by DrTony


October 6, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

Do you believe that only perfection is good enough and anything less doesn’t measure up?  Being a perfectionist has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon your career. While we probably all prefer our surgeons, pilots, accountants, and air traffic controllers to be perfectionists, this trait can have negative consequences and detrimental effects.  A recent article by Professor Gordon Flett at York University concluded that perfectionism is a big risk factor in suicide.  Flett and colleagues summarized data that showed consistent links between perfectionism and hopelessness, psychological pain, life stress, and overgeneralization.  The article, published in the American Psychological Association journal Review of General Psychology, linked professionals in high leadership roles in certain occupations at heightened risk for suicide based on their external pressure to be perfect.

Trying to achieve and maintain perfection can be draining, time-consuming, and counterproductive.  Decision making becomes extremely difficult which can lead to “paralysis through analysis.”  Being so preoccupied with order and details can obscure the major point of activities and limit the joy.  Perfectionism can also have a negative impact on relationships since cooperation and compromise are often not part of the perfectionist’s repertoire.  Some believe that “I am unworthy unless I am perfect,” and operate from a “never good enough” mindset.  Many of us focus on the 10% negative feedback even when 90% was positive and have a difficult time receiving compliments. We erroneously believe that perfection will protect us from rejection, blame, and shame.

Part of changing this trait requires a new mindset which includes adjusting expectations, setting realistic goals, and appreciating good, not just perfect.  As part of my work with clients, I have them practice imperfection so they can desensitize themselves to a less than perfect outcome.  Also believing that we are loved for who we are and not for being perfect will give a sense of worthiness which can overcome the fear of ridicule.  Have the courage to not focus on what others think, but acknowledge that you are loved by God, family, and friends for who you are.  Cut yourself some slack, delegate tasks, learn to say no, laugh more, avoid using perfection for procrastination, and stop overgeneralizing mistakes to mean total failure.  Decide on a time frame for a project and move on after the time has expired, even if it is not perfect in your eyes. Don’t focus on the end goal, focus on the interaction and relationship building that takes place during the process. Lastly, accept your humanness and fallibility.

by DrTony


September 29, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

How you ever felt lost and alone?  We all have experienced this at times, but some live constantly in this state.  Some are victims of domestic violence, bullying, and/or emotional/verbal abuse.  Some keep others at a distance due to an overwhelming fear of rejection, abandonment, commitment, intimacy, and/or being vulnerable.  They trust no one and expect to be disappointed or hurt by everyone.  They are trapped in their own misery and too afraid to ask for help or acknowledge their pain.  Living in emotional and/or physical isolation can be depressing, but venturing out can trigger tremendous fear.

Can you imagine how difficult it is to for a victim of abuse to call for help given the typical feelings of fear, embarrassment, shame, confusion, and anger?  Who do I call and will they believe me or suggest that I’m overreacting?  What are the repercussions of reporting abuse either to a family, a friend, or law enforcement?  The statistics are staggering with 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men having experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.  Studies show that alcohol increases the incidence of abuse.  Fear can be incapacitating and prevent appropriate and necessary action.  Many of the fears are real, such as losing financial security, living arrangements, possibly friends/family, physical safety, and the ultimate fear, death.

The first step to helping yourself or a loved one is recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship since it can come in many different forms: physical, sexual, verbal and emotional.  Educate yourself about the cycle of violence, contact the domestic violence hotline, and have the courage to take action.  Making the decision to call the police and press charges if violence occurs in the household can be very difficult, but also necessary.  It is also important to have a safety plan that includes identifying shelters/housing options, and seek counseling.  Empowerment comes from knowledge/information, resources, emotional support, legal aid, and professional counsel.  Attending a local support group and reaching out to friends/family during the crisis can prove to be helpful. Taking a self-defense class, setting goals for yourself, and journaling can give you some confidence and control. Most importantly, trust your instincts/gut and don’t deny negative emotions that are an indication that this situation is unhealthy.  It takes courage to acknowledge the pain and heal from it, but the results can be life-changing.

by DrTony


September 22, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

The recent news about several NFL players engaging in violent and destructive behaviors on and off the field is not surprising.  Being rewarded for physically aggressive behavior in one’s profession can sometimes spill over into one’s personal life.  Certainly there are many variables and factors that are tied to violent behaviors, including power.  Many powerful people believe that the rules are different for them and their misbehaviors should be condoned given the status, fame, and fortune they’ve attained.  Instead of being held to a higher standard based on their position and influence, many individuals assume that their notoriety enables them to have a “get out of jail free card,” literally.  Power can come from wealth, status, profession, and/or having control over others.

