Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Increased anxiety associated with sitting down

Increased anxiety associated with sitting down.

From the 18 June 2015 EurkAlert

Low-energy activities that involve sitting down are associated with an increased risk of anxiety, according to research published in the open-access journal BMC Public Health

Low energy activities that involve sitting down are associated with an increased risk of anxiety, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health. These activities, which include watching TV, working at a computer or playing electronic games, are called sedentary behavior. Further understanding of these behaviors and how they may be linked to anxiety could help in developing strategies to deal with this mental health problem.

Many studies have shown that sedentary behavior is associated with physical health problems like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. However, there has been little research into the link between sedentary behavior and mental health. This is the first systematic review to examine the relationship between anxiety and sedentary behavior.

Anxiety is a mental health illness that affects more than 27 million people worldwide. It is a debilitating illness that can result in people worrying excessively and can prevent people carrying out their daily life. It can also result in physical symptoms, which amongst others includes pounding heartbeat, difficulty breathing, tense muscles, and headaches.

Megan Teychenne, lead researcher and lecturer at Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) in Australia, said: “Anecdotally – we are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behavior. Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked. Also, since research has shown positive associations between sedentary behavior and depressive symptoms, this was another foundation for further investigating the link between sedentary behavior and anxiety symptoms.”

The C-PAN team suggests the link between sedentary behavior and anxiety could be due to disturbances in sleep patterns, social withdrawal theory and poor metabolic health. Social withdrawal theory proposes that prolonged sedentary behavior, such as television viewing, can lead to withdrawal from social relationships, which has been linked to increased anxiety. As most of the studies included in this systematic-review were cross-sectional the researchers say more follow-up work studies are required to confirm whether or not anxiety is caused by sedentary behavior.

Megan Teychenne said: “It is important that we understand the behavioral factors that may be linked to anxiety – in order to be able to develop evidence-based strategies in preventing/managing this illness. Our research showed that evidence is available to suggest a positive association between sitting time and anxiety symptoms – however, the direction of this relationship still needs to be determined through longitudinal and interventional studies.”

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications | EurekAlert! Science News

Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications | EurekAlert! Science News.


From the 2 July 2015 news release

A team comprised of scientists at VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven has made significant progress in uncovering the connection between psychological factors and the immune system. Their findings are based on an investigation of a massive drinking water contamination incident in Belgium in 2010, and are now published in the leading international medical journal Gut.

In December 2010, the Belgian communities of Schelle and Hemiksem in the province of Antwerp faced an outbreak of gastroenteritis, with more than 18,000 people exposed to contaminated drinking water. During the outbreak, VIB and KU Leuven set up a scientific task force to study the incident’s long-term effects, led by Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven) and Adrian Liston (VIB / KU Leuven).

Seizing an unexpected opportunity

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “The water contamination in Schelle and Hemiksem was an ‘accidental experiment’ on a scale rarely possible in medical research. By following the patients from the initial contamination to a year after the outbreak we were able to find out what factors altered the risk of long-term complications.”

Anxiety and depression affect immune system

The scientists found that individual with higher levels of anxiety or depression prior to the water contamination developed gastrointestinal infections of increased severity. The same individuals also had an increased risk of developing the long-term complication of irritable bowel syndrome, with intermittent abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation a year after the initial contamination.

Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven): “Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel movements. This is a common condition with large socio-economic costs, yet there is so much that still remains to be discovered about the causes. Our investigation found that that anxiety or depression alters the immune response towards a gastrointestinal infection, which can result in more severe symptoms and the development of chronic irritable bowel syndrome.”

Psychological factors key in preventing long-term complications

The study’s results provide valuable new insight into the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, and underscoring the connection between psychological factors and the immune system.

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “These results once again emphasize the importance of mental health care and social support services. We need to understand that health, society and economics are not independent, and ignoring depression and anxiety results in higher long-term medical costs.”

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News release] How we make emotional decisions

From the 28 May 2015 MIT news item

Neuroscientists identify a brain circuit that controls decisions that induce high anxiety.

Some decisions arouse far more anxiety than others. Among the most anxiety-provoking are those that involve options with both positive and negative elements, such choosing to take a higher-paying job in a city far from family and friends, versus choosing to stay put with less pay.

