Individual, Family & Group Psychotherapy
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Jun 28

Why Women With ADHD Hide Their Symptoms


A woman gave birth to me, and another woman saved me from a life of misery by being there for me during my darkest hour as a young man. Later on, a woman known as my wife was there to see me survive a suicide attempt, and she stood by me through my psych-ward stay, helping me get to where I am now — a freight train of determination to raise adult ADHD awareness worldwide. Women have played vital roles throughout my life, so it’s frustrating when they are overlooked. It’s particularly unfortunate that they are largely ignored when it comes to ADHD diagnoses.

I recently finished ”100 Questions & Answers about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Women and Girls” by Dr. Patricia Quinn. It’s a moving book, full of stories, research stats, and insights on how differently women manifest ADHD symptoms and struggle as a result. Yes, I’m a man, so I can only understand the female battle with ADHD up to a point. But I hear stories from women who reach out to me online through my Twitter account, blogs, YouTube, and elsewhere. I regularly hear stories of tragedy, misdiagnoses, depression resulting from delayed diagnoses, and so on.

But why? Why do women tend to be more isolated when it comes to their ADHD symptoms and diagnoses? While research does suggest that ADHD affects more men and boys than women and girls, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a large group of females out there suffering from severe ADHD symptoms — often with very little (if any) support from others.

Gender roles play a huge role in girls and women going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. In our society, women are under immense pressure to be quiet, gentle, pretty, and a whole host of other stereotypical, media-induced gender norms. It’s no wonder girls and women with ADHD often “cover up” their symptoms, trying to fit in. Talking excessively and being easily distracted are potential red flags for ADHD, but they also aren’t “ladylike,” so they are hidden. Other signs, such as obsessive studying to get great grades, secret battles with anxiety, depression and/or eating disorders, go unnoticed or are chalked up to other conditions. Those cues mesh with how women have been expected to behave for a very long time. So testing for ADHD is skewed to recognize behaviors more natural to boys.

“For women with ADHD, issues relating to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, social rejection and/or isolation, and struggles as a wife and mother to live up to society’s expectations, not to mention the impossible demands of single motherhood, may need to be addressed in individual psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),” writes Dr. Quinn.

There are three co-existing conditions that seem to disproportionately affect women with ADHD. All of us — women themselves as well as we men who couldn’t live without them — should be aware and willing to receive and/or give support when these problems are presented:

Eating Disorders and ADHD: Searching for Control
Eating disorders in girls and women with ADHD appear to be quite common, due to internalizing their symptoms instead of asking for help. “Some girls with ADHD and anxiety stop eating as a means of controlling a world that they see as being out of their control,” writes Dr. Quinn. They try to regain control by becoming obsessive with their eating patterns, and this can easily result in a number of disorders. Some women eat to feel better emotionally; others forget to eat because they are distracted, then overeat once they remember the meals they’ve missed.

Anxiety and ADHD: A Vicious Circle
I recently wrote a post about how fifty percent of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder, so I wasn’t surprised to read that Dr. Quinn also observes a major connection between the two disorders. After all, our minds tend to be hyper, distracted, passionate, and busy! That certainly isn’t rocket science, but research offers much-needed credibility to these truths. The sheer stress of having a mind like ours leads to anxiety. What’s worse is that for women, anxiety is often written off due to a busy schedule or raising multiple children. They may not crumble as easily as men do under the pressure of anxiety, so a diagnosis is harder to find.

Depression and ADHD: One Can Hide the Other
When a doctor treats a woman for depression instead of ADHD, nothing improves. The underlying symptoms aren’t all being dealt with, so the woman will likely still have a very hard time in other areas of life, which no pill for depression will fix. She may develop coping skills to help carve out her niche in life to get by, but for many the band-aid depression diagnosis can be destructive, if not deadly. The woman is led to believe she’s “cured” of the depression only to have other ADHD symptoms creep up and sabotage everything she worked so hard to fix.

The fairer sex deserves so much more from society! They go on to be the mothers, the leaders, the healers, and the “rocks” of their families. But who’s there to be their rocks?

We have to keep this awareness building. Millions of lives literally depend on it. Girls and women are suffering in silence, and that just won’t do. ADHD affects all of us, and this is an all-for-one, one-for-all kind of battle. It’s time to say “We’re with you, ladies.”

Jun 27

As many as 85 percent of American adults who have ADHD don’t know it yet, which means millions of adults are living with unexplained ADHD symptoms and think it’s normal. American journalist Lisa Ling was recently diagnosed with adult ADD (a form of ADHD that doesn’t include the hyperactive aspect) while she was filming a show on the subject. Then and there, she had Dr. Craig Liden test her to see if her suspicions were true, and she was right: At the age of 40, she found out she has been living with undiagnosed ADD likely since her childhood.

I was diagnosed with ADHD at 35 after a suicide attempt rushed me to the E.R. The diagnosis changed my life forever. But as relieving as an adult ADHD diagnosis can be, it can also bring forth a number of concerns. While I can’t read Lisa Ling’s mind, I bet some of these common questions popped up when she got her ADD diagnosis, just as they did for me:

1. Will I need to be medicated for the rest of my life?
Not unless you want to be. Medication can change lives, but depending on your symptoms and any other conditions you may have, it can also do more harm than good both physically and mentally. From personal experience, I can tell you that the key to answering this question for yourself is to invest time into learning about your symptoms, the types of ADHD medications currently available, and the possible side effects.

