Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

In a [rominent story, the New York Times (http://tinyurl.com/psychosurgery 11/27, A1, Carey) reported that “in the last decade or so, more than 500 people have undergone brain surgery for problems like depression, anxiety, Tourette’s syndrome,” and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, “for all the progress that has been made, some psychiatrists and medical ethicists say, doctors still do not know much about the circuits they are tampering with, and the results are unpredictable: some people improve, others feel little or nothing, and an unlucky few actually get worse.” Psychiatrist Darin D. Dougherty, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said that “given the history of failed techniques, like frontal lobotomy,” should current psychosurgery experiments go wrong, “it’ll shut down this approach for another hundred years.”


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junkfoodHealthDay (http://tinyurl.com/high-calorie-diet-crash 11/12, Dotinga) reported that, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine found that “rats weaned off a high-calorie diet showed the same effects on the brain as withdrawing from drugs and alcohol.” After giving “rats a regular diet for five days and then” switching “them to a chocolate-flavored food that was high in sugar,” investigators found that the animals “didn’t want to switch back to the ordinary chow after…dining on the equivalent of rat junk food.” And, “when deprived of the sugary food, they showed signs of anxiety, and their brains acted as if they were withdrawing from alcohol or drugs.”

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A Los Angeles Times (3/23, Kaplan) piece discusses how “anxiety, depression, and stress” can “contribute to increased incidence of heart disease.” The piece then cites findings from several studies, most of which were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). In one of these studies, “risk of cardiovascular disease and death rose by more than 50 percent among people with depression and anxiety.” In another study published in JACC, nearly “double the risk of heart attack or death was found in coronary artery disease patients with the highest level of anxiety.” And “among those patients, a 10 percent increased risk of heart attack or death was found in those whose anxiety rose over time.”

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Researchers say brains of non-believers, religious people may differ in reaction to errors.  UPI (3/6) reports that a recent study “found distinct brain differences between believers in God and non-believers.” Canadian researchers said that, “even after controlling for personality and cognitive ability, when asked to perform tasks while wearing electrodes, those having faith in God showed significantly less activity than those without belief, in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain — a portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed, usually as a result of some anxiety-producing event.” According to lead author Michael Inzlicht, PhD, of the University of Toronto, “We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. … They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error.”

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Bloomberg News (2/16, Waters) reported that, according to a study published in the Feb. 15 advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, the “widely used heart drug” propranolol “may be able to stop frightening images or experiences from lodging in the memory and repeatedly resurfacing to cause fear and anxiety.” For the study, researchers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands “gave the medication” to 60 “test subjects in a complex experiment that measured how people reacted when they were shown pictures of spiders they’d been taught to fear.” The team “first conditioned their test subjects to fear a particular kind of spider by showing them pictures of the spider, followed by an electrical shock to the wrist.” By the following day, “the experience had been consolidated and stored in their memory.”
        Participants were then “split into two groups — one was given the beta blocker propranolol and the other a dummy drug before both were shown the same pictures again,” BBC News (2/16) explained on its website. The investigators “assessed how fearful of the pictures the volunteers were by playing sudden noises and measuring how strongly they blinked, something called the ‘startle response.'” The team found that “the group that had taken beta blockers showed less fear than the group that had taken the placebo pill.”
        HealthDay (2/15, Perkel) added that “on the third day,” when the participants “were tested again,” the investigators found that the “physiological response to the fear-inducing cue — pictures of spiders — was eliminated in the propranolol group, but not in the placebo group.” The authors concluded that the study’s findings “are consistent with those of a recent preliminary study of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder in which post-retrieval propranolol seemed to reduce subsequent physiological responding to traumatic memory.” The Boston Globe (2/16) also covered the story.

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The Boston Globe (2/9, Anthes) reports that last year, psychiatrist Robert Salo, M.D., of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, documented “the first known instance of ‘climate change delusion'” in a 17-year-old boy who refused “to drink water” for fear of causing “millions of people” to die. Since then, Dr. Salo has “seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change.” Already, “there is evidence that extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and hurricanes, can lead to emotional distress, which can trigger such things as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the body’s fear and arousal system kicks into overdrive.” According to Joshua Miller, Ph.D., of Smith College, “After a disaster, people can feel…like outside forces are taking control of their lives.” He explained that “severe disasters also destroy the infrastructure needed to provide mental healthcare, and forcibly displace people, severing social connections when people need them most.”

