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Until now, little research has been conducted on the association between parents’ friendships and the emotional well-being of their adolescent children. A new study from researchers at the University of Missouri suggests that mothers’ friendships with other adults can impact their adolescent children’s relationships with their own friends, particularly the negative aspects of these relationships such as conflict and antagonism.

Gary C. Glick, a doctoral candidate at MU, and Amanda Rose, professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, studied the development of friendships and other peer relationships during adolescence and their impact on psychological adjustment. They found that adolescents may mimic the negative characteristics of their mothers’ relationships in their own peer-to-peer friendships suggesting that mothers can serve as role models for their adolescents during formative years.

“Mothers who display high levels of conflict with friends may signal to their children that such behavior is acceptable, or even normative in friendships,” Glick said. “Additional findings suggest that adolescents internalize their reactions to their mothers’ conflict with adult friends which may lead to anxiety and depression.”

Previous research of this type focused on elementary-aged children, but MU researchers wanted to expand their study to focus on the formative adolescent years. Youth ranging in age from 10 to 17 and their mothers were polled separately to measure perceived positive and negative friendship qualities in both groups. Results showed that positive friendship qualities were not always imitated by adolescents; however, negative and antagonistic relationship characteristics exhibited by mothers were much more likely to be mimicked by the youth studied.

“We know that conflict is a normal part of any relationship – be it a relationship between a parent and a child, or a mother and her friends – ch conflict generally isn’t going to be good for children. Parents should consider whether they are good role models for their children especially where their friends are concerned. When things go awry, parents should talk with their children about how to act with their friends, but more specifically, how not to act.”

Glick anticipates that future research may include how conflict resolution may be incorporated into parental methods in the home.

Dec 13

Parental stress linked to childhood obesity


Parental stress is linked to weight gain in children, according to a new study from St. Michael’s Hospital. The study found that children whose parents have high levels of stress have a Body Mass Index, or BMI, about 2 per cent higher than those whose parents have low levels of stress. Children with higher parental stress also gained weight at a 7 per cent higher rate during the study period than other children.

Those figures may sound low, said lead author Dr. Ketan Shankardass, but they’re significant because they are happening in children, whose bodies and eating and exercise habits are still developing. Plus, if that weight gain continues and is compounded over a lifetime, it could lead to serious obesity and health issues.

Dr. Shankardass, a social epidemiologist with the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, studied data collected during the Children’s Health Study, one of the largest and most comprehensive investigations into the long-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory health of children.

The childrens’ BMI was calculated each year. Their parents were given a questionnaire to measure their perceived psychological stress that asked how often in the last month they were able or unable to control important things in their life and whether things were going their way or their difficulties were piling up so high they could not overcome them.

Dr. Shankardass said he believes this is the first study to link parental stress to weight gain in such young children. His research was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Dr. Shankardass, who is also an assistant professor in psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, said it was not clear why the link between stress and obesity exists.

He said parents could change their behavior when they are stressed, to reduce the amount of physical activity in the household or increase the amount of unhealthy food available. Parental stress could also create stress for the children, who cope by eating more or exercising less, or whose stress leads to biological changes that cause weight gain, he said.

Dr. Shankardass said that rather than focusing only on getting parents to change their behavior, it would be useful to focus on interventions that can support families living in challenging conditions, such as making sure they have a reliable supply of healthy food, an opportunity to live in a nice neighbourhood and other financial or service resources to help cope with stress.

“Childhood is a time when we develop inter-connected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are,” Dr. Shankardass said. “It’s a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later.”

Dr. Shankardass noted that more than half the students followed in the California study were Hispanic, and that the effects of stress on their BMI was greater than children of other ethnic backgrounds. He said this was consistent with other research which has suggested that Hispanic children may be more likely to experience hypherphasia (excessive hunger or increased appetite) and sedentary lifestyle. Future research should consider other reasons that Hispanic children are more susceptible to parental stress, including differences in how Hispanic parents respond to stress or how Hispanic children perceive stressors or cope with stress.

