Why Are Teens Inhaling Condoms and Cinnamon?

istock_000014270011xsmallTeens are great with coming up with pointless and sometimes dangerous fads that prove to us adults that their brains still aren’t fully developed.

Thanks to the internet, those fads spread like wild fire, putting more and more teens in danger.

Remember The Cinnamon Challenge? If you have no idea what I am talking about, it’s a “game” where you are supposed to put a spoon full of ground cinnamon in your mouth and attempt to swallow it without anything else to help wash it down.

The challenge is pretty much impossible.

There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating the challenge with the results usually ending with someone gagging, vomiting, coughing and/or choking.

Why this may sound stupid to us with fully developed brains, thousands of teens have taken this challenge with some ending up in the hospital.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 222 cases of abuse or misuse of cinnamon last year with the numbers steadily increasing.

Trying the cinnamon challenge can be damaging to the lungs with at least one teen being hospitalized with a collapsed lung when she attempted the challenge.

A newer, potentially even more dangerous fad is the The Condom Challenge. 

In The Condom Challenge teens open up a condom, snort it through their nostrils, and then attempt to pull it out of their mouths.

You can see the health hazards in this.

Condoms can easily get lodged in the windpipe, causing a person to have trouble breathing or not be able to get any oxygen at all. I haven’t heard of any deaths yet, but as this fad spreads, it’s most likely only a matter of time.

Teens do a lot of stupid things when they get bored and are around or influenced by other teens, including doing drugs,  drinking alcohol, and now apparently trying to swallow ground cinnamon and inhaling condoms.

Teens who have better things to do, like go to parks, participate in recreational activities, school sports and/or clubs are less likely to find themselves bored enough or interested enough to try the new fads.

Teens think that they are invincible and nothing will go wrong, but they do go wrong, often very quickly and un-expectantly.

It’s important that teens realize that they are their own person and they don’t have to follow other people in their real lives or in their online lives to be popular or cool.

As parents, caregivers and adults, we have to be aware of the fads our teens are facing and the hazards that go along with them.  What may sound stupid, idiotic and dangerous to us most likely sounds harmless, challenging and fun to them.

Teens will be teens and they will be reckless and risk takers. It’s all a part of their developmental stage. Still, our jobs are to educate them and keep them safe the best we can so they can live long enough to become adults and reflect back on how stupid they were when they were teens, just as most of us do.

Childhood Abuse Linked To Asthma And Obesity In African American Women

Screenshot_2013-03-22-01-52-10-1According to research done at the University School of Medicine and Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, Black women who have been physically and/or sexually abused during childhood and adolescence are more likely to become obese in adulthood as well as are more likely to later go on to develop asthma.

The study appeared in the journal Pediatrics and was based on a longitudinal Black Women’s Health Study which followed a large number of African American women since 1995.

What the study suggests is what many of us already know and that is that experiences during childhood may have long-term affects on our emotional and physical health.

“Abuse during childhood may adversely shape health behaviors and coping strategies, which could lead to greater weight gain in later life,”  says Renee Boynton-Jarrett, MD, who is the lead investigator in the study as well as a pediatric primary care physician at Boston Medical Center.

She goes on to say that metabolic and hormonal disruptions can result from abuse and that childhood abuse could cause other health problems like asthma. “Ultimately, greater understanding of pathways between early life abuse and adult weight status may inform obesity prevention and treatment approaches.” Boynton-Jarrett continued.

The same study found that physical and/or sexual abuse could more than double the chances of African American women developing asthma later in life. According to the study, African American women who suffered abuse in childhood had an increase of about 20 percent of developing asthma.

What’s also interesting is that the link between physical abuse and asthma seems to be stronger than the link between sexual abuse and asthma.

According to Patricia Coogan, the lead author in the study stated,  “The results suggests that chronic stress contributed to asthma onset , even years later.”
I had a professor in graduate school who always said, “Whatever you don’t deal with mentally, you will deal with physically” and this seems to be a prime example.

Stress in childhood experienced from abuse causes physiological consequences. Imagine the amount of stress one experiences living in an abusive situation. That type of stress can have an impact on the body, especially the immune and respiratory system and development.

There are unfortunately high incidents of childhood abuse as well as an increase in the prevalence of asthma with an increase from 7.3 to 8.2 percent, or approximately from 20.3 million to 25.6 million people from 2001 to 2009. The populations that saw the greatest increase in asthma were children from low-income families and African-American children.

I find this study to be very interesting because as a counselor, before I ever read this study, I recognized a link between obesity and sexual abuse in African American teenage girls.

