer Inc. All rights reserved @

Friday, September 02, 2005

Psychological Reactions To Disaster

In light of the devastation and suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this list is offered to help individuals understand "Disaster Reactions". Witnessing a traumatic event sets into motion a variety of psychological reactions. These psychological reactions have physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral presentations. This list is not exhaustive but serves to illustrate many of the reactions people experience.

Psychological Reactions

•Apathy, diminished interest in usual activities
•Appetite change
•Decreased sexual interest
•Difficulty concentrating
•Difficulty making decisions
•Difficulty using logic
•Difficulty naming objects
•Difficulty focusing
•Distortions in time perspective
•Exaggerated startle reaction
•Excessive worry about safety of others
•Emotional numbing
•Faintness or dizziness
•Feelings of being unappreciated
•Feelings of inadequacy
•Feelings of loss
•Feelings of gratefulness for being alive
•Feelings of isolation or abandonment
•Feeling high, heroic, invulnerable
•Feeling a “lump in the throat”
•Feeling uncoordinated
•Hyperactivity or an inability to rest
•Increased heartbeat, respiration, blood pressure
•Increased alcohol use or substance abuse
•Intense concern for family members
•Inability to express self verbally or in writing
•Loss of appetite
•Loss of objectivity
•Lower back pain
•Memory problems
•Muffled hearing
•Nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea
•Pains in chest
•Periods of crying
•Persistent interest in the event
•Persistent or obsessive thoughts
•Sense of being in a bad dream
•Sense of unreality or being in a movie
•Sleep disturbance
•Slowness of thinking, difficulty comprehending
•Social withdrawal, distancing, limited contacts with others
•Soreness in muscles
•Stomach and muscle cramps
•Strong identification with victims
•Strong identification with survivors
•Sweating or chills
•Tremors, especially of hand, lips, eyes
•Trouble catching breath
•Visual flashbacks

Coping with Disaster Stress

1. Stay active. Falling into passivity can worsen psychological and physical disaster reactions.

2. Resume a normal routine as soon as possible.

3. Remind yourself that you are normal and having normal reactions in the face of the disastrous event. It is especially important to teach children that reactions like these are normal.

4. Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol.

5. Avoid caffeine as its effects can amplify anxiety.

6. It is all right to spend time by yourself, or on the other hand, feel the need to be with others.

7. Avoid over-exposure to media images and newscasts.

8. Realize that those around you are also under stress and may not act or react in a manner you would normally expect.

9. Keep a journal or start a blog. Written expression can have healing benefits.

10. Make decisions that will give you the control over your life.

Of course, consult a mental health professional if you need assistance in coping with disaster-related stress reactions.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Anniversary Effect

Christmas. Kwanzaa. Hanukkah.
Halloween. Carnivale. New Year's Day. Cinco de Mayo.
Bastille Day. Boxing Day. Labor Day. Independence Day.
The first day we met.
The last day of school.
There are so many dates that mark occasions throughout the year that bring us happiness. But there are days in the calendar year that make us feel unsettled. These dates go unnoticed. Not that we don't remember them, but unnoticed as to how that date presses on our psyche. This experience is known as "The Anniversary Effect".

What the Anniversary Effect?

"The Anniversary Effect" or an anniversary reaction may be defined as upsetting behavior, reactivation of symptoms, and/or distressing dreams that occur on an anniversary of a significant experience. Sometimes we know why we are feeling melancholy, irritability or anxiety. For example, 9/11 holds an anniversary effect for many Americans and others in the world. And now, hurricane Katrina will also hold anniversary reactions for survivors and those who witnessed its aftermath. These dates will continue to be recognizable sources for our psyche's disturbance. We have conscious awareness of these dates and events. We are aware of the trauma time-line and the current calendar time-line[1]. Anniversary dates that are known to us enable us to identify why we are upset or in mourning. We connect the dots from our current emotional state to the trauma date or the traumatic event. Other obvious dates make the anniversary reaction traceable: birthday of a loved one that is not living, the date of an accident, a loved one's death, the holiday time when something traumatic happened, just to name a few.

But, there are dates that have a time-specific relationship to us that are not recognized or readily made conscious to us in the calendar year [2]. There is no conscious awareness of the trauma or calendar time-line. These "Anniversary Effects" take us by surprise. We don't know why we are feeling so down, anxious, upset, lost, or confused. Our bodies take on the psychological impact of the anniversary date, and we can also feel physically ill or sick. For example, the date you signed your divorce decree, not the day your loved one died but the day of the burial, listening to certain song that elicits a swirl of emotions, the season of the year when your child goes off to college, the scent or smell of something that triggers a deep response in you, or a current event that recalls a trauma in the past[3].

Anniversary reaction types, whether single, repetitive, or generational, are ways by which a person re-experiences mourning in an attempt to gain mastery. It is important for the individual who moves through this to realize that it is a part of the normal grieving process. In the first year of healing, a feeling of pain or anxiety may occur at the 3 month, 6 month, and one-year anniversaries of the date. After the first year, people tend to experience "The Anniversary Effect" on the year-marker. For vulnerable individuals, a specific time of day, a certain day of the week, a season of the year, a scent or a glimpse of something related to the trauma can trigger an anniversary reaction [4].

What You Can Do

Despite the fact that "The Anniversary Effect" was first identified almost 100 years ago, it is often overlooked as a source for psyche disruption. There are things that you can do to help yourself with this experience.

An anniversary marks a time of heightened vulnerability. Being aware or predicting anniversary reactions is always helpful. I often advise people I work with to look at a calendar and explore dates and memories attached to such dates. This framework can help prepare one for the anniversary reactions, and how the present day time-line can be connected to losses in the past.

Anniversaries of public trauma,crises or disasters receive significant media coverage, and re-visit imagery of damage and destruction. Such exposure can intensify "The Anniversary Effect" --- so it would be important to limit media watching and reading in and around those dates.

Journaling or blogging can be a helpful outlet for "The Anniversary Effect". Such expression can provide an opportunity for emotional healing. By recognizing, allowing and attending to feelings, memories and thoughts, an individual can make significant steps forward through the natural process of grief [5].


[1] Mintz, I. (1971). The anniversary reaction: A response to the unconscious sense of time. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19, 720-735.

[2] Campbell, R. (1981). Psychiatric dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press

[3] Dlin, B. (1985). Psychobiology and treatment of anniversary reactions. Psychosomatics, 26, 505-520.

[4] Pollock, G. H.(1971). Temporal anniversary manifestations: Hour, day, holiday. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 40, 123-131

[5] Myers, D. (1994). Disaster response and recovery: A handbook for mental health professionals. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services.