The United States has no standardized system for food dating, and only 20 states actually require perishable foods have dates on them. Manufacturers put dates on products for their own benefit, not
yours. But how do you know if something is actually too old to be beneficial?

Last week I blogged about expiration dates. In my opinion, the ones that really matter are medicines, cleaning products, and safety gear, such as infant/child carseats, and kevlar vests—anything we count on for health and safety.

But even things without an expiration date can be too old. How are you to know?


Running on cement will wear out shoes more quickly than running on grass or trails.

Running shoes can start to lose their cushioning after about 250 miles of running, which means more stress on your joints. Most walking shoes start to break down after 350 to 500 miles.

Shoes for housework, hanging around, gardening, running errands, etc. vary wildly by design and materials. Very fancy, formal shoes may fall apart after one outing. Cheap sandals might keep going for years.

Ballet shoes break down astonishingly quickly.

Advice: For hard runners, get new shoes every 200 to 300 miles. For less strenuous runners, replace workout shoes every six months to a year. Walkers or occasional joggers, pay attention to the feel of your shoes. The wear pattern on the tread of your shoes can be a very good indicator of how much life your shoes have left.

Power Strips

Cheap power strips or ones that have been overworked can be a fire hazard, and use a lot of energy. Only buy surge protectors and power strips with an OSHA rating. But even good-quality surge protectors are designed to last for a certain amount of joules (the amount of excess electrical surges they absorb). They typically do not come with an expiration date, but the product warranty is a good way to gauge how old they are.

If your power strip looks like this, it might be too old for safe use.

Signs of age: If they start to get discolored or hot to the touch, get a new one. It’s generally a good idea to replace them every couple of years just to be safe.


Please do not give razor blades to babies. Babies are notoriously full of bacteria.

Disposable razors are supposed to be thrown away. But how often? To prevent bacteria buildup and razor burn, you could toss your razors every week, or every three to four shaves.

Alternatively: Don’t cut yourself shaving and get a new razor when the blade begins to drag, requiring several passes to get smooth. Make sure to let it dry between uses.

Fire Extinguishers

Most fire extinguishers don’t expire for five to 15 years, depending on the type. Make sure to recharge (refill) after any use.

Warning signs: Things like cracks in the hose and low pressure can affect how well they work. Check the pressure in the gauge often.


Batteries start to expire as soon as they’re made. The shelf life differs between types and sizes of battery, as well as where they are stored.

Store batteries in a dry, room-temperature location. It does not depend on whether they are used.

Signs: Check the date, and discard when there is any sign of corrosion (the white stuff along seams or ends).

Scrubbing Devices

Not to be confused with sponge cake, which should be consumed as soon as possible because it is delicious.

Sponges and natural loofahs can start to breed bacteria in just a couple of weeks. Plastic mesh loofahs are safe for up to eight weeks.

Suggestion: Rinse and dry all your loofahs after each use. Replace natural loofahs every couple weeks, and mesh ones every other month.

Household Danger Alarms

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can stop working after 10 years, even if you replace the batteries. Most have the expiration or manufacture date listed somewhere on them.

Staying safe: If you don’t know the age, it’s safer just to replace them.

Bug Spray

Commercial insect repellent loses effectiveness after about two years from the manufacture date, which should be marked on the bottle. Check the date before you buy to make sure it isn’t already old. Don’t let the bugs bite!

If you make your own insect repellent, the mixture will lose effectiveness at varying times depending on the ingredients.

Advice: Get new spray every couple of years.

Skin Care Products

Most skin care products are safe to use for six months to a year after opening, although maybe a bit less for eye products. Moisturizers in a jar that you use your fingers to apply can become a breeding ground for bacteria in a matter of months. (Wash hands before applying.) Lotions and moisturizers in a tube should be good for a couple of years after opening, and after that will start to dry out and lose effectiveness. Powder makeup can last up to two years before the preservatives in it start to break down. Lipstick that’s exposed to air starts to dry out and change consistency after around two

If your makeup contains lead tablets and was made in the 5th century BCE, it’s probably too old.

Signs that a product has degraded:

  • If it’s an emulsion (a mixture of oil and water), separation is often one of the first signs that a product has past its prime, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Changes in color or texture might signify that a product is no longer effective or safe to use. A good rule to follow before rubbing something on your skin is that if something seems off, don’t use it.
  • If products smell badly or differently than they should, that could be a sign that bacteria or contaminants could be lurking inside. According to Dr. Bruce Brod, a dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “That’s a red flag that a product may not be safe.”


Unlike wine, which continues to age even in the bottle, unopened liquors will stay good indefinitely. Keep opened and unopened bottles in a cool place.

Signs of age: An opened bottle of liquor will begin to lose its taste and potency after about a year. But unless you’re a connoisseur, you likely won’t notice a big difference until much later.


And then there is food.

Generally speaking, expiration dates have more to do with the food’s overall quality and texture instead of when it is safe or not safe to eat. According to RealSimple, as long as there are no signs of spoilage, you can eat it, but it might not taste as fresh as it once was.

Fresh Foods

Things like milk, cheese, fresh vegetables, and fruit should not be eaten past their prime because they can harbor bacteria that can be dangerous. This is caused by the natural breakdown of organic matter.

You’ll be able to tell that these foods have gone bad based on their appearance and smell.

A string of murders could be another sign that one of your potatoes is bad.

