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Nov 24

Adolescents and Self-Injury


Adolescents self-harming behavior appears to be on the rise today. These days, adolescents are faced with more decisions, stressors, and transitions than ever before. As a means to cope with these changes, some have turned to a behavior called cutting or other means of self-injury as an outlet to cope with painful and distressing emotions. There are many beliefs as to why this has been on the increase.

Self-injury can include a variety of behaviors but is most commonly associated with:
• Intentional carving or cutting of the skin
• Sub dermal tissue scratching
• Burning
• Ripping or pulling skin or hair
• Swallowing toxic substances
• Self bruising

In today’s competitive, fast-paced cultural environment, there is tremendous pressure put upon teenagers to achieve academic excellence, to outperform peers in classes and activities, on top of higher academic standards and heavy course loads. In addition in many families, parents put in long works hours and have less time to spend in family pursuits, leaving many adolescents feeling frustrated and disconnected from family members.

Many self-harming adolescents have voiced their concerns about feeling emotionally disconnected and invalidated in the various social contexts in which they interact on a day-to-day basis. They will often report that they are having difficulty managing their self-defeating thoughts and painful or angry or depressed feeling related to stressors. Self-injury becomes an efficient way to gain quick relief from emotional distress or other major stressors in their lives.

There are many ways to treat self-harm. One effective method is that of cognitive-behavioral skills training, which includes having the adolescent identify the activating events leading one to self harm. Identifying these cognitions, (beliefs and attitudes one has in response to these events), and the emotional or behavioral response that follows is the key. By developing such skills in identifying how one has self-defeating thoughts that lead to self-injury, adolescents via skills training, learn how to stop these negative thoughts and patterns, and learn other effective ways of channeling this energy into something positive.

In addition to skills training, the therapist must also provide to clients an arsenal of techniques and strategies for managing any emotional distress they might be experiencing. The more techniques the adolescent can utilize on his or her own, the less likely he or she is to self-injure in the future. For example, such strategies can take the form of relaxation training, visualization, meditation, and exercise. Deep breathing is an effective way to assist one in soothing oneself when faced with stressful events, as is visualizing a safe place one can focus on. Mindfulness is another form of meditation that offers both deep relaxation and insight. It promotes a way of being that focuses on what is present, where one can cultivate a deep acceptance and ability to relax more fully in the present moment rather than focusing on other stressors that cause discomfort.

Family therapy is another effective means of helping adolescents build connections in order to build strong, supportive and meaningful relationships. By exploring family communication and how family members interact with one another, in addition to exploring strengths and resources within the family, patterns can be altered in order to promote healthier family interactions, which support the adolescent.

Nov 23

Not everything that looks like ADHD is ADHD!


Not everything that looks like ADHD is ADHD!

For example, children may be worried or stressed about events at home, at school, or in the world in general. Stressful events could include divorce or separation, moving, the death of a family member or pet, or the child’s performance in school. These children may:

have difficulty concentrating
have difficulty listening to and following instructions
find it hard to sit still
be easily distracted
make careless mistakes
Behaviour symptoms like those of ADHD can also be caused by:

learning disabilities
language problems
side effects of medication for other health problems such as asthma
brain injury following an accident
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
developmental delay or mental retardation
The doctor will want to rule out these and other possible causes before making a diagnosis of ADHD.

Reviewed By
Peter Chaban, MA, MEd

Nov 22

Earlier studies suggest people with ADHD are more likely to commit offences than the general population.

Providing better access to medication may reduce crime and save money, experts and support groups say. Researchers say the benefits of the drugs must be weighed against harms.

In the UK 3% of children have a diagnosis of ADHD, with half of them continuing to have the condition in adult life. People with the disorder have to deal with problems with concentration, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Estimates suggest between 7-40% of people in the criminal justice system may have ADHD and other similar disorders, though in many cases the condition is not formally recognised. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute looked at data from over 25,000 people with ADHD in Sweden.

Less impulsiveness

They found people with ADHD were more likely to commit crime (37% of men and 15% of women) than adults without the condition (9% of men and 2% women).

