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March 2012



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Archive for March, 2012


Please join us today as we remember the disabled lives lost to domestic violence.
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Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

Why bipolar disorder is so common.


How Is Your Love Defined?

By YourTango Experts

This guest article from YourTango was written by Jianny Adamo.

Everyone wants love but not everyone finds it. Interestingly enough, when you love or are in love, you know exactly what it is. Love paints our view of the world and bestows purpose and meaning to life. Somehow, when love is absent or lost, amnesia sets in. It’s hard to define love; you wonder if it’s even real. You are either on a journey toward love or on a journey to defy it.

Love is fluid, offering different flavors and depths. In the attraction phase, being in love is an emotion producing, strong affection for some and an obsession for others. It’s driven by chemistry racing around your brain and body, an experience many poets and artists have written about. It’s euphoric and cannot be understood unless you have experienced it yourself.This experience is a hallmark of new love, marked with preoccupation with your beloved and making the world around you disappear. It transcends time and commands your attention.A three-hour conversation with your beloved can seem like a blink of an eye when smitten with love. Existence quickly moves from okay to “I can climb Mount Everest,” simply because of your experience with love.


But not every relationship experiences such a high, nor does experiencing this bliss determine the longevity of your relationship. Dopamine, the pleasure chemical in your brain, norepinephrine, which produces the racing heart and excitement, and endorphins — the body’s natural painkillers — act like magnets bringing lovers together in ecstasy. This chemical reaction produces a dependency on your love object. For some, the need for this natural high has tripped them up to becoming addicted to love, cycling through relationships looking for the next rush. On average, this phase lasts 18 to 36 months and is nature’s way of attracting us into venturing into ‘real’ love.

Read in Full:


Love After Death: The Widows’ Romantic Predicaments


I love both my late husband and the new guy.


What It’s Like To Have A Highly Sensitive Partner

By Gerti Schoen, MA, LP

Sometimes our partners become very irked and wounded when we just try to make conversation. They take any little comment as a criticism of them and turn a harmless inquiry into a paranoid insult.


If it feels like you have to walk on eggshells, that doesn’t mean your partner has a borderline personality disorder. They might just be a gentle soul on the verge of a breakdown.


One of the couples I see, let’s call them Phil and Jen, have these kinds of exchanges frequently. Jen is highly sensitive when it comes to her appearance. All her feelings of inadequacy have been displaced onto her body, which is now the battleground for her ongoing self improvement projects.


Phil thinks there is nothing wrong with Jen’s body. He doesn’t mind that she has a little fat around her belly, and is honestly convinced that she is beautiful. Jen tries to believe him but can’t quite pull it off. The belief that she is unattractive is stronger than his loving reassurances.


The other day Phil comes home from work, opens the fridge and asks innocuously, “Did you finish the leftovers?”


He should have known better. Jen took it as a criticism, thinking he blamed her for eating what she couldn’t really allow herself to eat.

Instead of just answering yes and moving on, Jen threw a fit and blamed Phil for just not getting it. She expects him to be aware of her sensitivities at all times and hold back any comment that might be hurtful for her.

Read in Full:


7 Things Women Wish They’d Known Before Marriage

By YourTango Experts

This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Laurie Weiss. 

The New York Times reported that over half of the births to US women younger than 30 occurred outside of marriage in 2009. Most of the ongoing rise of births to unmarried women occurred to couples living together but unmarried. So why don’t these young women want to get married?


New York Times experts speculate on a number of economic reasons in a follow-up article in the Motherlode section. They reported that many young parents said “they would like to be married but not now and not to each other.”


The research I did for my forthcoming book, 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Saying I Do: Your Guide to a Successful and Fulfilling Marriage suggests other important reasons that young women don’t feel ready to marry.


Here are seven of the areas that the women who answered my question, “What is the most important thing you wish you had known before you were married?” mentioned most frequently.



              1. I  wish I’d known what marriage is really like.

      Many of these women got most of their information (really misinformation) about what marriage was supposed to be like from the media and they believed it until reality struck.


  1. 2. I wish I’d known more about myself.
  2. These women had very little idea of who they were or would like to be when they were not trying to please the people around them.

  3. 3. I  wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry so I could’ve taken the time I needed.
  4. These women feel pressure to marry prematurely both internally from themselves and from others.

  5. 4. I wish I knew just how much family patterns could influence us.

    These women were so surprised by how difficult it was to blend their own ideas with their husbands’ family influenced ideas of what marriage was supposed to be like.

  6. 5. I wish I’d known that bad behavior can get worse.

    This very common response came from women who made excuses for their fiance’s behavior before marriage. They were surprised that they weren’t able to change it.

  7. 6. I wish I’d paid a whole lot more attention to money.

    Some women surprised themselves by how capably they managed money once they were forced to do so. Others realized how they have given away their power by not taking joint responsibility for the couple’s money.

  8. 7. I wish I’d known what it really takes to makes a marriage work.

    Many of these women shared the challenges they had met in the lessons they’ve learned along the way to help them eventually make their marriages work.

  9. Read in Full:
  10. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/03/19/7-things-women-wish-theyd-known-before-marriage

10 Tips to Mend a Broken Heart

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor

Bess Myerson once wrote that “to fall in love is awfully simple, but to fall out of love is simply awful.” Especially if you are the one who wanted the relationship to last.

Mending a broken heart is never easy. There is no quick way to stop your heart from hurting so much.

To stop loving isn’t an option. Author Henri Nouwen writes, “When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful.”

But how do we get beyond the pain? Here are 10 tips I’ve gathered from experts and from conversations with friends on how they patched up their heart and tried, ever so gradually, to move on.

1. Go through it, not around it.

I realize the most difficult task for a person with a broken heart is to stand still and feel the crack. But that is exactly what she must do. Because no shortcut is without its share of obstructions. Here’s a simple fact: You have to grieve in order to move on. During the 18 months of my severe depression, my therapist repeated almost every visit: “Go through it. Not around it.” Because if I went around some of the issues that were tearing me apart inside, then I would bump into them somewhere down the line, just like being caught in the center of a traffic circle. By going through the intense pain, I eventually surfaced as a stronger person ready to tackle problems head on. Soon the pain lost its stronghold over me.

2. Detach and revel in your independence again.

Attempting to fill the void yourself — without rushing to a new relationship or trying desperately to win your lover back — is essentially what detaching is all about. The Buddha taught that attachment that leads to suffering. So the most direct path to happiness and peace is detachment. In his book, Eastern Wisdom for Western Minds, Victor M. Parachin tells a wonderful story about an old gardener who sought advice from a monk.

Read More …


You Want a Better Relationship? Listen

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 23rd 2012

I hear this scenario in couples all the time. All of a sudden he wakes up to the moment and hears, “Are you listening to me?” She asks as the muscles in her face begin to tighten and the spark of frustration ignites in the couple.  “Ofcourse, I heard what you said,” he retorts and then follows with a list of the words that his brain caught while she was talking. This isn’t too foreign to any of us and for some reason this response usually doesn’t relieve the situation between two people. Why it’s important to become a better listener. 

When we’re speaking to someone we want them to listen to us, not hear us. Listening and hearing are two different processes with the former being a conscious process of intentionally paying attention to the person, and the latter is a passive process of the words just filtering through our ears to our brain. There is that anonymous saying “We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason,” to cultivate the skill and gift of listening.  


How does the active skill listening turn into the passive act of hearing in our relationships? As we live our day to day lives we make little micro decisions that lay just beneath our consciousness about whom and what we’re going to pay attention to. What happens is we begin to develop filters in our minds about what we’re going to intentionally pay attention to and what we’re not. It’s as if we get kicked into auto-pilot, with no intentional focus in the moment. You can hear, but you’re not listening.

Read in Full:


Women Should Discuss Sex Life with Gynecologist

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 23, 2012

A new report discusses shortfalls in doctor-patient communication around sexual matters.

Researchers discovered women’s sexual health issues are only touched on, if discussed at all. Experts believe avoiding this important topic could mean missing an important link to overall wellness.


Investigators came to these conclusions after evaluating the results of a comprehensive national survey of U.S. obstetrician-gynecologists regarding communication with patients about sex.


The report, “What We Don’t Talk about When We Don’t Talk about Sex,” uncovers the shortfalls in doctor-patient communication around sexual matters and examines the barriers that may be limiting the range of dialogue in a typical evaluation of a woman’s general health.


The study is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.


University of Chicago researchers discovered that although nearly two-thirds of OB-GYNs routinely inquire about patients’ sexual activity, other aspects of female sexuality are not regularly addressed.


Only 40 percent of physicians surveyed regularly check for sexual problems or dysfunction. Even fewer (29 percent) ask patients about satisfaction with their sexual lives and only 28 percent confirm a patient’s sexual orientation.


Study authors believe that an improved discussion on sexual health is needed, requiring stronger physician guidelines for conducting a thorough sexual history.


“As a practicing OB-GYN, many of my patients say I’m the first physician to talk with them about sexual issues,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, the study’s lead author.


“Sexuality is a key component of a woman’s physical and psychological health. Obviously, OB-GYNs are well positioned among all physicians to address female sexual concerns. Simply asking a patient if she’s sexually active does not tell us whether she has good sexual function or changes in her sexual function that could indicate underlying problems.”

Read in Full:


Faces are considered more attractive when they’re moving

Here’s some comforting news for anyone who despairs at how they look in photos – research by psychologists at the Universities of California and Harvard finds that the same people are rated as more attractive in videos than in static images taken from those videos. In other words, if you think you look awful in that holiday snap – don’t worry, you probably look much better in the flesh when people can see you moving.

Robert Post and his team call the relative unattractiveness of static faces, “the frozen face effect”. They think it may have to do with the way we form an impression of a moving face that’s averaged across the various positions and profiles of that face. This would fit earlier findings showing that more average faces are judged as more attractive. Another possibility is that we find moving faces more attractive because “they optimally drive the neural mechanisms of face recognition”. After all, the camera was only invented relatively recently and our face processing brain systems evolved to process moving faces, not still ones.

Read in Full:


Are Your Partner’s Social Skills Embarrassing?

By YourTango Experts

This guest article from YourTango was written by SaraKay Smullens. 

I hear about it week after week, month after month. From men and women. No, it is not affairs. Here’s what it is:


“When we are home together, life is great. But when we are with friends, family, workmates, bosses (take your pick—all are mentioned by various clients of all ages), he/she does things that make me want to hide under a table, or better yet, run.”


The examples are endless …

A thirty-something bride with a demanding PR job has recently married. “It took me so log to find him,” she explains. “He is kind, hard working and great in bed. But when he is with my friends or co-workers, he is forever saying stupid things and acting like a total jerk. He’s asked my friend who is desperate to have children, what she is waiting for. He’s gone to my boss’s house, reached across the table for bread and spilled red wine all over a white table cloth.”

A successful psychologist, who after “an abysmal and empty marriage,” is happily married to a construction worker. She explains: “I adore being with him. We have fun, love to travel, have great conversations, are good to each other’s kids, enjoy the same movies. But when he is with my friends he either clams up or talks in ways he never talks to me. He makes fun of others. He tells crude jokes. I just don’t get it.”


A 28 year old client consulted me because his fiance humiliated him at a recent wedding, where he was best man. The bride, a youthful and attractive 38 year old, was about 5 years older than the groom. My client’s fiancé asked the bride publicly at the rehearsal dinner how many men she had been with before she found Dr. Right.


“I love my husband,” confided a 50 year old client I worked with about a year ago. “But we are only happy when we are together or with our children. My husband hates to socialize with others. If I insist he does, he is eitherp rude or refuses to speak.”


In these above situations, 1 of 3 things is usually going on:


  1. 1. The most dangerous is a form of emotional abuse known as “social isolation.” In this “acting out”, one partner has a desperate need to control and does everything possible to isolate his or her partner form all other rewarding interaction. In this kind of situation, one needs to consult a professional for direction. Trying to discuss how this feels with this kind of partner, can lead to physical violence, against you and your children.

  2. 2. A second reason for this behavior is not having learned social skills as a child and feeling anxious and “all thumbs” when in a social situation.