Of course there are many powerful and highly successful people who are not abusive and who do not use violence to control others.  What contributes to powerful people making bad choices?  In some cases they have impulse control problems and/or anger management issues that they haven’t addressed.  Other times these individuals have serious psychiatric problems that they’ve denied and for which they have never received proper treatment since they’re convinced the problem is someone else’s fault.  They reflexively respond with defensiveness, blame, and justification for their actions with little remorse or repentance.  Lastly, powerful people may have very little emotional maturity and moral integrity.  Professional athletes can become millionaires literally overnight and have no idea how to manage their now public personal lives.

Fortunately or unfortunately, our children look up to those who have wealth and power, like professional athletes, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders.  These individuals should assume a higher standard and accept the added burden of being a positive role model to so many children and young adults.  The NFL and various organizations that monitor athletes can be more proactive in providing training, resources, and counseling.  There also needs to be a better way to identify problems before they escalate.  Somehow money needs to tie into their treatment, but not always as a punishment, instead as a reward for seeking help.  These problems are not going away, but if we can find incentives for people to pursue treatment, provide easy accessibility, and highlight/praise those who successfully overcome their problems this would provide motivation to change.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs on power, seeking balance in life, accepting accountability, valuing relationships, embracing humility, giving back, and accepting responsibility for actions will decrease the incidence of destructive behaviors.

by DrTony


September 15, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

We all need people in our lives to help us through the difficult times and encourage us to grow at other times.  Research has shown that supportive and positive relationships enable individuals to have better mental health, higher levels of well-being, and lower rates of morbidity and mortality.  A recent study done by Brooke Feeney and Nancy Collins which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Review found that  relationships help with a person’s ability to both cope and grow.  They concluded that there are two types of support that enable people to thrive. Firstly, relationships buffer individuals from the negative effects of stress and even equip them to flourish in spite of adversity.  Secondly, relationships help people thrive by encouraging personal achievement, exploration, and fostering a sense of meaning in life.

The caveat here is that the relationships need to be meaningful, supportive, and healthy.  Also the way in which the support is offered and received will determine the benefit to or the detriment of the receiver.  Sometimes we try too hard to help people we care about and develop a codependent relationship.  In our efforts to support, we may find ourselves micro-managing, enabling, and/or controlling others.  The recipient may feel inadequate or needy in response to our attempts at being supportive.  It’s a very fine line between supportive and over-involved.

The bottom line is that relationships can and do facilitate growth.  The key is accepting support when needed and providing support in return which will cultivate mutually supportive relationships and enable people to thrive.  We develop healthy relationships when we engage in a healthy balance of independence and dependence, express our needs openly, and allow others to get close enough to know our fears and insecurities.  Being vulnerable, sharing emotions, and engaging in intimate conversations deepen our connections and foster attachment.  Develop, nurture, and grow your relationship network and reap the personal rewards.

by DrTony


September 8, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

Have you ever noticed that some people create conflict or drama wherever they go?  Sort of like the Peanuts character Pigpen who has a cloud of dirt/dust surrounding him.  There are those people who can trigger emotions in just about anyone and seem to enjoy the reaction they get from others.  What is that all about?  Are people looking to create conflict to deflect from a flaw or insecurity in themselves?  Or possibly this stirring of conflict is a way to manipulate and control others. Remember the expression, “negative attention is better than no attention.”  Some may have learned as children that conflict triggered a reaction from mom or dad, and that seemed preferable to silence.

Some of us react to this drama like Charlie Brown did with Lucy and the football.  We take the bait and try to fix the problem, defend our position, and/or believe that things will be different this time.  The reality is that we can’t change others’ feelings, thoughts, or actions.  Even though we know this intellectually, we still get very frustrated when the outcome remains the same.  Our reaction can inadvertently fuel the fire and enables the instigator to justify their actions.  Clearly, a different approach is needed.

For starters, we can move from a reaction to a response, which means removing the negative emotions.  Instead of striking back when feeling attacked, try sharing the emotional impact of their statement without defending your position.  If this seems irrational, correcting them at the time and expecting a positive outcome may be just as irrational.  Waiting until a later point in time to respond or writing your concerns may be more effective.  Another way of taking the wind out of the sails would be to avoid engaging at all when the intensity level is high and accusations are flying.  Acknowledging their negative emotions without focusing on right versus wrong can also diffuse the conflict.  Lastly, look to connect at times when the volatility level is low and the emotions are calm.  Connection occurs through conversation; keep it constructive and positive.


by DrTony


September 1, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

On this Labor Day, as many of us take a break from work, think about how much of your identity is defined by your job.  We spend approximately 8.8 hrs./day laboring during the work week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   Hopefully work gives you meaning, a sense of purpose, and an income to live on.  Work may also be something that gives you security, confidence, positive feedback, and a sense of accomplishment.  All of this is good until work and/or money becomes an obsession and is your only source of joy and fulfillment.Many of us bring work home with us either physically, mentally or both. Some view their entire identities through their jobs and struggle to find fulfillment in other areas of life which can make eventual retirement especially difficult.

