Monthly Archives: September 2013

5 questions to ask before having penis surgery

5 questions to ask before having penis surgery


The penis is a highly vascularized organ, which means there’s a lot of blood running through it, so cutting into it can be risky

If you’re a woman contemplating surgery on your female parts, you’ll find plenty of ladies chatting and blogging away about their experiences, often on websites adorned with pink ribbons.

But if you’re a man considering male surgery there’s not so much out there. There’s no ribbon for, say, penis surgery, and comparatively few men trading stories and sharing advice.

“Women are much more engaged with their health,” says Dr. Dennis Pessis, president-elect of the American Urological Association. “It’s gotten better in the past 15 years, but still, men don’t always seek out the best treatments for themselves.”

Penis surgery has been in the spotlight this week as a civil trial in Kentucky made national headlines. Phillip Seaton, a Kentucky truck driver, sued his urologist, Dr. John Patterson, saying he went in for a circumcision but left the surgery with part of his penis amputated. Patterson says Seaton had cancer and needed the amputation or he would have died. The doctor won the case on Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate WDRB.

Seaton’s experience is certainly rare, surgery on the penis isn’t. While good statistics are hard to find, tens of thousands of men in the United States get circumcised as adults. Other common surgeries include implants for men suffering erectile dysfunction and removal of genital warts. Here’s the Empowered Patient list of questions every man should ask before having these procedures on this most valued and delicate of organs.

1. Do I really need this procedure?

Think twice (or more) before having the surgery. It’s a highly vascularized organ, which is a fancy way of saying there is a lot of blood running in and out of it, so cutting into it can be risky. Men getting circumcised as adults should consider the risk of bleeding, especially if they’re on a blood thinner, including aspirin.

Getting implants requires cutting, too, and doctors urge men with erectile dysfunction to try other, less risky, treatments first, such as drugs like Viagra, penile injections, or a penis pump, an external device that fits over the organ.

You’ll also need to choose what kind of anesthesia you’ll want for your circumcision. You can opt for a local anesthetic and a sedative — you’ll be (or should be) relaxed but awake. Men who are especially anxious about the surgery often opt for general anesthesia, which is slightly more risky but ensures they’ll be totally out for the procedure.

As for genital warts, if a man is not experiencing problems such as itching, burning or pain, he may not need treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic.

2. What are my treatment options?

There is more than one type of penile implant and there is more than one way to remove genital warts. Doctors tend to specialize in one method over the other, so make sure your doctor lays out all the options and refers you to another doctor who can perform the procedure the way you prefer.

There are two types of implants. With inflatable implants, doctors put cylinders inside the penis, a pump in the scrotum, and a fluid reserve inside either the scrotum or the abdominal wall. Before sex, you pump the fluid into the cylinders to create an erection. After sex, you activate a release valve in the scrotum to let the fluid out.

The second type of implant involves putting semi-rigid rods into the penis, and it is bent away from the body to have sex (think of it as a goose-necked desk lamp that can be pointed in various directions). For more on various types of penile implants, see information from the Mayo Clinic and the American Urological Association.

For warts, you can treat them yourself or your doctor can treat them. If you choose the DIY approach, your doctor prescribes a medicine for you to apply at home. If you prefer to have your doctor treat the warts, there are several options: Your doctor can apply a medicine, which is sometimes a stronger version of what you can apply at home. There is also an option to cauterize or laser the warts, or to freeze them off with liquid nitrogen.

“You should give yourself some time to make the right decision,” says Dr. Gopal Badlani, a urologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “You don’t want to decide at the first appointment.”

For more information on the various options for removing genital warts, see information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

3. Doctor, how many of these procedures have you done?

Look for a urologist who regularly performs the procedure you need.

“Some urologists do nothing but treat kidney stones or urinary incontinence, and you don’t want that urologist doing your circumcision,” says Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine. “They need to know what they’re doing so they don’t remove too much or too little skin, or create a new problem like an angled penis.” While there’s no magic number, Goldstein says if you’re having a circumcision, find someone who does at least two or three a month. Plus, you should ask the doctor for names of his or her previous circumcision patients.

