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March 2011



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Archive for March 30th, 2011

Happines is ...


Happiness is not about the toys or the tools


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 29, 2011

A new research study of thousands of people with bipolar disorder suggests genetic risk factors may play a prominent role in the decision to attempt suicide.

Knowledge of the genetic factor may lead to better suicide prevention efforts by providing new directions for research and drug development.

Johns Hopkins scientists, reporting in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, identified a small region on chromosome 2 that is associated with increased risk for attempted suicide.

This small region contains four genes, including the ACP1 gene, and the researchers found more than normal levels of the ACP1 protein in the brains of people who had committed suicide.

This protein is thought to influence the same biological pathway as lithium, a medication known to reduce the rate of suicidal behavior.

“We have long believed that genes play a role in what makes the difference between thinking about suicide and actually doing it,” said study leader Virginia L. Willour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Willour and her colleagues studied DNA samples from nearly 2,700 adults with bipolar disorder, 1,201 of them with a history of suicide attempts and 1,497 without.

They found that those with one copy of a genetic variant in the region of chromosome 2 where ACP1 is located were 1.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide, and those with two copies were almost three times as likely.

Willour and her colleagues were able to replicate their findings in another group of samples: This one made up of DNA from more than 3,000 people with bipolar disorder.

Read in Full:


South London Skyline


Article Date: 25 Mar 2011 – 10:00 PDT

Thousands of children and young people could be hit by proposed cuts to mental health services in Lewisham in south London.

Unite, the largest union in the country, said nearly £500,000 of cuts were in the pipeline at Lewisham CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).


Unite hopes to involve local Lewisham MPs – Jim Dowd, Heidi Alexander and Joan Ruddock – in the campaign to stop the cuts which will be ‘a real blow’ to the children young people and families who use the services.


The savings are as a result of funding cuts from a variety of sources, including Lewisham Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Lewisham Borough Council.

Unite said that Lewisham CAMHS has frozen recruitment for vacant posts to achieve savings of £484, 000.

The proposed cuts include the schools’ team; the specialist refugee and asylum seeker outreach worker; and severe cuts to the specialist adolescent service which is one of only two adolescent forensic teams in the country, providing a mental health service to young offenders.

Unite regional officer, Richard Munn said: ‘Yet again, Tory rhetoric that frontline NHS services will be safeguarded is proven to be untrue. Children with mental health problems are some of the most vulnerable members of society, so early intervention is, therefore, vital to reduce the problems in later life.’

‘Without such early interventions, urban areas like Lewisham will deteriorate. Across the borough, other much needed support services for children and young people are being lost or reduced, so collectively this is a poorly thought through review by the management.’

‘Potentially, thousands of children, now and in the future, could be adversely affected by the scale of these cuts.’

Unite members at Lewisham CAMHS are campaigning to raise awareness and avert the impending damage to services.


The cuts include:

– specific funding from the schools’ team being withdrawn
– local authority funding has reduced by £160,000
– the funding for the adolescents’ team has been cut
– the primary care trust has reduced funding by £80,000.
– the rent for Kaleidoscope – the centre in Lewisham which houses all aspects of children’s services – has been increased

Unite The Union


Key Predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 25, 2011

Advances in predicting who may be at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at the heart of two new studies, one that identifies a specific genetic risk factor, and another that describes a new tool for assessing PTSD potential after a traumatic event.

Led by Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator for the Geisinger Center for Health Research, the first study finds that individuals with a certain set of “at risk” genes were at seven times higher risk for PTSD than those without the genes.

“We found that individuals with these ‘at risk’ genes were more likely to develop PTSD, especially when associated with a higher exposure to traumatic events or greater exposure to childhood adversity,” said Boscarino. “They say what doesn’t kill you makes only you stronger, but what we’ve found is that the opposite may actually be the case if you have the PTSD risk genes.”

Boscarino adds that screening individuals for these genetic factors in the future may lead to better post-trauma treatments and genetic counseling related to career options in the military or in the civil services, such as police work or firefighting.

In a related study, Boscarino and his team developed a PTSD prediction tool that can be used in clinical practice after traumatic event exposures.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/25/studies-id-key-predictors-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/24693.html

Free Webinar on Social Media and Relationships, April 4th


By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, has changed relationships forever. Thanks to the Internet, we’ve changed the way we communicate with others, make friends and find romantic partners. These changes have no doubt produced both positive and negative consequences.

Want to learn more about social media’s impact on relationships?