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found when people took their medication they were 32-41% less likely to be convicted of a crime than when they were off medication for a period of six months or more.

Dr Seena Fazel, an author of the study and from Oxford University, says medication may reduce impulsive choices and may enable people to better organise their lives – allowing them to stay in employment and maintain relationships.

Co-author Prof Paul Lichtenstein says: “It is said that roughly 30 to 40% of long-serving criminals have ADHD. If their chances of recidivism can be reduced by 30%, it would clearly effect the total crime numbers in many societies.”

‘Personal responsibility’

Prof Philip Asherson, a psychiatrist and president of the UK Adult ADHD network, who was not involved in the study says: “We want people to have personal choice and personal responsibility – no-one is trying to force people to take drugs.”

He points out it costs £100-£300 a month to provide medication for someone with ADHD, and taking into account the costs of unemployment and the criminal justice system, these would “vastly outweigh” the costs of medication, he says.

But he cautions that the side effects of the drugs used, such as Ritalin, must be taken into account.

“There are of course a lot of people with ADHD in the population who are not involved in crime.

“But for some people with the condition – if you don’t treat them, they will try to treat themselves with street drugs,” says Andrea Bilbow, founder of the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service, Addis.

“A referral to specialist adult services can cost £1,500 – compare this with the amount of money you can save if you keep people out of prison – it’s a no brainer.”

Nov 22

What Is Anticipatory Anxiety?


By Marie Suszynski
Thanks to the fight-or-flight response, we’re engineered to feel anxiety when we’re about to face something that has scared us in the past. It could be speaking in front of a group of people, flying on an airplane, or going out on a first date, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, supervising psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, both in the Bronx, N.Y. This fear is known as anticipatory anxiety.

Sweaty palms, racing heart, and upset stomach are the body’s natural ways of preparing for the event. We’re programmed to anticipate the worst, Rego says, because it’s our body’s way of ensuring we’ll get out of the situation if it is dangerous.

Problem is, most of the time when we experience anticipatory anxiety, we’re not about to put ourselves in any real danger. By gaining a better understanding of such anxiety problems, you can ultimately limit their negative effects on your life.

Anxiety Side Effects: Panic Attacks and Anticipatory Anxiety

Everyone has anticipatory anxiety at some point, Rego says. You don’t have to have a psychiatric anxiety disorder or anxiety problems to experience it.

However, anticipatory anxiety is a component of panic disorder. By definition, someone with panic disorder has panic attacks that include classic anxiety side effects and symptoms, such as:

Rapid heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Upset stomach
Numbness or tingling
Hot flashes or cold chills
The physical symptoms of panic attacks are so intense in some people that they think they’re dying or having a heart attack.

For people with panic disorder, their first panic attack is completely unexpected. But after the first attack, someone with panic disorder will experience anticipatory anxiety because she fears that a panic attack will happen again.

The same is true for other anxiety disorders. People who have phobias have anticipatory anxiety about what they fear and are excessively careful to avoid it, even if it means driving across the country to avoid getting on a plane.

Anxiety Side Effects: Anticipatory Anxiety Symptoms

Rego describes anticipatory anxiety symptoms as “feeling your engine rev” as you face doing something that scares you. Anxiety side effects include a racing heart, sweaty palms, and trembling.

Anticipatory anxiety can be chronic if you find yourself worried about something for months at a time, such as losing your job in a poor economy. Besides feeling anxious and fearful, you may also experience anger, confusion, hopelessness, loss of control, numbness, sadness, moodiness, irritability, guilt, and preoccupation with the threat, to the point where you can’t concentrate or make decisions.

If anticipatory anxiety is chronic, you may also find that you’re withdrawing from people and things you enjoy doing. You may have memory problems and physical symptoms such as:

Tense muscles
Stomach problems
Changes in sleep patterns
Changes in appetite
Anxiety Side Effects: Managing Anticipatory Anxiety

It’s only natural to want to avoid the things that make you anxious. But the only way to get over anticipatory anxiety is to go toward what’s making you fearful rather than backing away, Rego says.

