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September 2011



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Archive for September 16th, 2011

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


Researchers have identified a genetic connection to optimism, self-esteem and perceived control over one’s life – factors that are critical for coping with stress and depression.


While researchers are confident they found a genetic connection to psychological states, they point out that while genes may predict behavior, they do not determine it. That is, environmental factors, family, friends and even other genes all interact to determine behavior.


In the current investigation, researchers were surprised when they pinpointed this particular gene.


“I have been looking for this gene for a few years, and it is not the gene I expected,” said Dr. Shelley E. Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the new research. “I knew there had to be a gene for these psychological resources.”


The research is currently published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


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By | Editor Shaheen E Lakhan


While Toni Collette may have pulled off making dissociative identity disorder (DID) look glamorous and sexy in the recently cancelled Showtime series United States of Tara, the reality of this disorder is much more complex. As fun as it is to watch an actress play five different parts in one show, for people with DID, the shifting is no fun at all.


One thing the show did get right is the fact that most people with DID develop it as a response to trauma, especially early childhood abuse from a parent or caregiver; studies have consistently reported this in 95-98% of the cases. People develop this disorder in order to distance themselves from the traumatic experience, by way of creating other personalities. While momentary dissociation is a technique that normal people use to cope with traumatic situations; in the case of people with DID, this dissociation goes beyond the moment, creating a whole new persona that has not been affected by the abuse, as an escape mechanism.


The prevalence of DID in the general population has been established at 1%, making it far more common than popular belief would have it. Nevertheless, the allure of the “exotic” continues to surround this condition, for example, because hypnosis is commonly used to gain access to the alters, as the different personalities are called. A scientifically accepted technique, hypnosis still remains, in the public mind, a practice bordering the world of the occult, found more at home in magic show than in the therapist´s office.


Perhaps because of its assumed rarity, it is the diagnosis of DID that poses one of the biggest problems. In 1993, a Dutch study of 71 DID patients established that:


Patients had spent an average of 8.2 years in the mental health system prior to correct diagnosis. Patients presented with many different symptoms and frequently received other psychiatric or neurological diagnoses.

Over the years, studies carried out in other parts of the world have yielded similar results, raising awareness about DID and the methods that could be used to identify it, separating it from other disorders, some of which can sometimes be comorbid with it, thus further complicating an effective diagnosis.


According to DSM IV, DID can be diagnosed whenever there is a coexistence of:


  • *The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).
  • *At least two of these identity or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.
  • *Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness and not due to the direct effects of a substance (e.g. blackouts or chaotic behaviour during alcohol intoxication) or a general medical condition (e.g. complex partial seizures).


While some alters can be harmless, a study on DID and suicidality found a strong correlation between the disorder and repeated suicide attempts, as well as the risk of causing harm to others. As the DID patient does not control the alters, this presents a great danger. In fact, DID patients have often been involved in crime investigations, and North American law has even recognized the right of the different personalities to have different attorneys, outlining a plot fit for the ultimate trial film from Hollywood. Courts have also been known to take the testimonies of the different alters as if they were actually different people, especially in cases in which one of the “bad” alters has committed a crime that neither the patient´s main personality nor the other alters have a recollection of.


Many times, people have ended up going to jail for crimes committed by one of their alters. Even today, with all the developments and research carried out by the scientific community, it seems that DID remains as mysterious as ever, and people continue to suffer from this disorder without even being aware of it, all over the world.


Read More …



“Dissociative Experiences Scale”


An Introduction to Dissociative Disorders (and Multiple Personality Disorder):


Dissociative Identity Disorder Forum:


Myth Busting and Dissociative Identity Disorder”:


“DID in Popular Culture:


Movie with D.I.D. twist

The 2010 movie The Ward depicts a young institutionalized woman who, while trying to escape from the institution and a resident killer ghost, finds that all the other killed patients and the ghost are alternative personalities she created in order to deal with a violent abduction in her childhood.


Sybil Movie Poster

SybilSybil is a 1976 movie which portrays the life of a woman who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) / Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).


Sybil tells the story of Sybil Dorsett (played by Sally Field), a woman who as been severely abused by her mother and who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) / Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In the movie she recounts with her psychologist Dr. Wilbur (played by Joanne Woodward) her experiences as a child and the different personalities she has developed. Sybil was based on a book by Flora Rheta Schreiber.

Source: http://www.outofthefog.net/Movies/Sybil.html


Raising Cain Poster

View Image

A 1967 Indian Bollywood film directed by Satyen Bose. The leading actress, Nargis, won the distinguished National Film Award for Best Actress for her role as Varuna, a married woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder. By day, she is a typical Hindi homemaker, whilst at night she calls herself Peggy and walks the streets of Calcutta. 


ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2011) — An extreme form of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) takes a heavy toll on thousands of women each year and can lead to hospitalization and pregnancy termination. But new research suggests pregnant women are not the only victims.


A joint study by UCLA and the University of Southern California has found that children whose mothers suffered from HG while carrying them were 3.6 times more likely to suffer from anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression in adulthood than individuals whose mothers did not have the condition. HG sends some 285,000 women to the hospital in the U.S. each year.


The study is published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.


Prior studies have found that children of women who experience nausea persisting beyond the first trimester of pregnancy have more attention and learning problems by age 12, said study co-author Marlena Fejzo, an assistant professor of hematology-oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and an assistant professor of maternal and fetal medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. And other studies have found that poor fetal nutrition, a frequent result of HG, can lead to poor health in adulthood.


“Even though hyperemesis gravidarum can be a form of starvation and dehydration in pregnancy, no studies prior to this have been done to determine the long-term effects it has on the exposed unborn child,” Fejzo said.


HG often runs in families and in previous research, Fejzo and her colleagues found that women with a family history of the condition were up to 17 times more likely to suffer from it themselves.


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‘My morning sickness was so bad I had to have an abortion’: Mother’s agonising decision after vomiting 40 times a day

By Luke Salkeld

Last updated at 8:23 AM on 25th June 2010


A mother has told how she suffered such extreme morning sickness that she chose to have an abortion.


Cheryl Harrison made the heartbreaking decision after her condition left her unable to walk or care for her young daughter.


The 34-year-old had already experienced a traumatic first pregnancy with Scarlett, now five, during which she vomited up to 40 times a day.


Heartbreaking decision: Cheryl Harrison suffered from such bad morning sickness that she chose to abort her baby

Heartbreaking decision: Cheryl Harrison suffered from such bad morning sickness that she chose to abort her baby


But when she was expecting her second child, her symptoms were even more pronounced and painful, and after nine weeks she and her husband decided on a termination.


Yesterday Mrs Harrison, a sales manager, said she thinks about her unborn child every day and called for more support for women in a similar condition.


She said: ‘It was the most horrendous decision I have ever made.’


Mrs Harrison and her husband James, 34, a joiner, took the drastic action after she suffered dangerously high blood pressure.


She said: ‘I was putting my life in danger. James could see how much I was suffering and never opposed the idea of a termination, but he still thinks of the family we might have had.


‘I think there are other women who have terminated pregnancies for the same reason but it’s a taboo, no one discusses it.’


Mrs Harrison, who had her abortion in February 2008, recalled how she suffered when she was expecting Scarlett.


She said: ‘I was vomiting morning, noon and night for my entire pregnancy.


‘I was extremely depressed. I had a good job, a career that I loved, but I couldn’t even stand up. There was no way I could work.’


Mrs Harrison, from Beverley, East Yorkshire, even secretly wished for a miscarriage.


Family: Cheryl with husband James and daughter Scarlett. Cheryl experienced severe morning sickness when she was pregnant with Scarlett but it was even worse with the next pregnancy

Family: Cheryl with husband James and daughter Scarlett. Cheryl experienced severe morning sickness when she was pregnant with Scarlett but it was even worse with the next pregnancy


She said: ‘The 20-week scan showed I had a beautiful baby girl but I was almost disappointed because I just wanted the pregnancy to end.


‘I had a normal delivery and now I cannot imagine life without Scarlett.


‘Afterwards I was desperate to have another baby and thought I would be mentally prepared and able to cope. But the sickness was worse than ever.


‘I had one day where I could not move from the bathroom, I was sick 27 times. I couldn’t get Scarlett anything to eat even though she was starving. I dragged myself across the floor, managed to get her some chocolate from the fridge and thought “I can’t do this again”.’


Doctors diagnosed Mrs Harrison with hyperemesis gravidarum, the severest form of morning sickness.


At least 70 per cent of pregnant women experience nausea, and around one per cent suffer so badly that they are hospitalised to avoid dehydration and starvation.


But the condition is still little understood.


On July 1, academics from around the world will meet at Warwick University to discuss the causes, effects and treatments of hyperemesis gravidarum.


Psychologist Dr Brian Swallow, co-ordinator of the Pregnancy Sickness Support conference, said too many doctors trivialised morning sickness.


Dr Swallow, of the University of Lincoln, said: ‘Hyperemesis gravidarum can be far more serious than anyone realises.


‘Women consistently say they feel quite alone because there is insufficient help.


‘In some parts of the country, hospital staff are very sympathetic, but in others morning sickness is just seen as something women have to put up with.


‘We need to see a national protocol developed to offer counselling and support.’


A spokesman for anti-abortion campaigners ProLife Alliance said: ‘We sympathise with Mrs Harrison and understand that she was going through extreme suffering during her pregnancy.


‘However rather than women thinking that they have to resort to abortion, doctors should be educating themselves about morning sickness and providing more help.


‘We support Dr Swallow’s call for counselling and support.


Morning sickness graphic







Help HER – Hyperemesis Education Research:


Hyperemesis on babycentre site:


Hyperemisis on about.com:


Hyperemisis on Medscape …Hyperemesis gravidarum is characterized by persistent nausea and vomiting associated with ketosis and weight loss (>5% of prepregnancy weight). Hyperemesis gravidarum may cause volume depletion, electrolytes and acid-base imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and even death. Severe hyperemesis requiring hospital admission occurs in 0.3-2% of pregnancies. :


Hyperemesis Awareness Group(Blooming Awful):


ScienceDaily (Sep. 7, 2011) — When a parent dies suddenly, most children and teens experience grief that fades over time, but some have increased or prolonged grief reactions that may increase the risk of depression and inability to function normally, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.


According to background information in the article, 4 percent of children and adolescents in Western countries experience a parental death, including 5 percent of U.S. individuals under 18 years old. The authors report that a parent’s death can be one of the most stressful life events for a young person. While research has enhanced the understanding of the nature and course of adult grief, the authors write, “Relatively little is known about the course of grief in children and adolescents.” (The authors define “grief” as “the subjective experience of loss,” and “bereavement” as referring to “status with respect to loss, regardless of subjective experience.”) The investigators examined the grief reactions of children and adolescents after a parent’s sudden death to determine how those reactions affected bereaved participants’ mental well-being and ability to function.


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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 8, 2011


Research scientists have found low levels of serotonin 1B levels in patients with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the researchers, this is the first evidence of a potential drug target for the condition.


The study on biochemical changes within the brain associated with PTSD is published in Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals..


Alexander Neumeister, M.D. at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues collaborated with the Yale Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center to evaluate 96 patients: 49 with PTSD; 20 who were exposed to trauma but did not have PTSD; and 27 healthy adults.


All patients were injected with a tracer to provide a clear picture of levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin 1B. PET scans were then performed that produced advanced images of their brains.


Read in Full:



PTSD Risk May Depend on Genetics


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 7, 2011


A new study suggests that in some cases, a particular genetic profile is associated with development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Researchers determined certain variants of a gene that helps regulate serotonin (a brain chemical related to mood), may serve as a useful predictor of risk for symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a trauma.


“One of the critical questions surrounding PTSD is why some individuals are at risk for developing the disorder following a trauma, while others appear to be relatively resilient,” said lead author Kerry J. Ressler, M.D., Ph.D.


