Long distance relationships have negative psychological effects

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

University of Kansas sophomore Ryan Xiao recalls sitting back in his apartment after a long day of research. He relaxed by talking to his girlfriend about her day, listening as she told stories about her work as a server in a retirement community. After an hour or so they said goodnight. Xiao logged out of Skype and shut down his computer, crawling into bed 1,028 miles away from his significant other.

During the summer of 2011, Xiao lived in Washington, D.C., doing research for the National Institutes of Health Summer Research Program while his girlfriend stayed with her family in Lincoln, Neb., working a summer job and taking classes through the local university. For approximately three months, his relationship was labeled “long distance.”

“It was really rough. It was frustrating, being that far away from her,” Xiao said. “I’m just glad we’re together now and that time is done.”

According to www.statisticbrain.com, Xiao was only one of 14 million couples who claim they are in a long distance relationship. What Xiao and other couples in long distance relationships may not know is that the strain of being so far from a loved one can produce negative psychological effects, such as depression, heightened anxiety, and loneliness.

Common Problems

Oregon State University licensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Schiltz said that the negative perception of long distance relationships has probably developed from harmful emotions.

“I think it probably brings up fears in people because of the difficulty and the emotions that can come up around being separated from your partner and your support,” Schiltz said. “You can experience stress, loss of focus, sadness, loneliness. Those are all things that can lead to bigger issues over the long run, like depression or anxiety.”

Schiltz said that feelings of stress can be higher for students, who have the added responsibilities of classes. Although Xiao said he doesn’t feel any lasting negative emotions from his time in a long distance relationship, he does remember the pessimistic attitude he sometimes felt.

“It was hard for me to be so far away and see her so infrequently. I didn’t know what she was doing,” Xiao said.

Xiao said that although he attempted to Skype his girlfriend every day, it wasn’t enough. They saw each other only twice—once over the fourth of July weekend when he flew to Lincoln and once when his girlfriend flew to Washington. Xiao said that the expenses initially bothered him, but were worth it.

“Plane tickets were around $400 per round trip,” Xiao said.

Coincidentally, Schiltz said that expenses, such as the cost of plane tickets, gas and phone bills, are one of the most common complaints in long distance relationships. Conflict, jealousy and loneliness are also common problems.

“I think it’s important to have a real solid sense of yourself and your self-worth, so you can stand through some of that,” Schiltz said.

Most couples expect their long distance relationships to be short term, lasting an average maximum of 14 months according to www.statisticbrain.com. However, some couples find themselves distanced from each other for much longer, just as Zach Rose of Metamora, Ill., and Kristen Adams of Bloomington, Ill., have for the entire two year and eight month span of their relationship.

For almost three years, Rose and Adams have lived roughly an hour apart, traveling to see each other only on the weekends. Their separation began during high school.

“When we started dating, we were from different high schools and different counties,” Adams explained. Their time together was not frequent.  “I had dance practice as much as he had football. The time schedule of only seeing each other for maybe four hours a week was the hardest.”

Making it count

Now Adams attends Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., and Rose attends Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Ill. With extracurricular activities and busy college schedules, they can go weeks without seeing each other.

“It’s that downtime in between seeing each other that can be the hardest, but we make it work,” Rose said. They spend that “downtime” by taking advantage of technology—Skyping, talking on the phone, texting and using the iPhone app FaceTime.

“Name it, we have done it,” Rose joked. Both Rose and Adams said they work extremely hard to maintain their relationship, especially when it comes to quality time. They dedicate time to one another by avoiding their phones when they’re together to keep their relationship lively.

However, Rose and Adams have their fair share of long distance relationship problems as well. Rose and Adams both resent the constant planning for time together and absence of daily interaction.

Schiltz said that “proximity influences similarity,” and a lack of daily interaction with someone can increase unfamiliarity, which distances couples over time.

“Even something as simple as a haircut can be a reminder of what you’re missing out on,” Schiltz explained.

