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January 2011



Recent Posts


It's a blue world
The world looks different if you’re depressed

by Jessica Hamzelou

DEPRESSION really does change the way you see the world. People with the condition find it easy to interpret large images or scenes, but struggle to “spot the difference” in fine detail. The finding hints at visual training as a possible treatment.



© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

New Mental Treatment Improves Anxiety and Depression in Secondary Education Teachers

ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2009) — A doctoral thesis carried out at the University of Granada has proved that a mental training based on mindfulness — an emotional self-regulating tool that consists in focusing on what we are doing, thinking about or feeling at every moment — helps to fight against psychological diseases such as anxiety, depression, concern or complaints about health, very common among secondary education teachers, and is very positive for emotional regulation.

This research work has analysed the psycho-physiological mechanisms related to the mindfulness, checking the effectiveness of a training programme that works as an emotional self-regulating tool. Mindfulness is a type of mental training increasingly popular in the U.S., based on the practice of self-awareness and in terms such as attention, awareness and the reference to a specific moment.

The work, developed by Luis Carlos Delgado Pastor and supervised by professor Jaime Vila Castellar, of the department of Personality, Assessment and Psychological Treatment, has confirmed the effectiveness of training mindfulness abilities applying it to two different groups with defined features: a 20-girls sample with high-level concern and a group of 25 secondary education teachers.

Read in Full: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091203091906.htm

Depression Meds Can Place Seniors At Risk

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 30, 2009

A new combined study of previously published research warns that older adults who take several types of medications — such as antidepressants or sedatives — are at greater risk to fall.

According to experts, more than 30 percent of individuals older than 65 will fall at least once a year. Sadly, falls and their complications are the fifth-leading cause of death in the developed world.

Each year, 85 percent of all injury-related hospital admissions and more than 40 percent of nursing home admissions are related to falls, and the annual costs related to falls and their complications are estimated to be in the billions of dollars worldwide.

Both internal and external risk factors contribute to falls, and medications have previously been implicated in the probability of falling and in the risk of sustaining a fracture.

John C. Woolcott, M.A., of University of British Columbia and Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcomes Sciences, Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 22 previously published studies conducted between 1996 and 2007.

The studies involved 79,081 participants older than 60 years and evaluated nine drug classes: antihypertensive agents; diuretics; beta-blockers; sedatives and hypnotics; neuroleptics and antipsychotics; antidepressants; benzodiazepines; narcotics; and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

When the data were pooled and results adjusted for other factors, the use of sedatives and hypnotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines were significantly associated with the risk of falling in older adults.

“Given the divergent results shown by some observational assessments within specific medication classes, the results of our meta-analysis reiterate the need for caution when prescribing these medications to seniors,” the authors write.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/11/30/depression-meds-can-place-seniors-at-risk/9788.html

Teen Insecurity Linked To Depression, Pain Complaints

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 30, 2009

Canadian researchers believe teenage anxiety can lead to physical and mental health issues.

Researchers from the Université de Montréal, Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center and McGill University found that insecure adolescents experience more intense pain in the form of frequent headaches, abdominal pain and joint pain.

Moreover, these teens were more likely to be depressed than peers with secure attachments.

Researchers launched this study to build on previous findings that childhood experiences play a major role in the relationships people develop in later life.

Simply put: insecure infants grow up to be insecure adolescents, and later, insecure adults.

“Although previous studies in adults found that an individual’s security level was influenced by painful experiences, it was not clear why relationship security should be related to pain,” says Dr. Tremblay.

“We found that adolescents with insecure relationships tend to be more ‘alarmist’ about their pain symptoms; they have a tendency to amplify the degree of threat or severity of their pain. This amplification leads to more intense pain and more severe depressive symptoms.”

Some 382 students, from grades 8 through 12, were recruited for the study from a Francophone high school in Montreal, Canada. Participants were asked to fill questionnaires on the frequency and intensity of their emotional and physical pain.

“It is possible that individuals who have insecure relationships may perceive the world as more threatening or more stressful and that manifests in physical symptoms,” says Dr. Sullivan.

