Last week, I wrote about the difference between cleanliness and personal grooming habits. Hygiene refers to cleaning habits performed to remove pathogens and keep yourself healthy (such as flossing). Doctors and researchers provide guidelines for how and how often to clean yourself for hygiene’s sake. On the other hand, people determine how and how often to groom themselves based on cultural norms and personal identity (think shaving facial hair).

Involving an elephant in your daily hygiene ritual makes everything better.

But there is more to the human body than the head, no matter what science fiction might dream up. How to determine grooming and hygiene standards below the neck?

Clean Hands

The effectiveness of any handwashing technique is directly related to the amount of splashing.

Correct hand washing plays a major role promoting health and hygiene. Even Louis XIV of France, who took only two baths in his adult life, washed his hands daily. In the past few years, we’ve all (hopefully) become more conscientious about keeping our hands clean to prevent the spread of disease.

So how many times a day should you be washing your hands? According to experts, aiming for six to 10 washes a day can make a big difference when it comes to keeping viruses and bacteria at bay. Up to 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.

Failing to wash hands correctly contributes to nearly 50% of all food-borne illness outbreaks. Only 20% of people wash their hands before preparing food, and 39% before eating food.

One USDA study found that up to 97% of people don’t wash their hands correctly when cooking at home. While 58% of people wash with soap and water, very few people wash their hands for long enough. Most people only wash their hands for 6 seconds. Around 33% of people don’t even use soap when washing their hands.

The CDC recommends always washing your hands after you use the toilet, whether it is in your home or somewhere else. Germs in feces (poop) can make you sick. These germs can get on your hands after you use the toilet or change a diaper.

A pre-Covid study by the CDC showed that only 31% of men and 65% of women washed their hands after using a public restroom. That number has risen since the pandemic, but still not enough.

Extremely sterile locations, like hospitals, might require ultra-red sanitization in addition to regular hand washing.

According to one bit of research in 2009, 69% of men don’t wash their hands every time they use a toilet or urinal. Another study from 2019 suggests that 6% of men only wash their hands after having a bowel movement.

Less than 1 out of 5 people wash hands after handling money. Less than half of Americans wash their hands after cleaning up after their pets.

Nearly twice as many bacteria are transferred during a handshake compared with a high five, whereas the fist bump consistently gave the lowest transmission.

The average human hand houses 150 different kinds of bacteria. There are typically between 10,000 and 10 million bacteria on each of your hands. Most germs can survive on your hands for three hours. Besides coughing and sneezing, door handles are the most likely way that cold viruses spread.

Showering and Bathing

As I’ve discussed before, washing the entire body tends to be more a question of social norm than actual hygiene. In Australia, 80% of people say they shower every day. In China, half the population regularly bathes only twice a week. A majority of Brazilians shower twice a day!

In many areas, particularly those with naturally occurring hot springs, bathing is a communal activity.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans shower daily, according to a 2021 survey. In the US, the habit of daily showering tends to start around puberty and becomes lifelong.

Women are more likely to shower or bathe less than once a day (38% compared with 29% of men); they are more likely to shower every other day (23% of women doing this compared with 14% of men). More men also admit that they never shower or bathe – 3% saying so (compared with 0% of women).

A recent survey showed only 60% of American men showered daily, but 12% of those men showered more than once a day. (Maybe these guys all lived in a tropical rainforest?) 15% of guys showered every other day, 9% every few days, and a particularly stinky 2% showered once a week or less.

While the majority of Americans shower every day, some experts say it is probably not necessary. Although many doctors say a daily shower is fine for most people, more than that could start to cause skin problems. But for many people, two to three times a week is enough and may be even better to maintain good health. It depends in part on your lifestyle.

Keep in mind that showering twice a day or frequently taking hot or long showers can strip your skin of important oils. This can lead to dry, itchy skin. Additionally, dry, cracking skin can provide gaps for infectious bacteria.

Wear a full hazmat suit to protect skin while showering.

Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, a professor of dermatology, suggested showering or bathing once or twice a week. In general, experts say a few times a week rather than daily is plenty. Also, keep showers short and lukewarm, as too much water, particularly hot water, dries out the skin. Showering less often in winter makes sense, dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Herrmann noted.

Americans have voted with their tweets, overwhelmingly in favor of the bath. People in 44 states preferring a bath over a shower. Only people in Idaho, North Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Alabama prefer showers over baths. I find this hard to believe, and tweeting hardly constitutes a scientific study.

Industry experts noted that most people who renovated their bathrooms in 2022 added or adapted a shower.

How do you know when you need to shower or bathe? Perhaps the most immediate (and obvious) clue is odor. It’s not just sweat that makes you stink. The bacteria multiplying on your body produce gasses as they consume proteins and fatty acids.

Baths are more fun than showers!

Deodorant and Antiperspirant

Deodorants and antiperspirants don’t serve any medical purpose. People use them strictly for grooming purposes rather than hygiene.

Sometimes, your coworkers might insist you wear deodorant.

Young Americans make up the largest group of deodorant users worldwide. 90% of Americans age 18-29 use deodorant daily, as opposed to only 78% aged 60 and over. The United States of America is the largest market for deodorant use, with nearly $5 billion in sales.

Like brushing your teeth or washing your face, putting on deodorant or antiperspirant every day might seem like one of those rituals crucial for basic hygiene. But your decision is most likely based more on personal and cultural preferences than any potential medical necessity, dermatology experts say.

Dr. Joshua Zeichner is a dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in in New York City. “We live in a society where body odor is not universally accepted, making deodorant a part of your daily hygiene routine. There’s also a stigma surrounding wetness of the clothes because of sweat, which has pushed antiperspirants into daily skincare routines.”

Antiperspirants are deodorants, but not all deodorants are antiperspirants.

Dr. Jeannette Graf, is a dermatologist, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, and author of Stop Aging, Start Living. “If you’re trying to stay dry and control sweat, you’ll need an antiperspirant with aluminum salts to target your sweat glands. If odor is your only concern, deodorant will offer odor protection.”

Every job has its perks!

Not everyone wants their glands to be plugged by anything at all, much less by aluminum and/or other related ingredients.

There’s no reason to limit your use of deodorant to armpits. Lume describes itself as “whole body deodorant.” Their website suggests, “Think pits, underboobs, belly buttons, tummy folds, butt cracks, thigh creases, vulvas, balls, and feet!”

And Last but not Least: Body Hair

Competitive swimmers and divers often remove all body hair to improve performance.

By and large, removing body hair is more a matter of culture and personal preference than of health and hygiene.

Any place that grows hair is shaved by somebody. Skipping lightly over arm pits, legs, chests, backs, etc., and going straight to the most private body hair, here’s what’s happening.

A recent study by JAMA Dermatology surveyed 3372 American women and found that more than 80 percent groom their pubic hair regularly. About 5 percent groom daily, but a monthly regimen is more common. About 75 percent stick to removing hair from the front and the bikini line. More than 60 percent have gone completely bare.

Some work uniforms draw more attention to your grooming habits.

About 50 percent of men reported regular manscaping, according to a 2017 study. Of those who groom, nearly 90 percent take away hair that’s front and center, and more than half remove hair from the scrotum and shaft as well. And, FYI, it’s totally normal to have hair on your penis.

Those who groom are more likely to engage in or receive oral sex. How you choose to groom your pubic hair — or if you choose to trim at all — is a matter of personal preference. And your choice won’t have a direct impact on your orgasm or fun.

