Tuesday, December 10, 2013

REPOST: Better Diagnosis of Anxiety Could Improve Care for Veterans

This article from PsychCentral.com discusses the new method on how anxiety can be diagnosed in veterans.

Image Source: psychcentral.com

A new study discovers that many veterans receive a diagnosis of generalized anxiety rather than a more accurate, specific diagnosis of their condition.

Accordingly, veterans who suffer from anxiety may not get appropriate treatment for their particular condition.

Lead researcher Terri L. Barrera, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston looked at data from Veterans Health Administration outpatient records for patients with anxiety.

As reported in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, the researchers discovered 38 percent of the sample was diagnosed with anxiety non-specified (NOS).

The research team expected to find that a diagnosis of anxiety NOS disorder was only used temporarily until a more specific diagnosis was decided on. That was not the case.
“Unfortunately, our results suggested that only 12 percent of the patients with an initial anxiety NOS diagnosis received a specific anxiety diagnosis within the year,” said Barrera.

Anxiety might be related to post-traumatic stress or be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsivedisorder, social anxiety disorder or a specific phobia.
While treatments for various anxiety disorders are similar, usually including medication and behavioral therapy, the approach might differ.

Veterans with a specific anxiety diagnosis were more likely to receive mental health services.
From 60 to 67 percent of those with the most frequently diagnosed specific anxiety disorders received treatment, while only 32 percent of patients with a non-specific diagnosis received mental health services during the year following diagnosis.

“While anxiety is a problem for all who suffer from it, getting the correct treatment is especially important for veterans. Within any given year, 18 percent of the general population may be diagnosed with anxiety. For veterans, it’s 33 percent.

“Veterans are twice as likely to experience clinical levels of anxiety than the general public,” said Barrera.

“Anxiety disorders can be devastating, and are associated with increased disability and risk for suicide.”

Unfortunately, anxiety disorders may go unrecognized and untreated, particularly in primary care settings.

Primary care providers only detect 50 percent of patients with mental health problems, note the researchers. Even fewer are adequately treated or referred for specific mental health services.
“It’s important to do regular screening in any high-risk population,” said Shirley Glynn, Ph.D., a research psychologist and co-director of UCLA’s Welcome Back Veterans Family Resilience Center.
“We want to be more diligent and do screening early so we can offer intervention if needed, so the condition won’t become more chronic.”

Anxiety NOS is frequently used as a temporary diagnosis with the expectation that the health care provider will eventually make a more specific diagnosis at a later date.
One problem with not making a specific diagnosis is that primary care doctors may not know who to refer patients to, notes Glynn.

“Right now there are several models to improve treatment,” said Glynn.

“One involves having a mental health professional located in a primary care clinic, such as a psychiatric nurse, a psychologist or a psychiatrist who is available in a timely manner to provide a consultation.

“Another possibility is to utilize short screening questionnaires with patients before they see a physician and then these can be reviewed with the doctor.”

More topics on mental health can be read in this Dr. Gary Zomalt blog site.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Expressive art heals depression

Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways. - Sigmund Freud
Of this famous line, Freud draws out the importance of self-expression not only as an art but also as a form of life that lives within the system of a person. Further, it emphasizes that suppressed emotions can lead a person to great danger if left hidden for a long time.

Image Source: scientificamerican.com

The role of expressive art is no longer new in the field of psychiatric care. Through the years, the method of using art as a form of therapy has blossomed among psychiatric institutions, which today offers various types of expressive therapies, such as writing, dance, and psychodrama.

In several recent studies, the use of expressive arts therapy has proven to help people cope with their depression as it offers a safe haven for patients to explore their feelings, manage their behaviors, and resolve personal issues.

Image Source: about.com

One notable study proving the power of expressive art is a Brazilian experiment conducted on patients with major depressive disorder. In the study, the patients were divided into two groups: (1) the experimental group received individual and structured psychodramatic group sessions, while (2) the control group did not receive any form expressive arts therapy. Using the Social Adjustment Scale-Self-Report and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, the experiment revealed that those who had received expressive art therapy sessions showed more improvement than those who did not partake in the activity.

Image Source: foxnews.com

Over the course of his professional life, Dr. Gary Zomalt has helped clients regain a healthy life away from depression. Access more information on psychiatric health by following this Twitter page.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

REPOST: Empathy Helps Children to Understand Sarcasm

Children have not only an understanding of right and wrong, but also the knowledge of what's sincere and sarcastic. Learn how empathy guide children in determining the sarcastic language from this ScienceDaily.com article.


The greater the empathy skills of children, the easier it is for them to recognize sarcasm, according to a new study in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology.