“Alternately, it is possible that individuals who feel insecure might ‘express’ more intense distress as a means of eliciting support from others in their social environment.”

Interpersonal factors must be considered when managing adolescent experiences of pain and depression, according to the researchers.

“Adolescents have different health and mental health needs than adults. Although interpersonal factors have not been considered integral components of the treatment of pain and depression in adults, these factors might need to be considered in the treatment of adolescents,” stresses Dr. Sullivan.

The study is published in the Journal of Pain.

Source: University of Montreal


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A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression

Gaining Control of Your Life

Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money: Study

For well-being, a $1,300 round of treatment equals a $41,000 pay raise, researchers say

— Robert Preidt

Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) — Psychological therapy may be much more effective at making people happy than getting a raise or winning a lottery prize, suggests an English study.

Researchers analyzed data on thousands of people who provided information about their mental well-being and found that the increase in happiness from a $1,329 course of therapy was so significant that it would take a pay raise of more than $41,542 to achieve an equal boost in well-being.

That suggests that therapy could be as much as 32 times more cost-effective at improving well-being than simply getting more money, the researchers said.

The study was published online Nov. 18 in the journal Health Economics, Policy and Law.

“We have shown that psychological therapy could be much more cost effective than financial compensation at alleviating psychological distress,” said study author Chris Boyce, of the University of Warwick. “This is not only important in courts of law, where huge financial rewards are the default way in which pain and suffering are compensated, but has wider implications for public health and well-being.”

“Often the importance of money for improving our well-being and bringing greater happiness is vastly over-valued in our societies,” Boyce explained. “The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realize the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counseling, can have on improving our well-being.”

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about emotional health.

Source: http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100250017


Physician Depression Associated with Medical Errors

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 24, 2009

A new study discovers burnout and depression are associated with medical errors by American surgeons.

The self-reported mistakes were human-error as opposed to systemic or organization causes.

In the confidential study, nearly 9 percent of U.S. surgeons responding said they made a major error in the three months prior to being surveyed.

Over 70 percent attributed the error to themselves rather than a general or institutional source.

Results showed the components of surgeon burnout – emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and perception personal accomplishments – were related to errors; as was surgeons’ “mental quality of life” including depression.

“These results suggest that a surgeon’s personal mental health including burnout may have an effect on quality of care,” says lead author Tait Shanafelt, M.D.

“Our aim is to encourage more research to find ways to reduce distress among surgeons and to provide better support when errors occur.” The authors say medical errors can haunt surgeons for years and contribute to distress.

Of the 7,905 surgeons participating in the survey, 8.9 percent or 700 reported making recent medical errors that they considered major. All participating surgeons also completed standardized survey tools to measure burnout, quality of life, and symptoms of depression.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/11/24/physician-depression-associated-with-medical-errors/9756.html

Depression As Deadly As Smoking, But Anxiety May Be Good For You

Article Date: 19 Nov 2009 – 0:00 PST

A study by researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London has found that depression is as much of a risk factor for mortality as smoking.

Utilising a unique link between a survey of over 60,000 people and a comprehensive mortality database, the researchers found that over the four years following the survey, the mortality risk was increased to a similar extent in people who were depressed as in people who were smokers.

Dr Robert Stewart, who led the research team at the IoP, explains the possible reasons that may underlie these surprising findings: ‘Unlike smoking, we don’t know how causal the association with depression is but it does suggest that more attention should be paid to this link because the association persisted after adjusting for many other factors.’

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/171382.php

Motivational ‘Women-Only’ Cardiac Rehab Improves Symptoms of Depression

ScienceDaily (Nov. 29, 2009) — Depressive symptoms improved among women with coronary heart disease who participated in a motivationally-enhanced cardiac rehabilitation program exclusively for women, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2009.

Depression often co-occurs with heart disease and is found more often in women with heart disease than in men. Depression also interferes with adherence to lifestyle modifications and the willingness to attend rehabilitation.

