“As one example, some time in 2018 and 2019, many of the young people in my practice suddenly started reporting gender dysphoria and declaring themselves trans. Charismatic social media stars were effectively saying: ‘If you don’t fit in, if you don’t like your body, then you’re trans. Everything will get better after you transition.'”
Heal Your Daughter: How Lifestyle Psychiatry Can Save Her from Depression, Cutting, and Suicidal Thoughts, her 176-page effort to grapple with what is ailing young women in the United States and perhaps what can be done about it. Inspired by her experiences seeing patients, mostly adolescent girls, in Los Angeles, Dr. Green chronicles how issues from diet to social media to bullying to the growing trend of identifying as transgender take their toll on young women. In light of recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data showing that “teen girls are confronting the highest levels of sexual violence, sadness, and hopelessness they have ever reported to [Youth Risk Behavior Survey],” Dr. Green puts forward several concrete suggestions in her book for how parents can help their daughters. Below is an excerpt taken from Heal Your Daughter’s sixth chapter.n February of this year, Cheryl L. Green, M.D. published
From Chapter Six: “The Art of Relaxation”
I see about 60 teens each week. Virtually all of them are under tremendous stress, stress that is beyond toxic. To name just a few examples of the most common stressors that your teen daughter might be up against:
Trouble in the family: Many families are undergoing divorce, are experiencing extreme financial stress, or both. The breakdown of the family is one of the most stressful things that teens can undergo. Although most parents try to buffer their kids from knowledge of the extent of their troubles, the kids pick up on it anyway. Events that are traumatic to the parents take a toll on everyone involved, including the children. Parental alienation—a situation in which one parent subtly or not-so-subtly conditions a child to hate the other parent—is all too common. I have rarely seen a divorce in which children are not “weaponized” to hurt one of the parents to some degree. And even in the families that seem to be the most harmonious, most parents still struggle to find enough time to spend with their kids. Many teens feel that they are raising themselves, alone. Many resent the missing parent or parents.
Troubled peers: That is, peers who are prematurely engaged in smoking, drinking, anonymous Internet-based sex, and/or illicit drugs, and who would encourage your daughter to participate in these practices before she is physically mature and psychologically ready. Today, kids are alone all day at school learning their social skills, including dating skills, from equally inexperienced same-age peers. Girls, in particular, often erroneously believe that the young boys with whom they interact genuinely “love” them, as many boys say—a recipe for heartbreak after their first sexual experiences. Sometimes, these early experiences are voluntary, but all too often they are not. Alas, date rape by same-age peers is effectively legal because it is exceedingly difficult to prove and infinitely embarrassing for most teens publicly to admit to having been a victim of. Sadly, innocence seems a thing of the past, a relic, for so many teen girls.
Loneliness: Most teens I see lost friends during the recent pandemic. Many lost all of their friends. Not going to school, not interacting directly with friends, and mainly using social media to interact left them feeling alone. Perhaps, in a bad mood, your daughter texted one cheeky text, and that was the end of her friendships. It is so easy for text messages to convey inadvertently something unintended. Most teens I see came out of the recent pandemic with many regrets.
Academic expectations that are too great: Many teens fall into the habit of not doing their academic work at all. This can be because they are bored with the work. However, most of the time, what I see is that the kids do try; they do exert a great deal of effort; but, time after time after time, they fail anyway. This produces demoralization and a kind of learned helplessness that besets too many of our young people. Sometimes, teens are too embarrassed and too ashamed even to admit that this is what caused the problem. So they are kicked to the curb, in some sense. You failed. F is your grade. Perhaps they also get detention. Or perhaps, after failing, they need to leave their current school and their friend group. They are exiled to a credit-recovery school.
Other kids do succeed when they try, but the endless parade of assignments leaves them little time for rest. They lapse into exhaustion, then depression, and soon they, too, feel unable to do much of their work, if any at all. The Fs start rolling in. Their self-esteem falls further. Then, sometimes, they start having suicidal thoughts, or cutting, or both. Hospitalization takes them away from school for a week and a half. Then, the post-hospitalization day program takes them out for another two weeks. Then, the after-school follow-up program takes up all of their time after school for another eight to ten weeks. As a result, they cannot even begin to catch up with the work they have missed. A feeling of hopelessness sets in.
Bullying in the schools: The shock-and-awe of bullying is endemic in the school system. At the same time, both moms and dads, their would-be protectors, are working around the clock and do not necessarily have time to pick up the pieces, while grams and gramps have been banished to nursing homes where they cannot help much either.
Politicization of school curricula: Education on socio-political topics seems to have degenerated into indoctrination to make our teens think, feel, and act in certain ways. Often, the indoctrination goes up against what the teens have learned within their families. Beliefs having to do with race and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; and global and national politics are now taught in the schools as facts rather than as opinions. Education is no longer what it was. Teens are no longer taught to think independently and critically. Now, the government-dictated curriculum teaches them to obey and to conform to whatever “new normal” it promotes. This can be stressful for teens, who are often caught in the middle between the violently clashing cultures of school and home.
Social Media: This often consists of more programming and conditioning, too often accompanied by online bullying from peers and from Internet trolls and bots. The truth is that social media can create a lot of stress and dysphoria. It has been found that with each additional hour spent on social media, depression scores worsen. And it is no wonder. Social media contains addictive schemes with embedded third-party rewards and punishments that corral girls into certain belief systems. Because of this, one wonders whether some of the social movements that have taken hold in the psyches of our daughters are, in fact, organic or are engineered by a subtle type of operant conditioning.
As one example, some time in 2018 and 2019, many of the young people in my practice suddenly started reporting gender dysphoria and declaring themselves trans. Charismatic social media stars were effectively saying: “If you don’t fit in, if you don’t like your body, then you’re trans. Everything will get better after you transition.” Many of these young and impressionable people, so vulnerable to the warm fuzzy rhetoric everywhere on social media, became indoctrinated by the online pep rallies and were stampeded into the trans movement. Now, in 2023, many genuinely are happy or happier, but some are regretting their earlier decisions. They are regretting, for example, the decision to have “top surgery,” which is a double mastectomy or “bottom surgery,” which is too complicated to describe here. Some are stopping the testosterone treatments and converting back to their natal genders. Now, I see increasing numbers of “de-trans” girls and women. There is even a 2022 film about this called The Detransition Diaries: Saving Our Sisters. Whether happily trans or happily de-trans, the point is that social media can program your daughter (or son) to think, feel, and be certain ways. It is important for her/him/them to know this. Once aware, she/he/they will have more choices.
Videogaming: More programming. Videogaming usurps the time that your daughter needs to think, to feel, and to create. You and she should both know that, when looking at a teen’s brain with a functional Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test, some types of videogaming cannot be distinguished from using cocaine. Like cocaine use, videogaming appears to be addictive. We now know, too, that one addiction leads to other addictions in a spreading wave, particularly when one becomes addicted in adolescence. It appears that video games are also conditioning our teens to think and behave in certain ways, depending upon the type of video game and the pattern(s) of behavior it rewards…
Her music: Music can be one of the most beautiful and relaxing art forms in the world, incredibly good for the brain. But have you listened to the lyrics of her favorite songs? Is it healthy for her to be listening to those, hour after hour, day after day? Or is the type of music she is listening to creating more stress and dysphoria?
Television and radio “news” programs: “The news” is a construct created by corporations and governments. It is based on real events, but there is always a spin or slant involved. The news relentlessly programs all of us to feel, think, and act in certain ways—to be terrified of this or that, to love or hate this or that political figure. The visual media can be especially insidious because it can induce an altered, hypnotic state of consciousness in which we are all rendered highly susceptible to suggestion.
I am not recommending that she avoid the news—only that she take it with a grain of salt. That is, that she view it with an inquiring and skeptical mind. Old newsreels used to begin with a backwards countdown, the standard in hypnotic induction, before the droning newscaster-voice began. Now, the news begins with spinning globes or revolving stars and with strident, stressful musical clips; many newscasters still display a flattened affect and use a detached, monotonous voice.
The news “media” provides just that—a mediated reality, one that at least recently has been filled with violence and with sadness and with fear-inducing stories. The constant, repetitive broadcasting of specific slogans and the same scary stories, from every channel and station, makes them seem desirable or real. The sloganeering about ideas has been called “psycho-linguistic warfare,” a new kind of warfare, one quite different from the guns, bombs, and boot-in-the-face tactics of traditional wars. Television has been described as “the most powerful psychological weapon of them all.” Television shows are even called “programs.” We should not unleash this powerful tool on our daughters without some warning. Otherwise, after watching just a little, your daughter will likely believe most of the things the news has told her, whether true or false, kind or cruel.
A Roadmap to Hope
When implemented consistently and over time, the lifestyle changes reviewed [in this book] are very likely to improve her mood. She can emerge from the learned helplessness, from the Stockholm Syndrome that modernity—that is, our modern lifestyle—tends to produce. She does not have to be fanatical about any one practice to reap a tremendous overall benefit. And she does not need to rely exclusively on this information alone…
As water dripping on rock can gradually erode that rock, so can you help your daughter, little by little, to dissolve and to heal her depression. You can help her to lift her mood, to transform her cutting into life-affirming forms of creativity, and to morph her suicidal thoughts into life-enhancing thoughts that tilt in the direction of her dreams. You can, indeed, help your daughter to heal herself.
Cheryl L. Green, M.D., Ph.D. earned an undergraduate degree at Harvard College and a Ph.D. at Princeton University prior to graduating from Stanford University School of Medicine in 2011. Dr. Green is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Southern California and sees patients in private practice in the Los Angeles area. She tends to emphasize lifestyle-based approaches when treating patients.