For example, if you’re anxious about public speaking, a therapist will have you give speech after speech, “until you’re doing it so much that you get used to it,” Rego says. That way, you challenge your fears and learn that giving a speech does not mean inevitable doom, and you become less anxious.

If you’re feeling chronic anticipatory anxiety, ask yourself how realistic your fears are and remind yourself that you can cope with what’s to come.

Remember that the body is great at adapting, Rego says. As long as you continue to do the things you fear, your anticipatory anxiety should subside. Short-term use of medications that calm anxiety may also be useful — talk to your doctor to find out what is best for you.

Nov 22

Written on September 26, 2012 by bpeters in Family Relationships, Marriage .

Just the other day, as I was talking with a client about the progress they’re making in his relationship, he voiced another concern.

He told me about a recent conversation he and his wife had engaged in about their 6-year-old son’s behavior. In a moment of humorous desperation and frustration, he had said, “Maybe we should send him off to some military boarding school to make him behave better.” What they didn’t know was that he was sitting on the stairs in the hall.

The poor kid had heard the whole thing! And as a 6 year old, he wasn’t very discerning. He couldn’t tell reality from fantasy, and he didn’t know that it was a statement made as a joke. So the little boy internalized it as any little boy would.

He started thinking, “they want to get rid of me, they don’t love me.”

A few days passed and he told his mother that he was having trouble sleeping. He said he was having bad dreams where bears were after him. This began to concern my client and his spouse, and spilled into our conversation about advice on relationships.

Communication is necessary between parents concerning child rearing issues, of course. But it’s critical to have boundaries in place! Kids have a way of hearing everything that is said, especially when you least expect it.

While I often write about topics relating to advice on relationships, marriages are definitely affected by how you relate to your children as well. Communication issues there create tension that will need to be resolved.

When communicating with each other about your children, here are some suggestions to prevent similar mishaps based on misheard information:

Advice on Relationships: How To (Safely) Talk With Your Spouse About Your Kids

1.Keep it positive and loving.
2.If there is an important issue to discuss that could be negative in nature, make sure you have that conversation in a place where the child in question cannot hear it. If you’re relying on your child being in bed or in another room, this can backfire. Check and double check to make sure you’re not being overheard as the conversation unfolds.
3.Make sure other siblings do not hear the conversation either.
4.Never talk to one sibling about another.
5.Do not talk to others about your child who might go back to the child and paraphrase your words, often incorrectly.
The things you say shape your child’s perception of the world, feelings about him or herself which can raise or lower self-esteem.

Words have power. They can leave a scar if internalized incorrectly.
Have you ever been caught in this kind of situation? If so, here are some steps to resolve it – but you must take them seriously and truly regret having caused distress for your child.

Advice on Relationships: How to Resolve Miscommunications With Kids

1.Apologize to the child.
2.Reassure him or her that it was not meant to be factual. This may take some thoughtful explaining.
3.Engage in follow up behavior to reinforce your words and rebuild your child’s trust in you.
Like we tell children so often, as parents, we must think before letting those words roll off our tongues. Our kids listen, watch us, and pick up cues from us, even in the times we think they aren’t paying attention at all.

Have you had to apologize to your child for an inadvertent miscommunication with unintended consequences?

Nov 15

Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends”


By Adrian F. Ward Can heterosexual men and women ever be “just friends”? Few other questions have provoked debates as intense, family dinners as awkward, literature as lurid, or movies as memorable. Still, the question remains unanswered. Daily experience suggests that non-romantic friendships between males and females are not only possible, but common—men and women live, work, and play side-by-side, and generally seem to be able to avoid spontaneously sleeping together. However, the possibility remains that this apparently platonic coexistence is merely a façade, an elaborate dance covering up countless sexual impulses bubbling just beneath the surface.

New research suggests that there may be some truth to this possibility—that we may think we’re capable of being “just friends” with members of the opposite sex, but the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for “romance” is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the most inopportune moment.

