All posts by Dr. Jonathan B. Lauter

About Dr. Jonathan B. Lauter

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is a psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who had his fellowship and residency at the Langley Porter Institute at the University of California at San Francisco. With an accomplished career spanning several teaching and administrative positions in different institutions, he maintains a private practice in Manhattan and is a clinician at the Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York.

Tender Loving Care: Helping People With Bipolar Disorder

Mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, are typically considered “no-casserole” diseases. It means that unlike other health conditions, such as cancer or physical injuries, people are hesitant to provide support by bringing casseroles or other forms of help and comfort. Sometimes, it is not that people do not want to help, rather, they are not sure how to do so.

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Here are a few tips in providing support for loved ones suffering from bipolar disorder are the following:

Learn about the illness

As they say, “knowing is half the battle.” By learning about bipolar disorder, one can be better equipped to handle the symptoms, especially since these occur unpredictably. Most of the time, those who suffer from it cannot see clearly or deny that they are experiencing symptoms, so discerning warning signs would be helpful.

Be patient and understanding

Sometimes, what bipolar disorder patients need, in addition to treatments, are sympathetic ears and encouraging words. But dealing with them can be difficult, especially when they want to be alone. It is important to know when to give them space or when to talk or spend time with them. Remember also that managing the illness is a lifelong process.

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Know when to seek help

Some people with bipolar disorder can be destructive, violent, or suicidal. When these behaviors flare up, ask for professional assistance to make sure that everyone is safe.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D. is an accomplished psychiatrist who maintains a private practice in Manhattan and serves as a clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, NY. For more information about mental illnesses, click here.


Kid Gloves? Easing Children Into Learning Independence

Parents are often preoccupied with the “now” of childcare, and it is forgivable that foresight is lost in the melee of fulfilling their child’s daily needs. There are, meanwhile, forward-looking measures integrated into daily routines that can (almost) reassure parents their children will pick up the virtue of independence. These neither have to be harsh nor uptight.

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Teaching a child independence starts with the small chores. So-called “over-parenting,” the tendency to tolerate children’s every caprice, or to perform tasks—down to the minute ones of the daily routine—has been seen in direct opposition to austere and strict parenting. It is assumed that this more understanding stance produces an environment of warmth and affection children will fondly look back on and will help them grow in love as adults.

While this parenting style does produce, in later years, memories of a loved childhood, it also neglects to teach children basic skills and initiative. Parents who have “over-done” their jobs might be hard-pressed to get their children to clean their rooms, for instance, or have them help around the house by simply picking up after themselves. This could end in frustration for parents, who might find themselves nagging their children in the future to adopt these habits of independence.

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One school of thought advises parents to take themselves out of the equation from time to time: summer camps are excellent examples of leaving children to their own devices in certain situations. These environments cultivate habits of independence through a peer environment. As long as the activities therein speak to the child’s passions and interests, he or she will find a way to get along, abide by the camp’s rules and expected responsibilities, and get a taste of life without too much supervision.

Another way is to simply be uncompromising about it. Parents should learn to delegate some household chores to their kids and make them realize that reward or punishment shouldn’t be the motivation in accomplishing tasks. The ultimate lesson is that independence the normal way of life.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who is certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry. A clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York, he also runs a private practice in Manhattan. For more articles on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.

Depression and teen video game addiction: Encouraging friendships could be key

Video gaming is subject to bad raps for supposedly inducing among teenagers addictive playing. But while playing for more than four hours could be a cause for concern, it is not a plain and simple indication of depression.

The link between depressive symptoms and excessive playing must not be ignored, however. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals that the effects of game addiction could be tempered by the use of mobile applications and social media platforms in aid of socialization. The facilitation of socialization and formation of friendships online could be instrumental in warding off depressive symptoms. This led researchers to claim that not all video game addicts are vulnerable to depression. Gamers (mostly boys) who interact with their peers through such platforms then display better-adjusted behavior.

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The study comes on the heels of frequent research on compulsive video gaming, which is recognized as a modern psychological disorder. Rehabilitation centers for video game addicts have come into existence, while children, teenagers, and young adults are the focus of most research. Common observations derive a link between aversion to socialization and increased propensity for habitual gaming. Longitudinal studies to the effect have been undertaken in countries such as China and Singapore, with respondents observed for manifestations of anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms.

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While the link between these psychological issues and video gaming remains tenuous, parents are reminded that compulsive playing remains an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Gamers should be taught early on the balance between doing what they love and living life without a controller in their hands.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist with a celebrated career spanning several positions in various organizations, most recently as the director of ambulatory behavioral health services and associate professor of psychiatry at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. For more reads similar to this, visit this blog.

Never Too Early to Start: How to Teach Children About Consent

Abuse, domestic violence, and rape have been making rounds in media and the community, and a lot of parents are alarmed how the victim could have been their child.

Children, even at a young age, can learn about boundaries and consent. While a lot of parents worry that it may tarnish their children’s innocence, teaching them about consent does not have to be explicit and full of terms. They can package it in a way that is age-appropriate and understandable in the language their children speak. Here are examples parents can teach pre-school children about the importance of consent.

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Give them the freedom to express their opinion

A child learns best by example. Parents can teach consent and boundaries by giving their children the freedom to make their own choices and voice out their own opinion while being in the boundaries of what has to happen.

For example, parents can invite the child to sleep by asking them which pajama they want to use to bed. When preparing for breakfast, they can ask the child which cereal they want to start the day with.

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Teach them to ask for permission

Parents can start by teaching children to ask for permission when they want something. A simple “can I play with the robot today?” can teach children about good behavior. Beyond sharing what they already have, asking for permission goes a long way.

Let them know that “no” is a valid answer

Just because they asked for permission, it doesn’t mean that a “yes” can be automatically given. Teaching children that giving and receiving a “no” (but not the unnecessarily rude “no”) is okay and normal.

Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a child and adolescent psychiatrist based in New York. Read similar articles by visiting this blog.


Beyond Imaginary Friends: Signs And Treatment Of Schizophrenia In Childhood

Schizophrenia is a rare but severe medical illness that usually manifests in adulthood. But the onset and its early warning signs may appear during childhood and adolescence.

Diagnosing schizophrenia is very difficult because of its rare manifestation in children under age 13, and because the symptoms are similar to autism and conduct disorder. Ruling out the latter disorders, which are more common among children, is the first step to a prognosis for schizophrenia. Some early indications of the disease are language delays, unusual motor behaviors, and hearing voices that are not real.

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The disease progresses in puberty, at which point an adolescent may recognize that their experiences are a cause for concern. Signs of a developing psychosis are hallucinations, disorganized thinking or bizarre thoughts, paranoia, severe anxiety, confusing movies or dreams from reality, increased isolation, and difficulty in focusing.

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Children and adolescents showing these symptoms must be evaluated by a specialist immediately for early diagnosis. The disease can be managed with medication, individual and family therapy, specialized programs, and life skills training.

Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a certified psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He runs a private practice in Manhattan and holds a clinic at the Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York. For more articles on child and adolescent mental health, subscribe here.

First Heartbreak: Mental Techniques To Help Teens Move On From a Breakup

Most first love experiences happen during adolescence. The experience is truly life-changing; coupled with one’s own quest for individuality and identity, first loves often leave a remarkable impression on a teenager. Unfortunately, many first love experiences do not last long. Couples separate and the teenager is left feeling vulnerable. Several psychological techniques can be followed.

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Expression: Strong emotions need to be expressed in a healthy manner. Love is a powerful emotion. Medical studies have proven that there are physiological effects of love. This means, loving someone causes significant changes to one’s brain. For those experiencing love for the first time, “letting go” is difficult because physically speaking, one is changed. Many child and adolescent psychiatrists recommend reprogramming one’s brain and body by finding means of expression. This can be in the form of writing, speaking, painting, or any form of manner in which to express all the emotions being felt.

Practice gratitude: This is challenging at the beginning. Recent psychological studies suggest the use of positive affirmations as an effective means of moving on from a breakup. This includes continuously practicing gratitude and self-affirmations. It is easy for teenagers to feel a lack of self-worth after an intense love affair, so it is necessary for them to remind themselves of their good qualities. Doing so not only helps in changing one’s perception of the relationship but one’s self-image.

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Extreme cases of breakups can cause an adolescent to engage in risky behaviors or feel intense emotions. Parents who fear their child is not coping properly should immediately consult with their trusted child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Dr. Jonathan Lauter specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry. Subscribe to this blog for more articles on mental health.

New Study Shows Lack of Sleep Increases Depression and Anxiety Risk in Children

A new study indicates that children and adolescents who complain of inadequate sleep have a higher risk of developing anxiety or depression in their later years. The lack of sleep is already associated with other mental concerns such as poor concentration and irritability, but this is the first time that poor sleeping habits have been linked to depression risk. The authors of the study caution parents to monitor their child’s behavior carefully. It may be a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. Poor sleep could influence psychological health, yet changes in sleeping behavior is also a symptom of depression and anxiety.

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The lack of sleep makes a child or adolescent unable to assess situations properly. The body needs to rest, and sleep gives the brain time to go through the day’s experiences and teach a child how to deal with them. Poor sleeping habits affect emotional health and may lead to the child thinking more negative thoughts. Studies show that children who report a lack of sleep have less positive emotions.

Those most at risk are children who have recently experienced a great emotional trauma. This can be the death of a loved one or even transferring schools. It is normal for children and adolescents to undergo a period of grief- in these moments, sleep can be affected. However, if dramatic changes are observed in sleep or eating habits after two continuous weeks, it is heavily advised for the child to see his or her local psychologist.

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Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is a certified child and adolescent psychologist whose areas of expertise include depression and anxiety from a neurological perspective. Learn more about Dr. Lauter’s practice here.