“It is known that genetic heritability is one component of the differential risk for PTSD, but the mechanisms remain relatively unknown.”


Read in Full:


Using Technology to Treat OCD…A Good Idea or Not?


Janet Singer Updated: Sep 9th 2011


For people who are suffering for any reason, the internet can offer ready-made support. Those with OCD, for example, can visit blogs, forums, mental health sites, and individual health care provider sites dedicated to their disorder. Now it seems things have gone one step further. A recent pilot study of the effectiveness of ICBT (Internet Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) shows promising results. Twenty-three patients underwent a fifteen week ICBT program “with therapist support consisting of psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring and exposure with response prevention. At post-treatment, 61% of participants had a clinically significant improvement and 43% no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria of OCD. The treatment also resulted in statistically significant improvements in self-rated OCD symptoms, general functioning and depression.”


OCFighter, based in the United Kingdom, is a CCBT (Computer-aided CBT) program that has been used widely for over six years. While it began as a phone-interactive-voice response program that included a workbook, it is now in the process of being adapted to the internet. Shown to be quite successful in multiple studies, OCFighter has been used in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.


Read More …


Successful Prevention Program For Postpartum OCD Developed By UM Researcher


The birth of a baby can elicit many emotions, from joy and excitement to fear and uncertainty. But it can also trigger unexpected difficulties with anxiety, in particular with postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Psychologist Kiara Timpano from the University of Miami (UM) and her collaborators developed an effective program for the prevention of postpartum obsessive compulsive symptoms. The findings are reported online ahead of print by the Journal of Psychiatric Research.


“Postpartum depression has received much attention, but anxiety related issues, especially obsessive compulsive symptoms, can also be devastating to mothers and their families,” says Timpano, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UM College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator of the study. “Many women experiencing these difficulties are not getting the services they need because they don’t even know that what they are experiencing has a label and can be helped.”


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Understanding Recovery Avoidance in OCD


Janet Singer Updated: Aug 22nd 2011


Dan would sit in a chair for hours, “stuck” and unable to move. He couldn’t eat, socialize, or enter most buildings. My son was suffering from severe OCD, yet I couldn’t help but feel lucky. The reason? He was willing to do whatever it took to get better.


This is not always the case. In this wonderful article on recovery avoidance, the authors suggest that recovery avoidance is one of the main reasons why the majority of OCD sufferers do not receive appropriate treatment. I personally know of some young adults with significant OCD who are living at home and not receiving treatment of any kind. As an advocate for OCD awareness, I jumped at the chance to enlighten their families as to the benefits of Exposure Response Prevention Therapy. Turns out they already knew about this therapy and where and how to get help. But their loved one was not willing, or able, to accept this help. This can be heartbreaking for the entire family.


Read in Full:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=44328&cn=6Using Technology

Structured Homeschooling Gets an A+


ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2011) — “There’s no place like home,” an iconic line uttered by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, might apply to learning the ABC’s, math and other core subjects. A new study from Concordia University and Mount Allison University has found that homeschooling — as long as it’s structured or follows a curriculum — can provide kids with an academic edge.


“Structured homeschooling may offer opportunities for academic performance beyond those typically experienced in public schools,” says first author Sandra Martin-Chang, a professor in the Concordia Department of Education, noting this is among the first nonpartisan studies to investigate home education versus public schooling.


Published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, the investigation compared 74 children living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick: 37 who were homeschooled versus 37 who attended public schools. Participants were between 5 and 10 years old and each child was asked to complete standardized tests, under supervision of the research team, to assess their reading, writing, arithmetic skills, etc.


Read More …


Simple Teaching Tool Boosts Student Reading Performance, Study Finds


ScienceDaily (Sep. 5, 2011) — Research from North Carolina State University shows that utilizing a freely available literacy tool results in significant advances in fundamental reading skills for elementary school students, without requiring schools to drastically overhaul existing programs. The research focused on children who were characterized as “struggling readers” at risk for a learning disability in reading.