In order to investigate the viability of truly platonic opposite-sex friendships—a topic that has been explored more on the silver screen than in the science lab—researchers brought 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex friends into…a science lab. Privacy was paramount—for example, imagine the fallout if two friends learned that one—and only one—had unspoken romantic feelings for the other throughout their relationship. In order to ensure honest responses, the researchers not only followed standard protocols regarding anonymity and confidentiality, but also required both friends to agree—verbally, and in front of each other—to refrain from discussing the study, even after they had left the testing facility. These friendship pairs were then separated, and each member of each pair was asked a series of questions related to his or her romantic feelings (or lack thereof) toward the friend with whom they were taking the study.

The results suggest large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.

Men were also more willing to act on this mistakenly perceived mutual attraction. Both men and women were equally attracted to romantically involved opposite-sex friends and those who were single; “hot” friends were hot and “not” friends were not, regardless of their relationship status. However, men and women differed in the extent to which they saw attached friends as potential romantic partners. Although men were equally as likely to desire “romantic dates” with “taken” friends as with single ones, women were sensitive to their male friends’ relationship status and uninterested in pursuing those who were already involved with someone else.
These results suggest that men, relative to women, have a particularly hard time being “just friends.” What makes these results particularly interesting is that they were found within particular friendships (remember, each participant was only asked about the specific, platonic, friend with whom they entered the lab). This is not just a bit of confirmation for stereotypes about sex-hungry males and naïve females; it is direct proof that two people can experience the exact same relationship in radically different ways. Men seem to see myriad opportunities for romance in their supposedly platonic opposite-sex friendships. The women in these friendships, however, seem to have a completely different orientation—one that is actually platonic.

To the outside observer, it seems clear that these vastly different views about the potential for romance in opposite-sex friendships could cause serious complications—and people within opposite-sex relationships agree. In a follow-up study, 249 adults (many of whom were married) were asked to list the positive and negative aspects of being friends with a specific member of the opposite sex. Variables related to romantic attraction (e.g., “our relationship could lead to romantic feelings”) were five times more likely to be listed as negative aspects of the friendship than as positive ones. However, the differences between men and women appeared here as well. Males were significantly more likely than females to list romantic attraction as a benefit of opposite-sex friendships, and this discrepancy increased as men aged—males on the younger end of the spectrum were four times more likely than females to report romantic attraction as a benefit of opposite-sex friendships, whereas those on the older end of the spectrum were ten times more likely to do the same.

Taken together, these studies suggest that men and women have vastly different views of what it means to be “just friends”—and that these differing views have the potential to lead to trouble. Although women seem to be genuine in their belief that opposite-sex friendships are platonic, men seem unable to turn off their desire for something more. And even though both genders agree overall that attraction between platonic friends is more negative than positive, males are less likely than females to hold this view.

So, can men and women be “just friends?” If we all thought like women, almost certainly. But if we all thought like men, we’d probably be facing a serious overpopulation crisis.

Nov 15

A Hormone Can Help Keep Men Faithful

When men are given the hormone oxytocin they are more likely to stay away from attractive women they don’t know and remain faithful in monogamous relationships, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The hormone oxytocin, which is made in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, plays a part in prompting childbirth, helps women nurse, and assists the human ability to form social relationships. It also encourages the bond between mothers and children and the bond between couples. A 2011 study said that oxytocin makes people act more courageous.

Prior research has also shown that oxytocin plays a role in developing trust, but experts had not, until now, discovered that it helps preserve monogamous relationships among humans.

During the new trial, René Hurlemann, MD, PhD, from the University of Bonn and team found that men who were given oxytocin were more likely to keep away from women they didn’t know when they were approached, even when they found them attractive. On the other hand, single men were not affected by the hormone.

Hurlemann explained:

“Previous animal research in prairie voles identified oxytocin as major key for monogamous fidelity in animals. Here, we provide the first evidence oxytocin may have a similar role for humans.”