How can you approach work differently?  Consider your retirement account or stock portfolio.  Do you have all of your savings invested in one or two stocks-probably not.  It’s important to diversify your portfolio and have multiple sources of growth and income.  The same holds true with life; we need multiple sources of purpose, fulfillment, and joy.  So we can’t put all of our energy into work at the exclusion of everything else since we may lose our job or eventually retire.  Diversifying our lives requires us to invest in relationships, activities, hobbies, community, and organizations that provide us with connection and satisfaction.  The key is to find and maintain balance with work and life.  Ask yourself: what gives me purpose and meaning in life other than work?  Often when we’re asked to describe our identity we quickly talk about our profession instead our roles as spouse, parent, friend, volunteer, teacher, mentor, or coach.

Consider defining yourself not just for what you do, but for who you are.  Our roles as spouse, parent, friend , or volunteer may better define our character than our job title and can have a greater impact on others.  People are more likely to remember you for the person you are and the impact you had on their lives.  Who you are represents your character, values, and persona that can positively influence others.  Most of us strive to be successful in life, but discount our significance.  Positively influencing others and making a difference in their lives through your actions and/or words creates significance.  Chances are your legacy will not be determined from your work, but rather your relationships.

by DrTony


August 25, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

How do medical marriages fair?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of being married to a physician?  The University of Michigan Medical School (Understanding the Medical Marriage, Academic Medicine, 2014) interviewed 25 physicians and their spouses to discover ways for them to succeed. The researchers concluded that mutual support, recognizing the importance of each family member’s role, sharing values, and acknowledging the benefits of being in a medical marriage all had a positive impact.  They also concluded that extended family support and shared responsibility can make a big difference.  Physicians and their spouses face similar challenges in their relationships as the general population, yet other stressors are unique to the field of medicine.  The importance of work-life balance is especially important to achieve fulfillment on both areas.

Over the last decade multiple and significant changes have occurred in the practice of medicine.  These changes include an increase in corporate medicine, healthcare reform with new governmental regulations/policies, and the mandate for electronic medical records, just to name a few.  All physicians are experiencing more stress and pressure to meet certain criteria, increase productivity, learn new systems for record keeping, follow specific standards of care, and maintain patient satisfaction.  In my practice, 25% of my patient population are physicians, not surprising since the demands of the profession can be taxing on their personal lives.  Most physicians are used to being in charge and solving problems even when their spouse prefers that they listen and validate their feelings instead of offering a solution.  They may also become accustomed to others following their instructions and recognizing their knowledge and authority whereas at home the goal is to have shared responsibility and decision-making. Physicians are often reinforced for being unemotional, analytical, and logical in the workplace, but these traits don’t always work at home. They may de-value the role of their partner and not acknowledge their spouse’s contribution to the marriage.  Some physicians don’t transition well from work to home either by maintaining their work role or by carrying their stress/worry about their patients home with them.  In many cases frequent on-call coverage keeps them on-edge and tense which can be projected onto those close to them.

Physician marriages can work when couples communicate their expectations of roles, responsibilities, and decisions.  Being a good physician and caring spouse requires a special effort to set boundaries, take care of self and family, and successfully detach from work when heading home.  Lastly, remember that work shouldn’t be your only identity and valuing relationships can provide more satisfaction and fulfillment in the long run.  Celebrate your success in your career, but don’t lose sight of the  relationships that will enrich your life.

by DrTony


August 18, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

The recent death of Robin Williams devastated millions who appreciated his unbelievable talent and incredible gifts.  His restless energy and countless characters amazed all of us.  However, we never fully understood his internal struggles with depression and addictions nor could we fully understand the depth of his pain.  He was always performing and probably felt more comfortable being someone else rather than himself.  Chances are, his humor and acting were an outlet and coping mechanism to cope with his emotional pain.  He’s not alone in looking for whatever works to deal with mental illness as so many others seek relief.