MIT researchers have now identified a neural circuit that appears to underlie decision-making in this type of situation, which is known as approach-avoidance conflict. The findings could help researchers to discover new ways to treat psychiatric disorders that feature impaired decision-making, such as depression, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 7.07.39 AM

The new study grew out of an effort to figure out the role of striosomes — clusters of cells distributed through the the striatum, a large brain region involved in coordinating movement and emotion and implicated in some human disorders. Graybiel discovered striosomes many years ago, but their function had remained mysterious, in part because they are so small and deep within the brain that it is difficult to image them with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).


May 29, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News release] Air pollution linked to increased risk of anxiety and stroke

Remember, correlation does not mean cause! See also the rebuttal below

From the 24 March 2015 MedicalExpress item

Air pollution is linked to a higher risk of stroke, particularly in developing countries, finds a study published in The BMJ today. In a second article, new research also shows that air pollution is associated with anxiety.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and kills around 5 million people each year worldwide. Common risk factors include obesity, smoking and . But the effect of the environment, such as, air pollution is uncertain because evidence is lacking.

In a  and meta analysis, a team of researchers from Edinburgh University looked at the association between short term air pollution exposure and stroke related hospital admissions and deaths. In total, they analysed 103  that covered 28 countries across the world.

Gaseous pollutants included in the analysis were , nitrogen dioxide and ozone. In addition, particulate matter was included: PM 2.5 ( less than 2.5 µm in size) and PM 10 (coarse particles less than 10 µm in size).

Results showed an association between carbon monoxide (1.5% increased risk per 1 ppm), sulphur dioxide (1.9% per 10 ppb) and  (1.4% per 10 ppb) and stroke related hospital admissions or death. The weakest association was found for ozone.

Both PM 2.5 and PM 10 were associated with hospital admissions or deaths due to stroke, by 1.1% and 0.3% per 10 µg/m3 increment respectively. The first day of air pollution exposure was found to have the strongest association.

Low- to middle-income countries experienced the strongest associations compared to high-income countries. Only 20% of analysed studies were from low- to middle-income countries – mostly mainland China – despite these countries having the highest burden of stroke.

Both studies were observational and no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the teams of researchers call for more research.


March 26, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release]Friends know how long you’ll live, study finds

Friends know how long you’ll live, study finds [University of Washington at St. Louis]

Peer estimates of your personality can predict longevity – January 20, 2015

By Gerry Everding

Young lovers walking down the aisle may dream of long and healthy lives together, but close friends in the wedding party may have a better sense of whether those wishes will come true, suggests new research on personality and longevity from Washington University in St. Louis.“You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave,” said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.


Published Jan. 12 in an advance online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study demonstrates that your personality at an early age (20s) can predict how long you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognizing these traits.Male participants seen by their friends as more open and conscientious ended up living longer. Female participants whose friends rated them as high on emotional stability and agreeableness also enjoyed longer lifespans, the study found.

“Our study shows that people are able to observe and rate a friend’s personality accurately enough to predict early mortality decades down the road,” Jackson said. “It suggests that people are able to see important characteristics related to health even when their friends were, for the most part, healthy and many years from death.”

It’s no secret that a person’s personality traits can have an impact on health. Traits such as depression and anger have been linked to an increased risk of various diseases and health concerns, including an early death.

Men who are conscientious are more likely to eat right, stick with an exercise routine and avoid risks, such as driving without a seat belt. Women who are emotionally stable may be better at fighting off anger, anxiety and depression, Jackson suggests.

While other studies have shown that a person’s view of his or her own personality can be helpful in gauging mortality risk, there has been little research on whether a close friend’s personality assessment might also predict the odds of a long life.

To explore this question, Jackson and colleagues analyzed data from a longitudinal study that in the 1930s began following a group of young people in their mid-20s, most of whom were engaged to be married.

The longitudinal study included extensive data on participant personality traits, both self-reported and as reported by close friends, including bridesmaids and groomsmen in the study participants’ wedding parties.

Using information from previous follow-up studies and searches of death certificates, Jackson and colleagues were able to document dates of death for all but a few study participants. Peer ratings of personality were stronger predictors of mortality risk than were self-ratings of personality.

“There are two potential reasons for the superiority of peer ratings over self ratings,” Jackson said.

“First, friends may see something that you miss; they may have some insight that you do not. Second, because people have multiple friends, we are able to average the idiosyncrasies of any one friend to obtain a more reliable assessment of personality. With self reports, people may be biased or miss certain aspects of themselves and we are not able to counteract that because there is only one you, only one self-report.”

The study also revealed some gender differences in self-assessment: Men’s self-ratings of personality traits were somewhat useful in predicting their lifespans, whereas the self-reports of women had little predictive value.

