Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lost Generation

We, the baby boomers have done the damage…to society, to the earth…and our children have to pick up the pieces.

Young people today do indeed feel disillusioned by the world they’ve been brought into. Difficult to blame them really: family breakdown, depression, disrespect, greed, selfishness, environmental degradation are the norm. And yet we’re wealthier than we’ve ever been. There can be no doubt that humanity has taken a hugely wrong turn.

So it’s the adults’ responsibility to put their hands up, own the guilt and work on inspiring the younger generation to help them repair the damage NOW.

It’s no good relying on the bankers and the politicians to bring about a new world economic order at Davos 2010; their selfish, greedy interest is best served by the status quo. Bankers with their outrageous mansion-sized bonuses and politicians with their illegal “jail sentence” expenses, have shown their true colours over the last 12 months and we don’t trust them.

It’s up to us!

I’ve just come across the most amazing video on You Tube; you’ll find the link at the bottom of this blog. Do have a look: it’s simple, but very moving and lasts less than 2 minutes.

We’ve got to reverse everything

  • Money doesn’t make us happy; happiness comes from within
  • Family is so much more important than work, but look at the attention balance
  • Divorce is now the norm for kids in primary school with all of the heartache it brings
  • Everyone knows that climate change is real and yet could governments find any more reasons not to take action?
  • The younger generation need inspiration, because they feel helpless and therefore apathetic and lethargic.

It’s up to us, to provide the inspiration: we…and they can change the world.

Check this out:

Label Mania!

According to an article in Mail Online, Psychologists are updating their bible, The Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM, and apparently the new version, the fourth, is going to be 7 times larger than the original of 1952 and there’s a bit of a hoohah going on!

Well I’m not surprised! Do you hoard things and not throw them away? Well hoarding is being added to the DSM as a mental illness. That’s half of my friends and family heading for a padded cell for a start!

Do you get angry suddenly sometimes? Careful…you’d be admitting to a mental illness under the new Psychiatrist’s bible! And this new mental illness (anger!) has got a name: Intermittent Explosive Disorder!!

There’s another one: General Anxiety Disorder or GAD; how’s that any different to just plain and simple anxiety? Why does it need a special label?

One of the issues there’s a lot of reservation amongst Psychiatrists as to whether it should be included or not is binge eating disorder. How can they even think of not including that one? Binging or Compulsive Eating isn’t about food; it’s about the underlying negative emotions that cause people to use food as a coping mechanism.

Fortunately there is a sane voice out there: somebody who recognises the huge danger of giving doctors the power to pigeon-hole every single little item of eccentric and out of the ordinary human behaviour.

Apparently the logic in increasing the number of mental illnesses included in the DSM, is to catch early signs of mental disorders in children. Dr Michael First, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University points out: “…there’s a huge potential for many unusual kids to fall under this umbrella and carry this label for the rest of their lives. The more disorders you put in the DSM, the more people get labels and the higher the risk that they will get inappropriate treatment.”

It’s interesting how the wind has changed over the last 10-15 years; some people have had a huge battle to get things like ADHD, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia accepted as a legitimate illness, rather than being fobbed off with “yuppy flu”.

And now psychiatrists are going the opposite end of the scale and creating their own special syndrome: Labelmania

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Avatar: A Wake Up Call for Humanity

Last week’s Sunday Times article on the film Avatar was a real eye-opener. Apparently the film is causing all sorts of small-minded, parochial outrage particularly in America.

  • David Brooks, a rightwing New York Times columnist finds the film offensive with the hero “going native” and leading a “righteous crusade against his own rotten civilisation”.
  • There’s talk of blatant anti-Americanism by the Canadian producer, James Cameron…that sounds like a guilt complex to me! They say he’s offering a critique of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…again guilt complex! Apparently we’re being asked to “root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency.”
  • There are also complaints that the film’s racist, because the natives are incapable of doing their own fighting.
  • The Vatican has attacked the film for “trying to replace divinity with nature.”
  • George Monbiot, the British environmentalist is much closer to the mark; he has praised Avatar for “its profound show of resistance to capitalism.”

