Archives For: March 2011

Heartache HURTS! Science catches up with a thousand sad songs to prove it


Billie_Holiday_1949_b “The blues aint nothin' but a pain in your heart” Billie Holiday Lady Sings the Blues

She was right – and science has now caught up with a million songs of rejection to prove that love hurts. 

40 people graciously volunteered to share their pain for an experiment conducted by social psychologist Ethan Kross, the lead author of an article to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

All the volunteers shared a common story, they were broken hearted and had experienced this loss within the past six months.  Even thinking about the break up would bring about intense feelings of rejection. A very sad group.

Previous research had shown that yes, that there is an area of our brains that activates when we are in deep emotional pain. Physical pain and social rejection show up here as well. These researchers wanted to find out if there was a connection or neural overlap between emotional and physical pain.

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Women over 40 get eating disorders too; they just don't get treated very much


Gull_-_Anorexia_Miss_A Do you ever outgrow eating disorders?  Do seniors and people later in life even develop them?

The answer is yes - but a lot of people don’t believe it.  Despite research and a mountain of anecdotal evidence suggesting that women over 40 are just as interested in their body images as younger women, plenty of people assume no older woman can develop an eating disorder. 

A research study looked at 48 published studies of eating disorders in people over the age of 50. They found that 88% of the cases were female, 81% had anorexia nervosa, and 10% had bulimia nervosa.

The New York Times recently featured an woman who suffered from anorexia until her 40s.  She’s recovered and at the 58 she is telling her story of healing. It's a stark narrative that is present in her story, that despite having all of the symptoms no one said anything to her. She was praised for her focus on exercise and eating “right.” Friends and family thought she looked great. They believed that she was successful, when in reality she was in pain.

Her story is supported by a small research study published in 2010 that looked at 32 patients over the age of 50 that were being treated at a national eating disorder clinic. The found that many of the patients had a history of eating disorders and that at the time of treatment they were in relapse.

For women both old and young, the signs of anorexia are still the same:

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Depression rates in men are going to rise - and we're not handling it well


IdahoStumpFarmerLange For some of us depression is a hard subject to talk about with others. It has been described as the “Dark Night of the Soul”. But that darkness is certainly not a place that anyone would want to spend their lives, let alone spend that time alone without anyone else knowing or helping.

In an editorial published in the March 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, Boadie Dunlap wrote that the rates for depression in men will increase. Why? Men are under the shadow of long term unemployment and recovering from the violence of war. Much like their fathers, they are confronted with their own sadness, grief and pain as a result of dealing with these struggles. But unlike their fathers, they have access to services, treatments and support for their depression.

Yet even with all of the education, outreach and support, many men are facing depression alone. Why?

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Deceptive advertising, unethical research practices, "brain shrinkage" -- have we had enough of Big Pharmacy yet?


Seroquel BigPharma hasn’t admitted doing anything wrong – but their mask got pulled off all the same this month.

Drug company AstraZeneca agreed to settle lawsuits brought by 37 states – effectively they’re paying $67.5 million to avoid having to go to court and defend themselves against charges that their marketing was deceptive and their research practices unethical. 

The lawsuits centered around AstraZeneca’s illegal business practices with the antipsychotic medication Seroquel:  the company marked the drug for conditions including depression and anxiety, both of which were used it was not approved for by the FDA.  Further, AstraZeneca failed to publicize three studies showing mixed results on the effectiveness of Seroquel overall. 

It is not the first time a major drug company has been rightly accused of such wrong doing (AstraZeneca alone agreed to a $520 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last year) and it won’t be the last. 

In fact, the lawsuit comes in the backdrop of

  • Research that proves the efficacy of psychotherapy without psychotropic medications for folks with schizophrenia
  • dramatic increases in physician’s prescribing patterns (estimates suggest that twenty-five percent of patients in nursing homes have been prescribed antipsychotic medications!)
  • disturbing “off label” uses of antipsychotic medications—all with perilous and anti-human side effects.

For many who walk into their doctor’s office, brain shrinkage and weight gain were not on their “to do” list for the day. Recent research proves that in a few years time these side effects become the reality for many who fall for the hidden research and deceptive Big Pharma tactics. Clearly, you are not the “patient” with an issue to them – you are a client with a bank account at your local pharmacy, a number with a money sign.

