Author Archives: Alyssa Kaplan

All About Addiction

If you have been on your phone or computer during the last week, there is no way that you are not aware of what is going on with Lamar Odom, the talented ex basketball player, and soon to be ex husband of Khloe Kardashian. For those of you who have not read the recent articlesabout what happened to Lamar, here is a quick overview: He was found last week in a brothel in Nevada unconscious. When he was taken to the hospital, it was discovered that he had been using cocaine, herbal viagra pills and large amounts of alcohol. He suffered from strokes, heart failure, and four of his major organs were failing. He was in a coma for just under a week, and is now making slow progress but it looks like he might need a kidney transplant along with several types of therapies.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a free throw while taking on the New Orleans Hornets in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Lamar Odom

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 20: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a free throw while taking on the New Orleans Hornets

If you want to read more about what happened to him, click this link.

The reason that I bring up Lamar Odom, is because it is clear that he battles with addiction. This is not the first event that have lead people to believe that he struggles with a drug addiction. On the outside, he has it all, or had it all for that matter. He was a multimillionaire, playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers, married to Khloe Kardashian, and the father of two. His life seemed utterly perfect, but it sure didn’t start out that way. He was raised in a rough neighborhood in Queens, New York. His mother died of colon cancer when he was twelve years old, his father was heroin addict who has been and out of his life, and his six month old son died from SIDS. The tragedy and struggles that he has faced make it easy to understand why he has battles of his own.

The recent happenings with Lamar Odom made me want to look further into how someones background and experiences contribute to their choices and vulnerability to addiction. According to this article, there are several factors that make someone more vulnerable to addiction. Young men and white people, children of drug abusers, people suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, people with very high IQ’s and sensitive people. (Lamar Odom is the child of a drug abuser and has struggled with depression).

And interesting

was done of ten middle and high schools close to ground zero in New York City. This study found that kids who experienced traumatic factors surrounding the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol. The factors being looked at included; knowing someone who was killed on 9/11, fearing for ones own life or the life of a loved one, and how close their school was to the Twin Towers. Teens who had one of these factors were five times more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol than teens who were not exposed to any of these factors. The study also found that the teens who experienced all three of these factors were nineteen times more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. This study fully supports the theory that people who are exposed to trauma as children have an increased risk of abusing drugs as adults. The information beneath the study in the article also claims that a combination of different types of stress caused by exposure to trauma plays the largest role in making someone vulnerable to substance abuse.

One may argue that what makes someone vulnerable to addiction is biological factors, not environmental ones. The age old nature versus nurture debate. According to this article from Rutgers University, it may be a a combination of biological and environmental factors that contribute to whether or not we are likely to suffer with addiction. Jay Tischfield, the director of Rutgers’ Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey says “What we’re learning is that there are susceptibilities to addiction that we inherit but that require an environmental trigger. What’s really new is the idea that the environment can, if you are from a genetically susceptible background, affect you to the extent that it changes your genetic make-up.”

And so we have it. It seems pretty convincing that what we experience as children plays a role in what we struggle with as adults. Traumatic experiences can actually make changes in our brains that make us susceptible to drug addiction. With all of the trauma that Lamar Odom has experienced in his life, it comes as no surprise that he is battling with addiction. It is a complete miracle that he is recovering physically, but he has a long way to go when it comes to battling this addiction mentally.


“Lamar Odom Found Unconscious in Nevada.” 13 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Bushak, Lecia. “The Types Of People More Prone To Drug Addiction.”Medical Daily. N.p., 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
DelVecchio, Steve. “Lamar Odom Battling Depression after Jamie Sangouthai, Bobby Heyward Deaths.” Larry Brown Sports. N.p., 2 July 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Szalavitz, Maia. “How Childhood Trauma Creates Life-long Adult Addicts | The Fix.” The Fix. N.p., 25 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.


All About Anxiety

If you’re anything like me, anxiety is something that you struggle with in various situations. It can be something as simple as needing to be on time somewhere or transition to college that can trigger an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Being that it’s something I struggle with, and know many people who affected by it, I decided to take a deeper look into what exactly anxiety is, what causes it, and how to treat it.

