Are You Superstitious?

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 8, Number 3

The month of March reminds us that Spring is here and is quickly followed by summer. It is a time for renewal and rededication to what you value as important. We call your attention to March also being National Nutrition Month which is a campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics designed to focus attention on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Obesity with poor eating habits is a major health care issue for our society, costing millions of dollars in medical treatment and lost workplace productivity. We urge you to eat appropriately and to engage in regular exercise or physical activity to improve your health.

In this March E-letter, we ask you: Are You Superstitious?, Our Ask the Doc question is about Adult AD/HD, and our email of the month is about Words of Wisdom. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement for the next school year, this would be a good time to have them evaluated. Recent questions from parents have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at school. Our practice does different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about these evaluations can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel who would be happy to answer them.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. We have been certified by the Department of Children and Families, State of Florida, to offer the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sometimes referred to as the Divorce Class, this 4 hour class is state mandated for divorcing parents of involved children. This course is intended to teach parents about the effects divorce has on children, to lessen the impact of difficult transitions, and to improve the ways they communicate with each other and their children. Our course is provided live and in small groups. Please contact our office at 954 755-2885 for further information.

Low cost counseling: Denise Champagne, M.S., is offering low cost counseling as a mental health intern. She is currently seeing patients and is available to take on new patients. This allows those individuals who cannot afford treatment to obtain it and allows her to get the required training. If you or someone you know is in need of counseling but just cannot afford it, please call the office and ask for Denise. All treatment provided by Denise will be reviewed and supervised by Dr. Kimmel.

Qualified Supervisor. Dr. Joel Kimmel has been certified by the State of Florida to supervise mental health counselors seeking supervision to meet the licensing requirements. If you or anyone you know needs a qualified supervisor to meet these requirements, contact Dr. Kimmel for further information.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on behaviors and statements people often make in our office that can be classified as superstitious or magical thinking. Many times, people will knock on wood or say certain statements designed to undo something or to ward off evil. Periodically, people will tell us about refusing to walk under ladders, not stepping on cracks, or fear about having broken a mirror. Where do these beliefs and rituals come from?

Most people occasionally participate in superstitious thinking without even realizing they are doing it. More than half of all Americans admit to being a little superstitious according to a recent Gallup poll. And it is on the increase. Beliefs in astrology, ghosts, and spirits have all become popular in the past few decades. Just watch the bingo player’s good luck charm or the basketball player before taking a foul shot perform some ritual or the tennis player who has to wear certain clothing a certain way to observe superstitious behavior. But why?

Superstition is a belief in supernatural or magical causality to an event. That is, one event can lead to another event without there being any link between them and contradicts natural science. Does wearing a blue sock and a yellow sock really mean that you will play tennis better?  People use magical or superstitious behavior to gain control over uncertainty, to decrease their feelings of helplessness, and to give them some edge over a situation. After all, it is easier to rely on superstition than to develop coping techniques. A coincidental link between throwing salt over your shoulder and not having a negative event does not mean you actually prevented the event. This is an example of magical thinking yet it does decrease anxiety or guilt. People who believe that fate and chance control their lives are more likely to be superstitious.

A famous experiment conducted by B.F. Skinner 1948 described pigeons exhibiting superstitious behavior. He found that pigeons performed certain ritualistic behaviors such as swinging their head in a pendulum fashion to receive food from a dispenser even though the dispenser had been programmed to disperse food pellets at specific preset time intervals. His conclusion was that pigeons were trying to influence their feeding schedule by performing ritualistic actions. Do we do the same as humans?

Is superstitious thinking or behaving bad? That is up to your interpretation. If you want to decrease or eliminate your superstitious thinking, don’t believe in bad luck and take ownership over what control you do have in situations. Focus on what you can actually do to avoid difficult situations. Also, be decisive and proactive and do not fear the results of your behaviors. Decrease your anxiety and have confidence in yourself. Look at negative events as learning opportunities.

We offer the following information on Superstitious Behavior:

“When you believe in things you don’t understand, Then you suffer
Superstition ain’t the way”— Stevie Wonder

What to Know!

