Precocious Puberty: A Growing Issue for Young Girls

When I first read the novel Little Women, it made me feel…reassured.  The story of the March sisters’ journey from girls to women seemed much less intimidating than I thought the transition would be.The story’s central character, Jo, reflects on the experience of growing up saying,

I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream dreams, and have hopes and fears and fidgets, without knowing why or being able to explain them.

That was growing up for a girl then. Growing up now, the things a girl can’t explain include over developed breasts and the early onset of a menstrual cycle. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, American girls are maturing physically earlier and earlier. Preteen girls who have not yet let go of their American Girl dolls are being fitted for their first bras, scrubbing away at acne, and carrying pads in their backpacks to deal with periods that are increasingly starting in fourth grade or earlier.

Related Article: Oral Sex on the Rise

With the body maturing faster than the mind, young girls are being exposed to a myriad of risks, both physical and psychological.

 

Causes of Precocious Puberty

Precocious puberty is

when someone’s body begins changing from a child into an adult too soon. The process of changing from a child into an adult is known as puberty, and puberty that begins before age 8 for girls and before age 9 for boys is considered precocious puberty.

irls of today are experiencing precocious puberty more often and are hitting puberty sooner than any generation in history. About 15% of American girls now begin puberty by age 7, according to a study of 1,239 girls published last year in Pediatrics. Over the last 30 years, we’ve shortened the childhood of girls by about a year and a half. (Early physical maturation is occurring in boys as well, though that won’t be the focus of this article.)

The early onset of puberty has consequences that continue to be an issue well into adulthood, thus, even if a woman has gone through the puberty phase, she will forever feel the effects of it starting early. There are many explanations as to why this process, known as precocious puberty, begins early.

Related Article: Balls of Fury: Eunuchs Live Longer?

According to Dr. Frank Biro, director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the rise in the childhood obesity rate is partly to blame. Fatty tissue produces leptin, which stimulates the release of sex hormones. According to Biro,

The girls who are obese are clearly maturing earlier. BMI is, we found, the biggest single factor for the onset of puberty.

puberty bpa

Yeah, but they were on sale… http://www.saferchemicals.org/

Additionally, there may be environmental factors involved.  Dr. Biro goes onto say that some investigators are focusing on environmental contaminants like PBBs and more notoriously, BPA, common ingredients in plastic products that have endocrine-disrupting powers of their own. The Centers for Disease Control says that the blood of the average American carries traces of 212 different chemicals. All of these chemicals have the power to disrupt the endocrine system by either mimicking hormones, blocking them, or changing the way they’re metabolized and excreted. The longer we ignore these often times preventable causes, the more we will continue to upset the biological balance.

 

The Effects of Early Puberty 

There is another kind of biological balance that is even harder to control. Young girls who fall into precocious puberty are forced to balance their rapidly changing bodies with the standard development of their minds. When pre-sexual minds find themselves in newly sexualized bodies, substantial emotional damage can be done. Dr. Michelle Klein, a pediatric endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, treated a 6 ½ year old who was already developing breasts and pubic hair. Klein stated that,

She would get into a bathing suit at camp, and the other kids would tease her. She was already a good deal taller than her peers, and adults would talk to her as if she was older and more mature–and expect more-mature behavior out of her too.

puberty height

Did I shrink or did you explode upward? http://www.saferchemicals.org/

This becomes problematic to a child because she is not receiving a message consistent with her actual age. She won’t understand the expectations on her because she is not mentally prepared to do so.

Related Article: All Your Kids Are Sexting 

People are judging girls based on what they can see, but as with everything, appearances are deceiving. According to Erin Diamond, author of “Big Feet, Training Bras,” and “Going All the Way”:

Girls who develop physically faster are assumed to be more sexually active than their peers…Early developers are also more likely to engage in relationships of a sexual nature before they are emotionally prepared to do so.

This leads to a myriad of psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, eating disorders…all due to a process that is beyond their control. Not only are young girls at an increased risk of emotional turmoil, they also have physical side effects to contend with. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, early sexual maturity means more estrogen exposure for breast tissue, thus, introducing a cancer risk.  If a girl gets her first period before 12 years of age, the risk of breast cancer is 20% more than if she got it at 14. Additionally, breast cancer risk is increased by 5% for every year younger a woman is when she begins her periods. As you can see, growing up, more than ever before, is now hazardous to a girl’s health.