Wake up people!! The themes in the film are way bigger than these poxy little self-centred whingings. This film is a wake up call for our whole way of life. It points out the flaws in the complete Western system, which is based on consumerism and materialism.

As individuals, we are expected to shop, shop, shop; we end up with wardrobes full of clothes we never wear, cupboards full of toys we never play with and we throw out last years’ model in favour of this years’ new shinier model.

The majority of these “products” that we purchase are made by massive corporations whose sole end game is to look after a very small part of the population. Sod the customers (yes that’s right the people who are buying!), sod the employees, sod the distribution chain…the only ones we care about are the shareholders!

The fundamental flaw in capitalism is that this is the only real mark of a successful company; it looks after one stakeholder who bangs the table for his dividend. So we end up killing innocent, defenceless people, throwing them out of their ancestral homes and devastating the planet.

Avatar represents a fantastic opportunity for the human race to hold a mirror up to itself and to take a good look, because if we don’t, our children’s world will be a very scary place.

All revolutions come from the bottom up and we have to be reaching the “Tipping Point” soon; we’re all fed up with the politicians and the bankers, we all know the Iraq War was wrong, we all know that the planet is dying.

This why the “big knobs” are upset by the film; their cosy, materialistic lives are under threat and they’re scared. Thank you James Cameron; let’s hope the average Joe can see beyond the parochial selfish whinges of the militarists and the moneymen; let’s see it as a rallying point.

There’s a lot of work to do people. Viva la revolucion!!!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Hooked On Happy Pills

I’m afraid this is a classic example of modern medicine treating the symptoms and not the causes! There’s been a couple of articles in the Daily Mail this week about anti-depressants and both shake this cornerstone of current British medical treatment in the UK. At last, given that the articles are based around a scientific research study, there may be a crack in the rather complacent way that the medical profession deal with depression.

The rise in anti-depressants being prescribed is frightening: from 9 million to 34 million over the last 15 years. What’s worse is that according to the article “scientists have long been stumped as to why they fail to help half of the people who take them”. In fact, I was under the impression that it is accepted in medical circles that only 30% of people get real benefit from anti-depressants. A research programme published in The Journal of The American Medical Association last week, came to the conclusion that medication has “negligible” impact except in cases of very severe depression.

When you consider the side effects below, it is staggering that these pills can be handed out so willy nilly”!

Firstly, whilst not strictly addictive, people find them very difficult to get off. Many of my clients have been on them for 5+ years, some even over 10. The NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines are that patients should be on them for a maximum of 9 months on the first occasion and a maximum of 2 years for those experiencing further depression. The research by University of Southampton referred to in one of the articles, estimates that 2 million people are taking them for more than 5 years, the largest group being women between 18 and 45. In fact, it is now commonplace for people to think they will be on them for the rest of their lives, just like medication for epilepsy or diabetes.

…which brings us to the second issue about side effects: the commonly known short –term side effects, which doctors do by and large make their patients aware of include drowsiness, dizziness and weight gain. Interestingly, I find that virtually none of my clients are aware that a common side effect is the increased likelihood of suicide. The first time I read that when I was looking up a client’s drug in a formulary book, I did a double take: “you mean they’re giving pills that increase the likelihood of suicide to some people who are already contemplating that course of action anyway!!!!!” Well the answer’s yes!

And yet in terms of longer-term side effects, research is now finding that anti-depressants can cause internal bleeding, strokes and birth defects, which has brought some disturbing parallels with “the mother’s little helper” scandal of the 70’s and 80’.

Let’s stand back a minute. Depression is an emotional problem, playing around with the body/mind’s chemistry for the long-term is bound to have some major side effects. Why does medicine have to be all about medication? I was amazed to find out that the most important A level for a prospective medical student is Chemistry…well that says it all! Surely biology is more important?!

To be fair, the NICE guidelines state that “the optimum treatment for depression is a combination of medication and talking therapies. I would argue that only talking therapies are going to help the patient overcome whatever it is that is depressing them. Medication should only be a short-term measure helping the sufferer with “mood”, while they solve the problem psychologically.

