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The Dark Dyad

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on January 4, 2015 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)



Dec 18, 2014




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The Dark Dyad


Do you recognize a narcissist when you encounter one? What if you meet a psychopath, does your antenna go up and start vibrating with alarm? What are their defining characteristics? What are the traits and behaviors that might elicit a warning alarm from a knowledgeable, intuitive and observant individual? Just consider for a moment, the well-dressed co-worker sitting in the next cube, your new standoffish supervisor or that hot sales rep might be a narcissist or a psychopath. Since the proliferation of articles on personality disorders recently, most of us have a general idea about these types and their self-serving characteristics. Let’s delve a little deeper into each type’s signature traits and then compare them.


Psychopath: Soulless Beings?


One writer described Psychopaths as “soulless beings.” This description conjures up images of long white fangs, a deathly pale complexion and a black opera cape. Psychopaths look just like the rest of us; in fact, they are often considered quite attractive by the opposite gender. In 1941, Dr. Hervey Cleckely wrote the classic volume The Mask of Sanity describing psychopaths. Dr. Cleckely uses adjectives and terms such as likeable, charming, intelligent, great success with women; on their dark side, he says they are irresponsible and self-destructive. Please believe me, the late, lamented Dr. Cleckely was a master of the understatement.


Do you know someone who is too good to be true? Psychopaths are often entertaining, witty, charming, and charismatic. Some are extremely intelligent and highly educated. What makes them different from the usual manipulative human? They have no conscience and shallow emotional responses. Where might one find a psychopath (assuming one was silly enough to search them out)? You are apt to find him/her in a boardroom, in a pool hall (winning), teaching a college history class, in the operating room, in prison, in your workplace, or in the pulpit on Sunday morning. Psychopaths adapt well considering their emotional limitations and self-centered life philosophy. Having the adaptive ability of a chameleon can be quite beneficial. They are found at all socioeconomic and educational levels.


Criteria for the Psychopath


Since we have established that psychopaths are everywhere, you may want to learn how to identify them. Here are a few warning signs based on Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, PCL-R (Dr. Hare is a psychopath expert, extraordinaire.):

•Superficial charm

•Self-centered and self-important

•Need for stimulation and prone to boredom

•Deceptive behavior and lying

•Fraudulent and manipulative

•Little remorse or guilt

•Shallow emotional response

•Lives off others or predatory attitude

•Callous with a lack of empathy

•Poor self-control

•Promiscuous sexual behavior

•Early behavioral problems

•Lack of realistic long-term goals

•Impulsive lifestyle

•Irresponsible behavior

•Blaming others for their actions

•Short-term relationships

•Juvenile delinquency

•Breaking Parole or probation

•Varied criminal Activity


You now have a tenuous outline of psychopathy. Let’s fill in the outline with glittering colors, a peek of pomposity, a superficial awareness in various fields (especially psychology and philosophy), mesmerizing images that merge and diverge like kaleidoscope flakes, and Wizard of Oz-ish dazzle and superficiality. What you see is not what you get, unless you are extraordinarily perceptive. I have met individuals who could penetrate the psychopath’s mask with uncanny effortlessness. A few years ago, a sheriff confided to me, “The hair on the back of my neck stands up whenever I am near a psychopath. “ BTW, that savvy talent saved his life. His experience was atypical; though psychopaths are predators, they are not normally violent.


Case Study of a Psychopath


Lauren, a friend and physician, spoke softly as she told me about her first meeting with Alex. We were sipping our café lattes at Barnes and Noble. “A melancholy, rain-shrouded day foreshadowed our meeting. I sat in my overstuffed chair enjoying a few minutes of quiet reflection while waiting for my next appointment. Precisely at the appointed moment, I looked up to see Alex fill the door and then move noiselessly into the room. His demeanor softly whispered “meek.” Body language spoke of a man of faith humbled and stooped by the enormity of his task—bringing lost souls to salvation.


“I saw a man in his thirties who fell slightly shy of handsome. Probably, striking would be a more appropriate word. His sapphire eyes (jewels are beguiling, cold and hard) never wavered; they stayed locked on mine. A shiver scurried down my spine. Thick, blond hair hung unfashionably to his shoulders. When he spoke his voice was as smooth as velvet and reassuring. I was bewildered when the words wolf in sheep’s vestments crept into my mind. At some intuitive level, I was aware that his cool appraisal and massive size were incongruent with his air of humble benevolence. Incongruent was a word I muttered to myself many times in the next few months. The truth is consistent.


“After we talked for a few minutes about a community charity project, he began to tell me about myself. He confidently assured me that I was beautiful, intelligent, witty, and successful. He said I frightened men. He also told me a heartrending story from his childhood. A primitive part of my mind watched, listened, and hissed, Be alert! He is a womanizer… he has performed this little act before. He is an imposter pretending to be a human being… Beware, beware, beware… I had an overwhelming desire to clap and shout, Bravo! What a performance! Another part of my brain reproached me for being critical and judging without sufficient data.


