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February 2011



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Archive for February 3rd, 2011

Finding Calm

Peter Strong, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 1st 2011

Panic disorder affects between 3 and 6 million Americans, and is twice as common in women. We all experience panic at some time in our lives, but those suffering from panic disorder experience panic attacks on a daily basis, and this form of anxiety can severely reduce the quality of life, making even simple activities like grocery shopping unmanageable. In its most severe form this crippling form of anxiety can lead to agoraphobia, a very intense fear of going beyond the safety zone of one’s own home. In such severe cases, it is wise to seek medical help.

One of the characteristics of panic anxiety is the intense fear of the panic attack itself. Sufferers are deathly afraid of the next panic attack and the sense of losing control, and the social embarrassment that that will bring. Some times we feel afraid that the core anxiety is so powerful that it will literally suck us in permanently into a state of madness. Most panic anxiety sufferers recognize that fear of fear is the main problem that they have to deal with and the main source of their emotional suffering.

Read in Full: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=41896&cn=1

Cyclone Yasi

Article Date: 03 Feb 2011 – 0:00 PST

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has urged those facing cyclone threats not to neglect psychological preparations when taking safety measures to ready themselves for the threat of natural disaster.

Professor Kevin Ronan, chair of the APS Disaster Reference Group, said that adequate physical and psychological preparation was crucial if those exposed to cyclones were to protect themselves and other family members, especially children.

“Being psychologically prepared helps us to make practical arrangements because we are able to deal with the anxiety that those preparations can bring and remain effective,” he said.

“It also helps us cope better when disaster strikes, because, when the time comes, we have strategies to manage our feelings of fear or anxiety and unhelpful thoughts, which will ensure we can stay calm and focus on our disaster plan.”

He said psychological preparation involved people running through likely disaster scenarios, imagining how they might feel and developing strategies to calm themselves down and talk themselves through a disaster event.

The APS has released a set of tips on psychological preparation for those in cyclone-prone communities, which illustrates how three simple steps could help those facing an emergency situation to remain focused and confident so that they can take the necessary practical tasks to protect themselves and others.

Waiting for the Storm, Yasi

The acronym ‘AIM’ incorporates the three steps for being psychologically prepared:

– Anticipate that the situation will be stressful – reflect on how you might feel facing a cyclone (for instance, the sounds of the wind, the sight of flying debris, the potential terror of this unknown situation). Think about how this will make you feel and the strategies you might need to move through fear and anxiety to enact your disaster plan.

– Identify physical changes related to anxiety (upset stomach, shortness of breath, fast heart beat) and any frightening thoughts (I can’t cope, I am scared, I don’t know what to do, I am not going to make it).

– Manage your responses using controlled breathing (breathe consciously and slowly to help yourself relax) and ‘self-talk’ involving reassuring thoughts (I can do this, I know what to do, I have a disaster plan).

“We urge communities vulnerable to cyclones to make adequate psychological preparations, and especially to help their children prepare psychologically, and we urge the media and local government to support communities to do this by providing adequate information and assistance,” Professor Ronan said.

The APS has a wide range of resources available on its website – for communities preparing for, or recovering from, a natural disaster including a new brochure, Preparing children for the threat of cyclones.

Yasi over Australia

Australian Psychological Society (APS)



Article Date: 03 Feb 2011 – 3:00 PST

In a major advance for schizophrenia research, an international team of scientists, led by Jonathan Sebat, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has identified a gene mutation strongly linked to the brain disorder – and a signaling pathway that may be treatable with existing compounds.

The work poses significant and immediate implications for neurobiology and the treatment of schizophrenia because the gene identified by the researchers is an especially attractive target for drug development.

“In some ways, this is the kind of gene that the pharmaceutical industry has been waiting for,” said Sebat, who is also chief of the Beyster Center for Molecular Genomics of Neuropsychiatric Diseases and a member of the Institute for Genomic Medicine, both at UC San Diego. “Its activity can be modulated by synthetic peptides; and some have already been created.”

The findings are published in the Feb. 3, 2011 online issue of the journal Nature.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder, with symptoms that include hallucinations, delusions and thought disorders. It is believed to be caused by environmental and genetic factors, most notably the latter: the illness occurs in 1 percent of the general population, or 10 percent of people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent or sibling.