Read in Full:





9 Tools to Help Kids Cope Creatively with Stress

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Like adults, kids also get stressed out. They stress over school, bullies and fights with friends. They worry when their parents argue. They experience loneliness and have fears about many things from failing an important test to not fitting in.

In her book The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success, child educational psychologist and UCLA professor Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D, shares nine tools that help kids access their inner world so they can better traverse the trials and tribulations of growing up.

Here’s a brief look at Reznick’s valuable tools.


1. Use the Balloon Breath.

Balloon Breath is a deep, diaphragmatic breathing that helps kids calm down and concentrate. Reznick says that it provides the way in to your child’s private world so they can listen to their inner voice. Have your child put their hands on their belly and breathe in and out slowly.

2. Discover your special place.

According to Reznick, “There are private places within your child’s inner world where he can work out problems or take mini-vacations from the stresses of life, where he can relax, regroup, or just hang out in a healthy way.” This special place acts as a springboard for the other tools, she says, because it provides the calm environment needed to start.

In this special place — which could be anything from a castle to a garden to outer space — your child feels loved and protected. Reznick gives the example of a 5-year-old girl who felt awkward about being more advanced than her friends in class. She used her special place to feel less isolated. She told Reznick: “The way to get there is to climb on the clouds and hop from cloud to cloud. Birds fly all over. Mostly they know when I’m coming. Here I feel accepted.”

3. Meet a wise animal friend.

“An Animal Friend is an imaginary, loving protector who has a child’s best interest at heart, and helps him access inner wisdom,” Reznick writes. She gives the example of a 7-year-old boy who imagined lions at his hospital bedside keeping him safe and giving him the courage to face a tough procedure.

Ruth, a 10-year-old girl who had a hard time with change, used a slew of animals to help her transition into summer vacation. For instance, one horse would stand up for Ruth when her feelings got hurt. Another horse would suggest strategies to reduce stress like journaling her feelings.

Read More …


Math Anxiety Has Neurological Basis

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 22, 2012

Have you ever known someone who stresses and develops anxiety when they are asked to do math? While experts have recognized the behavioral aspects of math anxiety for over 50 years, research has been limited on the biological underpinnings of the stress.

In a new study, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have determined that anxiety elicited when confronted with math problems is a biological event similar to other forms of anxiety.

Experts say this is the first study to show how brain function differs in people who have math anxiety from those who don’t.

Investigators performed a series of brain scans while second- and third-grade students did addition and subtraction. They discovered that those who feel panicky about doing math had increased activity in brain regions associated with fear, which caused decreased activity in parts of the brain involved in problem-solving.

Read in Full:


Stress Management Improves Breast Cancer Outcomes

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 22, 2012

New research suggests a stress management program can help to offset the trauma of receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer and reduce anxiety accompanying chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Researchers also believe the stress management intervention promotes healing by reducing stress on the immune system thereby altering the tumor process at the molecular level.

The study, led by Michael H. Antoni, Ph.D., is one of the first to link psychological intervention with genetic expression in cancer patients.

Researchers used a group-based 10-week Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Management (CBSM) intervention. The program combines relaxation, imagery and deep breathing, along with cognitive-behavioral therapy. The goal of the intervention is to help patients reduce bodily tension, change the way they deal with intrusive stressful thoughts, decrease negative moods, and improve their interpersonal communication skills.

Read in Full:


Anxiety Boosts Sense of Smell

ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2012) — Anxious people have a heightened sense of smell when it comes to sniffing out a threat, according to a new study by Elizabeth Krusemark and Wen Li from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

In animals, the sense of smell is an essential tool to detect, locate and identify predators in the surrounding environment. In fact, the olfactory-mediated defense system is so prominent in animals, that the mere presence of predator odors can evoke potent fear and anxiety responses.

Smells also evoke powerful emotional responses in humans. Krusemark and Li hypothesized that in humans, detection of a particular bad smell may signal danger of a noxious airborne substance, or a decaying object that carries disease.

Their work is published online in Springer’s journal Chemosensory Perception. The study is part of a special issue of this journal on neuroimaging the chemical senses.