See for yourself.  Here’s the research, you be the judge. 

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Say hello to "sidewalk rage," a very real condition that's a symptom of the modern addiction to speed and anger


Woman_in_rage Ladies and gentlemen, our culture has created a new kind of “mental illness” to suffer through.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights the modern form of road rage with a twist – sidewalk rage. It’s being comically called “Pedestrian Aggressive Syndrome,” and likely is in a city near you.

In Lower Manhattan, the capital of “side walk rage,” people average 4.27 feet per second. If you cannot keep up with this unwritten rule of how fast to move your legs you’re at risk for the rage and hostility of the fast walkers around you.

Quite literally, we are becoming a people addicted to anger and speed.  You probably didn't need a mental health professional to tell you that.  You've probably felt it in your own life. 

There’s more. Not only do people walk fast, they multitask even faster...

1)    Nicotine lovers walk 4.17 feet per second

2)    Cell phone junkies walk 4.20 feet per second

3)    Ipod addicts walk 4.64 feet per second.


Don't think these are harmless statistics: the fury associated with sidewalk rage and society’s increased levels of aggression is being connected to the well known psychiatric disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The DSM-IV defines the disorder as the following: 

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Getting through the day isn't good enough: we know what it takes to help kids thrive


It’s one thing to live, it’s another to thrive.  We know the difference, but do the institutions we put our kids through?

There is an emerging field of study that focuses on what helps youth thrive rather than wither.

A research study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence looked at the role a child’s passions and interests or “sparks,” relationships and personal empowerment played in their well being and how this helped them to thrive.

What does it mean to thrive? The researchers described as such “…thriving persons are nurtured by their contexts and also make positive contributions to those contexts.” 

Their study included a national sample of 1,817 youth age 15 years, of this group 49% identified female; 56% were white, 17% Hispanic/Latino and 17% African American. The youth answered an online survey that asked questions about their talents, interests, hobbies, relationships, level of participation in community activities, self-efficacy and empowerment.

Their research conclusions found that youth who had high levels of sparks, opportunities for positive relationships, and empowerment were more likely to be leaders, value helping others and working for social justice in their communities. Even those who showed only two of the three strengths were more likely to volunteer weekly.

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You always want a therapist who’s more interested in what you have to say than in what drugs you take


Carl Rogers When it was published nearly 50 years ago, Carl Rogers’ work Client-Centered Therapy inspired a generation of therapists and transformed psychology. 

It has remained relevant all this time, but over the years some – especially those who advocate replacing therapists with anti-depressants – have suggested that Rogers was too idealistic. Putting the patients humanity at the heart of therapy might sound nice, but it isn’t as effective as pharmacology or neurology at the hard headed business of getting clients in, out, and on with their lives.

Well, today new research is proving that Rogers was right.  A client-centered, humanistic, approach to psychology is effective, affirming … and has no side-effects

If you’re looking at the therapist, it’s not just common sense to find one who puts you at the center of your therapy – it’s established best practice.

The newest research comes from Barry Farber and Erin Doolin of Columbia University, who meta-analyzed positive regard and affirmation in the context of Carl Roger’s Client Centered Therapy.

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Forget grades: Bad schools are hazardous to kids' mental health


800px-Granger_Classroom_Old What schools need to succeed is a hot debate – but we all know that a school that doesn’t have what it needs will fail.  

What we don’t know, what we’re just beginning to ask, is:  what impact does a failing school have on a child’s mental health? 

A recent study published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, looked at how lack of resources in the classroom impacts mental health. Researches found that children who attended schools that did not have the resources for supplies or for their teachers to focus on teaching, were more likely to have mental health problems.

The study used a representative sample of 10,700 first graders. Their teachers and parents were interviewed as a part of the study.

They found five aspects of the classroom that they believe impacts a child’s learning and sense of safety in a classroom.  They are:

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Sleeping is an essential life skill: here's how you can improve


800px-Sleeping_while_studying Likely you are one of millions of Americans who dread the sound of your morning alarm clock. The electronic rooster goes off early for too many – who fell asleep too late – and did not stay asleep for too long. As a result we fill our abdomens with espresso and Red Bull, and the circles under eyes become ever-darker.