In previous work, Sebat and collaborator Mary-Claire King, a professor of medical genetics at the University of Washington, discovered that rare mutations at many locations in the human genome resulted in significantly higher risk of schizophrenia. These mutations consisted of copy number variants or CNVs – a type of genetic variation in which the number of copies of a gene differs between individuals. The findings were the first conclusive evidence that rare mutations can cause schizophrenia, but they did not identify the specific genes involved.

The latest study goes much further. Researchers scanned for CNVs in the genomes of 8,290 individuals with diagnosed cases of schizophrenia and 7,431 healthy controls. “We found very strong links to multiple sites in the genome,” said Sebat. “Some had been picked up before in earlier studies, but we uncovered a very important new finding: duplications at the tip of chromosome 7q were detected in individuals with schizophrenia at a rate14 times higher than in healthy individuals. These CNVs impact a gene that is important for brain development – the neuropeptide receptor VIPR2.”

Formally known as the Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide Receptor 2, VIPR2 is expressed in the nervous system, including in the brain, blood vessels and gastrointestinal tract. Previous studies have shown that VIPR2 helps to regulate the formation and activity of neurons in the brain. In mice, VIPR2 also has been found to play important roles in behavioral processes, including learning and timing of daily activity.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215535.php

Van Gogh

By Bill George, MA Cantab

I was very nervous when my editorial about schizophrenia — there we go, a word I ought not to be using — appeared Open Access online in the December 2010 Journal of Mental Health (published by Informa Healthcare, New York). It contains personal details which it is not customary to reveal. Having got over that I had more anxiety when the printed journal was delayed by a month for unknown reasons. Now that it’s out I am calm again.

Why should I not be using the ‘S’ word? What’s in a name?

The answer is that it has acquired a stigma in the course of a hundred years owing to the small minority of people with our condition who are violent and attack or kill other people.

Furthermore, according to Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and an invited member of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM 5 Psychotic Disorders Work Group, the diagnosis may itself be a source of stigma. It is mystifying and confusing: people with schizophrenia do not have a split personality; the condition does not, according to Jim, exist as a distinct illness; it is a ragbag of symptoms such that calling it anything other than a syndrome is totally misleading.

So what name are the Work Group going to recommend to the APA? Probably “psychotic syndrome.” Now we, as consumers — for I am one — do not find that appealing. It is pathological. “I am a psycho” sounds weird.

What are the alternatives? It could be called “the Bleuler syndrome” after the Swiss professor of psychiatry who put forward the word schizophrenia in 1908 to replace the previously stigmatized term dementia praecox, or premature senility.

Another suggestion is made by Anoiksis, the Dutch consumer association of which I am a member: Dysfunctional Perception Syndrome (DPS). But I find the dysfunctional bit negative and tend to shorten it to Perception Syndrome. After all the medical term syndrome already implies an illness or disorder of some kind.

Also, to me, and here I am being disloyal to my own Anoiksis club, the word perception suggests sense data – seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, … and does not capture the characteristic of a hallucination, let alone a delusion or any of the other, sometimes negative, symptoms.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/02/02/does-schizophrenia-need-a-new-name/


Bill White Updated: Feb 3rd 2011

Tens of millions worldwide endure it. 80% have considered suicide. And the suicide completion rate is double that of major depressive disorder. What emotional/mental health disorder am I talking about? Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Imagine being consumed – beaten down – by the fact that you have some sort of horrible defect in your physical appearance. And you’re sure it’ll have others view you as repulsive.

Of course, the defect(s) is perceived – others don’t notice.

What Is BDD?

Very simply, BDD is a condition characterized by over-the-top preoccupation with an imaginary physical defect. And the preoccupation is of such magnitude that one’s routine life-functioning is turned upside down. BDD typically presents in adolescence and early adulthood. It strikes women and men equally.

Read in Full: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=41903&cn=46

Scientists look to stem cells to mend broken hearts

Tuesday, February 1 09:01 am

Reuters Kate Kelland

Britain’s leading heart charity launched a 50 million pound ($80 million) research project on Tuesday into the potential of stem cells to regenerate heart tissue and “mend broken hearts”.

Scientists leading the work for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said they hope that within the next decade they may have experimental drugs in development that would give certain kinds of cells in the heart the ability to regenerate tissue, repair damage and therefore combat heart failure.

The ability of heart tissue to regenerate already occurs in some animals, such as zebrafish, which can regrow portions of their own hearts if they are damaged.

At a briefing in London to launch a “mending broken hearts” fundraising campaign, scientists said research into stem cells and developmental biology may in future make this possible in people too.

