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March 2013



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Archive for March, 2013




Dear Readers,


Wishing you a wonderful Easter weekend!





Mar. 18, 2013 — People suffering from complicated grief may have difficulty recalling specific events from their past or imagining specific events in the future, but not when those events involve the partner they lost, according to a new study published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


The death of a loved one is among the most painful and disruptive experiences a person can face. For most, the grief subsides over time. But those who suffer from complicated grief continue to yearn for the lost loved one, experience waves of painful emotion, and feel hopeless about the future.


Research suggests that that people who suffer from complicated grief, similar to those who suffer from post-trauamatic stress disorder or major depression, have difficulty recalling many of the specific memories of their past.


But there’s an exception: They often retain their ability to recall specific memories for events that include the lost loved one.


Graduate student Donald Robinaugh and professor of psychology Richard McNally of Harvard University were intrigued by this cognitive paradox, and it raised another question: Do thoughts of lost loved ones also shape how people with complicated grief think about the future?


To find out, the researchers recruited adults who had lost their spouse or life partner in the last one to three years. Some of the participants showed signs of complicated grief, while others showed signs of more typical bereavement.


The participants completed a series of tasks to assess their memory for past events and their ability to imagine future events, both with and without the deceased. They were asked to generate specific events based on positive cue words (e.g., safe, happy, successful, loved) and negative cue words (e.g., hurt, sad, afraid, angry).


Adults suffering from complicated grief showed deficits in their ability to recall specific autobiographical memories and to imagine specific events in the future compared to adults experiencing typical grief, but only for events did not include the deceased. They showed no difficulty generating events that included the partner they had lost.


Read in Full:



By  Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 22, 2013


The relationship between physical pain and the relief one obtains after removal of the pain is a topic of investigation in two new studies.


Researchers studied the specific emotions an individual experiences when a person receives relief from stress, work or pain. Specifically, investigators reviewed the psychological mechanisms associated with relief that occurs after the removal of pain, also known as pain offset relief.


Experts say the findings show that healthy individuals and individuals with a history of self-harm display similar levels of relief when pain is removed. This discovery suggests that pain offset relief may be a natural mechanism that helps us to regulate our emotions.


In one study, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill graduate student Joseph Franklin and colleagues wanted to determine if the relief found after removing pain is a result of positive emotions, or is the relief from the reduction or alleviation of negative emotions.


Franklin’s team used recording electrodes to measure participants’ negative emotions (eyeblink startle response) and positive emotions (muscle activity behind the ear) in response to loud noises.


In the experiment, the loud noise was presented alone at time and then at other times it was presented 3.5, 6, or 14 seconds after receiving a low- or high-intensity shock.


Participants showed increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions after pain offset. The greatest increases in positive emotion tended to occur soon after high-intensity shocks, whereas the greatest decreases in negative emotions tended to occur soon after low-intensity shocks.


These findings shed light on the emotional nature of pain offset relief, and could provide insight into why some people seek relief through self-injurious behavior.


Read in Full:





Any lies kids tell, should not go unacknowledged.

Published on March 20, 2013 by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. in Our Gender, Ourselves


Eight-year-old Henry lied about everything. It absolutely infuriated his mother, Sophie, if mostly because she couldn’t figure out why he was doing it. Some of the lies she understood, as they’d clearly been issued to avoid mild trouble or reprimand, like the lies about whether he’d made his bed or eaten his lunch. But he’d also tell very obvious lies from which he had nothing to gain, like that it was sunny outside when it wasn’t, or that 2 plus 2 was 5. What bothered Sophie most about the lies was how adamantly Henry would insist they weren’t lies, even as Sophie pointed out the rain pouring down outside. “It’s not like I’d have preferred if he was a good liar,” Sophie told me, “but it was confusing that he chose to lie about things he a) didn’t need to lie about and b) that were so easy to call him out on. I’d be like, you’re eight. You know that 2 plus 2 is 4. You can see it’s raining outside. You can’t even defend these lies a little bit. Why are you telling them?”


It’s entirely normal for kids to experiment with lying, starting at an early age — sometimes as early as two — and escalating until 12, the age of greatest deceit, according to various studies conducted by Canadian researcher Kang Lee. Some lying is “healthy” lying — fantasy and imagination at work, like a four-year-old’s lie about her teddy bear telling her a secret. Other lies are “white lies” told to benefit another or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, and which tend to start around age six. Most lies kids — and, for that matter, adults — tell are more self-serving, however, and told to avoid trouble or punishment, look better in the eyes of others, or get (or get away with) something. This sort of lie from a three-year-old might come out as “someone else” spilling the apple juice on the living room rug. A 10-year-old who’s insecure about his math abilities might lie about having already done his math homework.


This sort of lie can also show up, especially in boys, as mischief making. Seven-year-old Bobby always wanted to know “what would happen” if he threw a tennis ball against the house. He waited until his parents were out to tell the babysitter that “Mom lets me do it.” He was so insistent, and confident, that the babysitter acquiesced. Later that day, Bobby’s mom, Kathy, returned home to find the garage door window shattered in pieces on the driveway. “I suppose now he knew what would happen if you throw a ball against the house,” said Kathy. “But then again, he probably always knew.” What Bobby had done was use lying to get what he wanted, while also, in his mind, having the ability to “blame” the babysitter for allowing him to do it.