The PBS series This Emotional Life is hosting a free webinar and interactive discussion on this topic next week.

I’m honored to be one of the panelists along with a slew of fantastic experts, including:

  • Therese Borchard, Associate Editor at the award-winning site, Psych Central – the Internet’s largest and oldest independent mental health and psychology network.
  • Kari Henley, Huffington Post blogger, writer, public speaker, and expert in group facilitation.
  • Dr. Elvira G. Aletta, a clinical psychologist working in Amherst, New York; her career includes positions at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan and the Executive Director of the Behavioral Healthcare Network, Inc.
  • Dr. Ryan Howes, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Pasadena, California. Many of his clients focus on relationships, mood disorders, personal growth, and sexual issues.

Interfaith minister and nondenominational wedding officiant Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway will be moderating the webinar. (I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Rev. Laurie Sue before both for Psych Central and for Weightless.)

Please join us for the free webinar on Monday, April 4 at 5:00 p.m. EDT (2:00 p.m. PDT). You can register for it here.

In the meantime, check out these other posts on Psych Central about the Internet’s effect on relationships and other related topics:


Source: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/03/28/free-webinar-on-social-media-and-relationships-april-4th/


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 29th 2011

There is a tendency to associate Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa with adolescent and young adult women. When we come across adults with these eating disorders the presumption is that it began during their teens. While this was true at one time, things have changed rapidly in today’s world. More and more, anorexia and bulimia are beginning during the late thirties, forties and even the sixties. Its accompanied by all the same health hazards as those experienced by younger women. By the way, I am focusing on women because they are the predominant group with these disorders. However, it does afflict a certain number of men. Those statistics you will have to search for elsewhere.

Why would women, ranging in age from their forties to their sixties, suddenly become anorectic or bulimic? It seems counter intuitive that people who are mothers, are aware of the dangers of these disorders, and probably disapproved of their own daughters when they were dieting, allow this to happen to themselves. Yet, hospital emergency rooms and eating disorders centers are seeing increasing numbers of these women and in alarmingly bad physical condition.

Its important to know that this can happen to anyone. What are some of the warning signs to watch out for with regard to yourself and to family and friends?

1. One of the clear signs of danger is the quote, “I want to eat healthy.” People are sincere in wanting to improve their eating habits and thereby achieve greater health. However, included in the comment are intentions to lose weight. There is nothing inherently wrong about wanting to lose weight, especially in light of the fact that many of us gain weight as we age. However, this is what becomes a “slippery slope.” What begins as a diet to lose a few pounds easily slips into a major eating disorder.

Read in Full:



Meet Ricky aka “True Story”, a Rastafarian living in New York City. Devastated after watching his mother pass away, Ricky soon began hearing voices in his head. His addiction has left him on the streets, but his journey is far from over.

Source/View Video:



By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 29, 2011

Emerging research suggests pulling an all-nighter may provide a euphoric feeling to young adults.

Scientists from UC Berkeley and Harvard Medical School studied the brains of healthy young adults and found that their pleasure circuitry got a big boost after a missed night’s sleep.

But that same neural pathway that stimulates feelings of exhilaration, reward and motivation after a sleepless night may also lead to risky behavior, their study suggests.

“When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum. But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions,” said Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study.

The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, underscore the need for people in high-stakes professions and circumstances not to shortchange themselves on sleep, Walker said.

“We need to ensure that people making high-stakes decisions, from medical professionals to airline pilots to new parents, get enough sleep,” Walker said.

“Based on this evidence, I’d be concerned by an emergency room doctor who’s been up for 20 hours straight making rational decisions about my health.”

The body alternates between two main phases of sleep during the night: Rapid Eye Movement (REM), when body and brain activity promote dreams, and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), when the muscles and brain rest. Previous brain studies indicate that these sleep patterns are disrupted in people with mood disorders.

Puzzled as to why so many people with clinical depression feel more positive after a sleepless night — at least temporarily — the researchers used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to study the brains of 27 young adults, half of whom got a good night’s rest and the other half of whom pulled an all-nighter.

Read in Full:



By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 29, 2011

We have all been rejected at one time or another and we have all felt the pain associated with the rebuff. New research proves what we have all felt — that the feelings of social rejection “hurt” in the same manner as that of physical pain.

Researchers from the University of Michigan discovered that the same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are activated during intense experiences of social rejection.

“These results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection hurts,” said University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“On the surface, spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person that you recently experienced an unwanted break-up with may seem to elicit very different types of pain.

“But this research shows that they may be even more similar than initially thought.”

