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May 2011



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Archive for May 18th, 2011

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 17, 2011

Emerging research suggests childhood physical abuse increases the chance of dysfunctional physical disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and chemical sensitivities among women.

“Women who reported they had been physically abused as children have twice the odds of chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities, and 65 percent higher odds of fibromyalgia,” said lead investigator Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D.

“These findings persisted even after controlling for potentially confounding factors such as other adverse childhood experiences, age, race, mental health and adult socioeconomic status.”

The research by Fuller-Thompson and colleagues from the University of Toronto will be published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.

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Article Date: 17 May 2011 – 5:00 PDT

Giving pedometers to patients screened for depression, HealthPartners Medical Group (HPMG) is prescribing walking or exercise in addition to medication and/or therapy as an effective tool in helping patients with depression.

It is estimated that 19 million Americans are living with depression, and three-quarters of patients with severe depression first seek help through their primary care clinic. The average person waits nearly a decade before seeking treatment for mental illnesses.

Research on depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help improve mental health. Exercise leads to changes in some of the same neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood) targeted by antidepressant medications used to treat both depression and anxiety disorders. Exercise can be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may also include therapy and medication.

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Further Articles

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor

Although perfectionism undoubtedly brings me suffering and pain, I’ve come to appreciate the snobby part of my personality because it also bear gifts, especially over time.

For the last three years, perfectionism has placed me in an okay spot in a terrible economy. Had I not invested so many hours into networking and writing blogs the last five or so years, sometimes on top of full-time employment and other responsibilities, I would not have a job right now. And spending a night or two recently with friends of friends I knew back in high school made me proud of all the therapy and recovery I have done since graduating.

Had I not held myself to a high standard back then, I wouldn’t have quit drinking at the age of 18, and may still be hitting the bars at night.

Perfectionism can even be noble when we are able to turn the neurosis into acts of service, where we help others in similar pain.

However, the same energy that drives me to get up early in the morning and swim so that my brain operates with fewer hiccups than it would without the workout is also the fuel that wraps my brain cells in an OCD loop, in which I have trouble letting go of the decision I made last week, or a mistake I made six years ago, or something in the future that I’m preparing for.

I think the line that determines “bad” perfectionism from “good” perfectionism is drawn with how well you are able to function despite the loud conversation in your head. If the chatty dialogue is so obnoxious that it’s hard for me to get anything done, then I have myself a case of debilitating OCD. However, if the perfectionism and fear of failure propels me to chart a course for recovery (exercise in the morning, therapy on Thursday, a half-hour meditation every day), or if it pushes me to map out an outline for a work project so that I’m not so stressed when I sit down to tackle the thing … it becomes my ally.

In her book, Better By Mistake, author Alina Tugend offers a helpful distinction between good perfectionism and bad perfectionism:

Being a perfectionist isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it may mean you have very high standards and you often meet those standards. Those who have perfectionist tendencies without having those tendencies rule — or ruin — their lives are what psychiatrists call “adaptive” perfectionists. They find it very important to do certain things in the right way, but this need doesn’t hinder their lives and can actually help them achieve great success….

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By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 17, 2011

Short-term digestive problems in early life may lead to later depression and anxiety, according to researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine.  The results show that some gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, may be the cause, rather than the result, of certain psychological conditions.

“A lot of research has focused on understanding how the mind can influence the body,” said lead author Pankaj Pasricha, M.D., professor and chief of gastroenterology and hepatology.

“But this study suggests that it can be the other way around. Gastric irritation during the first few days of life may reset the brain into a permanently depressed state.”

Researchers believe the effects may depend on when the irritation occurs during development as well as the genetic makeup of the affected person, since not all stomach problems lead to mental problems. In particular, it seems the viscera, or internal organs, are especially vulnerable early in development.

Pasricha, along with lead researcher Liansheng Liu, collaborated with investigators from the University of California-San Francisco and the University of Kansas on the study.

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of individuals have functional dyspepsia — a persistent or recurring pain in the upper abdomen.

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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 16, 2011

Emerging research suggests a DNA region on chromosome 3 is related to depression.

Two independent studies, one from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the other from King’s College London, identify a DNA region containing up to 90 genes. Both studies are published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Major depression affects approximately 20 percent of people at some point during their lives, and family studies have long suggested that depression risk is influenced by genetics.

“What’s remarkable is that both groups found exactly the same region in two separate studies,” said senior investigator Pamela A. F. Madden, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Washington University. “We were working independently and not collaborating on any level, but as we looked for ways to replicate our findings, the group in London contacted us to say, ‘We have the same linkage peak, and it’s significant.”