Even our metaphors for sleep aren’t working:  “sleep like a baby”?  Come on:  how many babies are known for getting a good night’s sleep?

Recently a published study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine dispelled the age old myth of one-size-fits all sleep patterns, while emphasizing the importance of sleeping well. While more research to validate the findings is needed, the research suggests that shorter than 6.5 hours and or longer than 7.5 hours of sleep leaves people at risk for early or increased risk of mortality.

Most of us need better rest, and it is within our power to get it.   A recent article in Prevention Magazine gives us a sneak peak of how to improve this important facet of our busy lives...

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Savoring food can reduce stress eating - and lead to weight loss


Thicht Nhat Hanh Chances are you are like millions of American-- eat more, not less-- when stressed. Stress increases cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite. And we all know:  the cookie jar, noisy chip bags, and drive thrus seem to be inevitable consequences once the cortisol levels start raging in your body.

Or are they so inevitable? 

Stress eaters, meet Cognitive Behavioral Mindfulness. It takes best of humanism and the best of cognitive behavioral psychology and applies them to your eating habits, today, in the midst of the immense stress and frenzy of life.

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2000 year old wisdom wins again: Tai Chi for seniors is great elder-care


399px-Elderly_Shanghai_woman_practices_tai_chi Tai Chi has finally caught on in the field of geriatric care and research – and this is great news for the estimated 2 million people over the age of 65 who suffer from depression.  

Tai chi chin is a westernized version of the Tai chi chuan, which is an internal Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries. Tai chi chin is a series of 19 moves with one pose that focuses on developing and balancing internal energy – chi. It is believed that this practice increases overall well-being, physical energy and stamina.

Recently Tai chi chin has received tentative acceptance as being beneficial for overall psychological health. A review published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi is effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression and increasing self-esteem.

But the impact on seniors was particularly noteworthy … and important during a time when we face a crisis of affordable humane and empowering nursing home care.

Two studies published in 2009 found that Tai chi chin reduced osteoarthritis pain. Tai chi chin incorporates a range of motions that increases muscle conditioning and flexibility. Increasing physical strength and flexibility helped to improve overall movement and reduced pain in 20 of the participants of this study.

The practice that builds strength also aids in improving balance. The Oregon Department of Human Services incorporated Tai chi chin programs in an effort to promote physical activity as a way to prevent injuring and sometimes life threatening falls in older adults. All of the adult community centers that provided Tai chi chin to their residents saw a significant reduction in falls and an increase in physical independence.

Another study published in 2007 showed that practicing Tai chi chin boosted the immune systems of older adults.

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Having meaningful work matters to your mental health: here's how you get it


Cubicle_land A recent study showed that having a job you hate is one of the worst things you can do to your mental health – so bad that being unemployed is actually better for your psyche. 

Having work that you find meaningful, on the other hand, makes a great difference. 

How can we find work that is meaningful? Or perhaps another question would be:  how do we make our work more meaningful?

The answer to both of these questions is dependent a couple things and researchers have long been looking at what makes work meaningful.

Brent D. Rosso, University of Michigan, Kathryn H. Dekas from Google Inc. and Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale University reviewed literature on meaning in work and found seven mechanisms that make this happen.

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We are the first people in history to watch disaster footage on-demand. What impact does that have?


Earthquake aftermath We’re witnessing another devastating natural disaster. We’ve been through this at lot recently, New Zealand, Haiti, now Japan … one of the things they have in common, aside from human suffering, is our inability as bystanders to turn away. 

There are endless news stories about the devastation, loss and pain that millions are experiencing right now.  There are 20,800 YouTube videos of Japanese buildings falling down; a Google image search produced millions of images of the devastation including any and all news related to the event.

While people have always be aware of the dangers in the world, the hyper connectivity and broadcasting of disasters such as these can make us feel even more vulnerable. What is the impact of being a witness, even a distant witness, on our own psyche, on our desire to help?

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Subliminal advertising has gotten more powerful: it's time for the FCC to keep up


Apple_Inc._Mosaic Turns out, you are choosing things based on subliminal messages.

The way you vote, the food you buy, the brands you dig—they are all being deeply affected by subliminal advertising. It’s totally legal – and totally unethical.

In recent years, an abundance of literature has surfaced proving that subliminal messaging can indeed affect our thoughts and behaviors—even without conscious awareness. As consumers, we all have an invested interest in understanding the research – how it’s being used against us – and what we can do to uphold our rights.

Here’s a peak at the research:

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Hospice care is better care -- by any measure


WoodsideHospice Palliative care has proven more cost effective and more care-oriented for seriously ill Medicaid patients.

The Wall Street Journal reports that palliative care saves Medicaid an average of 6,900 per seriously ill patient; research proves that that care is better for mood, affect, and survival. More, research is proving that humanistic methods of care are the source of success;  humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is being used as the foundation patient care and treatment.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study on palliative care looks at 151 patients with Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, and early palliative care intervention. The patients chosen for the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups; palliative care with standard oncologic care or standard oncologic care alone. At the twelve week mark, the quality of life and mood were assessed in the study participants through a variety of scales and instruments. Based on the data, researchers concluded that quality of life, mood, and affect were significantly greater among patients receiving palliative and standard oncologic care concurrently.

Complimenting this, researchers Zalenski and Raspa from the Department of Emergency Medicine and Palliative Care in Michigan, found statistically significantly results for palliative and hospice care environments when implementing the motivation and needs theories of Abraham Maslow. Researchers clearly adapted the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to palliative care environments – including:

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International Women's Day has come and gone - what do we know about women around the world?


Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton_and_Susan_B_Anthony March 8th marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and March is Women’s history month here in the United States.

What better time to briefly look at the life of a woman.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1000 women die every day due to complications in childbirth, 13% of women world wide die of HIV/AIDS related conditions and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women aged 20 – 44 years. They estimate 73 million women suffer from mild to severe depression.

Of these women 86% of them that live low income countries do not have access to mental health services.

These are numbers we do know. There are most likely countless numbers of women who go unseen and unheard that are not included in this data.

Before we send armies of therapists all over the world, there is one thing to consider, that mental health is intrinsically tied to physical health. Systemic responses to the social, cultural and economic crises of women will ease they psychological and spiritual suffering of women.

The WHO recommended the following actions that can be taken to help women around the world no matter their socioeconomic status.

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Studies suggest it is possible to rehabilitate sex offenders - by acknowledging their humanity


It’s been a big week for sex abuse scandals:  the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has suspended 21 priests – the largest mass suspension in church history – as a result of accusations involving inappropriate contact with minors. 

Meanwhile victims groups have begun to say publicly that the Catholic Church should monitor accused priests the way the police track convicted sex offenders ... and create special housing for them. 

Sexual violence is never permissible, yet lost in the discussion of these horrifying crimes is the question of rehabilitation.  For the most part, the public assumption is that once a sex offender always a sex offender:  rehabilitation is not possible.

It’s an understandable assumption –  rehabilitation requires taking an offender seriously as a person:  how can we do this with sex offenders, especially child abusers?  How can we reach out to them to address their humanity, and human needs? 

But there are horrifying consequences if this assumption is wrong.  If sex offenders can be rehabilitated, then failure to do so not only is cruel to the offender, it puts more people at risk precisely because sex offenders remain untreated.    

In fact, it is humanistic and existential therapy that has proven most effective in rehabilitating adult sex offenders – and it achieves this success precisely by relating to offenders as human beings. 

In preliminary research (PDF) humanistic and existential psychology, utilized in the group therapy context, has proven successful in rehabilitating sex offenders.

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When insurance companies will only pay for pills, mental health practicioners have to swallow hard


Assorted pharmaceuticals by LadyofProcrastination Talk therapy doesn’t pay ... or at least pay the bills ... for psychiatrists.

According to the New York Times, many psychiatrists who know perfectly well that talk therapy is a better option for their patients are under the financial gun because insurance companies won’t pay for them to develop a relationship with the people they’re supposed to heal.  The result is psychiatrists who treat hundreds of patients in 15 minute intervals, adjusting doses for people they don’t really know at all.  

The story follows Dr. Donald Levin, a psychiatrist who has been in private practice for nearly 40 years, as he deals with the personal and professional struggle to provide care for his patients. He and his colleagues confront a number of issues:

The over reliance on pharmaceuticals

The need for therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists to be affordable to people of all incomes

The relationship between therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists and the insurance industry

All three of these issues have brought Dr. Levin and other psychiatrists to a place of having to choose between a long held tradition of talk therapy and the all mighty dollar. Generally they choose to follow the insurance companies’ lead.

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The American Psychological Association's new guidelines are a step forward for gay rights


Rainbowflag Last month, the American Psychological Association (APA) approved the release of the publication, Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. It’s an essential publication, for psychologists and laymen a like, in order to empathically relate and ethically care for all people with equality—and according to their needs. 

The guidelines were written with an emphasis on what was declared by the APA’s 1975 resolution stating, “Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities.” Since that time, the APA has been a staunch supporter of the “mentally healthy” aspects of same-sex attraction. In sum, the guidelines speak to the rationale and application of twenty one specific guiding principles for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients.  

Chances are you or someone in your family is in a committed same-sex relationship. And--likely, they want equality and proper care. The recent census reports 1.2 million gay couples living together in the United States; roughly between 3-5 percent of the total population reporting an LGBTQQI orientation. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning and Intersex)

It recent years, academia, professional organizations and social service agencies have caught on. Rightfully so: Discrimination based on ethnicity or gender is a no-no — sexual orientation is no different. Psychology, specifically psychotherapeutic practice, has made huge growth. These new guidelines are part of that progress.

Highlights include:

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Reports from the UN Commission on the Status of Women


What do the uprisings in the Middle East mean for the women who live there? UN Commission on the Status of Women

Do women have equal access to social networking technology? 

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No education, no peace -- that's the way the world works


Tarakan_refugees_(090819) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) released the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report on Monday that gives some discouraging news about the children that are living in our war torn nations.

In a press release issued March 1, 2011, UNESCO states that armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of education.

Living in a conflict area puts millions of children at risk of sexual violence, human rights abuses and targeted attacks on schools. These armed conflicts are not only destroying the educational infrastructure but the social structure that sustains the school and educational system. Teachers often flee the country during war time.

Violent conflicts reinforces inequities that are already rooted in a country, wars push those on the edges further out, depriving them of the needed basic resources and a tool to help them overcome disparities – and a resource that is almost always overlooked for refugees is education.

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Can we stop pretending the private sector is so efficient?


Ship of Fools Recently in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed capping the salary of school superintendants at $175,000.  That’s still a lot of money, and it would certainly help school districts save $100,000 here and there annually. 

But I’m confused:  why is it that, when private sector CEO’s are offered multi-million dollar incentive packages during the height of a recession, it’s considered essential business strategy because they need to attract top talent – but when school districts pay a fraction of that for quality superintendents, it’s considered waste and inefficiency?

We’ve all somehow gotten the idea in this country that government is wasteful while the private sector is efficient ... but then why is it that Goldman Sachs can justify offering its already wealthy employees billions in bonuses for 2010 alone, while teachers and hospital workers are told they can’t even organize for better working conditions?  Wouldn't teachers and hospital workers demanding bonuses be the height of efficiency?  Because, just like it's supposed to do for bankers, it would keep and retain the top talent? 

Why is Goldman’s extravagant spending a savvy, efficient, use of shareholder dollars, while the comparatively small amounts needed to better support government employees are considered a waste of taxpayer dollars? 

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Mindfullness training results in more ethical business decisions


Meditating Monks Recently the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded about the 2008 economic collapse:  “there was a systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics.”

No kidding. 

It goes on:  “Unfortunately – as has been the case in past speculative booms and busts – we witnessed an erosion of standards of responsibility and ethics that exacerbated the financial crisis.”

This isn’t limited to the past, either:   lack of accountability and ethics is prevelent all over the business world. How do we encourage ethical decision making in business? If ethics courses in business school did the job, we wouldn’t have had a financial collapse in the first place.  Two researchers offer another solution.

Doctoral Student Nicole Ruedy and Maurice Schweitzer professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have published a report called “In the Moment: The Effect of Mindfulness on Ethical Decision Making”, in the February issue of Journal of Business Ethics.

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