“Our goal is to put effective tools in the hands of teachers,” says Dr. John Begeny, an associate professor of school psychology at NC State, lead author of the study and creator of the literacy tool. “This research shows that our program works, and it’s easy to use.”


Begeny developed the literacy program, Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS), to give teachers a new tool to promote reading “fluency.” Reading fluency is effectively a child’s ability to read with sufficient speed and accuracy, while also reading with good expression — for example, pausing at commas when reading out loud. When students read fluently, the have a greater capacity for understanding what they read, and they are also more likely to choose to read.


Read in Full:


Why Are Grades Highest at the Most Prestigious Schools?


A perk of being among the best


Student grades have been rising steadily at many universities over the past few decades, according to a new report that tracks GPAs at more than 200 American schools. This grade inflation is a problem because it dilutes the meaning of grades as a measure of performance. If most students finish college with an ‘A’ average, potential employers and graduate schools have a tougher time distinguishing the most competent and hard-working of their applicants.


The causes of grade inflation have been debated for years, serving up a mishmash of explanations. However, far from clarifying its causes, this debate is often used as a platform to blame grade inflation on whatever the explainer thinks is wrong with universities, or society, in general. To give you a taste, grade inflation has been blamed on the way states fund their public universities, the way student evaluations affect faculty promotions, the increasing use of part-time instructors, too much compassion from instructors, student entitlement, a growing consumer culture, the Vietnam War, and greater diversity on college campuses. While we’re at it, why not blame global warming and the fall of the Soviet empire too?


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Fantasies Our Culture Feeds Us: Education Reform Is Going Great!


While we laud our educational efforts, our performance declines precipitously.


Americans are being fed the fantasy that we are revolutionizing education for the better — think NBC’s recurrent “Education Nation” feature, the film “Waiting for Superman” and the Harlem Success Academy and similar inner-city charter schools the movie lionizes, and the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” program and its adoption of the Bush “No Child Left Behind” doctrine. The underlying theme is that kids leap forward in their intellectual skills when we bring in tough-minded educators who demand students and teachers perform or else off with their heads.We need the fantasy that this approach will reverse our long-term educational decline relative to other countries which (a) value genuine intellectual engagement, (b) provide sufficient support for students’ lives to allow them to learn, (c) don’t elect government officials who believe the earth was created in six days, (d) don’t display a national fixation on everyone’s guardian angels.


Developmental disorders are usually thought about in terms of their impairments. But a welcome trend in recent years is to document their advantages too. I’m not talking about dramatic savant skills like calendar calculating, but rather advantageous manifestations of basic cognitive differences. For example, investigators have shown that children with Tourette’s syndrome – a condition involving involuntary tics – have superior cognitive control and timing, compared with children without Tourette’s. Now Sue Fletcher-Watson and her team have added to this literature with a new study showing that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are quicker than neurotypical children and adults at detecting subtle changes to a visual scene.


The task required that children with ASD and neurotypical children (aged 11 to 16; most were male), and non-ASD adults, look at pictures of non-social scenes (e.g. a furnished room) on a computer. Each scene appeared for just under half a second, the screen would go blank, then the scene would reappear with one subtle change. The changes could be located centrally in the scene or in the periphery, and they could be a change in colour of an object, a change in an object’s presence or absence, or location. The participants’ task was to spot the change as quickly as possible and say what it was.


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by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.


We recently published a study of 117 high IQ children and adolescents with ADD. (Note: In this article, the term ADD is used to refer to both ADD and ADHD). All of these very bright students were struggling in school and often also in social relationships because of their ADD-related problems. Results from that study uncovered a pattern of vulnerabilities in executive functions, the management system of the brain, that caused these bright students to have chronic difficulty in focusing on their work, in getting their work done adequately, in keeping in mind what they had just heard or read, and in organizing and completing assignments. Some have been mystified as to how very bright students could suffer from ADD. They assume that being smart protects a person from the difficulties associated with ADD. This study shows that it doesn’t.


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