 

What Doctors and Parents are Doing to Help

puberty hypothalamus

The biological process driving the worst years of our lives. http://www.lupronped.com

In light of these hazards, it is now time to reset the puberty clock. Science is offering new options that will help to literally shut off puberty for a year or two so that a child’s chronological, psychological, and physical age all align. The new treatment involves monthly injections of Lupron, a medication that neutralizes the effect of the puberty inducing hormones, otherwise known as GnRH. It does this not by reducing the level of the hormone in the body, but by increasing it. GnRH is released by the hypothalamus in a pulsing pattern, and the injections are designed to fill in the gaps between the pulses. The body interprets the neutralized GnRH state as no GnRH at all, and the sped-up maturation stops.

Related Article: For Cure Administer Two Times Daily- How Effective is Our Medicine? 

While drugs are effective, they can be expensive. For uninsured Americans, these drugs can cost $1000’s each month. Presently, the only drug available for precocious puberty is Lupron. But according to the Physicians’ Desk Reference, Lupron has 265 possible risks and side-effects, including cancer. Lupron can cause severe problems such as tremors, seizures and memory loss.

In light of these dangers, it is important to know that there are natural methods available to help prevent or mitigate the problem. They may seem small when compared to medicinal treatment, but if we all practice these small solutions regularly, we could help to create a change in a young girls life that she will carry with her as long as she lives.

First, throw out your plastic water bottles; microwave your food in glass containers as opposed to plastic. This can lower your exposure to the dangerous BPA chemical. Since obesity is a strong contributing factor to precocious puberty, keeping weight down can prevent the hormonal effects of carrying too much body fat. This is where a healthy diet and regular exercise become very important.

Related Article: The Dangers of Fat Acceptance 

puberty children

Don’t judge your children, love them. http://www.amagazineofrandom.com

In addition to all of this, the most effective strategy may simply be awareness; we need to be aware of the pressures faced by young girls in our society. It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, coaches and any other significant figure in a girl’s life to remind her that her worth is not tied to her outward appearance. Little girls need to be assured that they are loved no matter when changes to their body and mind may occur. It is important to remember that to any child, happiness is knowing you are loved. 

And that is the most important thing; the happiness and contentment of little girls as they navigate their way through such an arduous journey. But for some, the journey is complicated in a way they may not be emotionally mature enough to handle. By discussing the causes, examining the effects, and identifying some solutions, we see more than ever that just because a little girl looks like a woman on the outside, that does not mean she is woman on the inside. While today’s little girls grow up much differently than the March sisters, they do still have one thing in common. As author Louisa May Alcott said,

The emerging woman will be strong-minded, strong-hearted, and strong-souled,

and that is true about a woman at any age.

 

Sources:

http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112716850/puberty-in-boys-age-102112/

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/10/30/peds.2012-3773.abstract

http://www.amazon.com/Little-Signet-Classics-Louisa-Alcott/dp/0451532082

http://www.americangirl.com/index.php

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/08/09/peds.2009-3079.abstract

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/precocious-puberty/DS00883

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/268337.php

http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112993027/us-girls-entering-puberty-earlier-than-ever-110413/

http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polybrominated_biphenyl

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrine_disruptor

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2097388,00.html

http://www.bradley.edu/sites/bodyproject/sexuality/puberty/

http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(07)00983-3/abstract

http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FirstPeriodOccursBeforeAge12.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23084519

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2927128/

https://www.lupronped.com/central-precocious-puberty/treating-precocious-puberty.aspx

http://www.biolreprod.org/content/56/4/1012.full.pdf

http://www.whale.to/a/sellman.html

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/424368-the-emerging-woman-will-be-strong-minded-strong-hearted-strong-souled-and

 

Unsweet Dreams: Nightmares and Health

You’re naked. In front of people you know and respect (and all your archenemies). Everyone is pointing and laughing in that over-the-top, full-body way that you imagine laugh track audiences do. You are humiliated beyond belief and take a step back, wishing the ground would swallow you whole. Oh, and there was a surprise staircase behind you which you didn’t know about earlier. Off you go, tumbling into the vast, unending abyss—WHAM! You’re awake.

How’s your pulse—probably speedwalking, right? A little out of breath? Unnerved? Slightly sweaty? Maybe you gotta pee. You should probably take care of that, first.

According to the Mayo Clinic,

Nightmares are common. They may begin in childhood and tend to decrease after about age 10. However, some people have them as teens or adults, or throughout their lives.

Until age 13, boys and girls have nightmares in equal numbers. At age 13, nightmares become more prevalent in girls than boys.

At 24, I can safely say I look to be one of those people who will have nightmares throughout my life. It’s okay to be jealous. WebMD lists several reasons why adults might experience this free horror show, and some of the reasons might be surprising.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also commonly causes people to experience chronic, recurrent nightmares.

Other causes include stress, anxiety, depression, fevered illness, withdrawal from drugs and medication (whether prescription or recreational) and sleep deprivation. Surprisingly enough, late-night snacking also made the list! According to the Mayo Clinic:

For some, eating right before bed—and the resulting boost in metabolism and brain activity—leads to nightmares.

Although for the most part, having nightmares appears to be one of those relatively harmless quirks of living, chronic nightmares can be problematic for your health. Particularly for those who already suffer from some level of anxiety or depression, nightmares can cause them further distress and psychological ill effects. Also, though there hasn’t been enough research done, nor is the relationship fully understood, there is some correlation between nightmares and suicide. When nightmares lead to sleep deprivation, you’re looking at a host of other issues including heart disease and obesity.

Though it might seem new-age and trendy, deep breathing exercises before bed have been proven to help. This is not to say they eliminate nightmares, but if you’re someone who suffers from the after hours acid trip often, try it and see if it lessens the frequency. If you’re having the same recurring nightmare every time, rehearsing a better ending before bed can actually lead to a different ending in your sleep. Again, I know this can sound kooky, but when you go to sleep and repeatedly see your loved ones slaughtered, suddenly, a few minutes of coaching your mind to understand that “it turns out, we were just playing zombies!” seems totally worth it. Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett first described this “image rehearsal” technique in her 1996 book Trauma and Dreams. Research has concluded that this technique is effective in reducing the occurrence of nightmares.

So the next time you find your mental faculties trapped in an abandoned carnival late at night and that giant clown with razor teeth and harpy claws riding a unicycle of death while wielding a bloodied machete advances upon you, just think about a positive outcome instead.
Sources:

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nightmares/DS01010
WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/nightmares-in-adults
Trauma and Dreams: http://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Dreams-Deirdre-Barrett/dp/0674006909
Case series utilizing exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy: impact on nightmares, sleep quality, and psychological distress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15984916

Afraid to Wake Up? Conquering Fear and Life

Do not fear! Daydream believers everywhere, Listen up. The time is now to wake up and live the life that we’ve been dreaming about living. So lets strap on those reality boots, focus on what we want to accomplish, and continue on the journey of our lives.

Easier said than done, I know. There are tons of factors that prevent us from achieving our goals. Bills, jobs, social obligations, family, bills, and the money in our wallets all get in the way of our dreams. The only way to get past these obstacles is to fight, tooth and nail, to rid ourselves of them. Well, sort of. We need to set ourselves up to be happy, not monetarily rich. If we do not, all of the hurdles to jump and mountains to climb will seem like impossible barriers. It is best to take each challenge one thought at a time.

Keep working hard and perhaps we will realise* the dreams are entirely in our control.

What is it that We’re afraid of?

Old Dude once said:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

While true, that sounds utterly terrifying. What the hell is fear even? Well despite the various hells being the source of all mythical fear, it turns out that it has a very real and practical existence. Fear is an excellent teacher. Karl Albrecht, Ph.D from psychology today defines fear as

An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.

And Alexander Berzin, an assumed level 87 Bodhisattva, believes this about fear.

Fear is a physical and emotional uneasiness felt about something known or unknown, over which we feel we have no ability to control, handle, or bring to the result that we wish. We want to be rid of what we fear, and thus there is a strong repulsion. Even if the fear is a general anxiety, without a specific object that we fear, still there is a strong wish to be rid of an undefined “something.”

Some imagined event. Something that has not yet happened causes us to activate fight or flight responses. Anxiety is the Sauron to fear’s Morgoth. Anxiety is what traps the brain in fear. Anxiety is the labyrinth that fortifies compulsive thoughts of terror until the brain can no longer handle it. Anxiety, Anxiety, Anxiety.

Our hearts race. Our blood pumps. We rage respond according to the traditions of the body. Karl Albrecht, mentioned above, categorizes the five root fears as the fear of extinction, mutilation, loss of autonomy, separation, and ego-death. But how do we battle these Balrogs? They aren’t allowed here, that is definitely for sure. We must muster up all of our being to defeat their musty, mustard-like, fires of mustachio’d hell.

Alex Berzin, also mentioned above, goes on to explain ways of dealing with fear, before it happens.