“It’s sort of like fixing your roof — you want to talk to a client who’s used that roofer,” he advises. “Ask about the doctor’s follow-up: Was he available, or did he just do the surgery and you didn’t hear from him again?”

For implants, also try to find a doctor who does at least two or three a month, Goldstein advises, not someone who just dabbles in the procedure.

“We did three implants Monday, just to give you a sense of how often some doctors do these,” Goldstein adds.

The removal of genital warts isn’t as complicated as circumcision or implant surgery, but still make sure it’s something your doctor does regularly.

4. Will the treatment really cure my problem?

Badlani says no matter how much he counsels his patients before implant surgery, most are disappointed the implants didn’t give them as large an erection as they had when they were 18.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, after the surgery the patient feels shortchanged. They say, ‘Doc, I expected it to be much longer,’ ” Badlani says. “Men need to have more realistic expectations.”

Men are also sometimes surprised that their genital warts come back after treatment. But the Mayo Clinic says genital warts “are likely to recur” because even after you remove them, you still carry the virus that causes warts, called the human papillomavirus (HPV).

5. Should I clean up before the surgery?

Cutting into the penis leaves you vulnerable to infection, so ask your doctor if you should be scrubbing at home before surgery day.

Goldstein tells his circumcision patients to clean with a special antiseptic once a day for three days before the surgery. He has his implant patients wash up morning and night for seven days before surgery, and take antibiotics for three days before.

“We’re inserting a foreign body into the penis. The chances for things to go wrong are magnified, so we want to take all precautions,” he says.

CNN’s Sabriya Rice contributed to this report.

Study: More Breast Cancer Deaths Occuring in Younger, Unscreened Women

Study: More Breast Cancer Deaths Occuring in Younger, Unscreened Women


The latest data questions the most recent recommendation for breast cancer screening by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which advised women to get mammograms every other year starting at age 50.

But the new study from Harvard University researchers found that half of 600 women they studied who died of breast cancer were under age 50. The women were diagnosed between 1990 and 1999 at two Boston hospitals and followed until 2007; 71% of those who died had never had a mammogram before their diagnosis.

That suggests that mammograms may be helping to save lives, particularly among younger women, whose denser breasts may make smaller lesions more difficult to detect — and therefore require more vigilant monitoring. While the USPSTF recommendations are followed by many doctors and physician organizations, the American Cancer Society continues to advise women to get annual mammogram screenings once they reach age 40.

The USPSTF’s recommendation was based on data suggesting that widespread mammogram screening was not providing sufficient benefits in preventing cancers and saving lives when compared to the risks associated with the screenings, which include false positive results that require additional, invasive procedures such as biopsies and treatments, and overdiagnosis.

Sexless Marriage: How To Deal With A Decrease In Sex

Sexless Marriage: How To Deal With A Decrease In Sex


Sex is one of those topics we’re all constantly thinking about, reading about, and even acting out… but not necessarily talking about. Sure, you’ll dish to your friends about the steamy sex session you had with your new man last night, but you won’t necessarily be so eager to share when your sex life goes from consistent to non-existent. And yet, several studies have been revealing for the last decade that a dry spell in the bedroom is actually common among couples. Is a lack of sex the one thing our conversations are lacking?

“It is very common for couples to go through sexual dry spells,” says Rabbi Ed Weinsberg, EdD. “It’s estimated that this process begins for most couples anywhere from two to ten years after they get married.”

Defining a sexual dry spell, though, can be as difficult as dealing with the problem itself. One of my favorite scenes from the 1977 film “Annie Hall” features Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) talking to a therapist about their sex life. When the therapist asks how often they have sex, Alvy answers, “Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.” Annie, however, answers this way: “Constantly. I’d say three times a week.”