Kross, an assistant professor at the U-M Department of Psychology, conducted the study with U-M colleague Marc Berman, Columbia University’s Walter Mischel and Edward Smith, also affiliated with the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and with Tor Wager of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

While earlier research has shown that the same brain regions support the emotionally distressing feelings that accompany the experience of both physical pain and social rejection, the current study is the first to establish that there is neural overlap between both of these experiences in brain regions activated when people experience painful sensations in their body.

These regions are the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula.

For the study, the researchers recruited 40 people who experienced an unwanted romantic break-up within the past six months, and who indicated that thinking about their break-up experience led them to feel intensely rejected. Each participant completed two tasks in the study—one related to their feelings of rejection and the other to sensations of physical pain.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/29/social-rejection-hurts-like-physical-pain/24790.html

New Israeli film, which was recognized at Berlin Festival, is so good that it will be of interest to any moviegoer who likes ambitious, serious films.

The Flood (Mabul) is a new Israeli film, which won a Special Mention at the Berlin Festival, that is moving, gracefully made, well written and well acted on a grim subject: the sudden return of an autistic adolescent, who has spent more than a decade in an institution, to his troubled family.

It is so good that it will be of interest to any moviegoer who likes ambitious and serious films, although the casual viewer may find its honesty about how disability can exacerbate family conflict offputting.

But it is emphatically not what I like to call Prozac cinema – movies that are so pointlessly downbeat that you need an antidepressant to get out of your seat afterwards. That’s essentially because director/co-screenwriter Guy Nattiv has created realistic characters who have quirks, flaws and contradictions that will draw you into their lives and their story. I particularly applaud Nattiv and his co-writer Noa Berman-Herzberg for the dialogue they have written for Yoni (Yoav Rotman), a 13-year-old. The boy speaks to his parents with a weary mix of resentment and sarcasm, which is pitch perfect and will strike a chord with anyone who has ever had a chat with an adolescent (or who remembers what it was like to be one).

Michael Moshonov won an Ophir Award for his performance as Tomer, the older teen whose return to his family home sets the story in motion. Even before he arrives on the scene, his presence hovers over the family, complicating everyone’s lives. In some ways, the Roshkos are typical. They live on a moshav and struggle to pay their bills. The parents’ marriage has disintegrated, but due to inertia and lack of money, they haven’t technically split up, although Gidi (Tzachi Grad) sleeps on the couch. He is a crop-duster pilot whose license has been suspended because he was caught smoking pot on the job.

Miri (Ronit Elkabetz) is a kindergarten teacher who likes to do flamenco dances with her charges and is having a fling with the father of one of her pupils.

The focus of the film is their brilliant son, Yoni, who makes pocket money selling homework he has done to the school bullies.

Undersized, Yoni is preparing for his bar mitzva, with justified anxiety about whether his parents can pay the rabbi for his lessons. He is exasperated by his parents but tolerates them. Then suddenly, it turns out that the institution where Tomer has lived is closing down.

Tomer is no Rain Man – he is low functioning, nearly non-verbal and heavily medicated, spending all his time staring at bugs he has collected. He can’t be left alone for a minute, and no one has any idea how to handle him. His return brings to the surface tension between the parents about the circumstances under which Tomer was sent to the institution. For Yoni, this bizarre brother is just one more strike against him. But a tenuous and credible bond develops between the brothers, as Yoni notices that Tomer, who can repeat any sound or word he hears, quickly learns Yoni’s entire bar mitzva Torah portion after hearing it once in a recorded version. Not coincidentally, the portion is about Noah’s ark, the flood and the corruption of the earth. This symbolism could seem heavy handed, but somehow Nattiv pulls it off.

Critics are not supposed to prejudge the movies they review but we are human, and I have to admit I was dreading this film.

That’s because I have an autistic adolescent son and am generally appalled by the inaccurate treatment of autism in movies. But here, the director has barely sanitized the subject at all: This is as close to the truth as you can possibly put on film. It joins the Australian movie The Black Balloon, which also tells the story of two siblings, one autistic and one not, as the best film I’ve seen that deals with a low-functioning autistic person (not a savant like the Dustin Hoffman character in Rain Man, who speaks in full sentences and has genius abilities in many areas). Sadly, this film also tells an unfortunate Israeli truth: Many families receive little or no support – financial, psychiatric or social — that would enable them to care for their autistic children well at home.

Nattiv’s first feature film, Strangers, showed potential, and in The Flood, he has more than delivered on that promise.