  • Superstition is a belief in causality by a supernatural force, that is, one event leads to another by means other than natural science such as omens, lucky charms, etc.
  • According to a Gallup poll, more than 50% of Americans admit to being superstitious
  • Most people occasionally participate in superstitious thinking or behavior often without even realizing they are doing it
  • Common superstitious behaviors include wearing lucky clothes, carrying good luck charms, throwing spilt salt over one’s shoulder, knocking on wood, not walking under a ladder, not breaking a mirror, and touching/rubbing specific statues
  • Research shows that the amount of superstitious or magical thinking increases under conditions of stress
  • Rituals common to OCD behavior often interfere with a person’s life but are not necessarily superstitious
  • The driving force behind superstitious behavior is a desire to have more control or have more certainty in a situation
  • When anxious, people tend to look for some kind of a rule or explanation and sometimes a false certainty is better than no explanation
  • Often, superstitious beliefs allow people to feel that they have some control, that they did one more thing to influence the outcome or uncertainty
  • Superstitious thoughts help to relieve feelings of anxiety and helplessness and can promote positive thoughts that may actually enhance performance
  • It is easier to rely on superstitious beliefs than to develop coping skills
  • Fearful superstitions such as Friday the 13th can interfere with people’s lives as they may not leave the home or cancel an appointment on that day
  • Women tend to be more superstitious than men because in our society today, they tend to feel that they have less control over their lives than men
  • People demonstrate superstitious behaviors in gambling, playing sports, etc. in the hope that their ritual increases their performance although most times, it doesn’t
  • Research found that superstitious behavior increases as the difficulty of the event and the importance of the outcome increases

What to Do!

  • Don’t believe in bad luck and own whatever control you do have in situations
  • Accept that there will be uncertainty and little control in some situations but that doesn’t mean it will turn out bad
  • Be decisive and proactive and have confidence in oneself
  • Don’t rely on luck, omens, objects, rituals, or magical behaviors to believe you can influence an outcome
  • Do not be upset with yourself if you have some superstitious belief, more than ½ of Americans do
  • Seek professional help if you have excessive magical thinking or rely too much on luck or on omens rather than on oneself

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

JS writes: I think my husband must have ADD. He can’t sit still and is always working on something. He sleeps only a few hours and wakes up raring to go. He starts many projects and finishes few. It is hard to talk to him because he looks like he if off somewhere else. He is very successful at work as he is a salesman and does lots of traveling. Frankly, it’s quieter at home when he is on a business trip. He does drink and smoke pot which he says turns his mind off. I know he loves me but it’s difficult living with him. We have been married for 5 years. Could he have ADD?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: the short answer is yes, your husband might have AD/HD or Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder. Many of the characteristics that you have described are typical of Adult AD/HD. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Adults with AD/HD have difficulty concentrating, have problems tolerating boredom, and often do not finish tasks that they start. They may procrastinate, complain of a racing mind, and may have or develop substance dependence or addiction. They can be impulsive and have relationship problems. Some adults may be able to concentrate if they are interested or excited about the topic which could explain your husband’s success at work. Other times, they may have difficulty with times that are of no interest to the. They may be withdrawn or can be very social, going from one relationship to another.

So yes, your husband might have AD/HD. Fortunately, there is now much more knowledge about Adult AD/HD. If your husband is willing, I would suggest that he have an AD/HD assessment which would include a developmental history, completing some questionnaires, and perhaps some psychological testing. These results can be discussed with his physician or a psychologist to determine a course of action. In the past, stimulant medication has often been the treatment of choice. There are now other medications which may be helpful. Understanding what AD/HD is and making organizational and behavioral changes can also be quite helpful.  In a sense, you husband would benefit learning to adapt to his disorder if he does have AD/HD. If it is managed appropriately, he can be successful and productive in other areas of his life and your difficulty living with him will be greatly reduced.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank S.R.for sending us the following email:

Words of Wisdom

A Lot Of Trouble Would Disappear
If Only People Would Learn To Talk To One Another
Instead Of Talking About One Another …..

When People Walk Away From You, Let Them Go.
Your Destiny Is Never Tied To Anyone Who Leaves You.
It Doesn’t Mean They Are Bad People.
It Just Means That Their Part In Your Story Is Over!

People nowadays are like Bluetooth,
If you stay close they stay connected,
If you go away they find new devices…

Human Life Would Be Perfect If…
Anger Had A STOP Button
Mistakes Had A REWIND Button
Hard Times Had A FORWARD Button
And Good Times A PAUSE Button!!

Always Welcome Your Problems,
Because Problems Gives You Dual Advice,
Firstly, You Can Know How To Solve Them,
Secondly, You Learn How To Avoid Them In Future,
Have Faith In GOD And Yourself!

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till April…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.