“I think you can guess which part of my psyche knew who and what Alex was. Hundreds of little red flags flapped briskly, as if caught in hurricane force winds, bells screamed an all-out alarm, and I turned away—blind and deaf.”


There you have the psychopath at his most manipulative. He plays his part well, we must be slightly better at analyzing his behavior than he is at projecting what we desire to see. I could just as well have written this reversing the genders. Psychopaths come in the female gender too--thought, not as many. Jenessa Sprague and colleagues (NIH Public Access, 2012) suggest that “BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) may be the gender differentiated phenotype expressions of similar dispositional vulnerabilities” (pg. 1). Perhaps, gender influences the ways in which their pathological traits are expressed. This is an interesting focus of study and I hope to see more research in this area.




Psychopaths and Narcissists Compared


Psychopaths are quite similar in some ways to narcissists. Putting your new friend or co-worker in the correct category is not important, because both are considered high maintenance and you will receive a low return on your investment.


Nonetheless, as an academic exercise and because you might find it entertaining, I have compared these types below:


Descriptive Criteria


Psychopath Narcissist


Shallow emotions Grandiose


Great actor Unrealistic fantasies


No conscience Personal uniqueness


Arrogant Needs admiration


Prone to boredom Insecure


Predatory Envies others




These individuals have few problems exploiting others if it suits their agenda. In fact, exploiting is one of their favorite games. A successful psychopath or narcissist may be brilliant and educated. A narcissist loves himself and will disregard anyone who is not as unique as he believes himself to be. However, he is probably less likely of the two to bury the opposition in his backyard. In fact, I would be mildly surprised, but only mildly.


Psychopaths and Narcissists are identified primarily by personality traits. Thought, criminal behavior is an item on the PCL-R (Hare), it is not required to reach the threshold. One can also be a Narcissist and a Psychopath. Yes, quite disconcerting …


Let’s take a closer look at the Narcissist.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder (DSM V, 2013)




The criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior) need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following.

1.Has a grandiose sense of self-importance

2.Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3.Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

4.Requires excessive admiration.

5.Has a sense of entitlement

6.Is interpersonally exploitative

7.Lacks empathy

8.Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.



Now, you have a picture emerging of a person who can be successful and charming. However, that charm is only an inch deep and cracking at the corners. This is the person who is never wrong, looks beautifully put together and expects special treatment and will make your aware of his/her specialness. They may be aloof, and predisposed to surround themselves with “yes” men and women. Attacks to their self-esteem will not be taken with good grace, even if the attacks are only perceived. Normally, they are not concerned about how you feel, though they may feign such concern on occasion if it will help them to achieve their objective. They seek the center of attention-- after all, they are special. In the beginning of your relationship they may be terribly interesting, after a while their glitter may wear thin and only the exasperating self-adoration will linger.


Case Study of a Narcissist


I was pleased to see Jake and Ally when they arrived (late) for their first session. Jake was a striking man, tall, well dressed, and smugly attractive. I noticed that Ally had been biting her fingernails and her dress was buttoned wrong. She was obviously focused on something other than her appearance. Her hair looked as if she had just awakened from a troubled night. Under other circumstances, she would have been considered a very pretty woman. I knew from their intakes that Ally was a thirty-year-old marketing executive. Jake, the same age, was a successful banker. I know he was successful because he told me so twice in the first five minutes


They met through business and began dating rather quickly.


I looked at Jake again, not a hair was out of place. I was amazed that he could project such a flawless appearance.


Jake spoke first. He apologized for being late. It was Ally’s fault. He hates to be late, but she cannot seem to get herself together. He said, “You would think since she takes forever dressing that she would look more polished.” Ally glared at him, and then looked back down at her ragged nails. Jake continued, “Can you believe that she used to be beautiful and exciting? Just look at her now! When I chose her, she was the perfect companion and business hostess for me. All of my associates congratulated me on finding such a jewel. Do you think I introduce her to a business associate now? Huh, not likely…”


I was watching to see how they interacted.


Ally finally spoke, “I don’t know what to say or what to do. Nothing is ever good enough for Jake. No matter what I do, Jake gets angry and yells.”


Perhaps, to support the veracity of her statement, Jake yelled, “That is because you can’t think. You silly cow, if you would use a little logic--after all you have a degree—then you would not make stupid mistakes and embarrass me.”


I decided it was time for me to speak. “Jake,” I said, “I appreciate your trusting me enough to show me how you relate to Ally. Do you think that your behavior will enhance your relationship with her? Can you think of behaviors that might work better?”


Jake just stared at me. He grabbed his car keys off the table and stalked out of the office, slamming the door. I believe that may have been my shortest session. Ally began to cry and said, “Do you see what I mean? He blows up for no reason.”


Yes, I saw.


In the beginning, when they met in a business environment, Jake had been Prince Charming. Later he turned into the self-absorbed, demanding Mr. Grinch. She met his mask of perfection and dazzling fascination and did not recognize its short shelf life. Perhaps, you will recognize the mask when you see it.


Psychopath or Narcissist?


