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Nina Laltrello's blog

Ashley Madison – Does Your Marriage Need a “CDC”?

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.”

- Robert Gary Lee

The Ashley Madison data breach has caused quite the stir in our offices.  For marriages impacted by sex addiction and compulsivity, it’s a trigger which sparks pain and trauma to those already in treatment with us.  For others it is an initial awakening to the world of relationships impacted by the Internet. 

Ashley Madison is a website created by Canadian Internet Entrepreneur, and now former CEO, Noel Biderman.  The sole purpose was to create a “dating site” for married individuals to find partners to have extramarital sex or affairs.  The company’s by-line is “Life’s Short, Have an Affair”. 

We Are Awesome Parents

"Nothing is worse than active ignorance."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you seen the recent commercial of the family who just got the new iPhone 6s for their teenage daughter? The commercial is advertising new usage plans aimed at families who consume high volumes of data use. The family highlighted in the commercial is driving down the road with dad at the wheel, mom as passenger, and the daughter in the back seat, completely engaged in all the functions her newly acquired multi media device has to offer.  The daughter is talking to her friend when the dad asks, “Is that an extra expense”?  The mom assures dad “it’s in the plan”.  Dad proclaims, “We are awesome parents”.

Next the daughter is taking a selfie capturing the momentous moment and texting it to her friend.  Dad worriedly asks mom “Is that included in the package or an extra expense?”  Mom confidently confirms, “It’s covered”.  Dad replies, “We are awesome parents”. 

Lastly, the adolescent daughter is seen wearing headphones and rhythmically bobbing and swaying with exuberance to which her father sternly quips, “What is going on back there?”  She replies in a loud voice, “I am streaming my music, this is so awesome!”  Dad begins to question mom when she interrupts with quiet assurance “its in the plan”.  And dad repeats one final time “We, are awesome parents”. 

Adolescent Internet Addiction Disorder – Recent Medical Findings

This past week the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting took place. A literature review of 13 published articles was presented.  These articles showed people with Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), especially those addicted to internet gaming, show certain brain abnormalities. 

Studies found an increased blood flow is actually seen in the areas of the brain involved in pleasure and reward centers.  These findings support a 4-year study involving more than 80 experts in neurology and addiction medicine that was released by the American Society for Addictive Medicine (ASAM) in August 2012.  The ASAM study defined addictions as a chronic neurological disorder involving many brain functions most notably an imbalance in the so-called “reward circuitry.” 

Sree Jadapalle, MD, a 2nd year psychiatry resident of Morehouse Medical School, presented the summary of literature review findings at an APA press conference in New York. She reported the prevalence of Internet Addiction Disorder is present in about 26.3 percent of adolescents!  Her report further concurred with my own clinical observations in treating adolescents on two continents for the past 20 years.  While parents would bring me their children when they discovered illicit drug use, often, I was way more concerned for what was going on with technological devices in the child’s bedroom with texting, sexting, social media, webcams, and video gaming on the internet.  Her findings conclude Internet Addiction Disorder statistics are higher than illicit drug use.

These behaviors disturb the dopamine delivery systems.  Basically, when involved in these behaviors, dopamine is delivered at rapid expense rates and the brain gets depleted that allow one to mood regulate appropriately.  It would be like using all your water at the beginning of a hike in the desert without the ability to replenish supply appropriately. 


IAD is not currently an established mental disorder but a variety of screening tools can, and should, be used for screening among adolescents with mental health problems given the increasing prevalence of suicidal behavior in this age group.  Depending upon the degree and length of exposure to internet addiction, an adolescent child may demonstrate an indifference to consequences which can include psychological, social, and work difficulties.

The presented research shows a significant correlation between IAD and mental health problems, including depression, suicidal behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as well as alcohol and illicit drug use disorders, said Dr. Jadapalle. Some studies show that IAD may increase suicide attempts in the presence of depression.

The therapists at Relationship Recovery Center have specific training in process and chemical addictions (ie. Internet, Sex, Shopping, Gambling, and Gaming).  If you are seeing problematic signs or symptoms in your family members, we are here to help with cutting edge assessment and treatment.

The Importance of Family Traditions

By Nina M. Laltrello, MFT, CCAADC, CSAT-S, CMAT


Family traditions are an important element to family continuity and togetherness.  All families have important rituals and traditions whether they know if or not.  Family traditions say a lot about a family and what creates special meaning to its members.  The holidays that a family chooses to celebrate with flourish, says what is important to a family. 

·        Traditions give meaning to a family and define what is important in a family.

·        Traditions and rituals define who is in a family by their attendance at the celebration.

·        Family celebrations contain elements of what is important to a family by including special foods.

·        Family rituals or celebrations allow a family to make sense or meaning of change in family structure like in the case of weddings or funerals.

·        Religious holidays like Christmas and Passover transmit important symbols and images but link our family to the outside world with friends, community, and the world.

·        Family rituals voice beliefs and make meaning.

·        Rituals tap into a family’s creativity and appeal to people of all ages.  They create a way for families to bond across the generations.

·        Rituals allow families a way to pass history, meaning, and culture to the next generation. 



So when you sit down to that family holiday meal, think about what you have gotten from the generations that have preceded you.  On this holiday, think about which traditions are important to your family and why.



Source: The Intentional Family:  Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties.  Dougherty, William J. (1999)