Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Even Mild Stress Can Make It Difficult to Control Your Emotions

From the 26 August 2013 Science Daily article

Even mild stress can thwart therapeutic measures to control emotions, a team of neuroscientists at New York University has found. Their findings, which appear in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point to the limits of clinical techniques while also shedding new light on the barriers that must be overcome in addressing afflictions such as fear or anxiety.

“We have long suspected that stress can impair our ability to control our emotions, but this is the first study to document how even mild stress can undercut therapies designed to keep our emotions in check,” said Elizabeth Phelps, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and the study’s senior author. “In other words, what you learn in the clinic may not be as relevant in the real world when you’re stressed.”

In addressing patients’ emotional maladies, therapists sometimes use cognitive restructuring techniques — encouraging patients to alter their thoughts or approach to a situation to change their emotional response. These might include focusing on the positive or non-threatening aspects of an event or stimulus that might normally produce fear.

 

Read the entire article here

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Booklet] Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Parents Can Do

coping-parents

Practical ways parents and others can help children in the days, weeks, and months after traumatic events.
From the US National Institute on Mental Health.
Tips are practical and some are arranged by age groups.
An excerpt from the booklet 

How Parents Can Help:

After violence or a disaster parents and family should:

  • Identify and address their own feelings — this will allow them to help others
  • Explain to children what happened
  • Let children know:
    • You love them
    • The event was not their fault
    • You will take care of them, but only if you can; be honest
    • It’s okay for them to feel upset
  • DO:
    • Allow children to cry
    • Allow sadness
    • Let children talk about feelings
    • Let them write about feelings
    • Let them draw pictures
  • DON’T:
    • Expect children to be brave or tough
    • Make children discuss the event before they are ready
    • Get angry if children show strong emotions
    • Get upset if they begin:
      • Bed-wetting
      • Acting out
      • Thumb-sucking
  • If children have trouble sleeping:
    • Give them extra attention
    • Let them sleep with a light on
    • Let them sleep in your room (for a short time)
  • Try to keep normal routines (such routines may not be normal for some children):
    • Bed-time stories
    • Eating dinner together
    • Watching TV together
    • Reading books, exercising, playing games
  • If you can’t keep normal routines, make new ones together
  • Help children feel in control:
    • Let them choose meals, if possible
    • Let them pick out clothes, if possible
    • Let them make some decisions for themselves, when possible.

 

 

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A change in perspective could be all it takes to succeed in school

line art drawing of Adrenal gland, cleaned up ...

Image via Wikipedia

From the 9 August 2011 Eureka news alert

Study finds stress boosts performance for confident students, but holds back those with more anxiety

Knowing the right way to handle stress in the classroom and on the sports field can make the difference between success and failure for the millions of students going back to school this fall, new University of Chicago research shows.

“We found that cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, can either be tied to a student’s poor performance on a math test or contribute to success, depending on the frame of mind of the student going into the test,” said Sian Beilock, associate professor in psychology at UChicago and one of the nation’s leading experts on poor performance by otherwise talented people.

She is the author of “Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting it Right When You Have To,” released this month in paperback.

In a new paper published in the current issue of the journal “Emotion,” Beilock and her colleagues explore the topic of performance failure in math and show, for the first time, that there is a critical connection between working memory, math anxiety and salivary cortisol.

Working memory is the mental reserve that people use to process information and figure out solutions during tests. Math anxiety is fear or apprehension when just thinking about taking a math test. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland and associated with stress-related changes in the body; it is often referred to as the “stress hormone.”

Read this entire Eureka news alert

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | 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

   

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