Again to be fair, doctors have an average of 7 minutes with a patient, which is completely insufficient for mental health issues, so of course the doctors end up handing over a prescription…what else can they do in 7 minutes? However, we should have realised that the system is selling people short years ago: 70% of doctors’ visits are for mental health issues. It is my humble opinion that science, the medical profession and the politicians (clearly the NHS has to change dramatically…it was set up to handle emergencies and diseases) have been too complacent about the issue of anti-depressants for too long.

Maybe, just maybe, they’ll start having a look at existing practices and wonder if a radical overhaul isn’t required. The real solutions for permanent escape from issues like depression, stress, anxiety, Eating Disorders and Self Harm are Hypnotherapy and NLP…but the medical profession is a million miles from accepting that at the moment. But this is a huge issue and changes aren’t going to come overnight. What is more, this is one change amongst a whole plethora of changes that need to take place if Western Civilisation is to become liveable again. But that’s for another day!

Teenage Alcohol - Under Lock & Key?

So the politicians are waking up to the problem of teenage alcohol abuse. But as usual their solution is to interfere and sensationalise!

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has been in the news saying how parents must stick to the law and not allow their children to drink alcohol at home before they are 15, or preferably 18. In theory of course, he’s right: it’s the law!

However, he’s not showing any understanding of the status of alcohol in this group or the social ramifications of clamping down and demonising the evil liquor any more than it is already. I wonder if he’s got or had teenagers himself?

Alcohol is the new cigarette at school today: it’s cool…it’s grown-up…it’s the 2 fingers (or perhaps 1 finger these days!) to authority. It already has a rebellious and aspirational status. The attitude today is that young people go out at night with the specific objective of getting “slammed”! This has changed since their parents’ day…where we went to meet our mates and may well have got drunk on the way. We didn’t step out of our front door saying ”I’m going to get absolutely pi**ed tonight”

Getting parents to abide by the letter of the law, not allowing their kids to drink at home until that magic date of their 18th birthday has 2 problems:

  • Firstly, it’s shutting the gate after the horse has bolted: they’re doing it with their mates anyway
  • Secondly, it’s making elusive, forbidden alcohol even cooler.

The French don’t have this problem; for them a glass of wine is a normal part of life! They start drinking a glass of watered down wine at an early age at a special family gathering…it’s normal!

We need to take the same approach. It’s not something to be heavy-handedly controlled, but gently introduced as part of growing up. In fact, this isn’t just about alcohol abuse, we need to give our teenagers more respect and (within reason) treat them as adults.

We’ve never made a big thing out of alcohol in our house and my girls have seen their Mum and Dad occasionally worse for wear! But they can genuinely happily go out and not have a drink, if they’re driving …and still enjoy themselves. Yes, my oldest is at Uni and does have a bit much occasionally but I remember doing the same myself at that age. It just wasn’t a big deal!

The Holly & The Anxiety!

I was interviewed on BBC Radio Essex on 23rd December 2009 to give some gems of advice on how to avoid stress over the festive period.

It’s all supposed to be idyllic isn’t it, Christmas? In reality…well not quite so!

There are 5 basic reasons why Christmas is actually a very stressful time:

Problem: The first problem is our expectations: we’re supposed to have this warm cosy glow surrounded by our family. Well this is what it looks like in the glittering TV ads and so we assume that that’s what everybody else is experiencing. The trouble is we’re so geographically mobile in the UK, most of us don’t see our family from one month to the next and so to expect us all to get on like a house on fire is asking an awful lot. Little Freddie will knock of the Christmas tree and Grandpa will be grumpy! But then everybody else will be the same.

Solution: Adjust your expectations and expect things to be difficult; this way you can make plans for when the arguments do come!

Problem: The second problem is that because we don’t see each other often, we don’t communicate very well or take into account others feelings or viewpoints.