The majority of women who groom (59%) cite hygiene as a reason. And about 60 percent of men (age 25 to 34) report the same motivation. According to Dr. Tami Rowen, professor of gynecology at UCSF, “It’s a misconception that pubic hair is unhygienic.”

The presence of pubic hair doesn’t make you smell bad. Yes, more of your natural scent might cling to your hair, but that might be a good thing. Those pheromones produced by our apocrine glands are part of the science behind attraction.

Bottom Line: Clean and well-groomed are two very different things.


When we talk about cleanliness, we often combine grooming habits with hygiene. Society dictates certain standards of personal grooming, such as combing hair or masking body odor, that we unconsciously absorb. These habits might contribute to health, but they might simply be the result of doing it the way you’ve always done it.

Hygiene, on the other hand, refers to grooming practices that contribute to health or prevent the spread of disease. Habits like regularly flossing and washing your face can help you to stay healthy.

Personal grooming is largely a matter of personal preference, but researchers have determined the ideal levels of cleanliness for best hygiene.

So, how clean should you be keeping everything above your neck?

Note: Grooming patterns, hygiene standards, and social expectations of cleanliness vary wildly around the world, but this blog will focus on America.

Wash Your Face

Experts do not recommend using a squirt gun to wash your face. Or your sister’s face.

When it comes to cleanliness—to hygiene—one of the first activities that comes to mind is washing hands and faces.

In general, wash your face twice a day. According to Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia, “I tell patients that it’s important to wash your face in the morning and at the end of the day.”

Washing your face is an important tool to keep yourself healthy, especially during cold and flu season. In addition to removing dirt and sweat from your skin, proper face-washing removes germs that could spread illness. In particular, you can help stop the spread of airborne, respiratory infections (like Covid-19 and the common cold) by regularly washing off droplets from coughing and sneezing. Washing your face is particularly effective in removing allergens, bacteria, and viruses that spread through contact with mucous membranes (like pink eye).

Face washing

If you’re not doing it frequently enough you might notice a buildup of skin cells and clogged pores, which could result in acne. How often you wash your face often depends on your skin type, your goals, and (to some extent), your environment. On average, you should be washing your face one to two times per day. But do we?

According to a recent study, 55 percent of people say they don’t cleanse their faces each day, a statistic that most dermatologists would shake their heads at. The study found that 48 percent of Americans don’t use cleanser when they do wash their faces—and almost half admit to using shampoo or conditioner or hand soap instead. Not only are people choosing the wrong products (a.k.a., ones that aren’t meant for facial skin), but many are also using the same washcloth up to four times before washing it. (For reference, experts say you should use a clean cloth every single time.)

Note: Splashing one’s face with water in the morning isn’t washing at all.

A 2017 survey showed that 60% of men don’t wash their faces at all. Most men, along with 48% of women, admitted to often skipping facial cleansing before bed.

Which Brings Us to Oral Hygiene

oral hygiene
Veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth as often as you brush your own. Instead of mint, dog toothpaste often tastes like meat or peanut butter!

Good oral hygiene plays a surprisingly large role in maintaining overall health. It can help prevent endocarditis, periodontitis, and pneumonia. People with good oral hygiene habits have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease and fewer pregnancy complications.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day. However, fewer than 70% of Americans report meeting that standard. This means that more than 30% of Americans don’t brush enough.

Additionally, only 1 in 10 Americans brush their teeth correctly. Most people spend only about fifteen seconds per round of brushing. Studies have shown that you need a full two minutes of brushing to properly clean all tooth surfaces.

Frayed bristles can’t clean correctly, and even worse — they harbor all kinds of nasty germs. The American Dental Association suggests changing your toothbrush every three or four months.

Our modern standard of having perfectly white, even, straight teeth stems from black and white films. Because naturally-colored teeth showed up as gray on screen, many stars whitened their teeth or wore veneers. Ordinary people soon began to follow the fashion of bleaching and straightening their teeth for cosmetic reasons. Today, the American smile has become a $29.6 billion industry.

Electric toothbrushes may clean teeth and gums much better than a manual toothbrush. Either sort of toothbrush can be effective, though electric toothbrushes are easier to use effectively. People who use an electric toothbrush generally have healthier gums and less tooth decay. They also keep their teeth for longer, compared with those who use a manual toothbrush. But electric toothbrushes can be messy!

Listerine created the word “halitosis” as part of a marketing campaign to sell mouthwash. Humans have had bad breath for as long as we’ve had teeth, but a Listerine campaign in the 1920s turned it into a social problem. By gargling with Listerine, people could remove an invisible barrier to popularity, sex appeal, marriage, and career advancement. (Listerine also worked as a dandruff shampoo, cold remedy, and floor cleaner!)

oral hygiene

Daily flossing prevents cavities and helps to keep our gums in good shape.

Surveys conducted by the American Dental Association have shown that less than 50 percent of adults in the U.S. floss on a daily basis. In fact, studies show that only 30% of Americans floss at least once a day.

The majority of adults, about 68%, reported flossing at least once weekly. A 2023 Delta Dental national public opinion poll of 1,003 adults found that 20% of Americans never floss. A report published in the Journal of Periodontology found that 32% of adults reported no flossing in the past week.

What About Hair Care?

shampoo hygiene
“Shampoo” comes from the Hindi word chapo (चाँपो), meaning “to press, knead the muscles.” It was first used in English as a cleanser for hair in 1860.

With the exception of treating certain conditions like head lice or ringworm, regular hair washing is not medically necessary. The scalp naturally produces sebum, an oil that protects against infection as well as moisturizing the skin. In fact, washing hair too frequently can strip the sebum from the scalp and cause itchiness and flaking.

Today, most people’s hair hygiene routine stems from social or cosmetic reasons rather than health concerns. A recent survey conducted by LookFantastic found that 49% of women polled reported washing their hair every day.

Carolyn Goh, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA says, “There is no blanket recommendation. If hair is visibly oily, scalp is itching, or there’s flaking due to dirt,” those are signs it’s time to shampoo.

Hair texture plays a huge role in determining hygiene routines. People with thin or fine hair may need to wash more often. Those with thick, curly, or coiled hair might be more comfortable waiting longer between washes.

Experts recommend using the flat side of a hairbrush rather than the bristles to avoid breakage and split ends.

For the average person with straight hair, shampooing every other day, or every 2 to 3 days, is generally fine. Hair with a very straight texture is likely to start looking oily and limp faster, calling for more frequent washing.

People with curlier or wavier hair may be able to go longer between washing before their hair starts to look dirty. Some dermatologists recommend washing hair no more than once a week or even every other week. This will help prevent build-up of hair care products, which can be drying to the hair.

The scalp can produce varying levels of sebum, which also affects how often hair needs to be washed. Washing too often can cause the scalp to overproduce oil as well as upsetting the pH balance of the microbiome on the skin. According to dermatologist Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, “Too frequent washing of the scalp with harsh cleansers can upset that microbiome, and an imbalance in the microbiome can lead to scalp problems.”

And Last But Not Least: Facial Hair

The World Beard and Moustache Association hosts a facial hair competition every year.

Like washing the hair on your head, shaving the hair on your face generally serves no medical purpose. However, the presence or lack of facial hair is highly important to a sense of self-identity and social acceptance. Grooming or removing facial hair is an integral part to many people’s hygiene routines.

Having hair and not wanting it leads many people to bleach, shave, or wax to remove or disguise hair temporarily. Laser hair removal or electrolysis treatments kill hair cells below the skin surface for permanent hair removal.