The common potato and other plants of the nightshade family (like tomatoes and eggplants) contain traces of a toxic chemical called solanine that can be very dangerous and even deadly. The toxin is minimal in raw, unspoiled potatoes, but if sprouted, overexposed to the sun, or stored near other
vegetables that increase spoilage (like onions) for a long period of time, the concentration of this chemical can become harmful. When stored correctly, ripe potatoes should stay good for two to three months. Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

Solution: Don’t eat green (unripe) or sprouted (overripe) potatoes.

Frozen Foods

Frozen foods do not have the same time limitations for safety as fresh foods.

As Marianne Gravely, Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety says, “Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat.”

Shelf-Stable Foods

Some foods have been treated to last indefinitely without needing refrigeration or freezing. Salted, dried, freeze-dried, or cured foods, like nuts, jerky, or oatmeal can last for years as long as they are in moisture-proof, sealed packaging.

Most canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling).

Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will eventually become stale or develop an off flavor.

See FSIS’ Shelf-Stable Food Safety fact sheet for more information. Before eating, check the packaging for signs of damage and the food itself for signs of spoilage or contamination.


Dried herbs and spices usually last for two to three years, but it depends on the kind, how they were dried, and how they are stored. You can find charts of how long different herbs and spices last online.

Signs of age: Taste and smell have faded. When they no longer pass the taste test, get rid of them. In the interim, for dried herbs, you can sometimes boost them by adding finely minced fresh parsley.

Salt by itself doesn’t expire; however, when salt includes iodine it may reduce shelf life. Even so, iodized salt has a shelf life of about five years. Keep your salt free of moisture, perhaps going so far as to repackage it in glass jars.


Sugar does not have an expiration date. White sugar lasts almost indefinitely if properly stored—though pests can contaminate your sugar and spoil it. Brown sugar may become hard as it loses moisture, but a piece of apple or bread in the container will restore softness.

Honey does not expire. It will last indefinitely! Be sure to buy 100% pure honey in glass. A lot of the honey on the market contains stuff other than honey. Honey found in King Tut’s tomb was still edible after more than 3000 years!

Bonus: Raw honey also has antibacterial properties.

Bottom Line: In most cases, you can be guided by your eyes, nose, tongue, and sense of touch.


After a recent trip to the dentist, I noticed that the little sample size Colgate dental floss has an expiration date of 01/07/2025. Really? Dental floss?

It turns out that dental floss is pretty sturdy stuff, meant to last long. The floss itself does not go bad, though the string might begin to fray a bit. The wax coating of waxed floss might start to break down. Any flavoring agents can start lessening after a long period.

So that made me wonder about the usefulness of other expiration dates.

Please note: what follows is information I found online—i.e., generally available information, not advice or recommendation.

How About Cleaning Products?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all disinfectants to publish expiration date information for all formulations that change significantly over time.

So, yes, cleaning products can expire. “Like many products purchased at the grocery store, cleaning products can degrade over time,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of communications, outreach & membership at the American Cleaning Institute (ACI). “Even if they contain preservatives, that doesn’t mean they last forever. As they begin to break down, it might affect how well the enzymes work or change the pH, resulting in a less effective product,” Sansoni explains. You might need to scrub longer or harder.

Once it has expired, some of the claims a product makes (such as the percentage of germs it kills on a surface) may no longer be valid.


Surely everyone knows they do. Indeed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all medications to have an expiration date.

Manufacturers create over-the-counter and prescription medication dosage instructions that reflect the product’s strength, quality, and purity when stored properly. This is indicated by “Expires: [DATE]” or “EXP: [DATE]” on the bottle or packaging. Think aspirin, neosporin, etc.

Beyond the expiration date, the manufacturer cannot guarantee the product will work effectively when taken as directed, and there is no easy way to determine the potency of the expired medication.

Rarely but more seriously, the drug manufacturer cannot ensure that the product will not degrade and produce toxic compounds that could cause harm.

The FDA has recently begun allowing manufacturers to extend specific medication expiration dates for the purposes of national emergency preparedness. However, you generally shouldn’t take expired medications without consulting a state-licensed, board-certified medical professional like a pharmacist or medical doctor.

The FDA has extended printed expiration dates for at-home COVID tests. Before throwing away an expired test, check with a pharmacist to see if it might still be accurate.

What About Skin Care Products?

Unless the product is classified as a drug, as acne treatments and sunscreen products are, you probably won’t find an expiration date on it, said Dr. Bruce Brod, a dermatologist at Penn Medicine. Still, if you can’t remember when you bought, you should probably toss it. Like cleaning products and medications, the effectiveness of active ingredients in these products can start to break down over time.

And Then There Is Food…

Generally speaking, it is safe to buy food on its expiration date. Expiration dates have more to do with the food’s overall quality and texture rather than whether it is safe or not safe to eat. As long as there are no signs of spoilage, you can eat it (though it might not taste as fresh as it once was).

What Foods Can You Not Eat After the Expiration Date?

Bacon and sausage1 to 2
Casseroles2 to 3
Egg whites or egg substitutes12
Frozen dinners and entrees3 to 4
Gravy, meat or poultry2 to 3
Ham, hotdogs, and lunchmeats1 to 2
Meat, uncooked roasts4 to 12
Meat, uncooked steaks or chops4 to 12
Meat, uncooked ground3 to 4
Meat, cooked2 to 3
Poultry, uncooked whole12
Poultry, uncooked parts9
Poultry, uncooked giblets3 to 4
Poultry, cooked4
Soups and stews2 to 3
Wild game, uncooked8 to 12
Recommended Freezer Times

Most shelf-stable foods are safe to eat much longer than their expiration date. But things like milk (and other dairy) should not be consumed past its expiration date unless frozen. One can tell that these foods have gone bad based on their appearance and smell.

Posted by Marianne Gravely, Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety: “Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months (recommended freezer times chart) may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat. Often seasonings and additional ingredients can make up for loss of flavor.

Before you throw out limp lettuce or brown bananas, consider the possibilities! Wilted herbs can infuse oils. Turn mushy fruit into pie or compote. Almost any vegetable past its prime can still make great soup. Leftover milk or cream make great ricotta or milk jam. Recently expired milk can even substitute for buttermilk in baked goods. You can even use expired food as cleaning agents or skin care ingredients!

While not food per se, baking powder and baking soda both have expiration dates that should be heeded—assuming you want your baked goods to turn out right.

Things You Never Knew Had an Expiration Date

They’re meant to keep you safe or to ensure that the product will still work, so don’t blow them off.

  • Infant/child carseats: every one has an expiration date, usually printed on the bottom of the seat. The longevity of a car seat varies by manufacture date and brand. For example, Graco and Britax car seats tend to expire after six to ten years, depending on the type of seat you have.
  • IOSAT (Potassium Iodide) Nuke Pills expire but have a shelf life of around 5-6 years. They are relatively inexpensive and provide assurance for nuclear accidents and attacks. Be sure to check the expiration date of your supplies of this “must have” if you are prepping for a radiation emergency. Ensure you have one packet for everyone in your household.
  • Kevlar clothing items have an expiration date. Yes, bullet proof vests and motorcycle pants have expiration dates, generally five years for Kevlar.
  • Condoms have an expiration date, usually printed on the package. Generally, a condom expires about five years after manufacture if stored under proper conditions—i.e., in a cool, dry place. Condoms with spermicide will last just two years. Heat, light, and humidity will affect condom integrity.
  • Disposable respirators (the majority, anyway) have expiration dates. The respirator mask should not be used after this date.
  • Bottled water has a date stamped on the bottle, though this is sometimes a sell-by or use-by date rather than an expiration date. Water, of course, does not go bad or expire. However, the bottles can start to break down and leak antimony and microplastics into the water when stored at high temperatures or for a long time.

“Sell By” or “Use By”

Then there are “sell by” and “use by” dates:

  • “Sell by” dates:
    • This is information for the store for their own stock rotation to let the stores know how long to display the food. It helps them keep track: out with the old, and in with the new.
  • “Use by” dates
    • Best if used by dates are for the consumer to advise about the texture, color or quality of the food. This totally voluntary information a manufacturer passes along to protect their brand. Generally, you can stretch the date and still enjoy the food.

Bottom Line: Pay attention to expiration dates, especially on products related to one’s health and well-being.


It’s here, it’s there! In the car. Under the china cabinet. On book shelves—and books. Curled into dust bunnies in closet corners. Where on earth does all that dust come from? Short answer? Nearly everywhere!

Wherever it comes from, dust is fine particles of solid matter, heavy enough to see and light enough to be carried by the wind.

What Makes Dust?

Pay no attention to the cuteness – these creatures are dangerous!

Tiny fragments of human skin account for 20-50% of household dust! People are generally aware of dry skin on the scalp and body. Now you know: it doesn’t just disappear! If you sleep on flannel sheets, your bed might look like you have full-body dandruff. (Told to me by a friend!)

Pets also shed skin cells. People who are allergic to cats, dogs, guinea pigs or whatever, are allergic to that pet’s dander. Personally, I have a major anaphylactic response (throat swelling, unable to breathe) to guinea pig dander—even to a room where a guinea pig has been! In Peru, guinea pig meat is a traditional and major source of protein. It turns out, I can eat guinea pig, I just can’t be around them.

BTW, although it is extremely rare, people can be allergic to human dander! And some dogs are allergic to humans!

Hair is usually seen in strands, but can disintegrate into dust, too.

Dangerous Dust

Smoke and ash often go together. You smell smoke because of the particles coming in contact with your nasal membranes. And as you all know, excessive exposure to smoke or ash can be deadly. But don’t forget volcanic ash!

Pollen season where I live washes the world in chartreuse.

Those spring days when your vehicle seems to have been powdered in yellow, you can see pollen dust. But even when you can’t see it, airborne pollen can adversely affect breathing.

Bacteria are dust? Yep. Or at least they are in dust. The most common ones are staphylococcus and streptococcus, both common on human skin and relatively prevalent in our everyday lives.

Dust that is small bits of dirt or rock are hazardous to one’s lungs with long or repeated exposure. Think black lung disease for coal miners. Ditto asbestos used in construction. Even plaster or chalk dust.

Wind moves dust in dry places. A small wind gust can swirl debris almost anywhere, such as the driveway or a city street. A strong, well-formed, relatively short-lived whirlwind makes a dust devil. It can be short or tall, like a swirling cone of dust.

A gigantic dust cloud engulfs a ranch in Boise City, Okla., in 1935.

Big winds, over expansive areas can form dust storms. This happened long-term in the 1930s across the American and Canadian prairie. The result was called the Dust Bowl, and great damage to the ecology and agriculture.

People with asthma or other breathing problems pay close attention to the daily air quality index, which is affected by all these sources of dust pollution.

Useful Dust

Scott Wade turns dusty cars into fantastic works of art!

Is there anything good about dust? I mean apart from children being able to write their names on tables, cars, etc.

Beauty, maybe? You can buy sea salt spray for your hair, purported to offer texture, a natural look, and to counter some of the oil on hair to give you an extra day of good style between washes.

Sea spray (aerosol particles of salt crystals from the ocean) is formed mostly by bursting bubbles where the sea meets the air, transferring matter and energy between the ocean and the atmosphere. It’s most obvious when it dries on surfaces.

Dust particles help in pollination of plants.

Then, too, individual dust particles are a major part of rain. Water vapor in clouds condenses (turns to liquid) around invisible dust particles. A “grain” of dust is likely at the center of every raindrop.

In agriculture, dust can enhance soil fertility and improve crop growth. Adding rock dust to fields can also help to capture carbon in the atmosphere, potentially helping to reverse climate change.

In industry, dust can be used in the production of such materials as concrete and ceramics.

During Holi, celebrants throw colored dust (typically made of corn starch and dye) on each other to celebrate spring, love, and the triumph of good over evil.

Among the benefits of dust is that it reduces the air temperature, as well as reduces the risk of toxic gases in the atmosphere.

Exposing children to dust through gardens and dust in the child’s natural surroundings enhances children’s immunity.

Household dust actually purifies the air by neutralizing ozone that can harm our lungs—because one of the major components of house dust is human skin, which contains the ozone-eliminating component squalene.

Dust is important for survival because it plays a role in a range of physical, chemical, and bio-geological processes, and interacts with the cycles of energy, nitrogen, carbon, and water that are necessary for Earth system functions.

Bottom Line: Like so many things, dust is good for you—in moderation.

In Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series of fantasy novels, “dust” is actually an elemental particle responsible for consciousness.


“Contact comfort” refers to the physical and emotional comfort a person receives from physical contact with another. And it isn’t just for infants!

Pretty much everyone knows about the need for contact comfort in infancy; whether the infant receives it or not has life-long consequences. Why?

Early Contact Comfort Research

Harry Harlow

Contact comfort
Harlow monkey experiment
Baby monkey snuggling a soft mannequin in Harry Harlow’s research

Psychologists believe that contact comfort forms the foundation for attachments. As far back as the 1950s, Harry Harlow’s studies demonstrated the importance of physical comfort. In his lab, young monkeys preferred snuggling with a soft, cloth-covered mannequin over a wire mannequin. Even when the wire mannequin provided food, the baby monkeys chose to cuddle with the mannequin that provided contact comfort.

Similarly, human babies need to feel safe and comforted. From this secure base, they develop the confidence interact with and explore their worlds.

John Bowlby

According to John Bowlby, who saw first-hand the effects of World War II on civilian populations, children need two things to develop a healthy attachment:

  • The caregiver must be responsive to the child’s physical, social, and emotional needs
  • The caregiver and child must engage in mutually enjoyable interactions

As Bowlby observed, even infants try to prevent separation from their parents. When such separation is imminent, babies cry, refuse a stranger’s comfort, and wait for the parent to return.

Erik Erikson

Eric Erikson, a contemporary of Harlow and Bowlby, theorized that human psychosocial development occurs in eight stages. Erikson was in agreement on the importance of a secure base, arguing that the most important goal of infancy was the development of a basic sense of trust in one’s caregivers. Infants are dependent and must rely on others to meet their basic physical needs as well as their needs for stimulation and comfort. A caregiver who consistently meets these needs instills a sense of trust in the world is a trustworthy place.

In 1982, Erikson concluded that a lack of this basic trust could contaminate all aspects of a person’s life and deprive the person of love and fellowship. For example, a premature infant who has to spend their first weeks in an incubator might not develop a strong bond with parents. A child born unwanted or with physical problems that make them less desirable to a parent is more likely to develop a mistrust of the world. Under these circumstances, the parent isn’t likely to provide what the child needs to develop trust. Not being able to trust others, even family and close friends, has profound effects in teens and adults.

Children who have not had ample physical and emotional attention are likely to develop emotional, social, and behavioral problems when they are older.

Lack of Contact Comfort

The human brain changes extensively during infancy. Children from deprived surroundings such as orphanages, show vastly different hormone levels than parent-raised children even beyond the baby years.

Human babies can actually die from lack of touch.

In the nineteenth century, most infants in orphanages and institutions in the United States died of marasmus (“wasting away”). In the 1930s, doctors called a child’s physical decline when separated from caregivers anaclitic depression or hospitalism. A survey of institutions in 1915 reported that the majority of children under age two who had died exhibited “failure to thrive” symptoms. The lack of touch and affection drastically decreased their ability to grow, maintain a healthy weight, and develop.

James Prescott (1971) found that deprivation of touch and movement contributed to later emotional problems. In cultures in which people were very physically affectionate towards infants, levels of adult aggression were relatively low. On the other hand, in cultures that did not encourage as much physical touch, level of adult aggression were higher.

Everyone Benefits!

Mental Benefits

Skin to skin contact benefits both the child and the parent. It reduces parental stress and depression.

According to an article at, the benefits of contact comfort for adults are numerous. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety, regulate emotions, and increase the production of feel-good hormones. It can also help strengthen relationships and build trust between people. As mentioned earlier, infants who don’t have a foundation for trust have a much tougher time trusting as adults.

For those with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, physical contact can be an invaluable source of comfort and security, safety and connection. Research has shown that the physical touch of another person can help reduce feelings of fear, anger, and sadness.

When people are mourning a death or other loss, a typical response is to hug the person, or at least touch the person’s arm, hold hands, or offer a pat on the back.

In stressful situations (like a court or doctor’s office), you are likely to see people holding hands or leaning on the shoulder of a loved one while waiting. In times of heightened stress or fear, people unconsciously reach for comfort from those around them. Children who usually consider themselves too old for cuddles will climb on a parent’s lap. Siblings who otherwise don’t get along might hug or simply lean together. Even complete strangers often feel compelled to seek or offer a pat on the shoulder or hand on the back, as the situation dictates.

Physical Benefits

In addition, contact comfort can help speed up the healing process for physical wounds. For example, patients who are touched on the shoulder by nurses and other medical personnel heal faster. Other studies have shown that physical touch can help reduce pain and inflammation. This is because the body releases oxytocin and endorphins, which can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Touching can help strengthen relationships and build trust between people. Studies have shown that physical touch increase feelings of closeness and connection, and levels of trust and understanding.

As with infants, when adults are physically touched by another person, it can help us feel safe and connected. This can be especially helpful for those struggling with insecurity or feeling disconnected from their partner.

Give Yourself More Contact Comfort

If you’d like to incorporate contact comfort into your daily life, here are a few tips from “Contact Comfort: How Touch Can Help Us Feel Connected

  • Make sure to give and receive physical affection regularly. This can be as simple as a hug or holding hands.
  • Take time to be intentional about physical contact with those you love. Make sure to focus on the connection and the feeling of being held or touched.
  • Try to be mindful of the effect that physical touch can have. Pay attention to how it makes you feel and how it can help create a deeper connection with those around you.
  • Make sure to establish boundaries around physical contact. Respect the wishes of those you touch and be aware of their comfort level.

Under a huge range of circumstances—you can imagine what those might be—an adult’s needs for physical closeness and touch just aren’t satisfied. Those people might decide to find a professional cuddler (or cuddlist). You can hire a professional cuddle-buddy for $60-$100 per hour for non-sexual hugs and cuddles. Both people remain fully clothed. The permissible touching is clearly delineated—much like when getting a massage in the U.S.

Bottom Line: Non-violent physical touch is comforting, and beneficial in many ways. Contact comfort is a good thing!


“Self-soothing” refers to behaviors people use to regulate their emotional state by themselves. It’s a strategy used to regain equilibrium after an upsetting event, or when facing a stressful situation. (For example, when a child’s parents argue, or an older person has to make a public presentation.)

Self-soothing behaviors are often apparent early in life, and are calming or comforting for a child or adolescent. Infants, for example, may be seen repeatedly sucking fingers or thumbs, hugging a toy or blanket. These habits may continue for years.

Self-soothing behaviors are repetitive/habitual in nature—and are often not consciously applied. Do you touch your hair, twist a ring, straighten your tie, etc.? Noticing when you engage in such behaviors can help you recognize mildly tense or stressful situations. It’s another form of self-awareness.

Following a shock, a traumatic or upsetting event, all people need soothing. In these more intense situations, two common self-soothing behaviors include reaching for an alcoholic drink or a tub of ice cream or other emotional eating. However—as you no doubt know—these kinds of self-soothing behaviors can cause additional problems.

Several self-soothing behaviors can lead to other problems: binge-watching TV, compulsive gaming, or internet surfing. Many superheroes have unhealthy self-soothing behaviors, including Jessica Jones and Iron Man.

Constructive Methods of Self-Soothing

Positive Psychology published an article suggesting several more positive strategies: “24 Best Self-Soothing Techniques and Strategies for Adults.” The following 7 suggestions quoted below are included in that article.

1. Change the Environment

If possible, just change the environment for a few minutes. Go outside and focus on greenery or find a soothing indoor space with a pleasant view or ambiance.

(The origin of the “Green Room” in theaters may stem from Elizabethan actors resting “on the green” between scenes to calm their eyes and their nerves. As the wavelength of green light causes the least strain on the human eye, those Elizabethans may have been on to something!)

2. Stretch for Five Minutes to Move Any Blocked Energy

For best results, try to put your chin between your heels.

Often, after upsetting news or a shock, our bodies respond by freezing and energy gets blocked. A few simple trunk twists, neck rotations, or bends at the hip to touch the toes can help shift stagnant energy.

(Even without a shock, our bodies tend to store tension and stress in our backs, shoulders, and necks. Stretching these areas can prevent headaches and improve circulation.)

3. Take a Warm Shower or Bath

Treat yourself with soothing body wash or bubbles and a fresh, soft towel afterward.

(For best results, do not use overly hot water and avoid scrubbing too hard. If hot water is not available, you can turn to oil, smoke, some types of mud, or simple cold water to achieve cleanliness and promote peace of mind.)

4. Soothing Imagery

Find soothing things to look at such as a burning candle, soft lights, pictures of loved ones, favorite places, or perhaps some framed inspirational resilience quotes or affirmations.

(The color green is most restful to the human eye, but some evidence suggests that other colors may have a calming effect on stress and mood. According to the principles of chromotherapy, surrounding oneself with blue, purple, or white can calm, soothe, and relax the central nervous system.)

5. Soothing Music

Harpist Carlos Reyes

Listen to favorite tracks that have a calming effect or one of the many relaxing music videos for stress relief that are available online.

(Harp music in particular has a soothing effect on the body as well as the mind. Research has shown that listening to harp music improves pain management, blood pressure, and heart rate regularity.)

6. Soothing Smells

Create pleasant smells by using an essential oil diffuser, scented candle, or incense. Also, try using scented hand lotion.

(The most soothing scent of all!)

7. Self-Compassion

Speak compassionately to yourself aloud. Talk to yourself like a good friend would. Give yourself the grace to be off-balance and the space to just be as you are for a while.

Soothing Every Sense

When people experience high levels of stress or discomfort often, some therapists recommend making a self-soothing box that includes objects or reminders of how to soothe all five senses:

  • Comforting smells such as scented candles, essential oils, or body lotion
  • Pleasant tastes such as herbal teas or favorite snacks
  • Soothing things to touch such as a favorite sweater, wrap, or stress ball
  • Comforting sights such as photos of loved ones, pets, or favorite places
  • Soothing sounds such as a favorite piece of music or guided meditation track

Most of us are familiar with people soothing other people—a hug, a back-rub, a shoulder to cry on. During COVID, when interpersonal soothing was less available, researchers studied the benefits of self-touching (Dreisoerner et al., 2021). They found that both self-soothing touch (in this study, most participants chose to place their right hand on their heart and their left on their abdomen while focusing on the rising and falling of their breath) and receiving a hug from another person were equally effective at lowering stress levels.

When adults are distressed, it’s difficult to regulate potentially disruptive emotions like anger, fear, and sadness, especially in a public space such as the workplace. If you want to explore self-soothing further, just look online. You will find lists of techniques from 8 to 100. Surely there’s something there for everyone.

Bottom Line: Everyone experiences distress of various sorts and at various levels. Self-soothing is a life skill worth learning.


Ever wonder about the safety of the food you put in your mouth or serve to your guests? It should be fine, actually. There are multiple government agencies charged with seeing to it.

Specifically, There are Three US Agencies Dealing With Food Safety

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Norovirus, a primary cause of gastroentiritis cases in the winter, looks disconcertingly fluffy under a microscope.

The FDA is charged with protecting public health. They make sure that foods are safe, wholesome, sanitary and properly labeled. Safety and proper labeling of cosmetics and dietary supplements also fall under FDA oversight.

FDA standards and inspections cover both human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, biological products, and medical devices, ensuring they are safe and effective. This includes tobacco products.

The FDA also protects the public from electronic radiation.

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

As part of the US Department of Agriculture, the FSIS, rather than the FDA, has jurisdiction over most meat and egg products sold in the US. From their website, “FSIS protects the public’s health by ensuring that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and properly labeled.” The FSIS does this in part by requiring any producer of meat or eggs to follow a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Grapes! No, just Staphylococcus aureus.

Somewhat surprisingly, the CDC leads federal efforts to gather data on food-borne illnesses, investigate food-borne illnesses and outbreaks, and monitor the effectiveness of prevention and control efforts in reducing food-borne illnesses. The CDC also plays a key role in building state and local health department epidemiology, laboratory, and environmental health capacity to support food-borne disease surveillance and outbreak response.

So, How Effective are These Safety Measures?

According to the FDA, Americans suffer approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning every year. The CDC estimates that each year 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages and 3,000 die from food borne illness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that food-borne illnesses cost the United States more than $15.6 billion each year.

Top 15 Foods That Caused Outbreak-Associated Illnesses, 2009–2018*

  • *Vegetable row crops (e.g., leafy vegetables); seeded vegetables (e.g., cucumbers); mollusks (e.g., oysters); root/underground vegetables (e.g., carrots, potatoes)
  • *Unpasteurized dairy products accounted for 80% of outbreak-associated illnesses linked to dairy. Pasteurized dairy products accounted for 10%, and pasteurization status was unknown for 9%.
  • *Other = foods that don’t fit in the top 15 categories and other federally regulated items such as alcohol, coffee, other beverages, ice, condiments, and dietary supplements.
  • **Total of percentages does not equal 100% because of rounding.

Who is Really Responsible for Food Safety?

Everywhere I looked, I had to conclude that food safety still lays largely in the hands of individual cooks and consumers.

Things to Be Aware Of

Campylobacter kind of looks like Cheetos.

Biological hazards include bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses and are the main cause of food-borne illnesses. They can develop in poorly handled food or through contamination from an outside source. Ensure that all your produce has been purchased from an approved supplier. In all cases of suspected contaminated food, dispose of it immediately. And of course, that goes double for recalled items.

Chemical hazards are substances such as pesticides or machine oils. Always handle and store correctly. Keep potentially hazardous items stored separately from your food and prep area.

Physical hazards are objects which contaminate your foods such as pieces of glass or metal, toothpicks, jewelry, or hair. The majority of recalls in the food industry in the US are related to physical hazards. Keeping all foods covered in storage will help prevent physical contamination. Take care during preparation to reduce the risk of such contamination in the kitchen.

The Three Main Sources of “Food Poisoning”

A close-up of salmonella looks like candy!

1) Time and temperature hazards result from improper cooking, holding, cooling, and reheating of food, leading to the growth of pathogens.

  • Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
  • Promptly refrigerate all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5°C)
  • Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 60°C) prior to serving
  • Do not store food too long in the refrigerator
  • Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature
  • Know the degree of doneness needed for various foods, especially meat, fish, and poultry

2) Cross contamination occurs when you mix cooked and uncooked food, especially raw meat or fish.

Toxoplasma gondii may look like a Day-Glo ghost, but it’s very dangerous to pregnant women.
  • Assign different containers for the preparation of each kind of food
  • Avoid un-sanitized surfaces, utensils and equipment at all stages of food preparation

3) Poor personal hygiene is a common culprit that’s easily avoidable by following these rules:

  • Wash and sanitize hands properly between tasks and whenever they get dirty
  • Wear single-use gloves while preparing or serving ready-to-eat food
  • Clean and trim nails
  • Bathe or shower daily
  • Keep hair neatly combed, with long hair tied back
  • Wear a hair net or cap and apron at all times
  • Cover wounds at all times and refrain from handling food with open wounds
  • Stay away from the kitchen when sick and consult a doctor as to when it is safe to return
  • Remove jewelry before working
Underwater plant life or Escherichia coli (E. coli)? Who can tell?

Okay, so individually each of these is easy to do. But how many people actually do all of these things all the time?

Bottom Line: It’s surprising that only 1 person in 6 suffers from food-borne illnesses each year.


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.


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!


A marriage annulment is a legal ruling that deems a marriage null and void — as if it never happened in the first place. Annulments effectively erase the marriage.

There are two main ways to formally end a marriage: annulment and divorce. An annulment declares that a marriage was never valid, while a divorce legally concludes a valid marriage. A divorce is more common and easier to attain. Annulment requires specific circumstances and evidence.

Most people are fairly familiar with divorce, personally or observationally, so this blog focuses on annulment, both civil and religious.

“The Civil Wedding” (1887)
Albrecht Samuel Anker

Civil Annulment

Because an annulled marriage was never considered legally valid, any prenuptial agreements are also invalid. Plus, neither partner has a right to the other’s personal property or finances the way they would in the case of a divorce.

Getting the courts to grant an annulment can be difficult. At least one party must believe the marriage shouldn’t have happened, and they have to provide grounds to a judge in order to have it annulled. To qualify for an annulment of marriage, you must meet certain circumstances. The following situations typically qualify:

  • False pretenses: One or both parties were tricked into getting married.
  • Mental incompetence: One or both parties weren’t legally able to make the decision to get married because of a mental disability or being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Underage marriage: One or both parties were under the legal age of consent (typically 18) at the time of the marriage.
  • Concealment: One or both parties failed to disclose important details about themselves and their lives prior to the marriage, like having a child, criminal conviction, or serious illness.
  • Failure to consummate the marriage: One or both parties are unable to be physically intimate in the marriage.
  • Concealed Infertility: One spouse might be physically incapable of having children, and that spouse might have lied about it to the other spouse. This would involve both fraud and lack of consummation.
  • Consanguinity: Incest is defined as a relationship between two blood relatives who would be banned from legal marriage in their state. This typically means more closely related than first cousins.
  • Bigamy happens when one person is already married at the time of marrying someone else.
  • Underage without parental consent: Lack of consent can happen when one spouse is too young to consent on his or her own behalf, and the other spouse did not get proper consent from the parents of the underage spouse.
  • Unsound mind: You may be able to show unsound mind if you or your spouse was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your marriage. If you were prevented by intoxication or by a mental disorder from understanding what you were doing, you may be able to get an annulment.
  • Finally, a marriage can be annulled if one spouse threatened, blackmailed, or coerced the other spouse into marriage.

In an annulment where there are children, it’s as if the parents were never married. That means both parents can individually seek custody or work out an agreement for shared custody, much like they would if the child had been born to unmarried parents in the first place.

“Le Jugement de Salomon” (1649)
Nicolas Poussin

States’ Rights

Just as the requirements for marriage and divorce vary by state, so do some aspects of annulment. Someone interested in an annulment—whether for personal, family, or literary reasons—should investigate requirements of the relevant state.

Sometimes there are time limits on filing for an annulment. According to the Nathan Law Offices, in general, you have four years from the date of the marriage to file for an annulment. However, there are exceptions depending on the reason for the annulment.

And the time limit varies by state. For example, in Michigan, Virginia, and Ohio—and many others—the marriage may be annulled if a case is brought to court within two years of the marriage date.

However, there is no time frame to get an annulment in New York City. You can ask the Court for an annulment whether you have been married for 2 years or for 25 years as long as some of the grounds for annulment are met. Ditto Georgia, and several other states.

In Oklahoma a marriage that takes place before the expiration of six months from the date either spouse was divorced is a voidable marriage. In order to annul such a remarriage, an annulment action must be brought within the six-month period.

In North Carolina, the marriage can be annulled if it was performed under the representation that one of the parties was pregnant, but the couple separates within 45 days of their marriage and no child is born within the 10 months following the separation. Many states allow annulment on a much greater number of fraud-related grounds, but in North Carolina this is the only fraudulent ground available for an annulment.

“The Marriage Settlement” (1745)
William Hogarth


This is a totally separate action. People who don’t qualify for a civil annulment may still be able to obtain a religious annulment, but this will have no effect on legal responsibilities as spouses. This process is not a part of the court system but, rather, a part of the church or institution to which the person(s) belong. However, it serves a similar purpose in that a religious annulment of a marriage typically decrees that the marriage was invalid from the beginning.

Pope Francis I

In religious annulment, the Church recognizes that a valid marriage never existed under the laws of the Church. Although some other religious institutions provide annulments, the Catholic Church is by far the most commonly used. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with Catholic annulments here.

In 2015, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, which is essentially an amendment to existing Catholic canon. These two documents, the Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et Misericors Iesus (one for the Western Catholic Church and one for the Eastern Catholic Church), make the process of obtaining an annulment more efficient.

Without an annulment, a Catholic cannot remarry, even if they divorce. A divorced Catholic who remarries without obtaining an annulment cannot receive any other sacraments.

The short of it is that to obtain a Church annulment, the person seeking the annulment must satisfy the Church that one or more of the requirements for a valid marriage was missing or abridged. The long of it is—well—long. (These are quoted directly from the Vatican library of canon law online.)

  • Insufficient use of reason (Canon 1095, 10): You or your spouse did not know what was happening during the marriage ceremony because of insanity, mental illness, or a lack of consciousness.
  • Grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties (Canon 1095, 20): You or your spouse was affected by some serious circumstances or factors that made you unable to judge or evaluate either the decision to marry or the ability to create a true marital relationship.
  • Psychic-natured incapacity to assume marital obligations (Canon 1095, 30): You or your spouse, at the time of consent, was unable to fulfill the obligations of marriage because of a serious psychological disorder or other condition.
  • Ignorance about the nature of marriage (Canon 1096, sec. 1): You or your spouse did not know that marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and a woman ordered toward the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.
  • Error of person (Canon 1097, sec. 1): You or your spouse intended to marry a specific individual who was not the individual with whom marriage was celebrated. (For example, mail order brides; otherwise, this rarely occurs in the United States.)
  • Error about a quality of a person (Canon 1097, sec. 2): You or your spouse intended to marry someone who either possessed or did not possess a certain quality, e.g., social status, marital status, education, religious conviction, freedom from disease, or arrest record. That quality must have been directly and principally intended.
  • Fraud (Canon 1098): You or your spouse was intentionally deceived about the presence or absence of a quality in the other. The reason for this deception was to obtain consent to marriage.
  • Total willful exclusion of marriage (Canon 1101, sec. 2): You or your spouse did not intend to contract marriage as the law of the Catholic Church understands marriage. Rather, the ceremony was observed solely as a means of obtaining something other than marriage itself, e.g., to obtain legal status in the country or to legitimize a child.
  • Willful exclusion of children (Canon 1101, sec. 2): You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, to deny the other’s right to sexual acts open to procreation.
  • Willful exclusion of marital fidelity (Canon 1101, 12): You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to remain faithful.
  • Willful exclusion of marital permanence (Canon 1101, sec. 2): You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to create a permanent relationship, retaining an option to divorce.
  • Future condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): You or your spouse attached a future condition to your decision to marry, e.g., you will complete your education, your income will be at a certain level, you will remain in this area.
  • Past condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): You or your spouse attached a past condition so your decision to marry and that condition did not exist; e.g., I will marry you provided that you have never been married before, I will marry you provided that you have graduated from college.
  • Present condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): You or your spouse attached a present condition to your decision to marry and that condition did not exist, e.g., I will marry you provided you don’t have any debt.
  • Force (Canon 1103): You or your spouse married because of an external physical or moral force that you could not resist.
  • Fear (1103): You or your spouse chose to marry because of fear that was grave and inescapable and was caused by an outside source.
  • Error regarding marital unity that determined the will (1099): You or your spouse married believing that marriage was not necessarily an exclusive relationship.
  • Error regarding marital indissolubility that determined the will (Canon 1099): You or your spouse married believing that civil law had the power to dissolve marriage and that remarriage was acceptable after civil divorce.
  • Error regarding marital sacramental dignity that determined the will (Canon 1099): You and your spouse married believing that marriage is not a religious or sacred relationship but merely a civil contract or arrangement.
  • Lack of new consent during convalidation (Canons 1157,1160): After your civil marriage, you and your spouse participated in a Catholic ceremony and you or your spouse believed that (1) you were already married, (2) the Catholic ceremony was merely a blessing, and (3) the consent given during. the Catholic ceremony had no real effect.
One of the most famous “annullers” of all time—King Henry the VIII—created a new religion so he’d be allowed to marry all of these women.


Unless otherwise specified, there is no limit on the passage of time between marriage and annulment.

Glynn (Scotty) Wolfe, an American Baptist minister is known for having the largest number of monogamous marriages. He married 31 different times. One marriage was annulled.

A Catholic couple who obtain a divorce can subsequently apply for an annulment when one or both parties want to be members of the church in good standing and/or be remarried in the church.

If one member of a couple applies for an annulment, the other member has the option of agreeing, disagreeing, or (in the case of a couple previously divorced) simply not responding.

If each spouse/former spouse completes the fact-finding forms (done independently), their answers are compared and discrepancies resolved. This process can go on for months!

“Mariage de Louis de France, Duc de Bourgogne et de Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie” (1715)
Antoine Dieu

Bottom Line: Civil and religious annulments are two distinctly different actions and one cannot replace the other. Be clear about your rights and responsibilities, which vary by state in Civil annulments.