For people who have not experienced anxiety, here is what it’s all about. Anxiety comes in different forms. For me, I often overthink situations, feel extremely emotional about something, or can’t stop thinking about something until it has been settled completely. It is often accompanied by a feeling of sadness that comes from the stress I experience during a time that I am feeling anxious. Now it probably doesn’t sound horrible from my description, but for those who experience it, it can be overwhelming and deeply challenging. Here is a great website that explains all of the different types of anxiety in more depth.

If you are not sure if anxiety is something that you struggle with, or if it’s something else that is bothering you, check out this website.

The root of anxiety is somewhat controversial. Some medical professionals believe that anxiety comes from a combination of genetics and our environment, while others believe that the makeup of our brains play a crucial role in whether we experience anxiety or not. It seems that our nervous systems and biological makeup have a large say in whether we have anxiety. According to this study which followed a group of people from when they were babies until they were adults, babies who had a tendency to cry often were ten times more likely to suffer from anxiety as adults. These babies who experienced anxiety as adults also had significant differences in the structure of their brains, such as a thicker prefrontal cortex, which controls emotional memories and fear.

Another study also mentioned in the link above followed nine hundred patients who were looking for medical care in Atlanta. The study found that people with a history of child abuse put them at a much higher risk of developing PTSD. The study also found that people with a combination of genes linked to stress and a history of child abuse made people much more likely to experience PTSD.

Another important point to bring up in the level of serotonin in ones brain and its relation to anxiety. It has been said that low levels of serotonin is linked to anxiety and depression. It is possible however this is due to reverse causation. It could be that experiencing anxiety leads to low levels of serotonin.

Treating anxiety is not simple. There is no medication that simply takes it away. It is important to understand that anxiety often comes from emotional places in someones brain. Psychotherapy is the most common way to deal with anxiety. It is important to note that psychotherapy helps someone learn how to cope with their anxiety and find tools to manage it, not get rid of it. Through this kind of therapy, people are able to discuss how they are feeling and learn about the roots of these feelings and how to get through them. There are also medications that are used to help treat anxiety, however they do not usually take away anxiety completely. Antidepressants, Buspirone, and Benzodiazepines are the most common medications used to treat anxiety. These medications often work best in combination with psychotherapy.

It is important to know that anxiety is something that millions of people struggle with. While almost everyone experiences it a little bit throughout their lives, many people struggle with it at more severe levels. It is not something to be ashamed of, rather something to work on and understand. While anxiety has horrible effects such as feeling stressed and sad, it can also force people to be prepared and get tasks done more timely. Anxiety is not something to get rid of completely, but something we must learn to manage.


“Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

MacMillan, Amanda. “12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder.” N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

Suszynski, Marie. “Getting to the Roots of Anxiety.” N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.
“Understanding Psychotherapy and How It Works.” American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

Is Social Media Damaging your Mental Health?

With the rise of social media, people are creating online personas that are vastly different than their real lives. Unfortunately, with the various social media outlets, we are constantly bombarded by the whereabouts of our peers, but what we see is filtered. I often find myself looking at the posts of my friends or acquaintances and comparing myself to them and what they are doing, but I’ve come to realize that what we see online, and what that persons life is actually like are two completely different things. I have watched the Snap Chat stories and liked the Instagram pictures of my high school friends partying and appearing to have the time of their lives, but when I talk to them, many have revealed that they are struggling to adjust to college and feel completely alone.

All of this made me want to research how exactly social media affects mental health and self esteem. A study conducted by Ottawa Public Health analyzed 750 teenagers on their social media habits and mental health. It turns out that 25% of the teenagers they analyzed reported using social media for at least two hours a day, and that same 25% also reported having symptoms of anxiety and depression, and having suicidal thoughts. While it can’t be proven that this is not due to reverse causality, either way, there is a connection between social media and mental health. It is possible that teens with mental health issues are turning to social media to fill voids they experience in person, but it is also possible that teens who spend too much time looking at the profiles of others online and comparing themselves to them is causing them to feel anxious and depressed.

Unfortunately, there are not many studies on this issue, as it is something that has developed over the past few years. New apps and social media platforms have recently emerged and the social media addiction is something that is increasing, so hopefully more studies will be done. While the lack of studies means that we cannot come to a definite answer, we can think logically about this issue and come to some possible conclusions for ourselves.

When we go online and see what everyone else is doing at any given moment, we are often overcome with the fear of missing out. We fear that we are missing something great, missing something that others will talk about, and missing a connection with other people. This often causes anxiety and feelings of depression, as we feel less worthy or like what we are doing at that given moment isn’t good enough. Personally, I look online and see thousands of posts about what people are doing. All of the posts are happy and funny, and in my sad moments, looking online makes it all worse. When I am feeling sad, anxious, or missing home, I often feel alone because it seems like everyone else is doing great, at least from their online profiles that is. The truth is, people are only posting their good moments, and creating an unrealistic persona.

Here is an example which shows that no matter how amazing and happy someones online profiles portray them to be, their reality might be drastically different.


Gregoire, Caaroline. “Heavy Social Media Use Linked With Mental Health Issues In Teens.” N.p., 28 July 2015. Web.

Callahan, Maureen. “Our Double Lives: Dark Realities behind ‘perfect’ Online Profiles.” N.p., 11 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.


Makeup and its Affect on Self Esteem

For those of us that wear makeup consistently, it can often be difficult to go without it. Many of us started to wear makeup in middle or high school and it has become a part of our daily routines. We get up in the morning, put on clothes and do our makeup. Often times, we don’t even realize how much it affects us until we are in a position to be without it. Imagine it’s Sunday morning, and you’re going to Findlay Commons for breakfast. You aren’t wearing any makeup. You feel different, don’t you? Maybe you make less eye contact when interacting with people? Chances are, you feel less confident because you aren’t wearing any makeup.

I decided to some research on this topic. Throughout my research, a common theme I kept finding was the societal expectations influence girls and women into feeling like they have to wear makeup. There are pressures to look certain ways in various situations, and women often vary their beauty routine to match the situations they will be in during each specific day.I also found that many women associate their physical appearance with their over all confidence and self esteem. When wearing makeup, women are able to cover up imperfections and highlight certain points in their face, which makes them feel more confident.

In this study, four caucasian, college age women were asked to change up their makeup when going to class and going out with friends. At the beginning of the experiment, the women were told to wear the makeup they would normally wear both to school and when going out with friends. Then, they had to swap the makeup looks. They had to wear the makeup they would wear to go out to a party to class, and the makeup they would wear to class to a party. The participants had to fill out a “before” survey, and an “after” survey in order to document their feelings. The women used their own makeup products and journaled how they felt when wearing the products during certain situations. The participants were also being measured on their anxiety levels during the situations, so they had to fill out Spielberger’s state-trait anxiety survey to record their anxiety. Through journaling, the women had to express exactly which products she used in each situation and how she felt about using them.

The results to this experiment were quite interesting. It turns out that the women felt more anxious when wearing “class” makeup period. They felt more confident when they wore going out makeup both to class and to a party. The author of the article seems to think that reason that the women felt the most confident when wearing going out makeup to a party is because they were distracted and not thinking about their appearance. It is also said that the women felt second most confident when wearing going out makeup to class because they had time to plan their makeup, yet they also had the time to sit in class and think about their appearance. It is also important to note that the participants were hyper focused on their appearance during this experiment, which could have thrown off the natural anxiety levels a bit.

I also found this interesting video which shows a girl who went from wearing makeup every day to not wearing it at all. At first, she was extremely self conscious, but eventually she found confidence in a bare face.

While I was unable to find research with a definitive answer about how exactly makeup affects confidence, it is easy to conclude that people who routinely wear it are often less confident without it. I can only conclude that this topic is all relative.


This image shows what a woman looks like before putting on makeup and after putting on makeup. It is probably easy to understand from this image why some women are more confident after covering imperfections.



Scott, Sarah. “Influence of Cosmetics on Confidence.” Running Head: COSMETICS, SELF-ESTEEM, AND COLLEGE WOMEN (n.d.): n. Web.


More attractive in red?

Someone recently told me that they read an article which claimed that men and women find the opposite sex more attractive when they wear the color red. I found this statement to be quite interesting. How can the color you’re wearing make you more or less attractive? It just didn’t seem logical.

Apparently, whoever heard this was onto something. According to these studies done in the United States, China, England, and Germany, there is some truth behind this bold claim. Through a series of seven experiments done in these countries, some information has been gathered that provides support for this argument. Women looked at photos of men to evaluate their status, attractiveness and sexual desirability. The photos they looked at were manipulated so that the same man in all of the photos was wearing different colored shirts. In some of the experiments, the photos were presented in black and white, however the frames of the photos were in color. The results were clear. Women in all four countries found that men were more attractive when they were wearing red shirts, and when they were in the black and white picture with the red frame.

There seems to be some science behind these findings. In our society, we associate red with beauty, status and power. It has also been proven that primate alpha males who display more redness on their bodies typically have more mates than ones who don’t.

A study done by the same group as the previous one has shown that the effect is similar with women. The study found that men also find women who wear red to be more attractive and desirable. In this study, ninety six men from the United States and Austria were shown pictures of women with different colored borders surrounding the pictures. The men were asked how receptive the women in the pictures would be to sexual advances. They were also asked this: “Imagine that you are going on a date with this person and have $100 in your wallet. How much money would you be willing to spend on your date?” The women in red scored highly for both of these questions.

It seems that there is a link between the color red and sexual advances and desire. As humans, we have many similarities to other mammals. As I stated before, female mammals are more inclined to mate with males who display more redness in their bodies. It is not surprising that humans are also more attracted to people associate with the color red.

While there is no direct proof that people are more attracted to people wearing red, as we cannot calculate attractiveness in units, there is strong evidence that the statement is true. We can eliminate reverse causality, because it would not make sense that people wear red because they are more attractive. This leads me to believe that there is value in the experiments that have been done to prove this statement, and that the studies have done well.


Time to put down your hair styling tools?

There are thousands of hair styling tools on the market that make it easy for us to change up our hair and make it look a bit more presentable. If you’re anything like me, you probably use hot tools too much. It has been said that heat styling tools damage hair, but what exactly does that mean?

Heat styling tools are so hot that they cause much damage to the hair. When using extreme heat on the hair in order to style it, the chemical bonds of the hair must be temporarily broken in order for the hair to maintain the achieved shape. If the bonds are permanently broken, the hair will be burnt and look fried. According to this article, the extent to which ones hair is damaged depends greatly on their genes and ethnicity. A group of engineers from Purdue University have classified hair into eight different types ranging from straight to curly, and from Caucasian to African American. A hair straightener was used to flat iron each type of hair on the same temperature and see how much heat each hair type produced.  The study found that wavy Caucasian hair produces more heat than curly African American hair, which means that Caucasian hair spreads heat better, making it less likely to burn.

Unfortunately, African American women and men with curly hair are extremely vulnerable to hair damage from using heat styling tools. Because the fibers in their hair are unable to spread heat effectively, they are prone to severe heat damage.

All hope is not lost though. There are some ways to help protect against heat damage if you cant commit to ditching the hair straighteners and curling wands. This article suggests that people with finer hair use heat tools on a lower heat setting. There are also products in local drugstores and hair salons that you can apply to your hair in order to protect it from the heat damage. It is also essential that before straightening or curling you hair, you make sure it is completely dry. If your hair is wet or even damp, the heat tool will sizzle the hair.

If you would like to read more about how to avoid heat damage when straightening your hair, click this link.



Why Deep Breathing Reduces Stress

Very often when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, people will tell me to take a deep breath. This statement used to bother me. I never thought that taking a deep breath would solve my problems, and being told to do so irritated me. However, once I began to really try deep breathing, I noticed a difference in how I felt. I cant say that it takes away my problems, but it certainly helps me to feel a bit more relaxed. I was so surprised to find out that it actually had an effect on me, and I began to wonder how and why.

According to an article on NPR, the way we breathe affects our hearts, brain, digestion, and immune system. While there are scientific reasons which explain why certain breathing techniques are good for your health, there have been other explanations and practices in the past. The article discusses ancient Indian traditions involving yoga and breathing. Pranayama, the Indian yoga has been taught in hospitals in order to provide healing for patients dealing with pain and disease. The techniques in this form of yoga allow for breathing patterns that can make the person feel light headed, and then energized. Research has shown that following breathing techniques like the ones used in pranayama can alter the pH in the blood and change blood pressure. When the blood pressure is lowered, there is less stress on the blood vessels which lowers stress levels.

It has also been said that diaphragmatic breathing, another breathing technique, can positively affect the body systems. According to an article on the Health Central website, our diaphragm flattens when we are stressed and we begin to breathe shallowly, which raises our stress level even more. Learning to recognize this and then change your breathing pattern is an important step in reducing stress. When we are able to practice diaphragmatic breathing, our stress levels will decrease because it allows more oxygen to flow through the body.

There are more benefits to deep breathing besides simply alleviating stress. Deep breathing also releases physical stress. When we breathe deeply, our muscles loosen up and we feel more physically relaxed. Deep breathing forces the diaphragm to push on other organs which increases blood flow. Breathing deeply also removes carbon dioxide from the blood while adding oxygen to it, which greatly increases the quality of the blood.

So next time you’re feeling stressed or just want to improve your over all health in any way possible, don’s neglect the power of deep breathing. The benefits go beyond just relieving stress, but also have physical improvements.






Why You Prefer Sweet or Salty Food

For me, there is no question that I have a serious sweet tooth. I have always loved chocolate, cake, all types of candy and ice cream. While I definitely have my moments of craving chips or pizza, my sweet tooth outweighs my salty cravings. If you’re not sure which one you prefer more, click here to find out.

So why do you prefer one over the other? According to this article, everyone contains a specific combination of genes that determines how our taste buds perceive flavor.  People who have a sweet tooth contain certain DNA in taste receptors which are found in the intestines and on the tongue. People who have more taste buds may prefer salty foods. Studies have also shown that babies who were born premature with low sodium levels might grow up wanting salty foods.

According to this article, the flavors that we are first exposed to in the womb are often the ones we crave as adults. The article also explains that DNA is not the only factor that influences the flavors we prefer. It says that we grow up associating foods and flavors with childhood memories and experiences with specific foods. For example, if your dad always gave you lollipops when you were younger, you might associate that sweetness with love, forcing you to always remember and want that flavor.

While we always hear of people with a strong sweet tooth, craving salty foods often goes under the radar. However, there is an interesting explanation (with a reference to Penn State) for why people crave salty foods. People who would rather snack on chips and pretzels than cupcakes and ice cream are called “supertasters.” Supertasters contain a unique genetic makeup that elevates their taste perception. This means that the flavors they taste are stronger than how most people perceive them. Supertasters are also sensitive to bitterness, and salt tones down the bitter flavor, making supertasters want more salt.

Whether you have a strong sweet tooth or you’re a supertaster, there are plenty of explanations to explain why you are what you are. Now go grab your favorite snack and if you haven’t already, take the quiz linked above to find out if you have a sweet tooth or prefer salty foods!

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Why Smoking Causes Skin Damage

When those scary public service announcements about smoking pop up during the commercial breaks of our favorite shows, many alarming images flash across the screen. These commercials are dramatic, yet realistic. One of the most disturbing side effects of cigarette smoking is the damage it does to the skin. I’ve heard about what smoking does to the lungs, however I never understood how it makes the skin look aged and unhealthy. Being that society is so image driven, it would make sense to assume that if people saw the external damage that smoking would cause them, they may be less likely to start smoking cigarettes, or have more motivation to quit the habit.

Many people question whether smoking actually causes severe skin damage and wrinkles, so maybe this can answer the question. Smoking causes wrinkles because the nicotine in cigarettes leads to damaged blood vessels, which blocks essential blood flow to the skin. When there is a lack of blood flow to the skin, the skin lacks oxygen and essential nutrients that keep it looking young and healthy. Not only does the lack of blood flow cause skin damage, but the burn from the cigarette and the facial expressions made while smoking can cause premature wrinkles to areas around the mouth and eyes.

The damage that is done to the skin through smoking is not easily reversible. Over the counter moisturizers will not reverse years of skin damage. Botox injections and laser treatments will be the most effective. Unfortunately, some skin damage isn’t reparable.

Before you pick up your next cigarette, think about the damage it will do you internally, and externally. Here is an alarming video that will show you what people could like in the future if they continue to smoke.

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First Post

Hi! My name is Alyssa and I’m from Westchester, New York. I am currently in DUS and I hope to pursue a career in communications.

I decided to take this class because science isn’t a subject I have ever been good at for felt comfortable with. While I enjoyed the basics of Biology, other types of science never held my interest. When I read the description for this course, it seemed like something that I can handle and possibly find enjoyable. I like that this course is more about thinking than formulas or numbers. It seems like it will be more applicable to the real, every day world, which is something that I rarely find when it comes to science.

I have always loved traveling and meeting new people so here is a picture I took while I was on a trip in Venice, Italy.

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Here is a video that really stood out to me when I saw last year during my English class. video