Madden and the other researchers believe it is likely that many genes are involved in depression. While the new findings won’t benefit patients immediately, the discovery is an important step toward understanding what may be happening at the genetic and molecular levels, she says.

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Close up of K2

Article Date: 18 May 2011 – 3:00 PDT

Case studies indicate the recreational use of synthetic cannabis may lead to psychosis that can last for days or months in some cases, according to a study at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in Hawaii.

Researchers at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego followed ten patients hospitalized for psychosis apparently induced by the use of synthetic cannabis, commonly known as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn.” These are plant material coated with varying combinations of synthetic cannabinoids, which act on the body in a similar way to chemicals found in cannabis. The compounds have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption and little is known about their safety.

The ten patients studied ranged in age from 21 to 25 years old and after use of “Spice” experienced ongoing psychotic symptoms, including auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions, odd or flat affect, thought blocking, disorganized speech, thoughts of suicide, insomnia, slowed reaction times, agitation and anxiety. Psychotic symptoms generally resolved between five and eight days after admission, but in some cases continued three months or longer.

The research was scheduled for presentation at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the American Psychiatric Association 164th Annual Meeting, which runs May 14-18 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

American Psychiatric Association


Increasing Mental Health Awareness: Too Much of a Good Thing?

By John M Grohol PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Today is the American Psychological Association’s “Blog Party” in recognition of May being mental health month. The marketing effort behind designating a specific month a time to recognize and help increase awareness of a certain disease, disorder or condition is intended to help people learn more about various medical and mental health concerns.

But a few weeks ago, physician H. Gilbert Welch wrote an op-ed in the LA Times that questioned whether the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Have we become a nation of people who will get diagnosed for all sorts of sub-clinical problems at the drop of a hat?

Indeed, I think there is a very real danger of that becoming the case. And nowhere is that more likely than in mental health.

Dr. Ron Pies talked about some of these same issues in his article a year and a half ago, Is Grief a Mental Disorder? No, But it May Become One! We, as a society, are in danger of medicalizing and turning everyday human experiences into disorders and diseases needing treatment.

Mental health concerns are at greater risk than most medical diseases because the signs and symptoms of mental disorders are almost always behavioral and self-reported in nature. You have depression when you self-report your symptoms meet the fairly arbitrary line drawn in the sand by mental health experts.

That line, now pretty clearly delineated by meeting a specific number of criteria for a particular disorder, is about to get a lot fuzzier. In the latest proposed revision of the reference book used to diagnose mental disorders — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM) — there is a movement to make virtually all major mental disorders diagnosable on a spectrum.

For an alternative view, check out John Gever’s article, Does the DSM-5 medicalize normal behavior?.

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Related Articles

“May is Mental Health Month”



“APA Mental Health Blog Party Roundup”





Self-Advocacy Organizations Issue New Report on Home and Community Based Services Funding

Joint ASAN-SABE-NYLN Report Aims to Influence Upcoming CMS Regulation


WASHINGTON, DC (May 18th, 2011) – Independent living, freedom and choice – all were focused on in a report developed by a partnership between the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), and the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) and funded by the federal government’s Administration on Developmental Disabilities. The report – entitled “Keeping the Promise of Community” – is intended to define the meaning of community living, just as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is accepting public comment on a new rulemaking which would put in place standards for how Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) funds are utilized. As of 2009, Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers accounted for $33.5 billion in Medicaid long term care spending, approximately three-fourth of which was spent on persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

While the original purpose of HCBS funds was for people with disabilities to live comfortably in “home-like environments while receiving care that was designed for their specific wants and needs”, the reality of the use is frequently far from the definition. Many experience institution-like living conditions, arbitrary restrictions on personal freedoms, and feel almost completely cut off from society, despite the clear intent of HCBS funding to support people in their communities. To address this, CMS solicited public comment earlier this year on setting minimum quality standards HCBS providers must meet. This new report, issued by the country’s three leading self-advocacy groups in the world of intellectual and developmental disabilities, aims to inform CMS’ decision-making and the disability community’s public comments.

“Ensuring the integrity of Home and Community Based Services is a crucial component of protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities,” said ASAN President Ari Ne’eman, “We hope this joint ASAN-SABE-NYLN document will help guide CMS on what people with disabilities ourselves want and – just as important – don’t want in our service-provision.”