Keep an open mind. Medication is not the only solution – in fact, it’s only one part of it! People seem to want the quick fix these days, but there isn’t one when it comes to adult ADHD. You will have it for the rest of your life, unless a cure of some sort is found. Once I learned to settle in and learn the best tools and techniques for minimizing my symptoms, I felt a weight had been lifted. Tools like mindfulness and regular exercise have literally changed my life!

2. Do I have to tell my family/friends/employer?
I’m biased when it comes to this question, because frankly, I’m proud to have ADHD. But if you feel that people knowing about your ADHD could hurt your career or relationships, then you don’t have to tell people. You should still do your own research and learn how to live your best life with this condition, but this is ultimately all about you, not anyone else.

With one exception: Be honest with your partner/spouse. That is the most important advice I can give. If you hide it from them, not only do you rob them of being able to understand you better, you’re also short-changing yourself. Your partner can only help you when they know what you’re going through. If you hide your true self from the world, you suffer in silence. I’m working hard to raise adult ADHD awareness so that people won’t have to do that. Enough is enough. ADHD can be a blessing, so don’t treat it like a curse.

3. Can I still be successful, or am I destined to fail?
Here’s the amazing news: Once you have a diagnosis, you have the clarity to begin taking charge of your life like never before. This can result in success in every area – as long as you’re committed to reaching for it! I am a living, breathing example of how you can go from depression and despair to success with time, therapy, and being 150 percent honest with yourself. (Support from family, friends, websites like Everyday Health, and medical professionals doesn’t hurt, either.)

4. Could my diagnosis be wrong?
Great question! There are a lot of misdiagnoses out there for several reasons, such as a rushed diagnosis by a physician who doesn’t spend enough time with the patient. Conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders can also be misdiagnosed as ADHD and vice versa, so make sure to get a second (and third) opinion if you aren’t sure. There’s nothing wrong with that. I was fortunate enough to be assessed by a team of specialists at the same time.

5. What now?
Welcome to the club! Our numbers are ever-growing, and there is plenty of support both on and off the Internet. I created The Adult ADHD Blog to share my story and allow others to comment on their own experiences. Everyday Health also has a ton of articles about all aspects of ADHD – from romance with ADHD to good food for ADHD brains. A quick Google search will reveal Facebook groups, Twitter handles, magazines, forums and more. Many cities have ADHD support groups that meet on a regular basis. You can also check out ADDitude’s directory for specialists, support groups, events, and so on.

Trust me on this: Change your life by confirming your diagnosis, accepting yourself, and remembering that many successful people have ADHD! You’re in good company.

Posted in: ADHD

Jun 26

A new research study led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May, shows an association between midlife and later life sleeping habits with memory; and links extreme sleep durations to worse memory in later life. The study suggests that extreme changes in sleep duration from middle age to older age may also worsen memory function.

“Sleep Duration In Midlife and Later Life In Relation to Cognition: The Nurses’ Health Study,” led by Elizabeth Devore, ScD, instructor in medicine in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH found that women who slept five or fewer hours, or nine or more hours per day, either in midlife or later life, had worse memory, equivalent to nearly two additional years of age, than those sleeping seven hours per day. Women whose sleep duration changed by greater than two hours per day over time had worse memory than women with no change in sleep duration.
This study was the first to evaluate associations of sleep duration at midlife and later life, and change in sleep duration over time, with memory in 15,263 participants of the Nurses’ Health Study. Participants were female nurses, aged 70 or older and were free of stroke and depression at the initial cognitive assessment.
“Given the importance of preserving memory into later life, it is critical to identify modifiable factors, such as sleeping habits, that may help achieve this goal,” Devore stated. “Our findings suggest that getting an ‘average’ amount of sleep, seven hours per day, may help maintain memory in later life and that clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should be examined for the prevention of cognitive impairment.”
Specifically, researchers report that:
Extreme sleep durations may adversely affect memory at older ages, regardless of whether they occur at mid-life or later-life.
Greater changes in sleep duration appear to negatively influence memory in older adults.
Women with sleep durations that changed by two or more hours per day from midlife to later life performed worse on memory tests than women with no change in sleep duration, equivalent to being one to two years older in age, compared to those whose sleep duration did not change during that time period.
“These findings add to our knowledge about how sleep impacts memory,” said Devore. “More research is needed to confirm these findings and explore possible mechanisms underlying these associations.”

Analysis of sleep and cognitive (brain function) data from 3,968 men and 4,821 women who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), was conducted in a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Respondents reported on the quality and quantity of sleep over the period of a month.
The study showed that there is an association between both quality and duration of sleep and brain function which changes with age.
In adults aged between 50 and 64 years of age, short sleep (<6hrs per night) and long sleep (>8hrs per night) were associated with lower brain function scores. By contrast, in older adults (65-89 years) lower brain function scores were only observed in long sleepers.
Dr Michelle A Miller says “6-8 hours of sleep per night is particularly important for optimum brain function, in younger adults.” These results are consistent with our previous research, which showed that 6-8 hours of sleep per night was optimal for physical health, including lowest risk of developing obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke”.
Interestingly, in the younger pre-retirement aged adults, sleep quality did not have any significant association with brain function scores, whereas in the older adults (>65 years), there was a significant relationship between sleep quality and the observed scores.
“Sleep is important for good health and mental wellbeing” says Professor Francesco Cappuccio, “Optimizing sleep at an older age may help to delay the decline in brain function seen with age, or indeed may slow or prevent the rapid decline that leads to dementia.”
Dr Miller concludes that “if poor sleep is causative of future cognitive decline, non-pharmacological improvements in sleep may provide an alternative low-cost and more accessible Public Health intervention, to delay or slow the rate of cognitive decline.”