You have read the descriptions and case studies for both of these types. You probably have a relatively good idea of the differences and commonalities. I asked three experts in their fields for their professional observations on Narcissists and Psychopaths. Sam Vaknin is the author of “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited


As opposed to most narcissists, psychopaths are either unable or unwilling to control their impulses or to delay gratification. They use their affected and ostentatious "rage" to control people and manipulate them into submission. Psychopaths are also sadistic: they take pleasure in inflicting pain on their victims or in deceiving them. They even find it funny! Both the psychopath and the narcissist disregard society, its conventions, social cues and social treaties. But the psychopath carries this disdain to the extreme and is likely to be a scheming, calculated, ruthless, and, sometimes, callous career criminal. Psychopaths really do not need other people while narcissists are addicted to narcissistic supply (the admiration, attention and envy of others).


One of the nation’s leading forensic psychiatrists, Dr. Bruce Harry evaluates mentally disordered offenders for the judicial and correctional systems at both the state and federal levels.


From a practical standpoint, Narcissists and Psychopaths are similar but not identically the same, especially in the workplace. Each deeply inside strongly resents submitting to the authority of someone over them, especially when that someone is of a kind particularly despised or resented by them. Each excessively uses others to accomplish their own ends and purposes. Each tends to see themselves as being above co-workers and supervisors. However, psychopaths in particular do not respond to anxiety or fear the way most other people do. Instead, they seek risky excitation, tend to fly by the seat of their pants (or, skirts), tend to commit crimes, and tend towards displays of anger and aggression.


A successful professional in finance offers the following perspectives about narcissists and financial success:


I've noted that for narcissists, the success breeds more success in financial areas, but then further creates a wall between developing emotional ties/binds with others. The financial gain or "hit" from winning the financial transaction outweighs any emotional support or build-up which is forgotten compared to the "hit" from the win.


These experts add insight into the differences in these two types and into the mind and motivation of the financially successful Narcissist.




Here you have your roadmaps or GPS for recognizing the narcissists and psychopaths among us. Keep in mind; one need not meet the full criteria for either disorder to be disruptive and/or disastrous in the workplace. One can meet some or many of the criteria and yet not be diagnosable. The percentage of these individuals in the population then increases from the estimated 1% each (for diagnosable narcissists and psychopaths) to a much higher number. One might think since they are “not really” psychopaths or narcissists they are Teddy Bears and can be handled with ease? One might be mistaken.


Narcissistic Tendencies




Though I love Winston Churchill, I must admit that he had narcissistic tendencies. Some of our most successful politicians, actors and CEOs have these tendencies. However, it takes more than that, they must also have brilliance and a true regard for their fellow beings to be a Churchill.


Special Note to Leaders


Yes, quite right, successful narcissists and psychopaths know how to play the game and win at any cost. However, a word of caution is due before you hire him or her—liability.




Bonus: Dr. Cleckely’s Book


Dr. Cleckely’s book is available for download (free) on my website www.themanipulativeman.net


Profiles where taken from, The Manipulative Man (2006)











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Dr. Dorothy McCoy


Churchill, It Never Happened: Fear and Worry

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on January 4, 2015 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dr. Dorothy McCoy


“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened” –Winston Churchill

The illustrious statesman, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, had much to say about our inability to predict the future. Worry disagrees, it moves boldly into the future with a dearth of data and predicts calamity, which activates its partner in false prophesy-- fear. Worry and fear work together to create havoc and limit your enjoyment of life. They pull appalling, improbable scenarios from your cognitive domain and attempt to present these as reality. As Winston Churchill said, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than we can see.” However, worry can also spark action if you worry and realize a plan of action should be initiated-- and you act. Under those circumstances worry serves you well.

Worry can spark your imagination. "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination," Albert Einstein once said. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Imagination can also generate, in chilling clarity, doom, gloom and catastrophe. We have a choice.

Really, sometimes having a complex brain is not much fun. Imagination can litter our internal environment with every manner of dreadful possibility. A recent Dartmouth study and other similar studies suggest that, contrary to what we have been told, the right brain is not the only location of creativity and imagination. The brain is much more complex and interconnected. BTW, fear finds its home in the amygdala which is located close to the hippocampus, in the temporal lobe. As impressive as this may be, the enormous human brain can be hoodwinked and inventive fears can trigger the same damaging chemical and physical changes as a life threatening emergency. Therein hides the problem waiting to strike.

Possible Consequences of Worry and Stress

You may be all keyed up with nothing to fight or flee and unsure how to turn off the stress chemicals. You can become a ticking bomb that is not allowed to explode—so you may implode. If this happens frequently, it can have a serious, even deadly, effect on your health.

Every system in your body is affected by worry and fear. In addition to raising blood pressure and increasing blood clotting, worry can prompt your liver to produce more cholesterol, all of which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Muscle tension can give rise to headaches, back pain, and other troublesome body aches. Worry can also trigger an increase in stomach acid and either slow or speed up muscle contractions in your intestines, which can lead to stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, gas or heartburn. Worry can affect your skin (rash or itch). It can impact your respiratory system by aggravating asthma. Growing evidence suggests that chronic worry can compromise your immune system, making you more vulnerable to bacteria, viruses, perhaps even cancer.

Take Control

What should you do? Talk to someone. Sharing your fears or concerns can shine the light of reason on the products of your imagination. Take action! When nature gave us an imagination to identify potential threats, it also gave us fear to spur us to take protective action. Make a plan and follow it through. Learn to let go. Frequently, knowing the difference between a situation over which you have control and one over which you have no control can help. If there is nothing you can do –acceptance—may be the answer.

Switch gears. Think of something over which you have control or something more pleasant. Do something you enjoy, perhaps with a friend. Pet your dog or cat. Hug someone. You can also test reality with a friend. You can practice deep breathing exercises to calm and control. This is an excellent website; follow along with Dr. Andrew Weil, breathe for wellness http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html. Work those muscles! Exercise is an great way to relieve stress, burn calories, decrease depression and work toward wellness. According to recent research, a boost of activity can keep excitable neurons in check. The Mayo Clinic suggests pumping up those endorphins with walking or other exercise (after consulting your physician). Exercise is meditation in motion. YES! For those of you interested in the superficial (right), buff is attractive.

Stop worry before it has the opportunity to assume control over your thoughts and emotions. You must work quickly and strike when you first notice negative thoughts that fuel worry and fear. We have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. Learning to catch those thoughts requires practice. If you feel a negative emotion ask yourself—what was I just thinking? Then, do something: exercise, splash cold water on your face, snap a rubber band, call a friend, or see a big flashing stop sign in your mind’s eye. You may want to listen to a relaxation CD or go on a mini vacation using your fertile imagination. Whatever you choose should channel your thoughts in more positive direction.

Churchill warned us, “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year, and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it did not happen.” They cannot foretell the future and neither can we.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It will soon become second nature to relax, exercise, or change thoughts, rather than counter-productive worrying. Caution: Avoid over eating, using drugs or drinking alcoholic beverages to self-medicate. These soothing behaviors are detrimental to your health and wellbeing and as one could predict—they do not resolve the problem.

For leaders: Begin a wellness program for your employees to educate and reduce stress related symptoms. An exercise room would be an excellent beginning. Happy employees are a joy to lead and they more productive.

The last word by Churchill, “I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”

Other articles by Dr. McCoy

The Dark Dyad


The Sherlock Holmes Resolution Strategy


Workplace Strategy: Vampires and Ducks




Focused Writing to Treat Emotions

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on July 15, 2013 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

For nearly 20 years, Dr. James W. Pennebaker has been giving people an assignment: write down your deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in your life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Many of those who followed his simple instructions have found their immune systems strengthened. Others have seen their grades improved. Sometimes entire lives have changed.



James Pennebaker




Dr. James Pennebaker


Pennebaker, a professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and author of several books, including “Opening Up” and “Writing to Heal,” is a pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a route to healing. His research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone from those dealing with a terminal illness to victims of violent crime to college students facing first-year transitions.


“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker says. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”


In his early research Pennebaker was interested in how people who have powerful secrets are more prone to a variety of health problems. If you could find a way for people to share those secrets, would their health problems improve?


It turned out that often they would, and that it wasn’t even necessary for people to tell their secrets to someone else. The act of simply writing about those secrets, even if they destroyed the writing immediately afterward, had a positive effect on health. Further studies showed that the benefits weren’t just for those who had dramatic secrets, but could also accrue to those who were dealing with divorces, job rejections or even a difficult commute to work.


“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”


Our minds are designed to try to understand things that happen to us. When a traumatic event occurs or we undergo a major life transition, our minds have to work overtime to try to process the experience. Thoughts about the event may keep us awake at night, distract us at work and even make us less connected with other people.


When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable. Individuals may see improvements in what is called “working memory,” essentially our ability to think about more than one thing at a time. They may also find they’re better able to sleep. Their social connections may improve, partly because they have a greater ability to focus on someone besides themselves.


Dr. Pennebaker's Basic Writing Assignment Over the next four days, write about your deepest emotions and thoughts about the emotional upheaval that has been influencing your life the most. In your writing, really let go and explore the event and how it has affected you. You might tie this experience to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved or love now, or even your career. Write continuously for 20 minutes..


If writing can have such a dramatic effect on our lives, does that mean that we would all be best off keeping a daily diary? Not necessarily, Pennebaker says. While his work is not inconsistent with diary keeping, it acts more as a kind of life course correction. It allows people to step back for a moment and evaluate their lives.


“I’m not convinced that having people write every day is a good idea,” Pennebaker says. “I’m not even convinced that people should write about a horrible event for more than a couple of weeks. You risk getting into a sort of navel gazing or cycle of self-pity.


“But standing back every now and then and evaluating where you are in life is really important.”


Pennebaker’s research is benefiting people outside of those who participate in his studies. In 2004 he published “Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval.” The book is aimed at a general audience and offers a primer on writing and healing and numerous exercises that anyone who is capable of putting pen to paper can undertake. People across the country are giving it a try.


The Charlotte, N.C.-based company WordPlay recently offered a workshop titled “Writing to Heal” that borrows heavily from Pennebaker’s work. The participants were not necessarily people who came to writing with an intention to publish. But they each brought a life event they hoped to work through, whether it was a childhood trauma or a recent battle with cancer. Instructor Maureen Ryan Griffin said that each of the students came away feeling the writing had made a difference in their experience.


“They left with a new sense of the power of words,” she says. “They actually got access to using language as a healing tool in a way they had never used it before. Through writing they become active creators of their life stories. They are not simply people something bad or painful has happened to.”


Pennebaker has been looking at specifically how people use language in their writings and whether certain approaches to language translate into greater benefits from writing. To do so, he and his colleagues developed a text analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Using LIWC they can look at the types of words people use in their writings. They are discovering some interesting patterns.


Tips for Writing to Heal: Find a time and place where you won't be disturbed, Write continuously for at least 20 minutes, Don't worry about spelling or grammar, Write only for yourself, Write about something extremely personal and important for you, Deal only with events or situations you can handle now.


“People who are able to construct a story, to build some kind of narrative over the course of their writing seem to benefit more than those who don’t,” Pennebaker says. “In other words, if on the first day of writing, people’s stories are not very structured or coherent, but over the three or four days they are able to come up with a more structured story, they seem to benefit the most.”


Making a story out of a messy, complicated experience may make the experience more manageable. Linguistically, Pennebaker looks for words that are associated with more complex thinking, including certain prepositions such as “except,” “without” and “exclude” and causal words such as “cause,” “effect” and “rationale.” An increase in these types of words over the writing process suggests that the experience is becoming clearer and more narrative.


Pennebaker has also found that the ability to change perspectives during the course of writing is also a potent indicator of how well the act of writing will benefit an individual. Using LIWC, he can analyze the types of pronouns an individual uses. A shift in pronouns means a shift in perspective.


“So one day they may be talking about how they feel and how they see it,” he says, “but the next day they may talk about what’s going on with others, whether it’s their family or a perpetrator or someone else. Being able to switch back and forth is a very powerful indicator of how they progress.”


It’s not clear whether people who are able to construct narratives and change perspectives can be guided to do so in their writing, or whether doing so is simply a reflection of an emergent healing process for them. In “Writing to Heal,” however, Pennebaker offers exercises to help people experiment with both skills. After their four days of writing, individuals can analyze their own writing and try writing from different perspectives.


People who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing. Similarly, reports of depressive symptoms, rumination and general anxiety tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about emotional upheavals.


Griffin used Pennebaker’s exercise in changing perspectives in her class and found that it was one of the most profound things her students did.


“I was really struck by how amazed everyone was after writing about an event from more than one perspective,” she says. “It made a huge difference for them and their sense of the story to do this, and they were surprised by the power that had.”


Pennebaker is quick to point out that the act of confessing or expressing trauma has been part of healing for virtually all cultures, ranging from Native American indigenous cultures to those based on both Western and Eastern religious beliefs. He also notes that writing should be used cautiously. He doesn’t recommend trying to write about a trauma too soon after it happens and says that if a topic seems like it’s too much to handle, don’t try to tackle it before you’re ready. The effects of writing can be subtle, but sometimes they can be dramatic.


As an example, Pennebaker speaks of a young woman he worked with who had lost her husband very suddenly in an accident. The woman was praised by her colleagues in graduate school for how courageously and smoothly she had handled her husband’s death. She came to Pennebaker because she felt she needed to write about her loss. By the last day of writing she said she was transformed.


Within two months the woman had quit graduate school and moved back to her hometown. The writing experience had made her realize she was on a life path she no longer wanted and that she had been putting on a false, cheerful front with her friends.


“As a researcher, I could say, ‘Well here I have a technique that made an individual drop out of school, stop pursuing an advanced degree and return home,’” Pennebaker says. “It was a dramatic change, and it sounds like a failure. But from her perspective, it wasn’t.”


In fact, the woman felt that those four days of writing had saved her life.


Vivé Griffith

Office of Public Affairs





Psychopaths Among Us: the Bond

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on May 28, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

This is part of an ongoing series on sociopaths.





There are millions of sociopaths and psychopaths in America, maybe a 250 million of them on the planet, 8.5 million in the US alone-- something I intend to do something about.





These people come in all demographic varieties, though there are a lot more males than females, there are still probably a million female sociopaths in the US.





These people are predators. They don't feel emotions like other people. They don't feel empathy or compassion. Researchers study callousness as a parameter of their emotional makeup.





Some psychiatrists and psychologist clump psychopaths and sociopaths together. Others differentiate. I will be using the terms interchangeably unless specified otherwise,





Psychopaths have a predatory pattern of interaction they use to take advantage of and use people-- to form "the psychopathic bond."

for the rest of th article go to http://www.opednews.com/articles/Patterns-of-Psychopaths-So-by-Rob-Kall-130515-574.html

Bring Your Pet to Work

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on September 20, 2012 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

for the rest of the article go to:


ARA) - Harvey is no ordinary canine. The 3-year-old boxer has a full-time job, working almost every day at Greensboro, N.C.-based Replacements, Ltd.


