Emotional Impact of the Sugar Baby Trend

August 8, 2011

          Prostitution has been said to be the oldest profession. But it is taking on a new life with a slight twist in recent times. With the state of the economy as it is, we all hear about how college graduates are unable to find jobs and still have a mound of student loans and other debt to pay off. So what’s a girl to do? Apparently become a sugar baby so your sugar daddy can help you pay off that debt. As I said before, this is basically prostitution with a twist. Young women solicit rich men for “companionship” and whatever else comes with that. In most cases this would also entail a sexual relationship of some sort. There are websites out there that can actually help sugar babies and sugar daddies find one another and the number of sugar babies registered on just one site is in the hundred thousands.

            It has been argued that this is legal as long as the terms of the relationship are established in a certain way. As long as money does not change hands for the sole purpose of sex it does not technically fall under the umbrella of prostitution. This is a fine line if you ask me, but since the sexual relationship is implied and not stated, legally these individuals are okay. So what is the problem with this if it is legal? The sugar babies can (and in most cases do) experience some serious emotional problems due to these relationships. In fact, the consequences are nearly exactly the same as those for prostitution.

             In my professional experience I have counseled many young girls who have been involved in prostitution for money and for drugs while working with the department of juvenile justice. But I am also seeing this shift in the group practice that I work in where young girls from middle class families need help paying bills and are somehow connected with a man willing to help pay those bills. These girls expressed the same emotions and problems as the girls who were labeled prostitutes did- shame, guilt, embarrassment, exposed, vulnerable, “dirty”, anxiety, and depression.

            Although there is no typical prostitute to be able to compare sugar babies to, I can say that in many instances, the emotional impact of being a sugar baby may be greater than that of a prostitute. Prostitutes in many instances use drugs in order to dissociate and put distance between them and the sexual acts. They are also likely to make it very clear the nature of the relationship and create boundaries with their johns to keep intimacy out of the relationship. There is a street culture where it is acceptable to be a prostitute and these women know of others and are able to gain support and knowledge of the business from them and they experience a sense of hardening on the streets as well. On the other hand, a sugar baby is less likely to be using substances and intimacy is expected in the sugar baby/sugar daddy relationship, making it more personal. It is more likely that they are not talking about the sugar baby relationship with others and will not have emotional support from others either. During an interview on the Today Show, psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz reported that these girls have a break in their moral compass that allows them to engage in this type of relationship. I disagree with her, however. They know that it is morally wrong and that is why it is so devastating to who they are and how they feel about themselves.

            So what can we do about this new trend in relationships? If you have a young daughter living on her own who is not yet established financially, please be aware of this trend. Make sure she is aware that you are there to help and support her in whatever way you are capable of and help her to learn about her financial options as well as how to be financially responsible. Take pressure off of her to be self-sufficient and “perfect” (which is a huge problem for many young women). Create an open relationship where you daughter can talk to you about what is going on (in my professional experience the sugar baby is too embarrassed to ask her parents for help or she does not want them to be able to use this information against her). If you know your daughter has engaged in this type of relationship, encourage her to receive professional help. As far as the sugar daddies go, I hope they are willing to put out the necessary money for the counseling these young women will need while starring in their role as sugar baby.


Catherine Zeta-Jones Diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder

April 14, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.     Rockledge,FL
Serving Brevard County

        Catherine Zeta Jones is the latest celebrity to come out with a statement regarding her mental health. Her publicist reported on Wednesday (4/13/11) that she had checked herself into a mental hospital for a brief stay for treatment of Bipolar II Disorder*. Looking at this beautiful actress who seems to have everything, no one would be able to tell that she has been suffering from a mental disorder. But that is the way mental disorder is, it does not discriminate! Although hard to believe, at any one point in time, about 50% of the population is experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder. And yet, a stigma still remains against mental illness and those who experience any of the many disorders.

        My hope is that more celebrities will use their fame to aid society by being upfront about their mental illness. Maybe then, the stigma will slowly start to fade and other people will feel less embarrassed about seeking treatment. In the mean time, it is up to us to try to gain a better understanding of mental illness and begin to look at it more like any other illness. As stated in an interview on the Today Show, her mental illness should not be looked at differently than her husband, Michael Douglas’s, throat cancer.

      If you are looking for aBrevard County counselor or Brevard County Marriage and Family Therapist, please give me a call. My office is located in Rockledge and I would be more than happy to talk with you.

*Bipolar II Disorder is a form of mood disorder in which a person experiences times of depression and other times of a mild mania. Most people understand what depression is but mania can come in several forms including irritability, sleeplessness, or intense energy. About 2.5% of theU.S.population (above 18 years of age) are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Celebrity Mental Health Profile- Charlie Sheen

March 10, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County

      Disclaimer: I cannot be certain of Charlie Sheen’s mental health. My statements are based off of his appearances and statements made on TV. I am using these observations as a means to help others understand what certain mental disorders do and do not look like. For all I know, Charlie Sheen is completely healthy and acting as he is for publicity (he is an actor!)

      If you own a television set, you have been seeing Charlie Sheen all over the news the past two weeks. It is clear that something is not right with his mental health currently. There have been a lot of speculations about his drug and alcohol use, grandiose thinking, and life style choices. I will go through some of the possible reasons for what appears to be a recent change in his behavior, discussing how his behavior and statements match up with what is typically seen with each of the disorders.

       It has been confirmed by Sheen himself, that he has been a heavy drug and alcohol user. His drug use cannot completely explain his recent behavior, however. One possibility is Delusional Disorder, Grandiose Type in which a person has an inflated sense of self such as believing they are all powerful, famous, or better than others in some way than they are not. Sheen has been making statements such as he is tired of pretending that he is not special when he is, that he has “tiger blood” and that he is a “winner”, among other statements. These do show an inflated sense of self but at the same time, he is famous which makes these statements less delusional when taken in context of his life and how others treat him. This may apply to some people who try out for the Talent Shows such as American Idol and truly believe they have a great gift when in fact, they do not but does not best explain Sheen’s symptoms.

       Narcissistic Personality Disorder is another option when a person has grandiose thoughts or beliefs. This is a persistent disorder in which a person basically believes the world revolves around them and that they are special. This is different from Delusional Disorder, Grandiose Type in that the onset is normally during adolescence or early adulthood and is stable over time, typically persisting over a lifetime. Although Sheen fits most of the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (grandiose thinking, wanting to be admired, arrogance, preoccupation with success and power) his statements do not show that he puts himself above all others as he talks lovingly about his two sons and talks about wanting to help the rest of the cast of Two & a Half Men. The biggest fact that makes me believe he does not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, is the suddent onset at such a late age.

     A manic episode is the best label for Sheen’s recent behavior. Manic episodes are characterized by a heightened sense of self,  increased energy, racing thoughts, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. In all of the interviews Sheen has shown evidence of these. The bags under his eyes suggest that he has not been sleeping, another symptom of a manic episode. In addition, cocaine is a commonly abused substance among individuals with bipolar disorder and specifically mania (Bipolar Disorder is characterized by alternating episodes of depression and mania). It is difficult to say whether he may be abusing cocaine and alcohol due to the mood disorder or if he has a mood disorder due to his persistent use of drugs and alcohol. I have not seen evidence of Sheen having a depressive episode but if he has in the past, it is possible that he fits criteria for bipolar disorder.

If you are in the central brevard county area and looking for a counselor/therapist, please give me a call to see if I may be of assistance.