“Women often don’t have the motivation to attend cardiac rehab particularly if they’re depressed,” said Theresa Beckie, Ph.D., lead investigator and author of the study and professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Nursing in Tampa, Florida. “Historically women have not been socialized to exercise and their attendance in cardiac rehabilitation programs has been consistently poor over the last several decades. This poor attendance may be partly due to mismatches in stages of readiness for behavior change with the health professional approaching from an action-oriented perspective and the women merely contemplating change — this is destined to evoke resistance.”

Cardiac rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs of women and to their current level of readiness to change may improve adherence to such programs and potentially improve outcomes for women, she said.

Read in Full:


Depression, ADHD, Psychotherapy and Medication

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Nov 19th 2009

It is a fact that I receive E. Mail questions from people around the world about issues of mental health and mental illness. Some of them are from students who are working on various types of research papers that are related to psychology, social work and social psychology.

I recently received an interesting question from a forty year old man from the UK who stated the he is suffering from depression. He wanted to know what types of medication would help him feel better. He asserted that he had neither the time nor the money to invest in psychotherapy. Besides, he stated, he has a chemical imbalance in his brain and knows that medication will solve his problem. He also happened to state that he has suffered from many stresses over the years.

I thought it curious that a man of his age and from the UK would still believe that medication can cure psychological problems.

I answered his E. Mail by telling him that he would have to consult a psychiatrist who would do an evaluation and, based on the diagnosis from the evaluation, prescribe the necessary medicine treatment. I also pointed out that he could start by seeing his family doctor with whom he could discuss his symptoms and get a prescription for the same purpose.

However, I was quick to point out, very emphatically, that there is no cure in medication. Citing recent research, I reported that it is the combination of medication and psychotherapy that works best. In addition, I underlined the fact that, for many people, cognitive behavioral therapy can produce the same or better results than medication alone…I never heard back and, that’s OK, I rarely do.

Read in Full: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=33862&cn=5

Weight Loss Just As Successful With Depression

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 3, 2009

A new study finds women with mental health concerns are as successful losing weight as other women.

The results are important and encouraging as women with a depression diagnosis have often been disqualified from participation in weight loss programs.

Evette Ludman, PhD studied 190 female Group Health patients age 40 to 65 with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more: 65 with major depressive disorder and 125 without it.

The women had not been seeking treatment, but they enrolled in a one-year behavioral weight loss intervention involving 26 group sessions.

The intervention, developed at the University of Minnesota over the past 20 years, has proven at least as good as any other currently available nonmedical treatment.

Some previous research had hinted that depression might worsen outcomes in behavioral weight loss programs. That’s why trials of weight loss interventions typically exclude people with major depression.

Read More: http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/12/03/weight-loss-just-as-successful-with-depression/9906.html

Stepmonster: 8 Reasons Why Stepmothers Are Prone to Depression

By Therese J. Borchard
November 28, 2009

In her insightful book, Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do, author Wednesday Martin, Ph.D. explains why stepmothering is the “perfect storm” for depression. Here are eight risk factors she lists:

Risk Factor 1: Isolation and Alienation

Stepmothers often feel cut off from their husbands over stepfamily issues and different from the moms in their circles of friends who don’t have to deal with the tension and conflict involved in blending families.

Risk Factor 2: Rumination

What happens when you are isolated from the rest of the pack, estranged from the group of moms who are clueless to your issues? You think. A lot. Too much. Way too much. Martin quotes Yale psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, who defines ruminative thinking as “a cycle of rethinking the past, worrying excessively about the future, not taking action, going over and over the same issues, letting concern spread to other issues, until there’s an avalanche of concern and a feeling of being overwhelmed.”

Risk Factor 3: Relational Tendencies

Martin calls the stepfamily a “tinderbox of sorts,” when you consider the combination of the stepmother’s relational tendencies with that of her often less emotional or relational husband and a bunch of resentful stepkids.

Risk Factor 4: Overcompensation and the Need to “Fix It”

Writes Martin: “With the specter of the wicked stepmother floating above our heads, we are under enormous pressure to prove–to the world and to ourselves–that we are not corrupt or sadistic, that we are, in fact, good, even perfect and beyond reproach. A fifty-eight-year-old stepmother named Belinda calls this the “Cinderella-in-reverse syndrome”–the stepmother’s drive to be whiter than white, better than best, and her tendency to overcompensate at her expense.