"Image and video hosting by TinyPicEvery morning he's standing by the front door, waiting to go to work," says Harvey's owner, Sara Vestal, restoration manager. "He's been coming with me since he was 6 weeks old, and he truly thinks this is his job. If he sees me taking something out of a box, he grabs a box too and is by my side trying to help."


Pets in this workplace may sound a bit farfetched, considering the company is known as the world's largest retailer of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. But among Replacements' inventory of 13 million fragile items, you'll find a pit bull in this china shop, along with a beagle, several miniature dachshunds and dozens of other canines every day. And look out for the cats, and yes, a fish. An opossum has even graced the company's retail store with her visit.


Replacements implemented its pet-friendly policy more than 17 years ago, after Founder and CEO Bob Page received a dog for his birthday and couldn't bear to leave him home alone. Once Page started bringing his dog, he realized his employees might enjoy having their pets as well, and opened the company to animal friends. In fact, the company's front doors read, "All Well-Behaved Pets Welcome." Replacements is one of the top tourist destinations for central North Carolina, encouraging customers to bring pets to shop, while its monthly employee pet feature is popular on the company's website.


At a company known worldwide for its diversity and progressive workplace policies, many employees, including Vestal, believe this is one of the best benefits.


"Having Harvey here is a comfort; it relaxes me. If I have to stay late, I don't have to worry about getting home to let him out or what he's gotten into during the day. If I'm having a bad day, doesn't matter, he's in my corner. And taking him out for a walk on my break really allows me to catch a breath I generally wouldn't allow myself, giving me the chance to refocus."


Scientific support

A recently released scientific study reinforces Vestal's perceptions. Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University spent a week at Replacements delving deeper into the impact of dogs at work. The VCU team surveyed and monitored stress levels among three test groups: those who brought their dogs to work every day, dog owners who left their pets at home, and those who do not own any pets. Their work marks the first quantitative study conducted in the workplace on the psychological and physiological impact of pets.

Can anti-inflammatory drugs treat depression?

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on September 5, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

A drug that eases inflammation may offer new hope for people with difficult-to-treat depression, says a new study. ”Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or wound,” says Andrew H. Miller, senior study author and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. ”However, when prolonged or excessive, inflammation can damage many parts of the body, including the brain,” says Miller, the journal Archives of General Psychiatry reports.

The study was designed to see whether blocking inflammation would be a useful treatment for either a wide range of people with difficult-to-treat depression or only those with high levels of inflammation, according to an Emory statement. The study employed infliximab, one of the new biologic drugs used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

A biologic drug copies the effects of substances naturally made by the body’s immune system. In this case, the drug was an antibody that blocks tumour necrosis factor, a key molecule in inflammation that has been shown to be elevated in some depressed individuals, according to an Emory statement. When investigators looked at the results for the group as a whole, no significant differences were found in the improvement of depression symptoms between the drug and placebo (no medication) groups.

However, when the subjects with high inflammation were examined separately, they exhibited a much better response to infliximab than to placebo. Inflammation in this study was measured using a simple blood test that is readily available in most clinics and hospitals and measures C-reactive protein or CRP. The higher the CRP, the higher the inflammation, and the higher the likelihood of responding to the drug.

“This is the first successful application of a biologic therapy to depression,” says Charles L. Raison, who led the study. ”The study opens the door to a host of new approaches that target the immune system to treat psychiatric diseases.”


For the rest of the story go to:http://health.india.com/news/can-anti-inflammatory-drugs-treat-depression/  ; (Health India.com

All About Anxiety

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on August 28, 2012 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Fear and anxiety are part of life. You may feel anxious before you take a test or walk down a dark street. This kind of anxiety is useful - it can make you more alert or careful. It usually ends soon after you are out of the situation that caused it. But for millions of people in the United States, the anxiety does not go away, and gets worse over time. They may have chest pains or nightmares. They may even be afraid to leave home. These people have anxiety disorders. Types include

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, rape, physical abuse or a bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.

PTSD can cause problems like

Flashbacks, or feeling like the event is happening again

Trouble sleeping or nightmares

Feeling alone

Angry outbursts

Feeling worried, guilty or sad

PTSD starts at different times for different people. Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later. PTSD can happen to anyone, even children.

Medicines can help you feel less afraid and tense. It might take a few weeks for them to work. Talking to a specially trained doctor or counselor also helps many people with PTSD. This is called talk therapy.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

We all have stress sometimes. For some people, it happens before having to speak in public. For other people, it might be before a first date. What causes stress for you may not be stressful for someone else. Sometimes stress is helpful - it can encourage you to meet a deadline or get things done. But long-term stress can increase the risk of diseases like depression, heart disease and a variety of other problems. A stress-related illness called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after an event like war, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster.

If you have chronic stress, the best way to deal with it is to take care of the underlying problem. Counseling can help you find ways to relax and calm down. Medicines may also help.

Adjustment disorderEmail this page to a friendShare on facebookShare on twitterBookmark & SharePrinter-friendly versionAdjustment disorder is a group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms that can occur after you go through a stressful life event.

The symptoms occur because you are having a hard time coping, and the reaction is stronger or greater than what would be expected for the type of event that occurred.

CausesMany different events may trigger symptoms of an adjustment disorder. Whatever the trigger is, the event may become too much for you.

Stressors for people of any age include:

•Death of a loved one

•Divorce or problems with a relationship

•General life changes

•Illness or other health issues in yourself or a loved one

•Moving to a different home or a different city

•Unexpected catastrophes

•Worries about money

Triggers of stress in teenagers and young adults may include:

•Family problems or conflict

•School problems

•Sexuality issues

There is no way to predict which people who are affected by the same stress are likely to develop adjustment disorder. Your social skills before the event, and how you have learned to deal with stress in the past may play roles.

SymptomsSymptoms of adjustment disorder are often severe enough to affect work or social life. Some of the symptoms include:

•Acting defiant or showing impulsive behavior

•Acting nervous or tense

•Crying, feeling sad or hopeless, and possibly withdrawing from other people

•Skipped heartbeats and other physical complaints

•Trembling or twitching

To have adjustment disorder, you must meet the following criteria:

•The symptoms clearly come after a stressor, most often within 3 months

•The symptoms are more severe than would be expected

•There do not appear to be other disorders involved

•The symptoms are not part of normal grieving for the death of a loved one

On occasion, symptoms can be severe and the person may have thoughts of suicide or make a suicide attempt.

TreatmentThe main goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and help you return to a similar level of functioning as before the stressful event occurred.

Most mental health professionals recommend some type of talk therapy. This type of therapy can help you identify or change your responses to the stressors in your life.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you deal with your feelings.

•First your therapist helps you recognize the negative feelings and thoughts that occur.

•Then your therapist teaches you how to change these into helpful thoughts and healthy actions.

Other types of therapy may include:

•Long-term therapy, where you will explore your thoughts and feelings over many months or more

•Family therapy, where you will meet with a therapist along with your family

•Self-help groups, where the support of others may help you get better

Medicines may be used, but only along with some type of talk therapy. These medicines may help if you are:

•Nervous or anxious most of the time

•Not sleeping very well

•Very sad or depressed

Outlook (Prognosis)With the right help and support, you should get better quickly. The problem usually does not last longer than 6 months, unless the stressor continues to be present.

When to Contact a Medical ProfessionalCall for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of adjustment disorder.

ReferencesPowell AD. Grief, Bereavement, and adjustment disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 38.

Panic Attacks and Things That Go Bump in the Night

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on May 31, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Panic Is Frightening

By: Dr. Dorothy McCoy, Fri Dec 16th,

Panic attacks are extremely frightening. Panic sufferers often believe they are having a heart attack and they dash to their physician or end up in an emergency room. Which is exactly what they should do. An accurate diagnosis is the first step in relieving panic attacks. A diagnosis is vital, because panic attacks mimic a number of potentially serious medical conditions. The next step is treatment. No one should have to endure repeated episodes of distressing panic. Furthermore, early treatment may prevent the condition from becoming chronic. Not all panic attacks are created equal. The symptoms are unique to the individual sufferer. However, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, typical symptoms are:

Racing or pounding heart Sweating, flushing or feeling chilled Chest pains or tightness Difficulty getting your breath, or a sense of smothering or choking Dizziness, light-headedness, tingling or numbness Trembling or shaking Nausea or abdominal discomfort Fear of losing control Sometimes panic attacks appear to come out of the blue without rhyme or reason. This is not true with a phobia, such as agoraphobia, which has a distinctive pattern. Agoraphobics may have an attack in situations from which escape is difficult or embarrassing (i.e., on a bridge, a crowded theater). Someone who is fearful of flying may have a panic attack while entering an airplane, or perhaps, while contemplating a flight. The person could then become frightened by the ¡§idea¡¨ of having another panic attack. The panic attack itself becomes the feared event. He or she begins to avoid situations that are associated with the attacks. This can become a distressing pattern from which it is difficult to break free. Cognitive theorists believe that our thoughts create our anxiety. Consider these examples for a moment. A professional athlete consistently felt his chest constrict and his heart pound whenever he passed through a tunnel. A woman walking her dog in a park, a few blocks from her home, suddenly felt faint. If one were to ask the athlete what he thought immediately before the symptoms began, he might say, ¡§Tunnels can collapse. If this one collapses I will be buried alive. I won¡¦t be able to breathe. I will suffocate.¡¨ As he envisaged potential engineering blunders, a visualization of a collapsing tunnel abruptly flashed through his mind. He gasped for breath. Let¡¦s return to the woman in the park. She might answer, if asked about her thoughts before she felt faint, ¡§I am too far from home to cry out if someone jumped from the bushes and grabbed me. No one would hear me. I could be killed.¡¨ Simultaneously, she visualized a huge Neanderthal of a man lunging for her. It is very likely that their thoughts and visualizations contributed the material to which they reacted. According to Aaron T. Beck (1976), we can learn to ¡§observe that a thought links the eternal stimulus with the emotional response.¡¨ In other words, ¡§tunnel¡¨ does not signal danger, until the thought ¡§it will collapse¡¨ links to it--stimulating the emotional response--anxiety. As stated previously, panic attack symptoms are frightening. The attacks are especially disturbing when one does not understand why one¡¦s body is reacting in such a bizarre manner. A panic attack is an example of one¡¦s body doing what it was designed to do, yet, at an inappropriate time. The attacks are part of the body¡¦s cautionary or alarm system. It is saying, ¡§Be alert, there is danger¡Xreact!¡¨ The autonomic nervous system cannot differentiate between a legitimate danger (an 18 wheeler running amuck) and environmental stress ¡§created¡¨ by life in the worldwide web century. Heredity, other biological factors, stressful life circumstances, and thought patterns that create needless stress combine to encourage the onset of panic attacks. The specific panic mechanism is unknown. However, be assured researchers are eagerly seeking answers. Is there any good news? Yes, panic attacks can be, and frequently are, successfully treated. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication are commonly the recommended treatments. Anti-anxiety medication works rapidly to relieve distressing symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy contributes tools with which to cope more adaptively, thereby, reducing the likelihood that panic attacks will reoccur. What can you do if you are currently experiencing panic attacks? Here are a few suggestions: ƒN Don¡¦t be frightened¡Xpanic attacks cannot harm you.