I noticed that a large portion of the obese African American teenage girls I worked with, reported being sexually abused in childhood and early adolescence. I found this to be astounding and the more obese African American teens I worked with, the more it continued to be true.

It got to a point where I could look at an obese African American teen, the way they carry themselves and predict with about a ninety percent  certainty that they had been sexually abused before they ever felt comfortable enough to divulge that information.

I started thinking that maybe obesity and overeating became a unconscious defense  mechanism they used to become less attractive to not only the person who had sexually abused them, but possibly potential abusers in the future. And of course, overeating in itself could have been a coping mechanism used to help self-sooth themselves from the pain of sexual abuse.

I found it fascinating and yet sad, but this new research appears to back up some of what I had been suspecting although they seem to take it from more of a physiological than psychological approach.

What’s also interesting is that in her book Young, Poor and Pregnant, Judith Musick saw a link between sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy, meaning that some young girls who were being sexually abused, consciously or unconsciously sought out to get pregnant in hopes that their pregnancy and having a baby would make them less appealing to their abuser.

It’s obvious that physical and sexual abuse in childhood can have devastating affects on a child’s mental and emotional health well into adulthood, but new research is pointing to physical and sexual abuse also having long lasting physiological affects, making it that much more important that we not only fight to put a end of child abuse, but that we also provide help to those who have been abused.

Many adults I’ve spoken to who have been abused as children think of themselves as being resilient, and to a certain degree they are, but they don’t see the potential ongoing damage the abuse they experienced ten, twenty, or thirty years ago still has on their lives today. They don’t see that their relationship problems stem from lack of trusting or being able to relate well to men, that their depression comes from years of childhood neglect or that their overeating could be a result of past sexual abuse.

So much so that many of them don’t even initially mention being abused early on, although it is one of the first questions I ask. They go on for session after session, week after week, talking about issues that have roots in their childhood abuse, but they don’t recognize that and it’s only when they bring up the abuse and we address it, that they can truly start to heal.

Is Pretending to be Pregnant a Mental Illness?

In The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir, Gaby Rodriguez faked her own pregnancy as a social experiment, but teenage girls pretending to be pregnant is not a new phenomenon.

Over the past three years I’ve grown more and more concerned about teenage girls pretending to be pregnant, the reasons they do this and the mental and social rewards and consequences of it. I have to wonder if part of this is because of shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, but I also think that the alarming number of their peers who actually are pregnant or have kids has an effect on them. Why would a teenage girl want to put up with the scrutiny and criticism that comes along with being pregnant in high school? This is what I think:

1. Attention

  • Some of these young girls are starving for attention no matter if it’s positive or negative. Perhaps they see all the attention their peers or siblings got when they were pregnant and crave some of that same attention. I often see that their friends, while at times judgmental, often start bonding with the young girl in a nurturing way, something that she doesn’t get normally from them.

2. To Keep a Boy Interested

  • I think this may be the most common reason young girls pretend to be pregnant. I see it played out over and over again each year in the high school I work at. A relationship ends or is on the break of ending and all of a sudden the young girl blurts out she’s pregnant or thinks she’s pregnant. This usually sends the young man into a panic and even if he’s skeptical, he tends to at least try to stay on her good side until the pregnancy is confirmed or denied. Like a lot of young teens who pretend to be pregnant, these ladies may go through great lengths to convince their boyfriends (ex-boyfriend) that they are pregnant and often times in the process, continue to try to really get pregnant. These drastic attempts to keep a boy are seldom successful.

3. Biology

  • Evolutional psychology may say that it is normal for young teens to pretend to be pregnant since it’s in their biology to want to conceive children. During my research it appears that pretending to be pregnant is to some extend normal, but I think what is abnormal is the way that some young adults go about pretending to be pregnant. Perhaps pretending to be pregnant to yourself is normal, while pretending to be pregnant and in effect lying to your friends/boyfriend is more on the abnormal end of the scale. However, if it is to some extend normal to pretend to be pregnant, can it ever go so far that it can be classified as a mental illness. To what extent does a young girl have to go to inorder convince people she is pregnant, before she moves into the realm of psychopathology?

More recently, Annette Morales Rodriguez was arrested and suspected of stalking, beating and choking to death a pregnant woman and using an xacto knife to remove her unborn child because she had had four miscarriages and had been faking her pregnancy.

One source said that she panicked as her fake due date approached and she had to produce a baby. She was willing to kill in order to “have” a child.