Risk Factor 5: Double Standards That Disempower

Martin has a great point here. Stepchildren are allowed to dislike and resent their stepmoms, while a stepmom must always show unconditional love for her stepchildren. And the author is right, too, when she argues that stepchildren have social support when they vent about their evil stepmom. The stepmom? Better close the trap.

Read Article in Full: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/28/stepmonster-8-reasons-why-stepmothers-are-prone-to-depression/

A Note To The Severely Depressed: Don’t Try So Hard

By Therese J. Borchard
November 27, 2009

I don’t know about you, but when I’m severely depressed 90 percent of my negative thinking is based on the fact that I am a failure because all my cognitive-behavioral strategies and positive thinking and mindfulness attempts aren’t working. I discussed this with Dr. Smith yesterday and she reminded me, once more, that severe depression can’t be treated in a mind-over-matter way. Her compassionate logic made me review the pages of my forthcoming book, Beyond Blue, where I list the neurological and scientific reasons why.

And I breathed a much-needed sigh of relief.

You deserve one too.

Here’s my passage:

Trying too hard was precisely my problem. It was the mind over matter issue again. In my mind, I was failing because I couldn’t think myself to perfect health. I couldn’t do it all myself.

Dr. Smith salvaged the last crumb of my self-esteem with this compassionate statement:

“Mindful meditation, yoga, and cognitive-behavioral therapy are extremely helpful for people with mild to moderate depression. But they don’t work for people such as yourself who are suicidal or severely depressed.”

Her advice was grounded in neuroscience.

One research study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in particular, used high-definition brain imaging to reveal a breakdown in the emotional processing that impairs the depressive’s ability to suppress negative emotions. In fact, the more effort that depressives put into reframing thoughts–the harder they tried to think positive–the more activation there was in the amygdala, regarded by neurobiologists as a person’s “fear center.” Says Tom Johnstone, Ph.D. the lead study author at the University of Wisconsin:

Healthy individuals putting more cognitive effort into [reframing the content] get a bigger payoff in terms of decreasing activity in the brain’s emotional response centers. In the depressed individuals, you find the exact opposite.

And then Dr. Smith asked me this: if I had been in a terrible automobile accident would I be so hard on myself?

“If you were in a wheelchair with casts on each of your limbs,” she said, “would you beat yourself up for not healing yourself with your thoughts? For not thinking yourself into perfect condition?”

Of course not.


Here, then, are my three words for the severely depressed: Distract, don’t think. And surround yourself with people who truly understand mood disorders until you can believe in yourself again.

At least that’s what my doctor told me.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/27/a-note-to-the-severely-depressed-dont-try-so-hard/

One Soldier’s Suicide Story

By John M Grohol PsyD
November 27, 2009

While we return to our daily lives after the holidays and get into the Christmas spirit, some families will not be celebrating this year. One family is James Weigl’s, a soldier who returned home after deployment, suffered from depression, and ultimately took his own life. Forty-three percent of soldiers who commit suicide do so after returning home from deployment, demonstrating that follow-up care with soldiers after deployment is just as important as mental health treatment while in active duty.

The story is an all-too familiar one. The article in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel details the life of James Weigl, his active duty tour, return home, and his decline into depression. It’s a lengthy article, but it gives you an idea of how diverse the problems are that soldiers grapple with. It also details some of the hopefully-past problems the Army has in properly screening for mental health concerns earlier, rather than later:

Read Article in Full: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/27/one-soldiers-suicide-story/

Abstract: Agomelatine: A novel pharmacological approach to treating depression

Owen RT.

Medical Information Department, Prous Science, Barcelona, Spain.

Agomelatine is a melatonin analogue which represents a novel class of antidepressants. It acts as an agonist at melatonin MT1 and MT2 receptors and as a specific antagonist at 5-HT2C receptors. It is rapidly absorbed orally and mainly metabolized via CYP1A2 hepatic isoenzymes, has no active metabolites and an elimination half-life of 1-2 hours.