Read in Full:


How to Overcome Being Anxious About Being Anxious

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Do the physical twinges of anxiety make you even more anxious? For instance, for some people, even though the sweaty palms, racing heartbeat and shaky limbs are a result of exercise — and not an impending panic attack — they still experience intense anxiety about their anxiety.

This is called anxiety sensitivity. According to authors and clinical psychologists Margo C. Watt, Ph.D, and Sherry H. Stewart, Ph.D, in their excellent book Overcoming the Fear of Fear: How to Reduce Anxiety Sensitivity, anxiety sensitivity is “the tendency to respond fearfully to bodily sensations associated with fear and anxiety.” Put simply, it’s “the fear of fear.”

People who are prone to anxiety sensitivity tend to catastrophize, or automatically assume that the worst will happen. For instance, you might fear that your trembling might catch the attention of others or a racing heart might mean a heart attack.


In their book, Watt and Stewart outline a cognitive-behavioral approach to reducing anxiety sensitivity. Here are a few tips you might find helpful.

Changing your Thoughts

The stories we tell ourselves can heighten our anxiety. But the good news is that our stories also can diminish our anxiety. According to the authors, we either turn up or turn down the volume on our physical sensations depending on what we say to ourselves when we’re experiencing these sensations. Here’s how to pinpoint negative thoughts and adjust them.

  • *Identify dysfunctional thoughts. Knowing the stories you tell yourself will help you figure out how your thoughts are perpetuating your anxiety. To get at these thoughts, think of a recent experience, and zero in on your thoughts. “What were the major kinds of thoughts going through your mind just before, during, and after the episodes of anxiety or panic? This is an example of a catastrophic thought: “If other people noticed my anxiety and panicky feelings, it would be terrible and I could never face them again.”

  • *Challenge your thinking. Watt and Stewart cite psychologist William James: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” They suggest readers treat their thoughts as guesses, not facts. Examine the evidence for your thoughts, and ask yourself these questions: “What are the true odds of this happening? Has this ever happened before? What’s the evidence it won’t happen?” They also recommend de-catastrophizing. In other words, they say “So what?” They write: “What if the worst-case scenario did happen? What would you do? Could you survive? What would you do if you saw others faint, shake or turn red? What would you say to others if they expressed similar fears?”

  • *Substitute healthy thoughts. The goal is to replace negative thoughts with realistic, reasonable and helpful thoughts. For instance, if your heart starts to race, and you initially think that you might be having a heart attack, you might say: “It’s unlikely that I’m having a heart attack. This is probably anxiety, and the best thing I can do for myself right now is to breathe and try to relax. I shouldn’t fight my body but should work with it. I can just ride it through.”

Read in Full:


Public Changing Rooms Can Cause Body Anxieties For Women

Article Date: 19 Mar 2012 – 0:00 PDT

Sweating in the gym, surrounded by others, pounding to the beat in group exercise class has become the norm for many women. But when it comes to the experience of changing in the locker room, the acts of disrobing, dressing, showering and being naked in front of others, can be very discomfiting. It’s a complex experience as women are faced with an awareness of their bodies different than in any other space.

“I walk into the change room and pace anxiously up and down the rows of lockers. I look for an empty aisle, hoping for some semblance of privacy. I don’t like to change in front of others, it makes me uneasy. Perhaps I’m uptight. Or maybe I have what experts would call ‘body issues.’ But either way changing in public cause me stress.”

So begins a new study looking at women’s experiences of changing in a public change rooms. Author Marianne Clark, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, says it was her own experience as a dancer and frequent user of fitness facilities and therefore of public dressing rooms and change rooms that led her to explore how other women felt. “Using these facilities, I’ve always felt an unarticulated discomfort,” says Clark.

The act of undressing and being naked, and particularly where there is the potential to be observed by others, can be daunting, as much of the way we think about ourselves and our self-confidence is wrapped up in our notion of ourselves as fully clothed. Undressing in front of others, can, according to Clark, “disrupt” our experience of ourselves, because it reveals an intimate self we don’t usually freely display.

Clark says in talking to other women about their experiences in these spaces, “They all had a story and it usually involved a time when there was another person involved.”