For their study, the researchers gave nasal spray containing oxytocin to healthy, heterosexual men. Three quarters of an hour later, the men met an “attractive” female introduced by the experts. When the women moved closer to the men, or further away, the participants were questioned whether the woman was either at an “ideal distance” or a “slightly uncomfortable” proximity.

“Because oxytocin is known to increase trust in people, we expected men under the influence of the hormone to allow the female experimenter to come even closer, but the direct opposite happened,” said Hurlemann.

Oxytocin’s effect on the participants remained steadfast, despite whether the woman looked away from the men, or made direct eye contact. The results remained the same when the men were the ones moving away or closer to the female subject. All of the men, whether they had received a placebo or the oxytocin, reported the woman as being attractive. Therefore, the hormone did not alter the male’s feelings toward how she looked.

In a different part of the study, the experts discovered that oxytocin did not impact the space the men put between themselves and a male subject brought in by the researchers.

By Deborah Mitchell Twenty percent or more of women are affected by a form of sexual dysfunction called anorgasmia, or female orgasmic disorder, for which there are no approved treatments. Now a new study will explore the effect of a drug on pre-menopausal women with this type of orgasm disorder.
What is anorgasmia?

Anorgasmia in women is the inability or failure to achieve orgasm. This term includes women who are medically unable to have an orgasm, but in the majority of cases the causes of this sexual dysfunction involve psychological, cultural, or relationship factors.

Prior to this newest report, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010 noted that potential treatments for anorgasmia in women included bupropion (Wellbutrin, a type of antidepressant), sildenafil (Viagra, typically used to treat erectile dysfunction), estrogen, and testosterone, among others. The authors also stated that “significant progress is being made” in understanding and managing orgasm disorders among women.

New study on anorgasmia
This latest study is an example of the efforts being made to find an effective treatment for this sexual dysfunction. The international Phase II study will explore the ability of Tefina™, a nasal gel that contains testosterone, to improve the occurrence of orgasm in pre-menopausal women who have the disorder. A total of 240 women from the Australia, Canada, and the United States will be enrolled.

According to Trimel Pharmaceuticals, which makes Tefina, the drug has been used in a successfully completed clinical trial of patients who had both hypoactive sexual desire disorder and anorgasmia. The results of that trial verified that the intranasal delivery of testosterone is safe and effective and can produce a positive response.

This new study is one of the largest clinical trials to examine “use-as-needed” Tefina for women who have anorgasmia. The medication is administered via an applicator by patients 1 to 4 hours before anticipated sexual activity, and the testosterone is absorbed by the membranes in the nasal cavity, which then raises the body’s level of the hormone.

Low testosterone levels have been named as one cause of anorgasmia. That’s because testosterone, even though it is present in low levels in women, is involved in sexual desire, blood flow to the vagina, and the development of an orgasm.

Other possible causes of anorgasmia in women include medical problems (e.g., diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hysterectomy, gynecologic surgery), use of certain medications (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, antihistamines), alcohol use, hormonal birth control, depression, performance anxiety, stress, cultural and religious beliefs, fear of pregnancy, relationship problems (e.g., lack of communication with partner, infidelity), and guilt about enjoying sex.

The head of the new study, Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, who is chief of behavioral medicine at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital, explained that “Tefina is a potentially revolutionary treatment to restore women’s ability to obtain orgasm and sexual satisfaction.” Women ages 18 to 49 who have this form of sexual dysfunction can inquire about the study at the local site, which is University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Nov 14

Going for an Emotional Health Checkup


By John M. Grohol, PsyD Many of us go to the doctor for a physical checkup from time to time, especially as we get older and things start creaking or breaking down on our bodies. Suddenly they don’t quite work the way they used to, or the way you’ve come to expect.

But few of us think about going to a doctor or therapist for an emotional or mental health checkup. And that’s a shame, because things break down in our minds too.

Ann Carrns, writing over at the New York Times, suggests that the time has perhaps finally come where people start taking their mental health as seriously as their physical health.

Carrns writes:

But taking periodic stock of your emotional well-being can help identify warning signs of common ailments like depression or anxiety. Such illnesses are highly treatable, especially when they are identified in their early stages, before they get so severe that they precipitate some sort of personal — and perhaps financial — crisis.

“Absolutely, people should have a mental health checkup,” said Jeffrey Borenstein, editor in chief of Psychiatric News, published by the American Psychiatric Association. “It’s just as important as having a physical checkup.”

While I agree, in principle, with this idea, I wonder how many professionals are properly trained to offer a mental health wellness “checkup” of this nature. And just as importantly, whether your insurance would pay for such a checkup.

Weirdly, the article points to a website suggesting it’s a place where “you can use a free online screening tool” to see if you have any of the common mental disorders. But I couldn’t find such tools anywhere on the site.

If you’re interested in a free online screening tool for mental disorders, I might humbly suggest our own Sanity Score mental health screening tool, which offers instant results detailing not only major mental health problems, but also other common problems of living. It takes about 10 minutes to take, and at the end it offers you a report you can print out and take into a professional for review.

As for a mental health checkup, I think it’s a good idea, but perhaps one that most people still aren’t going to be comfortable with. Just as some people fear with going to a physician, there’s this common (but false) belief that if I go to a therapist and they dig deep enough, they will always find a problem or something that could be worked on.

And in our emotional health life, I’d probably have to agree with that sentiment, since nobody is perfect. We could all benefit from self improvement, making a mental health checkup somewhat of a subjective, slippery slope (since few clinicians employ objective testing to assess for these concerns).

Read the full article: The Importance of Regular Mental Health Checkups

Nov 14

Disaster Distress Helpline


The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week national service that offers phone- and text-based crisis counseling and support to people in distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster, to help them move forward on the path of recovery. You may reach the Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or by texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Helpline immediately connects callers to trained and caring professionals from the closest crisis counseling center in the nationwide network of centers. The Helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals and other needed support services. The Helpline complements the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other disaster response capacities, and is available immediately anywhere within the United States. This service is provided under contract with SAMHSA by Mental Health America’s New York City affiliate.

By Rick Nauert PhDSenior News Editor

Communication problems with a spouse or partner often lead to problems. Now, a new study discovers that some couples are unable to share or even understand their own emotions, a condition that can lead to additional stress.

This condition of having difficulty sharing and understanding emotional issues is a personality trait called alexithymia. When a partner has alexithymia, the partners can experience loneliness and a lack of intimate communication that leads to poor marital quality.

Nick Frye-Cox, a University of Missouri doctoral student says people with alexithymia can describe their physiological responses to events, such as sweaty palms or faster heartbeats, but are unable to identify their emotions as sad, happy or angry.

In addition, those with alexithymia have difficulty discerning the causes of their feelings or explaining variations in their emotions, he said. “People with alexithymia have trouble relating to others and tend to become uncomfortable during conversations,” Frye-Cox said.

“The typical alexithymic person is incredibly stoic. They like to avoid emotional topics and focus more on concrete, objective statements.” People with alexithymia avoid forming relationships; however, they get married because they still feel the basic human need to belong, which is just as fundamental as the need to eat or sleep, Frye-Cox said.

“Once they are married, alexithymic people are likely to feel lonely and have difficulty communicating intimately, which appears to be related to lower marital quality,” Frye-Cox said. “People with alexithymia are always weighing the costs and benefits, so they can easily enter and exit relationships. They don’t think others can meet their needs, nor do they try to meet the needs of others.”

In the study, researchers collected data from both spouses in 155 heterosexual couples. The proportion of alexithymic people in the sample, 7.5 percent of men and 6.5 percent of women, is representative of the general population, according to previous research. The trait is often found with other conditions on the autism spectrum, as well as with post-traumatic stress disorders. Studies also have shown that alexithymia has been related to eating and panic disorders, substance abuse and depression.

The study will be published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Nov 12

Joseph Brownstein, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor Having a fever or flu in pregnancy may be linked with the development of autism in children, a new study suggests. While researchers are hesitant to draw strong conclusions, the study is at least the second showing such a link.