Symptoms of SAD

According to Murphy, SAD can begin at any age. However, it is more likely to develop before the age of 21, and is twice as likely to develop in women than in men.

Many symptoms of SAD are similar to those associated with “ordinary” depression, such as anxiety, changes in mood and panic attacks.

Lady looking out of a window
Experts say SAD is twice as likely to develop in women than men, and onset is more common before the age of 21.
Other symptoms include:

Lack of energy for everyday tasks
Weakened immune system
Lack of concentration
Overeating and weight gain
Alcohol or drug abuse
Feelings of guilt and worry
Sleep problems
Reduced libido
Social and relationship problems.
Potential causes of SAD
It is unknown what the exact causes of SAD are, but previous research has suggested that since the condition occurs during the change in seasons, changes in light may trigger the disorder.

Murphy explains that when light hits the retina at the back of the eye, messages are sent to the hypothalamus – the part of the brain responsible for sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity.

“If there’s not enough light, these functions are likely to slow down and gradually stop,” says Murphy.

“Some people seem to need a lot more light than others for their body to function normally, and are therefore more likely to develop SAD symptoms when there are low levels of light.”

It is thought that levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter in the brain – may also play a part in the cause of SAD.

Low serotonin levels have been found in people who suffer from depression, particularly during winter months. This suggests that people with SAD may have an impairment in the brain’s system that releases and absorbs serotonin.

Dark picture of girl suffering from seasonal affective disorder
Previous research has suggested that SAD may be caused by lack of light in winter seasons.
Research has also found that people with SAD produce higher levels of the hormone melatonin in winter, compared with people who do not have the condition.

The pineal gland in the brain produces melatonin when we are exposed to darkness, which causes us to sleep. When it is light, the production of melatonin stops, making us wake up.

But Murphy says research has shown that melatonin is unlikely to be the only cause of SAD.

“We know that if someone with high melatonin levels is exposed to bright light, their melatonin levels drop to normal,” she says. “However, trials have shown that even after their melatonin levels have returned to normal, most people continue to experience the depressive symptoms of SAD.”

Previous studies have also shown that SAD could be caused by disruption to the body clock. It has been suggested that those with SAD may have a faulty body clock that is unable to set the body’s circadian rhythm to daylight hours, causing tiredness and depressive symptoms.

Additionally, Murphy says reports have suggested that, like other forms of depression, SAD could be triggered by traumatic life events, physical illness, a change to diet or medication, or use/withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.

‘I couldn’t make the connection to darkness and dull weather’
SADA’s Helen Hanson first experienced symptoms of SAD at the age of 13. She had winter flu and felt depressed and anxious for many months.

Her doctor prescribed anti-depressants, and she found she felt better as the summer months approached.

“I probably had sub-syndromal SAD, as did my mother, for most of my adult life. But it showed up as an inability to get up on winter mornings, a deep dislike of November and December and general feelings of despair which I did not recognise as seasonal,” Hanson explains.

She explains that there were no recurring symptoms until she reached her late 30s, when she moved from a light modern flat to a dark Edwardian terraced house.

Hanson developed winter flu, which was followed by labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection. These conditions kept her at home for weeks, during which time she experienced sickness and dizziness.

“I developed a post-viral depression, which gradually got better, but its symptoms came back suddenly and unexpectedly the following September without any accompanying illness. I more or less came to a halt,” she says.

For the next 3 years, Hanson attempted a series of self-help remedies to try and beat her depression, but these did not help. She says:

“I knew that I hated darkness and dull weather but didn’t make the connection because I didn’t know there was one.

Eventually, I saw a new doctor and she spotted a pattern. She pointed me towards SADA. I went to their annual general meeting and realised with huge relief that I was amongst fellow sufferers and that we all had something with a name. I was not mad after all.”

Treatment for SAD
Hanson is now able to manage her SAD with a combination of antidepressants and bright light therapy (phototherapy).

Lady sitting in front of a light box
Experts say bright light therapy has been shown to be 85% effective against SAD.
According to SADA, bright light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed SAD cases.