Read in Full:


Image Detail


By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 25, 2012

Williams Syndrome, a personality type that features extremely extroverted yet anxious behavior, is triggered by the abnormal development of a circuit center buried deep in the front center of the brain, according to scientists at the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers used three different kinds of brain imaging to identify the suspect area in the brains of people with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

When the scans were matched to scores on a personality rating scale, it became clear that the stronger these personality/temperament traits appeared in an individual with Williams Syndrome, the more abnormalities there were in a specific brain structure, called the insula.

“Scans of the brain’s tissue composition, wiring, and activity produced converging evidence of genetically-caused abnormalities in the structure and function of the front part of the insula and in its connectivity to other brain areas in the circuit,” explained Karen Berman, M.D., of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

In Williams Syndrome, there is a deletion of some 28 genes, many involved in brain development and behavior, in a specific part of chromosome 7. Individuals with the syndrome lack visual-spatial skills and a tendency to be overly friendly with people, while overly anxious about non-social events, such as spiders or heights. Often, those with the disorder are learning disabled, but some have normal IQs.

“This line of research offers insight into how genes help to shape brain circuitry that regulates complex behaviors — such as the way a person responds to others — and thus holds promise for unraveling brain mechanisms in other disorders of social behavior,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.

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Sudden Onset OCD In Children – Possible Causes Broadened

Article Date: 27 Mar 2012 – 0:00 PDT

Criteria for a broadened syndrome of acute onset obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have been proposed by a National Institutes of Health scientist and her colleagues. The syndrome, Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), includes children and teens that suddenly develop on-again/off-again OCD symptoms or abnormal eating behaviors, along with other psychiatric symptoms – without any known cause.


PANS expands on Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS), which is limited to a subset of cases traceable to an autoimmune process triggered by a strep infection. A clinical trial testing an immune-based treatment for PANDAS is currently underway at NIH and Yale University.

Read in Full:



Personifying OCD – An Effective Tool for Recovery

Janet Singer Updated: Mar 22nd 2012

My son Dan’s obsessive compulsive disorder became so severe during the end of his freshman year of college that he could not even eat. More than anything, he wanted to be able to finish those last three weeks of school, and I promised I would try to help him. We are lucky to have a friend who is an amazing clinical psychologist, and I turned to him for a crash course in getting Dan to eat. Though it was torturous for him, Dan finally had a meal, and I felt such relief. He was on the road to recovery.

But the next day, we were back to square one; Dan could not ingest even a morsel of food. I didn’t understand. He had eaten the day before, and nothing bad happened, so I just assumed that eating each subsequent meal would be easier. But his recovery was more like a roller coaster ride. Why?

Confused, I turned to our friend who gave me an easy-to-understand explanation: Dan was separate from his OCD. In fact, the two were enemies, and were constantly battling each other. Sometimes Dan could prevail, but other times the OCD was just too powerful. It was Dan versus OCD. Once I understood this, Dan’s behavior over the next few weeks made more sense to me, and I witnessed his battles daily. I even went so far as to name his disorder and started referring to it as “The Enemy.”

Read in Full:


Alan Turing Statue

Alan Turing

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 23, 2012

New research from the UK suggests people with autism have a greater than normal capacity for processing information.

This aptitude is evident even when the presentation is presented rapidly. Autistic individuals are also better at detecting information defined as ‘critical.’

Investigators believe the findings may help to explain the apparently higher than average prevalence of people with autism spectrum disorders in the IT industry.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication and, often, learning; however, people with autism show an increased ability to focus attention on certain tasks.

However, lab and field research has shown that these individuals can be more sensitive to the distracting effects of irrelevant stimuli, such as flashing lights or particular sounds, which can be easily ignored by people without the disorder.

In the study, Professor Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, hypothesized that this combination of the ability to focus and a susceptibility to distraction might be caused by a higher than normal information processing capacity.

“Our work on perceptual capacity in the typical adult brain suggests a clear explanation for the unique cognitive profile that people with autism show,” she says.

“People who have higher perceptual capacity are able to process more information from a scene, but this may also include some irrelevant information which they may find harder to ignore. Our research suggests autism does not involve a distractibility deficit but rather an information processing advantage.”