And then there are those kids who tell lies just for kicks, seemingly without anything to gain. In the case of Henry, for instance, insisting that 2 plus 2 was 5 was something he said just because he could; just, Sophie suspected, to see what might happen. Some studies suggest that children with better cognitive abilities tend to lie more, since lying requires first keeping the truth in mind and then manipulating that information. The ability to lie successfully — something that Henry had not yet learned how to do, though Sophie got the sense he was definitely working his way up to that — requires even more in the way of thinking and reasoning. Lying proficiency has also been linked to good social skills later on, inadolescence.


That doesn’t mean such lies, or any lies kids tell, should go unacknowledged. It’s important to raise children to value honesty, and to prevent lying from becoming frequent and consistent, the point at which lying is most troublesome. The first step in figuring out how to address a lie is to consider why your child is telling it. Is the child trying to avoid trouble? Save face? Is he old enough to understand that lying is wrong? A three-year-old who won’t cop to coloring on the wall knows that wall coloring is bad, but may not quite understand that lying about it isn’t. In such a case, instead of threatening him with punishment, teach him about the value of things.


Gently point out that you think he may know more than he is letting on, and then thank and praise him if he comes clean. This can foster more truth-telling in the future. What’s more, in younger and older kids, don’t set them up to lie. If you know a child has spilled milk on the living room rug because you saw it happen, don’t ask her if she spilled milk on the rug. Instead, ask her why it happened. If you know your 16-year-old has been smoking because you found cigarettes in his car, don’t ask him if he’s smoking. Ask him when he started.


In all cases, when talking to kids about lying, express your displeasure. Be explicit that it’s wrong to lie, and explain why. Make it clear that lying diminishes trust, and that the more frequently he lies, the harder it becomes to believe him when he’s telling the truth. Establish, and stick with, consequences for lying; the more a child has gotten away with lying, the more likely he is to continue. Try to head lying off at the pass: If you sense a lie is coming, say, “It makes me happy when you tell me the truth.” And keep in mind yourself that lying is different from not sharing. This is particularly relevant as kids approach adolescence, when kids may be more reluctant to share information with you, but without necessarily lying. Allowing them to develop their own sense of independence — that is, resisting the need to know everything — and being confident in their decision-making will reduce the likelihood that they’ll lie to you about the things that really matter.


And above all, with kids of any age, help encourage the notion of truth telling by practicing it yourself.


Read in Full:



How to Support an Anxious Partner


Associate Editor


Having a partner who struggles with anxiety or has an anxiety disorder can be difficult.


“Partners may find themselves in roles they do not want, such as the compromiser, the protector, or the comforter,” says Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC, a therapist and author of the excellent book Loving Someone with Anxiety.


They might have to bear the brunt of extra responsibilities and avoid certain places or activities that trigger their partner’s anxiety, she said. This can be very stressful for partners and their relationship.


“Partners of loved ones with anxiety may find themselves angry, frustrated, sad, or disappointed that their dreams for what the relationship was going to be have been limited by anxiety.”


Thieda’s book helps partners better understand anxiety and implement strategies that truly support their spouses, without feeding into or enabling their fears.


Below, she shared five ways to do just that, along with what to do when your partner refuses treatment.


1. Educate yourself about anxiety.


It’s important to learn as much as you can about anxiety, such as the different types of anxiety disorders and their treatment. This will help you better understand what your partner is going through.


Keep in mind that your partner might not fit any of these categories. As Thieda writes in Loving Someone with Anxiety, “The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether your partner’s anxiety is ‘diagnosable.’ If it’s impairing your relationship or diminishing your partner’s quality of life or your own quality of life, it will be worthwhile to make changes.”


2. Avoid accommodating your partner’s anxiety.


“Partners often end up making accommodations for their partner’s anxiety, whether it is intentional [such as] playing the part of the superhero, or because it just makes life easier, as in, doing all the errands because their partner is anxious about driving,” said Thieda, who also created the popular blog “Partners in Wellness” on Psych Central.


However, making accommodations actually exacerbates your partner’s anxiety. For one, she said, it gives your partner zero incentive to overcome their anxiety. And, secondly, it sends the message that there really is something to fear, which only fuels their anxiety.


Read in Full:



Researchers Discover the Brain Origins of Variation in Pathological Anxiety


Mar. 25, 2013 — New findings from nonhuman primates suggest that an overactive core circuit in the brain, and its interaction with other specialized circuits, accounts for the variability in symptoms shown by patients with severe anxiety. In a brain-imaging study to be published online today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS), researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health describe work that for the first time provides an understanding of the root causes of clinical variability in anxiety disorders.


Using a well-established nonhuman primate model of childhood anxiety, the scientists identified a core circuit that is chronically over-active in all anxious individuals, regardless of their particular pattern of symptoms. They also identified a set of more specialized circuits that are over- or under-active in individuals prone to particular symptoms, such as chronically high levels of the stress-hormone cortisol.


“These findings provide important new insights into altered brain functioning that explain why people with anxiety have such different symptoms and clinical presentations, and it also gives us new ideas, based on an understanding of altered brain function, for helping people with different types of anxiety,” says Dr. Ned Kalin, senior author, chair of Psychiatry and director of the HealthEmotions Research Institute.


“There is a large need for new treatment strategies, because our current treatments don’t work well for many anxious adults and children who come to us for help.”


Read in Full:


What a Panic Attack Feels Like




Imagine that you’re taking a stroll in the countryside. Everything is going well. The trees are in bloom; the sky is blue; the cool breeze is refreshing. You’re humming your favorite tune when suddenly you hear a blood curdling scream —EEEEOOOOWWWW!!!!


Now imagine that out of nowhere, a repulsive creature has stepped into your path. He’s got a grotesque body, horns on his head and a menacing smile. You freeze in terror as this hideous face stares into yours!


Though you desperately wish to flee, you find yourself helplessly frozen. Your heart is racing. Your chest is pounding. You can’t catch your breath. You feel lightheaded. You feel faint. You think you might die right there on the spot.


Now imagine feeling this very same terror when there’s no creature in your path. What would your experience be? Would you feel mystified? Bewildered? Embarrassed? Wonder if you’re going crazy?


This is the experience of those who endure panic attacks. Many keep their experiences secret, for they are embarrassed and at a loss for words to describe what happens to them. Nobody else has ever had such a reaction, or so they believe. Panic attacks, however, are more common than you may think.


The word “panic” emanates from the ancient Greeks, who were said to experience overwhelming terror when they encountered Pan, their god of nature. Half man, half beast, Pan had a scream so intense that terrified travelers who happened upon him in the forest died from fear.


Read More …


Anxiety Disorders More Common in Kids Who Avoid Scary Situations


By  Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 13, 2013


A new Mayo Clinic study discovers children who avoid situations they find scary are likely to have anxiety.


Researchers followed more than 800 children ages 7 to 18 and posit that this may be a new method to measure avoidance behavior in young children.


The study is published in the journalBehavior Therapy.


For the investigation, researchers developed two eight-question surveys: the Children’s Avoidance Measure Parent Report and the Children’s Avoidance Measure Self Report.


The questionnaires ask details about children’s avoidance tendencies, for instance, in addressing parents, “When your child is scared or worried about something, does he or she ask to do it later?”


It also asks children to describe their passive avoidance habits. For example: “When I feel scared or worried about something, I try not to go near it.”


Researchers say a surprising finding was learning that measuring avoidance could also predict children’s development of anxiety.


Read in Full:


The Six Best-Kept Secrets About Stress


Stress news you can use that’s hot off the press

Published on March 12, 2013 by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. in Fulfillment at Any Age


If you’re like most people living in our fast-paced world, you wish you could be less stressed. You are constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce your stress and that’s most likely why you clicked on this blog link. Perhaps you’ll learn something new to help you manage the many demands you feel on your time and energy. Or perhaps this will another one of those pop psych articles that tell you what you already knew or have read about many times before.


I don’t want to promise what I can’t deliver, but I think you’ll be honestly surprised by the six secrets to stress that I’ll reveal in this blog.  Even if you just learn from one of them, you’ll be on your way to better managing those worries, anxieties, and preoccupations that, though perhaps minor on their own, can add up to erode your mental and physical health.


Secret #1: Stress is in the mind of the beholder.


There is no event in life that is objectively stressful. Mental health experts often talk about a particular experience being the single most stressful event that can happen to a person. Researchers who measure stressful life events claim that even an experience that many people look forward to, such as a well-deserved vacation, can be stressful. The reason that a vacation can be stressful, they argue, is that it requires some sort of adaptation on your part. Any deviation from the status quo is enough to give you a bump up on such stressful life events scales.


However, other researchers believe that no event has an inherent stress value. What’s stressful to you may be neutral to me, or even possibly, something that makes me feel better.  Cognitive approaches to stress emphasize your thoughts about an event. You only feel stressed when you believe that you lack the resources to manage a threat or challenge. If you think your coping abilities are up to snuff, then you’ll be fine. It also helps to have someone to confide in, such as a long-term partner, whose support can lower yours even more by benefiting your health, as we know from research on marital problems and obesity.


Maybe you knew this already. So where’s the secret in this, you ask? The new data, hot off the presses, comes from a study published by Yale psychologist Alia Crum and team (2013). They talk about the stress “mindset,” the mental “frame or lens” that you use when you approach and understand an experience.  If you have a negative stress mindset, you believe, for example, that you should avoid stress at all costs, that it saps your energy, and that it inhibits your ability to grow. If your stress mindset is positive, you feel that it makes you healthier, and that it enhances your performance and productivity.


Crum and her colleagues found that people with a positive stress mindset were in fact better able to handle laboratory-induced stress.  In a work context, they were also more likely to seek feedback on their performance, which in turn would allow them to grow even more from their experiences, even the stress-provoking ones. The moral of the story is that if you want to handle stress more effectively, don’t label all stress as bad.  Try to look at stress with a positive mindset and you will, in fact, be better able to cope with it.


Secret #2: Stress begets stress


This next secret comes from a fascinating line of research based on what’s called the “stress generation” hypothesis.  According to this view, people play an active role in creating their own stressful life events by virtue of the way they handle their everyday life situations.  We might call this the “Debbie Downer” principle (named after the Rachel Dratch Saturday Night Live character). When you allow your internal feelings of stress to leak to your external behavior, you create an aura of negativity that drives other people away. This doesn’t mean that you have to fake being happy when you’re not (more on that shortly), but that by letting stress get to you in a chronic manner, your interactions with others can suffer.