The researchers followed mothers in Denmark and the nearly 97,000 children they had between 1997 and 2003. During the study, 976 children in the study were diagnosed with autism. Children were more likely to be diagnosed with autism if their mothers had the flu or developed a prolonged fever during the first or second trimester of pregnancy.

But the topic needs further study before stronger conclusions can be drawn, said study researcher Hjördis Osk Atladottir, of the University of Aarhus. “Around 99 percent of women experiencing influenza, fever or taking antibiotics during pregnancy do NOT have children with autism,” Atladottir wrote to MyHealthNewsDaily in an email.

Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Developmental Disabilities Branch, who was not involved in the study, said, “We’re not recommending clinically that physicians change their management of pregnant women based on these findings.” Tne reason for the caution may be that pregnant women who are concerned about lowering their child’s risk of autism would, for the most part, simply need to adhere to existing guidelines, which recommend getting a flu shot, and treating fevers by taking acetaminophen and contacting their physician.

Some researchers were puzzled by the authors’ caution. “The data indicates that maternal flu infection or an extended fever increases the risk for autism in the offspring — a twofold increase,” said Paul H. Patterson, a biology professor who researches the connections between infection and neurological development at the California Institute of Technology.

Noting that the new finding is consistent with other research, Patterson said, “I’m not clear on why they appear to soft-pedal their results in their conclusions.” A study published in May from researchers at the University of California, Davis found a similar connection, showing that mothers of children with autism were more likely to have had a prolonged fever in the late first or second trimesters of pregnancy, compared with mothers of children who didn’t have autism.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an author of the UC Davis findings, said while the reason that fevers or flu during pregnancy may be linked with autism are unclear, it’s thought that inflammation may have an adverse effect on early brain development. “I think there’s some growing evidence that perhaps inflammation in the wrong tissue at the wrong time could interfere with normal developmental processes,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

There is also evidence for a link between mothers who have inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and autism in children, but that link, too, has not been conclusively established, she said. “There is some growing evidence that in neurodevelopment, this could be part of a pathologic process, this could lead to behavioral type syndromes,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

Indeed, researchers are just beginning to develop an understanding of autism’s causes, the experts said. “We know a lot more than we knew five years ago, but the science is really in its infancy,” said Coleen Boyle, of the CDC.

A CDC-sponsored study, called the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), is following more than 2,700 children in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, with the hope of identifying factors that might influence autism spectrum disorders. Boyle said that the possible environmental causes of autism can be more challenging to research than the disorder’s genetic causes. For example, data in the new study had to be collected starting in the late 1990s.

“You can just see the time that’s required to collect that kind of information,” Boyle said. “There’s not a lot of people looking at these environmental factors,” Hertz-Picciotto said. “This is something people should be paying more attention to, because it’s actionable.”

Nov 11

Dumped into Adulthood: Now What?


By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

College grads: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Unfortunately, for many, the answer is a resounding “no.” Hordes of college grads have not acquired any skills that will enable them to get a decent job. And if that weren’t bad enough, they’re saddled with a mountain of debt that will be an albatross around their neck for decades to come.

With no prospects for the future, is it any wonder that so many college grads feel lost? This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Higher education was supposed to be the best investment one could make to guarantee a solid future. Often they feel cheated, left asking “now what?”

Dumped into adulthood, with no job prospects, many decide to double down on their education. Go to grad school. Get an advanced degree. But will more education pay off? Or will it simply dig a deeper debt hole? No guarantee. Even many with graduate degrees are unemployed or underemployed.

The importance and value of a college education has been sacrosanct. But things change. It takes a while for people to get used to the change. Remember when owning a home was the guaranteed path to building financial security? Paying rent was supposed to be throwing money down the drain. Then came the housing bubble. And we all know how that story turned out for scores of homeowners.

Might it now be time to openly question the value of a college education? With the walloping nonstop increase in tuition costs, it sure seems like we’ve entered an education bubble. It’s likely to leave many in mega-debt, with no prospect for even a ho-hum career. Latest reports indicate that 53 percent of recent college grads are either unemployed or working at a job that does not require a college degree. There are more than 100,000 janitors in the U.S. with college degrees and 16,000 parking lot attendants.

Clearly, many families need to consider other types of post-secondary education for their kids. Perhaps learning a marketable trade is the way to go. There will always be a need for auto mechanics, electricians, carpenters, beauticians, makeup artists, and workers with other hands-on skills. These jobs will not disappear and cannot be shipped overseas. Or, one might consider investing in a small business or franchise. Become an entrepreneur. Pursue your culinary skills. Follow your artistic dreams. Or, don’t attend college as a four-year vacation with beer parties, drug parties, hooking up and easy courses as the main attraction. Instead, pursue your degree with the primary goal of learning marketable skills.

But what about the idea of education for education’s sake? Isn’t that what college is supposed to be about – making you smarter, more savvy, more cosmopolitan? Ideally, yes. However, in today’s world, anyone who wishes to become smarter and savvier does not need to attend college. The Internet can provide you with an amazing low-cost or free education. Several companies, including Coursera and Khan Academy, offer lectures taught by world-class professors. You can learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. Curious about what makes good people do bad things? Go online to TED talks for free lectures from top researchers in the field. Get started with a talk by Dr. Phil Zimbardo and you’ll be hooked.

Even Ivy League schools offer free courses. Yes, prestigious universities like Stanford, Yale, Princeton and MIT offer the same courses with the same professors that college students spend thousands of dollars to take. For free.

The catch? You don’t get college credit. But you will get an education. And you can use the money that would have been spent on getting a degree to launch your career and move out of your parents’ house before you turn 30

There are choices to be made, folks. Don’t automatically assume that going into debt for a college education is the only or best way to create a first-class future. There are many options out there. Consider them before deciding what to do.

Nov 10

Can Dream Images Enhance Psychotherapy?


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
A new paper revisits the insights of pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung, tying his beliefs on dream symbols to a method of improving care for mental health issues.

Lance Storm, Ph.D., a visiting research fellow with the University of Adelaide’s School of Psychology, believes dream images could provide insights into people’s mental health problems and may help with their treatment.

In the early 1900s, Jung proposed that dream symbols or archetypes were ancient images stemming from humans’ collective unconscious. He believed that dream symbols carried meaning about a individual’s emotional state which could improve understanding of the person and also aid in their treatment.

Storm’s current paper, published online in the International Journal of Jungian Studies supports Jung’s theories and recommends that dream analysis be explored further for potential clinical use.

“Jung was extremely interested in recurring imagery across a wide range of human civilizations, in art, religion, myth and dreams,” Storm said.

“He described the most common archetypal images as the Hero, in pursuit of goals; the Shadow, often classed as negative aspects of personality; the Anima, representing an element of femininity in the male; the Animus, representing masculinity in the female; the Wise Old Man; and the Great Mother.

“There are many hundreds of other images and symbols that arise in dreams, many of which have meanings associated with them – such as the image of a beating heart (meaning ‘charity’), or the ouroboros, which is a snake eating its own tail (‘eternity’).

“There are symbols associated with fear, or virility, a sense of power, the need for salvation, and so on.

“In Jungian theory, these symbols are manifestations of the unconscious mind; they are a glimpse into the brain’s ‘unconscious code’, which we believe can be decrypted,” he said.

Storm believes Jung’s theories have practical significance and could broaden the range of options available to patients undergoing treatment for mental health problems.

“Our research suggests that instead of randomly interpreting dream symbols with educated guesswork, archetypal symbols and their related meanings can be objectively validated. This could prove useful in clinical practice,” he says.

“We believe, for example, that dream analysis could help in the treatment of depression.

“This is a rapidly growing area of mental health concern, because depressive people are known to experience prolonged periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is directly linked with emotional processing and dreaming.”

Source: University of Adelaide

Nov 10

We finally have power!!


Sorry for the lack of posts lately. After 11 days we finally have electric, heat and internet!!

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