Ask Dr.E

Ask Dr.E – Brief Article

Robert Epstein

Answers to your questions about exhibitionism, playground aggression, oversleeping and more.

Dear Dr. E.,

My kids–a 10-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 8 and 5–have walked into my room while I was naked numerous times. I haven’t reacted, and neither have they. When should a mother stop being naked in front of her children? Should I start to cover up around them?

S. Hollywood, Florida

Dear S.,

The answer has more to do with values than psychology. Although anthropological studies suggest that nudity is not inherently harmful, our society tends to make us feel ashamed of both showing our bodies and seeing others naked. So however you decide to handle this issue with your children, keep in mind that they will have to function in a society that’s fairly prudish.

Dear Dr. E.,

My 5-year-old stepson has begun acting aggressively toward other children at school. His aggression has risen since his father and I married and his mother had a new baby. How does a child learn to express anger positively? And how can we teach him the consequences of his actions?

F. Piscataway, New Jersey

Dear Julie,

A child therapist might be able to help your stepson better understand what’s happening with his parents, which in turn might calm him down. Young children can also be taught a variety of stress-management techniques, such as simple breathing exercises, which might also help. As for consequences, fighting produces some natural ones–like getting hit by other kids on the playground–which are often the most powerful teachers.

Dear Dr. E.,

My husband’s personal problems in the last few months have finally taken their toll on him. He sleeps for 14-hour stretches, even when he’s supposed to watch our baby. Is it possible that there is something physically wrong with him? Could he just be lazy?

M. Boston, Massachusetts

Dear M.,

Oversleeping is one of the classic signs of major depression. You can do a quick online evaluation for depression at www.on health.com. Men are often reluctant to face up to depression, so you may have to be persistent to get your husband the help he needs.

Dear Dr E.,

My husband’s family has a history of mental illness, and my brother-in-law has recently been caught flashing people, even some family members. How can I find out more about this odd behavior?

A. New York, New York

Dear A.,

Your brother-in-law is showing signs of a sexual disorder called exhibitionism. About a third of all people arrested for sex crimes are arrested for this act. For some, it provides sexual arousal and is often accompanied by masturbation. Every case is different, but, generally speaking, men expose themselves (a) because they lack normal sexual outlets, and (b) to get a reaction from the observer. To learn more, visit http://mentalhelp.net/disorders/ sx50.htm.

Dear Dr. E.,

I never fight with my boyfriend in person. I find it hard to express my feelings when we’re together, so I write all of my angry thoughts in my diary and have him read it. Sometimes, we fight in a chat room on the Internet. Is this healthy?

B. Queens, New York

Dear B.,

Your strategy is healthy if it works, but the fact that you’re writing this letter suggests that it isn’t working all that well. A couples counselor or family therapist can help you improve your conflict-resolution skills. For referrals and additional information, try contacting the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy at www.aamft.org or (202) 452-0109.

Please send your questions to psychtoday@juno.com, or call our 24-hour hotline: (877) PSYCH-TODAY. Questions may be aired on PT’s nationally syndicated radio program. PSYCHOLOGY TODAY reserves the right to edit all submitted material.

To be referred to a therapist, contact:

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: www.aamft.org The American Psychological Association: www.apa.org or (800) 374-2721 The Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy: www.aabt.org The National Association of Social Workers: (800) 638-8799 The National Board for Certified Counselors: (336) 547-0607

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