Dr. Sarah Ravin - Psychologist | Eating Disorders |Body Image Issues | Depression | Anxiety | Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders | Self-Injury
Blog
1550 Madruga Ave Suite #414
Coral Gables, FL 33146
305-668-5755 (phone)
305-668-5756 (fax)
info@DrSarahRavin.com
Driving Directions
Dr. Sarah Ravin

Welcome to my professional blog. I am a Florida Licensed Psychologist and trained scientist-practitioner. In 2008, I received my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. A major component of my professional identity is staying informed about recent developments in the field so that I may provide my clients with scientifically sound information and evidence-based treatment. There is a plethora of information on the internet about Eating Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Psychotherapy. Unfortunately, much of this information is unsubstantiated and some of it is patently false. It is my hope that by sharing my thoughts and opinions on psychological issues, with scientific research and clinical experience sprinkled in for good measure, I can help to bridge the gap between research and treatment.

Reflections from a Rocking Chair

The recent media frenzy over the “balloon boy” hoax has gotten me thinking about the use of the media in today’s society and how it impacts our youth. The explosion of mass media over the past 10 – 15 years, from 24-hour news networks to the internet and email to blackberries and cell phones for everyone, has undoubtedly had a positive impact in many ways. Vital information can be widely disseminated at the click of a button. Parents can keep close tabs on their children. Businesspeople can check their email and voicemail during the metro ride home. Practically anyone can contact anyone else in the world, anytime, from virtually anywhere, using at least two different forms of instant communication. So much has changed since the bygone days of my own adolescence (we’re talking mid-1990’s) that I am beginning to feel like a grandparent on a rocking chair, pontificating about how, back in my day, we had to walk 10 miles to school in the snow uphill both ways.

And then there’s the ugly side. We spend precious time surfing the internet, watching YouTube videos and facebooking and twittering and texting. This is time that could have been spent reading or playing outside or exercising or engaging in a hobby or spending quality time with family and friends. Going a day, or even a few hours, without internet access leaves some people paralyzed. We feel naked without our cell phones; out of touch without instant access to emails. The amount of time we spend chained to various electronic devices continues to increase exponentially to the point where many people can no longer really relax or get away from their work or their social obligations.

My greatest concern about the mass media explosion is the impact it has on youth – their perceptions of reality, their aspirations for fame or recognition, their interpersonal boundaries, their privacy, their sense of what is normal and reasonable and right. I find it disconcerting when a young patient decorates her myspace with pictures of the scars on her wrists or photos of herself at a dangerously low weight. I am frightened when a teenage girl shares intimate details of her abuse history and her multiple psychiatric hospitalizations with her “friends” on facebook. “Everyone does it,” they say. “It’s not a big deal. It’s who I am.” It IS a big deal, I argue. And no, it’s NOT who you are. Therein lies the rub.

A person who presents herself online in this fashion is engaging in a disturbing form of emotional exhibitionism that has proliferated alongside recent technological advances. She is promoting dangerous stereotypes, over-identifying with her illness, and encouraging others to do the same. I do my best to chip away at the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness, and I firmly believe that having depression or bulimia or borderline personality disorder is not something to be ashamed of. But it’s also not something to advertise to a world-wide audience of anonymous viewers with questionable motives. These are issues to be discussed with a therapist, with family members, with a select group of long-time, trusted friends.

I am ambivalent about the proliferation of websites and blogs about personal experiences with mental illnesses. On one hand, as a therapist, I fully appreciate the healing power of writing, sharing, and connecting. Individuals who share their personal stories of psychological disorders with a worldwide audience are providing hope, support, and inspiration to others who are in similar positions, while slowly chipping away at the shame, secrecy, and stigma that continues to surround mental illness.

I frequent several blogs (Carrie Arnold’s ED Bites, Laura Collins’ Eating With Your Anorexic, and Harriet Brown’s Feed Me) authored by individuals who have personally struggled with eating disorders or helped loved ones recover. I admire these authors’ commitment to advocating for improved awareness, understanding, information, and evidence-based treatment for eating disorders. The authors’ personal experiences are interwoven with scientific research in ways that educate, enlighten, and inspire.

On the other hand, I have also read numerous websites and blogs, authored by individuals with mental illnesses, which I can only characterize as glaring emotional exhibitionism. These blogs are not-so-subtle cries for help, yearnings for deeper connection through a superficial medium. I am not quite sure who is benefitting from a young woman’s blog posts detailing her various creative methods of purging or her meager consumption of carrot sticks for days on end. How about writing in a good old fashioned journal? Seeing a therapist? Joining a support group? Calling a friend? Meanwhile, how about developing a healthy identity apart from your symptoms and making real-life friends outside your diagnostic category?

The individuals who use the internet in this way are not the source of the problem. They are the victims of a society that fails to teach appropriate interpersonal boundaries and encourages people to sacrifice their self-respect for a chance at instant notoriety. What happens ten years down the road, when the teenage “cutter” with a provocative personal website applies for a job as a high school teacher? How will this deeply personal, globally publicized information impact the course of her life? Only time will tell. For now, I’ll step away from my computer, get back on my rocking chair, and try to remember what life was like before blogging.

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to Reflections from a Rocking Chair

  1. Carrie says:

    Dr. Ravin,

    Thanks for the nice words about my blog- I appreciate it.

    I’m guessing we’re around the same age (I’m nearly 30, though I still get carded when I buy lotto tickets, so go figure), so I, too, remember the days before Twitter and Facebook and cell phones. And I think that, combined with a deep need for privacy, has enabled me to keep my life balanced in terms of what I share.

    What has helped me is the fact that I was a writer for a long time before I started blogging. I started writing on my college newspaper in 1998, and with that writing came an understanding of being “out there” with your writing. That is, I am acutely aware of the fact that people are reading and seeing and yes, even judging, my words and photos and everything else about me. And I’ve had my experiences with being misunderstood, both deliberately and accidentally. So I’m careful to share enough that I know my readers have the same understanding of the situation that I do, but not so much that I’d be embarrassed if other people found out.

    It’s odd for someone who IS so private to have a memoir and a public blog, but what I don’t think people realize is the amount of stuff I don’t and won’t share. My announcement of a massive relapse this past June caught many people by surprise, and in a way, that was good, because it told me I wasn’t (for lack of a better term) vomiting my issues all over the internet. It told me I had found that balance between sharing my struggles and successes in recovery while avoiding anything overtly triggering.

    My blog has my real name attached to it, and I joined Facebook as a way to network for freelance writing jobs. I never really mention ED stuff on Facebook, although it’s fairly obvious from my groups that the issue is personally relevant. For me, the idea of having your entire life out there online is new enough that I continue to be wary. I don’t think most adolescents have the insight of just how much a stupid little thing can come back and bite you in the butt later. I know I probably didn’t.

    Carrie

  2. Imidgenig says:

    Wow enjoyed reading this post. I added your rss to my blogreader.

  3. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Top Eating Disorders Treatment Information

Honored as a top resource for eating disorder treatment, recovery, & awareness.

107-dr-sarah-ravin-s-blog
SocialWorkLicenceMap.com