“Scientifically, mending human hearts is an achievable goal and we really could make recovering from a heart attack as simple as getting over a broken leg,” said Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF.

Scientists in the United States reported last year that they had been able to turn structural heart cells into beating cells by identifying genes that, in a developing embryo, turn an immature cell into a beating heart cell or cardiomyocyte.

One of the British teams, led by Professor Paul Riley of the Institute of Child Health at University College London (UCL) has already found a natural protein, called thymosin beta 4, that plays a role in developing heart tissue.

He said his researchers had already had some success in using this protein to “wake up” cells known as epicardial cells in mice with damaged hearts.

“We hope to find similar molecules or drug-like compounds that might be able to stimulate these cells further,” he told reporters at the briefing.

Another team of researchers at Imperial College London will be looking at a group of rare latent stem cells that can be harvested and then grown in the laboratory.

These cells are highly active in developing hearts and can grow into new functioning tissue, but something in them gets switched off soon after humans are born, meaning that the heart is no longer able to repair any damage, said Professor Michael Schneider, who leads this team.

His researchers will be trying to find ways of re-activating the cells in a controlled and safe way, so that they are able to repair damaged heart tissue but will not grow out of control.

“One strategy would be to give a drug that would activate this kind of process,” he said, adding that this “requires more knowledge about what signals trigger these cells”.

Weissberg said if the research was as successful as they hoped, it could one day reduce or even eliminate the need for heart transplants for patients whose hearts are damaged. (Editing by Steve Addison)

Source: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/22/20110201/tsc-life-us-heart-stemcells-011ccfa.html

Heart attack symptoms in men and women

Symptoms the same for both, study finds

The symptoms of a heart attack is men and women are very similar, a new study has found.

“Both the media and some patient educational materials frequently suggest that women experience symptoms of a heart attack very differently from men,” said Martha Mackay from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, who led the study. “These findings suggest that this is simply not the case.”

In the study, scientists monitored the symptoms of 305 patients undergoing angioplasty – a procedure which involves inserting and inflating a balloon into narrowed arteries to expand them. This briefly causes symptoms in the patient simililar to those experienced during a heart attack.

Researchers found no difference in the symptoms reported by men and women, including rates of chest discomfort and ‘typical’ signs such as arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, indigestion-like symptoms, and clammy skin.

While both women and men experienced typical or non-typical symptoms, women were, however, more likely to report throat, jaw and neck discomfort than men.

“Clear educational messages need to be crafted to ensure that both women and healthcare professionals realize the classic symptoms are equally common in men and women”, Ms MacKay said.

She added that suspected heart disease patients should be questioned more thoroughly about their symptoms by doctors.

Heart attack warning signs (women and men)


This includes:

  • *Sudden discomfort or pain that does not go away with rest
  • *Pain that may be in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or back
  • *Pain that may feel like burning, squeezing, heaviness, tightness or pressure
  • *In women, pain may be more vague
  • *Chest pain or discomfort that is brought on with exertion and goes away with rest

Shortness of breath

  • *Difficulty breathing


  • *Indigestion
  • *Vomiting


  • *Cool, clammy skin


  • *Anxiety
  • *Denial

Heart Your Heart

Healthy heart quiz

Heart disease kills more people in the UK than any other cause. Take our quiz to find out if you know what puts you at risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

Take the Quiz: http://uk.health.lifestyle.yahoo.net/quiz_run.aspx?q=heart-health-quiz

Heart Month

National Heart Month

National Heart Month is our annual campaign to increase awareness of heart and circulatory disease and to raise funds for our research, prevention and care services.

This year, we launched the BEAT, the first ever national heart health code and lifestyle check:

  • Be Active
  • Eat Healthily
  • Avoid Smoking
  • Take the lifestyle check

The BEAT encourages people to take steps to improve their own heart health by taking the free online lifestyle check.

During National Heart Month, we also ask people to be a part of Red for Heart and help raise vital funds for our work. You can join National Wear Red Day on Friday 25 February 2011 or choose your own event – anything goes as long as it’s red!

There are lots of other ways individuals and organisations can support National Heart Month, from holding your own event to helping us promote the campaign in your workplace, school, university or wherever you can.

To get involved you can pre-order our free fundraising kit today.

To find out more and get involved, please email red@bhf.org.uk or call 0845 241 0976.


British Heart Foundation: