For our October Consult The Expert interview, we spoke with Dr. Andrew Rosen, the founder of The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders and The Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology, And Related Services. Dr. Rosen has been a practicing clinician for over forty years. As you might expect, he is well-versed in the changes that have taken place regarding mental health challenges over the past four decades. This month, he wanted to discuss something a little different – the breakdown of family and tradition in a culture of influential media and news coverage, along with how this has affected people’s values, mindset, and beliefs.
Dr. Rosen, you talk about a breakdown of family and traditions by the media and the news. What is the media doing to cause this?
After so many years of seeing our clients here at The Center and the Children’s Center, I feel it’s important for people to think about the changes that are happening in our world, especially in the last ten to fifteen years. During this time, there has been a tremendous increase in mental health problems both here at home and across the globe. More people are suffering now than ever.
In psychology, we learn about the biopsychosocial model. This concept says that three aspects – our psychological health, our physical biology, and the social influences around us – are connected. An unbalance in any one of these aspects can affect our health or illness. In my opinion, the social aspect began a dramatic shift in the 1960s and this started the skyrocketing mental health problems we are seeing in our clinic now.
The role of authority figures changed in the 1960s. At the same time roles within the family changed. Until then, dad was out working and mom was home overseeing the house and the children, but that all stopped during the 60s. Suddenly mom was at work, too. Kids became latchkey children and the family stopped connecting.
We have now reached the point where there is an absence of family authority and communication. However, we need authority figures to keep structure and calm in place. If there is no organizing body to oversee us, we experience more personal anarchy and dysfunction.
Additionally, twenty-first century families no longer sit down together or connect with each other at the end of the day. Children no longer get the parental time they need because everyone is so busy. When we relax, we’re on our devices instead of talking with each other.
The result is that parents are no longer passing their values or beliefs onto their children because it is being left up to outside sources. Parents often have no idea what is happening with their children and the kids feel the lack of parental time. This is a huge element of today’s mental health concerns.
When we turn to the media and the internet for answers and information, we may have access to tons of information, but it may not be accurate information. Many times the information we consume has been heavily influenced by the content producer’s opinion and geared to trending buzzwords. In many ways, this information has become a combination of brainwashing and propaganda. And, people are unaware that they are being shaped by it!
We don’t realize how much we are influenced by what we are told or not told, both on a personal and a social level. Rather than having an internal family voice (mom and dad), we now have an external voice (media, internet, teachers) that is forming our beliefs. The voice that guides us isn’t the parent’s; the voice is that of social media influencers, celebrities, sports figures, and other externals. “Home” is no longer the role model; instead it is the “cause of the day” and the voices that are out there in the media and on social media. The end result of this is that we have a greater incidence of mental illness in the world.
For years, we have been told that it would be a better world if we stopped listening to authority and were open and frank in talking about various social topics, yet this hasn’t worked. Every day in our clinic, we see children at risk of suicide, or being admitted to the hospital for attempting it – and at earlier ages than ever before – often at ages 9 or 10!
How do these influences affect family values and beliefs?
As I said, today’s influencers are not mom and dad – they are TikTok and the other types of people and platforms I mentioned. But, really, who are these people? Why do you believe they know so much? Where did they learn what they are teaching? To illustrate: if a celebrity endorses a certain idea and tells everyone that it is the correct way to think, people don’t question where this person got their knowledge or why they are qualified to tell you that they are right and you should listen to them. Why is that?
Part of the problem is that people don’t understand how much their beliefs, core values, and lifestyles are shaped and affected by the things they read about, watch, or listen to. Instead of thinking for themselves and questioning what they are told, they are walking around like robots, parroting back what these influencers have told them.
Furthermore, many views are skewed to a political agenda. For example, the clinicians at our Children’s Center have seen a noticeable increase in children who are coming in to us, confused about their gender orientation or whether they might be gay. Although the gay population is a small percentage of the total population, here in Florida there has been so much news coverage about the legislation surrounding certain laws that the constant media coverage has begun to influence how kids see themselves.
And, this influence isn’t just limited to children. The heightened amount of media coverage over this law has also influenced adults. Since the relentless coverage of this controversial law, we have seen a huge increase in HOCD patients in our treatment center (people who have always identified as straight, but who are now afraid they might be gay). While there is no question that we need to have forward movement and social growth within our culture, taking a topic and talking incessantly about it plants seeds of anxiety in people.
If you look within your own, personal world since the pandemic, I am sure you can see this happening within yourself.
Before covid came on the scene, most of us had no problem with someone coughing nearby or shaking hands with someone without fear. After the unrelenting coverage of the pandemic in the past two years, I’m willing to bet that you have at least some degree of health anxiety. Most likely, you now scrutinize every sniffle or analyze every headache in case you might be coming down with covid. This summer was calmer and news coverage was reduced, so you might have been able to lessen your internal concerns, but with cold and flu season right around the corner, many of us will return to a heightened level of anxiety once again.
Dr. Rosen, what can we do to stop or change this outside influence?
We are being indoctrinated by celebrities, politicians, and other people who have an ax to grind. I am not sure it can be stopped – I think all we can do is be aware of it and try to compensate.
Families must make an effort to talk to their children about how they can be influenced by outside forces. Tell them, “let’s have our own thoughts and discuss our own beliefs.” Ask your kids to talk to you and other family members they are close to about their concerns instead of looking outside the family. Don’t allow yourself or your children to obsessively watch or listen to influencers.
Is there a takeaway or anything else you would like our readers to know?
The takeaway from this is to be aware that this is happening. Please don’t minimize these influences, because this is very serious. The essential thing for parents is to make your voice heard and make efforts to shrink the voice of these external forces. This isn’t as simple as just putting controls on a computer – you must step up and say, “We are your parents and this is what we want.”
I want parents to understand that they are also vulnerable to this outside influence. Whenever you watch a news broadcast, read a report online, watch YouTube or TikTok, or listen to politicians or others who are pushing their agendas, keep in mind that it’s all about money and clickbait. Stories and videos have to be shocking or entertaining in order to get you to click on them. The more sensational, the more power the media company or influencer gains and the more money they earn. But, as we see daily in our clinic, we pay the price for their power and success with the erosion of our mental health.
We Can Help
If you or someone you love has questions or would like further information about a mental health concern, the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida, can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-223-6568.
About Andrew Rosen, PhD, ABPP, FAACP
Dr. Andrew Rosen received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Hofstra University in New York in 1975 and completed an additional six years of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic training at the Gordon Derner Institute in New York, where he earned his certification as a psychoanalyst in 1983. In 1984, Dr. Rosen founded the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida, where he continues to serve as Director and to work as a board-certified, licensed psychologist providing in-person and telehealth treatment options. With an impressive clinical career spanning over four decades, Dr. Rosen has helped countless individuals with a wide variety of mental health issues in both inpatient and outpatient settings to reach an improved overall quality of life, to manage daily life stresses, and to restore their relationships with partners, families, and friends. Coupling his psychoanalytic background with more modern schools of psychology, he brings a unique understanding and perspective to the patient’s situation, which results in more comprehensive and thorough treatment planning. In addition to his clinical successes, he has written numerous articles and books and appeared as a professional authority on several television radio shows concerning anxiety and personality disorders and substance-related issues and addiction.
Dr. Rosen is Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). He is also a Clinical Fellow of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and a Diplomate and Fellow in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology (FAACP). He is an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, the Florida Psychological Association (FPA), and the Adelphi Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Dr. Rosen was appointed a Clinical Affiliate Assistant Professor at the FAU College of Medicine in November, 2021. He is a Board Member of the National Social Anxiety Center. He has previously served as president of both the Palm Beach County Psychological Society and the Anxiety Disorders Association of Florida.