The treatment involves exposure to artificial light from a light therapy box for an average of 2 hours each day. The light given off by the box mimics natural outdoor light and is at least 10 times the intensity of standard domestic lighting.

Experts believe light therapy works by regulating the brain chemicals linked to mood, therefore easing SAD symptoms.

The light boxes can be purchased for use at home, but Mind states that in some cases, more structured courses of light therapy that are supervised by a medical professional may be more beneficial.

However, Murphy told Medical News Today that light therapy is not the only treatment for SAD:

“Talking treatments, such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can be extremely useful in helping people to cope with symptoms. Antidepressants may be prescribed for people with severe SAD and can be combined with light therapy for maximum effect.”

Treatment does not necessarily have to involve outside interventions. Mind states that many SAD sufferers have found self-treatment options useful.

The organization recommends avoiding stressful situations, adopting healthy eating and exercise, and trying to get as much exposure to natural light as possible during daylight hours.

But Murphy says it is important that people who are unable to manage symptoms of SAD, or who find the symptoms are having an impact on their day-to-day life, talk to their doctor about the condition.

“However, it is often difficult for people experiencing SAD to open up to health professionals so it’s vital GPs are educated in early warning signs to look out for and the right way to approach the topic,” she told Medical News Today.

Doctors ‘need better awareness’ of SAD
Experts believe that there is not enough awareness surrounding SAD, which means many people may not know how to spot the symptoms. And many doctors may not know how to deal with a patient who is experiencing symptoms.

“SAD only ever appears as a footnote in information about depression, and we are concerned that the complexities of the illness don’t get explored,” said Hanson.

Mind is now calling for doctors to receive more training in all types of mental health problems.

She said:

“GPs should be able to give patients further information and discuss treatment options. It’s important treatments are discussed regularly, particularly if symptoms worsen, or do not get better.

GPs should also make sure the patient feels included and listened to. If a GP feels this is outside their area of expertise, it might be worth referring to a psychiatrist.”

Hanson told Medical News Today that SADA believes there are now more male sufferers of SAD than originally thought, but males tend to be more reluctant to talk to their doctors.

“They self-medicate with alcohol or sink into deeper depression, with all that follows in terms of costs for the health service. GPs should look out for them particularly,” she added.

‘Lost connections with seasonality’
Many sufferers of SAD, such as Hanson, have learned to cope with the condition. But it is clear that coping with the symptoms of SAD and starting treatment for the condition begins with a visit to the doctor.

“Lots of people talk about the ‘winter blues,’ and many of us find the darkness and cold of December to February difficult. But if you find you have lots of the symptoms, they last longer than 2 weeks, and they are stopping you from living your normal life, you are likely to benefit from treatment for SAD,” says Murphy.

Hanson notes that her experience has taught her that the world of artificial lighting in which we live today is an environment that some are unable to adapt to:

“We expect to live in the same way all year round under the same electric lighting. The world is now awake and artificially lit 24/7, and we have lost our connections with seasonality and the real rhythm of the days. For some of us, this is bad news.”

For further information on SAD, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the US, or for the UK, visit SADA or Mind.

Written by Honor Whiteman

Dec 11

Most of these ideas are simple. All of them are worth it.

1. They take extra time to feel each other.
Quick hug. Auto-peck on the cheek. Out the door!

This may seem normal, but happy couples take time to feel each other’s body a lot more than that.

Real hugs. Kissing in which you actually feel the impression of lips give the extra ounce of connection that bonds two people together.

The experts at HelpGuide remind us of this with their number one relationship tip: Connect. Connecting physically boosts oxytocin, the hormone that governs human bonding.

According to at least one survey reported by the Guardian, couples were happiest when they slept in the nude together.

Surprised woman2. Happy couples surprise each other.
The human need for variety will KILL your long-term relationship if it isn’t satisfied. How do you keep things interesting with someone you’ve known for years?

Surprise them! No, don’t buy yourself a new car to surprise your spouse. The best surprises are ones that involve you being thoughtful. Fortunately, the little things count. For example:

• Saying I love you out of the blue.
• Surprise gifts and inexpensive outings.
• Doing the other’s chores around the house.
• Volunteering a massage.

It’s the little things! Each one adds a spice to recipe in your relationship. If you neglect this one, the surprise you get one day might not be pleasant.

3. When things go wrong, they look at themselves first (mostly).
Healthy couples are great at holding each other accountable. This is possible for one important reason: Each person also holds SELF accountable first. Try holding an equal partner accountable consistently while never taking responsibility for yourself.

This sad strategy only leads to mutual resentment and defensiveness.

If you want the right to hold someone else accountable, then be willing to expect the same of yourself. The respect you deserve comes from this place of personal maturity.

4. Happy couples learn to communicate with “easy” sophistication (it is shockingly easy).
A whole new level of sophisticated communication skills is NOT DIFFICULT to learn and apply. For example, in NLP we know that a majority of communication happens through three of the five senses. We communicate in pictures, sounds and feelings.

Most people have a preference for one of these modes of communication. Love is a form of communication. Therefore, it is best sent in the way your partner prefers to receive it. So simple!

If you mismatch your partner’s love style, she won’t feel loved. You’ll end up intending to give love, but creating something ELSE.

Visual lovers like visual evidence of love (things they can see): gifts, dressing up nice and going out, a clean kitchen, seeing you do something for them.

Auditory lovers like to hear kind, loving expressions (and in a kind, loving tone).

Feeling oriented lovers like to touch: Hugs, closeness, holding hands, kissing, etc…

Communicating love outside your partner’s modality may not even count (for your partner). If you are a visual lover, for example, a hug doesn’t mean as much as seeing evidence. In fact, you may feel smothered by constant clinging.

Let your partner see, hear or feel you. If you don’t know your partner’s preference, ask!

5. Happy couples are friends first.
Good marriage is friendship BEFORE it is family. Why? Because, on average, people enjoy friends more than family.

The evidence for this is pretty impressive. A survey done via the Mappiness App collected more than 3 million responses in its real time happiness survey. Results clearly showed that participants were far happier when in the company of friends than with family. Friends even made people happier than spouses and didn’t even compare to “other family.”

Among families of origin, people are often used to contradicting each other, being annoyed, rolling their eyes, bickering, sneaking around and feeling oppressed. It’s the truth. Families are often cauldrons of misery.

Your primary relationship or marriage does not have to be like this if you are friends first. Good friends are less likely to treat each other with disrespect. If you are friends, you are more likely to respect boundaries.

The fatal mistake so many couples make is diving into a young relationship too deeply, too quickly. When you do this, you bypass the opportunity to form a friendship and instantly create another family member.

For more on the essential stages of romantic relationships, click here.

6. Gently, gently.
Gentleness can transform your relationship. In fact, the Gottman Institute, a leader in marriage research, claims that being gentle is the number one factor in determining the success of your relationship.

Are you gentle with your spouse? If not, rest assured you are adding to the hurt and resentment. Hurt and resentment do not simply vanish without reconciliation. One day, resentment will rear its ugly head.

Interestingly, many of us confuse gentleness with indulgence. We think that if we are kind, we have to put up with rudeness, mistreatment, laziness, etc…

Not. True.

You can be gentle and STILL REQUIRE respect, hold people accountable and deliver consequences. In fact, being gentle is a far more effective way of demanding respect.

Are you committed to happiness or unhappiness?
The brazen truth is that your subconscious mind is not as committed to your happiness as you are. It may be harboring reasons – known as psychological attachments – for clinging to familiar misery.

To implement the principles above, you may need to discover and root out your tendencies toward self-sabotage. This removes the subconscious tendency to accept what is painfully familiar.

If you like this article, then like my Facebook Page to keep up with all my writing.

Mike Bundrant is author of the e-book, Your Achiiles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage.

Dec 10


Can you say it?

I am emotionally attached to the negativity in my past. That attachment to interferes with my present day life as an adult.