Read in Full:


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 27, 2012

A new study suggests that nearly two-thirds of autistic children have been bullied at some point in their lives.

In the first national survey on autism and bullying behavior, researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute discovered that that 63 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been bullied at some point in their lives.

Investigators say that these children, who are sometimes intentionally “triggered” into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by peers, are bullied three times more frequently than their siblings who do not have ASD.

“These survey results show the urgent need to increase awareness, influence school policies and provide families and children with effective strategies for dealing with bullying,” said Dr. Paul Law, a pediatrician and director of the Interactive Autism Network at the institute.

“We hope that this research will aid efforts to combat bullying by helping parents, policymakers and educators understand the extent of this problem in the autism community and be prepared to intervene.”

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Mental Health Leaders Call for New Drug Treatments for Depression, Schizophrenia


There is a serious lack of new drug treatments for mental health disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia, say leading international academics, who are currently advocating for new approaches to drug development for mental health disorders. 

Although nearly 40 percent of the population is affected by mental health issues, which includes everything from depression and dementia to anxiety and schizophrenia, researchers say there is still a crisis in the development of new treatments.

“The pharmaceutical industry has in part withdrawn, either because they struggled to translate research into a viable drug or because of financial pressures.  Although some have remained, there are still insufficient resources being focused on diseases which affect a disproportionate percentage of the population,” said Professor Barbara Sahakian, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

In the paper, the researchers point to genetics as fertile ground for drug exploration, referring to the impact it has made on other medical treatments. Furthermore, they believe that academics should investigate the compounds that industry has abandoned.

“We need to reassess how we identify and validate new drugs, and should consider open access drug development which involves both industry and academia,” said Sahakian.

Other studies have proven that mental disorders disproportionately affect the young, with 75 percent of disorders beginning before the age of 24.  Because of this, the academics also push for earlier intervention and preventative treatments.

The researchers also advocate non-pharmacological approaches.  They emphasize the effectiveness of treatments which combine medications with psychosocial treatments. 

For example, new treatments could include the use of emerging technology such as video games that help autistic children interact socially through increased eye contact.

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Stigma Linked To Depression Among Lung Cancer Patients

Article Date: 27 Mar 2012 – 0:00 PDT

Studying the role of social stigma in depression for lung cancer patients, researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., have found that depression can be heightened by a lung cancer patient’s sense of social rejection, internalized shame and social isolation. These factors may contribute to depression at rates higher than experienced by patients with other kinds of cancer.

Their study was published in a recent issue of Psycho-Oncology (21:2012).


“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the relationship of perceived stigma to depressive symptomology in lung cancer patients,” said study co-author Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., Moffitt’s associate center director for Population Sciences. “Given its strong association with tobacco use, lung cancer is commonly viewed as a preventable disease. Consequently, patients may blame themselves for developing lung cancer and feel stigmatized. Even lung cancer patients who have never smoked often felt – accurately or inaccurately – that they were being blamed for their disease by friends, loved ones and even health care professionals.”

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Does Brain Remember How to Respond to Antidepressants?

Does Brain Remember Response to Antidepressants?

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 27, 2012

A new study suggests that how the brain responds to an antidepressant may be influenced by remembering past antidepressant exposure.

Major depression is typically an event that occurs several times over a lifetime. As a result, an individual may receive multiple courses of antidepressant treatment and researchers wanted to know if the brain may exhibit a “learned” response from prior medication regimens.

Currently, the relationship between prior treatment and the brain’s response to subsequent treatment is unknown.

In the study, researchers used a harmless placebo as the key to tracking the footprints of prior antidepressant use.

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UMass Fails Student with Depression

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

If you’re a college student and you’re depressed, chances are you have a student counseling center that’s available to you, at no charge.

Sounds good, right? In an ideal world, the student counseling center would properly assess, diagnose and even treat students with mental health concerns — such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and student counseling centers don’t make a university any money. So they aren’t necessarily well-funded, overflowing with well-paid staff or have access to all the resources they need.

That’s why Emily Merlino’s column about her experience at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), supposedly one of the better universities in the country, was a bit disheartening to read. In it, she details how she was experiencing depressive feelings and sought out help from a professional at the UMass Mental Health Services clinic.


When Emily Merlino first called for an appointment, she was placed on a 2-week wait-list. This is not an uncommon experience for anyone who’s ever sought out services from their university’s health center or student counseling center, or from a community mental health center. When I was in graduate school nearly 20 years ago, this wait-list could extend for as long as 4 to 5 weeks for the first psychotherapy appointment. Since state and federal budget cuts, these wait lists have only gotten worse.

When she finally did get in to see a professional, it was not a positive experience:

Read More …


Home Alone: Depression Highest for Those Living Alone

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2012) — The number of people living on their own has doubled, over the last three decades, to one in three in the UK and US. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Public Health shows that the risk of depression, measured by people taking antidepressants, is almost 80% higher for those living alone compared to people living in any kind of social or family group.

For women a third of this risk was attributable to sociodemographic factors, such as lack of education and low income. For men the biggest contributing factors included poor job climate, lack of support at the work place or in their private lives, and heavy drinking.

It is known that living alone can increase the risk of mental health problems for the elderly, and for single parents, but little is known about the effects of isolation on working-age people. Researchers in Finland followed 3500 working-aged men and women for seven years and compared their living arrangements with psychosocial, sociodemographic, and health risk factors, including smoking, heavy drinking and low physical activity, to antidepressant use. Information on antidepressant medication was taken from the National Prescription Register.

Read in Full:



How Does ECT Work in the Brain?

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

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an uncommon treatment for severe, chronic depression. It is used sparingly, partially because our understanding of why and how it works is still in the dark ages. It also doesn’t help that it can cause memory loss in many patients who undergo it (usually confined to just memory around ECT treatments, but occasionally also around older, longer-term memories as well), as well as increasing attention and concentration problems in a minority of people who try ECT.

However, a new study sheds light on the possible mechanism for how electroconvulsive therapy works, based upon one theory of how depression works in the brain.

The theory goes like this — depression isn’t caused by too little brain activity. It’s actually caused by too much brain activity, an overactive brain that has accidentally “hot-wired” multiple brain networks together. (How and why this hot-wiring occurs is still a mystery.)

So how can ECT undo this hot-wiring?


It’s theorized that ECT may undo this hot-wiring, and return the brain’s neural networks to normal functioning:

Read More …


Dear friends and allies:


Most of you received Zoe’s moving e-mail message last week, announcing March 30th as a national day of mourning for George Hodgins, Tracy Latimer and other disabled people murdered by family members and caregivers. She asked folks to organize local candlelit vigils in their own communities in their memory. We’ve received a tremendous response, and there is still time to make plans to join us at one of the many vigil sites listed below or consider organizing your own.


As we prepare for our own activism and remembrance, it would serve us well to think about similar work being done among other marginalized communities. As you most likely already know from the news, last month Trayvon Martin – a young, African-American teenager – was shot and killed while walking through a Florida gated community. Despite the clear identification of his killer by police and the fact that Trayvon carried no weapon more dangerous than a bag of skittles, not a single arrest has been made. For the last several weeks, activists and community members from across the country have rallied to call attention to this injustice and demand action.


I believe there is a common thread between Trayvon Martin’s and George Hodgins’ deaths. Representations of race in the media and entertainment industries tell Americans that a black teenager walking through an upscale community should be looked at as a potential criminal. The same media and entertainment industries tell family members and caregivers that life with a disability is not worth living, that taking our lives should be viewed as acts of mercy rather than acts of murder. People learn to fear young black men from the same place that teaches them that a disabled child is a burden on society destined to ruin the lives of his or her parents.


There is a direct line between the media’s representations of race and disability and the murders of George Hodgins and Trayvon Martin. As we gather this Friday, I ask you to consider these connections. Sometimes, when advocates speak out against offensive and unethical representations of disability in advertising, television and elsewhere in the public sphere, critics claim that these issues don’t matter. They contend that focusing on how people are talked about is a distraction from talking about how people are treated. As these recent atrocities have shown us, it is impossible to discuss one without the other. Let us never forget that.

Nothing About Us, Without Us!

Ari Ne’eman


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