Facial shaving in women is more common than you might think. It’s done to remove vellus and terminal hairs from the cheeks, chin, upper lip, and side burn areas. Facial shaving also provides mechanical exfoliation, which can help skin look brighter and cleaner.

Many women wax their chins or upper lips to remove unwanted facial hair. Using warm or cool wax to pull hairs out by the roots gives a longer-lasting smoothness, but the risk of side effects is higher. People have reported pain, rashes, sun sensitivity, or even scarring after facial waxing.

Some facial hair can be cleaned in the dishwasher!

Rather than removing unwanted facial hair, some people choose simply to bleach it. Lightening hair follicles reduces the appearance of facial hair but leaves it in place. Though generally easier and cheaper than waxing, bleaching hair still runs the risk of irritating skin.

Three out of four American women ages 18 to 34 have had facial hair removed or done it themselves in the last year. Most common removal locations are eyebrows (58 percent), upper lip (41 percent) and chin (21 percent), according to a 2014 survey by Mintel, which did not track removal methods.

How often a woman shaves her face is usually down to genetics and personal preferences. In general, the recommendation is that women shave their faces every 2-3 days if they like a clean shave and every 3-5 days if they’re just looking to style or trim.

A 2019 survey showed that more men [35%] than women [6%] shaved once or more daily (though razors marketed to women cost more).

Not every facial hair transplant looks natural.

The presence or absence of facial hair serves as strong indicator of gender in our society. For many transgender people, transitioning begins with the daily application or removal of facial hair. Hormone therapy can eventually help people to grow or stop growing facial hair on their own. Transgender women report laser hair removal as the most common form of facial procedure. Transgender men may turn to hair transplants to fill in hairlines and eyebrows as well as beards and moustaches.

Some cisgender men also use hair transplants to achieve their desired facial hair. Doctors move strips of hair or individual hair follicles from the back of a patient’s head to the jaw, cheek, or upper lip. Because this is such an expensive procedure, many medical tourists travel to Turkey for hair transplants.

During a June 2017 survey, 29 percent of men reported trimming or shaving their beard every day.

Bottom Line: Too clean or not clean enough? YES!

Sometimes you might need a little hygiene help from a friend for those hard-to-reach places.


I’ve been watching the U.S. Open tennis matches, and of course hearing lots of sports talk and announcements about various elite athletes—tennis and otherwise—past, present, and future. And I asked myself, “Who are these people?”

The World Sheepdog Trials will take place this weekend in Northern Ireland. The elite athletes in this competition display many of the same mental traits as those identified in human athletes.

I’ve written before about underlying mental traits that contribute to common personality types (such as optimists, pessimists, addicts, and cult members). As it turns out, whatever your favorite sport, your “heroes” are much the same.

Mental Traits of Elite Athletes

Coco Gauff

New sports science research reveals that there are consistent similarities among athletic super achievers, showing that it’s a lot more than sheer talent. Here are 7 of the top traits that help phenomenal sports stars thrive, that separate the best from the rest. According to the latest sports science research published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and summarized by, here are excerpts of their points.

1. Supreme Concentration

Truly great athletes get into the zone when they need to. A mental state of total focus allows them to channel all their skills into competition when it matters most.

As sports psychologist Dr. Daniel Brown put it, “To concentrate on being a champion, your mind has to be developed to such an extent that you can really stay very tuned in to what you’re doing.”

Patrick Mahomes

2. Commitment to Excellence

Being a perfectionist can be seen as a flaw, but for elite athletes, an obsession with getting it right is a key ingredient to success.

Roy McIlroy

3. Desire and Motivation

To get to the top of their game, it’s often a long hard road that started with an enduring passion to make it happen. As NFL football player and coach Vince Lombardi put it, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.”

Michelle Wie

4. Goal Setting

Super-elite athletes always have goals beyond what they have currently achieved. As Michael Jordan said, “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”

5. Positive Mind-state and Optimism

High-achieving athletes are optimistic about their own growth and untapped potential. Sports stars have a great need to work on deficiencies, seeing weaknesses as golden opportunities for improvement. They can imagine success against the odds, envisioning achievement and reward. As soccer super-star Pelé said “The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”

6. Confidence and Self-Belief

Ben Shelton

Professionals in athletics possess a steely inner strength and an unshakeable faith in numero uno. On the flipside, the greater an athlete’s confidence, the more willing they are to keep trying even when failing. Michael Jordan exemplified this belief in learning from failure, because without failure there’s little room for evolving new abilities.

7. High-Quality Relationships and Support

Last but not least, sports stars build strong relationships with people who have their backs. This can be the emotional support from friends and family, the deep camaraderie from training partners or teammates, or a great coach. As Los Angeles Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explained, “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.”

Further Mental Traits of Great Athletes

Katie Ledecky

The Sports Management Degree Guide also lists 20 characteristics of high performing athletes. There’s a lot of overlap with the above, of course. Here’s the list. (I’ve elaborated only on the ones that might not be clear in the previous list.)

1. Self Confidence

2. Strong Sense of Motivation

3. Inner Desire to Succeed

4. Natural Goal Setter

5. Self-Discipline

6. Optimism

7. Sense of Belonging

8. Natural Leader

Madison Keys
  • High-performing athletes tend to be natural leaders both on and off the field. Besides their focus and sense of motivation, they bring out the best in both themselves and those around them.

9. Willingness to Take Criticism

  • Top-tier athletes understand the importance of remaining “coachable” — that is, taking criticism at every opportunity and learning from it.

10. Humility

11. Ability to Manage Stress

  • The stress of losing, the stress of injury, the stress of embarrassing themselves, their coaches, their families — the list never ends—but high-performing athletes manage their stress. Whether that ability comes naturally or has been learned, these athletes are able to compartmentalize their worries to focus on the task at hand.
Mia Hamm

12. Low Anxiety

  • Related to (11): top-tier athletes tend to be low anxiety. They can change strategy or face a challenge without the debilitating nerves that have ruined many other talented people. For some, this is natural. For others, it’s the result of years of hard work spent learning to compartmentalize their greatest fears.

13. Strong Sense of Focus

14. Trust in the Process

15. Resiliency and the Ability to Learn from Setbacks

16. Vulnerability

Breanna Stewart
  • Vulnerable athletes realize that failure is inevitable, and that they can learn more from that failure than they do success. Each time a vulnerable athlete falls, or loses, or makes a game-ending mistake, their resolve to get stronger and better grows.

17. Perfectionism

18. Killer Instinct

  • Many wins come down to a corner cut, a gutsy pass, a risk taken. They have the courage to make tough, spur-of- the-moment decisions that often mean the difference between winning and losing.

19. Willingness to Fight

  • A final push of effort, even when the tank is empty, often separates the winner from the losers. High-performing athletes always cross the finish line having given their all.

20. Appreciation

Devon Singletary
  • High-performing athletes appreciate everything involved in their professions—the good, the bad, and the boring—because they get to continue chasing the goals and the dreams which consume them.

So there we have it: Those who claim to know these things agree that elite athletes are more alike than different. In terms of the most influential of agreed-upon traits, many experts believe that focus and concentration are the most important.

Bottom Line: October has more opportunities for sports lovers than any other single month. Get ready to appreciate what’s behind those great performances.

For more elite athletic performances, check out agility competitions, working dog trials, or dock jumping!


We are all decision makers. It’s inescapable. One of the primary dimensions on which decision makers differ is decisiveness/indecisiveness.

According to Merriam-Webster, decisive means having the power or quality of deciding; resolute, determined; purposeful.