Jackson suggests this gender difference in self-reporting may be a function of the era in which the study began, since societal expectations were different then and fewer women worked outside the home.

Young women seen as highly agreeable and emotionally stable may have increased odds for a long and happy life since their personalities were well suited for the role of a supportive and easy-going wife, which would have been the norm in the 1930s. It is likely that fewer gender differences would arise in more modern samples if we were able to wait 75 years to replicate the study, he said.

“This is one of the longest studies in psychology,” Jackson said. “It shows how important personality is in influencing significant life outcomes like health and demonstrates that information from friends and other observers can play a critical role in understanding a person’s health issues. For example, it suggests that family members and even physician ratings could be used to personalize medical treatments or identify who is at risk for certain health ailments.”

The study is co-authored by James J. Connolly, PhD, and Madeleine M. Leveille, PhD, of Connolly Consulting, Waterford, Connecticut; S. Mason Garrison of the Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University; and Seamus L. Connolly of College of Medicine, Touro University, California.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Wealth, power or lack thereof at heart of many mental disorders

From the 8 December 2014 EurkAlert!

UC Berkeley study finds self-worth key to diagnoses of psychopathologies

Donald Trump’s ego may be the size of his financial empire, but that doesn’t mean he’s the picture of mental health. The same can be said about the self-esteem of people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, or unemployed. New research from the University of California, Berkeley, underscores this mind-wallet connection.

UC Berkeley researchers have linked inflated or deflated feelings of self-worth to such afflictions as bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety and depression, providing yet more evidence that the widening gulf between rich and poor can be bad for your health.

The social self.

The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



“We found that it is important to consider the motivation to pursue power, beliefs about how much power one has attained, pro-social and aggressive strategies for attaining power, and emotions related to attaining power,” said Sheri Johnson, a UC Berkeley psychologist and senior author of the study published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.

In a study of more than 600 young men and women conducted at UC Berkeley, researchers concluded that one’s perceived social status – or lack thereof – is at the heart of a wide range of mental illnesses. The findings make a strong case for assessing such traits as “ruthless ambition,” “discomfort with leadership” and “hubristic pride” to understand psychopathologies.

“People prone to depression or anxiety reported feeling little sense of pride in their accomplishments and little sense of power,” Johnson said. “In contrast, people at risk for mania tended to report high levels of pride and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs.”

Specifically, Johnson and fellow researchers Eliot Tang-Smith of the University of Miami and Stephen Chen of Wellesley College looked at how study participants fit into the “dominance behavioral system,” a construct in which humans and other mammals assess their place in the social hierarchy and respond accordingly to promote cooperation and avoid conflict and aggression. The concept is rooted in the evolutionary principle that dominant mammals gain easier access to resources for the sake of reproductive success and the survival of the species.

Studies have long established that feelings of powerlessness and helplessness weaken the immune system, making one more vulnerable to physical and mental ailments. Conversely, an inflated sense of power is among the behaviors associated with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, which can be both personally and socially corrosive.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Study shows integrative medicine relieves pain and anxiety for cancer inpatients


Study shows integrative medicine relieves pain and anxiety for cancer inpatients.

From the 6 November 2014 EurekAlert!


Study shows integrative medicine relieves pain and anxiety for cancer inpatients

Pain is a common symptom of cancer and side effect of cancer treatment, and treating cancer-related pain is often a challenge for health care providers.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing researchers found that integrative medicine therapies can substantially decrease pain and anxiety for hospitalized cancer patients. Their findings are published in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.

“Following Integrative medicine interventions, such as medical massage, acupuncture, guided imagery or relaxation response intervention, cancer patients experienced a reduction in pain by an average of 47 percent and anxiety by 56 percent,” said Jill Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author and Senior Scientific Advisor at the Penny George Institute.

“The size of these reductions is clinically important, because theoretically, these therapies can be as effective as medications, which is the next step of our research,” said Jeffery Dusek, Ph.D., senior author and Research Director for the Penny George Institute.

The Penny George Institute receives funding from the National Center of Alternative and Complementary Medicine of the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of integrative therapies on pain over many hours as well as over the course of a patient’s entire hospital stay.

“The overall goal of this research is to determine how integrative services can be used with or instead of narcotic medications to control pain,” Johnson said.

Researchers looked at electronic medical records from admissions at Abbott Northwestern Hospital between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012. From more than ten thousand admissions, researchers identified 1,833 in which cancer patients received integrative medicine services.

Patients were asked to report their pain and anxiety before and just after the integrative medicine intervention, which averaged 30 minutes in duration.

Patients being treated for lung, bronchus, and trachea cancers showed the largest percentage decrease in pain (51 percent). Patients with prostate cancer reported the largest percentage decrease in anxiety (64 percent).

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pain in Infancy Alters Response to Stress, Anxiety Later in Life

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



From the 30 October 2013 ScienceDaily article


Early life pain alters neural circuits in the brain that regulate stress, suggesting pain experienced by infants who often do not receive analgesics while undergoing tests and treatment in neonatal intensive care may permanently alter future responses to anxiety, stress and pain in adulthood, a research team led by Dr. Anne Murphy, associate director of the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University, has discovered.

n estimated 12 percent of live births in the U.S. are considered premature, researchers said. These infants often spend an average of 25 days in neonatal intensive care, where they endure 10-to-18 painful and inflammatory procedures each day, including insertion of feeding tubes and intravenous lines, intubation and repeated heel lance. Despite evidence that pain and stress circuitry in the brain are established and functional in preterm infants, about 65 percent of these procedures are performed without benefit of analgesia. Some clinical studies suggest early life pain has an immediate and long-term impact on responses to stress- and anxiety-provoking events.

The Georgia State study examined whether a single painful inflammatory procedure performed on male and female rat pups on the day of birth alters specific brain receptors that affect behavioral sensitivity to stress, anxiety and pain in adulthood. The findings demonstrated that such an experience is associated with site-specific changes in the brain that regulate how the pups responded to stressful situations. Alterations in how these receptors function have also been associated with mood disorders.

The study findings mirror what is now being reported clinically. Children who experienced unresolved pain following birth show reduced responsiveness to pain and stress.




Read the entire article here



October 31, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

We face an epidemic of excessive busyness


From the 11 August 2013 article


In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or x-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. It’s one with which, as a fellow sufferer, I empathize especially.

Being excessively busy has become so much a part of our culture that we’ve developed an extended vocabulary for it, like Eskimos and snow: tapped out, laid flat, on overload, crazy busy, fried. The other day, while discussing an interesting potential project with me, a colleague asked if I “had the bandwidth” to take it on.

The pervasiveness of busyness is such that we may not even notice it anymore. A patient of mine wanted to be tested for anemia–why else could she be so tired? It didn’t occur to her that working full time, going to school, and caring for a severely disabled child might have something to do with her exhaustion.


For the poor, as this recent editorial by science writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff points out, stress has a particularly pernicious effect on health. Velasquez-Manoff points out that it’s not busyness itself, but lack of control and resources to deal with stress that busyness engenders that makes poor people less healthy than rich people. He writes:

It’s not necessarily the strain of a chief executive facing a lengthy to-do list, or a well-to-do parent’s agonizing over a child’s prospects of acceptance to an elite school. Unlike those of lower rank, both the C.E.O. and the anxious parent have resources with which to address the problem. By definition, the poor have far fewer.




Read the entire article here



August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , | 1 Comment

The Online Blues—Is There A Relationship Between Social Media And Mental Well-Being?

Janice Flahiff:








We all experience the above states from time to time as a result of our work environments. I know I did, which prompted a midlife career shift from clinical to nonclinical medicine.

So imagine my surprise to feel these emotions resurface during my year of playing hooky to write.


Recently, after an irritable self-pity party summoned Mr. Nasty Pants, my dreaded personality imp, I tugged at the stripes on his pants and said, “What the crap? I’ve spent my day glued to a laptop yet have little product to show for my efforts.”

Mr. Nasty Pants

My personality imp, Mr. Nasty Pants

My impish nemesis danced his evil two-step and laughed. “Oh, what’s de matter. Is wittle, baby Carrie’s plan not going her way?”

I sighed, closed my laptop, and assumed a supine position on the floor, hoping to soothe the twisted knot in my back. Then I accessed my left brain for analysis. What exactly was going on here?

  • Was it the writing process itself? My neurons fired a quick no in response.
  • Was it guilt over playing hooky from medicine? Eh, maybe a little, but not completely.
  • Was it the fact that my writing progress did not match my timeline? Bingo.

Okay, so if that was the source of my angst, what was the root?

At this point, Mr. Nasty Pants leaped onto my stomach and resumed his jig. “Twiddle dee, twiddle dum, you spend too much time online, my stupid chum.”

Hmm, my fashion-challenged demon might have a point.