Short-term trials (6-8 weeks) have confirmed the compound’s antidepressant effect in major depressive disorder at doses of 25-50 mg/day. It has comparable antidepressant activity to venlafaxine [Effexor®] (75-150 mg/day) and in one trial, showed statistical superiority to sertraline [Zoloft®] 50-100 mg/day. In long-term studies agomelatine was superior to placebo for relapse prevention at 10 months and treatment adherence rates were higher than with venlafaxine and sertraline over 6 months.

The drug has anxiolytic properties and a beneficial effect on sleep without affecting rapid eye movement (REM) activity.

Although agomelatine is generally well tolerated with low adverse event discontinuation rates, it currently requires monitoring of liver function because a small number of patients had raised liver enzyme activities in the trial program.

The compound has fewer effects on sexual function than venlafaxine and, unlike paroxetine [Paxil®], it causes minimal discontinuation symptoms upon abrupt withdrawal.

Agomelatine is currently being investigated for other indications such as seasonal affective disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar depression.


Copyright 2009 Prous Science

Abstract: Diagnosis of multiple anxiety disorders predicts the concurrent comorbidity of major depressive disorder

Miyazaki M, Aihide Yoshino A, Nomura S.

Department of Psychiatry, National Defense Medical College, Saitama 359-8513, Japan

Purpose: It has been established that a single anxiety disorder (AD) is more likely to be comorbid with other ADs as well as major depressive disorder (MDD). However, little is known about the comorbidity risks of MDD in patients with double or multiple ADs in comparison with those with a single AD. In this study, we estimated the comorbidity risks of MDD in patients with multiple ADs.

Method: The subjects were 217 consecutive outpatients with any ADs who were comprehensively diagnosed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview. The comorbidity rates of MDD in subjects with 2 or more ADs were compared with those in subjects with a single AD.

Results: The comorbidity rates of MDD in subjects with a single AD (n = 119), 2 ADs (n = 75), and 3 or more ADs (n = 23) were 20.1%, 45.3%, and 87.0%, respectively. The relative risks of the comorbidity of MDD in subjects with 2 and with 3 or more ADs compared with those with a single AD were 3.3 (95% confidence interval, 1.7-6.3) and 26.4 (95% confidence interval, 8.2-118.7), respectively. Generalized anxiety disorder was associated with a higher comorbidity rate of MDD in subjects with a single AD but not in subjects with 2 or more ADs.

Conclusion: The results showed that the presence of multiple ADs strongly predicts comorbidity with MDD in an exponential manner, suggesting that we should pay attention to the fact that patients with multiple ADs are more likely to be comorbid with MDD.


Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Secret to Good Health – Listen to the Data

November 27, 2009 | By Rachel Danks, PhD

A recent study proved what we all know … that healthy living really does improve long-term health. A lot. The US-based study found that not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight (BMI <30), exercising regularly (3.5 hours/week) and eating a balanced diet (high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, low in meat) reduced the risk of developing chronic disease by nearly 80% over the course of the study. 80%! Just imagine if a new drug promised an 80% reduction in chronic diseases – it would be a wonder drug! People would be beating a path to their primary care providers, demanding a prescription. Shareholders in the manufacturers would never have to work again!


But, such a remedy is readily available to everyone. It costs relatively little. It isn’t particularly complicated to follow. And yet, so few of us choose to take it. Certainly, the advice could hardly be described as exciting or (for most of us) fun, but surely it’s not that difficult to follow, is it? So, why are we so reluctant to do what is so obviously good for us?

One train of thought is that while we understand intellectual arguments perfectly well in our heads, our “gut,” which largely drives our behavior, just doesn’t get it. Our gut instinct is great for getting us out of immediate trouble — the fight or flight mechanism. But it is not so good at assessing long-term risk, and modifying behavior accordingly. It is for this reason that we tend to ignore hard data that should clearly direct our behavior in one way, while we react to risks that are intellectually indefensible.

Read in Full: http://brainblogger.com/2009/11/27/the-secret-to-good-health-%e2%80%93-listen-to-the-data/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GNIFBrainBlogger+%28Brain+Blogger%29

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