During the first stage in any decision making situation, everyone experiences a transitory level of indecision. In the second stage, the more stable proneness regarding decision-making tasks comes into play.

Teeter-totter… which way to go?


Decisive people are confident decision-makers. They tend to make up their minds quickly and stick with their chosen course of action. What are the characteristics of a decisive person?

The paradox of choice: having too many options can make it more difficult to choose one.
  • They make decisions relatively quickly and don’t seem to stress over them.
  • They’re confident making decisions.
  • They tend to be more comfortable with risk, especially if it’s an informed risk.
  • They can be resistant to change once they’ve made a decision.

The decisive person is really good at being curious and asking the right questions, evaluating all of the relevant information available, and looking at it from multiple angles to determine the best decision and course of action.

Such people understand that deciding is only half the battle. They are also determined people who see their decision through. They act on it, and upon completion, analyze the results to determine how effective their decision was at solving the issue.

Other character traits might contribute to a person’s decisiveness.

  • Brave
  • Confident
  • Curious
  • Determined
  • Focused
  • Motivated
  • Perceptive
  • Responsible
  • Steadfast
  • Resilient


Someone who is indecisive has trouble making decisions. People who are only somewhat indecisive may take their time with decisions and want to consider their options before moving ahead. Extremely indecisive people may put off making decisions for so long that they run out of time, or keep waffling on choices they’ve already made.

What are the characteristics of indecisive people?

  • They have a hard time making decisions and may be very stressed when they have to do it.
  • They’re easily influenced by others with strong opinions (and may even prefer that someone else make the final call).
  • They may lack confidence in their decisions, even after the choice is made.
  • They carefully consider all the options and weigh the pros and cons of each.
Sometimes, everyone wants to go in a different direction…

Difficulty in making decisions can be caused by several factors, such as a fear of failure and a lack of confidence or information. Perfectionists often struggle with indecisiveness, putting off making any choice until they can be sure they’ve made the best one.

Too much information can also contribute to indecisiveness. When a family member suggests one course of action, a friend recommends another, and a coworker thinks a third path is best, it can be difficult to decide which advice to follow.

Having too many choices can also contribute to indecisiveness. When faced with choosing from forty varieties of coffee, a cafe patron is likely to be less satisfied with whatever drink they choose.

An indecisive person is deeply insecure and hardly ever takes chances. Leaps of faith are nearly impossible because they do not trust themselves to choose. Depression and anxiety lead the way to negative predictions and living in limbo.

A hallmark feature of being indecisive is struggling with self-doubt. Doubt can pervade and disrupt any aspect of life, be it careers, relationships, worldview, or identity.

All of these options look painful.

Executive Function Disorder

Indecisiveness can also be a symptom of an underlying issue. Mental health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can cause difficulties with cognitive flexibility or inhibition control. Developments such as dementia, addiction, or head injuries can also interrupt one’s executive function, particularly by impairing a person’s working memory. In some cases, these conditions cause executive dysfunction.

Difficulties with working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition control can cause an inability to make decisions. In extreme cases, executive dysfunction can be paralyzing. Even minor decisions like when and what to eat for dinner become insurmountable obstacles. A person may experience time blindness, inability to focus, or difficulty determining which steps need to be implemented in order to complete a task.

In cases like these, a person may require extensive therapy and even medication to regain the ability to make rational decisions.

Some decisions are harder than others.

False Decisiveness

But decisiveness isn’t always smooth sailing. Consider the following decision-making traps:

  • Disregarding new information and making biased inferences. This closed-mindedness can manifest, for example, in poorer short-term memory.
  • Suffering confirmation bias—the tendency to rely on information that confirms what we already believe, and to discount data that may contradict our pre-existing positions.
  • Jumping from decision to rapid implementation seems to be what underpins the problems. When asked to consider the advantages and disadvantages of a course of action, those in an implemental mindset report few, if any, downsides.
  • The illusion of control. This is overestimating one’s amount of control regardless of feedback.
  • Everyone is susceptible to illusions of invulnerability (especially teenagers), which leads to downplaying risk.

According to research, business leaders are no less vulnerable than other research subjects to overconfidence. Using massive, multi-year surveys of CFOs, researchers found that respondents significantly underestimated the volatility of an overall stock index and the share performance of their own company.

The Trolley Problem

Downsides to Decisiveness

Sometimes decisiveness is dangerous. In business, the biases outlined above contribute to under-performing deals, cost overruns, and failed product launches. These shortfalls can be amplified by other biases. For example, if a decision-maker already believes in the merits of a particular course of action, the previously mentioned confirmation bias can skew how new information is interpreted.

Research by Jana-Maria Hohnsbehn and Iris Schneider at Technische Universitat Dresden indicates that “trait ambivalence” may actually lead people to overcome confirmation bias and correspondence bias. People who stop to evaluate all available options tend to make decisions or evaluations rooted in fact rather than leaping to conclusions.

Parallel dangers exist for decisive military leaders, politicians, doctors, lawyers, etc. In personal/friendship/family relationships:

  • Decisiveness may come across as domineering, pushy, uncaring, impulsive, stubborn, closed-minded, and more.
  • Indecisiveness seems wishy-washy, lacking in passion, lacking in spontaneity, unsupportive, dependent, clingy, and more.

While decisiveness is usually perceived as a virtue (and indecisive as a weakness), it’s important to remember that these traits exist on a spectrum. Extreme indecisive personalities and extreme decisive personalities can both create problems. Some situations do require more decisiveness. In others, indecision won’t present a problem, especially if the risks are high.

Bottom line: Remember that decisiveness (or indecisiveness) as a personality trait doesn’t necessarily correlate with good judgment.

Always choose cake.


These phrases are loaded with emotional meaning. Pretty much any English speaker would agree that friends of the heart must be better than friends of the road. I beg to differ.

Just so we’re on the same page:

  • Friends of the Road change as we move along the road of life.
  • Friends of Heart remain close regardless of distance and circumstances.

My basic premise is that they are different but equally necessary.

Friends of the Road

Why do friendships come and go? How does a once-bosom buddy wind up erased from your address book? Is a friendship that fades away necessarily a bad thing?

No. Some friendships are meant to be fleeting. A line from the novel Centennial says it perfectly:

“God, he wished he could ride forever with these men… But it could not be. Trails end, and companies of men fall apart.”
(Photo from the National Archives)

In other words, some friendships are meant to be transitory. Like college roommates coworkers, or people in military boot camp, sharing secrets and experiences, sometimes threats or dangers. When those life times come to a natural end, it’s time to move on.

friends on a bus

Life is rich with friends of the road who join us for a part of our journey, friendships formed due to time, place and circumstance. These brief—i.e., not lifelong—friendships can last for years. They are intense, necessary, and worth treasuring. In that time and place, you can’t survive without them.

Drifting apart from these friends can feel like failure. But a friend of the road is someone who is “walking the same road as you” in one way or several. Examples include neighbors, families from your child’s school, co-workers, etc. You spend a lot of time with them, share great memories, and genuinely enjoy your time with them. But if and when these friends take a different “road,” your time together ends. You lose touch. Your motivation and effort to do what it takes to maintain the relationship drifts off. Often these friends end up as fond memories and social media connections.

Is a friendship that doesn’t survive changed circumstances a “real” friendship? Yes. You genuinely love each other. Not forever is okay.

Friends of the Heart

dog friends

Friends of the heart are the traditional, everlasting ideal.

Please note: every friend of the heart starts as a friend of the road. But when the common road ends, the friendship continues. It makes no difference if you are 10,000 miles apart or haven’t seen one another for years, when you get together, it is as though no time had passed.

A friend of the heart is one who “strikes” you. You connect on a level that has depth. Even if your journeys take different paths, you remain connected. The friends of the heart live in your heart. They have touched your life in such a way that you will be different for having known them.

Lillian Rubin wrote a whole book on friendship (Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in our Lives). She says that the depth of a friendship – how much it means to us – depends, at least in part, upon how many parts of ourselves a friend sees, shares, and validates.

Friends of the road, friends of the heart, friends of the belly…

Friends of the heart are people you meet along the road whose paths end up forever intertwined with yours. They are not your family, but friends you can turn to in a moment’s notice, in joy and in sorrow, in illness or trouble. They see you, know you, and love you just the way you are.

Bottom Line: Make as many friends of the road as possible, enjoy them all, and treasure those friends who step off of the road and into the heart.


Is that even a thing? I asked myself that question after the night I slept more than eleven hours. First, I looked up what’s typical.

The Seven Sleepers, according to medieval Christian and Islamic legend, slept in a cave for 300 years to escape religious purges. (Illustration from the Menologian of Basil II)

Recommended Sleep by Age

The following table is from the CDC.

Age GroupAge RangeRecommended Hours of Sleep
Infant4-12 months12-16 hours (including naps)
Toddler1-2 years11-14 hours (including naps)
Preschool3-5 years10-13 hours (including naps)
School-Age6-12 years9-12 hours
Teen13-18 years8-10 hours
Adult18-60 years7 or more
61-64 years7-9 hours
65+ years7-8 hours

So, either I’m back to my middle school years, or I’m beyond the pale. No doubt the latter, but is that a bad thing?

Why Do People Sleep Too Much?

Reportedly, Albert Einstein regularly slept ten hours every night and napped frequently.

For people who suffer from hypersomnia, oversleeping is actually a medical disorder. The condition causes people to suffer from extreme
sleepiness throughout the day, which is not usually relieved by napping. It also causes them to sleep for unusually long periods of time at night. Many people with hypersomnia experience symptoms of anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their almost constant need for sleep.

Author Anne Rice suffered for years with obstructive sleep apnea, which may have inspired her interest and affinity in other creatures of the night, such as vampires.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something blocks part or all of your upper airway while you sleep. Your diaphragm and chest muscles have to work harder to open your airway and pull air into your lungs. Your breath can become very shallow, or you may even stop breathing briefly. You usually start to breathe again with a loud gasp, snort, or body jerk. You may not sleep well, but you probably won’t even know that it’s happening. This condition can also lower the flow of oxygen to your organs and cause uneven heart rhythms.

Calvin Coolidge took a nap nearly every day in addition to sleeping ten or eleven hours every night.

Not everyone who oversleeps has a medical sleep disorder. Other possible causes of oversleeping include:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription medications
  • Jet lag
  • Illness, such as a cold or flu
  • Extreme athletic exertion
  • Depression

Besides the conditions mentioned above, too much sleep — as well as not enough sleep — raises the risk of: heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity in adults age 45 and older. Any of these can carry an increased risk of death.

Sleeping Preference

Mariah Carey credits her fantastic singing voice to her habit of sleeping 15 hours every night.

And then there are people who simply want to sleep a lot. Individual sleep needs vary as widely as individual dietary needs, but “anything worth doing is worth overdoing” (as Mick Jagger, Ayn Rand, or possibly G. K. Chesterton famously said).

If long-term risks are too distant to motivate stopping, consider this: if you sleep more than you need to, you’re probably going to wake up from a later sleep cycle, meaning you’ll feel groggy and tired even though you’ve slept more. Research bears out the connection between too much sleep and too little energy.

LeBron James reports sleeping twelve hours a night for his best athletic performance.

According to Harvard Health, it appears that any significant deviation from normal sleep patterns can upset the body’s rhythms and increase daytime fatigue. The best solution is to figure out how many hours of sleep are right for you and then stick with it — even on weekends, vacations, and holidays.

The “Sleeping Beauty of Oknö” Karolina Olsson reportedly fell asleep in 1876, aged 14, and didn’t wake up until 1908, aged 46. (She may have been in a coma, kept unconscious by her parents, suffering from a head injury, or simply faking, but medical reporting in Sweden at the time never seemed to reach a definitive conclusion.)

How to Manage and Treat Chronic Oversleeping

After an overseer gave her a traumatic head injury, Harriet Tubman suffered from epilepsy and bouts of hypersomnia for the rest of her life.

But What If It’s Only Occasional?

During a golf tournament, Michelle Wie once slept more than sixteen hours. She regularly sleeps ten hours a night but prefers to get twelve hours or more.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when you’re sleep drunk, your brain doesn’t make the transition to wakefulness. Your conscious mind isn’t fully awake, but your body can get up, walk, and talk. “People who have confusional arousal might act confused or have trouble speaking,” says Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez. “They might appear to be drunk, but they’re not.”

The CDC discusses sleep inertia. It is a temporary disorientation and decline in performance and/or mood after awakening from sleep.

People with sleep inertia can show slower reaction time, poorer short-term memory, and slower speeds of thinking, reasoning, remembering, and learning.

Bottom Line: Inviting as a warm bed can be on a winter night, as comfortable as it feels during a pounding rain, as luxurious as it can feel to just not get up, consider the price you may pay.

Robert Douglas Spadden (center) slept through the sinking of the Titanic when he was six years old. He woke briefly while being carried to a lifeboat, but his nurse told him they were going to look at the stars. So he went back to sleep.


Last night, I got sucked into the black hole of solitaire. As I drifted toward sleep, “Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51” (from “Flowers on the Wall,” a Statler Brother hit from 1966) woke me right up. The five lines of the refrain played over and over until I finally slept and returned—off and on—throughout the next day. Eventually I looked up the full lyrics.

And that, folks, is a classic example of an earworm.

Not this kind of earworm (Helicoverpa zea)

FYI, the English word “earworm” has its roots both in German (öhrwurm) and in the common name for a type of agricultural pest (also called an earwig). Until the 1950s, the German öhrwurm also referred to the actual insect. Stephen King may have been responsible for popularizing the use of “earworm” to mean a song stuck in one’s brain.

Happily for my personal peace of mind, neither earwigs nor earworms actually crawl into human ears.

Understanding Earworms

Research indicates that brain scans showed more slow oscillations during sleep in the people who reported getting an earworm – a sign of memory reactivation. The brain region involved, the primary audio cortex, is also linked to earworm processing when people are awake.

Celine Dion

Recurring tunes that involuntarily show up and stick in your mind are common: up to 98% of the Western population has experienced them. Usually, stuck songs are catchy tunes, popping up spontaneously or triggered by emotions, associations, or by hearing the melody.

The Problem With Earworms

Lady Gaga

In most cases, earworms are neutral to pleasant rather than serious, and may even be part of your brain’s creative process. One that continues for more than 24 hours may indicate something more serious.

People who catch an earworm often have greater difficulty falling asleep, have more nighttime awakenings, and spend more time in light stages of sleep.

Earworms can reach a clinical level of severity, being recurring, distressing, unwanted, and intrusive, at which point they likely give rise to compulsive behavior, qualifying for classification as musical obsessions (a.k.a. “stuck song syndrome“).

Earworms are common symptoms of anxiety and of chronic stress.

