For this month’s Consult The Expert interview, we talked with Dr. Andrew Rosen, the founder of The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders.
Dr. Rosen has been a practicing clinician for over forty years, so he is well-versed in the changes that have taken place regarding mental health challenges over the decades.
As such, he wanted to discuss something that may be a little controversial – namely the breakdown of family and tradition in a culture of influential media and news coverage, along with how this is affecting people’s values, mindset, and beliefs.
Dr. Rosen, you mention a breakdown of family and traditions by the media and the news. How do you see this happening? What is the media doing to cause this?
After all these years of seeing our clients here at The Center, I feel it’s important for people to think about the changes we have seen in our world, especially in the last decade or so. There has been a tremendous increase in mental health problems across the globe and here at home. More people are suffering now than ever.
In psychology, we have the biopsychosocial model, which says that three aspects – our physical biology, our psychological health, and the social influences around us – are interconnected. Each affect our health or illness. I feel the social aspect dramatically shifted in the 1960s and started the skyrocketing mental health problems we are seeing in our clinic today.
In the 1960s, the role of authority figures changed. At the same time roles within the family changed. It used to be that dad was out working and mom was home to oversee the children, but that all stopped during the 60s. Suddenly mom was at work, too. Kids became latchkey children, and the family stopped connecting.
As we have gone through the decades since, we have gotten to the point where there is an absence of family authority and communication. But, authority figures are needed to keep structure and calm in place. Without an organizing body to oversee us, we experience more personal anarchy and dysfunction.
In addition, twenty-first century families have stopped sitting down together and connecting with each other at the end of the day. There is no longer that parental time with the children because everyone is so busy. When we relax, we’re on our devices instead of talking with each other.
As a result, parents are no longer teaching their children their values or beliefs because it’s being left up to outside sources. Parents often have no idea what is happening with their kids and the children feel the lack of parental time. This is a big factor in today’s mental health concerns.
Today we turn to the media and the internet for answers and information about what is going on around us. We have access to tons of information, but it may not be accurate information.
Often the information we consume is heavily influenced by the content producer’s opinion and geared to trending buzzwords. In many ways, it has become a combination of brainwashing and propaganda. And, people are unaware that they are being brainwashed!
We don’t realize how much we are influenced, both personally and socially, by what we are told or not told.
Rather than having an internal family voice (mom and dad), you have an external voice (media, internet, teachers) that is shaping our beliefs. The voice that guides us isn’t the parent’s; the voice is TikTok, Facebook, sports figures, celebrities, and other externals. The role model is no longer “home,” it is what is 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. We were told that it would be a better world if we had this openness, this frankness in talking about various social topics, and in doing away with authority, 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 are these influencers affecting family values and beliefs?
As I said, today’s influencers are not mom and dad – they are TikTok and the other types of platforms and people I mentioned. But, who are these people? Why do you believe they know so much? Where did they learn what they are teaching? For example, if a sports figure tells you that a certain idea is the right way to think, people don’t question where this person got their knowledge and what qualifies them to tell you that you are wrong and they are right. Why is that?
People do not understand how much their lifestyle, beliefs, and core values are shaped and affected by the things they watch, listen to, and read about. 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.
In addition, many views are skewed to a political agenda. For example, at our Children’s Center over the past few years, we have seen a marked increase in children who are coming in to us, confused about their gender 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 legislation around certain laws that the constant media coverage has begun to influence how kids see themselves.
And, this isn’t just limited to children. The heightened degree of media coverage over this law also influenced adults: we are now seeing 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) since the relentless coverage of this controversial law. There is no question that we need to have forward movement and social growth within our culture, but 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 it operating within yourself.
Before the pandemic, most people could live with someone sneezing nearby or shake hands without fear. After the unceasing coverage of the covid pandemic in the past two years, I’m willing to bet that you have at least some degree of health anxiety. More than likely, you now analyze every sniffle or scrutinize every headache in case you might be coming down with covid. This summer was calmer, so news coverage was reduced, and you may have been able to lessen your internal concerns, but with cold and flu season approaching, many of us will soon experience a heightened level of anxiety once again.
Dr. Rosen, what can people do to stop or change this outside influence?
These outside influences are indoctrinated by celebrities, politicians, and other people who have an ax to grind and 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. Don’t allow yourself or your children to obsessively watch influencers or listen to other resources.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
The takeaway is to be aware that this is happening. Don’t minimize these influences, because it is very serious.The essential thing for parents is to louden your voice and make efforts to shrink the voice of the external force. 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. When you are watching a news broadcast, reading a report online, watching TikTok or YouTube, or listening to politicians or others who are pushing their agendas, keep in mind that it’s all about money and click bait. Stories and videos have to be shocking and entertaining in order to get you to click on them. The more sensational, the more money the media company or influencer earns, and the more power they have. But, as we see daily in our clinic, the price of their power and success is the erosion of our mental health.
Need More Information?
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 561-496-1094.
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.