Solution: The first thing to do is find out what everybody is expecting. The best way is for everybody to do the following quick exercise: take a blank piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. Then on the left hand heading write “Things I love about Xmas” and on the right hand side “Things I hate about Xmas”. Then compare notes and let everybody see everybody else’s preferences. It’s essential everybody’s honest. You’d be surprised what a difference this little bit of knowledge makes to our behaviour.

Also Mum should ask for help and be prepared to delegate: we don’t mind peeling the veggies if everyone’s in the kitchen talking anyway.

Problem: The third reason for stress is that we assume that because Xmas is about relaxing with the family that we shouldn’t need to take care of ourselves. Actually with all of the eating and drinking we need to take care of ourselves even more than usual.

Solution: A good brisk walk after a big Xmas lunch is invaluable, as is plenty of me time…reading a book for example. Getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water is equally crucial.

Problem: The fourth reason Xmas is often more stressful than we’re expecting is that with the busy lifestyles we all lead, we don’t get enough time to plan, so we end up doing the shopping at the last minute…along with the rest of our local populace! We also fail to set a budget and end up getting depressed over the January credit card bills.

Solution: Plan, plan, plan! Budget, Budget, Budget! And there’ll be no nasty surprises. Do the pressie shopping by mid-December at the latest and agree budgets with everybody, so that we don’t end up trying to outdo each other! Do the food shopping a week before Xmas; if you really need to, then leave the fresh stuff, so you can nip in and out with a basket, while everybody else is doing “trolley wars”!

Also if you have young kids, try and stick to their routine or schedule; if your kids are happy, then you’re happy too!

Problem: Lastly Christmas can be a very lonely time if you’re on your own, especially if you’ve just lost a loved one.

Solution: Firstly make sure you stay busy…plan things to do. Go to any of the local community events: for example, the local carol service. You won’t be the only one on your own. Also you can still keep in touch with people by phone or even e-mail; the key is not to shut yourself off. Also know that the media hype Xmas terribly; everybody else isn’t having the most amazing family time, so you don’t need to feel envious or left out. Lastly, even if you’re on your own, it’s still worth making an effort with the Xmas lunch.

Christmas can mean a well-earned rest, but being realistic and planning is essential and make the difference between the family threatening not to speak to each other ever again and actually enjoying each other’s company.

Eating Disorder Treatments - Finally a Cure That Works!

The therapies which tend to be prescribed for eating disorder sufferers are designed to teach them how to "manage" their issue, one day at a time. This perpetuates the myth that, whilst yor destructive behaviour may cease, you will always FEEL like an ED sufferer on the inside. This does NOT have to be the case.

Traditional therapies will tackle one side of the numerous issues which lead to eating disorders, but are not all-encompassing.


Cognitive behavioural therapy tells the sufferer to take one day at a time and "manage" their issue – With guidelines to avert their destructive behaviour. This focuses on the symptoms of the eating disorder, but not the root cause.


Psychotherapy or counselling takes the opposite tactic and attempts to focus on all the emotional issues which might be at the route of the eating disorder, by asking the sufferer to evaluate their life and recount traumatic past experiences.

Because the emphasis of counselling is on "counting your worries", it can even mean that the sufferer becomes more depressed as a result and their eating disorder worsens.


In the experience of many sufferers, (including Tasha at Winning Minds), the NHS will either fail to properly diagnose an eating disorder (particularly bulimia, because sufferers tend to be a normal weight) or, if they do recognise it, they will prescribe one of the therapies above, which tend to prove unhelpful, for the reasons stated.

Weight Charts

It is worth mentioning that the NHS weight charts, which are used to ascertain whether a patient has a healthy "BMI", tend to allow for a patient to be considerably underweight by any other standard and yet still be deemed "healthy".

Not all anorexics weight 5 stone and, as mentioned, bulimics can often be within a healthy weight range. At this point in time, it is the experience of many eating disorder sufferers that they are only taken seriously by the NHS if they fall into the "underweight" catagory on their weight charts, and it is not at all clear what these charts are based on.

At Winning Minds we focus on changing your mind-set. That's why our unique neural recoding technique might have been invented as the ultimate eating disorder treatment.

To find out more go to