Earworms, although usually harmless (and classified as pseudohallucinations), do overlap phenomenologically with musical hallucinations. Like auditory hallucinations in general, musical hallucinations can be symptoms of psychopathological conditions.

Like many things, music can have both positive and negative emotional effects, often related to personal connections or memories. If a song conjures up negative emotions, having that song become an earworm can be more than simply annoying.

Who Gets Earworms?

Some people are more prone to earworms. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder or who have obsessive thinking styles may experience this phenomenon more often.

According to clinical observation, as individuals move deeper into a depression, they are more likely to experience such symptoms as obsessive thoughts, preoccupations, and … earworms. Also, people with bipolar disorder may be more likely to develop earworms as a symptom of hypomania.

Musicians also frequently get earworms, particularly while learning tricky bits of a new song.

Men and women have earworms equally, although women tend to stay with the song longer and find it more irritating.

Which Songs Become Earworms

Earworms usually have a fast-paced tempo and an easy-to-remember melody. A song with a common global melodic contour (a melody similar to those in Western pop music) will more likely become an earworm. The most common earworms tend to have unusual intervals or repetitions that make them stand out from other songs.

In 2016, the American Psychological Association published the results of a survey on the most common songs that get stuck in people’s heads.

  1. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
  2. “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue
  3. “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
  4. “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye
  5. “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5
  6. “California Gurls” by Katy Perry
  7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
  8. “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga
  9. “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga

Ways to Get Rid of Earworms

If your earworm becomes too annoying, you may be able to do something about it.

  • Listen to the entire song. Listening carefully or singing along to the entire track could help dislodge the stuck bit of the song. Earworms tend to be small fragments of music that repeat over and over, often just the refrain or chorus).
  • Listen to a “cure tune.” Pick a different song to focus on. Even if the new song then becomes an earworm in turn, it will hopefully be an earworm you actually enjoy.
  • Distract yourself with something else. Focusing on a word puzzle or a number puzzle can force your brain to stop attempting to mimic a broken jukebox.
  • The drug vortioxetine, which may help boost serotonin the brain, has shown some promise in reducing serious cases of earworms.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress can cause the cessation of earworms.
  • Chew gum—seriously!

Alternatively, you could just leave it alone.

Bottom Line: Having an earworm doesn’t make you weird, and it’s probably just a transient irritation. But if it is accompanied by other symptoms mentioned above, get it checked out.


There are people out there who actually eat durian fruit!

Named the “king of fruits” in some regions, the durian is large and has a thorn-covered rind. The fruit can grow to 12 inches long and 6 in in diameter, and it typically weighs 2 to 7 pounds. Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the color of its husk from green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species. I’ve heard the texture described as somewhere between banana and pudding.

But the most distinctive characteristic is the smell! Some people consider the durian to have a pleasantly sweet fragrance. For them, the smell evokes reactions of deep appreciation. Others find the aroma unpleasant, overpowering, even intensely disgusting.

Sign on a subway wall in Singapore

The persistence of its odor, which can linger for hours or even days, has led many public spaces in Southeast Asia, including hotels and civic buildings, to ban the fruit. One cannot carry it on public transportation of any sort, not even motorbike taxis.

Many people, most westerners especially, feel nauseous or gag, at the sight, scent, or taste of durian. As travel writer Richard Sterling said, “Its odor is best described as pig-excrement, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.” And yet, some people—many people—enjoy durian.

A hotel in Huế, Vietnam, bans durians right along with pets and gambling.

Why Do We Like What We Like?

So how do food preferences come about? There is a great, comprehensive article about this at That Thinking Feeling. Food preferences are determined by lots of factors including:

Japanese snack food is famous for including unexpected flavors.
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Wealth
  • Childhood experience
  • Whether you’re a supertaster
  • How often you’ve been exposed to the food in question
  • Social context (my addition)
  • Emotional factors

Generally speaking, each of our taste-detecting tongue cells ‘specializes’ in one of five flavors: salt, sweet, bitter, sour, or umami. That last is from Japanese and roughly corresponds to ‘savory.’ Contrary to what you were taught in school, no one area of the tongue specializes in anything. Besides the tongue, we have taste buds on the other mouth surfaces and in the throat.

Escargot (snails) are quite popular in France.

Big Bombshell: 90% of what is perceived as taste is actually smell! (This according to Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.) But for the purposes of this blog, that isn’t relevant.


Though originally a Scandinavian delicacy, more lutefisk (fish brined in lye) is sold in the US and Canada today.

Babies prefer sweet and salty and reject the other three flavors. If the mother suffered a lot of morning sickness during pregnancy, leading to dehydration, her child will have a stronger preference for salty compared to other babies. Also, babies tend to avoid/reject new or unfamiliar foods. Babies are most open to trying new flavors between the ages of 4 and 7 months.

People ages 20-39 years old eat the most fast food on any given day.

As we grow up, our taste buds become less intense. With age, both taste and smell change.

Taste buds regenerate quickly when we are younger, but over time they don’t reproduce as quickly, or at all. Remaining taste buds shrink as we get older too, resulting in diminished sense of taste. Typically, seniors notice this loss of taste with salty or sweet foods first.

Grilled scorpion and seahorse skewers are a common snack in many Chinese night markets.

After age 60, you may begin to lose the ability to distinguish the taste of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods. The sense of smell does not begin to fade until after the age of 70; its decrease exacerbates the loss of taste for those affected.

Older adults tend to consume less energy-dense sweets and fast foods, moving toward more grains, vegetables and fruits. Daily volume of foods and beverages also declines as a function of age.


Men eat more meat and bread, while women consume more fruit, yogurt, and diet soda. Women also have higher intakes of dietary fiber and lower intakes of fat.

In Korea, bundaegi (silkworm larvae) are traditionally eaten by men, often accompanied by rice wine.

In general, there appears to be greater evidence for picky eating in males than females.

Men consume more fast food than women.

Some research suggests that women respond more to environmental cues regarding food. Women’s brains tend to form stronger associations between the perception of food and pleasure. Food preferences in women’s brains are more likely than men’s to develop in response to social cues and self-perception.


The affluent have more access to higher quality, nutrient dense but typically more expensive food while the underprivileged are often forced to choose cheaper, energy dense food options.

Percebes, a variety of Portugese barnacles, are both difficult and dangerous to harvest, making them a very expensive delicacy.

Upper class groups prefer foods that signify exclusivity and access to rare goods; while lower class groups, on the other hand, consume foods that are readily available.

Until the Industrial Revolution, lobster was considered an undesirable food relegated to the poorer classes.

On the flip side, lack of access to healthy foods can affect mental and physical performance at school and at work. This poor performance in turn makes it more difficult for people to improve their income and wealth.

Even when more nutritious foods become available, people raised in low-income households tend to buy cheaper, less nutritious foods they are familiar with. This traces back to food preferences formed in childhood.

Childhood Experience

Parental food habits and feeding strategies are the most dominant determinants of a child’s eating behavior and food preferences. For example, parents make some foods available rather than others.

My personal food recipe for rearing children to become eclectic eaters:

Escamoles (ant eggs) are popular in dishes in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru.
  • Have children eat with adults, whatever adults eat (with the exception of caffeine and alcohol until age appropriate).
  • Do not demand that a child eat any particular thing. You can’t actually make them eat, and arguments are negative all around.
  • Set clear contingencies: eat everything or no dessert and no snacks before the next meal.
The popularity of Peeps (a marshmallow candy) in the United States mystifies people in other countries.

