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Actress Meaghan Martin: Teenagers, Self-Esteem, And Contact Lenses

When I asked Meaghan Martin (star of Mean Girls 2, 10 Things I Hate About You and Camp Rock among others) what was the most difficult thing about being a teen these days, she didn’t hesitate: “Being a teen has always been difficult, but today there are so many ways to be rejected. Between Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites, it seems as if every day there’s a new way to be un-friended, excluded, or picked on.”

I interviewed Meaghan about her perspectives on teen self-esteem issues and the impact that physical appearance can have on young men and women. You can listen to the edited interview here (starts at minute 12:02):

The most striking thing about Meaghan is that she is a genuinely nice person. Down-to-earth, confident, empathic – she exudes an inner peace that is downright wholesome. How did she escape her teen years relatively unscathed by hormonal angst, I wondered? The secret, she said, was loving parents.

“I was a typical nerd as a kid. I had glasses, braces, and an asthma inhaler. But I didn’t care what others thought of me, because my parents told me that I was a good person who could do anything I wanted in life. They taught me self-confidence, and supported me 100% in anything I wanted to do. I was so blessed to have parents like that.”

I chuckled as I remembered my pre-teen and teen years, sharing with Meaghan that I was a lot like her – except that I had traded the asthma inhaler for acne. For me, my thick glasses were an unwelcome part of my teen identity. Something my eye doctor said I had to live with because I was “too young” for contact lenses.

“Well, my glasses became a problem during dance lessons,” she said. “I would try to do flips and they’d fly across the room, or the light would reflect off of them and blind my partner. I was afraid of contact lenses because of the thought of putting a foreign object in my eyes. But I finally caved in and asked my mom if I could get some.”

“That fear of touching your eye has a name in eye-doctor circles,” I replied. “It’s known as ‘poke-a-phobia.’”

After a quick chortle we gathered our wits about us. Meaghan responded, “Yeah, my mom had to help me put my contacts in for a while when I first had them. Then one day when she wasn’t around I wanted to wear them to meet a boy that I liked. I researched how to put my contacts in on the Internet, took a deep breath, and confronted my poke-a-phobia. From then on I was able to put them in by myself.”

I wondered if the switch to contacts made Meaghan feel more self-confident.

“Around boys, they did.” she said. “Though they didn’t change my ‘confident nerd’ personality. But I had a girlfriend who switched to contacts and it changed her whole life… she became a different person. More outgoing, more sociable. The change from glasses to contacts made all the difference in her self-esteem.”

I researched the subject of contacts and self-esteem and discovered a robust study called the ACHIEVE trial (supported by funding from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. and The Vision Care InstituteTM, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson company). Nearly 500 ethnically diverse 8- to 11-year olds were randomized to either contact lenses (n=247) or glasses (n=237) and followed for three years. All subjects had been wearing glasses for correction of myopia prior to enrollment in the study.

The study authors tested the study subjects with the Self Perception Profile for Children. They found that children in the contact lens group felt significantly better about themselves compared to glasses wearers in three specific areas: athletic competence, social acceptance, and physical appearance.

Mitchell Prinstein, Ph.D., one of the investigators in the ACHIEVE trial told me that children’s sense of self-concept can alter their whole course of development. “Kids who feel more confident about sports or social activities are more likely to engage in those experiences, which further builds their skills and makes them more open to similar experiences in the future.”

I wondered how the simple contact lens intervention compared to more complex strategies that have been tried (such as major home and school life changes) to improve childrens’ self-esteem.

“What really surprised me is that for many children in the study, the switch to contact lenses had as large an effect on self-esteem scores as much more complicated and expensive interventions tested in other studies” said Walline.

It is surprising that something as simple as a switch from glasses to contact lenses can have such an impact on the self-perceptions of children and teenagers. It made me wonder if I had been allowed to make the switch if maybe my teen years would have been less painful/awkward for me.

For Meaghan, contacts were simply a utilitarian solution to a physical problem (dancing with glasses), for other youngsters, they may be the first step in adopting a new self-confident identity. But one thing’s for certain: there’s no substitute for the nurturing effect of loving parents on the healthy development of the teen psyche!

*Dr. Val Jones is a paid consultant for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

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One Response to “Actress Meaghan Martin: Teenagers, Self-Esteem, And Contact Lenses”

  1. Sarah Coles says:

    A very informative article. Thanks for providing the information

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“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.


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