ƒN Write everything you can remember about your attack immediately after it passes (You will gather important information about when, where and under what circumstances your attacks occur.).

ƒNWatch those scary thoughts (The tunnel will not collapse. That is a safer bet than the lottery.).

ƒN Repeat to yourself, ¡§I will not look crazy, collapse, die or lose control.¡¨

ƒN Try breathing deeply. Breathe in through your nose, hold it a few seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth. We tend to breathe in shallow, rapid little breaths when we are anxious, which can exacerbate the problem.

ƒN Get professional help. Panic attacks are not an infrequent stress reaction. Panic sufferers have an abundance of company. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 3 million Americans will have panic disorder at some time during their lives.


About the author: Dr. Dorothy McCoy has a doctorate in Counseling Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Counseling. She loves to travel, garden and hunt for antiques, especially McCoy pottery. She has trained her canine companion, Sophie Mae McCoy, to stay at home, sleep, ignore all commands and eat hamburger laden dog food (Please do not tell Sophie's vet.). Sophie Mae has taught Dr. McCoy to work long, grueling hours to keep her in ground chuck.

Complicated Grief: Description and Treatment (Mayo Clinic)

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on May 31, 2012 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)




By Mayo Clinic staff


During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over a few months, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in a chronic, heightened state of mourning.

Signs and symptoms of complicated grief can include:

Extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one

Intense longing or pining for the deceased

Problems accepting the death

Numbness or detachment

Preoccupation with your sorrow

Bitterness about your loss

Inability to enjoy life

Depression or deep sadness

Trouble carrying out normal routines

Withdrawing from social activities

Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose

Irritability or agitation

Lack of trust in others

When to see a doctor

It's normal to experience grief after a significant loss. Most people who experience normal or uncomplicated grief can move forward eventually with support from family and friends. But if it's been several months or more since your loss and your emotions remain so intense or debilitating that you have trouble going about your normal routine, talk to your health care provider.

Specifically, you may benefit from professional help if you:

Can focus on little else but your loved one's death

Have persistent pining or longing for the deceased person

Have thoughts of guilt or self-blame

Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death

Feel as if life isn't worth living

Have lost your sense of purpose in life

Wish you had died along with your loved one


Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic staff


Complicated grief treatment hasn't been standardized because mental health providers are still learning about the condition. Your doctor or mental health provider will determine what treatment is likely to work best for you based on your particular symptoms and circumstances.


Complicated grief is sometimes treated with a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) called complicated grief therapy. It's similar to psychotherapy techniques used for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may explore such topics as grief reactions, complicated grief symptoms, adjusting to your loss and redefining your life's goals. You may also hold imagined conversations with your loved one and retell the circumstances of the death to help you become less distressed by images and thoughts of your loved one.

Other counseling approaches also may be effective. Therapy can help you explore and process emotions, improve coping skills, and reduce feelings of blame and guilt.


There's little solid research on the use of psychiatric medications to treat complicated grief. However, antidepressants may be helpful in people who have clinical depression as well as complicated grief.

How Do I love Thee? Adding Back the Romance

Posted by Dr. Dorothy McCoy on May 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes the romance drains out of a relationship. We are not quite sure where it goes. However, getting it back is not as difficult as it may at first appear. Add magic, as in poetry, quiet time together, fun, music and positive statements of love and encouragement. Then stir...

Why don't we begin with a much loved poem. Share it with your beloved and begin the renewal of romantic love...

Dr. McCoy

XLIII. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.


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