In the United States, food advertisers face no regulations around marketing food to children. As they grow up, children become increasingly bombarded with social and commercial messaging. The combination of nostalgia with familiarity surrounding foods eaten in childhood encourages people to maintain eating habits developed in childhood, even if those habits are unhealthy.


Picky eaters might be picky because they are supertasters. Whether or not someone is a supertaster depends on the number of taste buds on his or her tongue. One can actually see this by visually inspecting a person’s tongue.

Along with blood pudding and Scotch eggs, haggis is a dish popular in Scotland though viewed rather dubiously by outsiders.

To supertasters, the flavors of foods are much stronger than to average tasters. This often leads to supertasters having very strong likes and dislikes for different foods.

Diners in Italy must cover their casu marzu (cheese with live maggots) while eating in case the maggots wriggle free.

These people have more cell receptors for bitter taste. Supertasters are also more sensitive to sweet, salty and umami tastes, but to a lesser extent.

Research suggests that those on the autism spectrum may be more likely to be supertasters. People with sensory issues, including many pregnant women, may experience food aversions due to a heightened sense of smell before they even taste a food.

Food Exposure

Repeated exposure to the taste of unfamiliar foods is a promising strategy for promoting liking of previously rejected foods.

Ackee, a fruit that is poisonous if harvested too early, is often served with onions and fish in western Africa and Jamaica.

Fewer than 8 exposures may be sufficient for infants and toddlers to increase acceptability of a food. But there may be times when a child never likes a particular food regardless of the number of exposures.

Evidence suggests that children need to be exposed to a food at least 12 times before they start to like it. It can take as many as 15 exposures for a child to get fully comfortable with a new food.

Sociocultural Effects

Even when eating alone, food choice is influenced by social factors because attitudes and habits develop through the interaction with others.

Muktuk (narwhal and whale blubber and skin) is a staple in Inuit diets, providing more vitamin C than oranges.

Sociocultural variables contribute to food selection, eating practices and purchasing behaviors.

Ifinkubala (mopane worms) are a delicacy through much of southern Africa.
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Reference group
  • Family
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Geography
  • Societal trends
  • Messages in the media

Research has shown that we eat more with our friends and family than when we eat alone. The quantity of food increases as the number of fellow diners grows.

Emotional Factors

Sometimes being drunk is the primary emotional factor for being drawn to certain foods.

Researchers have linked irregular eating patterns and negative emotions such as anger, fear and sadness with eating as a distraction, to relax or feel better.

Scientists associate stress with cravings for high fat and high carbohydrate foods particularly among women. Stress related eating is more common in women than men.

Bottom Line: The development of food preferences involves a complex braiding of factors. Preferences develop early and are generally stable but can shift over time.

I think this one is just a joke. I hope it’s a joke.


Not everyone with an addictive personality becomes an addict, and those who do aren’t necessarily addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or tobacco — the usual suspects.

An addictive personality refers collectively to a group of personality traits that may make a person more likely to develop an addiction to something. This can include someone becoming extremely passionate about something and developing an obsession or fixation. Think compulsive buying, game-playing, even exercise.

Tanning addiction
Addictive Personality
Tanning Addiction

The root causes of addiction include trauma, mental health struggles, and genetic predisposition.

“Addiction can be viewed as a form of self-medication that works against psychological suffering.”

Marc Lewis, Neuroscientist

There’s a longstanding myth that some people simply have an addictive personality — a personality type that increases their risk for addiction. However, medical professionals cannot officially diagnose (or even officially define) an addictive personality. Experts generally agree that addictions are rooted in brain disorder, personal history or trauma, genetics, and environment, rather than being a diagnosable psychiatric issue.

In the 1990s, marketers for pharmaceutical companies in the US started using the term addictive personality as part of a campaign to promote painkillers. Representatives for Purdue Pharma told doctors that OxyContin would only cause addiction in patients who already had an “addictive personality.” Blaming patients for becoming addicted to highly addictive painkillers helped to remove the blame from the pharmaceutical industry.

Many people today use the term “addictive personality” as a catch-all to refer to certain personality traits that may increase the chances that a person will develop an addiction of some kind. For example, those who like to take risks and who have little impulse control around experimenting and playing with new experiences and dangerous activities are more likely to try drugs. Nevertheless, no one can perfectly predict who will become addicted after substance use and who will not.

Contributing Factors to Addiction

Plastic Surgery Addiction
Addictive Personality
Plastic Surgery Addiction

According to, addiction is a complex brain disorder that is the result of a variety of factors. Genetics play a large part in susceptibility to addiction (see above), but other variables including family history, upbringing, environment, socioeconomic status, and drug availability also play a role in a person’s risk of addiction.

The American Psychological Association (APA) stated in a 2008 hearing before the US Congress that “at least half of a person’s susceptibility to drug or alcohol addiction can be linked to genetic factors.”

There is some overlap between an addictive personality and the symptoms of ADHD. Though there is no genetic link between ADHD and addiction, people with ADHD are at a higher risk of developing addictions. Dr. Sarah Johnson, medical director at Landmark Recovery, attributes this to the difficulty people with ADHD have with regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine

Some estimate that 10-15% of the population has personality traits that may contribute to an addictive personality. This percentage of the population doesn’t know when to stop and has a more difficult time coping with drugs and alcohol. If you think you or a loved one may have an addictive personality, consider the following addictive personality traits.

Some Signs of Addiction/ Risk of Addiction

Pet Hoarding Addiction
Addictive Peronslity
Pet Hoarding Addiction
  • Always wanting more
  • Continuing despite negative outcomes
  • Inability to follow self-imposed rules
  • Not being able to stop
  • Obsessing
  • Replacing relationships
  • Secrecy
  • Impulsivity
  • Value nonconformity
  • Anxiety
  • Low stress tolerance
  • Sensation seeking
  • Blame shifting
  • Insecurity
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Poor coping skills
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Selfishness
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Thrill-seeking

Could Addictive Traits Be Helpful?

Some researchers have hypothesized that the risk-seeking tendencies prevalent in addicts played an important role in early human evolution.

According to 12 Keys Rehab, an addictive personality isn’t necessarily a bad trait. Awareness of troubling behaviors and the possibility of negative consequences can actually be very positive when channeled into positive activities and results.

Identifying productive alternative activities that give a pleasure burst is key to channeling an addictive personality into a positive direction. This does not mean substituting one vice for another.

One can channel compulsivity, impulsiveness, and sensation seeking into positive results, for example, by learning new skills, getting in shape, making friendships, and more.  Impulsive people are often viewed as fun to be around due to their spontaneous nature,

An addictive personality can help one achieve goals as long as one is on guard for potential negative impacts. In fact, some experts say that the personality traits of an addict also make for great leaders and business people.

BOTTOM LINE: Many personality traits—including some generally seen as positive—are correlated with the likelihood of developing an addiction. Be self aware!


Lisdoonvarna arranged marriage festival
Lisdoonvarna, a month-long matchmaking festival in Ireland, attracts 40,000 singles hoping to get married every year.

Arranged marriages were common throughout the world until the 18th century. An arranged marriage is when the bride and groom are selected by individuals other than the couple themselves, usually by family members. In some cultures, families rely on a professional matchmaker to find a spouse for a young person.

Usually, arranged marriages happen to provide social, political, economic, or religious advantage to one or both parties. Note: typically both partners agree/consent to the arrangement.