I remember, it was 25 years ago when I first entered therapy. I interviewed several therapists and agreed to work with them upon satisfaction of one condition – that we do NOT talk about my past.

Can you imagine?

One therapist asked, “What if your past is affecting your life today?”

“What if it isn’t?” I snapped back. “Then we just wasted time talking about something that doesn’t matter. Either you can help me feel better or not, so can you?”

He declined the opportunity.

I was 23 years old, so that’s understandable. In fact, developmentally speaking, it makes sense for 20-somethings to move away from the past, headstrong into the future.

As we grow older, more experienced and established into adult life, however, it becomes important for most people to stop denying the impact of the past and really learn let go.

You cannot let go of what you don’t realize you are hanging onto.

So, let’s look at the signs of a past that still haunts the present. Here are my top 10 signs that you are attached to negativity in your past:

1. You won’t talk about it.
If you are ok with the positive and negative in your past, you don’t mind discussing it, when and where appropriate.

Your romantic partner, therapist, good friends and relatives who care about you…these are all people with whom you could be sharing your past and the lessons learned.

2. You get those old, familiar feelings.
Vague feelings of pain and grief, resentment and fear still haunt people who are attached to the past. These unresolved feelings can appear anytime, in response to an outside situation or to your own thoughts.

For me it was a consistent, queasy feeling of dread in my gut, as if something were about to go wrong, continually. Regardless of how successful I was, I still felt uneasy most of the time.

You’re probably very familiar with these feelings, as they have been with you for a long, long time. They won’t go away until you emotionally square yourself with the past.

3. You can’t be yourself around your family of origin.
When you visit family, you hold back who you are by conforming to the old family expectations. This may involve remaining quiet or acting out or avoiding topics that you would nornally love to talk about. The point is, you act differently or feel you cannot be who you are in everyday life.

It’s a sign that you are conforming to old expectations, usually out of fear of disapproval, criticism or ridicule.

4. You fear disapproval in general.
Sometimes the family’s disapproval generalizes. When it does, you project your fear of disapproval onto other people; friends, romantic partners and even strangers.

This general fear of disapproval has roots in the original family dynamic.

5. You react to your children like your parents did to you.
All too common, we treat our children in the negative ways we were treated. Amazingly, we can even recognize it when it happens, know it is wrong, and still do it. This is how influential the past can be.

6. You married your parent of the opposite sex.
Not literally. In most cases, people marry someone who acts like the parent of the opposite sex. If dad was emotionally unavailable, a young woman marries an emotionally unavailable man.

If mom was cool and distant, the young man marries a cool and distant young woman.

These are signs that you are still trying to resolve the old family situation through your present life. So often, we justify this choice by telling ourselves, “I can change him/her.”

7. You repress emotions.
Human beings are emotional creatures by nature. When those emotions are uncomfortable, we tend to block them from expression, thinking that we can avoid the pain.

This strategy backfires. When you repress emotions, you hang on to them. When you express them fully, it is easier to let them go. 

Denying, ignoring, and repressing negative emotions creates an attachment to those emotions.

8. You can’t control your impulses.
Impulses come from emotions. When you have repressed emotions lurking under the surface, you still react to them. It’s like carrying around a reservoir of fuel that is just waiting for a spark to set it off.

Out of control tempers, anxiety and other impulsive reactions stem from unresolved emotions. This leads to poor decisions, addictive behaviors and regret.

9. You feel limited in some way, but can’t explain why.
When the family of origin is emotionally overwhelming, sometimes we set hard rules for ourselves that create limitations.

I am never getting a divorce, no matter what.
I’ll never speak in front of a group.
I’ll never trust anyone.
I’ll always keep a low profile.
I must play it safe in life.

We intend these rules to protect us, but they can end up cutting off the healthiest choices as adults. Interestingly, these rules can determine our choices whether we are consciously aware of them or not.

10. You repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Repeating the same mistakes over and over is a sure sign of a negative attachment. Making the same poor decisions repeatedly is a major red flag that something negative in your history is still influencing you by drawing you toward it.

Do you need to relive the past in order to heal?
No. Although some people do benefit by emotionally experiencing past memories, the key to healing is in making new choices today.

You need to recognize the influence of the past and learn how it is still affecting you. Only then can you make conscious decisions that take you in a new and different direction.

Getting out of denial about the influence of the past is a huge hurdle. Only a small percentage of the population has really connected the dots and become someone that lives beyond old family expectations.

Don’t allow denial to keep you from recognizing the negative influence of the past, or you may never move beyond it.

If you like this article, then like my Facebook Page to keep up with all my writing.

Mike Bundrant is author of the new book, Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage.

Dec 9

By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 14, 2013

Self-Control Enhanced Through Electrical Brain Stimulation New research has shown that direct electrical brain stimulation can enhance self-control.

Neuroscientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the University of California, San Diego, say this new method may one day be useful for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other severe disorders of self-control.

The study involved four volunteers with epilepsy who agreed to participate while being monitored for seizures at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC).

The four were asked to perform a simple behavioral task that required the braking or slowing of action — inhibition — in the brain.

For each patient, the researchers first identified the specific location for this brake in the prefrontal region of the brain. Next, a computer stimulated the prefrontal cortex exactly when braking was needed. This was done using electrodes implanted directly on the brain surface.

The stimulation with brief and imperceptible electrical charges led to increased braking, a form of enhanced self-control, the researchers reported.

“There is a circuit in the brain for inhibiting or braking responses,” said Nitin Tandon, M.D., the study’s senior author and associate professor in The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at the UTHealth Medical School. “We believe we are the first to show that we can enhance this braking system with brain stimulation.”

He noted that when the test was repeated stimulating a region outside the prefrontal cortex, there was no effect on behavior, showing the effect to be specific to the prefrontal braking system.

This was a double-blind study, meaning that participants and scientists did not know when or where the charges were being administered, he added.

The method of electrical stimulation was novel in that it apparently enhanced prefrontal function, whereas other human brain stimulation studies mostly disrupt normal brain activity, according to Tandon. This is the first published human study to enhance prefrontal lobe function using direct electrical stimulation, the researchers report.

Tandon has been working on self-control research with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, for five years.

“Our daily life is full of occasions when one must inhibit responses,” he said. “For example, one must stop speaking when it’s inappropriate to the social context and stop oneself from reaching for extra candy.”

The researchers are quick to point out that, while their results are promising, they do not yet point to the ability to improve self-control in general. In particular, this study does not show that direct electrical stimulation is a realistic option for treating self-control disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and borderline personality disorder.

Additionally, direct electrical stimulation requires an invasive surgical procedure, which is now used only for the localization and treatment of severe epilepsy, the researchers noted.

Their study appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Dec 8

Group Therapy Can Lessen Social Anxiety Symptoms


By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

For people suffering from social anxiety disorder (a debilitating fear of social situations), group therapy may help, according to a new report published in the journal PLOS One.

The condition, characterized by an extreme fear of interacting with others, can lead people to avoid social situations altogether, even if it means losing a job or avoiding contact with family and friends. Approximately 12 percent of Americans have the disorder at some point in their lives.

“Social anxiety disorder is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders, with a large impact on the personal life of patients and their relatives, and with huge costs for society,” said study author Pim Cuijpers, Ph.D., of the department of clinical psychology at VU University Amsterdam.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) conducted in a group setting may be particularly effective because it helps people practice interacting with others, said Cuijpers.

The analysis “confirmed what we had expected, and what we hear from clinicians in practice: group therapy works for many patients with social anxiety disorder,” said Cuijpers. Therefore, he added, it should be considered one of the first choices for treatment.

Medications like antidepressants can have side effects and aren’t always effective, and individual CBT doesn’t provide an outlet for social interaction and is less efficient to run than group therapy.

For the review, the researchers analyzed 11 studies that randomly divided participants with social anxiety disorder into several treatment groups. Some patients had gone through cognitive behavioral group therapy. Others either received no treatment, were given medication or continued with their current treatment.

The results showed that group therapy had a “moderate” effect on participants’ symptoms—one in three patients saw an improvement.

“Group treatments for psychiatric disorders are of tremendous interest,” said Dr. John Krystal, chair of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, who was not involved in the new review.

“They reduce the cost of treatment and may increase the access to effective therapy in settings where there are limited resources for mental health treatment,” he added.

Several mental disorders, including social anxiety disorder, are extremely hard to treat. So calling the effects of cognitive behavioral group therapy “moderate” is actually a misnomer, said Krystal.

“This is a rather large treatment effect by the standards of most medication treatments for social anxiety disorder. This is very good news, as it may help guide the efficient deployment of mental health treatment resources,” he said.

Source: PLOS One

Dec 4

Simple Exercise Can Help People with Dementia


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 6, 2013

A new review of clinical research suggests that simple exercise may benefit older people with dementia.

Exercise works by improving people’s cognitive abilities and enhancing their ability to carry out daily activities.

The study updates a review carried out in 2008, when only four trials on the effects of exercise in older people with dementia were available.

In the updated review, data from eight trials involving 329 people showed that exercise could improve cognitive functioning.

Data from six studies involving 289 people showed that exercise could improve the ability of older people with dementia to carry out daily activities, such as walking short distances or getting up from a chair.

The systematic review is published in The Cochrane Library.

However, the authors of the review say that more evidence is needed to understand how exercise could reduce the burden on family caregivers and health systems.

Dementia affects the brain in different ways and is associated with effects on memory and personality. And as people are living longer, rates of dementia are expected to rise sharply in the coming decades.

It is thought that exercise might be useful in treating dementia or slowing its progression, through improvements in the ability to carry out everyday tasks, and positive effects on mental processes such as memory and attention, collectively described as cognitive functioning.

Exercise may therefore indirectly benefit family caregivers and the health care system by reducing some of the burden of dementia.

“In our previous review, we were unable to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of exercise in older people with dementia, due to a shortage of appropriate trials,” said researcher Dorothy Forbes.

“Following this new review, we are now able to conclude that there is promising evidence for exercise programs improving cognition and the ability to carry out daily activities. However, we do still need to be cautious about how we interpret these findings.”

The researchers remain cautious because there were substantial differences among the results of individual trials.

In addition, they did not find enough evidence to determine whether exercise improved challenging behaviors or depression in older people with dementia.

They were unable to come to any conclusions regarding quality of life, or benefits for family caregivers and health systems, because there was not enough evidence.

However, the researchers suggest that if more evidence becomes available in future, it may help to address the question of whether exercise can help people with dementia remain at home for longer.

“Clearly, further research is needed to be able to develop best practice guidelines to enable healthcare providers to advise people with dementia living at home or in institutions,” said Forbes.

“We also need to understand what level and intensity of exercise is beneficial for someone with dementia.”

Source: Wiley

By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 7, 2013

A new study has found that college students who use their cell phones frequently had lower grades, higher anxiety and were less happy than other students.

For their study, Kent State University researchers Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., and Aryn Karpinski, Ph.D., all faculty members in the university’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, surveyed more than 500 university students.

Daily cell phone use was recorded, along with a clinical measure of anxiety and each student’s level of satisfaction with their own life — in other words, happiness. Finally, the students allowed the researchers to access their official university records to retrieve their college grade point average (GPA).

All those surveyed were undergraduate students and were equally distributed by class (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior). In addition, 82 different majors were represented, the researchers noted.

An analysis of the data collected revealed that cell phone use was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety, according to the researchers.

They found that students who used their cell phones frequently tended to have a lower GPA, higher anxiety and lower satisfaction with life (i.e., happiness) relative to students who used their cell phones less often.

Earlier this year, a team led by Lepp and Barkley also identified a negative relationship between cell phone use and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Taken as a whole, these results suggest that students should be encouraged to monitor their cell phone use and reflect upon it critically so that it is not detrimental to their academic performance, mental and physical health, and overall well-being or happiness, the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Source: Kent State University

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