But Adams and Rose both agree that despite multiple setbacks and missing out on day-to-day intimacy, their long distance relationship is worth it.

“It sure would be nice to go see her in the spur of the moment,” Rose said. “But whenever I see her after a while, it’s almost like the first time seeing her. It is amazing.”

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Therapist gives advice on long distance relationships

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

TRANSCRIPT:

KAYLA OVERBEY: This is Kayla Overbey from “Live, Eat, Sleep,” bringing you an excerpt from my story on long-distance relationships.

[sound of phone ringing]

MALE VOICE: Hello?

OVERBEY: The stereotype of long distance relationships, otherwise known as LDRs, is usually negative. The difficulties include travel expenses, loss of communication, and anxiety.

Long distance relationships can also instigate feelings of jealousy, depression and loneliness, says Oregon State University licensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Schiltz. Schiltz said that one of the most common complaints she hears about is the distance and unfamiliarity that can develop between a couple.

KATHLEEN SCHILTZ: It can actually be a disruption to your normal routine and you kind of have to get reacquainted. Like, you had time apart so you kind of have to like… it’s almost like dating again every time.

OVERBEY: This distance can spur arguments and tear loved ones apart. Despite the increase of stress and other negative setbacks, Schiltz believes that with effort, long distance relationships can be rewarding.

SCHILTZ: I mean I think there are things you can do, but, again it’s an effort, or a concerted effort that you have to make, so… I understand looking at the negative aspects but then I think there are things that can balance that out.

OVERBEY: Schiltz said that one of the best things to do to maintain a long distance relationship is to simply pick up the phone, and call.

[sound of phone dialing]

OVERBEY: This is Kayla Overbey, with “Live, Eat, Sleep.” Thanks for listening.

14 million claim they are in a long distance relationship

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

While long distance relationships are not considered the “norm” of dating, they are becoming more common. Information from www.statisticbrain.com states that 14 million couples claim they are in a long distance relationship. Oregon State University liscensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Schiltz said that the expense of travel and communication is one of the main reason long distance couples fight.

Phone study shows women are leaders in relationships

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

Top News

  • According to a recent study, relationship strength varies from couple to couple but women are usually the driving strength, says BBC News. This data was collected by examining phone and text records. Researchers say that our society may be swinging from a patriarchal system back to a matriarchal one.

Other News

  • While its true that junk food can be horrible for your health, some snack foods really aren’t that bad, says The Washington Post. For example, pork rinds, which are deep fried pig skins, have zero carbs and good levels of protein and unsaturated fat. Other foods include unsweetened butter and beef jerky, stereotypical “bad foods.” However, the rule still holds that everything is better in moderation.
  • According to www.stltoday.com, the Food and Drug Administration is revising their regulations for sunscreen. Sunscreen labels will now be clearer. For example, if a product passes both UVB and UVA regulations, it will be labeled “broad spectrum.” Also, products cannot be labeled “sweatproof” or “waterproof.” They will now only be allowed to use the labels “water resistant,” which would last for 40 minutes, and “extra water resisitant,” which would last for 80 minutes.

Practices worry over Affordable Care Act court outcomes

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 20, 2012

  • As the date looms closer for the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to keep or discard Obama’s Affordable Care Act, medical practitioners are considering the possible outcomes. Bob Doherty of kevinmd.com reports that practices across the country are worrying over the countless programs created by the ACA that will be invalidated if the law is overturned by the Supreme Court. According to kevinmd.com, countless Americans will be worse off than they were before Obama was in office if the act is not sustained.
  • Harvard hosted their first “Sex Week at Harvard,” which helped to eliminate some misconceptions about sex and college students. The week addressed issues in an explicit way which was respectful, instead of embarrassing. According to the website  The Daily Beast, sex weeks are common among colleges and popular with students but some administration members feel that it is too blatant and unnecessary.

Drinking games increase chances of alcoholism

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 13, 2012

Top Story – Alcohol

Other News

  • BBC News reports that scientists have designed a new app that influences how you dream. The app senses when sleepers have begun dreaming and plays a certain type of music–birds singing, the ocean, etc.–to guide their dreams. The benefits? Good dreams can produce more thorough sleep and heighten productivity when you’re awake.

Non-drinkers have mental, physical benefits over drinkers

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Almost every weekend, University of Kansas student Kyle Boge watches students stumble onto his dorm floor in Templin Hall. They are intoxicated, their eyes droopy and their smiles heavy with alcohol. Boge has come to accept the fact that if his friends decide to party, he won’t join them. Instead, he works on homework.

“I would say academics is the number one reason that I don’t venture out with friends,” Boge said. “If I don’t go out, it’s usually because I have a lab report to write or some homework that needs to be done.”

Boge can’t control his friends, but he can control himself. Unlike many KU students, Boge does not participate in alcohol consumption, whether at house parties, social gatherings or sporting events.

Many non-drinkers are stereotyped to behave a certain way, or have an introverted personality. They are categorized as “the quiet ones” at a party who stand alone in the corner. Many people accuse those who don’t drink as boring or uptight. But nondrinkers have clear health benefits over drinkers, experts say.

Boge says that he fights stereotypes attached to nondrinkers by attending small parties. He even went to Mass. Street after the Final Four Championship game.

“Most of the group I was with had consumed some alcohol,” Boge said he was offered alcohol, but didn’t find it hard to decline. “I avoid drinking in these situations by simply saying ‘No, I don’t drink’ or ‘I’m the designated driver’ and moving on.”

The decision to abstain from drinking differs for everyone. Some chalk it up to health, safety reasons or family upbringing. Boge’s decision to avoid alcohol was confirmed after the traumatic death of a friend in a car accident.

“She got in a car being driven by a drunk driver, and she was also inebriated at the time,” Boge said. “Obviously, this made a very large impact on my perception of drinking, and the result is me not drinking today in college.”

Risks of Drinking

What many habitual drinkers don’t know is that those who avoid alcohol have many health benefits. They avoid increasing risks of cancer, high blood pressure, liver damage and illnesses like cardiovascular and heart disease. They also avoid mental side effects like depression and nerve damage, according to www.webmd.com.

One of the biggest problems that many drinkers face is the chance for addiction.

Nurse Practitioner Colleen Blackburn from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center  says that alcohol can become increasingly addictive if the social environment advocates frequent use.

“Alcohol can be very casual, and in that casualty comes dangers,” Blackburn said. “Especially in the college atmosphere. Everyone condones drinking alcohol, and if you don’t drink, it can be weird. College students also don’t worry about long-term health risks like cancer. They all think, ‘oh, it won’t happen to me’ when there’s actually a high risk of medical complications.”

The fact that non-drinkers avoid the chance of ever being addicted to alcohol and avoid unsafe situations should cause drinkers to rethink their assumptions.

Emotional Turmoil

However, non-drinkers aren’t exempt to everything that drinkers go through. The decision to avoid alcohol can put people in uncomfortable situations. Aaron Pope, KU student and Templin Hall resident assistant, says a failed relationship made him really contemplate his decision not to drink.

“Toward the end of my senior year of high school I was dating a girl. We got along really well and I loved everything about her,” Pope said.  After visiting the KU campus, the conversation turned to alcohol. “I brought up the subject of drinking and we started talking, and then it turned into an argument. Months of work building up our relationship were torn apart in hours.”

Pope’s main decision to avoid alcohol comes from a Christian upbringing. His family always warned him of the dangers of alcohol, but he never assumed alcohol would damage him if he avoided it.

“That was the first time in my life that not drinking actually caused me to lose someone really important to me,” Pope admits. He also said it was the first time he was forced to take a stand in defense of his personal non-drinking policy.

Despite his bad past experiences, Pope said the lessons he learned simply reconfirmed his belief in alcohol abstinence.

“Do I regret losing this person? Definitely. Do I regret standing up for my decision? No.”