The practice of arranged marriages has declined substantially during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Traditional Korean wedding ceremony

Gwen Broude and Sarah Greene have studied 142 cultures worldwide. They report that, despite the recent decline, 130 cultures have elements of arranged marriage. This means that more than half of marriages worldwide are arranged.

Arranged marriages remain common in many regions, notably South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caucasus. Deeply-rooted traditional beliefs in arranged marriages in South Korea mean that the custom prevails in many rural communities. In India, 88.4% of the marriages are the fruit of an arrangement. Statistics on arranged marriages show that they are most present in the world’s most numerous nations. Arranged marriages number more than 26 million unions worldwide.

Benefits of Arranged Marriages

If you search online for pros of arranged marriages, you will find a list something like this.

  • It eliminates the stress of trying to find a life partner.
  • It keeps parents involved in the relationship.
  • It creates harmony within both families.
  • It keeps people rooted in their family, culture, and ethics.
  • It reduces worry about the future welfare of any children.
  • Arranged marriages ensure that the culture and traditions of both parties align closely, so religious issues do not arise.
  • The two families will have a good relationship: the connections between the families and the couple last long without misunderstandings.

Chances are, my readers disapprove of people having no say in who and when they marry. Well, you might be surprised to learn that leaving marriage arrangements to the elders, entirely or partially, is something that young people in certain countries actually prefer.

Shanghai Marriage Market, where interested parties can view the “resumes” of prospective marriage partners every Saturday and Sunday

But Are the Results Good or Bad?

Statistics reveal that arranged marriages last longer with a substantially lower divorce rate compared to the western idealization of the love marriage. In the US, around 40-50% of non-arranged marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate in arranged marriages depends mostly on the type of arrangement, but the worldwide divorce rate for all types of arranged marriages is estimated at 6.4%. (Separation rates in India are twice as high as the divorce rate, so it is also likely that people in arranged marriages are less willing to see divorce as an option.)

arranged marriage 
gay marriage
Hindu ring ceremony

The love experienced by Indian couples in arranged marriages appears to be even more robust than the love people experience in “love marriages.” In a 1982 study psychologists Usha Gupta and Pushpa Singh used the Rubin Love Scale, which gauges intensity of romantic love. They found that people in arranged marriages reported an increase in romantic love for their spouse as time passes. In contrast, people in love marriages more commonly report a decrease in romantic love over time.

Studies have shown that couples in an arranged marriage are more likely to be very romantic towards their partner; mostly because they both are slowly adjusting to the new life and passing every hurdle together.

The newest UN report for women’s progress show that women who participate in partially arranged marriages and self-arranged marriages enjoy greater authority within the marriage than those whose marriages were entirely arranged by their families. They are more involved in making other important decisions as well, such as the optimal time to have children or financial management.

Maa wedding ceremony

Women in partially arranged or self-arranged marriages are also less likely to experience marital violence, spousal rape, and financial abuse. Additionally, women who participated in the selection of their spouse are much less likely to become victims of honor killings later.

Overall, given the low arranged-marriage divorce rate, one might think this is the best way to go about marriages. However, studies that explore the satisfaction rate of both autonomous and arranged marriages show mixed results. In India, approximately twice as many women in arranged marriages report being separated from their husbands as report seeking a legal divorce. The success of arranged marriages seems to depend on how marriage is perceived, the relative importance of practicality and passion preferred.

Advertisement for a matchmaking service in Chennai, India

Forced Marriage

When one or both of the people involved do not consent to the union, that is a forced marriage. For example, when family members threaten or use force to coerce the union.

Note: a forced marriage is NOT the same as an arranged marriage.

“The Babylonian Marriage Market” (1875)
Edwin Long

Many factors could compel people into a forced marriage. A council may require a young woman or man to marry as part of a repayment for debts or to settle a dispute. Parents might sell their child as a bride or groom in exchange for a dowry or bride price. Relatives might kidnap a prospective bride or groom and force them to marry or face a future as a social pariah (or even an honor killing). In times of conflict, fighters often coerce women into war-time “marriages.” Human traffickers commonly lure women and girls to areas with skewed male-to-female ratios with promises of work or education, then coercing them into forced marriages. Threats of social ostracism, emotional blackmail, and lack of financial independence can also force unwilling people to marry.

Children who marry before they reach adulthood are considered to be in forced marriages.

Worldwide, statistics about arranged marriages demonstrate that over 11 million girls younger than 18 enter forced marriages every year. South Asia has the highest percentage of forced marriages for girls under 18. Africa is second in forced marriages, and together with South Asia, it represents a third of the total number worldwide. In Bangladesh, between 27 and 29% of girls married before they turned 15.

However, there is some good news on that front. Worldwide, the incidences of underage marriage have declined drastically over the past decades. In 2018, UNICEF reported that the proportion of brides who married before age 18 has decreased by 15% since 2008.

Between 2000 and 2018, some 300,000 minors were legally married in the United States. The vast majority of child marriages (reliable sources vary between 78% and 95%) were between a minor girl and an adult man. In many cases, minors in the U.S. may be married when they are under the age of sexual consent, which varies from 16 to 18 depending on the state. It is most common in West Virginia and Texas, where about seven of every 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds were married in 2014. (Both states are currently reviewing laws to end child marriage.) In many states, minors cannot legally divorce because they have to be 18 to file for divorce or hire a lawyer. Domestic violence shelters typically do not accept minors.

As of March 2023, seven states have banned underage marriages, with no exception: New Jersey (2018), Delaware (2018), Pennsylvania (2020), Minnesota (2020), Rhode Island (2021), New York (2021), and Massachusetts (2022).

States where underage marriage is legal

Arranged Marriages in the U.S.

Until the first half of the 20th century, arranged marriages were common in immigrant families in the United States. Arranged marriage is legal and still occurs in the U.S. today.

Green Card Marriages” are the most common form of arranged marriage in the US. Census Bureau statistics show that over 450,000 Americans each year marry foreign-born individuals and petition for their permanent residency permission (green card). Of all green cards issued in 2007, 25% were awarded to American spouses, making it the most utilized path for immigration in the U.S.

The majority of immigrants entering into green card marriages sincerely desire to marry and intend to make the marriage last. However, the USCIS revealed that between 5% and 30% of all such marriages were sham marriages, never intended to last beyond the minimum required to make the green card permanent.

Jewish wedding in New York, USA

Most Jewish marriages in the U.S. are not arranged. However, in Haredi communities, marriages may be arranged by the parents of the prospective bride and groom. The parents often engage a professional match-maker (shadchan) who finds and introduces the prospective bride and groom and receives a fee for their services. The wedding is known as a shidduch, from the Aramaic word meaning “to settle down.”

Members of some sects of Christianity, such as the Apostolic Christian Church, practice partially arranged marriages. The prospective bridegroom will come to an agreement with the father of a woman he wishes to marry. She then has the option to decline the proposal.

Contrary to some misinformation, among the Amish there are no arranged marriages by the parents or other mediators. Young people who choose to be baptized into a certain Amish affiliation (typically the one they grew up in) are expected to marry inside this group. However, a person looking to marry will choose their own potential spouse from within the group.

Note: “A forced marriage is grounds for divorce and for both civic and church annulment in the US. The U.S. government is opposed to forced marriage and considers it to be a serious human rights abuse. If the victim of forced marriage is a child, forced marriage is also a form of child abuse.” (US Customs and Immigration Services)

Bottom Line: Although not common in the U.S., arranged marriages worldwide are often successful and desirable, depending on the couple’s expectations and views of what makes a good marriage.

Combining traditional customs of arranged marriage with modern technology