For children, sarcastic language can be difficult to understand. They generally begin to recognize sarcasm between ages 6 and 8, especially familiar sarcastic praise such as "Thanks a lot!" and "Nice going!" But some children take much longer to begin to understand sarcasm, with detection improving even through adolescence.
In a new study, Penny Pexman, Juanita Whalen, and Andrew Nicholson investigated whether differences in the ability of children to empathize with others might help to explain why.
The researchers looked at empathy specifically because they thought that in order to understand sarcasm children must be able to adopt the perspective of the speaker -- to understand the speaker's attitude and emotions.
The study involved 31 children between 8 and 9 years old in a task that required them to recognize sarcasm. After children watched a series of puppet shows that included either sarcastic or non-sarcastic praise, they were asked to pick up a "mean" toy shark if they believed that the puppets had spoken sarcastically, or a "nice" duck otherwise. Each child was tested 12 times, with different puppets and scenarios. The empathy skills of the children were measured separately.
Children detected the puppets' sarcasm about half of the time, and children with relatively strong empathy skills did so more accurately. Children with stronger empathy skills were nearly twice as accurate as children with less advanced empathy skills. Initially, the researchers analyzed a group of 6-7 year olds, but this age group revealed almost zero accuracy for sarcasm.
The researchers also quantified children's eye gaze and reaction time during the sarcasm recognition task, to quantify subtle clues about their understanding. They measured whether the children looked towards the duck or the shark, as well as the time it took them to choose either. This gave more subtle clues about the children's understanding.
"Sarcastic language, especially in unfamiliar forms, is a real challenge for most children," explains Prof. Pexman. "Even when children did not recognize a remark as sarcastic, there was evidence in their reactions that the children with stronger empathy skills were sensitive to the speaker's intent."
"This study helps us understand why some children deal better with this challenge than others and provides new insights about development of this complex aspect of emotion recognition," adds Pexman. "It also puts us in a better position to help children who are struggling with this challenge."
Dr. Gary Zomalt helps people realize the value of good mental health through his expertise in psychotherapy. For more about him, visit this Facebook page

Thursday, September 12, 2013

REPOST: Botox May Lead To Feelings Of Depression, Study Says

A new study reveals that cosmetic injections to decrease crow's feet may actually leave people feeling depressed. Read more in this Huffington Post article.

Image Source: huffingtonpost.com

Botox injections may be designed to reduce wrinkles but they also may leave you feeling blue.

Cosmetic injections of botox for crows' feet around the eyes may cause feelings of depression, according to a British researcher. Why? Because these injections impact the strength of the eye muscles, which are essential in the face's overall formation of a smile.

The small study, led by Dr. Michael Lewis of the School of Psychology, Cardiff, Wales, involved 25 people who had received Botox for wrinkles and examined how their facial expressions produce, as well as reflect, emotions because they reinforce them.

Lewis said it all boils down to this: people smile when they are happy and smiling can make a person happy.

"Treatment with drugs like Botox prevents the patient from being able to make a particular expression," he said. "The new finding being reported [this week] concerns the impact of treatments for crows’ feet. The muscles around the eyes are used when forming a real smile and so it was predicted that treatment of the muscles that cause these will reduce the strength of a smile."

With the help of a questionnaire, Lewis found that those people who had a harder time smiling reported greater feelings of depression.

Previous research has found that when people smile -- even if it's a fake smile -- they actually feel less stress and happier in general.

Owner of 3R Counseling & Consulting, Gary Zomalt helps people overcome addiction, depression, and others. Follow this Twitter page for more updates. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beating depression: Refuting a study that says exercise is useless in treating depression

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Depression is one of the most common mental disorders that, if left untreated, can have a major negative impact on a person’s life. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to beat the condition, and many experts agree that regular exercise is one of them.

However, Medical News Today mentioned that a study published in BMJ , which sparked an uproar of criticisms, suggested that exercise is not beneficial in treating depression. The study presented, however, was a bit misleading since it was only about finding out whether adding a “specific physical activity intervention” to the usual care that depressed patients get would significantly reduce their symptoms.

The researchers from Universities of Bristol, Exeter, and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry called their intervention TREAD (TREAtment of Depression with physical activity). It is a theory-based intervention that provides a trained facilitator who gives customized support to patients to perform physical activity.

Image Source: bipolar-101.blogspot.com

The study implied that the participants in the TREAD intervention showed no better results than those receiving the usual care. Participants of the former also indicated no reduced antidepressant use compared to those of the latter. The researchers emphasized that their study did not conclude that exercise, in general, is not useful for depression, but the details of their study could be used by healthcare professionals in choosing which exercise programs are more effective than the others.

"Numerous studies have reported the positive effects of physical activity for people suffering with depression but our intervention was not an effective strategy for reducing symptoms," explained Melanie Chalder, lead author of the research.

Meanwhile, mental health experts still support the idea that exercise is an effective tool in helping patients alleviate depression, especially if they are at risk of developing other serious illnesses.

Image Source: fitnizz.com

In the course of his profession, Dr. Gary Zomalt has helped clients attain optimal mental health. Know more information on related topics by visiting this Facebook page.

Friday, July 12, 2013

REPOST: Recession led teens to focus more on social problems, environment, psychologists report

This Eureka Alert.org article discusses how the recession affected teens' perception about the environment and other social problems.

During the Great Recession, high school students in the U.S. became more concerned about others and the environment, psychologists at UCLA and San Diego State University report in a new study.

The research, published July 11 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, focused on survey data collected on high school seniors during three time periods: the global recession (2008-10), just before the recession (2004-06) and the earliest period for which data were available (1976-78).

The study authors found that high school students' concern for others declined significantly between 1976-78 and 2004-06, then rebounded by the period of the Great Recession. Compared with high school students who graduated in the years just before the recession, students who graduated during the recession were more concerned for others, more interested in social issues and more interested in saving energy and helping the environment.

For example, 63 percent of recession-era 12th graders said they made an effort to turn down the heat at home to save energy, compared with 55 percent in the pre-recession period; 30 percent of recession-era students said they thought often about social problems, compared with 26 percent of pre-recession students; and 36 percent said they would be willing to use a bicycle or mass transit to get to work, up from 28 percent just before the recession.

"This is the silver lining of the Great Recession," said Patricia Greenfield, distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the study. "These findings are consistent with my theory that fewer economic resources lead to more concern for others and the community. It is a change very much needed by our society."

The research was based on an analysis of data from Monitoring the Future, a survey of a representative sample of U.S. high school seniors conducted between 1976 and 2010 in which students were asked about a variety of issues. The current study focused on their answers to questions related to concern for others and the environment, as well as those related to the importance of money and materialism. The study authors also analyzed whether the high school seniors believed they were more intelligent than average.

They found that recession-era high school students were more likely to think they were smarter than their peers, and they were more satisfied with themselves — the recession did not reverse the overall long-term trend toward young people having a more inflated sense of self, the researchers said.

Other analyses by the team found that high school students' positive self-views had decreased during previous recessions but not during the recent recession.

"In the past, recessions led to less positive self-views. The recent recession is the only one that produced an increase," said co-author Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before."

That finding suggests other factors in the culture may be at work, such as technology and a "focus on fame," said UCLA's Greenfield, director of the Children's Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles.

Compared with pre-recession high school students, recession-era students were less likely to believe it important to own expensive products and luxury items. However, recession-era students continued the long-term trend of believing earning a lot of money is important.

The lead author of the study was Heejung Park, a UCLA a doctoral candidate in psychology, whose research reveals how social change affects human development.

The research was funded by Russell Sage Foundation as part of a major initiative to assess the effects of the Great Recession on the economic, political and social life of the country.

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Friday, May 31, 2013

REPOST: "For Kids With ADHD, Sleep Disturbances May Interfere With Emotional Memories"

As it is, ADHD causes many inconveniences to those who get afflicted with it.  On top of that, recent studies suggest another undesired sequela affecting one's emotional sphere. Learn more by reading this TIME article:

Image credit: TIME.com

Kids and adolescents with ADHD often struggle to keep their emotions in check. ADHD has also been linked to sleep disorders, which is one of the reasons a team of German researchers sought to determine how sleep influences the consolidation and processing of emotional memories.

Brain imaging studies have shown that ADHD alters the structure and functions of areas of the brain important to processing emotions, like the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Scientists have speculated that a disrupted connection between these areas of the brain could contribute to a patient’s day-to-day emotions.

Among healthy children and adults, sleep facilitates the processing of emotional stimuli, so the researchers wanted to see if there were processing differences between healthy study subjects and participants with ADHD. For their study, researchers led by Alexander Prehn-Kristensen of University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein analyzed the emotional memory processing of 16 children with ADHD, 16 healthy children and 20 healthy adults.

In the study, the participants were shown photos that were either emotionally negative, like a snake or growling bear, or emotionally neutral, like an umbrella or lamp. Previous research has shown that emotionally charged images usually have a greater brain response, and are more likely to be remembered.

“During daytime, people suffering from ADHD often have problems focusing on the relevant information and ignoring irrelevant information. Here, we wanted to look whether the described daytime problem in contrasting between relevant and irrelevant information is also observable during sleep,” says study author Alexander Prehn-Kristensen, study researcher from Christian-Albrecht-university in Kiel, Germany in an email response.

All the participants were shown the photos in the evening and had their sleep monitored by the researchers using electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements to track brain activity. The next day, the participants were tested on their recollection of the emotion-inducing images.

The healthy kids without ADHD were better able to recall the images compared to the kids with ADHD and even the healthy adults. These kids had higher activity in the frontal region of their brain and could remember the emotional images better than the neutral ones. Emotional experiences are typically easier to remember than neutral memories.

Prehn-Kristensen says more research is necessary before any therapeutic or clinical conclusions should be drawn. Since the children’s memories were observed in an artificial context, they cannot presume these results carry over to day-to-day memory experiences. However, they do shed light on how brain activity issues during sleep could be responsible for emotional processing for kids with ADHD.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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