“The disparity is normal,” says Rabbi Weinsberg, author of two books on sexuality after illnesses, including “Conquer Prostate Cancer: How Medicine, Faith, Love and Sex Can Renew Your Life.” “Going through a sexual dry spell is fairly subjective.” Just as we all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to sex, we all have a different take on how often we should be having sex as well. “There is no one ‘right’ amount of sex that a couple should be having,” says Jodi Lipper, co-author of “How to Love Like a Hot Chick”. “For some married couples, normal is having sex every day. For others, it might be having sex once a month.”

Wondering if you and your partner are going through a sexual dry spell? Start by asking if both of your needs are being met. If your answer is no, then you may be facing a sexual drought. “It’s not enough when one or both partners is unsatisfied, or feels that his or her needs aren’t being met,” says Lipper. Her advice to couples in a sexless relationship? Talk it out with an open mind to determine the cause of the problem before you take drastic steps. In other words, share your sexual needs and wants before you demand that you and your partner either get it on, or get divorced!

“Sometimes a decrease in sexual activity in a relationship represents a manifestation of other problems,” explains Dr. Alexis Conason, a clinical psychologist in New York City. “It is important to understand why the couple has stopped, or decreased, having sex before we can diagnose a sexless period as problematic or not.” In other words, talking about your lack of sex could turn up a simple cause for what seems like a major problem. Before you give up on your sex life, Dr. Conason suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have you stopped having sex because one partner is furious at the other?
  • Is one partner having an affair?
  • Are there medical issues that interfere with sexual functioning or desire?
  • Is one or both partners overwhelmed with childcare responsibilities?
  • Is one or both partners overwhelmed with career stress?
  • Was there ever a time when you were having more sex with your partner? Or has the relationship always been sexless?

Discussing these questions may seem like a daunting task, but it’s vital to the health of your relationship. “That hot and heavy sex that may have brought you together is not what is going to sustain the relationship,” explains Dr. Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Dana Point, Calif. “Now is the time to build intimacy on a deeper level, which requires awareness and a willingness to be curious about your partner in new ways that create spontaneous intimacy.” And spontaneous intimacy, my friends, is what leads to sexual intimacy… i.e. the opposite of a sexual dry spell!

The bottom line is that a lack of sex is an indicator of a greater problem. If you can’t remember the last time you had sex, make a list of all the obstacles holding you back from doing the deed –- like work stress, a lack of time, etc. –- and then work to find solutions to those obstacles, like trading massages with your partner to help relieve work stress, or planning a Saturday “staycation” in your bedroom to make time for an all-day shag. However, the most important step to finding your happy ending (pun intended) is to open up and talk to your partner about what’s really going on. You’ll hopefully go from “We need to talk” to “Less talk, more action!” in no time at all.

Blood Test May Detect Ovarian Cancer At Its Earliest Stages

Blood Test May Detect Ovarian Cancer At Its Earliest Stages


Ovarian cancer is treatable is detected early, but 70% of cases aren’t diagnosed until it’s too late. A promising blood test may change that.

Each year, about 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 14,000 will die from the disease. While 90% of those diagnosed early will be alive five years later, there is no reliable way of identifying abnormal growths in the ovaries, leading to later detection, when the cancer has spread to other tissues and survival rates typically drop to about 30%.

That’s why researchers are excited about the latest results, published online in the journal Cancer, from a blood test that could detect the first signs of ovarian cancer. For 11 years, scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston studied just over 4,000 post-menopausal women who were screened for changes in a blood protein called CA125, which serves a biomarker for tumors. While this protein has been used before to predict ovarian cancer, the results haven’t been reliable, since researchers frequently relied on just one test result. In the current study, the scientists repeated the test and compared the readings; the changing levels of CA125 told a more consistent story about the women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.

All women received an initial CA125 test, and based on their age and those results, they were split into three groups: low, intermediate and  high risk. Those considered low risk received another CA125 test a year later. The intermediate group had another CA125 test only three months after their first, and the high risk women received a transvaginal ultrasound and were referred to an oncologist.

Over the 11 years, the strategy was 40% accurate in predicting the presence of ovarian cancer, and in identifying cancer early. Even more promising was its 99.9% specificity, which means there was an extremely low risk of false-positive results.