  • Counting the cycles of breathing with eyes closed, taking as the cycle the in and out-breaths, and focusing on the sensation of the breath coming in, going down, the lower abdomen rising, then falling, and the breath going out.
  • Counting the cycles of breathing with eyes half-opened, loosely focused, looking down at the floor, taking as the cycle the out-breath, a pause, and the in-breath, with the same focus as above, and after a while, adding awareness of the sensation of our bottoms touching the chair or floor.
  • Reaffirming the motivation or goal of what we wish to achieve (becoming more calm) and why.
  • Imagining that the mind and energy come into focus like the lens of a camera.
  • Without counting the breath, focusing on the lower abdomen rising and falling while breathing and feeling that all the energies of the body are flowing harmoniously.

 

Obviously, while staring down the barrel of a gun it will be hard to practice these techniques. If we do practice these breathing exercises perhaps when we are faced with a gun point decision, we’ll be able to duck down, disarm our various demons, and continue on. We’ll be stronger because of it.

So now that we have a somewhat better understanding of how to overcome fear, lets think about what it is exactly that is keeping us from waking up. Hint: We are almost always asleep.

Dreams

There are two types of dreams. There are those that happen during the deepest sleep of the night and those that happen during the deepest sleep of the day. Sometimes the former slips into the latter, sometimes the latter slips into the former, and sometimes the ladder slips altogether and we’re stuck on the roof until Great Aunt Matilda hears our whimpering three days later.

We can use both types of dreams to achieve our goals and conquer fear.  An apparently nameless author, explains a process called treasure mapping in order to visualize our goals:

It’s a very simple but effective idea: Treasure Mapping involves creating a physical representation or collage of what you want to achieve. It acts as a constant reminder and representation of your goals. And so it intensifies the effects of visualization, which acts on your subconscious mind to motivate and encourage you towards achieving those goals.

We have all probably seen or heard of this type of thing before. Basically one imagines whatever s/he wishes to accomplish (ie. get signed to a record label, build a home, or boat across the atlantic) and then a collage is created of these ideas. The collage is then placed in a prominent space in order to remind the creator of its original intention. As time passes the collage is added to and reflected upon.

Rachael Rettner, from Livescience.com, proposes that dreams are likely to have a specific influence on the way that the brain processes information. Quoting Deirdre Barrett, a havard psychologist,

My opinion is that, evolution just isn’t wasteful, that when things evolve for one purpose, that generally they don’t continue throughout time to have only that purpose, but anything else that may be useful about them gets refined,

Evolution? HA! We all know that the earth was only created 24 years ago.**

In one experiment, Barrett had college students pick a homework problem to try to solve in a dream. The problems weren’t rocket science; they were fairly easy questions that the student simply hadn’t gotten around to solving yet. Students focused on the problem each night before they went to bed. At the end of a week, about half the students had dreamed about the problem and about a quarter had a dream that contained the answer, Barrett said.

Dreams can be used to solve problems that your brain considers important! This includes the problem of overcoming what we fear most. If every night we all go to sleep thinking “how can I make my life a better more full life” or “what is it that I wish to achieve” perhaps we’ll all happen upon some collective answer.

Waking Up 

How we balance our dreams, fears, and the reality of our position is entirely up to us. The decisions we make are seeds for the future. Just because an answer is found to be correct in terms of the original context of the problem does not mean that the question/answer is a valid one. Life is a practice that goes on and on guided by the dreams of those living it. Every night we should all hope to dream of a world in which we’ve all woken up.

We’ve all heard the story of how some great somebody or other was faced with a difficult decision, equation, and pre-paradigm shifting philosophy until, after months, and years the solution came to them in a dream. If you put enough effort into problem solving, you’re brain will do the work for you.

Notes:

*I prefer this spelling. The letter Z and I had a falling out a few years past. Long story, it wasn’t entirely my fault. This article basically says it doesn’t matter.
**Unfortunately there is no source for this information but it is most likely the only truth. I’ve been trying to find any other source so as to validate the claim that the beginning of all things began upon the instant of my birth. As far as I know, conveniently 24 years back, I can’t see there being any possibility of an earth existing before me. After I die, though, it is difficult to speculate.

 

Sources:

https://wondergressive.com/2013/01/26/our-special-time-in-the-universe/?fb_source=pubv1

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/sutra/level3_lojong_material/general/hand_fear.html

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_94.htm

http://www.livescience.com/8373-dream-real-reasons-revealed.html

http://grammarist.com/spelling/realise-realize/