The ASAN-SABE-NYLN report was compiled through interviews with hundreds of self-advocates across the country and a summit attended by national leaders with intellectual and developmental disabilities of all kinds. The report reflects the views and experiences of a wide variety of different self-advocates, including many with significant communication and cognitive challenges, and supports the language of CMS’ proposed rulemaking. In addition, the report also identifies ways in which CMS can and should go further in defining community, by laying out five dimensions of community living: a) physical size and structure, b) rights and self-determination, c) qualities and attitudes of providers, d) access to community life; and e) support and access needs. CMS is accepting public comment on the rulemaking until June 14th. ASAN, SABE and NYLN have made the report publicly available to help inform public comment submissions from the disability advocacy community.

CMS’ proposed rulemaking requires that entities receiving HCBS funds must be “integrated in the community; must not be located in a building that is also a publicly or privately operated facility that provides institutional treatment or custodial care; must not be located in a building on the grounds of, or immediately adjacent to, a public institution; or, must not be a housing complex designed expressly around an individual’s diagnosis or disability, as determined by the Secretary.” Features that would make an environment institution-like “may include regimented meal and sleep times, limitations on visitors, lack of privacy and other attributes that limit individual’s ability to engage freely in the community.”

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is the nation’s leading advocacy organization run entirely by and for Autistic adults and youth. ASAN’s supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, family members, professionals, educators and friends. ASAN was created to provide support and services to individuals on the autism spectrum while working to change public perception and combat misinformation by educating communities about persons on the autism spectrum. The organization’s activities include public policy advocacy, community engagement to encourage inclusion and respect for neurodiversity, quality of life oriented research and the development of Autistic cultural activities and other opportunities for Autistic people to engage with others on the spectrum.



Proposed CMS rulemaking

Public release date: 17-May-2011

Advancements over the last 10 years in understanding intellectual disability (ID, formerly mental retardation), have led to the once-unimaginable possibility that ID may be treatable, a review of more than 100 studies on the topic has concluded. It appears in ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Aileen Healy and colleagues explain that people long have viewed intellectual disability as permanent and untreatable, with medical care focusing on relieving some of the symptoms rather than correcting the underlying causes. That includes Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. FXS occurs in an array of forms, ranging from mild learning disabilities to more severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is the most common known cause of autism or autistic-like behaviors.

Scientists are now beginning to get a handle on the changes that happen to cells and molecules in the body because of a mutation in the Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 gene. That gene contains instructions for making a key protein vital for nerve function in the brain, and does not work properly in FXS. With a better understanding of the biological effects of the mutation, the scientists say that treatments for FXS and similar disorders now seem possible. In addition, several drugs tested in humans seem promising. “In conclusion, the recent clinical introduction of multiple compounds representing a variety of mechanistic approaches to the disorder represents an exciting opportunity to realize the mission of implementing effective treatments of ID,” say the researchers.



Genetic Mutations Linked to Autistic Spectrum Disorders

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 17, 2011

A new research study discovers several sporadic genetic mutations in children with autistic spectrum disorder.


University of Washington researchers used new molecular biology techniques to discover the mutations. The research is published online in the journal Nature Genetics.

Dr. Brian O’Roak and colleagues analyzed the genetic makeup of 20 individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their parents.

Autism spectrum disorders encompass a range of social impairments in language, communicating and interacting with others, repetitive behaviors, and engrossing fascinations. The condition can be mildly to severely disabling.

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Sunday, May 15 2011, 04:44 BST

By Jennifer Still, Entertainment Reporter

James Durbin has insisted that he is not embarrassed about suffering from both Asperger’s and Tourette’s syndrome.

The former American Idol contestant, who exited the competition in fourth place last week, revealed that he no longer takes medication to treat the conditions and instead prefers to deal with the symptoms naturally.

“When I was a kid I took medication but when I was 16 I just decided that I’m not going to let a man-made substance control me,” he told reporters following his elimination.

“God made me a certain way and I’m perfect in his eyes so I’m just going to run with it and be me. I’ve been looked at funny, but who cares? I don’t care. I’m different, you know. I’m a freak. But different is the new normal – if you’re not different, you’re not in.”

Durbin also credited the public theatre group Kids On Broadway with helping him to overcome much of his “social awkwardness”, by which he felt controlled for many years.

“One of the things that comes along with Asperger’s syndrome is social awkwardness and I really had a lot of it starting out. But me being in that organisation and really just being around people constantly really helped with that,” he recalled.

“So from one performance to the next was a complete 360 of my attitude and just everything, how I presented myself… I was able to talk to people and hold a conversation and not get emotional before performances.”