Read More …


Stress in America: Our Healthcare System Falls Short




Do you want to improve your health and decrease your stress level?


If you’re experiencing some of the common symptoms of stress, such as irritability or anger, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed and changes in sleeping habits, then the physical and mental consequences of stress are all too clear.


And if you have made efforts to improve your stress levels, you’re not alone.  According to a new survey, Stress in America: Missing the Health Care Connection, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive, Americans think it’s important to improve their health and levels of stress.


Over the past five years, 60 percent of adults have tried to reduce their stress and more than half are still trying to meet this goal, according to the survey.


In fact, according to the survey’s findings, Americans are struggling to keep their stress at levels that they believe are healthy.  But how well do we do that?


Average reported stress levels have dropped in recent years, but they are still considered at unhealthy levels, according to those surveyed.  And although overall stress levels dropped, almost three-quarters of respondents say that their stress level has increased or stayed the same over the past five years and 80 percent say their stress level has increased or stayed the same in the past year.


But when it comes to making changes, many people are struggling.  People are reporting exercise as well as sedentary behaviors like listening to music, reading or watching television or movies as strategies for managing stress. 


However, we are are also spending time lying awake, overeating or eating unhealthy foods and skipping meals due to stress.


Read More …


Test Anxiety – When Your Mind Goes Blank


Pat LaDouceur, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 13th 2013


Brian, one of my clients and a high school senior, had a serious problem with tests. He did his homework. He even helped other students. But when he walked into a test, his mind went blank.


All those lectures, readings, and practice problems vanished from his mind. He would start to worry. As the clock ticked on, his anxiety increased. He would finally force himself to focus, get through some of the problems, and end up with a mediocre score.


Eventually he concluded what seemed to be obvious: “I’m not very good at tests.”


Blanking out on tests is a classic sign of test anxiety.


Anxiety works in circles


Test anxiety interferes with both memory and performance. The more anxious you are, the harder it is to remember. And the harder it is to remember, the more anxious you get. The process goes in circles.


Anxiety works as part of a feedback loop that generates its own momentum. Once you have an experience of test anxiety, your brain is on alert. You wonder, “what if it happens again?” Along with that comes anxiety or nervousness, which in turn increases the physical symptoms of tension: shallow breathing, increased heartbeat, and difficulty focusing.


Read in Full:


Dwelling on Stressful Events Can Up Inflammation


By  Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 15, 2013


Dwelling on stressful events can increase levels of inflammation in the body, according to a new study.


Researchers from Ohio University discovered that when study participants were asked to ruminate on a stressful incident, their levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of tissue inflammation, rose.


The study is the first to directly measure this effect in the body, according to Dr. Peggy Zoccola, an assistant professor of psychology.


“Much of the past work has looked at this in non-experimental designs,” she said. “Researchers have asked people to report their tendency to ruminate, and then looked to see if it connected to physiological issues. It’s been correlational for the most part.”


For this study, the research team recruited 34 healthy young women. Each was asked to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers in white laboratory coats, who listened with stone-faced expressions, Zoccola said.


Half of the women were asked to contemplate their performance in the public speaking task, while the other half were asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or grocery store trips.


The researchers then drew blood samples, which showed that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly higher in the subjects who were asked to dwell on the speech, Zoccola reported.


Read in Full:


5 Meditation Tips for Beginners


Tips to make beginning meditation easier

Published on March 18, 2013 by Alice Boyes, Ph.D. in In Practice


You’ve no doubt heard that meditation is good for you. However, for many people descriptions of meditation aren’t appealing, and it sounds like just another thing you don’t have time to do.


Here are five meditation tips for beginners that will help overcome the problems of (1) lack of appeal, and (2) it seeming too daunting.


1. Start small with 3-5 minutes (or less).


Some great new data collected from users of the Lift goal-tracking app* shows that most beginner meditators started with 3-5 minutes. Even three minutes can feel like a darn long time when you first start meditating, so you could even start smaller. For example, paying attention to the sensations of taking 3 breaths.

Reproduced with permission from Lift.do based on a sample of 382 respondents from an optional survey.


2. Understand what meditation can do for you if you have issues with stress, anxiety, irritability, or overthinking.


Meditation is a great way to increase your resilience to stress. If you have anxiety, it will help reduce your general tendency towards physiological overarousal and calm your nervous system.


In my therapy practice, the clients who’ve found meditation the most helpful have generally been people who are prone to rumination (unwanted overthinking). This makes sense given that meditation is about focusing your attention on something “experiential” (e.g., sensations of breathing) and bringing your attention back to this focus when you notice it has drifted to “evaluation” (e.g., “Am I breathing too fast?”) or to another topic (e.g., “I’ve got so much to do tomorrow.”)


Meditation can help with irritability partly because it helps you learn how to recognize you’re having irritable thoughts before you’ve blurted them out in ways that end up generating stress for you (e.g.. nitpicking your partner in a way that causes a fight). 


3.  Understand the principles of meditation.


Beginning meditators often think the goal of meditation is to get to the point that they can focus without becoming distracted. 


A more useful goal is becoming aware of when your mind has drifted sooner.