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 Bloomberg News (1/21, Ostrow) reports that, according to a study published in the Jan. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Forest Laboratories, Inc.’s antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) aided older adults suffering from” generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, found that nearly “70 percent of those aged 60 and older who took Lexapro improved in anxiety symptoms and social functioning, compared with about 51 percent of those given a dummy pill.” Still, lead author Eric Lenze, M.D., of Washington University, said that a combination of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) “and psychotherapy may provide more advantage.” Noting that the “overall benefit” of the medication is “modest,” Dr. Lenze stated, “This is not a cure-all. It doesn’t mean older adults shouldn’t take this medicine for an anxiety disorder; it means that medication alone won’t be sufficient.” For the study, the researchers “tested the effectiveness of Lexapro in 177 adults 60 and older suffering from” GAD, HealthDay (1/21, Reinberg) added. The participants “were randomly assigned to Lexapro or a placebo for 12 weeks.” The investigators found that participants “on Lexapro…had greater improvement in functioning, activity, and social functioning.” Notably, subjects “with high blood pressure taking Lexapro had a significant decrease in blood pressure,” thereby suggesting “some additional health-related benefits of getting treatment for anxiety in this age group,” Dr. Lenze explained. And, even though the team “used Lexapro for this study,” Dr. Lenze “believes that other SSRIs would produce the same beneficial effect.” WebMD (1/20, Doheny) pointed out that “SSRIs are medications prescribed for both anxiety and depression, and are thought to work by correcting an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin.” Currently, experts estimate that “nearly one in 10 older adults” may be “affected by GAD,” and therefore may be exposed to “high levels of [the stress hormone] cortisol,” which may be “hard on one’s health.” In addition to “medication, treatment” of GAD “can include cognitive behavior therapy, also known as ‘talk therapy,'” Dr. Lenze said, adding, “Relaxation therapy can be effective at well.” Dr. Lenze emphasized that GAD is “distressing and burdensome,” but “people can get help. It is a treatable problem.”

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Many clients have recently asked me how they can achieve their New Year’s resolution of improving their mental health in 2009.  With the stress of a struggling economy and growing demands from their jobs and families it can be quite difficult.   There are several things you can do on a daily basis to find that balance, but self awareness and prioritizing are key.   It’s important to learn to recognize your stressful feelings and emotions, so you can quickly find effective ways of dealing with and preventing them.

Stress may often trigger anxiety.  Anxious people often feel tense or on edge.  If people are anxious they may find themselves worrying excessively, not sleeping well, feeling distracted, and irritable.  Life stressors may also lead to symptoms of depression including sadness, crying spells, lack of pleasure in life, sleep and appetite disturbances, as well as feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or even suicidal thoughts.

There are several things you can do proactively to prevent depression and anxiety from developing or worsening.  Some techniques are very easy to implement.

1.  Maintain a regular sleep schedule.  Going to bed at the same time and waking  up at the same time.  Avoid naps longer than thirty minutes as they may disrupt your nighttime sleep.

2.  Eat a healthy, balanced diet and get thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week through something as simple as going for a walk.  The malls can be a good place to walk on cold, winter days.

3.  Journal or blog to have an outlet for your feelings or emotions.  You can even throw the paper away when you’re done writing if you are a private person.  The important part is getting it out.

4.  If you are unemployed (or even if you are not) find somewhere to volunteer between interviews and searching.  This helps your self esteem and also helps to maintain some structure and purpose in your life.

5.  Participate in religious or spiritual practices, preferably with others, to foster a sense of fellowship and hope.

6.  Communicate to your family and friends that you are feeling “sad”, “stressed” or “anxious” so they can reach out a helping hand.  If family or friends are not around consider a support group either online or in person.

7.  Refrain from drug and alcohol use as this can exacerbate or cause depression and anxiety.  Also avoid excessive amounts of caffeine as it can contribute to anxiety.

8.  Find a new hobby or interest.  Especially one that involves socialization to help foster new relationships.

9.  Adopt a pet (only if you are able to care for it).  Their unconditional love and daily needs provide reassurance and structure to your life.

10.  Consult a mental health professional when in doubt!  Meet with a psychiatrist and a therapist. 

It has become more common and socially acceptable to utilize mental health services. No matter how hard some people try to stay positive and be proactive they still may feel depressed and anxious.  Some folks are already suffering so much that they do not have the energy or motivation to help themselves.  These people may have a chemical imbalance that requires psychiatric medication, but only a physician and preferably a board certified psychiatrist can determine that.

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Scientists may be getting closer to understanding the genetic origin of anxiety in certain individuals.  This could lead to potential new medications for the treatment of anxiety.


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