Although very encouraging, however, the test is not quite ready for the clinic. The research team is waiting for the results of a similar study in the UK that in which more than 200,000 women are being screened using the same algorithm. “If the results of this study are also positive, then this will result in a change of practice,” study author Dr. Karen Lu said in a statement.

Understanding how changing CA125 levels reflect risk of cancer is an important breakthrough that could shift the diagnosis of ovarian cancer much earlier, to a stage when interventions with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or medications are more effective. “I was more excited reading this study than I have been in a really long time,” Debbie Saslow, director of breast and gynecologic cancers for the American Cancer Society said to HealthDay. “Not only was [the screening] finding cancers in both of those studies, but it was finding them early. That’s what we want to do.”

Breastfeeding: The Most Effective Way to Save a Baby’s Life

Breastfeeding: The Most Effective Way to Save a Baby’s Life


Gary Darmstadt, Jean Duffy, Ellen Piwoz

Nicholas Kristof is right. A free treatment, accessible to mothers from all walks of life, that can save millions of newborn lives every year does exist—breast milk.

In his Wednesday op-ed column in the New York Times, Kristof described the surprisingly low rates of exclusive breastfeeding by mothers in the developing world. Exclusive breastfeeding—feeding the child only breast milk, and no other food or liquids, not even water—for the first six months of life is the single most effective way to save a baby’s life. If 90 percent of the world’s mothers followed this practice, an estimated 1.3 million more children could survive every year.

Recent studies have suggested that just the early initiation of breastfeeding in the first hour of life can reduce neonatal mortality in the first month of life by about 20 percent. Despite having this lifesaving power at their fingertips, mothers are losing children to malnutrition, due in many cases to a misunderstanding about the nourishment a baby needs. Focusing on their own perceptions about hydration in hot climates, many mothers feel the need to give their children water, which unfortunately is often contaminated with life-threatening pathogens, rather than nutrient- and antibody-rich breast milk.

In fact, breast milk is 88 percent water, something many mothers are not aware of. Infants do not need other liquids during the first six months of life, even in intensely hot and dry climates. Many mothers discard their first milk, a thick yellow substance called colostrum, believing it is “dirty” and not good for the baby.

In fact, colostrum is sometimes termed a child’s “first immunization” due to its vitamin density and immunity-boosting qualities. Small knowledge gaps such as these remain significant barriers to mothers providing their children with sufficient nutrition during the first critical months of life.

Simple techniques, easily taught, can help new mothers overcome nearly every breastfeeding problem they encounter. Issues such as sore nipples or interpreting a baby’s cry as indicating there is too little milk deter mothers and derail their commitment to breastfeeding. Changing the positioning of the baby or adjusting the frequency of feeding offer uncomplicated solutions to these problems. However, health professionals and families commonly overlook these challenges, mistakenly assuming that since all women breastfeed, it is not something that requires support.

To address these misconceptions, it is crucial to approach the problem from the ground up. In order to effectively encourage a family to breastfeed optimally, it is necessary to understand the logic behind their decisions and their aspirations for their children.

In countries as diverse as Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia, we are supporting a program called Alive & Thrive, which is attempting to appeal to these desires. Alive & Thrive has launched locally tailored campaigns to promote the power of breastfeeding in a way that appeals to local beliefs and circumstances. Radio, video, and television spots link breastfeeding with growth, strength, and the future well-being of families and communities based on the aspirations they hold for their children and their traditional health paradigms.

These media campaigns run in conjunction with other interventions to empower front-line health workers to provide breastfeeding support in the village and at the health clinic, educating mothers on the advantages of breastfeeding and proper techniques. By working in this way, the program reaches out to those who know traditions, know the families, and can bring the message to the community in a relatable way.

In Bihar, India, we are exploring a multichannel approach to promote early and exclusive breastfeeding. With a focus on reaching communities where low rates of exclusive breastfeeding prevail, we are using mass media campaigns (print and radio), cell phones, and community listening groups, while also providing health workers on the front lines with the tools and training necessary to effectively deliver the right messages to mothers and families.

Our work looks at all key decision-makers (mothers, fathers, mothers-in-law, health workers, policy-makers, and others) and attempts to show them small, achievable changes that are within reach and could save their children from disease and death.

Breastfeeding rates will not increase unless we acknowledge the importance of local customs and beliefs. Only by starting there can we address common misconceptions on health and nutrition, and find approaches that will last. In the end, it’s a challenge that needs to be addressed.

To teach a mother the how and why of breastfeeding is to give her the tools to save her child’s lifethe ultimate in empowerment.

Blaming others can ruin your health

Blaming others can ruin your health


By Elizabeth Cohen

During his sophomore year in college, he says, white students harassed him and the only other African-American living on the floor in his dorm in order to get them to move out.

The white students spat on their doors, tore their posters off the wall, and banged on their door at four in the morning. When Benton brought up the problems at a dorm meeting, the other students snickered.

“I felt like I was being bullied, being targeted,” he says now of his college experience 19 years ago. “I knew I couldn’t retaliate in any way or I’d lose my basketball scholarship.”

This was the first time in his life Benton had encountered racism and it hit him hard. He had trouble sleeping, and then over the next several months he suffered panic attacks. Admitted to the hospital, he was found to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or thickening of the muscles in the heart. The disease is the leading cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30.

So sick he couldn’t walk, Benton lay in his hospital bed bitter and resentful.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never hurt anybody. I serve in the community. I work with youth. I wrestled with God — why did this happen to me?'” he remembers.

Just then, a janitor walked by and grabbed Benton’s hand, and prayed aloud to God to heal him. “As soon as she said, ‘Amen,’ I felt like someone had poured cold water on my head and made my heart shrink,” he says.

Benton forgave the students who had tormented them, and three days later, he walked out of the hospital. “If I hadn’t forgiven them, I’d be dead,” says Benton, now healthy and a social worker for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.

Feeling persistently resentful toward other people — the boss who fired you, the spouse who cheated on you — can indeed affect your physical health, according to a new book, “Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives.”

In fact, the negative power of feeling bitter is so strong that the authors call for the creation of a new diagnosis called PTED, or post-traumatic embitterment disorder, to describe people who can’t forgive others’ transgressions against them.

“Bitterness is a nasty solvent that erodes every good thing,” says Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine and CNNHealth’s Mental Health expert doctor.

What bitterness does to your body

Feeling bitter interferes with the body’s hormonal and immune systems, according to Carsten Wrosch, an associate professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal and an author of a chapter in the new book. Studies have shown that bitter, angry people have higher blood pressure and heart rate and are more likely to die of heart disease and other illnesses.

Physiologically, when we feel negatively towards someone, our bodies instinctively prepare to fight that person, which leads to changes such as an increase in blood pressure. “We run hot as our inflammatory system responds to dangers and threats,” says Raison, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory.

Feeling this way in the short term might not be dangerous — it might even be helpful to fight off an enemy — but the problem with bitterness is that it goes on and on. When our bodies are constantly primed to fight someone, the increase in blood pressure and in chemicals such as C-reactive protein eventually take a toll on the heart and other parts of the body.

“The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous,” Raison says. “The data is just as established as smoking, and the size of the effect is the same.”

How to get rid of bitterness

It’s impossible to avoid all events that could turn you bitter. At some point, all of us will be the victim of a crazy boss, a cheating spouse, a spiteful co-worker, or someone else who does us wrong. Some will be even more unlucky, and suffer physical or sexual abuse.

“There are situations where you’d have to be the Dalai Lama not to feel bitterness,” says Raison, who writes regularly for on the mind-body connection for health.

The key is how we react to these situations in the long term.

Here are five tips for how to let go of bitterness as quickly as possible for the sake of your own health.

1. Gripe for a while

“Give yourself time to vent and get it out of your system,” suggests Dr. Maryann Troiani, co-author of the book Spontaneous Optimism.

2. Watch the news

Frederic Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, tells his embittered patients to think about how many others have had bad things happen to them.

“I ask people to watch the news for a day, or read the paper, or go to work and talk to people, and they’ll see that others have suffered and this is just a part of life,” says Luskin, author of the book “Forgive for Good.”

3. Consider confronting the person who’s hurt you

Troiani says some of her patients have found solace in doing this. Other times, however, it can backfire.

“Some ex-spouses are real psychopaths, and hunting them down can be disastrous,” she says. “They’ll just connive and twist things around and blame you.”

If that’s your situation, try writing a letter to the person and reading it to a trusted friend, she suggests.

4. Realize you’re only harming yourself

Keep reminding yourself of the all the physical harm you’re doing yourself by remaining bitter.

“I tell my patients, take care of this bitterness now, or in five years it will haunt you in the form of chronic headaches, fatigue, arthritis, and backaches,” Troiani says.

5. Consider the other person’s mental state

Author Maya Angelou has every reason to feel bitter. Raped as a child, then overwhelmed with guilt when her rapist, an uncle, was murdered by another family member, she was mute for several years. Still, she says she never felt bitterness toward her attacker.

“Although he was a child molester and abused me, I never hated him, and I’m glad of that,” she says. “What I realized is that people do what they know to do — not what you think they should know.”

As an adult, she’s continued that mind-set.

“If someone hurts my feelings or hurts me in any way, I think, ‘This dummy, that’s all he knew,’ and I’m not going to carry this bitterness around with me. I will not give it a perch. I will not give it a place to live in me because I know that’s dangerous.”

Don’t be a doormat

Taking these steps and losing your bitterness does not mean you should be a doormat, Raison says.

For example, consider the classic case of the wife whose husband leaves her for a much younger woman. Instead of feeling angry, she can think about moving on with her life and finding someone new.

“What happens is that the husband who’s been doing the 20-year-old comes crawling back because now his wife looks really good, and the wife can say, ‘You’re a day late and a dollar short,'” he says.

CNN’s Sabriya Rice contributed to this report.

Honey, Your Success is Shrinking Me

Honey, Your Success is Shrinking Me


Women like it when their husbands are successful. Men, maybe not so much, says a new study.Read more:


A new study suggests that men don’t enjoy their wives’ or girlfriends’ victories.

Men’s self-esteem can take a beating if their wives do well, while women’s egos aren’t as affected by their partners’ victories. Even when the woman is successful at something her man is not really engaged in — say, hosting a party — husbands feel personally threatened, according to a  new study from the American Psychiatric Association, which also found that a woman’s success “could alter men’s perception about their romantic relationship in the future.”

The research, published in August in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology sounds at first like it would fit more neatly in The Annals of Duh, (newsflash: Men Don’t Like to Lose), but the details prove to be more counterintuitive. For example, the five different experiments in the study examined not just heterosexual couples in the U.S. but also those in the Netherlands (which often serves as a model of gender equity), and revealed little difference in the way men felt about their partners’ success. Dutch men may see more successful women around them and have more females on their corporate boards and in their government, but they still feel a bit smaller when their wives or significant others do well.

And interestingly, the men subconsciously felt worse about themselves whenever their romantic partners scored a win, no matter if  they were competing in that area or not. That is, a man doesn’t  just feel worse about himself when he’s shooting for the same goal, he feels worse whenever his woman succeeds. And this is a woman he likes.

“It makes sense that a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they’re doing together, such as trying to lose weight,” said the study’s lead author, Kate Ratliff, PhD, of the University of Florida. “But this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure, even when they’re not in direct competition.”

One of the ways the researchers tested this theory included giving couples what they called a “test of problem solving and social intelligence.” They told participants that their partners had either scored in the top or bottom 12% of all people who took the test. This news did not affect the way the participants said they felt. However, in a subsequent test of “implicit self esteem,” which measured how they actually felt,  a different story emerged.

Men who believed their partner aced the test exhibited significantly lower subconscious self-esteem than men who believed their partner had flunked. This was true even though the men had no idea how they had done in the test.

(Incidentally, the test for subconscious self esteem, which can be found here, measures what words people associate with the word “me.” If they associate it more with positive words, such as “good” or “great,” their subconscious self esteem is deemed high; if they associate “me” more quickly with pejorative words, it’s low. If you’re curious about how you are affected by your mate’s victories, you might like to try it after you’ve celebrated one with them.)

After repeating the experiments in the Netherlands and getting the same results, the researchers did two more tests, this time online, among people who were not Dutch or college students.  More than 650 U.S. participants, 284 of whom were men, were asked to think about a time when their partner had succeeded or failed. It was scientific deja vu: the men felt bad when their wives beat them at something, but they also subconsciously lost confidence when their wives got any wins. Women’s self esteem was not affected either

Why this difference between men and women? The researchers offered several theories: men are more competitive than women generally — which makes sense, except that in many of these areas, they weren’t actually competing. So men may just be really competitive. Another is that men may feel they have to be more successful to hold on to their partners — and women may be guilty of feeding into this, at least partially, according to the researchers:  “Women do indeed feel more satisfied with their relationship when they think about a partner’s success compared to when they think about a partner’s failure.” Or, it may be that cultural pressures still run deep, and they’re subconsciously conforming to old-school partnership models of the male provider and devoted dependent woman he has rescued/ is supporting.

Another explanation could have to do with the fact that women tend to be more communal, so they look for reasons to connect with other people, while men look for differences. “One possibility to test in future research is that men are more likely than women to focus on dissimilarity and women are more likely than men to focus on similarity,” says the study.  “This would be consistent with previous findings that women are more concerned with communal behavior and with smoothing social interactions than men are.”

Regardless of what is driving their low-self-esteem, men’s bruised egos can have lasting effects on relationships. Subconscious feelings of low self-worth affect behavior, and may make the men feel less optimistic about the relationship. (Previous studies have shown that men whose wives earn more than they do are more likely to cheat, for example.) On the other hand, the authors also say that while men subconsciously felt smaller by their partners’ success, they usually have the cognitive wherewithal to get over it. That’s why they don’t report feeling any worse when their partners do well.

Plus, having a wife who is successful has its advantages. As economists have noted,  the people who have benefited most from the increasing earning power of women are the men who married them.

This Is Your Brain on Facebook

This Is Your Brain on Facebook


That little zing you get when someone “likes” your picture or sings your praises on Facebook? That’s the reward center in your brain getting a boost.

And that response can predict how much time and energy you put into the social media site, according to new research.

In one of the first studies to explore the effects of social media on the brain, scientists led by Dar Meshi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universität in Berlin, imaged the brains of 31 Facebook users while they viewed pictures of either themselves or others that were accompanied by positive captions. The research was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

“We found that we could predict the intensity of people’s Facebook use outside the scanner by looking at their brain’s response to positive social feedback inside the scanner,” says Meshi. Specifically, a region called the nucleus accumbens, which processes rewarding feelings about food, sex, money and social acceptance became more active in response to praise for oneself compared to praise of others. And that activation was associated with more time on the social media site.


Social affirmation tends to be one of life’s great joys, whether it occurs online or off, so it’s not surprising that it would light up this area. Few people are immune to the lures of flattery, after all. But do these results suggest that the “likes” on Facebook can become addictive? While all addictive experiences activate the region, such activation alone isn’t sufficient to establish an addiction.

It does, however, raise the interesting possibility that these affirmations might be the first step toward an addiction for some people, since Facebook use also shares another property common to addictive behaviors. On the social media site, the pleasure deriving from attention, kind words, likes, and LOLs from others occurs only sporadically. Such a pattern for rewards is far more addictive than receiving a prize every time, in part because the brain likes to predict rewards, and if it can’t find a pattern, it will fuel a behavior until it finds one. So if the rewards are random, the quest may continue compulsively. “Our research is a nice first step in making the neurobiological link between social media addiction and reward activity in the brain,” says Meshi.


Facebook may draw people in by making them feel connected— but it keeps them coming back because so many of us take pleasure in knowing that we’re liked.