Becoming aware of what you’re thinking is the basis of successful Cognitive Therapy. You can’t restructure your thoughts if you haven’t first developed the ability to identify your thoughts.


Another useful goal for meditation beginners is being able to redirect your attention back to your point of focus without criticizing yourself.


Read in Full:



Genetics Impacts Depression Meds’ Effectiveness


By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 29, 2013


Unfortunately, antidepressant drug therapy does not work for everyone. But new research finds that improved identification of genomic predicators — that is, how a person’s genetic makeup might impact their response to medication — will help future treatment of depression.


The National Institute of Mental Health’s STAR*D study, the largest and longest study ever conducted to evaluate depression treatment, has determined that only one-third of individuals respond to the first medication prescribed for depression, and that another one-third do not have an adequate response despite being treated with several medications.


Thus, identifying predictors of antidepressant response could help to guide the treatment of this disorder.


A new study, published in Biological Psychiatry, discusses new initiatives for identifying genomic predictors of antidepressant response.


Many previous studies have searched for genetic markers that may predict antidepressant response, but have done so despite not knowing the contribution of genetic factors, said Katherine Tansey, Ph.D., a psychiatric researcher at King’s College, London.


“Our study quantified, for the first time, how much is response to antidepressant medication influenced by an individual’s genetic makeup,” said Tansey.


Read in Full:


Untreated depression during pregnancy is not well-recognized and is certainly under-treated. The risks of letting perinatal depression go untreated can extend beyond pregnancy itself. While there is no gold standard treatment that most experts endorse, there is certainly a lot of discussion going on. A research article was published in the scholarly journal Human Reproduction in January, 2013. It is a detailed examination of potential risks for infertile women taking SSRI antidepressants. The article also discusses SSRI use in pregnant women.


Whether you agree with their conclusions or not, this is a fascinating read. Each potential risk is described in detail with research citations. Perhaps the most practically useful part of the article is the discussion on alternative treatments for depression during pregnancy.


These treatments could be done with or without also taking medication. The list includes cognitive behavioral therapy with a counselor, yoga, relaxation training, and more. Not every therapy has solid research results behind them, but it’s a good list for further study at the least.

There is one part I completely disagree with, mostly because it is done in such a broad sweeping way as to appear almost not-believable. The authors state that “the best meaningful evidence suggests that antidepressants do not provide clinically meaningful benefit for most women with depression.” I was a depressed mom that finally came out of the deep hole of depression with the help of medication. I am a counselor who has seen many people of both genders benefit from counseling and medication. I have also been connected with the postpartum depression community for a number of years. I’ve heard countless stories of women who were so grateful for the change they experienced after taking medication. Having seen all of this, I cannot believe such a broad- brush statement refuting the effectiveness of antidepressants for “most women with depression”. I just can’t.


Read in Full:


Antidepressants for Pregnant Moms Don’t Affect Infants’ Growth, Study Suggests


Mar. 20, 2013 — Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants taken by a woman during pregnancy do not impact her infant’s growth over the first year, reports a new study from a Northwestern Medicine scientist.


There had been concern that antidepressant treatment during pregnancy reduced growth during the first year. Previous data suggested depression during pregnancy also could diminish infant growth.


But the new study showed infants born to mothers who took SSRIs during pregnancy had a similar weight, length and head circumference over the first year as infants born to non-depressed women who did not take antidepressants. The infants whose mothers took antidepressants were shorter at birth, but the difference disappeared by two weeks of age.


In addition, growth measurements for the infants of depressed women who did not take SSRIs were similar to the general population.


“Most women want to know about the effect of their depressive illness or the medication they take during pregnancy not only on the infant at birth, but also on the baby’s longer-term growth and development,” said Northwestern Medicine lead author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D. “This information may help women balance the risks and benefits of continuing their antidepressant treatment during pregnancy.”


Read in Full:


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Depression

By  In this age of advanced modern medicine, it is a depressing fact that not all people suffering with a depressive illness respond to antidepressants.


The mental health charity Mind UK recently highlighted their concern that there is a serious need for a range of therapies to be made available to depression sufferers.


According to the best psychological working practices, medication is now considered to be only one option for effectively treating the illness.


Talk therapies — otherwise known aspsychotherapy — such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven effective at alleviating melancholic symptoms in hundreds of research studies conducted around the world. In Australia, the Australian Psychological Society has identified a serious need for psychotherapeutic interventions in the lives of people with depression.



Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy. Participants work with a specially trained psychologist to make positive steps in changing their thoughts and feelings. Committing to CBT means accepting that your actions affect your emotions and reasoning. Therapists help you to learn skills and strategies for changing negative thinking. This helps many people to learn to cope with depressive illness.


Read More:


Depression May Reduce Cardiac Benefits of Healthy Behaviors


By  Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 27, 2013


New research raises the depressing possibility that depression may counteract the health benefits of performing physical activity or light to moderate alcohol consumption.

Researchers from Duke Medical base their findings on measurements of the cardio-metabolic risk marker C-reactive protein (CRP). “Our findings suggest depression not only directly affects an individual’s mental and physical health; it might also diminish the health benefits of physical activities and moderate alcohol consumption,” said lead author Edward C. Suarez, Ph.D.


“This appears to be specific to inflammation, which we know increases the risk for heart disease, so our findings suggest that depression could be a complicating risk factor.”


CRP is a biomarker that predicts future risk of heart disease and other chronic inflammatory conditions. It may also play a role in the formation of plaque that builds up in arteries.


Physical activity and moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one drink a day for women and two a day for men, have each been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.


Read More …




Rethinking the Diagnosis of Depression


Associate Editor


Most people diagnosed withdepression today aren’t depressed, according to Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry, in his latest book How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown. 


Specifically, about 1 in 5 Americans will receive a diagnosis of major depression in their lifetime. But Shorter believes that the term major depression doesn’t capture the symptoms most of these individuals have. “Nervous illness,” however, does.


“The nervous patients of yesteryear are the depressives of today,” he writes.


And these individuals aren’t particularly sad. Rather, their symptoms fall into these five domains, according to Shorter: nervous exhaustion; mild depression; mild anxiety; somatic symptoms, such as chronic pain or insomnia; and obsessive thinking.



As he writes in this recent blog post:


… The problem is that many people who get the diagnosis of major depression aren’t necessarily sad. They don’t cry all the time. They drag themselves from bed and go to work and plow through family life, but they aren’t sad. They may well have one of the “D-words”  — dysphoria, disenchantment, demoralization – but they aren’t necessarily depressed.


Instead, what do they have in addition? They’re anxious. They’re exhausted and often report crushing fatigue. They have all kinds of somatic pains that come and go. And they tend to obsess about the whole package.


What they have is a whole-body disorder, not a disorder of mood. And that is the problem with the term depression: it shines the spotlight on mood, a spotlight that belongs elsewhere.


Severe depression, which has been lumped in with depression, is a completely different disorder. It’s a serious illness akin to melancholia, a term used around the mid 18th century to the early 20th century. Melancholia speaks more accurately to the gravity of this severe depression and its serious symptoms, which include despair, hopelessness, lack of pleasure in one’s life and suicide.


Shorter also describes melancholia as a “dejection that appears to observers as sadness but that patients themselves often interpret as pain.” It’s recurrent. “Melancholia digs deep into the brain and body, putting patients in touch with their most primeval – and often sinister – impulses. Fantasies of murder and suicide are common themes.”


So how did everyone become depressed?


Read in Full:




Mar. 29, 2013 — Although scientific evidence suggests that vaccines do not cause autism, approximately one-third of parents continue to express concern that they do; nearly 1 in 10 parents refuse or delay vaccinations because they believe it is safer than following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) schedule. A primary concern is the number of vaccines administered, both on a single day and cumulatively over the first 2 years of life. In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers concluded that there is no association between receiving “too many vaccines too soon” and autism.


Dr. Frank DeStefano and colleagues from the CDC and Abt Associates, Inc. analyzed data from 256 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 children without ASD (born from 1994-1999) from 3 managed care organizations. They looked at each child’s cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination.


The researchers determined the total antigen numbers by adding the number of different antigens in all vaccines each child received in one day, as well as all vaccines each child received up to 2 years of age. The authors found that the total antigens from vaccines received by age 2 years, or the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD. Furthermore, when comparing antigen numbers, no relationship was found when they evaluated the sub-categories of autistic disorder and ASD with regression.


Although the current routine childhood vaccine schedule contains more vaccines than the schedule in the late 1990s, the maximum number of antigens that a child could be exposed to by 2 years of age in 2013 is 315, compared with several thousand in the late 1990s. Because different types of vaccines contain varying amounts of antigens, this research acknowledged that merely counting the number of vaccines received does not adequately account for how different vaccines and vaccine combinations stimulate the immune system. For example, the older whole cell pertussis vaccine causes the production of about 3000 different antibodies, whereas the newer acellular pertussis vaccine causes the production of 6 or fewer different antibodies.


An infant’s immune system is capable of responding to a large amount of immunologic stimuli and, from time of birth, infants are exposed to hundreds of viruses and countless antigens outside of vaccination. According to the authors, “The possibility that immunological stimulation from vaccines during the first 1 or 2 years of life could be related to the development of ASD is not well-supported by what is known about the neurobiology of ASDs.” In 2004, a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is not a causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism, and this study supports that conclusion.


Journal Reference:

  2. 1. Frank DeStefano, Cristofer S. Price, and Eric S. Weintraub. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.001




An investigation is underway after a child at Unsted Park School was given access to a disposable razor


  • *Staff told to give pupil access to blades and escort them to bathroom
  • *Pupil was allowed to self-harm in a ‘safe and controlled manner’
  • *Policy, introduced by headteacher and principal, abandoned after six days
  • *Teaching Agency is now investigating and will decide on any further action


By James Rush



Teachers were ordered to hand razor blades to a vulnerable youngster as part of a controversial ‘controlled self-harm’ policy at a specialist school, it has emerged.


An investigation is underway after a child at Unsted Park School – which offers education to boys and girls aged between seven and 19 years who have Asperger’s Syndrome and higher-functioning autism – was given access to blade kits.


Staff were told to give the pupil access to the sterilised disposable razor and sterile wipes and escort the child to a bathroom where they would be allowed to self-harm in a ‘safe and controlled manner’.


Teachers were ordered to wait outside the bathroom while the child was inside, checking on them every two minutes, before the wounds were dressed and cleaned by staff.


The policy was introduced and abandoned within six days at the school in Munstead Park, Godalming, Surrey, and is understood to have sparked protests from staff.


Principal Steve Dempsey and headteacher Laura Blair now face the possibility of being hauled before a Teaching Agency hearing over allegations of unacceptable professional conduct in connection with the policy.


Members of school staff are understood to have raised fears with Surrey County Council’s Local Authority Designated Officer over the procedure.


Following the Teaching Agency investigation, a panel from the regulator will decide whether any further action will be taken.


The regulator could decide to refer the case to a professional conduct panel.


Read in Full:


California, Pennsylvania


Forwarding and cross-posting are permitted and encouraged.


Anyone who’s read through all this stuff before in previous years,
please note there is one additional advisory about linguistic
accessibility. Other than that new point, if you already know what
kinds of presentations Autreat wants, you can skip right to the form
to fill in.


Autreat is a retreat-style conference run by Autism Network
International (http://www.ani.ac), for autistic people and our
families, friends, supporters, and interested professionals. We are
accepting presentation proposals for Autreat 2013, to be held
Monday-Friday, August 5-9, 2013, in California, Pennsylvania
(approximately 35 miles south of Pittsburgh).






If you want to submit a proposal but you have trouble reading these
instructions and putting your proposal in the requested format,
contact proposals2013@autreat.com (proposals2013 -at- autreat.com) for
help. Please send only plain text messages, with no attachments.




Autreat is very different from typical autism conferences:




Parents and professionals do attend, and most who attend find the
presentations to be of interest, but Autreat is basically autistic


Be sure your information is being presented in a manner that is both
helpful to and respectful of autistic people.


We expect that you will be speaking *to* us, not speaking to
non-autistic people *about* us.


We are interested in presentations, by either autistic or non-autistic
people, about POSITIVE WAYS OF LIVING WITH AUTISM, about functioning
as autistic people in a neurotypical world, and about the disability
movement and its significance for autistic people.

We are interested in educational and informative presentations, not in
sales pitches for a presenter’s products or services. If you are
representing a commercial enterprise and would like a forum to sell
products or services at Autreat, please contact exhibitors (at)
autreat.com for information about attending Autreat as a vendor.


We are *not* interested in presentations about how to cure, prevent,
or overcome autism.


We do *not* appreciate having non-autistic people come into our space
to talk to each other about how difficult we are to deal with, or how
heroic they are for putting up with us.


If your presentation is geared toward the interests of parents or
professionals, it should focus on positive ways of appreciating and
supporting autistic people, not on reinforcing negative attitudes
about autism and autistic people.




Autreat is attended by autistic people who speak and by autistic
people who do not speak;


by autistic people who communicate fluently and by autistic people who
have limited communication;


by autistic people who live independently and by autistic people who
need intensive support with daily living;


by autistic people who have jobs and by autistic people who live on
disability benefits;


by autistic people who are able to present as “socially acceptable”
and by autistic people who require support to help them manage their


by autistic people who have been labeled “high-functioning” and by
autistic people who have been labeled “low-functioning”-including some
autistic people who have had *both* labels, at different times or
under different circumstances.


While it is not expected that any one presentation will be of interest
to each and every autistic person, we do look for presentations that
will appeal to the widest possible audience.


We are *not* interested in presentations that reinforce what we
consider to be artificial distinctions between members of our
community who are labeled “low-” vs.”high-functioning.”




Our participants range from people who never finished high school
(occasionally young people who haven’t even started high school choose
to attend presentations) to people with postdoctoral education, some
in fields related to disability and some not.


Autreat presentations are expected to be delivered in
conversational-level English, not in specialized jargon. Autreat
proposals are also expected to be written in jargon-free English.


If any member of the Autreat Planning Committee finds it necessary to
use a dictionary in order to
understand terms used in your proposal, you will be given 48 hours to
resubmit the proposal in plain English.


If your proposal contains academic or clinical jargon that can’t even
be found in a dictionary of standard conversational English, it will
be subject to automatic rejection on the grounds of linguistic




Be aware that everyone at Autreat either knows what it’s like to be
autistic, or knows what it’s like to care about someone who is


All of us have our own personal stories. Presentations about the
presenters’ personal stories are not going to generate much interest,
unless you’re able to use your story in a way that will help other
people to share and understand their own experiences in a new way.


Your proposal should describe what participants can expect to get out
of your presentation, not just what personal experiences you’re going
to talk about.




Please review the ANI web site (http://www.ani.ac) and the past
Autreat brochures (http://www.autreat.com/past-workshops.htm) to make
sure you understand ANI’s philosophy and what Autreat is about.


If you have never attended Autreat before, you may wish to consider
attending first, before submitting a proposal to give a presentation.
In our experience, presentations usually get more positive feedback
when presenters have some familiarity with Autreat and its
participants before they give presentations there. Active
participation in ANI’s online community, and attendance at other
self-advocacy events run by and for autistic people, are other good
ways to get a feel for how Autreat is different from typical autism
conferences. If you wish to submit a proposal and you’ve never been to
Autreat before, please give us as much information as possible about
your past experience with other autistic-run activities and events.




If you submit a proposal, we expect you to be available to attend
Autreat if we accept your proposal, and to give your presentation on
the day and time scheduled. We make every effort to accommodate
presenters’ preferences in setting the Autreat schedule, but it is not
always possible to give every presenter his or her preferred time


Presenters are expected to send advance copies of any handouts or
slides they plan to use, so that we can prepare alternate format
copies for print-impaired attendees.


Presenters are expected to consent for their presentations to be
recorded, and for the recordings to be sold by Autism Network


Presenters are invited to attend all of Autreat. If presenters opt not
to attend the entire event, they are expected to arrive on-site by
8:30 a.m. for afternoon presentations, and to arrive the night before
for morning presentations.


Please be prepared to meet these expectations if you decide to submit
a proposal.


Presenters are also encouraged to submit an article on their topic for
inclusion in the program book. Like handouts and visual aids, articles
need to be submitted in a timely manner so we can prepare copies in
alternate formats.




Individual Autreat presenters receive free registration for Autreat,
including on-site meals and lodging in a shared (2-person) room. (A
private room may be available at the presenter’s own expense.) This
free registration is for the presenter *only*, not for a presenter’s
family members or support staff.


In the case of panel presentations consisting of three or more
presenters, we offer one complete four-day Autreat registration, plus
a single-day registration (including three meals and one overnight, if
desired) for each additional panelist. Therefore, a panel of X
presenters is entitled to a total of 4+(X-1) free days/overnights.
Panelists may divide these free days amongst their members as they
wish. Panel presenters are of course welcome to register and stay for
additional days if they wish.


ANI is a volunteer-run, member-supported grassroots organization with
minimal funding. We cannot reimburse for off-site expenses, nor can we
pay travel expenses or honoraria. If your proposal is accepted, we
will send you a formal letter of invitation if this would help you in
raising your own travel funds.


Presenters are entitled to receive one free copy of the recording of
their presentations.




*Your name and title (if any) exactly as you want them listed in
program materials should your proposal be accepted


*Contact information (address, phone, fax and/or email if you have them)


*Title of your proposed presentation


*Detailed description for consideration by the Planning Committee


*Brief (5 sentences or less) abstract exactly as you want it listed
in program materials should your proposal be accepted


*Indicate ONE theme that BEST relates to your proposed presentation:


[ ] Advocacy skills
[ ] Life skills/adaptive strategies
[ ] Helpful support services
[ ] Communication
[ ] Social/interpersonal issues
[ ] Personal/self-awareness/self-development issues
[ ] Autistic community and culture
[ ] Education
[ ] Employment
[ ] Family issues
[ ] Residential issues
[ ] Disability rights and politics
[ ] Autism research and theory
[ ] Other (describe):


*Indicate which group(s) you believe would find your proposed
presentation of interest. Check as many as apply. Briefly describe
what your presentation would offer to each group:


[ ] Autistic adults
[ ] Autistic teenagers
[ ] Family members of autistic people
[ ] Educators
[ ] Clinicians
[ ] Service providers
[ ] Other (specify):


* Brief (5 sentences or less) presenter bio exactly as you want it
listed in program materials should your proposal be accepted


*Any audiovisual equipment you would need for your presentation


If you have never presented at Autreat before, please also include an
introduction for the Planning Committee summarizing your relevant
experience, including any presentations or other education/advocacy
activities elsewhere, and the nature of your interest in autism and/or
in general disability issues.




Proposals can be submitted via email to proposals2013@autreat.com
(proposals2013 -at- autreat.com), or submitted online at
http://www.ani.ac/aut13cfp.php or sent via postal mail to


Autism Network International
P.O. Box 35448
Syracuse NY 13235


When your proposal is received via the online form, you will be sent a
brief acknowledgment confirming that we have received your proposal.
If you have not received this confirmation within 48 hours of
submitting your proposal, then we may not have received your proposal!
If you haven’t received confirmation within 48 hours, please write to
proposals2013@autreat.com (proposals2013 -at- autreat.com) and let us
know. Please save a copy of your proposal, so you can resend it if




If you want to make suggestions for Autreat presentations, or make
comments about previous presentations or presenters, please fill out
the questionnaire available at http://www.ani.ac/autplan2.php .




You can find a lot of general information, including a link to join
the Autreat Information mailing list, at http://www.autreat.com . If
you have specific questions and can’t find the answers on the web
page, you may send email to info (at) autreat.com.

In this interesting and informative new series of short videos, Will discusses various aspects of Aspergers with Theresa Cutts …



Aspects of Aspergers. Social Phobia

Author Will Hadcroft in conversation with Theresa Cutts discussing how the social difficulties that affect people with Aspergers Syndrome, affect his daily life …


Aspects of Aspergers – Social Confidence

In my previous video, I spoke about how Asperger’s syndrome causes phobia and panic which leads to dark depression when I’m put in a situation where I must socialise. This time I talk about the paradox – what happens when someone hands me a microphone! Most people dread having to talk or perform to audiences. The bigger the audience, the more ill they get.  But, for me, it’s the other way around.  Watch this little film to find out why …


Aspects of Aspergers – Social Cues

My latest little video, this time looking at misreading facial expressions and body language, and the trouble it can cause…


Aspects of Aspergers – Obsessions, Growing Up

My short video on what it’s like to struggle with obsessive thinking and behaviour, and what it can be like for those living with such a person…


Will’s autobiography, The Feeling’s Unmutual is available from Amazon or signed copies from www.willhadcroft.com Join in on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thefeelingsunmutual