Blog Archive

Secondhand smoke and mental illness Dec 4th, 2019

There's no secret secondhand smoke can cause long-term damage. But did you know it can also have harmful effects on your brain?  This 2010 study connects secondhand smoke exposure and possible links to schizophrenia, depression, delirium and other psychological conditions. It turns out that tobacco also brings on negative moods in...

10 Ways Gratitude Improves Your Life Nov 26th, 2019

Thanksgiving is here. Isn’t it such a great holiday? It’s all about being with people you love and appreciating what you have. This probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but even science is behind the idea that gratitude is good for you! To celebrate Thanksgiving, here’s a roundup...

Accountability and Mental Health Nov 20th, 2019

Several years ago I had a patient tell me they had a former counselor who didn't hold them accountable. They contacted me for their therapy because they knew I would hold them accountable for the goals we set together in treatment.  This got me thinking about the role of accountability...

Depressed? It May Be the Time Change Nov 13th, 2019

  A Danish study in 2016 found that depression diagnoses go up significantly (8 percent) in the month following the change from Daylight Savings Time back to standard time. Since we've just changed over to standard time this month, let’s be on the lookout for signs of depression. Better yet, let’s be...

Self-Compassion and Your Mental Health Nov 7th, 2019

It’s probably no surprise to you to hear that perfectionism — ever-unattainable — is bad for your mental health. People who expect perfection are often overly critical of mistakes, which can lead to depression. I read a 2018 study that showed that choosing to view yourself in a compassionate light dampens...

"Forest Bathing" for your Health Oct 29th, 2019

There’s a video going around social media about the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” and it’s a concept I believe in and love. The Japanese phrase for “forest bathing” — or taking in the forest atmosphere — is “shinrin-yoku,” and the government has been promoting it since the 1980s. Japanese...

Medicating for Depression: the Basics Oct 27th, 2019

Today I want to take a few minutes to go back to the basics: Let’s talk about prescribing medication for depression. It’s a process that my colleagues and I engage in every day, but for new patients it’s unfamiliar and deserves an introduction. When someone comes to me with depression (and we’re talking...

Memory Loss: When is it Alzheimer's? Oct 24th, 2019

Image from Lancaster University. I get a lot of questions about concerns patients and family members have about troublesome symptoms of memory loss when I am treating them for Depression and Anxiety. They wonder whether they have Alzheimer’s Disease and not Major Depression.  This table is from the National Institute on...

Tourettes and OCD Oct 8th, 2019

Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette was the first to describe the syndrome that bears his name. The described patient was an 86-year-old French noblewoman who uttered blasphemies involuntarily. Tourette’s causes so much pain, especially in social interaction. If you’re not familiar with Tourette’s, it’s a disorder characterized by repetitive...

DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF EARLY LIFE EXPERIENCES CAN HELP COMBAT CHRONIC OBESITY AND FREQUENT BINGEING Sep 26th, 2019

According to a new study in the journal Heliyon, published by Elsevier, dysfunctional eating patterns and habits in overweight and obese adults can be triggered by early life experiences that are deeply rooted within patients' personality features. As a result, weight loss interventions like surgery and cognitive-behavior therapy might not be...

YOUTH AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS Jun 19th, 2019

Suicides among teens ages 15-19 are the highest they’ve been since 2000, says a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here’s a snippet from an NBC analysis of the study: The new study found that in 2017, 6,241 teenagers and adults in their early 20s died by suicide. Young men...

HOW TO FALL ASLEEP QUICKLY Jun 5th, 2019

This is second in a two-part series about sleep. Click here to read part one. Last week I wrote about how poor sleep can negatively affect your mental health. If you’re thinking, “It’s not my fault, I just can’t fall asleep at night!” then try this method taught to military pilots in combat zones...

HOW POOR SLEEP AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH May 28th, 2019

I can’t stress this enough: part of managing your mental health includes getting enough sleep. I’ve written about this here before: in my career I’ve seen how poor sleep can lead to suicidal thoughts, memory issues, even weight gain. According to an article by Harvard Medical School, 50 to 80 percent of patients in psychiatric care have chronic sleep...

SOME ADHD MEDS INCREASE RISK OF PSYCHOSIS May 21st, 2019

New evidence is emerging that some medications for ADHD put teens and young adults at risk for developing psychosis.  According to this study of more than 200,000 people ages 13 to 25, one out of 660 people had an episode of psychosis in a few months after starting a stimulant. This...

SUMMER BREAK WITH YOUR HIGH-NEEDS CHILD May 12th, 2019

As thrilled as kids are with summer break, it can be difficult on parents to muster the same enthusiasm. You’re all out of your routine and it can take time to get used to a new schedule, and get used to each other. If you have a child with developmental...

THE NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT IN SCHOOLS May 12th, 2019

A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) makes a case for more mental health professionals–including nurses and social workers–in schools. From the report: School counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists are frequently the first to see children who are sick, stressed, traumatized, may act out, or may hurt...

HOW DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY CAN AFFECT YOUR MEMORY Apr 2nd, 2019

In 1958, researchers in the UK began collecting data from thousands of children born in a single week that year, creating the National Child Development Study (NCDS), which has been ongoing for nearly 60 years. This is so fascinating to me! Mental health researchers have followed, interviewed and documented these...

WHY DOCTORS AND NURSES NEED TO TAKE MENTAL HEALTH DAYS Apr 1st, 2019

Nurses and doctors–those critical caretakers of society!–often carry heavy mental and emotional burdens in the course of their work. Think about it: nurses often witness the worst hours and days of a person’s life. Doctors take care of patients and their families who are faced with accident, illness, disability and...

THE SKILL OF KINDNESS IN DISAGREEMENT Mar 8th, 2019

This opinion piece about civility in politics got me thinking about kindness. How can we learn to be more understanding with those we disagree with? Columnist Dave Brooks gives practical tips on curating difficult conversations you have face-to-face, whether that’s with a group of a few or dozens of people. Scramble...

WHY YOU SHOULD STOP PUTTING PLASTIC IN THE MICROWAVE Feb 21st, 2019

There is increasing evidence that some of the preservatives, packaging and food coloring in America’s food may be harmful to kids’ physical and mental health. Also, putting plastic in the microwave and dishwasher may cause plastic to leach chemicals into your food. In a 2018 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),...

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN TRAUMA AND OCD Feb 12th, 2019

This is the third post in a series about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can read part 1 here and part 2 here. Is there a connection between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)? I believe there is, and wrote about a study where a Dutch man recovering from a childhood rape was successfully treated for both PTSD and OCD at the same time.  This study from 2014 draws...

PTSD AND SUICIDE Jan 31st, 2019

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You can read Part 1 here. On this blog we’ve established how to recognize the signs of PTSD. This can befall mothers after a dangerous birth, a newly diagnosed cancer patient, people who’ve been mugged, car crash survivors,...

DO I HAVE MAJOR DEPRESSION? Jan 24th, 2019

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have major depression, especially when you’re living with it.    For some people, depression is a pervasive feeling of sadness or hopelessness. For some, depression means feelings of anger or extreme irritability. People with depression may swing from high levels of activity to...

WHAT IS POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER? Jan 10th, 2019

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after living through extreme stress, a terrifying or distressing event, or a prolonged traumatic experience. What kinds of experiences could lead to PTSD? combat (for military veterans) or violent/life threatening encounters (for police force) a serious car...

SUNLIGHT HELPS FIGHT DEPRESSION Jan 8th, 2019

I’ve written about this before: exposure to sunlight can help fight depression. Coupled with mild to moderate exercise, being out in the daylight can help fight carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, social avoidance, even fatigue! A 2014 study of office workers compared the mental health of those who had windows in their office, and...

POLICE ARREST FEWER MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE WITH NEW PROGRAM Jan 8th, 2019

In Gainesville, Florida, officer Shelly Postle teamed up with Makenzie Boyer, a mental health professional to handle calls regarding people with mental health issues. Postle and Boyer handled 434 calls in eight months, making a co-responder team that halted 92 percent of potential arrests of mentally ill people. Boyer said...

BEAT THE POST-CHRISTMAS BLUES Dec 27th, 2018

The post-Christmas season can be a real emotional low point. Maybe there’s a backlog at work. Maybe your kids’ schedule is thrown off by late nights and holiday excess. Maybe you had a blowup at a family member during Christmas. Whatever may be dragging you down, here are a few...

HOW CHARITABLE GIVING BENEFITS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH Dec 24th, 2018

This title from Time Magazine really does say it all: “Being Generous Really Does Make You Happier.” Researchers from the Unviersity of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 participants that they’d be receiving about $100 in a few weeks. Twenty-five people promised to spend that money on themselves, and twenty-five people committed...

FOUR WAYS TO BEAT HOLIDAY STRESS Dec 7th, 2018

The Christmas season can be overwhelming. Managing traditions, a heavy end-of-year workload, financial stress, even time spent with extended family can contribute to poor mental health. Here are ways you can manage your stress during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”:  Set boundaries.  This is the most important (and...

SINGING THROUGH PARKINSON’S DISEASE Dec 7th, 2018

Patients with advanced Parkinson’s are singing their way to better mental health, says Elizabeth Stegemöller, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. (Click here to see a video of Stegemöller leading her singing group in 2017.) Stegemöller saw patients’ moods improve and their stress decrease, and their motor symptoms fell as well....

BOOK REVIEW: THE CHOICE BY DR. EDITH EVA EGER Nov 16th, 2018

The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger is an incredibly empowering book on trauma recovery, written by a woman who has sometimes been nicknamed “the Anne Frank who didn’t die.” The pain of Dr. Eger’s story is hard to fathom. Nearly her entire family, all Hungarian Jews, died in Auschwitz when...

GRANDMAS AND FRIENDSHIP BENCHES HELP TREAT DEPRESSION IN AFRICA Nov 15th, 2018

Grandmothers, take note: in Africa, mental health professionals pioneered a method where they used grandmothers and friendship benches to screen people for basic psychiatric services. In 2004, a man named Dixon Chibanda was one of only two psychiatrists in all of Zimbabwe (a country of about 12.5 million people). He had...

THE EFFECTS OF GRATITUDE ON HEART AND BRAIN Nov 15th, 2018

I’ve written about the ways gratitude can improve your life. Gratitude can improve your romantic relationships, help you sleep better, decreases depression, even decreases suicidal thoughts. A 2017 study conducted at the University of Seoul, South Korea, focused on the effects of gratitude on neural network functional connectivity, and how gratitude affects...

HOW STRESS ALTERS YOUR BRAIN Nov 6th, 2018

If you are in your 40s and suspect your memory is already slipping, stress could be the culprit. A new study found that forty-somethings who had high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in their bodies also had reduced brain volumes and lower cognitive performance. This study–unlike many prior studies of...

WHY AM I HAVING NIGHTMARES? Oct 24th, 2018

What causes nightmares, anyway? Nightmares tend to crop up when we’re stressed, anxious, depressed, on certain medications, or when our sleep is being consistently interrupted (hello, parents of a newborn!). Occasional nightmares are normal, but consistent nightmares can be indicative of a larger problem. The most common mental health disorder associated...

THE MENTAL TOLL OF CANNABIS USE Oct 24th, 2018

I’ve written about this before: when you use cannabis to manage your mental health, the long-term risks far outweigh the short-term benefits. There is research linking cannabis use to schizophrenia in teens, as well as hallucinations, paranoia and other psychotic symptoms in people with a history of mental illness. New research also...

DADS’ MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS THEIR CHILDREN Oct 18th, 2018

We’ve written about this before: treating depression can be a family affair. Recent studies are focusing on why a father’s mental health is just as important on their children. This 2017 study out of the United Kingdom drew a strong correlation between depression in fathers and their teenagers, while acknowledging that that past...

FORGIVENESS AND MENTAL HEALING Oct 8th, 2018

“We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts.”― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World What wounds do you carry?...

MEMORY AND SEXUAL ABUSE Oct 1st, 2018

Last week Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate judiciary committee about allegations of sexual abuse. This sparked discussions about sexual abuse in news and social media across the United States. (Several victims even called into C-SPAN to share their stories after watching Dr. Ford’s testimony.) The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Dr....

WHY DON’T PEOPLE REPORT SEXUAL ABUSE RIGHT AWAY? Sep 24th, 2018

There’s a debate swirling in American politics right now about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape herat a party when they were both teenagers. The arguments have been fierce on both sides: is Ford lying? Is Kavanaugh lying?...

NEW TO BOISE STATE ATHLETICS: A MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTOR Sep 8th, 2018

When athletes battle mental health struggles alone, the consequences can be disastrous. Tyler Hilinski, a Washingston State quarterback took his own life in January 2018, only four months after an incredible triple-overtime victory over Boise State. Hilinski’s death started a crucial conversation at Boise State: what more could they do for college athletes...

HAVING BACK TO SCHOOL JITTERS? TIPS FOR YOU, THE PARENT Aug 20th, 2018

If you’re dreading the back-to-school transition, you’re not alone. We are well aware how difficult it is to shift a kid from from late night barbecues and lazy mornings into waking up at 6:30 a.m. Juggling earlier bedtimes, packing lunches and managing after-school activities can leave kids and their parents...

WHEN BOYS’ ANXIETY COMES OUT AS ANGER Aug 18th, 2018

The sullen teenage boy is everywhere, so common it’s almost a cultural cliché. But what if it’s actually anxiety? This article from the Deseret News presents another side to the story, where several young men share their stories of grappling with feelings of anxiety, then helplessness, then anger. “There is a difference,...

NEUROIMAGING: A NEW APPROACH TO EATING DISORDERS? Aug 16th, 2018

To treat eating disorders or even obesity, scientists have been turning to neuroimaging–scans of the brain–to teach patients how to understand the path between mind and stomach. In a 2015 study, scientists used neuroimaging to identify what they called “biological markers” or “neural vulnerabilities” in the brains of patients with eating...

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS IN LEFT-HANDED PEOPLE Aug 5th, 2018

Studies on emotion in hemispheres of the brain may have been skewed exclusively toward right-handed people, according to a new study from Cornell University. In hundreds of studies conducted since the 1970s, research has shown that the left side of the brain manages how we approach the world, responding with emotions...

ADDING GREENERY TO VACANT LOTS IS GOOD FOR NEIGHBORHOOD’S MENTAL HEALTH Jul 27th, 2018

The City of Philadelphia has been planting grass and trees in vacant lots, and the results are extraordinary. A research team measured depression symptoms 18 months before the “greening” and 18 months after and found a 41.5 percent drop for the people living within a quarter mile of a new green space. For people...

MAGNESIUM: AS EFFECTIVE AS ANTIDEPRESSANTS? Jul 24th, 2018

I’m always interested in learning how supplements can improve health, and lately I’ve been researching magnesium. It turns out one study shows the supplement can be as effective as SSRIs in treating mild to moderate depression. The FDA hasn’t yet rated magnesium as an effective treatment for depression; they need to...

STRESS RELIEF COULD SOMEDAY BE AN IMMUNIZATION AWAY Jul 14th, 2018

There’s a bacterium found on the shores of a Ugandan lake that could help reduce our stress. Scientists recently injected it into stressed-out mice with promising results. The bacterium, called Mycobacterium vaccae, reduces inflammation in the brain, which in turn prepares the brain to respond better to stress. These findings...

MOTIVATING YOURSELF TO EXERCISE WHILE DEPRESSED Jul 1st, 2018

You’ve heard it before: Exercise is crucial for mental health. That concept is in the news again now because a recent study found exercise can help prevent heart disease in depressed people. The results aren’t surprising, but they come along with some great tips from the researcher who led the study. He...

REWRITING TRAUMATIC MEMORIES Jun 27th, 2018

Did you know memories can be rewritten? There’s a method of treating post-traumatic stress disorder that attempts to erase or dampen the stressful feelings associated with a traumatic memory. Mental health professionals use a few techniques to do this. With one, they distract their patient’s mind with another task while the patient attempts...

A NEW STORY BEHIND DEPRESSION Jun 20th, 2018

One of the most prominent theories about the cause of depression is that it’s the result of serotonin or norepinephrine shortages in the brain. But the thing is, taking drugs that add more of one or both of these chemicals back into the brain doesn’t fix depression for everyone — at least 30...

DEPRESSION IN DIABETICS: IT’S ALL ABOUT INFLAMMATION Jun 8th, 2018

We’ve known for a long time that people with Type I diabetes are at increased risk for depression. Scientists are now closer to figuring out why. Diabetes (types I and II) and depression have all been linked to inflammation. A new study shows a more specific association: Diabetics suffering from depression have significantly higher levels...

STUDY: DEPRESSION AGES YOUR BRAIN May 25th, 2018

We’ve known for years that people with depression are at higher risk for dementia, but a new study shows it’s more than that. Depression causes all kinds of signs of brain aging. A new study looked at depression’s effect on memory loss, executive function (like decision making) and processing speed in older...

DEPRESSED OR ANXIOUS? CHECK YOUR THYROID May 23rd, 2018

A new study shows more than 40 percent of people diagnosed with depression also suffer from autoimmune thyroiditis, or AIT. The same is true for 30 percent of people diagnosed with anxiety. AIT means the immune system is creating antibodies that mistakenly attack the thyroid, leading to chronic inflammation. Then your...

WOMEN’S STRESS LEVELS GO DOWN AS THEY HEAD INTO THEIR 50S AND 60S May 3rd, 2018

A new study offers great news for women entering middle age: There’s a good chance you’ll feel less stressed as you get older. Researchers tracked women — aged 42 to 53 at the beginning of the study — for 15 years. They found that most women’s perceived levels of stress dropped significantly...

FINDING RELIEF FOR HIGHLY STRESSED TEACHERS May 3rd, 2018

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week this week, and man, do these teachers deserve our appreciation. A recent study found 93 percent of elementary school teachers are highly stressed. That so many endure this stress and continue their work teaching children is incredible, and as a mother and grandmother, I’m grateful. Researchers suggest big-picture...

CAN SMOKING POT LEAD TO SCHIZOPHRENIA? Apr 30th, 2018

The simple answer is maybe. There are a number of studies that linkmarijuana and schizophrenia, but researchers don’t go so far as to say one leads to the other. The most recent study was published at the end of last year. It followed 6,788 people who experienced a psychotic episode induced by substances like alcohol and marijuana between 1994...

DEPRESSION IN MOTHERS CAN LEAD TO LOWER IQS IN CHILDREN Apr 30th, 2018

If you’re a depressed mom, you might not be giving your children everything they need to develop to their full potential. That doesn’t mean you can’t; it just means you’ve got to be aware of the potential pitfalls. A new study followed Chilean mothers and children from ages one to 16. They...

COLLEGE AND MENTAL HEALTH Apr 3rd, 2018

I read an article this week about college students’ declining mental health and how their schools are responding, and it reinforced my belief that parents and others can do a much better job preparing their kids for the mental and emotional challenges of adulthood. Here are some stats from the article: Anxiety...

HEALTHY COPING STRATEGIES FOR OCD Apr 1st, 2018

When you’re stressed, you can respond in helpful ways or unhelpful ways. Learning early to respond in those helpful ways (“adaptive coping”) can lead to much better mental health down the road. A new study found that obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers tend to be lacking in these healthy coping skills. Instead, they tend...

BIGGEST RISK FACTOR FOR DEMENTIA: HEAVY DRINKING Mar 22nd, 2018

Dementia is a terrible thing to watch, and an even more terrible condition to experience. It is defined as a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. There are things you can do now to prevent later dementia, and a new study suggests that the most important is to take...

WATCH FOR DEPRESSION IN GIRLS WHO MATURE EARLY Mar 14th, 2018

The younger a girl is when she gets her period, the more likely she is to show symptoms of depression and antisocial behavior. That association lingers into adulthood, a new study finds, with grown women who started their periods early staying more depressed than their peers. Parents and health care providers, be...

GIFT OF LOVE: REDUCING YOUR PARTNER’S STRESS THROUGH GOOD LISTENING Feb 18th, 2018

With Valentines Day this week, displays of romance have been all around us. Flowers, chocolates, and jewelry are nice, but a more meaningful gift you can give anyone you love is the gift of listening. This week I read about a study where the researchers measured cortisol (stress hormone) levels in subjects’...

EMERGING RESEARCH ON THE MENTAL HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH CANNABIS CONSUMPTION Feb 6th, 2018

Rates of cannabis usage have more than doubled in the past decade. Medical marijuana is now legal in half of the United States and is increasing in accessibility to current and future users. Cannabis is now the most widely used illicit substance in the US, more popular than alcohol and...

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH: THE SILVER LINING TO THE STRESS Jan 24th, 2018

We often hear that personal growth comes from the challenges we face, but this week I read about some researchers who have documented that concept. In the most recent study, scientists interviewed hundreds of survivors of the tornado that rocked Joplin, Missouri, in 2011. The disaster took 161 lives, injured...

BUSINESS TRAVEL LINKED TO BAD MENTAL HEALTH Jan 21st, 2018

If you’re traveling for work, keep an eye on your mental health! A recent study found those who travel two weeks or more per month are more likely than those who travel less than that to suffer from anxiety and depression. Additionally, they’re more likely to drink too much, smoke, be sedentary,...

SLEEP TIP: WRITE A TO-DO LIST Jan 10th, 2018

If you’re one of those people who can’t fall asleep because tomorrow’s tasks are trampling through your head, consider taking up a simple habit: Spend 5 minutes writing a to-do list before bed every night. Researchers recently assigned a group of people to do just that, and they determined the practice...

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH Jan 8th, 2018

It’s resolution season, and I’ve got one for you: Make a goal to improve your mental health this year. I talk about it ways to do that in this blog often. Here’s a recap of some changes you can make: Exercise more (maybe try rock climbing?) Cut out sugar Eat more vegetables Make a...

ALONE TIME BENEFITS MENTAL HEALTH Dec 7th, 2017

When it comes to mental health, there’s a difference between being antisocial and being unsociable, a recent study shows. Where antisocial behavior (avoiding social contact because of dislike or anxiety) can be bad for mental health, being unsociable (preferring alone time because you enjoy it) can actually be good. In this study,...

BOTH OBESE AND ANOREXIC WOMEN SHORT ON “FEEL-GOOD” CHEMICAL Nov 15th, 2017

If you’re anorexic or obese, there’s a good chance you’re depressed, too. More than 50 percent of anorexic women and 43 percent of obese people suffer from depression. Surprisingly, a new study shows the biochemistry contributing to depression and anxiety in those two opposite physical conditions appears to be the same. Both obese...

SPANKED CHILDREN GROW INTO DEPRESSED ADULTS Nov 9th, 2017

My headline overstates it — not all people who were spanked as children grow up to suffer from depression — but a new study shows there is a link. Children who are spanked are more likely than children who are not spanked to feel depressed, attempt suicide, have drinking problems, and use drugs as...

EARLY SCHOOL START TIMES LINKED TO ADOLESCENT DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY Oct 31st, 2017

Want a simple way to cut down teenage anxiety and depression across a community? Start school at 8:30am or later. Earlier this month, researchers released the results of a study that showed adolescent students with school starting at 8:30am or later have better mental health than their earlier-starting counterparts. You might think...

FACEBOOK’S MENTAL HEALTH BLOG POST: MY TAKE Oct 19th, 2017

We’ve known for years that social media — with Facebook being one of the most prominent platforms — can negatively effect mental health. You probably saw about a week ago that Facebook came out with a blog post about that topic. In the post, the company acknowledges research asserting that technology can drive people...

WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY: PUTTING THE STIGMA TO REST Oct 17th, 2017

October 10th was World Mental Health Day, and the world took note. Publications across the web published articles and opinion pieces about mental illness, and public figures as well as everyday people spoke up about their own experiences on social media. Here are some highlights: “It’s an important day because we’re...

CHANGING THE BRAIN FOR STRESSFUL SOCIAL SITUATIONS Oct 4th, 2017

I never cease to be amazed at how we can physically change our brains with the thoughts and behaviors we choose. This week I read about a study focused on determining how different mental exercises affect our brains and our responses to social  stressors. The study found that each of three mental...

COUNSELING FOR DEPRESSION AND DRINKING Oct 1st, 2017

Depression and excessive alcohol drinking can each be debilitating issues. When someone struggles with both — which is common, each leading to the other — treatment is critical. A new study shows depression and harmful drinking can be successfully treated with counseling, and the results are lasting. Because not everyone has easy access to mental health care...

“IMMUNO-NEUROLOGY”: THE FUTURE OF MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT? Sep 27th, 2017

The evidence has been building up for years: Inflammation and depression are linked, and treating inflammation can lead to improvement in depression symptoms. It looks like scientists have gotten to the point where the connection is no longer a maybe. Here’s what Cambridge’s head of Psychiatry said at a recent forum: “In...

BRAIN REGION FOR “HEARING VOICES” IDENTIFIED Sep 19th, 2017

Good news for schizophrenic people who hear voices: Scientists have found the region of the brain involved in the delusion. It’s a specific spot in the temporal lobe, where language originates. Even better, targeting that area with magnetic pulses decreased the symptom for some patients. The magnetic pulse success ratio was not...

CLOSE FRIENDSHIPS AS A TEEN MATTER FOR LATER MENTAL HEALTH Aug 17th, 2017

A new study shows it’s not the popular teens who are setting themselves up for good mental health later in life; it’s the ones who form close friendships, however few they are. A group of researchers followed 169 teenagers over 10 years. They questioned them every year about friendships and mental health....

STOP APOLOGIZING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH Aug 15th, 2017

I read an opinion piece this week that was right on target. Its main point: We need to stop apologizing for our mental health. The author recognizes how far we’ve come in reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness — those living with different conditions are posting about them on social...

CONQUERING ANXIETY WITH EXPOSURE THERAPY Aug 10th, 2017

Recently I was talking to a family member about his struggles with anxiety, and I gave him this advice: Do one thing every day that makes you uncomfortable.  Even the thought of doing that is distasteful, but the concept is the basis of something called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), a...

DEPRESSION: PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES IN TEENAGE BOYS AND GIRLS Jul 24th, 2017

By the time they hit 15, teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to suffer from depression. This could be because girls tend to think more negatively, dwelling on social and body image stressors. They’re also more likely to have experienced sexual abuse and other negative events. On a biological...

USE THESE FOR BETTER SLEEP Jul 23rd, 2017

Sleep is so important for your mental health, but 45 percent of Americans say lack of quality sleep regularly affects their daily activities. A possible culprit these days, according to a recent study, is the blue light coming from the screens we all love. Blue light keeps us alert and regulates our internal clock. We get...

CEO’S A+ RESPONSE TO AN EMPLOYEE’S MENTAL HEALTH DAY Jul 21st, 2017

In a recent email to her colleagues, a Michigan software developer dealing with depression and anxiety wrote: “I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.” Her CEO’s response was perfect: “I just wanted to personally thank...

PROBIOTICS TO TREAT DEPRESSION? Jul 8th, 2017

It’s not official yet, but a new study suggests taking probiotics could relieve symptoms of depression. Remember several months ago, when I wrote about the relationship between your gut and your mental health? I recommended changing what you eat to develop a healthier gut. Well, this new study is along those same...

PTSD IN CHILDREN TREATABLE WITH A FEW HOURS OF THERAPY Jul 6th, 2017

A new study brings good news for young people who have suffered a traumatic experience: Children and adolescents with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can be successfully treated with just a few hours of therapy. Researchers timed the therapy with a stop watch. They found that 2 hours and 20 minutes of Eye Movement...

GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH DAD CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE TO KIDS WITH DEPRESSED MOMS Jun 30th, 2017

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to highlight a study that shows the wonderful impact a good dad can have on his family. This relates specifically to families with depressed mothers. A study published last month detailed the depressed mom’s typical parenting style. She tends to be less sensitive to her...

INSTAGRAM THE WORST SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM FOR MENTAL HEALTH Jun 21st, 2017

I’ve written before about how social media can be bad for your mental health, but let’s get site specific: Instagram is the worst of the bunch. A new study surveyed 1,479 teens and young adults in the U.K., asking them about how social media affects them both positively and negatively. They asked about...

LITHIUM FOR DEPRESSION: AN OLDIE BUT A GOODIE Jun 13th, 2017

photo:John Cade, the psychiatrist who discovered Lithium’s effectiveness in treating mental health disorders. There are drugs far more fashionable than Lithium these days: Pharmaceutical companies pay their representatives big money to promote their latest offerings, both with mental health care providers and in advertising. The thing is, I’m not convinced...

ROCK CLIMBING FOR DEPRESSION Jun 4th, 2017

It’s well established that exercise is a great way to relieve depressive symptoms, but there might be some forms of exercise that are better than others.  Take bouldering, for example. A recent study showed participating in the sport — which involves climbing rocks without ropes or harnesses — reduced depression symptoms from moderate...

DIRT: GOOD FOR YOUR DEPRESSED BRAIN May 17th, 2017

Did you know that simply being around dirt can ease your depressive symptoms? If you’ve found gardening to be a good a stress reliever, this could explain it: Scientists have determined that a bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, activates serotonin-producing neurons in an area of the brain that regulates mood — an effect similar to...

PTSD TIED TO GENETIC VULNERABILITY May 11th, 2017

You’ve probably noticed — not everyone who goes through a traumatic event experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Scientists have noticed, too, and they wondered why that is. After analyzing the DNA of 20,000 people, they found that genes are partially to blame for the difference. To be more specific,...

’13 REASONS WHY’: A ROMANTICIZED LOOK AT SUICIDE May 10th, 2017

About a month ago, Netflix added “13 Reasons Why” to its  streaming content, and teens are obsessed. The 13-episode series follows a teenage boy trying to wrap his mind around the suicide of his friend, a teenage girl, as he listens to the 13 tapes she left behind to describe events leading up to her...

THE FUTURE OF DEPRESSION TREATMENT IS IN YOUR BLOOD Apr 28th, 2017

I’ve written before about how prescribing medication for depression can be an imprecise science. Often it takes multiple tries before we find the right drug or combination of drugs to send your depression into remission. A study from Dr. Madhukar Trivedi (front) demonstrated that measuring a depressed patient’s C-reactive protein level can...

NEWBORN BRAIN SCANS PREDICT DEPRESSION Apr 20th, 2017

Does depression change the brain, or are brain abnormalities the cause of depression? There’s a new study out that sheds some light on that question. A group of scientists took their research all the way back to the beginning of life: They scanned the brains of newborn babies. Two years later, they...

BRAIN FOG? IT COULD BE A SYMPTOM OF DEPRESSION Apr 14th, 2017

When you think of depression, symptoms like sadness, fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness probably come to mind. Another symptom — one with a lower profile than its companions — is impaired cognitive functioning. Some depressed people experience difficulty focusing, learning, remembering, understanding, and more. It can be distressing to notice...

IMPROVING BRAIN FUNCTION Apr 13th, 2017

I often see patients whose brain power is not what it used to be. It’s a common tale with mental illness–it can slow down and blur your thoughts. It’s also a common tale with aging, so brain health should be a topic on everyone’s minds. There are supplements you can take which...

TEENS WITH PTSD MISIDENTIFY FACIAL EXPRESSIONS Apr 13th, 2017

I read about an interesting finding this week: Teens with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often look at a sad or angry face and see fear. This sheds new light on a disorder tied to heightened threat perception, which can trigger fight-or-flight responses. Misreading social cues could contribute to the stress PTSD sufferers...

POOR SLEEP? IT COULD BE AFFECTING YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS Apr 12th, 2017

Ever heard of cognitive reappraisal? It’s where you take a negative thought or experience and recast it in a positive light. (Failed a test? At first maybe you dwell on your shortcomings, but then you “reappraise” and think of it as a chance to see where you can improve.) A new...

PMHCNS OR PMHNP: WORTH THE MONEY? Apr 7th, 2017

You have a lot of options when it comes to who to see about your mental health. I want to talk today about the category I fall into: Advanced Practiced Registered Nurses (APRNs), specifically PMHCNSs (Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialists) and PMHNPs (Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners). That’s a lot of...

SIDE EFFECTS TO WATCH FOR WITH ADHD MEDICATION Mar 29th, 2017

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 11  percent of children (ages 4-17) have been diagnosed with ADHD and about 6 percent are taking medication for the disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates about 4 percent of adults have ADHD. With so many people in the U.S. being treated...

NATURE SOUNDS REDUCE STRESS Mar 23rd, 2017

If you’re feeling stressed, try turning on some nature sounds. A new study added some scientific enlightenment to the easily believed idea that nature sounds help people relax. Researchers played nature sounds and artificial sounds, in turn, for study participants while measuring brain activity with an MRI scanner and nervous system...

SIDE EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA INCLUDE LACK OF MOTIVATION, TOXICITY Mar 14th, 2017

With widening legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational uses, including some usage for mental health purposes, it’s important to know what side effects come along with it. One of these side effects is decreased motivation. A recent British study had adults inhale a small dose of cannabis vapor and then choose a...

OVER-THE-COUNTER SUPPLEMENT PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH Feb 8th, 2017

I’ve been reading a lot about a supplement called NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) lately. If you google it, the first thing you’ll see is that it’s used to loosen mucus and treat Tylenol overdoses. But keep reading, and you’ll se it has all kinds of uses — including helping to treat...

MENTAL HEALTH AND YOUR SPIRITUALITY Feb 2nd, 2017

I frequently get calls from people wondering how I involve spirituality with my patients. Some wonder if they have to be a certain religion to benefit from the spiritual aspect of my counseling. The answer is no. In most cases, my practice is supportive of all types of spirituality that...

MENTAL HEALTH APPS HELP WITH DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY Jan 18th, 2017

Northwestern University has a suite of mental health apps that are looking promising. They just published a study showing people who used their apps regularly over an eight week period saw their depression and anxiety symptoms decrease by half.I checked out some of the apps (there are 13 available in...

EATING DISORDERS: NOT JUST FOR YOUNG PEOPLE Jan 13th, 2017

A new study shows a shadow population of women with eating disorders: 3 percent of women in their 40s and 50s reported suffering from an eating disorder in the last year. The stereotypical bulimic, anorexic , or binge eating person is a young adult, and that stereotype isn’t helping. Very few...

NEW MENTAL HEALTH BILL: A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION Jan 11th, 2017

It’s been decades since we’ve seen any significant action on mental health issues from the federal government, so a new mental health law that President Obama signed this week is a big deal. It was part of a much larger health care package. Here’s what the law does for mental health (as...

EATING FOR A HEALTHIER GUT Jan 3rd, 2017

We’ve known for several years now that the bacteria in your intestine is related to your mental health. We want diversity in what scientists call the gut’s microbiome: Reduced diversity is related to allergies, inflammation, diabetes, and obesity, along with depression and anxiety. An article in the New York Times last week delves into gut...

FACEBOOK COMPARISONS: BAD FOR MENTAL HEALTH Dec 16th, 2016

If you find yourself looking at your friends’ Facebook posts and comparing your life to theirs in a negative way, Facebook is probably not for you. I find myself giving this advice to so many of my patients that I was not surprised to see a study on the topic published last week....

TOO LITTLE SLEEP LINKED TO WEIGHT GAIN Dec 14th, 2016

I read an interesting article this week that ties the amount of sleep you get to weight. Researchers followed nearly 70,000 women for 20 years. They found that women who sleep for five hours or less per night tend to weigh more than women who sleep for seven hours do....

ARTHRITIS DRUG BOOSTS ANTIDEPRESSANT’S EFFECTIVENESS Nov 18th, 2016

I was excited to read this week about another new treatment possibility for depression: An arthritis drug, when paired with an antidepressant, has been shown to work amazingly well. It’s all about inflammation. Older studieshave shown that depression leads to inflammation. Inflammation messes with the chemical balance in your brain...

YOUR BODY UNDER EMOTIONAL STRESS: IT’S NOT PRETTY Nov 17th, 2016

Let’s talk about stress. You know it’s bad for you emotionally, but did you know it’s dangerous physically, too? It’s true. When you’re stressed out and you repress it, the stress can resurface as a physical illness. You may even find yourself in the emergency room with chest pains and...

DEPRESSION: IT’S DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE Nov 11th, 2016

I found an interesting chart this week. It captures visually a complication mental health professionals face when treating depression: the huge range of symptoms depressed people experience. The chart is the work of a group of researchers who compared seven rating scales commonly used in depression research. Altogether, the scales listed 52 symptoms. Just...

REWIRING THE BRAIN: AN INFOGRAPHIC Oct 21st, 2016

I recently found this infographic on rewiring the brain, and I love it. If you are struggling with addiction, OCD, anxiety or another mental health condition, read it. The strategies described here could be a powerful addition to your medication, or they could be effective without taking meds. I want to particularly point...

HAPPY SPOUSE, HEALTHY LIFE Oct 21st, 2016

If you’re looking for another reason to fight depression, here’s one: Do it for your spouse’s health. There’s a new study out suggesting people with happy spouses are healthier. They are less physically impaired and have less trouble with chronic illness. And it’s not just that being with someone happy makes you...

FAMILY STRESSORS TIED TO ADHD Oct 12th, 2016

A link I’ve long suspected has now been confirmed by scientists: Children who come from homes with troubling conditions are more likely to have ADHD than their peers from non-troubled homes. The parent survey analysis showed ADHD has the strongest connection with economic hardship, divorce, familial mental illness, neighborhood violence, and familial...

PROMISING NEW TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION Oct 11th, 2016

Here’s some good news for people who have been having a hard time finding treatment that works for their depression: Scientists are on their way to developing a new and improved one. Researchers recently figured out which pathway in the brain antidepressants affect. They call it the BMP signaling pathway, and it’s in the...

DEPRESSED OR ANXIOUS? SUGAR MAY BE TO BLAME Sep 22nd, 2016

I hate to say it, but all that food that tastes so good? It’s not so good for your mental health. I’ve written about nutrition and depression a few times before, but today I want to talk specifically about sugar. Sugar can sometimes seem like your best friend, but the truth is...

MENTAL HEALTH AT SCHOOL Sep 13th, 2016

NPR has pulled together a cool new web app exploring mental health at schools. It has all kinds of statistics and graphics and links that shed light on the problem and ways schools can improve their intervention. According to the app, there are up to 10 million kids in public...

HELP FOR NEW MOMS WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION Sep 5th, 2016

A friend of mine recently added a beautiful and much-loved baby girl to her family, and since then I’ve been admiring the outpouring of darling photos on Facebook. Today I found out there’s a shadowy side to their bright new life: Postpartum depression. My friend posted today about what she’s been going through:...

SLEEP AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH Sep 3rd, 2016

Let’s talk about sleep: To put it simply, you need it. It’s so important for your mental health. For starters, disrupted sleep is connected with suicide. A team of researchers recently investigated that link and came up with three “pathways” from sleep problems to suicidal thoughts: There are fewer mental health resources available...

THE DAD’S ROLE IN MENTAL HEALTH22 Sep 1st, 2016

There’s a new study out that looks at how a dad’s mental health impacts his children’s development. Here’s the takeaway: Children whose dads have mental health problems are more likely to have behavioral issues as toddlers and social problems as fifth graders. And if a dad is stressed about being a parent, the...

NEW STUDY: SIMPLER THERAPY JUST AS EFFECTIVE AS CBT Aug 25th, 2016

For many therapists, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the go-to method for treating depression and anxiety — studies have shown it to be superior to other types of therapy for those disorders. A recent study, however, elevates a simpler type of therapy to the same effectiveness level. It’s known technically as Behavioral Activation (BA), and it’s focused on action rather...

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS FOR BIPOLAR DEPRESSION Aug 11th, 2016

I wanted to briefly bring your attention to an avenue you may not have considered for treating bipolar depression: over-the-counter painkillers. Some of these drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen, include anti-inflammatory agents. Interestingly, inflammation has been found to be connectedwith mood disorders. Various studies over the years have examined the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs...

WHY DO ANTIDEPRESSANTS TAKE SO LONG TO KICK IN? Aug 10th, 2016

Quick review of some of the biology behind depression, as scientists understand it: Depressed people are short on a chemical messenger called serotonin. The most popular type of antidepressant (the SSRI) blocks serotonin from reabsorbing into brain cells, leaving more of it hanging around to do its job: boost your mood. Minutes after...

POKEMON GO IS HELPING WITH DEPRESSION Jul 21st, 2016

Here’s the last thing I expected to hear about a popular smart phone game based on Japanese anime characters: It’s lessening players’ depression and anxiety symptoms. But that’s what users are reporting, and it actually makes sense. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game–meaning it takes the real world around you...

EARLY ATTENTION PROBLEMS LINKED TO POOR ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE Jul 13th, 2016

Parents and teachers, listen up. There’s a new study out with important considerations for children: Kids who show signs of attention difficulties in kindergarten are 40 percent less likely than their peers to graduate from high school down the road. That’s a big number and a big outcome. We’re not even...

MOVING WHILE WORKING BOOSTS MOOD Jul 8th, 2016

If your day involves sitting around a lot and you find your mood and motivation drooping, you might need a bike desk. Clemson University researchers recently put students on these contraptions, gave them some brainy tasks to complete, and ran some tests. They found positive feelings, motivation, and morale all improved...

MAKING ART REDUCES STRESS HORMONES Jun 23rd, 2016

There’s a quote by Picasso that I love: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I believe it. I feel it every time I pull out paints or clay or even markers and crayons. Picasso’s poetic pronouncement seems abstract, but it turns out there’s science to support...

PICKY EATING COULD BE A SIGN OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS Jun 23rd, 2016

If you’ve got a picky eater in your house, listen up: Your child might be experiencing depression or anxiety, too. A study last year found young children who would only eat a limited set of foods were twice as likely to show signs of depression and seven times as likely to...

NEW REPORT CALLS FOR BIG ACTION AGAINST MENTAL ILLNESS STIGMA Jun 22nd, 2016

Mental health plays a huge role in a person’s quality of life, but way too often it is not diagnosed or treated. One of the biggest reasons for this shortfall is a stigma surrounding mental health care: Many suffering people choose to keep on suffering rather than become a person...

FAMILY MOVES TIED TO MENTAL HEALTH RISKS FOR TEENS Jun 8th, 2016

Denmark apparently keeps a lot of records on file, including everyone’s address and mental health histories. Researchers recently took advantage of these databases to run some analyses, and their findings were surprising: People who moved a lot in early adolescence were significantly more likely to have problems with violence, substance abuse, and mental...

NEW HOPE FOR THE SCHIZOPHRENIC BRAIN Jun 2nd, 2016

We’ve known for a long time that a brain afflicted with schizophrenia tends to lose brain tissue. But a new study has some amazing news to add to the picture: Some areas in the schizophrenic brain are actually growing tissue.  Researchers say this means the brain is trying to respond to tissue loss, giving new...

CUMIN FOR WEIGHT LOSS May 27th, 2016

Too often, depression comes with weight gain. Not only can your mood tempt you to seek comfort in food, some psych meds can cause you to gain a few or more pounds.   That’s why I was happy to read this study about using cumin powder to lose weight. Cumin is safe and cheap,...

DEPRESSION AND MIGRAINES: AN UNHAPPY LINK May 17th, 2016

Many of the patients I see for mental health problems are also suffering from migraines, and it’s not a coincidence. Studies have shown a scientific link between the two conditions. This article cites a few of the studies: One found that women suffering from migraines have a 50 percent greater risk...

PCOS AND MENTAL HEALTH May 11th, 2016

I want to talk about a disorder that is not a mental health diagnosis, but it does affect mental health. About one in 10 women have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), so you probably know someone who has it. It’s a hormonal disorder that impacts on women’s bodies in various ways: People with PCOS...

LONELINESS AND YOUR HEALTH May 5th, 2016

Did you know that stress shows up in your spit? When we’re feeling pressure or tension, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisone. Cortisone levels can be measured in our saliva. It’s a useful trick when you’re studying stress. I recently read about a researcher who did just that  on a Caribbean...

DEPRESSED? TRY A COLD SHOWER. Apr 28th, 2016

It’s just a theory so far, but worth a try if you’re up for it: A cold shower might be just the trick to shock your brain out of a depressed mood. I stumbled upon a decade-old article this week detailing a hypothesis along these lines. It points out that modern humans...

SCIENTISTS DISCOVER HOW SSRIS WORK Apr 22nd, 2016

We’ve known for decades that SSRIs are safe and effective for treating depression and anxiety, but the precise way they work has long been a mystery. New 3-D images are finally providing some answers. Let’s back up for a minute, though, and talk about what SSRIs are. The image depicts a...

YOUNG MEN WITH ADHD: WATCH OUT FOR VIDEO GAME ADDICTION Apr 21st, 2016

People with psychiatric disorders look for escape from their symptoms in various places. A common one for young men is playing video games. That escape isn’t always healthy: It can turn into an addiction.   A new study looking into video game addiction showed young men with ADHD, OCD, and depression are...

MINDFULNESS CHANGES BRAINS FOR PTSD SUFFERERS Apr 3rd, 2016

A practice tied closely to Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga is proving itself to be a valuable tool for a surprising group of people: Veterans suffering from PTSD. A new study found mindfulness training changed the brains of veterans suffering from PTSD. (The left image highlights changes in the brains of a...

OBESITY AND DEPRESSION Mar 30th, 2016

We’ve known for several years now that obesity and depression often go together, but the link is becoming clearer. A new study shows that even higher education doesn’t weaken the connection: Highly educated obese people are still too often depressed, and highly educated depressed people are still too often obese. That’s interesting because...

MARIJUANA USE DISORDER ON THE RISE Mar 24th, 2016

Nearly 6 million Americans reported having marijuana use disorder in 2012-13, nearly double the numbers reported 10 years ago. For individuals to fit in that category, they’ve got to have experienced major life disruption connected to using marijuana: They’re taking big risks, they’re having legal trouble, they’re neglecting major responsibilities or they’re...

HAPPY FOOD: NUTRITION AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH Mar 17th, 2016

Your diet is obviously important for your physical health, but did you know nutrition can make a big difference for mental health, too? More and more studies have been linking what you eat to how you feel mentally and emotionally. Just this week I read news about nutrition and happiness in students....

HELP FOR SELF-HARMING TEENS: LET’S END THE “CYCLE OF SHAME” Mar 14th, 2016

I read this week about a system failure for teens seeking help for self-inflicted injuries: When they go to emergency rooms, they’re often met with what they perceive as degrading treatment from the staff. This perceived lack of kindness perpetuates what researchers call a “cycle of shame” for these self-harming...

MINDFULNESS: IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR HEART Feb 24th, 2016

Over the years, I’ve seen mindfulness meditation make a big difference for clients dealing with depression and anxiety. But today I learned that mindfulness is good for the heart not just metaphorically, but physically as well.  A new study shows that people who are more mindful — in other words, they are better...

EXERCISING TO TREAT DEPRESSION: IT’S MORE THAN JUST ENDORPHINS Feb 22nd, 2016

We’ve known for a while now that exercise produces endorphins — the brain messengers in charge of pain and pleasure. But a recent study brings some new players into the exercise/brain health relationship: GABA and glutamate, messengers that fight anxiety and depression. Researchers found that as little as eight minutes of vigorous exercise...

GIVING SUPPORT TO OTHERS BENEFITS MENTAL HEALTH Feb 16th, 2016

In my three decades of nursing, it’s become increasingly apparent to me that having a social support system is crucial for those strugglingwith mental health. A study I read this week takes a different spin on that idea: It turns out giving support to others is just as important if not more important than receiving support. Researchers quizzed participants...

CRITICAL PARENTING TIED TO PERSISTENT ADHD Feb 10th, 2016

I read an interesting study this week that showed a link between parental criticism and persistent ADHD. It’s common for ADHD symptoms to decrease as children get older. That’s not true for all cases, though, and an important question for those developing treatment strategies and medications for ADHD is: What’s the...

ATTITUDE TOWARD AGING HAS PHYSICAL EFFECTS Feb 3rd, 2016

You’ve probably heard that positive thinking can take you far, but there’s some new evidence out there that negative thinking is equally powerful. Two recent studies show that people with bad attitudes toward aging tend to decline faster both physically and mentally compared to their more positive peers. The first study was published...

RECOVERING FROM SUICIDAL FEELINGS Jan 23rd, 2016

Realizing you’re suicidal is unquestionably a low point in life, but it should not be an end point. The oft-heard adage is true: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. With time and help, everyone can feel better. A new study illuminates that truth. Researchers examined the records of...

FIXING BAD DAYS Jan 15th, 2016

My husband sent me an article this week on how to turn a bad day around, and I’m loving it. It’s from the Harvard Business Review, and it’s full of great tips. Bad day. Here are some of my favorites: Be grateful! It’s impossible to feel depressed and grateful at...

SMART PHONES AND BABY CARE: BAD COMBO Jan 8th, 2016

It’s true that there have always been countless distractions around us, but smart phones have taken that to a new level. With notifications dinging regularly, we’ve gotten used to taking a minute to respond to a message no matter what we’re in the middle of.   A new study shows allowing that habit of...

CROSS-CULTURAL EMPATHY CAN BE EASILY LEARNED Jan 5th, 2016

I’ve worked with clients with widely differing ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and more, and I’ve learned feeling like an outsider is not good for mental health. But those cultural boundaries can be surprisingly easily diminished, a study published last month found.   Surprisingly positive experiences with people from another group trigger a learning effect in...

LOTS OF TV IS BAD FOR YOUR BRAIN Dec 19th, 2015

It’s pretty obvious that sitting around watching TV for hours a day is bad for your physical health, but new research shows it’s bad for your mental health, too. In a study published a couple of weeks ago, researchers tracked thousands of adults for 25 years. They surveyed the participants about their TV viewing...

SPIRITUALITY AND EATING DISORDERS Dec 11th, 2015

There’s a new paper out that examines the relationship between spirituality and body image. Its conclusion? Strong religious beliefs coupled with a positive relationship with God are connected to  lower levels of disordered eating and body image concern. The authors identified a couple particularly relevant and helpful aspects of religiosity and spirituality: Many believe...

USING BRAIN SCANS TO PREDICT ADHD Dec 9th, 2015

There’s an exciting new development in our understanding of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. A new study shows looking at the brain’s wiring can predict how well a person can keep their attention focused. That finding is important because it shows that ADHD is more than a behavioral problem; it’s a...

TOO MUCH ALCOHOL MAY BE AFFECTING YOUR SLEEP Dec 5th, 2015

When it comes to sleep, it looks like alcohol has an effect opposite the one many think it has. It turns out that not only is a nightcap a bad way to  send you off to bed, your drinking habits overall could be affecting the way you sleep. In a questionnaire-based study published last month, researchers...

A NEW LOOK AT SEROTONIN Nov 30th, 2015

Serotonin levels are one of the first things you learn about when looking into the biology behind depression and other mental disorders. If there’s not enough of it in your brain, you learn, you’re more likely to be depressed. We’ve always known it’s not quite so simple, but a new study gives...

UNDERSTANDING BIPOLAR Nov 29th, 2015

Bipolar disorder is a troubling reality for millions of individuals and families around the world. About 1 percent of people across all nations and cultures have the disorder, which can disrupt relationships, cognitive function,  and more. It’s the leading cause of disability among young people. The most alarming potential result of bipolar symptoms is suicide...

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER Nov 26th, 2015

I’m a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy. Working on recognizing and adjusting negative thought patterns can be an important part of healing for people with all kinds of mental health issues. One application emerging in recent years is CBT for Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD. People with BDD obsess over...

DEPRESSION AND AGING Nov 23rd, 2015

A new study that examined 2,000 older Australians for 15 years has some sad findings: Researchers found that depression worsens with age. It was true for both men and women. They expressed an increase in depressive symptoms as they got older. Women started the study with more depressive symptoms than men,...

INVESTIGATING NEW TREATMENTS FOR OCD Nov 21st, 2015

Between 1 and 3 percent of the world’s population suffer from debilitating obsessions and compulsions. Their thoughts and behaviors interfere with their relationships, jobs, and quality of life. The good news is that effective drugs and therapies exist for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The bad news is that these established treatments only work for about two-thirds of patients....

NEUROTICISM: A SIGN OF CREATIVITY Oct 22nd, 2015

Habitual overthinkers all over the world found cause to rejoice recently: A new paper theorizes that neuroticism and creativity go hand in hand. Previous theories about neuroticism pointed to heightened sensitivity to threat. Perkins and his co-authors point instead to higher activity in the parts of the brain that control self-generated thought. That hyperactivity could...

STUDY REDIRECTS SCHIZOPHRENIA TREATMENT Oct 21st, 2015

For decades, mental health professionals have heavily emphasized medication in the fight against schizophrenia symptoms. A groundbreaking new study says we should turn that approach around: Focusing more on therapy than on medication yields better results.  That’s good news for the hundreds of thousands of people experiencing negative side effects from their schizophrenia medication....

RESPONDING TO SOCIAL REJECTION Oct 10th, 2015

Can you track your heartbeat without feeling your pulse? If you can, you might be better prepared to cope with being excluded in social situations. That ability to focus inward and recognize your heartbeat is one way to measure what scientists call “interoceptive sensitivity,” or awareness of stimuli inside the body. A...

PREGNANCY AND EATING DISORDERS Oct 7th, 2015

Proper nutrition during pregnancy is important for all women: The nutrients they consume are the only nutrients their babies receive. Lately I’ve been thinking specifically about expectant mothers with eating disorders. The worst of it comes down to this: Women with anorexia and women with binge eating disorder are more...

LATENT INHIBITION: FILTERING OUT THE MADNESS? Sep 15th, 2015

I’ve written here before about a link between creativity and madness–artistic individuals are much more likely than non-artistic individuals to have a genetic predisposition toward mental illness. Lately I’ve been thinking and reading about a personality trait related to mental illness, and it turns out it’s related to creativity as...

WHAT TO EAT FOR DEPRESSION Sep 14th, 2015

There’s an emerging field in the treatment of mental health: Nutritional psychology. Mental health professionals are increasingly viewing mental illness from a holistic perspective, and nutrition is one of the factors that come into play.   Recently a group of researchers pulled together all available research on nutrition and depression...

SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION Aug 22nd, 2015

A client recently expressed interest in learning more about social media addiction. It’s a relevant topic these days, and researchers have published some interesting studies over the last several years. I wanted to share the takeaways from a few of them: -People who use the internet heavily are more likely to forget things...

RISKY DECISIONS AND SUICIDE VULNERABILITY Aug 16th, 2015

There’s a new study out on suicide that took a different approach: Researchers looked at common characteristics among the relatives of people who had committed suicide. Study participants, including a set of mentally healthy individuals who were parents, brothers, or sisters to suicide completers, were asked to play a betting...

HIGH ACHIEVING STUDENTS PRONE TO UNHEALTHY STRESS Aug 15th, 2015

A study published this summer stepped into the world of highly selective private high schools in the Northeast. Researchers probed into stress levels of students and examined what effect that stress is having on their lives. Perhaps predictably, it’s not pretty. Half the students reported feeling high amounts of stress on a daily...

BRAIN TRAINING APP SHOWN TO IMPROVE MEMORY FOR PEOPLE WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA Aug 8th, 2015

People diagnosed with schizophrenia often have trouble functioning in society. Hallucinations and delusions  make it difficult to understand reality, thought disorders can disrupt  logical reasoning, and memory impairment can make completing everyday tasks impossible. Psychotic symptoms can be treated effectively with medication, but drugs successfully treating cognitive impairments have been elusive....

MENTAL EXERTION LEADS TO PHYSICAL FATIGUE Jul 31st, 2015

If you’ve ever felt physically exhausted after a long day of thinking too hard, you’re right: Mental exertion is physically exhausting. A new study shows that when we add mental stress to our physical activities, we activate the prefrontal cortex in our brains. Blood oxygen lowers in that area, and we get...

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH — IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SPECTRUM Jul 27th, 2015

The science of mental health is evolving. In the past, we’d say someone has schizophrenia or doesn’t; they have autism or they don’t. In recent years, though, we’re talking more and more about spectra. The spectrum of light. You may be aware that instead of diagnosing different types of autism, doctors are...

TRACKING DEPRESSION WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE Jul 18th, 2015

You may or may not notice it, but when you’re depressed, your behavior changes — enough so that your phone can tell the difference. This week, Northwestern University researchers published findings from a study on depression and smartphone use. It turns out the more time you spend on your phone, the more...

CHILDREN AND ANTIPSYCHOTICS Jul 14th, 2015

A new study by the National Institutes of Mental Health dives into the previously murky waters of children’s antipsychotic use, and the findings are interesting: Boys are being prescribed antipsychotics much more often than girls are. In the children up to 12 years old, boys are almost three times more...

HOW YOUR MEDS MAY BE AFFECTING YOUR MORALITY Jul 4th, 2015

Anyone who has taken a basic psychology class has heard of those experiments measuring how willing participants are to administer electric shocks to other people, but there’s a new one out there that looks at how these decisions are affected by another factor: your meds.  In this study, published this week in Current...

SLEEP TO REMEMBER Jun 20th, 2015

We’ve all experienced negative effects from lack of sleep — exhaustion, blurry vision, depression, irritability. But lack of sleep also interferes with your ability to store memories. Scientists have long been aware of this connection: Psychologists suggest sleep isolates the brain from the distractions that interrupt memory storage, and neuroscientific research has...

PREDICTING ALZHEIMER’S DECADES BEFORE ITS ONSET Jun 18th, 2015

Even in middle age, it may be possible to detect signs of an eventual Alzheimer’s diagnosis. A study published this week in Neurology (the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal) reports that  patients with Alzheimer’s showed signs of cognitive decline up to 18 years before the disease could be diagnosed. More than 2,000 Americans participated in the...

CREATIVITY AND MENTAL ILLNESS: A GENETIC LINK Jun 12th, 2015

Vincent Van Gogh has long been a favorite example of a person suffering from mental illness reaching great heights creatively. Some even wonder whether the iconic yellow swirls in his Starry Night painting are indicative of altered vision due to medications he may have taken. Van Gogh suffered from manic depression and committed suicide...

FIGHTING DEPRESSION WITH SUNSHINE AND EXERCISE Jun 8th, 2015

Fighting depression with sunshine and exercise  It’s June, and here in Boise we’ve shaken off any lingering symptoms of winter. That’s good news for people suffering from depression and other mental health conditions. Exercise and sunshine are both simple but effective tools in treating depression, so why not take advantage...

DEPRESSION, FISH AND RESILIENCY May 29th, 2015

According to a research article in Lipids in Health and Disease, May 2015, we need to eat more fish! People who eat the most fish have greater resiliency and are less likely to become depressed. Depression is the leading cause of disability all over the world. Suicide rates are escalating....

IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRAUMA AND OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER? Feb 12th, 2013

Very interesting study came out this month in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. It studied patients who were diagnosed both with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder. (PTSD) For these people, repetitive behavior patterns, rituals and compulsions may ward off anxiety and may serve as a coping mechanism to...

FAMILY INVOLVEMENT AND THE TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION Feb 2nd, 2013

There was an interesting study that came out this month in Psychiatr Serv. 2013 Feb 1. It was a study of Veterans who were being treated for Depression. It confirms what I have believed all along, that is to get the families involved in the treatment of those suffering with...

EMDR REDUCES THE SUBJECTIVE VIVIDNESS AND OBJECTIVE MEMORY ACCESSIBILITY. Dec 12th, 2012

We’ve heard a lot about EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. There have been much research supporting its efficacy, many books written, even U-tube videos made demonstrating its usefulness. What does it do exactly? The mechanism isn’t completely clear.In eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a treatment for post-traumatic...

DIFFERENTIATING BETWEEN BIPOLAR DISORDER I AND BIPOLAR DISORDER II Aug 17th, 2012

Many people have heard about the diagnosis Bipolar Disorder. Formerly this diagnosis was named Manic Depression. Today we differentiate between Bipolar Disorder I and Bipolar Disorder II. Bipolar Disorder I is characterized by periods of depression alternating with periods of manic behavior. What is manic behavior? It is discreet periods...

WHAT CAUSES PSYCHOSIS? Jul 12th, 2012

There has been a lot in the news lately about people suffering from psychotic episodes. Recently, a man, whom many thought was under the influence of bath salts, took off his clothes and chewed off the face of a homeless man. Toxicology reports denied him being under the influence of...

ALCOHOL INTAKE EFFECTS SLEEP Jun 11th, 2012

There is an interesting article in the May 17th issue of The Journal of Alcohol and Alcoholism related to alcohol intake and its effect on sleep. The research showed that even small amounts of alcohol can alter the quality and amount of sleep a person gets per night. This article...

TREATING MOOD SWINGS DURING PERIMENOPAUSE May 23rd, 2012

When you first start having perimenopausal symptoms, you may not put two and two together; after all, you’re too young to be going through menopause. The changes in your body can confuse you and drive you to distraction. It is not uncommon to be confused and for mood swings to...

BASIC THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ADHD Apr 23rd, 2012

What is ADHD? ADHD is a term that’s thrown around so frequently these days, we all assume we know what it means. Used to apply to everyone from a kid who misbehaves in school to an adult who has trouble focusing on a single TV or computer screen at a...

MY LETTER TO THE EDITOR ON THE NP PAYMENT PARITY BILL HV 4101 Feb 23rd, 2012

To The Editor, I was surprised at the level of error and inaccuracy in your recent editorial, “Equal Pay Bill Should Be Dead” related to HB 4101, the payment parity for Nurse Practitioners in Oregon. First and foremost, I take exception to your claim that services provided by NPs are...

THE ROLE OF APATHY IN THE SUCCESS OF WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAMS Jan 23rd, 2012

Obesity is sadly at epidemic proportions. Most of us  are very aware of the devastating health consequences of obesity: diabetes and other metabolic syndromes, heart disease, stroke, even Cancer.  So many are trying to fight the battle of the budge whether it be Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins and...

HOW DOES PERSONALITY EFFECT HAPPINESS AND HEALTH? Nov 22nd, 2011

There has been very interesting research over the years discussing what types of personality traits effect the perception of happiness. There is evidence that suggests that extroverted people are happier than introverted people. This makes sense as it has been found that extroverted people are more likely to surround themselves...

IS CAFFEINE GOOD OR BAD FOR MENTAL HEALTH? Oct 19th, 2011

There have been numerous articles extolling both the benefits and harmfulness of caffeine. Less often has there been research on the effects on mental health. What’s my opinion? I advise caution in its usage. There has been insufficient studies showing any benefit of caffeine on mental health. A few studies...

LONG-TERM ANTIDEPRESSANT USE COULD REDUCE THE RISK OF MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION Jun 28th, 2011

Coming out this month in the British Journal of Pharmacoloy is an interesting article about the links between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) usage and the risks of myocardial infarction. It has been believed for awhile that a SSRI, which is a particular class of antidepressant, acts immediately to prevent future...

AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDERS: WHAT WORKS? Jun 13th, 2011

There is a very interesting study out of the journal of Child Psychiatry and Human Development out this month. It was a study of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who suffered from anxiety. The purpose of the study was to try out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for 16 weeks with...

GENDER-NEUTRAL PARENTING IDEAS DON’T MATCH BRAIN SCIENCE May 7th, 2011

Attention parents out there! Have you noticed that your children from the very earliest ages display male or female type of behavior no matter how hard you try to “unbias” them and give them the full spectrum of experiences of cars and balls, baby dolls and barbies? As a mother...

THE EFFECT OF PLASTICS ON MENTAL HEALTH: UPDATE 2011 Apr 20th, 2011

Many experts now believe that plastics are hurting our brains. Teenage boys today have lower testosterone levels than their grandfather’s did 30 years ago. Teenage boys are also suffering more ADHD symptoms: lack of motivation, drive, ambition, ability to plan and follow-through as well as increased rates of depression. Gender...

WORKSHOP COMING UP IN APRIL! Apr 5th, 2011

1.5 CEUs available For reservation information, cost, location, and time, see below. +++++++++ And Next Month +++++++++   The Tender Loving Care and Feeding of the Brain:Current evidence based research incorporating health habits, therapy techniques, psychopharmacology and spirituality in caring for our clients with mental health issues Presented by: Satu...

PSYCHIATRIC ADVANCED PRACTICE NURSES AS ALTERNATIVES TO PSYCHIATRISTS Mar 8th, 2011

I read with interest the article written by Gardiner Harris on the Sunday, March 6th of the Bend Bulletin. “Since talking doesn’t pay, psychiatrist simply write prescriptions.” http://bit.ly/eIhDoh I’d like to mention another option to see for your mental health issues which seemed to be neglected in the article. I...

THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS CONTINUES IN THE YEAR 2011 Feb 17th, 2011

Recently, a friend and colleague of mine, Cara Hoepner, was interviewed on the radio as a representative for the National Association of the Mentally Ill (NAMI). She is a fellow Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in the state of California in private practice but also has “come out” as someone...

STIMULANTS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER FOR ATTENTIVE DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER Feb 11th, 2011

In my practice, I’m amazed about how many people come to me and have taken some test online and have self-diagnosed themselves with ADHD or ADD and want me to give them stimulants. It happens every week. I also don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell these same...

HOARDING DISORDER: A SUBTYPE OF OCD OR ADHD? Jan 22nd, 2011

Most of us probably know someone who has issues with hoarding, whether it be our great aunt who saves newspapers and cannot throw any away because she plans on one day reading them all, or a neighbor who has 25 old cars on his property that haven’t been touched in...

IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY THE BEST PSYCHOTHERAPY? Jan 11th, 2011

In my practice I usually focus on one of three types of therapies depending on the diagnosis and particular characteristics of the patient. For the most neurotic types of patients I find CBT to be the most effective. Neurotic types tend to take too much responsibility for the problems of...

MENTAL DISORDERS IN UNEMPLOYED YOUNG ADULTS Jan 3rd, 2011

Recently, I heard a statistic that really bothered me. It was that possibly as high as 40% of adults under the age of 25 in Europe were unemployed.All over the United States as well as many other countries are showing increasing rates of mental health problems in youth. Simultaneously, we...

DIFFERENTIATING BIPOLAR DISORDER FROM ADHD IN CHILDREN Dec 22nd, 2010

There is a perception that ADHD is an over diagnosed condition in children. There have been studies over the years that have challenged that perception, even suggesting that ADHD is under diagnosed. At least one study that I know of reports that 75 % of the prison population meets criteria...

LITTLE KNOWN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BIPOLAR DEPRESSION AND UNIPOLAR DEPRESSION Dec 8th, 2010

In my practice I often see patients self referred or sent in by their general practitioner who tell me that he or she has Major Depressive Disorder. Problem is, medications and therapy have had little success so my expert advice is needed. When evaluating a patient it is crucial not...

VITAMIN D LINKS TO MENTAL ILLNESS Nov 24th, 2010

There is a growing body of evidence that many mental health conditions  are related to dietary deficiencies. A currently recognized deficiency these days is Vitamin D. It is commonly reported these days that 75% of people have a deficiency of Vitamin D. This is all over the world. Interestingly, the country...

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY IMPROVES ADHD SCORES Nov 24th, 2010

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy improves ADHD Scores This month a very interesting research study was recorded in the journal of JAMA. It addresses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as an ADHD treatment Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is most successfully used in conjuction with medication in my opinion, but often the...

ADHD AND DR. AMEN CONTRIBUTIONS Nov 24th, 2010

I am a big fan of Dr. Amen. I find his neuroimaging work to be highly fascinating. Not everyone agrees and some question his science. You may have seen some of his programs on the brain on PBS over the last few years.   I have been using Dr. Amen’s mental health...

INSOMNIA: WHO SHOULD I SEE FOR HELP? Nov 24th, 2010

When I see patients in my office I would say that 75% have as a major complaint of insomnia or having difficulty going to sleep and/or staying asleep. Many times the problem has been going on for years. How does one know who to see about their insomnia? The general...

DEPRESSION: SHOULD I GO HERBAL OR THE MEDICATION ROUTE? Nov 24th, 2010

I have some patients who come to me for Depression who wonder whether St. John’s Wort is adequate in the treatment of Depression. My answer is it depends on the severity of the Depression.  In mild to moderate cases where the Depression has been experienced for 3-6 months or less...

ANXIETY DISORDERS IN CHILDREN: A FAMILY AFFAIR Nov 24th, 2010

According to the Surgeon General, anxiety disorders affect approximately 13% of children. Some diagnoses that reflect a problem with anxiety are: Generally Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Panic Disorder. All of these show similar symptoms of anxious feelings, sweaty palms, pounding heart, increased respiratory out put, sick...

AN ASPIRIN A DAY KEEPS SCHIZOPHRENIA AWAY? Nov 24th, 2010

According to a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, aspirin therapy reduces symptoms of psychosis in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders. It is speculated that inflammation is causing havoc in the brain as well as the body now. This reminds me of a study published I believe in the early...

SUPPLEMENT MAY PREVENT PSYCHOSIS! Nov 24th, 2010

Attention families with psychosis among relatives! Omega-3 fatty acids may prevent onset of psychotic disorders in high-risk populations. This is according to a study published by Amminger and associates in the Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2010 Feb;67(2):146-54. The study suggests that a common supplement that we use for heart disease and...