Jun 22

Substantial Weight Loss = Better Mood, Improved Sleep


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Substantial Weight Loss = Better Mood, Improved Sleep
New research has documented that when obese adults lose at least fives percent of their body weight they sleep better and longer.

In addition, the study found that weight loss at six months improved sleep quality, as well as mood, regardless of how the individuals lost the weight.

The study results were presented at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago.

“This study confirms several studies reporting that weight loss is associated with increased sleep duration,” said the study’s lead investigator, Nasreen Alfaris, M.D., MPH, a fellow in the Department of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Three hundred ninety subjects participated in the Practice-Based Opportunities for Weight Reduction at the University of Pennsylvania (POWER-UP) trial.

The two year study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and compared three behavioral interventions for weight loss in obese adults treated in primary care practices.

Subjects (311 women and 79 men) were randomly assigned to one of three programs that provided varying amounts of support to achieve the same diet and exercise goals.

The groups were: (1) usual care, in which subjects received printed educational materials during quarterly visits with their primary care provider; (2) brief lifestyle counseling, which included quarterly visits with their primary care provider, combined with brief meetings with lifestyle coaches; or (3) enhanced brief lifestyle counseling, with meal replacements or weight loss medications added to the second intervention.

The researchers evaluated changes in weight, sleep duration, and quality, and mood after six and 24 months of treatment.

They compared subjects who lost five percent or more of their original body weight with those who lost less than five percent, regardless of their group assignment. The analyses controlled for several subject variables, including sex and age.

At month six, subjects in both lifestyle counseling groups lost more weight on average (brief counseling: 7.8 lb; enhanced counseling: 14.7 lb) than those in the usual care group (4.4 lb).

Examining all three groups together, subjects who lost at least five percent of their weight at month six reported that they gained an average of 21.6 minutes of sleep a night, compared with only 1.2 minutes for those who lost less than five percent.

Likewise, subjects who lost more than five percent of initial weight reported greater improvements on measures of sleep quality and mood (i.e., symptoms of depression), compared with subjects who lost less than five percent.

Only improvements in mood remained statistically significant at 24 months, according to Alfaris.

“Further studies are needed to examine the potential effects of weight regain in diminishing the short-term improvements of weight loss on sleep duration and sleep quality,” she said.

Source: The Endocrine Society

Jun 20

Afraid to be Happy: Life is Beyond Your Control



Kate wanted to know why she is afraid to be happy. She had recently been to a party with people she liked, but she couldn’t enjoy herself. She isolated herself and found something to fret about the whole evening. It didn’t make sense to her and she wanted to know where her feelings were coming from.

I didn’t tell her, my theories of why she felt the way she did. I didn’t say, “It’s just a case of nerves” or “You were just being self-conscious” or “It was something you ate”. It had to come from her.

To identify Kate’s current feelings in the present, I asked her “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your childhood?” Kate thought for a moment and said, “I don’t remember anything. I guess what comes to mind is being on the playground, playing alone.”

(Therapist) “How do you feel thinking about being alone on the playground, playing by yourself?”

(Client) “Ok, I guess.”

(T) “Could you have felt all alone and lonely, maybe abandoned?”

(C) “No I enjoyed playing by myself, doing what I wanted to do, no one to get into my way.”

(T) “Would you say you felt happy?”

(C) “Yes, I was happy.”

(T) “What else come to mind when you think of playing on the playground?”

(C) “Getting beat up. I was in second grade and playing alone until two boys came pushed me down to the ground and the some other kids started to hit me.”

(T) “How did that make you feel?”

(C) “I felt awful.”

(T) “It probably ruined the happiness you had, wouldn’t you say?”

(C) “Yes, I guess there is a pattern here, whenever I’m happy something bad happens.”

(T) “How do you think this relates to what happened at the party?”

(C) “At the party I must have had the fear that something would happen to spoil my happiness.”

It’s like pushing a button on a computer. Talking about the problem stimulates the buried recollection to pop to the surface and she can print it out and look at it. Kate was able to make the connection between these two situations for herself. She could see that there was a clear distinction in her experience between playing happily all alone on one hand and the experience she had with others. They caused her pain and hurt. They made happiness very difficult for her.

However, once these connections are made, Kate can break them. She can put her early recollection of happiness being followed by disaster in a more mature perspective. She can see the mistake in her conviction that the happiness in her memory was somehow responsible for the disaster that followed. There was a relationship in her memory of the two events, but not based in reality. The earlier happiness in being alone did not cause the disaster, as she has come to believe.

I said to Kate, “At the party, you were sabotaging your happiness by living in the future and trying to predict what was going to happen, so you could prevent it from happening. You wanted to control the future, but you couldn’t figure out how. You had an anxiety attack. You didn’t know what was going to happen or when. Not knowing what was going to happen was scary and you felt helpless and out of control. Your old beliefs were used to predict a possible scenario and this expectation predisposed you to feel, think, and act the way you did in the past. You brought something into the present from the past without knowing it was happening or how to deal with it. This reaction was automatic, it just kicked in and spoiled your happiness.”

To this day she is happier alone doing her own thing, such as gardening, then she is in the presence of fellow human beings, who are unpredictable, potentially dangerous and totally outside her control. It is hard for her to be happy under this fog from the past.

Almost every time we have an unsolvable, emotional problem in the present, we can predict that the answer lies in beliefs buried in early experiences. We can predict that after examining the problem that is occurring today, the client’s internal consistencies can be counted on to bring forth a relevant memory or sequence of recollections that put the problem in a useful perspective. This is how our human consistency works. How we make sense out of events from the past is consistent with how we make sense out of events in the present.

There is nothing unusual about the process of transferring a whole constellation of feelings and beliefs from the past to a similar circumstance in the present. Our emotional system is consistent. We tend to remember painful emotional events and unresolved problems. They nag at us and cause painful discomfort. We strive for resolution to release the tension. When these problems remain unsolved, emotions linger.

Our memories of unresolved anger, private guilt, secret shame or paralyzing fear do not go away just because they are not expressed. They lay dormant and are triggered when a situation while a similar feeling occurs in the present. However, we can use this consistency to our advantage in our efforts to solve the mystery of where our problems in the present came from and how they can be resolved by using our adult judgment, which we did not have back then.

We can also predict that once we make these unconscious beliefs conscious, they lose their grip on the individual. Once they can understand where they are coming from, they can choose to replace self-doubt with new beliefs in the context of mature self-respect. “I’m not a vulnerable child anymore, I’m not a victim. I’m a grownup. I’m a worthwhile human being now and deserve to be happy.”

Jun 19

Out of Control: Angrier Than You Need to Be



People in high places have given extreme anger a ten-syllable name, “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” which is much more impressive than, upset.

This term can be applied to the tiny percentage of the population that suffer from abnormalities in the part of the brain known as the amygdala. However, most of the super-anger we see from time to time does not have a pathological origin. It is normal anger gone to extremes, which is less intimidating for the client. Super-angry clients recognize this trait in themselves immediately. I begin by asking our client a few focusing questions. For example, “When else have you felt like this?” “What angered you the most when that happened.” Their answers to these questions are often something like, “They hurt my feelings,” “They made me feel bad” or “It was unfair”.

Most clients seek anger counseling when they come to realize that their way of moving through life is not working. They have begun to see that it wasn’t bad luck or someone else’s fault. They have started to look back on a lifetime of lashing out at problems, instead of using their adult judgment to find solutions. They have come to the realization that they cannot manage their angry outbursts by themselves anymore. They need a guide to continue their journey without scorching the earth behind them. They need a new set of choices, a new way of moving through life. I respond by giving them choices they didn’t know they had. They find these new choices empowering and encouraging.

Therapist: “Besides angry, how else do you feel when people disrespect you?”

Client: “Sad.”

Therapist: “Where does that sadness come from?”

Client: “It’s always been there.”

Therapist: “When else have you felt this way?”

Client: “I remember when my big brother pushed me off my bike, punched me and rode away on it.”

Therapist: “How did that make you feel?”

Client: “Upset.”

Therapist: “What does upset mean?”

Client: “I felt bad.”

Therapist: “Does it mean you got angry?”

Client: “Sure I did. I ran and told my mother. She told me it was probably my fault, and that I should stop crying like a baby and grow up!”

Therapist: “How did that make you feel?”

Client: “Like I didn’t count, I wasn’t important.”

Therapist: “Like you were invisible?”

Client: “I still do, it’s like I’m my important.”

Therapist: “Did you feel life was unfair to you, that you weren’t worth caring about, that you were insignificant?”

Client: “Yes.”

Therapist: “When did you stop feeling that way about yourself?”

Client: “I guess I never did.”

Therapist: “You have carried that expectation into adulthood with you. Who else were you angry at?”

Client: “No one.”

Therapist: “Were you angry at yourself for letting these bad things happen to you, for being unable to do anything to make it stop, for being such a pushover?”

Client: “Yes, I guess so. I didn’t realize it.’

Therapist: “You were too busy being angry at your bullies. Do you admire pushovers?”

Client: “No, of course I don’t.”

Therapist: “What if you are one of them?”

Client: “I guess I am.”

Therapist: “When did you get over it?”

Client: “I guess I never did.”

Therapist: “Then you cannot have a very high opinion yourself. Could it be that you were angry at yourself for being so vulnerable, for letting people victimize you, for not standing up to them?”

Client: “That makes sense.”

Therapist: “Would you say you took these childhood betrayals personally?’

Client: “Wouldn’t you?”

Therapist: “I would. For many people, when they feel anger in the present, it brings them back unresolved feelings from the past. When someone makes you angry in the present, are you inclined to take it personally, as if it were a reflection on your worth as a person?”

Client: “Yes.”

“Therapist: What is it called when anger in the present ignites unresolved anger from the past?”

Client: “I call it losing my mind.”

Therapist: “That’s one way to put it. I call it super-anger. You are angrier than you need to be because this current painful experience has tapped into a pool of unresolved anger from the past. Some may say to themselves, ‘I am still a victim, I am stupid for letting it happen, I should have seen it coming, I should have stood up for myself.’ This is called shoulding on yourself. It makes you feel guilty, in addition to being angry at the bully. This combination overloads your system, and you erupt like a volcano. This whole process is taking place below conscious awareness where you can’t process it, let alone manage it in a mature, appropriate way. When this happens, you don’t have the anger anymore, the anger has you.”

Client: ‘Yes. I feel like a stupid pushover all over again.”

Therapist: “It’s like an old wound that opens up and bleeds. On what day did you get over your anger?”

Client: “I guess I never did. It was so unfair! He was bigger than me.”

Therapist: “Did you feel like a victim of this unfairness?”

Client: “Yes.”

Therapist: “Do you still feel like a victim waiting for another attack to happen?”

Client: “Story of my life.”

Therapist: “Did you feel out of control?”

Client: “Yes.”

Therapist: “How do you feel when you’re out of control?”

Client: “It’s scary.”

Therapist: “What is that scary feeling called?”

Client: “Scared.”

Therapist: “It’s called anxiety. Is anxiety painful?”

Client: “Yes.”

Therapist: “You are in pain most of the time. All this pain makes you angrier than you need to be. Did you take it personally when your brother knocked you off your bike?”

Client: “Wouldn’t you?”

Therapist: “Anybody would. How do you feel now when someone victimizes you, calls you a jerk, keeps you waiting twenty minutes, criticizes your performance on the job?”

Client: “Angry.”

Therapist: “How angry are you?”

Client: “Sometimes I get very angry!”

Therapist: “Do you think you might be angrier than you need to be?”

Client: “I never thought about it. I thought my anger was justified.”

Therapist: “Where does your anger come from?”

Client: “Nowhere.”

Therapist: “It seems like nowhere, but it’s been stored in your memory bank all these years. When something makes you angry in the present, it triggers this store of unresolved anger from the past. It makes you angrier than you need to be in the present. You are out of control, over the top. Your anger is in control now, not you. It overrides your adult judgment, and provokes you to say and do things you wouldn’t otherwise.”

Client: “It just comes over me so fast, I can’t stop myself!”

Therapist: “Your filled to the top with anger now. It hasn’t been relieved the right way, it’s still down there waiting to be triggered by the next unfairness, the next victimization. Like a stone in your shoe: ach step forward comes with pain! Would you like to get rid of this anger so it won’t keep bothering you for the rest of your life?”

Client: “Yes.”

Therapist: “Good! Now we can begin.”

Jun 17

Depressed or Anxious? Check Your Thyroid



holisticsolutionsdoc.comSix weeks ago I woke up tired and depressed, like I have so often in the last year. All I wanted to do is go back to bed.

The negative intrusive thoughts began before my feet touched the floor.

You are so lazy, I thought to myself. You could never hold a REAL job. You can barely string together three sentences.

All I had to do that day was to crank out one quality blog before getting the kids from school, but every few paragraphs I needed to lie down.

Since I hadn’t been sleeping well for months and was used to feeling fatigued, I assumed my exhaustion and concentration problems were merely symptoms of my chronic depression.

But there was actually something more going on than depression.

“Your thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone,” a new doctor told me over the phone that day. “That’s the first thing we have to work on, because low thyroid levels can affect a lot of things and make you feel very tired and depressed.”

As a physician who practices “functional medicine,” a science that engages the entire body to address the underlying causes of disease, she took a dozen vials of blood from me the week before as part of a comprehensive consultation.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck that produces hormones that control how your body uses energy and a lot of other things, like body temperature and weight. When your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), your symptoms might include:

Weight gain
Fuzzy thinking
Low blood pressure
Slow reflexes
When your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), symptoms include:

Weight loss
High heart rate
High blood pressure
The interesting thing is that I’ve had my thyroid levels checked for eight years now, ever since an endocrinologist spotted a tumor in my pituitary gland. However, not until a comprehensive lab test was done did a doctor suggest treatment for low levels of both T3 and T4 hormones.

According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the American population will develop a thyroid condition. Today an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease; however, 60 percent are unaware of their condition.

Many of those people will visit their primary care physician or a psychiatrist and report symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, and fuzzy thinking. They might receive a diagnosis of major depression, general anxiety, or bipolar disorder, and leave the doctor’s office with prescriptions for antidepressants, mood stabilizers, sedatives, or all three.

The drugs might abate some of the symptoms, but the underlying illness will remain untreated.Dana-photo-for-About-page

Dana Trentini, mother of two, was diagnosed with hypothyroidism the year following the birth of her first son in 2006. She was overwhelmed with fatigue. Her pregnancy weight was impossible to lose.

Her hair began to fall out. And kidney stones landed her in the emergency room. She was treated by a leading endocrinologist and became pregnant again; however, her thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) reached levels far above the recommended reference range for pregnancy and she miscarried.

In October 2012, she launched the blog “Hypothyroid Mom” to help educate others about thyroid disease.

“The mission of Hypothyroid Mom is clear — to drive awareness,” she writes on her blog. “The Thyroid Federation International estimates there are up to 300 million people, mostly women, with thyroid dysfunction worldwide, yet over half are unaware of their condition.”

Everyday Health featured Hypothyroid Mom in January 2014 for Thyroid Awareness Month: “How Mom’s Thyroid Problems Can Hurt Baby.” It is Dana’s life mission to bring about universal thyroid screening in pregnancy.

“I will save babies in memory of my lost child,” she writes.

A friend led me to her fascinating post, “Mental Disorder or Undiagnosed Hypothyroidism?” In this post, she features a letter from one of her readers who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and pumped full of meds, ready to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The woman, Jana, writes: “Finally after four years of bipolar medications to the max, a close family member was diagnosed with hypothyroidism so my doctor tested me, too. I have a family history of thyroid disease. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.”

And then she says something that makes me think all persons taking antidepressants and mood stabilizers should have their thyroid checked: “Every single time I attend a bipolar support group, I ask everyone if they are hypothyroid and every time half the people raise their hand and the other half have no clue what it is and they don’t know if they have been tested.”

Dana then highlights a few studies linking bipolar disorder, depression, and thyroid disease. As she mentions, the use of lithium to treat bipolar disorder complicates matters, because the medication can itself cause thyroid problems.

However, plenty of research points to the connection between bipolar disorder and thyroid disease even in those who aren’t medicated with lithium, as well as the connection between different kinds of mood disorders and hypothyroidism. Dana mentions these:

A 2002 study entitled “High Rate of Autoimmune Thyroiditis in Bipolar Disorder: Lack of Association with Lithium Exposure” found that Hashimoto’s thyroid antibodies were highly prevalent in a sample of outpatients with bipolar disorder as compared to a control group.
An interesting study of bipolar twins versus healthy control twins showed that autoimmune thyroiditis is related not only to bipolar disorder itself but also to the genetic vulnerability to develop the disorder.
A 2004 study found a link between thyroid autoimmunity, specifically the presence of thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO Ab+), with anxiety and mood disorders in the community.
A 2005 study found that subjects with Hashimoto’s disease displayed high frequencies of lifetime depressive episodes, generalized anxiety disorders, social phobia and primary sleep disorders.
For some people, thyroid treatment is straightforward and brings fast relief of symptoms. Mine has been more complicated because I take lithium for my bipolar disorder and I have a pituitary tumor. I’m extremely sensitive to medications that stimulate thyroid production: What should be a therapeutic dose for me causes insomnia. I am hopeful, however, that I will eventually find a solution.

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or both, please get your thyroid checked. Read Dana’s post, “Top 5 Reasons Doctors Fail to Diagnose Hypothyroidism.”

An underactive thyroid can make you feel depressed, fatigued and fuzzy brained. An overactive thyroid can cause anxiety and insomnia. If you fluctuate between the two, you will have similar symptoms to those of bipolar disorder.

Thyroid disease may very well be at the root of your problem.

Jun 15

Daytime Nap Can Speed Memory


\By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Napping womanNew research suggests taking a ninety minute daytime nap accelerates the process of long term memory consolidation.

According to Professor Avi Karni and Dr. Maria Korman of the Center for Brain and Behavior Research at the University of Haifa, the exact mechanism of the memory process that occurs during sleep is unknown.

Nevertheless, the results of this research suggest the possibility that it is possible to speed up memory consolidation, and in the future, the action may be artificially stimulated by appropriate pharmacology.

Long term memory is defined as a permanent memory that doesn’t disappear or that disappears after many years. This part of our memory is divided into two types – memories of “what” (for example: what happened yesterday or what one remembers from an article one read yesterday) and memories of “how to” (for example: how to read Hebrew, how to drive, play basketball or play the piano).

In this new research, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Haifa in cooperation with the Sleep Laboratory at the Sheba Medical Center and researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal, it was revealed that a daytime nap changes the course of consolidation in the brain.

Two groups of participants in the study practiced a repeated motor activity which consisted of bringing the thumb and a finger together at a specific sequence. The research examined the “how” aspect of memory in the participants’ ability to perform the task quickly and in the correct sequence. One of the groups was allowed to nap for an hour and a half after learning the task while the other group stayed awake.

The group that slept in the afternoon showed a distinct improvement in their task performance by that evening, as opposed to the group that stayed awake, which did not exhibit any improvement. Following an entire night’s sleep, both groups exhibited the same skill level.

“This part of the research showed that a daytime nap speeds up performance improvement in the brain. After a night’s sleep the two groups were at the same level, but the group that slept in the afternoon improved much faster than the group that stayed awake,” stressed Prof. Karni.

A second experiment showed that another aspect of memory consolidation is accelerated by sleep. It was previously shown that during the 6-8 hours after completing an effective practice session, the neural process of “how” memory consolidation is susceptible to interference, such that if, for example, one learns or performs a second, different task, one’s brain will not be able to successfully remember the first trained task.

A third group of participants in the University of Haifa study learned a different thumb-to-finger movement sequence two hours after practicing the first task. As the second task was introduced at the beginning of the 6-8 hour period during which the brain consolidates memories, the second task disturbed the memory consolidation process and this group did not show any improvement in their ability to perform the task, neither in the evening of that day nor on the following morning.

However, when a fourth group of participants was allowed a 90 minute nap between learning the first set of movements and the second, they did not show much improvement in the evening, but on the following morning these participants showed a marked improvement of their performance, as if there had been no interference at all.

“This part of the study demonstrated, for the first time, that daytime sleep can shorten the time “how to” memory becomes immune to interference and forgetting. Instead of 6-8 hours, the brain consolidated the memory during the 90 minute nap,” explains Prof. Karni who added that while this study demonstrates that the process of memory consolidation is accelerated during daytime sleep, it is still not clear which mechanisms sleep accelerates in the process.

The elucidation of these mechanisms, say the researchers, could enable the development of methods to accelerate memory consolidation in adults and to create stable memories in a short time. Until then, if you need to memorize something quickly or if your schedule is filled with different activities which require learning “how” to do things, it is worth finding the time for an afternoon nap.

Source: University of Haifa

Jun 10

Need to Boost Creative Thinking? Try Taking a Walk


A new study shows that walking — as opposed to sitting — significantly improves creative thinking. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why yet (more research is coming), but they hypothesize that the act of walking most likely triggers certain physiological changes that activate the part of the brain that fuels imagination.

The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, involved 176 participants, mostly college students. Researchers conducted several experiments to investigate whether a simple walk could temporarily improve certain types of thinking, including free-flowing thought.

The results were significant. In one experiment, 100 percent of the participants came up with more creative ideas after a walk, compared to when they were sitting. In three other experiments, 95 percent, 88 percent, and 81 percent of the walker groups gave more creative responses compared to sitters.

In one test, researchers wanted to determine whether it was the act of walking itself or being out in nature that was boosting imagination. They had some participants walk outside, some walk on an indoor treadmill, and others get pushed in a wheelchair outdoors. Overall, the students who walked — whether inside or outside — gave more creative responses, compared to the sitting participants.

Although spending time outside does offer many cognitive benefits, noted researcher Marily Oppezzo, PhD of Santa Clara University, walking appears to have a very specific benefit of improving creativity.

In another experiment, the researcher would name an object, and the student would have to think of alternative ways to use the object. Students were also given a three-word association quiz. For example, if the word association was “cottage-Swiss-cake,” the answer would be “cheese.” Students were given the tasks first while sitting down and again while walking at a comfortable pace on a treadmill.

Then, with a different group of 48 students, researchers had some students sit down during both sets of tests, other students walk during both sets, and the rest walk and then sit. The findings showed that walking seemed to have a strong and residual effect on creativity that slowly tapered off.

Students came up with the most novel ideas when they were walking and the second most novel ideas when they were sitting during the second test (after walking during the first). They had the fewest novel ideas when they sat for both tests.

So the next time you find yourself in a creative slump — waiting for the next great idea to just pop into your head — get up and walk! Let the powerful flow of creativity begin to move through you, bringing the missing piece to your puzzle.

This article courtesy of Spirituality and Health.

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Imaging Suggests Evidence of Biological Basis for Adult ADHDEmerging research discovers adults who have recovered from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have different levels of brain activity than adults who still suffer from ADHD.

In a new study, MIT neuroscientists discovered key differences in a brain communication network that is active when the brain is at wakeful rest and not focused on a particular task.

The findings offer evidence of a biological basis for adult ADHD and should help to validate the criteria used to diagnose the disorder.

Experts believe about 11 percent of school-age children in the United States will be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

While many of these children eventually “outgrow” the disorder, some carry their difficulties into adulthood, authorities estimate that 10 million American adults are currently diagnosed with ADHD.

In the first study to compare patterns of brain activity in adults who recovered from childhood ADHD and those who did not, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) neuroscientists have discovered key differences in a brain communication network that is active when the brain is at wakeful rest and not focused on a particular task.

The findings offer evidence of a biological basis for adult ADHD and should help to validate the criteria used to diagnose the disorder, according to the researchers.

Diagnoses of adult ADHD have risen dramatically in the past several years, with symptoms similar to those of childhood ADHD: a general inability to focus, reflected in difficulty completing tasks, listening to instructions, or remembering details.

“The psychiatric guidelines for whether a person’s ADHD is persistent or remitted are based on lots of clinical studies and impressions. This new study suggests that there is a real biological boundary between those two sets of patients,” said MIT’s Dr. John Gabrieli, an author of the study which appears in the journal Brain.

Researchers focused on 35 adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children; 13 of them still have the disorder, while the rest have recovered.

“This sample really gave us a unique opportunity to ask questions about whether or not the brain basis of ADHD is similar in the remitted-ADHD and persistent-ADHD cohorts,” said Aaron Mattfeld, Ph.D., the paper’s lead author.

The researchers used a technique called resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study what the brain is doing when a person is not engaged in any particular activity.

These patterns reveal which parts of the brain communicate with each other during this type of wakeful rest.

“It’s a different way of using functional brain imaging to investigate brain networks,” said Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, Ph.D., a research scientist at the McGovern Institute and the senior author of the paper.

“Here we have subjects just lying in the scanner. This method reveals the intrinsic functional architecture of the human brain without invoking any specific task.”