Pretending to be Pregnant as a Mental Illness

I have a client I’ve known for three years and each year she “gets pregnant”. I was originally referred to her when she “gave birth” to a premature baby and was back at school the next day showing pictures of “this baby” in neo-intensive care. One of her teachers was concerned about her physical and mental health and referred her to me. When I met with her she told me that the baby had died and I spend several weeks helping her get through the grieving process and even helped her with a memorial ceremony. A few months later I found out that this was all a lie. She was never pregnant. The pictures of the baby in NIC-U had come from Google Images, and this wasn’t the first time she had pretended to be pregnant. The extend to which this young girl went through to convince people she was pregnant and had given birth to a premature baby that died concerned me. I thought surely she was mentally ill, but I let it go as the next year her problems turned to the more normal problems teenage girls come and see me about (boys, family, school, friends, drugs).

And then this year she said she was pregnant again. This time I believed her (call me gullible, but I tend to believe people until I have evidence not to) because from her pretending to be pregnant last year, I felt like she wanted to get pregnant, and from my experience, young girls that talk a lot about being pregnant, pretend to be pregnant, and are sexually active, they usually end up pregnant within twelve months. Well this young girl started to gain weight, starting looking pregnant (even wore too small clothing to enhance the effect) up to a certain extend when she suddenly stopped “growing”. She claimed to feel the baby moving and said she went to doctor appointments, but would never let her friends go with her. She told her boyfriend she was pregnant and all of her friends, but not her family. She even went as far as to have her friends plan a baby shower. I offered over and over to help her break the news to her mom, but she refused and then one day her best friend came to my office in tears, telling me that she thinks the young girl is “crazy” because she really isn’t pregnant and keeps pretending to be pregnant. Her best friend told me that all of her friends and even her boyfriend are concerned for her, but they haven’t confronted her out of fear that she really is mentally ill.

After an intense session with the young girl she admitted to me that she really wasn’t pregnant, but couldn’t tell me why she kept pretending to be pregnant and was still planning on letting her friends and boyfriend think she was pregnant. As of Friday she was still planning her baby shower. That lead me to truly believe that this girl has a mental illness, but if so, what?

Factitious Disorders

The first thing that came to my mind was that she had a factitious disorder. Factitious disorders occur when a person acts like they have an illness and purposely produces symptoms of that illness. They may go as far as contaminating urine samples, manipulating documents and taking substances to make themselves ill. The benefits they seek usually are attention, sympathy, nurturance and mercy. The old term for factitious disorder is Munchausen Syndrome, and many of you have probably heard of Munchausen by proxy, which is when the person uses someone else, usually a child or elderly person, to produce the sick symptoms of an illness unto, often times with alarming and deadly results. But does a young girl who continues to pretend to be pregnant and goes to great lengths to convince people she is pregnant suffering from a factitious disorder? Through all my research I couldn’t find a definite answer, but this as of right now is my number one guess.

Personality Disorders

Borderline Personality Disorder

I also have to wonder if this girl and others like her may have some type of personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder is very popular these days, but I have only known about three people I would diagnose with borderline personality disorder and only  one of them have pretended to be pregnant in a very similar manner to the young girl I’ve been talking about. I also don’t think this young girl qualifies to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but it is possible.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

People with histrionic personality disorder are always seeking attention and can be very inappropriately seductive, have exaggerated emotions and feel shallow. I’m not sure if this describes the young lady I’m talking about either.

Dependent Personality Disorder

People who have dependent personality disorder are dependent psychologically on other people. Pretending to be pregnant would increase the likelihood that the people this person is dependent on will be more nurturing and present, but from knowing this girl I highly doubt she has dependent personality disorder, but it may explain why some other young ladies pretend to be pregnant.

Psychopathy

Some people are just psychopaths as defined by:

  • lack of remorse or empathy
  • shallow emotions
  • manipulativeness
  • lying
  • egocentricity
  • glibness
  • low frustration tolerance
  • episodic relationships
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • persistent violation of social norms

Is it necessary that I diagnose this young lady and those like her? Probably not. I prefer not to diagnose clients unless I have to or it is a diagnoses that is literally screaming in my face. I don’t like labeling clients, but there are many reasons to give a diagnosis. Most insurance companies require a diagnosis and a diagnosis does help give a framework for developing a treatment plan. It is however, in my opinion, essential that I figure out what is driving this young girl and others like her to go through such great extents to pretend to be pregnant in hopes of helping them deal with whatever it is they are trying to get externally, and be able to give it to themselves so that they can develop into emotionally and mentally healthy adults.

If you have any opinions or if you’ve been through this or even pretended to be pregnant before, please comment. I would love to hear your story.