| Family First Inbox |

Family First Inbox: Issue 800

"One important point has been omitted: There’s such a thing as technology addiction. It’s as real as alcohol or food addiction"

Sustainable and Scalable [Taking the High Ground / Issue 799]

I wanted to tell you how affected I was by all the recent articles about technology and social media. Until recently, I never gave social media thought. I scrolled, shopped, commented, stayed away from anything I deemed not for me, and zehu.

I am sad to say this, but I signed forms every year insisting that I didn’t have a social media account, like seven other mothers in my daughter’s class who were all on and following the same accounts I was.

I don’t work, and so I knew there would be no “heter” for me. I was cynical about the whole thing and didn’t give much attention to details of what I was absorbing or how much money it was costing me in purchases as I bought every hot thing influencers marketed. I suddenly felt really stupid about not buying new linen for Chanukah and not taking my kids to big trips midwinter. Social media made it seem like everyone was doing all of the above.

I was recently schlepped to a LinkUp meeting in Lakewood, and for the first time, cynical me found such comfort in the honesty around conversations related to how we confront the challenges that come with online browsing and usage. There was zero fire and brimstone, which allowed my guard to shift. I joined a group of women where we think, learn, and explore this topic honestly.

Not because this group set rules but because this group taught me that I want to set boundaries, I came up with ways to curb my impulse buys, spend less time surfing, and develop tools to a healthier self that is more willing to step away from online noise regularly.

LinkUp makes any inspiration gained sustainable and scalable.

Grateful from Lakewood


On Internet Addiction [Taking the High Ground / Issue 799]

I’ve been following the conversation on WhatsApp and technology use. There’s been talk about making boundaries and limits for the user, warnings about the dangers of technology, and inspiration from people who’ve successfully gone off social media.

One important point has been omitted: There’s such a thing as technology addiction. It’s as real as alcohol or food addiction, in that the person no longer has the ability to set limits and boundaries and stick to them. There’s is a biological dopamine hit they get from using that crosses the line from pleasant to compulsive. They will eventually find themselves back using their tech, no matter what efforts they’ve made to stop. This is demoralizing, embarrassing, destructive, and feels out of control.

There’s a 12-Step tech addiction program specifically designed for this purpose. It is called ITAA (Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous), and meetings are held online over Zoom, anonymously, every day of the week.

If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to lower your tech use, perhaps try out a meeting, and see if meeting with struggling people working on the same goal will work for you. ITAA’s website is internetaddictsanonymous.org.



ADHD: Quality, Not Disability [Inbox / Issue 798]

After reading the articles and letters about children with hidden differences, I felt I had to comment. I am baruch Hashem blessed with a few children with ADHD.

In our house this is not viewed as a disability but as a quality. My kids learn that being ADHD has its positives and negatives. Yes, they have a hard time sitting in class. Yes, they are impulsive and might do and say things without thinking that they will later regret. Yes, they might not be able to complete all their school and homework. But they are bright and creative kids who become leaders of their “normal” peers! After “surviving” school, my adult ADHD children have gone on to become a medical technician, run a kiruv program, and compose songs and dances. They are leaders and doers!

So please don’t let your child be embarrassed by his diagnosis. Let him embrace what Hashem has given him and learn to become his best self. He will someday make you proud.

A proud mother of terrific ADHD kids


Support for Hidden Differences [Inbox / Issue 798]

Every challenge comes with its unique package of pain and struggle. As the mother of a charming, adorable, smart, and neurodiverse child and professional in the special education field, I’d like to weigh in on the conversation about raising neurodiverse children.

Many people are familiar with the famous essay, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley. Emily wrote the essay about the road to acceptance and appreciation of her child with special needs. Children with “hidden differences” differ in that it often takes parents and caregivers a long time before they know or accept that they are not in Italy. We travel the road of self judgment, criticism, and hopelessness from comments others make or we tell ourselves about our children’s struggles.

How many of us have heard that “you don’t know how to set boundaries” or that “there must be something going on at home”? How many of us have a strong inner critic, doubted our ability to raise our children to be successful adults, and wondered if there is indeed something shameful about having a difficult child who looks “so normal”? Once we recognize that we are in Holland or Italy, we can find the beauty in our journey and the tools to travel through it. Have criticism or judgment ever been helpful?

Many of the letters to the editor have expressed the need for support, guidance, and acceptance of their children. I belong to a support group of dedicated parents looking to focus on their children’s strengths as a springboard for growing into successful adults. Belonging to this community has enabled me to find the joy and beauty in Holland. The support group is run by Dr. Bass, and she provides a wealth of information and guidance for mothers of children with hidden differences. Dr. Bass can be reached at ilyssas@drilyssabass.com..


Medication Misconception [Making It Clear / Issue 796]

Thank you, Shayna Schwartz, for your well-written, informative, and relatable account of dealing with adult acne.

I’m glad you were eventually treated with Accutane; not all of my patients have that opportunity. As a dermatologist, I counsel patients with acne on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about acne and Accutane that prevent acne sufferers from seeking treatment in a timely fashion. The most common one is that acne is a transient teenage problem that will soon be outgrown. In reality, for some people, acne can persist into their twenties and even thirties. By the time they finally seek treatment, many people have permanent facial scarring.

Another common misconception is that Accutane is a “dangerous, scary” medicine that “can affect fertility.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Having prescribed Accutane to hundreds of patients over the past 20 years, I have seen firsthand how Accutane can clear even the most stubborn cystic acne. Accutane, an oral medication that is actually a vitamin A derivate, is usually given over five to six months. When monitored properly, Accutane is a safe and extremely effective medication. Monthly lab testing is recommended, to monitor liver function and cholesterol levels.

However, lab abnormalities are rare and easily correctible by lowering the dosage or temporarily stopping the medication. The majority of patients sail through treatment without any lab issues at all. In fact, some providers are recommending eliminating monthly blood tests.

Most of the common side effects are easily treated (dry lips, dry eyes, and muscle aches, among others). The most devastating side effect, which is completely avoidable, is birth defects, which can occur only if a pregnant woman is exposed to Accutane. Fortunately, Accutane has a very short half-life (the time it takes a drug to be metabolized and removed from the body); recommendations are to wait a month after stopping Accutane before starting a family. (I tell young women in shidduchim on Accutane, “If you think you’re ready to get engaged, call the shadchan, call me, and stop your medicine!” I have yet to see an engagement of less than four weeks).

Hair loss, mentioned by a letter writer in Issue 797, is actually an uncommon side effect. A recent scientific literature review showed hair loss at a rate of 3.2 to 5.7 percent of patients. For the very few patients who experience hair loss, it is minimal and regrows after treatment. And yes, alcohol avoidance is important during treatment, but most people easily forgo drinking for 20 weeks in exchange for flawless, maintenance-free skin.

Accutane may not be appropriate for every patient; consultation with a medical provider is important. For those who can take it, it is a safe, effective treatment that should definitely be considered.

Sara Tarsis, MD


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 800)

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