In people without ADHD, when the mind is unfocused, there is a distinctive synchrony of activity in brain regions known as the default mode network.

Previous studies have shown that in children and adults with ADHD, two major hubs of this network — the posterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex — no longer synchronize.

In the new study, the MIT team showed for the first time that in adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD as children but no longer have it, this normal synchrony pattern is restored.

“Their brains now look like those of people who never had ADHD,” Mattfeld says.

“This finding is quite intriguing,” said Francisco Xavier Castellanos, M.D., a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University who was not involved in the research.

“If it can be confirmed, this pattern could become a target for potential modification to help patients learn to compensate for the disorder without changing their genetic makeup.”

However, in another measure of brain synchrony, the researchers found much more similarity between both groups of ADHD patients.

In people without ADHD, when the default mode network is active, another network, called the task positive network, is suppressed.

When the brain is performing tasks that require focus, the task positive network takes over and suppresses the default mode network. If this reciprocal relationship degrades, the ability to focus declines.

Both groups of adult ADHD patients, including those who had recovered, showed patterns of simultaneous activation of both networks.

This is thought to be a sign of impairment in executive function — the management of cognitive tasks — that is separate from ADHD, but occurs in about half of ADHD patients. All of the ADHD patients in this study performed poorly on tests of executive function.

“Once you have executive function problems, they seem to hang in there,” said Gabrieli.

The researchers now plan to investigate how ADHD medications influence the brain’s default mode network, in hopes that this might allow them to predict which drugs will work best for individual patients. Currently, about 60 percent of patients respond well to the first drug they receive.

“It’s unknown what’s different about the other 40 percent or so who don’t respond very much,” Gabrieli said.

“We’re pretty excited about the possibility that some brain measurement would tell us which child or adult is most likely to benefit from a treatment.”

Source: MIT

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Poor Cardiovascular Health Linked to Learning, Memory ProblemsIndividuals with poor cardiovascular health are at far greater risk for developing cognitive impairment, particularly learning and memory problems, than those with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a new study published in the Journal of American Heart Association.

“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah.

“This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

Specifically, researchers found that people with the worst cardiovascular health were more likely to have problems with learning, memory, and verbal fluency tests than those with intermediate or better cardiovascular health.

The study included 17,761 people, ages 45 and older, with normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Four years later, researchers evaluated their cognitive skills.

Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study to assess cardiovascular health based on The American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 score. The REGARDS study population is 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites, and 56 percent are residents of the “stroke belt” states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Life’s Simple 7 is a system designed to measure seven health behaviors and their risk factors as they pertain to cardiovascular health. These include smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. Each section can be broken down into poor, intermediate, or ideal.

Researchers found cognitive impairment in 4.6 percent of people with poor cardiovascular health scores; 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

The statistics were consistent after factoring in race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and those with no cardiovascular disease.

The tests for cognitive function measured verbal learning, memory, and fluency. The verbal learning section used a three-trial, ten-item word list. Verbal memory was determined by asking participants to recall the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by having participants name as many animals as they could in 60 seconds.

Although the specific factors behind the results are not yet known, Thacker noted that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.

Source: American Heart Association

Jun 1

By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor

Brain’s Reward System Affects Efforts to Stop SmokingWhy can some smokers quit, but others can’t, no matter what method they try or how much money they might be offered?

The answer may be in how the brain responds to rewards, according to new research.

For their study, researchers at Pennsylvania State University (or Penn State) observed the brains of nicotine-deprived smokers with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found that those who exhibited the weakest response to rewards were also the least willing to not smoke, even when offered money.

“We believe that our findings may help to explain why some smokers find it so difficult to quit smoking,” said Stephen J. Wilson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology.

“Namely, potential sources of reinforcement for giving up smoking — for example, the prospect of saving money or improving health — may hold less value for some individuals and, accordingly, have less impact on their behavior.”

The researchers examined 44 smokers’ striatal responses to monetary rewards to not smoke.

“The striatum is part of the so-called reward system in the brain,” explained Wilson. “It is the area of the brain that is important for motivation and goal-directed behavior — functions highly relevant to addiction.”

The smokers, who were between the ages of 18 and 45, all reported that they smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day for the past 12 months. The researchers told them to abstain from smoking and from using any products containing nicotine for 12 hours before arriving for the experiment.

Each smoker spent time in an fMRI scanner while playing a card-guessing game with the potential to win money. Each was informed that they would have to wait approximately two hours, until the experiment was over, to smoke a cigarette.

Partway through the card-guessing task, half of the participants were informed that there had been a mistake, and they would be allowed to smoke during a 50-minute break that would occur in another 16 minutes.

However, when the time came for the cigarette break, the participants were told that for every five minutes they did not smoke, they would receive $1, with the potential to earn up to $10.

The researchers reported that the smokers who could not resist the temptation to smoke also showed weaker responses in the ventral striatum when offered monetary rewards while in the fMRI.

“Our results suggest that it may be possible to identify individuals prospectively by measuring how their brains respond to rewards, an observation that has significant conceptual and clinical implications,” said Wilson.

“For example, particularly ‘at-risk’ smokers could potentially be identified prior to a quit attempt and be provided with special interventions designed to increase their chances for success.”

The study was published in Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Source: Penn State

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