Naturally, my first impulse was research. Are there studies to suggest too much online media is associated with psychological distress?

The concept makes sense; it doesn’t take millions of funding dollars to see that. Plus, I’ve read reams of pediatric literature discussing social media’s harmful effects on kids. But what about adults?

Show me the studies, man.

Here’s some of what I found:

  1. Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety: Given the title says it all, I see no reason to elaborate.
  2. Internet-Related Psychosis−A Sign of the Times: Well, now, that doesn’t sound good. In this study, too much social media involving ‘hyperpersonal’ relationships with strangers resulted in negative feelings. And delusions. (That’s the psychosis part, folks). For more information on this pleasant thought, see the aptly named article Can Facebook Drive You Crazy – Literally?
  3. Study: People Who Are Constantly Online Can Develop Mental Disorders (Abstract here): Um, yeah…again, pretty self-explanatory. But in addition to depression, this study also found sleep disorders and poor ergonomics (improper body positioning). One of the main culprits is that in an online world that’s 24/7, people never feel free. Furthermore, if they neglect their social media, feelings of guilt surface.

Kind of like when you don’t get to everyone’s blog posts, right?


So what’s a bloke to do? Especially if said bloke uses social media not only for interaction but also as a marketing tool.

One needn’t be a genius to answer that. As Mr. Nasty Pants would say, jumping off each of our heads in gleeful spitefulness, “Turn off the endless black holes.”

But we know it’s not that easy. We want and need to maintain the interaction. But we also need to get work done and meet our personal deadlines. Finding that balance is the ever-elusive golden goose, is it not?

For my own self, I know I need to cut back. I only post once a week, and as such, perhaps I’ll only be able to visit other blogs once a week. And less Twitter. And Facebook. And forums. And…

When I have the answers, I’ll let you know…

What about you? Do you ever get the online blues? Are you able to cut back without guilt? 

All images from Microsoft Clip Art

Like this:

Originally posted on The Write Transition:








We all experience the above states from time to time as a result of our work environments. I know I did, which prompted a midlife career shift from clinical to nonclinical medicine.

So imagine my surprise to feel these emotions resurface during my year of playing hooky to write.

What Gives?

Recently, after an irritable self-pity party summoned Mr. Nasty Pants, my dreaded personality imp, I tugged at the stripes on his pants and said, “What the crap? I’ve spent my day glued to a laptop yet have little product to show for my efforts.”

My impish nemesis danced his evil two-step and laughed. “Oh, what’s de matter. Is wittle, baby Carrie’s plan not going her way?”

I sighed, closed my laptop, and assumed a supine position on the floor, hoping to soothe the twisted knot in my back. Then I accessed my…

View original 486 more words

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Expressing Your Emotions Can Reduce Fear, UCLA Psychologists Report



anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)


From the 7 September 2012 article at Medical News Today


“Give sorrow words.” – Malcolm in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”

Can simply describing your feelings at stressful times make you less afraid and less anxious?

A new UCLA psychology study suggests that labeling your emotions at the precise moment you are confronting what you fear can indeed have that effect.

The psychologists asked 88 people with a fear of spiders to approach a large, live tarantula in an open container outdoors. The participants were told to walk closer and closer to the spider and eventually touch it if they could.

The subjects were then divided into four groups and sat in front of another tarantula in a container in an indoor setting. In the first group, the subjects were asked to describe the emotions they were experiencing and to label their reactions to the tarantula – saying, for example, “I’m anxious and frightened by the ugly, terrifying spider.”

“This is unique because it differs from typical procedures in which the goal is to have people think differently about the experience – to change their emotional experience or change the way they think about it so that it doesn’t make them anxious,” said Michelle Craske, a professor of psychology at UCLA and the senior author of the study. “Here, there was no attempt to change their experience, just to state what they were experiencing.” …



September 7, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | 1 Comment

Should Your Boss Encourage You to Take Drugs?

And if so, is the workplace still drug free??? And if an employee would prefer not to follow advice on using a drug??

From the 6 June 2012 article at The Health Care Blog

A top executive I know recently decided to takeInderal before making high-pressure/high-anxiety presentations. The impact was immediate. She felt more relaxed, confident and effective. Her people agreed.

Would she encourage a comparably anxious subordinate to take the drug? No. But if that employee’s anxiety really undermined his or her effectiveness, she’d share her story and make them aware of the Inderal option. She certainly wouldn’t disapprove of an employee seeking prescription help to become more productive.

No one in America thinks twice anymore if a colleague takes Prozac. (Roughly 10% of workers in Europe and the U.K. use antidepressants, as well). Caffeine has clearly become the (legal) stimulant of business choice and Starbucks its most profitable global pusher (two shots of espresso, please).

Increasingly, prescription ADHD drugs like Adderall, dedicated to improving attention deficits, are finding their way into gray market use by students looking for a cognitive edge. When one looks at existing and in-the-pipeline drugs for Alzheimer’s and other neurophysiological therapies for aging OECD populations with retirements delayed, the odds are that far more employees are going to be taking more drugs to get more work done better….

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Why People Mispredict Their Behavior In Embarrassing Situations

Why People Mispredict Their Behavior In Embarrassing Situations

From the 18 January 2012 Medical News Today item

Whether it’s investing in stocks, bungee jumping or public speaking, why do we often plan to take risks but then “chicken out” when the moment of truth arrives?

In a new paper* in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder and Carnegie Mellon University argue that this “illusion of courage” is one example of an “empathy gap” – that is, our inability to imagine how we will behave in future emotional situations. According to the empathy gap theory, when the moment of truth is far off you aren’t feeling, and therefore are out of touch with, the fear you are likely to experience when push comes to shove. The research team also included Cornell University’s David Dunning and former CMU graduate student Ned Welch, currently a consultant for McKinsey. …

…”Because social anxiety associated with the prospect of facing an embarrassing situation is such a common and powerful emotion in everyday life, we might think that we know ourselves well enough to predict our own behavior in such situations,” said Leaf Van Boven, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. “But the ample experience most of us should have gained with predicting our own future behavior isn’t sufficient to overcome the empathy gap – our inability to anticipate the impact of emotional states we aren’t currently experiencing.”

The illusion of courage has practical consequences. “People frequently face potential embarrassing situations in everyday life, and the illusion of courage is likely to cause us to expose ourselves to risks that, when the moment of truth arrives, we wish we hadn’t taken,” said George Loewenstein, the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology within CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Knowing that, we might choose to be more cautious, or we might use the illusion of courage to help us take risks we think are worth it, knowing full well that we are likely to regret the decision when the moment of truth arrives.” …

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Anxiety May Be In Your Gut, Not In Your Head

From a 17 May 2011 Medical News Today article

For the first time, researchers at McMaster University have conclusive evidence that bacteria residing in the gut influence brain chemistry and behaviour.

The findings are important because several common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated withanxiety or depression. In addition there has been speculation that some psychiatric disorders, such as late onset autism, may be associated with an abnormal bacterial content in the gut.

“The exciting results provide stimulus for further investigating a microbial component to the causation of behavioural illnesses,” said Stephen Collins, professor of medicine and associate dean research, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Collins and Premysl Bercik, assistant professor of medicine, undertook the research in the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute.

The research appears in the online edition of the journal Gastroenterology. ….

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Children and War

The Children and War Foundation was established in 2000 to “improve children’s lives after wars and disasters”.
The home page reflects current efforts, from the effect of trauma and stress on Palestinian children to a Disaster Bereavement Manual to rescue and acute efforts in Japan.
The toolbar Projects option leads to summaries of  current efforts in Africa, America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
The foundation has developed a number of Measures to screen and quantify the effects of war, disaster and trauma on children.
For example, the Children’s Revised Impact of Event Scale is “a widely used screening tool measuring children at risk for post traumatic stress symptoms, and is designed to be used in children aged 8 and above. It has been applied in a variety of cultures as post traumatic stress symptoms in children are more similar than they are different from one culture to the other.”
On a more human level, the Stories link on the home page’s left column provides narratives of children caught up in wars and disasters, and given assistance by the foundation.
Elizabeth of Uganda was kidnapped and used as a slave by Ugandan government soldiers. Luay of Iraq was traumatized by carrying the dead out of bombed ruins.

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Professional Health Care Resources | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discrimination creates racial battle fatigue for African-Americans

Discrimination creates racial battle fatigue for African-Americans

From the Penn State March 3 2011 news release

University Park, Pa. — Just as the constant pressure soldiers face on the battlefield can follow them home in the form of debilitating stress, African-Americans who face chronic exposure to racial discrimination may have an increased likelihood of suffering a race-based battle fatigue, according to Penn State researchers.

African-Americans who reported in a survey that they experienced more instances of racial discrimination had significantly higher odds of suffering generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) some time during their lives, according to Jose Soto, assistant professor, psychology.

Generalized anxiety disorder has both psychological and physical symptoms that are so severe that they can significantly affect everyday tasks and job performance. People with the disorder may have chronic worrying, intrusive thoughts and difficulty concentrating. Physically, the disorder may manifest such symptoms as tension headaches, extreme fatigue and ulcers. Some of these symptoms are associated with “racial battle fatigue,” a term coined by William A. Smith, associate professor, University of Utah….


March 6, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill
Spill caused significant psychological impact even to nearby communities not directly touched by oil

From the February 15, 2011 Eurkea news alert

Baltimore, MD – Feb. 17, 2011. The explosion and fire on a BP-licensed oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 had huge environmental and economic effects, with millions of gallons of oil leaking into the water for more than five months. It also had significant psychological impact on people living in coastal communities, even in those areas that did not have direct oil exposure, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who worked in collaboration with the University of Florida, Gainesville. Study results will be published in the February 17 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

“We found that people living in communities with and without direct oil exposure had similar levels of psychological distress. People in both groups showed clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety. Also, where compared to people whose income was unaffected by the disaster, people with spill-related income loss in both groups had higher rates of depression, were less resilient and were more likely to cope using ‘behavioral disengagement,’ which involves just ‘giving up’ trying to deal the problem,” explains Lynn Grattan, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The Maryland investigators, who traveled to the region soon after the spill, worked with Gulf Coast community leaders to get “real-time” assessments of the acute impacts of the spill. Their goal was to measure the acute psychological distress, coping resilience and perceived risk (concerns about the environmental impact and potential health consequences) of people living along the Gulf Coast. By doing this, they could help identify the potential mental health needs of the Northwest Gulf Coast communities. They examined the psychological impact in two fishing communities: Baldwin County, Alabama, and Franklin County, Florida. Baldwin County had direct oil exposure; Franklin County did not. The researchers defined indirect impact as a place where oil did not physically reach the coastline, but where anticipation of the oil spread significantly affected the community’s recreation, tourism and fishing industries.

“The findings of these University of Maryland researchers may have important implications for planning public health response in similar situations, suggesting that a broader approach may needed,” adds E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The people in Florida, where oil had not reached shore, showed similar elevated levels of anxiety and depression as those living in Alabama who had direct oil exposure. Both groups had similar high levels of worry about the impact of the spill on the environment, health and seafood safety.

However, the levels of psychological distress were higher in both communities among people who had suffered income loss because of the spill. They had significantly more tension, anger, fatigue and overall mood disturbance than those whose income was not adversely affected. These people also had lower scores on resilience and may have fewer psychological resources to bounce back from adversity.

“From a public health standpoint, we need to understand that when there is a significant environmental crisis, we need to extend public health outreach and education, psychological monitoring and mental health services beyond the immediately affected areas, paying particular attention to people at risk for income loss. There are things that can be done to help people manage their stress and anxiety, and cope in these situations, so these interventions need to be available immediately in the communities where the impacted individuals live,” adds Dr. Grattan, who is also a neuropsychologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The study on psychological impact built on a research program by University of Florida investigators who were already in the area to study the acute environmental and health impact of the spill. Through contacts with local community and religious leaders, trade associations, the University of Florida extension office and other agencies, the Maryland researchers recruited 71 residents in Florida and 23 from Alabama for the psychological assessment.

The team evaluated the participants through interviews and standardized assessments of psychological distress, resilience and coping. The team also looked at whether the participants had cognitive symptoms of neurotoxicity as a result of exposure to oil and chemical dispersants. These included assessments of attention, memory, and dexterity and speed (through a pegboard puzzle task). The researchers also asked the participants about what they were doing to cope with the situation, which could range from prayer and meditation to increased use of alcohol and other drugs.

Related news item

Psychological effects of BP oil spill go beyond residents of impacted shorelines

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncertainty a huge source of anxiety in patients

From a December 3 Reuters Health news item by Fran Lowry

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (Reuters Health) – Uncertainty about a diagnosis causes more anxiety and can be more stressful than actually knowing that you have a serious illness, researchers reported here at the 2010 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

“Once people have the diagnosis, they gain some understanding and control, but without it, all they have is anxiety, and they do not know how to handle it,” Dr. Elvira V. Lang, from Harvard Medical School, Boston, told Reuters Health. “It is important for physicians and others who work in the health care field to realize this and find ways to alleviate this anxiety and stress. Not only will they help patients, they will also be helping their institutions to provide more cost effective care.”…

We were very surprised to see that the women having breast biopsy were significantly more anxious than the women who came for treatment for malignant cancer and those who came for fibroids,” Lang said in an interview.