Many people who struggle with emotional pain or trauma rely on constructive and/or destructive ways to survive.  The obvious unhealthy ways include addictions and destructive choices, but sometimes even constructive behaviors like work, humor, exercise, or hobbies at extreme levels can be harmful.  Using these mechanisms to avoid, escape, distract, and numb emotional pain doesn’t work.  Individuals can be very creative in their attempts to run and hide from their pain.  Others maintain a cloaked facade and even people close to them have little awareness of their internal turmoil.  Even today people perceive mental illness as a weakness and associate it with a negative stigma.

The loss of Robin Williams may serve as a reminder to all of us that mental illness does not discriminate, regardless of success, intellect, financial resources, or even having the admiration, respect, and love of millions.  The suffering and pain persist in spite of it all.  Hopefully this loss will motivate others experiencing emotional pain to seek treatment and acknowledge the need for help.  Time alone does not heal all wounds.  Healing starts when we acknowledge and confront our pain, but often we need professional support.  You can run, but you can’t hide from emotional pain, it will catch you.  Take action and get the help you need today!

by DrTony


August 11, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

Can you spot a narcissist?  What do you look for? A study published in PLOS One, 2014, found that identifying a narcissist only requires one simple question.  Researchers found that they could reliably identify narcissistic people by simply asking if they see themselves as a narcissist.  Ironically narcissists are almost proud of this trait and don’t perceive it as a negative quality.  The co-author of the study, Brad Bushman stated that narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society since narcissists are less likely to improve themselves or help others.  Narcissists also have low empathy which is important for close, intimate relationships.

Many highly successful and powerful people, including many US presidents, possess a higher level of narcissism.  And in fact, there are some positive aspects to this personality type.  For example, narcissists can be persuasive, self-motivating, risk takers, and fearless.  The term “adaptive narcissism” has been coined to describe positive aspects of narcissism. We admire a confidant, driven, persevering, and problem-solving leader who thrives in crises. The key is balancing these traits and not assuming that they will work well in all situations.  While passion for our job is usually rewarded, intensity at home can be annoying.  Unfortunately, most people don’t separate the persona they have at work to the one they bring home which creates conflict in a marriage.

The topic of narcissism is becoming more popular since these characteristics appear to be on the rise.  Technology and social media has proven to be fertile ground for budding narcissists.  People are consumed with themselves.  In the September issue of Men’s Health magazine an article on narcissism includes a test to determine if you are narcissistic.  I was grateful that the magazine contacted me for the article and included some of my quotes (check out my Facebook page or website). As the article states, channelling these traits in a constructive and helpful way can prove to be effective and powerful.  Recognizing who we are and sharpening our beneficial characteristics while dumping the negative ones will prove to be helpful.

by DrTony


August 4, 2014 in Featured by DrTony

How do you manage stress?  What lifestyle best describes you?  A study, soon to be published in Molecular Psychiatry, from UC San Francisco looked at the impact lifestyle can have on the effects of stress.  The researchers concluded that healthy living can buffer against stress-related cell aging.  More specifically, they found that individuals who exercised, slept well and maintained a healthy diet were able to lower the effects of stress on our bodies.  They also found that stress accelerates immune cell aging and the lifestyle we lead can directly impact this process.  Of course, we’ve all seen people age dramatically in a short period of time especially when they’re under tremendous stress.  Look at our current and past presidents for a clear example of stress on aging.

Some of us can be couch potatoes, emotional eaters, and/or poor sleepers.  Which of these most affect you?  It may be all three, especially when you’re under stress.  The bad news is that stress is unavoidable and affects everyone.  The good news is that you can do something about the impact stress has on your life.  Join a gym, enlist an exercise buddy, put exercise on your daily schedule and make it happen.  A recent study found that running consistently can add as much as three years to your life.  Get moving!

We’re surrounded by food and need it to sustain our health.  Our problem often is the quality and quantity of food we consume.  Eating can be a social activity, but overeating may have more to do with seeking comfort from stress.  Confronting and resolving emotion either in conversation or through writing can reduce our need for excessive amounts of comfort foods.  We also may associate eating with certain activities like watching TV and numb our emotions with food through entertainment.  Limit the food you have readily available in your home and find distracting activities when temptation arises.  Sometimes flossing and brushing my teeth immediately after dinner can be a deterrent to eating more later that night.

Lastly sleeping without worrying, planning, and/or dwelling on something can sometimes be a challenge.  Try keeping a journal and dumping your worries on paper.  Engaging in an activity that relaxes you and helps to shut down your brain can also prove helpful.  Create a positive and soothing routine that helps your body slow down before sleep.  Avoid stimulating activities including the computer, rigorous exercise, disturbing or action packed movies, and news programming shortly before sleep.  Be healthy and live longer!