Health care professionals tend not to be aware that diagnostic tests can be stressful, she added.

The researchers recognize that for a woman awaiting breast biopsy, the fear of being diagnosed with cancer and uncertainty about what the outcome will be can create higher anxiety levels than even those experienced by patients undergoing a “much riskier and invasive treatment of a known cancer.”

“People in health care and also family members may judge what is minor or major by how much risk is involved. But that is not what the patient is experiencing. That is why we want to alert them,” Lang said.

There are simple ways to diffuse this anxiety prior to procedures, she added. “People want to make patients feel better but they use language that is not helpful. For instance, they will say ‘oh, it’s not going to be that bad’, or ‘it’s just going to be a little sting’, but using such vocabulary only increases anxiety and pain.”

Training health care providers to use the right language with patients about to undergo diagnostic procedures will not only reduce their anxiety levels, it will also save the health care system money, Lang added.

“Sometimes patients are so anxious they can’t complete a test….



December 7, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Kids of Deployed Soldiers May Face More Mental Health Woes

HealthDay news image

Study found they needed more doctor visits to handle issues from parent‘s absence


From a November 8, 2010 Health Day news item

MONDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) — Mental and behavioral problems cause children of U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones to need considerably more outpatient medical visits than those with non-deployed parents, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined the medical records of more than 640,000 military children between the ages of 3 and 8, and found that those separated from deployed parents sought treatment 11 percent more often for cases of mood, anxiety and adjustment disorders. Visits for conditions such as autism and attention-deficit disorder, whose causes are not linked to deployment, also increased.

The study, reported online Nov. 8 and in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics [article is free through this link], also revealed larger increases in mental and behavioral visits among older children, children with military fathers and children of married military parents.

“It’s statistically significant, but I also think it’s clinically significant,” said lead researcher Dr. Gregory Gorman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. “These are also probably the worst cases.”

Gorman said he was surprised to find that while these types of medical visits went up, the rates of visits for all other medical conditions dropped.

“I have no direct evidence, but we hypothesize that when a parent is deployed . . . and the other parent has to do all of the duties, they may want to handle other problems at home,” Gorman said. “These parents who remain at home need to multi-task even more.”…

…In Gorman’s study, the most frequent primary diagnosis during mental and behavioral health visits was attention-deficit disorder (ADD). Adjustment and autistic disorders came next, while farther down the list were mood and anxiety disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, developmental delays, post-traumatic stress disorder, bedwetting and separation anxiety.

SOURCES: Gregory Gorman, M.D., assistant professor, pediatrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md.; Rick Olson, retired Army general, director, strategic communications, Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Proponency, Fort Lewis, Wash.; December 2010 Pediatrics


November 12, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treating Anxiety Disorders

From the Fall 2010 issue of the NIH magazine NIH MedlinePlus, Treating Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy such as “talk therapy,” or both. Treatment depends on the problem and the person’s preference. Before any treatment, a doctor must do a careful evaluation to see whether a person’s symptoms are from an anxiety disorder or a physical problem. The doctor must also check for coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. Sometimes, treatment for the anxiety disorder must wait until after treatment for the other conditions.

How Medications Can Help

Doctors may prescribe medication, along with talk therapy, to help relieve anxiety disorders. Some medicines may take a few weeks to work. Your family doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe:

  • Antidepressants. These medications take up to four to six weeks to begin relieving anxiety. The most widely prescribed antidepressants for anxiety are the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Commonly prescribed: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa.
  • Anti-anxiety medicines (or “tranquilizers”). These medications produce feelings of calm and relaxation. Side effects may include feeling sleepy, foggy, and uncoordinated. The higher the dose, the greater the chance of side effects. Benzodiazepines are the most common class of anti-anxiety drugs.Commonly prescribed: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.
  • Beta blockers. These drugs block norepinephrine, the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress hormone. This helps control the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate, a trembling voice, sweating, dizziness, and shaky hands. Because beta blockers don’t affect the emotional symptoms of anxiety, such as worry, they’re most helpful for phobias, particularly social phobia and performance anxiety. Commonly prescribed: Tenormin and Inderal.

Click here for a list of related questions to ask your health care provider

Some related Web sites

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , , , , | Leave a comment



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 176 other followers

%d bloggers like this: